Nikkor 300 M quality? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I've purchased this lens on Ebay, and although it appears to be in mint condition, my negs come out softer and with less contrast than I expected (center as well as edges). I have a variety of older and modern lenses, and my Nikkor 300 M seems to test out at the bottom of the heap!

Has anyone else run across this problem? Perhaps I just have a bad one, since I've read generally good reports about this model. Thanks!

-- Scott Soper (, May 25, 2002


I have a Nikkor 300 mm F9 M and I use it on both 4x5 and 8x10, and I've been amazed at its sharpness in both formats. Perhaps you do have a bad one. My 300 is the only multicoated lens that I own - out of five - and the contrast is excellent as well.

I guess that the only thing that I could suggest would be to systematicly test your lens. Try shooting something inside (so there's no wind) and at various apertures. Although I doubt if it's the case with you and this lens, I find that a number of photographers can "fix" their bad lens by just using a sturdier tripod.

Outside I assume that you're using some type of lens hood to protect from flare. Flare can and will destroy contrast even if you don't have direct sunlight on the front element.

Anyway there are some throughts.

-- David Grandy (, May 26, 2002.

Nikkor 300 mm M lens is a classic standing out of its class. I have been shooting with it for several years and I am always amazed at the quality of the pictures. The sharpness and the contrast is out of this world... Check the lens for mechanical damage or your camera for focus precision. Don't believe in mediocrity of THIS lens! George

-- george jiri loun (, May 26, 2002.

I also would comment that it is highly unlikely that you have a "bad" lens. All of their optics are inspected before they leave the factory so unless the previous owner was messing with it, it should be right on the money, used or not.

Since it may be slower at f9 than some of the other lenses you might be using, this lens may need a bit more attention behind the loup.

By simply eliminating variables in the equation (properly aligned film back, in spec film holders correct focus/movements and lockdown and properly seated film) you can cut to the chase and begin to enjoy this marvelous combination of small size and powerful performance.

Let us know how it works out for you. Good Luck.

-- Michael Kadillak (, May 26, 2002.

I am looking at a 16x20 that was shot with my Nikkor 300 M lens, and I am amazed by the contrast and clearity. However, any lens will go soft with small appetures. I try not to go below f32. This M lens will stop down to f128 which can make an image very soft. Do you know what appeture you used?

-- Stephen Willard (, May 26, 2002.

When I first started using a 300 mm lens (305 G-Claron) I realised that I needed to be much more careful in focusing. The F9 aperture makes it a little tough and the 305mm length means depth of focus is much less than a shorter lens. Also the importance of a solid tripod and eliminating wind and other vibration becomes more important as the focal length increases. It took some extra attention to make the most of my 305.

-- Dave Schneider (, May 26, 2002.

Years ago when I got my 300M it had to go back to Nikon to get worked on. Came back from Nikon Pro Service & still was not up to par. Took it back to them & they sent it back to Japan where (I was told) the original designers worked on it. I got it back & it was much improved and the problems I had were gone. It has done just fine since that time. So, give Nikon a call & see if they can check it out for you. Or maybe SK Grimes as he is a good person on lens repair.

-- Dan Smith (, May 26, 2002.


Some things to check before you send the lens in for repair/testing.

1. If you are using small f/stops for depth of field (f64 and higher) you are degrading the image a lot by diffraction. Take some shots at f32-f45 and see if that helps.

2. When I mounted my 300M on a wooden lens board, I noticed that the board itself was so thick that it kept the rear element from seating properly. This would cause unsharpness. If you have a thicker lens board, check this possibility. I had to couter-sink my lens board so that the 300M would fit correctly.

3. Do a quickie test to make sure your camera is actually focusing on the film plane: Make an extreme close up exposure of a ruler laying nearly flat with the camera movements at zero. Focus on, say, the 6- inch mark and make the exposure with the aperture wide open for minimum depth of field (use a lens you have had good results with in the past). Develop the film and check the focus. If the 6-inch mark is the sharp one, then all is well. If not, then your camera back needs to be shimmed (or unshimmed) to achieve proper focus. This is a more widespread problem than most people think, and is hidden by the depth of field available with shorter focal-lenght lenses and small apertures. The 300M focal lenght will not be so forgiving.

4. Lastly, make sure that you are not just having depth-of-field problems. Check to make sure that the entire image is soft. Make a couple of test exposures fine focusing on an easily recognizable area of the subject and double check focus with a powerful loupe (8x is not too much for this purpose. I us an 8x loupe most of the time).

Hope this helps, and good luck. ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (, May 26, 2002.

I too has problems with my Nikkor 300M. It was soooft and blah! I have since acquired a 300 MM ApoRonar. It is incredibly sharp. In some ways it reminds me of Leica lenses which were less contrasty but much sharper than Zeiss lenses of similar focal lengths. No problem, increasing the contrast of ApoRonar images digitally reveals an unbeliable amount of detail. I know that lots of friends in the LFF revel in Nikon but my experience with this lens and 35mm Nikon lenses has been less than stellar. All manufacturers claim to have the greatest quality control, some do.

-- Julio Fernandez (, May 26, 2002.

Thank you to all who have responded to this post.

I've done some additional tests, and the lens performs quite well at f22. My first attempts were made at f45 (and smaller!), and I believe that diffraction was causing the softness. Things seem OK at f22 and f32 (although I'd like to have more depth of field).

-- Scott Soper (, June 04, 2002.

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