Data sheet: Nikkor AF 70-210 mm f/4

Pekka Buttler, 01/2024

Pictured: Nikkor AF 70-210 mm f/4


The table below summarizes the lens’ key specifications (measurements based on pictured sample):

Brand:AF NikkorLens name50mm 1:1.8
Focal length(s)170-210 mmAngle-of-view234°20–11°50
Maximum Aperturef/4In Production1986–1987
Lens mountNikon FSubfamily (if applicable)AF
Length3148,2 mmDiameter476,7 mm
Filter ring diameter62 mmWeight764 grams
Lens element count13Lens group count9
Aperture blades (S/R/C)57 SFocus throw180 °
Minimum focusing distance110 cmsMaximum magnification1:3,9
Has manual aperture ringYESHas Manual focus ringYES
Top: Zoomed to 210 mm
Bottom: Zoomed to 70 mm

Further notes:
• This autofocus tele-zoom was in the Nikon lineup for only barely over half a year. During that time, roughly 110 000 copies were manufactured.
• Even so, this is quite a remarkable lens. When Nikon in 1986 introduced its autofocus camera (the F-501) and new lineup of AF lenses, Nikon did not introduce a professional-level tele zoom. In fact, the only tele zoom that Nikon introduced in tandem with its bid to take the AF market with storm was this lens.
• This is remarkable, as this lens was a direct descendant of the 1981 design of the Nikon Series E 70-210/4 [data sheet], a lens that was intended as a decidedly budget-friendly offering (the previous design was merely given a new housing and a slot-drive given autofocus mechanism.
• Nikon’s decision to base their first autofocus tele zoom on the budget-friendly series E design is all the more surprising as Nikon also had the option of using the (among pro’s) well-appreciated 80-200/4 design that was (and remained) the mainstay of pro photographers until 1987.
• In 1987 Nikon replaced this lens in its current lineup by two lenses:
– one was the more modern-looking and more compact but less bright AF 70-210/4-5.6 (see ‘versions‘)
– another was the AF 80-200/2.8 – Nikon’s first professional Autofocus tele zoom, and Nikon’s first economically sensible tele zoom with a f/2.8 maximum aperture.
• The Nikkor AF 70-210 mm f/4 features an internal zoom (it does not change shape when zooming), but it does change length while focusing. Likewise, the filter thread rotates when focusing.
• Nikon’s recommended lens hood for this lens is the HN-24, a metal, thread mounted lens hood originally introduced for the series E lens, but used for that, this and several subsequent Nikon tele zooms.

Top: Focused at MFD.
Bottom: Focused at Infinity


Nikon has a long history in producing tele zooms: For the professional clientele, that history runs all the way back to 1959 (!), and for the consumer segment the first offerings were from 1980. The table below shows this lens, as well as those models that directly preceded it, as well as those that followed.

optical constructionMFDMax.
notes, links
series E70–210/413 elements
in 9 groups
1:5,5730Macro mode available at 70 mm
[data sheet]
1986–1987AF70–210/413 elements
in 9 groups
1,1 m1:3,9760[this lens]
1987–1993AF70-210/4-5.612 elements
in 9 groups
1,2 m1:4,5590one-ring zoom
1993–1999AF-D70-210/4-5.612 elements
in 9 groups
1,2 m1:4,5600as above, with fast AF gearing
1995–2005Ai-s 70-210/4.5–5.611 elements in 8 groups1,5 m1:6370for FM10
reportedly manufactured by Cosina

Starting in 1989, Nikon also started offering 70-300 mm consumer tele zooms, and these became increasingly popular. While a 70-210 stayed in the Nikon lineup until 1999 (and until 2005 as a special edition marketed for the FM10 camera), from the 1990s, consumer interest was decidedly focused (pun intended) on the 70-300 lenses.

A brief genealogy of Nikon SLR lens types

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.
• 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.


Besides adapting, this lens can be used natively on all current high-end Nikon dSLRs and several earlier medium-to-high-end older Nikon dSLRs. Moreover, if the camera body contains a slot-drive focusing motor, this lens will even auto-focus7. Likewise, if the lens has been retrofitted with ‘rabbit ears’, it can be natively used on all Nikon F-mount film cameras ever produced (without the rabbit ears, it is limited to post-1977 bodies).

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. Currently no adapters for mirrorless exist that would allow autofocus through the slot-drive screw.

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 will not allow autofocus, and are unlikely to support auto aperture, but even then the lenses can be used in stop-down metering mode.


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 autofocus, aperture priority and manual metered modes on Nikkor AF/AF-D lenses: D2, D3, D4, D5, D6, Df, D200, D300, D300s, D500, D600, D610, D700, D750, D780, D800, D800E, D810, D850, D7000, D7100, D7200

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