5 Vintage Lenses for the Nikon FA

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: April 12, 2020
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Best Nikon FA Cameras Lenses

The Nikon FA is a great 35mm film camera. This web page will talk about the 5 best lenses for the Nikon FA, as well as a handful of alternative lenses.

Additional info is below, but if you're limited on time, below is the list:

  1. Kit Lens - Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series E
  2. Wide Angle Lens - Nikon Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 Ai
  3. Portrait Lens - Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series E
  4. Zoom Lens - Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/3.5
  5. Macro Lens - Vivitar 90mm f/2.8

The best Nikon F-mount lenses are grouped by kind of photography and value. There are a bunch of terrific lenses to choose from that cover price ranges appropriate for the value of a FA.

Standard Prime Lens

A 50mm lens is a superb choice for a vast array of photography. The types of photography include everyday use, travel, landscapes, portraits, street, and architecture. This is the most popular focal length that is used with the Nikon FA.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series E

If you do not already have it, a wonderful first lens for the FA is the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series E. The 50mm f1.8 is readily available, has excellent photo quality, is affordable, compact, and lightweight.

Be sure to get the second version of the lens, that has a chrome ring around the body of the lens. It is built from aluminum, whereas the first version has plastic parts.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series E

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series E Lens

  • One of the most popular 50mm lenses Nikon ever made.
  • Exceptional value.
  • Light, small, and compact.
  • 52mm filter threads.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

The 50mm Series E lens is known as a pancake lens because of its small size. When mounted on the FA it barely sticks out. This is very handy for keeping the camera under a jacket so you can keep a low profile.

Nikon also released many other 50mm manual focus lenses for the F-mount.

Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.4

Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.4

  • Excellent optics.
  • Optical multi-coatings to improve performance.
  • Many copies are available.
  • Comparatively low-priced.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

The Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 is 2/3 of a stop faster, at the added cost of size and weight. It is slightly more expensive than any of the f/1.8 or f/2 lenses.

Voigtländer Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II AI-S

Voigtländer Nokton 58mm f/1.4 prime lens, 2nd version.

Voigtländer Nokton 58mm f/1.4 Lens

  • Remarkable optics.
  • Has a Meter Coupling Prong.
  • CPU Contacts.
  • Can be purchased new.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

Nikon produced a 55mm f/1.2 and 50mm f/1.2, but the cost to performance is poor. Due to the age of the lenses, you need to be concerned about the grease in the focusing helicoid drying up, ruining the experience of using the lens.

The Voightlander 58mm f/1.4 is all-around a superior choice for a top-of-the-line lens. The focusing ring is the smoothest I've ever used on a manual focus lens. It is a total delight to use.

Plus, the lens maintains compatibility across all Nikon F-mount cameras. The lens has a Meter Coupling Prong, Ai Meter Coupling Ridge, CPU contacts, and has a switch to allow for electronic aperture control. You’re able to seamlessly transition the lens from a Nikon DSLR to a Nikon film SLR.

Alternative Standard Lenses

The following are several other quality lenses that can be considered.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8AmazoneBayKEHAdorama
Nikon 50mm f/2AmazoneBayKEHAdorama
Nikon 35mm f/2.5 Series EAmazoneBayKEHAdorama
Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Series EAmazoneBayKEHAdorama

Wide Angle Lens

Nikon Nikkor 24mm f/2.8

Nikon Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 Ai Lens

  • Great combination with a 50mm lens.
  • Optical multi-coatings to reduce chromatic aberrations.
  • Easy to find.
  • Comparatively inexpensive.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

A very good selection for a wide-angle lens is the Nikon Nikkor 24mm f/2.8. The lens is ideal for architectural or landscape photography.

There are quite of few wider focal lengths to choose from, but they are often are a lot more expensive or show noticeable amounts of barrel distortion. Third-party lenses have clearly lower image quality than lenses made by Nikon.

Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Series E

Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Series E Lens

Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Series E Lens

  • Excellent when used with a 50mm lens.
  • Optical multi-coatings to improve performance.
  • Many copies are available.
  • Easily affordable.

Also found at: eBay and KEH

The Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Series E lens is a less expensive option. It is appealing to use on the FA due to the cheap price and ease at which the lens can be found.

Alternative Wide Angle Lenses

In terms of cost, the relationship is simple. The larger the field of view, the costlier the lens ıs going to be. Larger apertures also go for appreciably more.

Nikon 8mm f/2.8 FisheyeNikkor 13mm f/5.6
Nikkor 15mm f/3.5Fisheye Nikkor 16mm f/2.8
Nikkor 18mm f/3.5Nikkor 20mm f/2.8
Nikkor 24mm f/2

Portrait & Telephoto Lens

Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series E Lens

Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series E Lens

Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series E Lens

  • 85mm alternative.
  • Excellent value.
  • Relatively inexpensive.
  • Easy to find.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

85mm lenses weren't as widely used as they are today compared to when the FA was initially released in 1983. 135mm or 100mm focal lengths were more prevalent thanks to their cheaper cost.

Like all of the other Series E lenses listed, the 100mm f/2.8 hits the ideal balance of capabilities, usability, and value. That's why the lens was popular when released and why a lot of copies are readily available on the used market.

Nikon Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 Lens

Nikon Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 Lens

  • 85mm substitute.
  • "Vintage" portraiture rendering.
  • Many copies are available.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

The "classic" look of this lens stems from the focal length in addition to the lens only containing 4 elements.

1965 was when the original version of the lens was released. There are a total of 6 different versions of the lens, only the last two being compatible with the FA.

If you go looking for a copy of the lens, the compatible versions will be listed as Ai or Ai-S.

Alternative Telephoto Lenses

There are plenty of alternative telephoto lenses to pick from. The 85mm lenses and focal lengths longer than 135mm will be expensive.

Nikkor 85mm f/2Nikkor 105mm f/1.8
Nikkor 105mm f/2.5Nikkor 135mm f/2
Nikkor 135mm f/2.8Nikon 135mm f/2.8 Series E
Nikkor 180mm f/2.8Nikkor 200mm f/2 ED
Nikkor 300mm f/2 IF-EDNikkor 300mm f/2.8
Nikkor 300mm f/4.5Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 IF-ED
Nikkor 500mm f/4 IF-ED PMirror Nikkor 500mm f/8
Nikkor 600mm f/4 IF-EDNikkor 800mm f/5.6 IF-ED

Nikon FA Zoom Lenses

In the early 1980s, before cameras had autofocus, there were a handful of lenses made by third-party manufacturers that were optically better than Nikkor lenses.

Many of these lenses would be released with the Vivitar brand name. Any lens that has the Vivitar Series 1 branding on it is going to have terrific optics.

Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/3.5

Vivitar 70-210mm f/3.5 Zoom Lens

Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/3.5 Zoom Lens

  • Covers a popular focal range.
  • Excellent for wildlife or portrait photography.
  • A rare example of when a third-party lens is the best.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

Alternative Zoom Lenses

Unfortunately, shorter focal range zoom lenses have problems making them a bad option to use with the Nikon FA. Age along with wear and tear has resulted in many Nikon zoom lenses becoming practically useless.

The only lens I would suggest looking for is the Vivitar Series 1 VMC 35-85mm f/2.8 (Also found on KEH). Be warned, it can be difficult to find.

Vintage Zoom Lens Problems

The lens that ought to be the front-runner, the Nikon Zoom-Nikkor 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5, is regrettably, a push-pull zoom. In place of having a zoom ring, the entire focus ring is pushed or pulled to control the zoom range.

The grease in just about all push-pull zooms has deteriorated to the stage where the zoom mechanism can no longer hold itself in position. For that reason, the lens will have tiny changes in focal length when you attempt to focus the lens. This is going to be made worse if the lens is not parallel to the ground.

Nikon Macro Lenses

Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 & Vivitar 55mm f/2.8

Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 Macro Lens made by Komine

Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

  • My favorite vintage macro lens.
  • Available in a variety lens mounts.
  • Excellent value.

Also found at: KEH, Adorama

Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 Macro Lens manufactured by Komine

Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

  • My second favorite vintage macro lens.
  • A fantastic choice for close-up photography.
  • It doesn't need an extension tube to reach 1x magnification.

Also found at: KEH, Adorama

Komine manufactured the two recommended macro lenses in Japan. The lenses were also released under many different brand names. Rokunar, Elicar, Spiratone, Quantaray, and Panagor are brands that also released the lenses.

There is a Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Review and a Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Review.

For capturing images at macro magnification (1x), the 90mm lens will be the better choice since it has a greater working distance.

For close-up and table-top photography, the 55mm macro lens is the superior pick.

Alternative Macro Lenses

Micro Nikkor 55mm f/3.5AmazoneBayKEHAdorama
Lester A Dine 105mm f/2.8AmazoneBayKEHAdorama
Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8AmazoneBayKEHAdorama

Used Nikon Camera Lens Prices

Lens prices change all the time based on supply and interest in manual focus lenses. Over the past several years, film photography was seeing an increase in interest, which has caused prices to increase.

Economic changes can quickly lead to large price changes. Having said that, the difference in lens prices should be expected to stay the same.

Checking several websites is an intelligent way to get accurate pricing. If you are fortunate enough to come across a great deal, quickly buy it, because the best deals are short-lived.

What Lens Mount Does the Nikon FA Use?

The Nikon FA has a Nikon F-mount. The Nikon F-mount has been in use since 1959. Changes have been made over time to add autofocus, CPU contacts, metering information, and electronic aperture control.

For the FA, you need to use manual focus lenses that are either Ai or Ai-S. Those lenses are built with a meter coupling ridge which will allow the camera to meter light accurately.

For an explanation F-mount lenses, here is a page that explains Nikon F-mount lens and camera compatibility.

Standard Lens Cap Size

The standard filter ring thread and lens cap size for the majority of vintage F-mount lenses is 52mm. Bear in mind, lenses with large front elements will require larger filters and lens caps.

The benefit of having a standardized filter thread diameter is that you only need to buy one set of filters.

Non-Ai vs Ai & Ai-S Lenses

A Meter Coupling Prong was used on early Nikon F-mount cameras. The Nikon FA uses a Meter Coupling Ridge.

Lenses produced around the time when Nikon transitioned to Ai lenses can have both types of meter coupling.

Non-Ai lenses will most likely cause damage to your FA if you attempt to put one on the camera.

More Nikon FA Resources

There is no more info on the best Nikon FA lenses. When new information is added to the website, links can be found below.

Best Nikon FA Film

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