Lenses For Nikonos (I-V) Mount

Evaluations By Bjørn Rørslett

For rating criteria, please see the Lens Survey Page


Lens Rating Comments
15 mm f/2.8 UW-Nikkor 5 Two versions exist of this fabulous underwater lens. Both share a huge bulbous front glass and can only be used under water. They are easy to differentiate, though, because their exterior is so unique. The earliest model is a 9 element non-retofocus design of small dimensions that protrudes deep into the camera throat. Although it can be mounted on all Nikonos models, it will block the metering cells of Nikonos IV and V so must be used in manual mode on those cameras. The later 12 element retrofocus design circumvents this problem thus matching all Nikonos bodies. It is much more bulky than its predecessor and of course, doesn't extend into the camera throat.

Either version of the 15 mm is awesome and they are true optical gems. The non-retro version performs better at distance and takes on against-the-light shooting with less flare and ghosting, whereas the retrofocus model excels at closer range. It has a little smoother image rendition too, so is my preferred choice (I own both). These lenses perform very well near their maximum aperture, and image quality holds up well to f/16. For close-ups, I regularly set the aperture to f/22 to maximise depth-of-field, and the results continue to be stunning. This is one lens I wouldn't be without on my Nikonos.

20 mm f/2.8


Much smaller than its 15 mm relative, can only be used underwater, and gives very sharp and contrasty images. Its broad field of view necessitates a 67 mm filter thread, but on the plus side there is a handy sunshade incorporated in the design.

I'd wish for a closer focus than the 0.5 m (~0.4 m visual distance under water), but this is a design feature the 20 mm shares with the other UW-Nikkors.

28 mm f/3.5 UW-Nikkor 4-4.5 This moderate wide-angle lens has followed all the Nikonos bodies throughout their model evolution. It is quite small, features a front that curves inwards, and delivers very sharp images in the f/4 to f/11 range. It performs superbly with the Nikonos Close-up lens, too, to yield a useful 1:6 reproduction ratio. Flare is well controlled and ghosting propensity is low.
LW-Nikkor 28 mm f/2.8 2-3 This lens is splash-proof but cannot be totally submerged. You can take it with you into the shower, though, so it certainly stands up to a lot of wet abuse. The optical design derives from the E-series 28 mm and isn't terrific by any standards. Central image sharpness is very good from f/5.6 to near f/11, but the corners stay soft all the way up to f/8 or so. Beyond f/11-f/16, there isn't much optical quality left.

Due to its water-resistant design, the lens is stiff to focus so handling is a bit on the rough side. And of course, all Nikonos cameras lack a rangefinder so focus must be set manually.

Despite these shortcomings, the LW-28 is fun to use where you would hesitate to take an ordinary camera, shooting in the surf zone is a typical example.

W-Nikkor 35 mm f/2.5


This lens derives from a similar rangefinder 'S' design, and optically it shows its age. Performance is adequate at f/4 to f/16, though. Flare is low but ghosting can be an issue under adverse conditions. Although the lens can be employed underwater, I find it best suited for in-air shooting. Underwater, the field of view is too restricted for my taste and the minimum distance of 0.8 m too long. However, it can be used with the Nikonos Close-up lens to give good close-up shoots (the UW-28 performs better in this respect, though).
Nikkor 80 mm f/4


A small, nice lens with good optical rendition which is quite difficult to use underwater because of its long focal range. It gives good close-ups with the Nikonos Close-up lens, though, and this is probably the way it is most often used. In air, it gives quite sharp images in the f/5.6 to f/16 range, and there also is a nicely "rounded" rendition ('bokeh') and intermediate contrast when it is used for terrestrial shooting. Focusing it can be awkward and the separate viewfinder should always be used to get proper image composition. It is susceptible to flare and ghosting is an issue that can be difficult to handle, so use your hand to shadow the lens front at all times.



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Last Update 25 February, 2005