Nikon PC 55mm f/3.5 Macro Lens Review
The Nikon Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 PC is the 5th of the 7 versions of the lens. There are two notable changes in this version.
First, the lens has a improved coating, designated by the “C.” Second, the aperture ring was changed to a scalloped style that makes it easier to grip.
An issue to look out for is grease drying out or becoming oily. Almost all of the vintage macro lenses I have come across have tighter focusing rings than they should.
The 55mm Micro Nikkors have been the worst. Out of the 7 or 8 I have come across, a couple had their focus rings completely locked up. One had so much oil on the aperture blades, drops had fallen off onto the elements.
This version is a “non-Ai” lens. The lens mount has no cutout to interface with the Ai meter coupling ridge that is on modern SLRs and DSLRs. Trying to mount this lens on one of those camera bodies will cause damage. There are no issues with adapting the lens to a mirrorless camera.
Used Price and Where to Buy
Checking eBay prices on November 1, 2018, copies can be found for $40-$60. As time goes on prices will change with supply. Check current prices on eBay.
Lenses in better cosmetic condition and ones that have accessories will go for more money. Searching for all versions of the lens showed some going for less than $40.
Amazon prices were twice as much as what was being sold on eBay. There were also fewer available with no pictures.
I did not have much luck finding copies on the big online camera stores.
|Elements Groups||5 ele. 4 gr.|
|# Aperture Blades||6|
|Aperture Control||Manual, Auto Diaphragm|
|Hard Infinity Stop||Yes|
|Magnification||1:2, 1:1 w/ extension tube|
|Minimum Focus Distance||24.1cm (9-1/2”), 21.4cm (8-13/32”)|
|Working Distance||11.1cm (4-3/8"), 5.7cm (2-1/4")|
|Weight||240g, 344g w/ extension tube|
The lens is only able to achieve 1:2 magnification on its own. The M2 extension tube is 27.5mm and when used allows for 1:1 magnification.
The M2 tube will not hit the meter coupling ridge which means the lens can be used from 1:2 to 1:1 magnification on a DSLR.
Another option is to use a PK-3 extension tube. This tube is also 27.5mm long and has a meter prong coupling pin.
It will pass metering information to film bodies with the meter prong. However, the metering information will not be correct due to lens extension.
The PK-13 will not work. The tube is the correct length, 27.5mm, but has Ai meter coupling ridges. The Micro Nikkor PC will not easily mount onto the tube. If forced, the tube or lens will be damaged.
- Micro Nikkor 5.5cm f/3.5 (Preset Aperture) - 1961
- Micro Nikkor-P 5.5cm f/3.5 (2 versions)
- Micro Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 - 1966
- Micro Nikkor-P 55mm f/3.5 - 1970 (4 versions)
- Micro Nikkor-PC 55mm f/3.5 - 1973?
- Micro Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 Ai - 1977
- UV Micro Nikkor 55mm f/4 Ai
UV Micro Nikkor 50mm f/4.5 - 1988. This lens was designed as a replacement for the 55mm UV Micro Nikkor. It has 6 elements in 6 groups. Like the previous version, it was designed to be used for UV photography.
Construction quality of the lens is in line with the lenses manufactured during the 1970’s. All of the parts are expertly machined. Even after 45 years, none of the parts are loose.
As far as I can tell, everything is made of metal. I am assuming the majority of the lens is aluminum, with a nickle plated brass mount. There is a knurled rubber grip around the focus ring.
I find that the scalloped aperture ring does make it easier to grip. The aperture is clicky and moves in full stop increments. There is one exception, as the lens can be set to f/4.
There are prongs on the lens to attach to a camera’s metering coupler. This feature is limited to being useful for Nikon film camera bodies from the 1960’s and 1970’s. Cameras from the 1980’s onward use an Ai ridge or CPU contacts instead.
This versions has a non-Ai mount. The lens will put pressure on the Ai meter coupling ridge, potentially causing damage, and making it difficult/impossible to change the aperture on the lens.
A conversion can be done to notch out the aperture ring, allowing the lens to fit correctly. Nikon offered a service to convert lenses after introducing the Ai change.
The conversion is also relatively easy to do. There are likely lenses that have been converted for sale, and they will usually be described as being “Ai’d.”
The focus ring on my copy of the lens sounds and feels like the grease has dried up. This is not surprising considering the lens is almost 50 years old.
The aperture ring and diaphragm work flawlessly. The optics are clear and have almost no dust inside. It is in great usable condition.
I have had several other versions of this lens in the past. I did not keep track of the exact versions, but three had problems that rendered them useless.
In one copy the grease had broken down into oil and there were drops of it inside the lens along with the diaphragm blade being completely coated.
The grease in two other copy had dried up and the focus ring was locked into place.
Test Shot Sharpness Comparison
- f/3.5 The center is sharp, the corner are not. There is also noticeable vignetting. A crop from the center could be usable.
- f/5.6 A large improvement in the corners. Only the very outer edges of the corners are soft.
- f/8 Everything is sharp. This is the best aperture on the lens.
- f/11 Softness from diffraction can be seen. Not as sharp as f/8. I would use this for a greater depth of field if I knew I was planning to downscale an image for use online.
- f/16, f/22, and f/32 get progressively softer.
Testing was done with a Sony A7 and Novoflex adapter. For higher magnification the lens was reversed on a PB-4 bellows using a BR-2A reversing ring and a D750.
RAW files were exported from darktable with the default sharpen and base curve applied
Other Test Shots
I am going through 6 other macro lenses to find one to keep. The lens is very well corrected.
It has a flat field of view, no noticeable field curvature, and no chromatic aberration.
There is vignetting, but that goes away when the lens is stopped down to the sharper apertures.
Close Up & Macro
Reversing the Lens
Single test images were taken with the lens on a [Nikon PB-4]/(nikon-pb-4-bellows-review/), which was mounted to a WeMacro motorized focus rail.
I did not make notes on the aperture being used as it is difficult to get a single image in focus.
The depth of field started off razor thin, and only got smaller with further bellows extension. Focus stacking would get better results.
The lens works well when reversed. No adapter or special piece of equipment is needed to control the lens when reversed.
The 52mm front threading means it screws right onto a Nikon BR-2A without the need of a step up or step down ring.
This is a lens worth getting with 2 caveats.
The first is that you don’t already have a usable macro lens in the 50-60mm focal range.
Second, the price is good. There are lots of other comparable lenses that perform similarly.
The lens is a good purchase for around $50, especially if you want to reverse the lens.