Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Nikkor C 43-86/3.5 AI'd

This continues my series on my old camera lenses.  This time it is a lens that is thought by most to be the worst lens Nikon ever made.  If you want to get a simple feel for this take here is a quote from Ken Rockwell's site about this particular lens.
It's worse than the worst, because not only is it terrible by itself, it was so awful that it has tainted the reputation of all other zoom lenses to this day.
Those are pretty strong words, so let's see if we as complete amateurs can get a feel for this.


We had a photo of this wall with our last lens and so perhaps this is the best example we can give to understand the biggest complaint about this particular lens.  There is a softness to this lens.  The lines aren't crisp, the colors can blur a bit.  From a lens what most photographers want is a picture that is very crisp, especially when distinguishing colors, letters, lines, etc.  Here is another example.


In this example what you can see is that the letters look soft.  As though instead of being made of a hard object with sharp edges they are actually made of some soft material.

By the way here is another quote on this lens, this time from Fredrik Rasmussen.
I don't see any reason for getting this lens unless you want a paper weight, or if you just want to own a classic lens that is classically bad, or if you want something to compare the word useless for?
OK these are harsh words from two professional photographers and so where does that leave us with this lens.  Well the truth is they are professionals and so they are looking for something completely different than me.  Yes we both want great photographs, but I also want something that is easy to use and fun.  Fact is I found this lens to be a lot of fun and extremely easy to use.

First off it's a good weight and feels well balanced in your hand.  On mine the focus ring and zoom are very smooth and so easy to work while trying to get your shot.  The zoom range is a bit odd but it gives you enough room for some maneuvering.

Second off it is fast enough at 3.5 all the way through the zoom range that you can shoot inside a well lit room with no flash.


As you can see in the picture above this was inside the old train depot in Dayton, Washington and I was able to take photos just fine.  Again if you look closely at the photo you'll see that softness that drives the professionals crazy, but for me I'm happy because I got a nice picture using the manual settings on my digital camera.  If I can do that easily then that's a positive for me and the lens in question.

The biggest drawback is that it has a 4 foot focal limit.  Which means you have to be at least 4 feet from something to focus it.  For traveling this can make it hard at times to get the picture you want.


My wife had a tricky time getting this picture because she had to backup in her chair with limited room to get far enough back to focus the picture.  Again if you look close at this photo you'll see just how soft things are, like the word Fanta.

All in all we enjoyed taking this lens on a day trip and I enjoyed walking around town taking photos with it.  It is a fun lens and very easy to use.  Because of its bad reputation and mass quantities produced in the 70's they are cheap and easy to find on ebay.  So if you would like to try out a manual zoom on your brand new Nikon D3300 this is a cheap and fun way to see if it is something you are interested in pursuing further.

Of course I would take my 18-55mm lens that came with my camera over this one, but I found this lens to be a lot more fun to use than the 18-135mm I wrote about last time.

Here is the full gallery.

43-86mm f35 AI


  1. Wow! That is great. Is that a Fanta grape drink?

    I think I see the softness that you're describing, but what would be cool is to see the same subject (sign or whatever) photographed with this lens and then some other lens that does harder lines.

  2. That is Fanta grape. Yeah I should have taken the time to take duplicate pictures, but I'm just too lazy to do that. I'll try to address the sharpness on my next lens discussion.

  3. Great, great photos. Thanks a lot.