Data Sheet: Nikkor C 55 mm f/1.2

Pekka Buttler, 09/2022

Specifications

The table below summarizes the lens’ key specifications:

Brand:Nikon (Nikkor)Lens nameNikkor-S•C Auto 1:1.2 f=55mm
Focal length(s)155 mmAngle-of-view243 °
Maximum Aperturef/1.2In Production1972–1974
Lens mountNikon FSubfamily (if applicable)Pre-Ai (C-type)
Length349,5 mmDiameter473,5 mm
Filter ring diameter52 mmWeight420 grams
Lens element count7Lens group count5
Aperture blades (S/R/C)57 SFocus throw190 °
Minimum focusing distance60 cmsMaximum magnification1:9,0
Has manual aperture ringYESHas Manual focus ringYES

Further notes:
• This lens is the multicoated variant of the previous Nikkor-S 55 mm f/1.2
• This lens was in production for 26 months before being replaced by the “new Nikkor”, K-type 55/1.2. During that time some 50 000 of pieces were manufactured.
• Because Nikon later offered Ai-kits for this lens, many of the original Pre-Ai lenses have since been AI’d.
• On early Nikkor lenses, the letter following “Nikkor-” denotes the number of lens elements. In this case the S stands for ‘Septa’ (seven), while the “•C” means that it is a multicoated (C-type) variant.
• Nikon offered two different dedicated, thread mount, steel lens hoods referred to as HS-3 and HN-6

History (when relevant)

Nikon is undoubtedly one of the great names in 35 mm SLR photography. The Nikon F mount has been in continuous production since 1959. During that time, the mount has developed/changed in some detail, however without ever fully sacrificing compatibility.

In short (a longer version is here), the development of Nikon’s SLR lenses can be traced as follows:
• 1959–1977: Pre-Ai. Manual focus lenses that use ‘rabbit ears’ to communicate selected aperture with the camera body. Pre-Ai lenses can further be subdivided into
• F-type (1959–early 1970s: metal focus ring and single-coated),
• C-type (early 1970s–mid 1970s: metal focus ring and multicoated), and
• K-type (mid 1970s to 1977: rubber focus ring and multicoated).
A significant share of remaining Pre-Ai lenses have since been converted to Ai-spec (Ai’d)
• 1977–1986: Ai and Ai-s. Manual focus lenses that may have ‘rabbit ears’ for backward compatibility, but are designed to communicate selected aperture with the camera body through indentations in base of aperture control ring.
• 1986–today: AF and AF-D. Autofocus lenses that do not have a focusing motor within the lens, but rely on the focus motor within the camera. All AF and AF-D lenses are simultaneously Ai-s lenses (they are Ai-s lenses extended with AF) 6
• 1996–today AF-S and AF-P. Autofocus lenses that have an internal focusing motor and do not rely on the body having a focusing motor.

Nikon offered a superfast fifty for the F-mount from 1965 to 2020. A short rundown of Nikon’s F-mount super fast fifties is given below:
• 1965–1967 55 mm f/1.2 (7 elements in 5 groups, 7 blades, 0,6 m MFD, “Nippon Kogaku”) (F-type)
• 1967–1972 55 mm f/1.2 (7 elements in 5 groups, 7 blades, 0,6 m MFD, “Nikon”) (F-type)
• 1972–1974 55 mm f/1.2 (7 elements in 5 groups, 7 blades, 0,6 m MFD) (C-type)
• 1974–1977 55 mm f/1.2 (7 elements in 5 groups, 7 blades, 0,5 m MFD) (K-type)
• 1977–1978 55 mm f/1.2 (7 elements in 5 groups, 7 blades, 0,5 m MFD) (Ai)
• 1978–1981 50 mm f/1.2 (7 elements in 6 groups, 7 blades, 0,5 m MFD) (Ai)
• 1981–2020 50 mm f/1.2 (7 elements in 6 groups, 9 blades, 0,5 m MFD) (Ai-s) [data sheet]

Further Nikon offered another, specialized superfast fifty during 1977–1998: The legendary 58 mm f/1.2 Noct–Nikkor (featuring hand-ground, aspherical lens elements to help combat spherical aberration, coma and astigmatism). The Noct-Nikkor was always a specialty lens and was pricey even while in production, but lately they’ve become collectors’ items and cost about 10 times that of an equivalent-condition 50/1.2…

Adapting

There are good chances this lens can still be used natively:
• If the lens has been AI’d, this lens can be used natively on all current high-end Nikon dSLRs and several earlier medium-to-high-end older Nikon dSLRs7 as well as all post-1977 Nikon Film cameras.
• If it is in its original Pre-Ai form, it can be used natively on the Nikon Df and on all Nikon F-mount film cameras produced before 1977.

Thanks to being a fully manual lens (manual aperture, manual focus), the lens can be adapted to all mirrorless cameras using a suitable dumb adapter (and such adapters are easy to find). Moreover, a large range of special adapters (helicoid adapters, tilt/shift adapters, speed boosters) for using Nikon F lenses on most mirrorless systems are available.

Using Nikon F lenses on non-Nikon SLRs and dSLRs is likewise a distinct possibility. Thanks to the relatively generous flange focal distance of the Nikon F mount (46,5 mm), adapter rings for all dSLR mounts are available as well as for a goodly portion of film-era SLR mounts. Such rings may not allow for auto aperture, but even then the lenses can be used in stop-down metering mode.

Footnotes

1 Focal length is (unless stated otherwise) given in absolute terms, and not in Full-frame equivalent. For an understanding of whether the lens is wide/tele, see ‘Angle-of-view’.

2 Picture angle is given in degrees and concerns the diagonal picture angle. Rule of thumb:
> 90 ° ==> Ultra-wide-angle
70–90 ° ==> Wide-angle
50–70 ° ==> Moderate wide-angle
40–50 ° ==> ‘Standard’ or ‘normal’ lens
20–40 ° ==> Short tele lens
10-20 ° ==> Tele lens
5-10 ° ==> Long tele lens
< 5 ° ==> Ultra-tele lens

3 Length is given from the mount flange to the front of lens at infinity.

4 Diameter excludes protrusions such as rabbit ears or stop-down levers.

5 S=straight; R=rounded; C=(almost)circular at all apertures.

6 There is a further sub-class of AF-D lenses called AF-I lenses that are otherwise AF-D lenses (meaning, fully Ai-s compatible), but have an internal focus motor. Only long tele lenses were made in AF-I variants.

7 As of this writing, the following Nikon dSLRs fully support Aperture priority and manual metered modes on Nikkor Ai lenses: D2, D3, D4, D5, D6, D200, D300, D300s, D500, D600, D610, D700, D750, D780, D800, D800E, D810, D850, D7000, D7100, D7200