500mm f5 Nikkor-T: Nikon's Big Gun of 1955

The 500mm Nikkor as it appears today.

The 500mm f5 Nikkor-T lens for Nikon's reflex housing first became available in early 1955. Based on an earlier design for an aerial lens, the longer focal length and maximum aperture gave Nippon Kogaku temporary bragging rights in its increasingly-successful struggle to take market share away from Leitz and Zeiss. Having such a focal length on a price list to "complete its lens lineup" was probably more important than the number of customers actually willing to spend the $550.00 (US) that this lens cost in hard-earned 1950's currency. Nippon Kogaku only built three hundred of these lenses. Almost all were sold to the few professional film organizations and photographers who had to have a lens of this focal length for their work. Weighing more than twenty pounds (8500 grams), it is barely transportable and certainly not handholdable.

Still, it focuses beautifully and the view through the finder on a reflex housing is clear. This particular lens belonged to Luis deCasenave, a photojournalist working for El Mundo, the then-premier newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Restored, it still yields decent pictures. Alas, the original wood case, mostly consumed by termities, is no longer usable.

500mm f5 Nikkor-T in short mount, complete with its
original case, sunshade and front cap.

Luis deCasenave with his lens and a Nikon SP at a race track in the early 1960's.

[Photographer unknown.]

It isolates and selects as well or better than the 400mm Nikkor, but time and fungus on the glass have taken away some of this lens's contrast.

Edge of the Woods

Our family's Main Barn

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