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Mammoth fisheye lens from the 1970s sells for £100,000

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April 27, 2012

The 6mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens weighs 11.46 pounds, is 9.29 inches in diameter and some 6.73 in...

The 6mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens weighs 11.46 pounds, is 9.29 inches in diameter and some 6.73 inches in length (Photo credit: Tony Hurst)

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It's getting rarer these days to find the kind of specialist shops that have so much stock from years gone by that they're more like a mini-museum than a retail outlet. Grays of Westminster is just such an emporium. Exclusively dealing in products spanning the whole history of the Nikon Corporation, the award-winning central London curiosity shop managed to generate a huge online buzz this week by announcing the sale of an exceptionally rare monster of a wide-angle Nikkor lens. Said to allow cameras to actually snap images of scenery behind the lens and weighing in at 11.46 pounds (5.2 kg), the mint condition 6mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens has just sold for an equally gargantuan price of £100,000 (US$162,312) to an unnamed private collector.

Developed for use in scientific and industrial applications and special effects during portrait shoots, the 220° super wide angle – well, pretty extreme wide angle if truth be told – f/2.8 to f/22 aperture lens is said to have stunned attendees at the 1970 Photokina show in Cologne, Germany before going into very limited production two years later. Nikon's Jeremy Gilbert told the UK's Daily Mail that the rare lens dates back to a time when "lenses had to be designed with a slide rule and individual ray diagrams."

The 220° super wide angle, f/2.8 to f/22 aperture lens is said to have stunned attendees w...

The lens – serial number 628024 – is constructed of 12 elements in nine groups, is fronted by a large glass dome that keeps the attached camera very much in its shadow, and comes with its own slip-on lens cap and rugged metal case. It's 9.29 inches (236 mm) in diameter and some 6.7 inches (171 mm) in length, has an automatic diaphragm, and its distance scale is graduated in meters from 0.25 meters (0.9 feet) to infinity. It also comes with skylight (L1BC), medium yellow (Y48), deep yellow (Y52), orange (O56) and red (R60) filters, and was sold together with a black Nikon F Apollo camera.

The company's founder Gray Levett said that the unusual fisheye lens was tracked down by vintage camera buyer Toni Kowal, who spent six months following leads abroad before securing its purchase.

Source: Grays of Westminster

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Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden
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10 Comments

Turning a standard lens into an umbrella like lens would achieve the same results, the lines in the glass could be compensated for by software technology pre loaded in the camera or on your computer

Richardf
27th April, 2012 @ 01:41 pm PDT

um, ya, ok, your fancy software might be functional, however, please take a moment to appreciate the engineering that went into this lens, during a time when software wasn't available.

mr bill
27th April, 2012 @ 03:13 pm PDT

Yeah I remember the "optical fad" of fish eye lenses.

It would have been nice to see one of the pictures produced with this camera / lense combination.

Mr Stiffy
27th April, 2012 @ 05:31 pm PDT

Amen to Mr. Bill's comment. Amazing engineering and execution in glass and metals.

Dave Moore
27th April, 2012 @ 05:45 pm PDT

@Mr Stiffy

There's a sample photo in the gallery that shows one of the showrooms at Grays through the lens.

PolRid
27th April, 2012 @ 10:28 pm PDT

@ Richardf - If the fisheye picture in the gallery is truly representative of the cameras ability (hasn't been photo chopped) then I would say that the lens and camera combination are one hell of an engineering package.

It is a shame that as time goes by, more and more things become analogs of their former selves simply because some other process can put the polishing touches on the desired finished product instead of actually taking the time to design/engineer the prime item to provide the finished product as it is imagined to be or as it should be.

Rt1583
30th April, 2012 @ 12:17 am PDT

It's a beautiful thing. You can have almost as much fun with 10.5mm lens, DX format, or a 16mm lens for FX format. Either one of those lenses will get you to 180 degrees with their respective formats.

Bradley Donaldson
30th April, 2012 @ 09:15 am PDT

Yes, appreciate the quality that was possible with slide rules! The scientist who did the principal aerodynamic design work on the USAF Blackbird, the last major military aircraft designed solely with slide rules kept the 1 inch wide 8 track IBM tapes that held the wing data. Some 15-20 years later he re-ran the calculations on a MAC in about an hour.

And the wing shape was no more than 1 millimeter different. Faster process with software of the day but not one bit better.

StWils
30th April, 2012 @ 01:56 pm PDT

@Bradley is slightly off - the 10.5 and 16MM lenses to which he refers are "full frame" fisheyes; they have a 180 degree angle of view only when measured corner to corner. The Sigma 4.5MM and 8MM fisheye lenses (DX and FX format, respectively) are true fisheyes in that they have a complete 180 degree view (and hence project a circular image on the image plane). This Nikkor (which is truly awesome to see in person - they used to have one at the Nikon House showroom at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan back in the 70's) actually "sees" behind itself - 220 degrees. Meaning if you have it on a tripod level to the ground it will capture the tripod legs and possibly your feet in the shot, even though you are standing behind the camera.

That's what made this lens particularly amazing, on top of the manual methodologies used to design it.

Bob Fately
30th April, 2012 @ 05:46 pm PDT

This lens was intended for applications like photographing the entire (in one exposure) interiors of tanks from just inside openings.

I am an optical designer. As others have mentioned, we use computers, these days. I continue to be in awe of what my predecessors did with sliderule and pencil.

rocketride
1st March, 2013 @ 08:45 pm PST
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