Picture this: the Lenses I Miss the Most

Nov. 4—Like a majority of photographers, I have had various pieces of equipment pass through my hands. Many of them were great, while many of them, like the Nikon D1 or the Nikkor 43-86mm, were absolute duds.

I especially love lenses.

I had a pretty standard kit coming up on the newspaper scene in the 1980s. In fact, most of us had this setup:

Two or three cameras, for me, usually the Nikon FM2 with a motor drive, along with the following lenses: the Nikkor 24mm f/2.0 AI-S, the Nikkor 35mm f/2.0 AI-S, the Nikkor 105mm f/1.8 AI-S, the Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 ED-IF, and the Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 ED-IF.

As the years went by, I found bargains on other lenses, like the Nikkor 400mm f/3.5 ED-IF, the Nikkor 85mm f/2.0 AI-S, the Nikkor 25-50mm f/4 AI, several 28mm and 135mm lenses, and three different 20mm lenses.

Earlier in my career, I bought a Sigma Zoom 28-80mm f/3.5-4.5, back in the day when Sigma was a very cheap (in all respects) lens. I sold it within about three months since I never made a sharp image with it.

The most disappointing lens of this era was the Nikkor 25-50mm f/4. I had such high hopes for this rare, well-made Nikkor lens, but it was hard to focus because the focus throw (how far you need to twist the focus ring) was so long. It was okay at 25mm, but nobody loves a heavy, huge 50mm f/4 lens.

I gradually traded all my 1980s-era Nikkor lenses for more modern lenses, mostly zooms, but I still missed some of my favorites and recently picked another one up from a seller on eBay, a 35mm f/2.0 of 1980s vintage. I missed this lens after I sold it because I saw its potential, but didn't take advantage of it when I had it.

The 35mm lens is sometimes regarded as a "normal" lens on 35 mm-sized imaging sensors, slightly wider than the ever-present 50mm, letting photographers build a pleasing narrative without the distraction of the foreshortening that wider lenses can create.

I am also finding fewer and fewer mentions or reviews of lenses like these, and the photographic historian in me wants to remember and preserve the amazing images made by thousands of photojournalists across the globe made with these lenses.

So, as a short review, the Nikkor 35mm f/2.0 lens is beautifully made, a pleasure to use, gives sharp, detailed images, and has pleasant selective focus with good bokeh.

So there is another lens in my bag of tricks, which goes well with my rare skill in that same bag of tricks: that I can still focus on a manual-focus lens.