The Tenba Bag, The Nikon 50mm f/2 Lens

The Tenba P-750 Pro Pak™ is a camera bag of an unusual design dating from the early 1980s. Aside from the main compartment there is a fairly deep compartment within the lid to store 30 to 40 rolls of film, and a stout zip fastener to keep the contents secure. On the other side of the top ‘half’ - i.e. on the inside of the bag’s main compartment - is a modest zipped compartment which might be for tickets and passport-type documents. There are four ‘D’ rings, for a back-harness or tripod straps, and unusual side straps which can be deployed to limit the travel of the lid or to transport a monopod. The material used for the bag is ‘Cordura’ which is a synthetic waterproof fabric. Unfortunately it is so tough that it wears friction holes in photographers’ clothing. Later versions of this bag had a soft pad stuck on where the bag would meet its owners’ garments. The coups de foudre are the two external pouches which make this bag unusually distinctive in a market place stuffed with boring oblong boxes with straps. Another indication of a distinctive design department at Tenba during this period is their logo (not visible in this photograph but sprayed liberally around my ipernity stream elsewhere) which reads the same when the bag is turned upside down. Tenba abandoned that hip logo, possibly because it appeared to suggest that this was the ‘equa’ model, or (less likely) because customers turning their bags upside down on learning that the logo was ambidextrous accidentally broke their kit when it all fell out. Photographed with a Nikon D700 and a Nikkor 50mm f/2 AI lens. 2200 ISO; f/2.8; 1/125th.

Tenba, by Nikkor-H 50mm f/2 circa 1971

For years the Nikkor-H 50mm f/2 lens was what you got with your new Nikon or Nikkormat camera. It was engineered to standards unimaginable today. Optically it is as good at f/2 as at any other aperture. It was pretty much unrivalled by any other standard prime lens during its period in production.

Wet Afternoon in March-Path (2)

Nikon D2Xs, Nikkor 50mm f/2 AI.

Domke F-6 Sand

Photographed with a Nikon D700 fitted with a Nikkor 50mm f/2 AI lens. This is a wonderful and simple lens with origins as ancient as Stonehenge. I got rid of my 50/1.8 (its successor) because this f/2 version has more soul. It's one of the last in the manufacturing line and has the AI capability, but is basically a cosmetically improved Nikkor-H. Not actually as pretty as the Nikkor-H but just as nice to use.

8.23 am 16 June

The Nikon D2Xs is quite decent at 100 ISO. For this photograph it was teamed with a Nikkor 50mm f/2 AI - a descendant of the Nikkor-H Auto 50mm f/2 lens. 1/160th at f/6.7.

Daffodils at Lacock Abbey

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 50mm f/2 AI lens made sometime between 1977 and 1979. During the 1970s it was implicit that when you bought a single lens reflex camera it came with a 50mm or 55mm lens. Keen photographers subsequently added a wide angle prime lens (usually 28mm) and a telephoto prime lens (usually 135mm). On the day I photographed these daffodils I took those three lenses. Yet after taking this picture I switched to the 28mm and then the 135mm. I have noticed this before: the 50mm is a great lens but is not my preferred focal length and the best way of getting the good of it is not to pack any other lenses. The Nikkor-H f/2 dates from 1963 and was in production for 16 years. The design is an orthodox Gaussian configuration of six elements in four groups. The Nikkor-H.C indicates only a new lens coating and was introduced in 1972. Later - in 1974 - a better lens coating was introduced, along with a rubber focussing sleeve and a diamond pattern ridged aperture ring. Minimum focus was reduced to 45cm from the previous 60cm and the H.C designation was dropped. The lens was now known simply as the Nikkor 50mm f/2. Nikon classified it as a ‘K’ version. It lasted until 1977 when the lens was modified to AI standard, but remained the same in all other respects. The AI version continued until January 1979, having been superseded by the slightly faster f/1.8 version in 1978. The design of that lens has six elements in five groups.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 50mm f/2 AI lens from circa 1978.


During the 1970s amateur photography was dominated by the 50mm lens, partly because that's what came with the new camera you bought, partly because a different or additional lens cost as much as a secondhand car, and mostly because it delivered satisfactory results. You can photograph most things with a 50mm and no 50mm is bad; there are only grades of excellence. This photograph was made with a Nikkor 50mm f/2 on a Nikon D700. It is a modest little thing of quite stupendous resolving ability.

Wet Afternoon in March-Path (1)

Nikon D2Xs, Nikkor 50mm f/2 AI.
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