PC-E Micro Nikkor 45mm f/2.8D ED Lens
A highly specialised lens that provides control over the plane of focus and is usable for shooting close-ups.Nikon’s PC-E Micro Nikkor 45mm f/2.8D ED lens is the latest in a series of perspective control (PC) lenses that have been produced by the company over many years. Offering a shift range of plus or minus 11.5mm and tilt of plus or minus 8.5 degrees, it can also be rotated through plus or minus 90-degrees in 30-degree increments. In all respects, this is a pretty wide range – but it’s only achievable on camera bodies with 36 x 24mm sensors. The lens can also be used on cameras with smaller imagers, but its adjustability will be limited. . . [more]
Nikon’s PC-E Micro Nikkor 45mm f/2.8D ED lens is the latest in a series of perspective control (PC) lenses that have been produced by the company over many years. Offering a shift range of plus or minus 11.5mm and tilt of plus or minus 8.5 degrees, it can also be rotated through plus or minus 90-degrees in 30-degree increments. In all respects, this is a pretty wide range – but it’s only achievable on camera bodies with 36 x 24mm sensors. The lens can also be used on cameras with smaller imagers, but its adjustability will be limited.
The PC-E Micro Nikkor 45mm seen from above, showing the lateral movement available when the lens is mounted on a camera that is horizontally orientated.
The PC-E Micro Nikkor 45mm seen from the side, showing the vertical movement available when the lens is mounted on a camera that is horizontally orientated.
PC lenses are a highly specialised type of optic with adjustments that tilt and shift the lens on the camera mounting. This allows the photographer to correct (or emphasise) perspective effects, such as the tendency for tall buildings to appear narrower at the top. Although mostly used for architectural photography, they can also have applications in close-up work, where you can shift or tilt the lens to achieve focus along a subject plane that is not parallel to the camera.
To correct narrowing verticals, when shooting from ground level you must keep the imaging plane parallel to the building. This entails using the tilt and shift mechanisms to raise the lens in relation to the image plane. Shifting can be used in a similar fashion to photograph around a blocking object, such as a building support, without appearing to distort the recorded view. It is often used when photographing interiors with mirrors to prevent the camera and photographer from being reflected in the mirror.
The PC-E Micro Nikkor 45mm is robustly built with dust- and moisture-proof sealing and a stainless steel mounting plate for attachment to the camera body. Its optical system consists of nine elements in eight groups with one ED element. VR image stabilisation is not provided. The diagram below shows the structure of the optical system.
The structural diagram showing the position of the glass elements and lens groups. Note the lack of aspherical elements and VR stabilisation.
Nikon’s Nano Crystal Coat and Super Integrated Coatings have been used to eliminate internal reflections and reduce ghosting and flare. A rounded nine-blade iris diaphragm ensures natural- looking out-of-focus image elements.
Automatic aperture control with the electromagnetic diaphragm is fully supported in Nikon’s D3, D700 and D300 DSLRs, which means the lens remains at its maximum aperture for focusing and shot composition. However, autofocus support is not included. All focusing is strictly manual.
The lens is supplied with snap-on front and rear caps, an HB-43 bayonet lens hood and a CL-1120 flexible lens pouch. A multi-lingual user manual is provided. The PC-E Micro Nikkor 45mm accepts 77mm screw-in filters. Up to two SB-R200 Wireless Remote Speedlights can be attached to the front of the lens – but only if the tilt and shift mechanisms remain in the neutral position.
If you’re not familiar with PC lenses, they can come as something of a shock. Unlike a normal lens, a PC lens bristles with knobs. It also has a box-like mounting panel, where all the movements take place, although the actual camera mounting plate is a standard mount.
Wrapped around the lens when you first unpack it is a slip of paper with the following instructions: Caution: When attaching/detaching the lens to/from the camera and shifting and/or tilting the lens, be careful not to catch your fingertips between the lens and the grip of the camera body. In practice we found the risk of damaging fingertips was small, although not entirely negligible.
Because of its size, complexity and mode of operation, the PC-E Micro Nikkor 45mm is best used on a tripod. Relatively bulky for a 45mm lens, it is 112 mm long and roughly 95mm at its widest point, which is represented by the screw knobs that control the tilt mechanism. Overall weight is a substantial 740 grams.
The main adjustment knob is on the left side with a locking knob opposite. A similar mechanism exists for the shift mechanism, with a large adjustment knob on the top of the lens and a locking knob on the bottom. Graduated scales are provided on all four mounting panels to allow precise adjustment settings and a click-stop is provided at the neutral position.
Just in front of the adjustment mount is an aperture ring with settings ranging from f/2.8 to f/32. The front edge of this ring carries a ribbed rubber coating and click-stops are provided at half-stop (0.5 EV) intervals. In front of the aperture ring is a broad focusing ring with a ribbed rubber coating covering almost its full width. To the front are distance markings in metres and feet, ranging from 0.235 metres to infinity. A small depth-of-field scale is engraved on the lens barrel just in front of this distance scale.
The focusing ring moves through almost half a turn and the lens barrel extends roughly 15mm in the process. When focusing, the effective aperture is displayed on the camera’s LCD data panel and in the viewfinder so you can always check aperture settings.
Because of all its knobs and the relatively short distance between them and the camera mount, the lens can be tricky to attach to the camera body – and almost as difficult to remove. It was a snug fit on the D700 body we
used for our tests.
The lens hood attaches bayonet-style with two indices on opposite sides. It rotates to click firmly into place and is removed in the opposite direction. The instruction manual advises users to shoot in either the A or M exposure mode and set the lens aperture manually. In P or S modes, the lens aperture can be set with the camera’s command dial. A minimum aperture setting is recommended when maximum tilt or shift is used because there’s almost no depth-of-field at apertures wider than f/11.
Imatest showed overall performance to be very good when the lens was in its neutral position (we were unable to test the lens in either tilt or shift positions). The lens suffered from slight edge softening but it was not enough to create issues for most photographers. A graph showing the results of our Imatest tests appears below.
An interesting feature of this graph is that resolution remains high right up to the f/43 aperture. This is quite unusual in normal and zoom lenses – but necessary in a lens that is designed for use at small aperture settings.
Lateral chromatic aberration was consistently low and ranged between 0.016% and 0.036% of distance to corner, which lies within the ‘negligible’ band. Although this lens is not really suitable for ordinary photography, we found no evidence of coloured fringing in outdoor shots and flare and ghosting were negligible.
As expected, we noticed slight vignetting with both the maximum shift and tilt settings. This problem is highlighted in the user manual and was not enough to compromise overall image quality. It could easily be corrected in Photoshop, particularly when converting raw files.
In the neutral position, flatness of field was above average and we found no evidence of edge or corner softening in test shots. Colour reproduction was excellent.
Tall building photographed with camera in portrait orientation. No tilt/shift adjustment.
The same subject, photographed with shift adjustment to correct perspective.
The same subject photographed from a distance with slight tilt adjustment to correct perspective.
An example of how shift adjustment can be used to remove obstacles:
Left – without adjustment; right – with shift adjustment.
Close-up shots of a line of subjects at an angle to the camera:
Left – without adjustment; right – with shift adjustment.
Sample image with the lens in neutral position to show flatness of field and colour reproduction.
Picture angle: 51 degrees
Maximum aperture: f/2.8
Minimum aperture: f/32
Lens construction: 9 elements in 8 groups with 1 ED element
Lens mount: Nikon F-Bayonet
Diaphragm Blades: 9
Minimum focus: 25.3 cm
Maximum reproduction ratio: 1:2
Filter size: 77mm
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 82.5 x 112 mm
Weight: 740 grams
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