What is a Scanner-Nikkor ED lens?
The Scanner-Nikkor ED is very special high-performance lens made by Nikon for their Coolscan line of film scanners. When the Nikon 8000 ED scanner came out in 2003 it literally had no equal, it blurred the line between what was attainable with an affordable desktop scanner and a $100,000 professional drum scanner. The Coolscan ED scanners were sensational performers, I used one quite a bit in the 1990s as a matter of fact, and were unique in that they could actually reach their advertised resolution figures which was unheard of for a film scanner.
If you have never heard of this lens, it's not just you, theses lenses are basically unheard of and virtually unknown in the photography world, even by Nikon experts, even those experts that specialize in rare industrial Nikkor lenses!
The Printing-Nikkor Lens Connection
Thanks to the optical expert Marco Cavina there is some information about the design of the Scanner-Nikkor ED lenses. He has written on his site that the Scanner-Nikkor lenses are most likely based on Nikon's legendary Printing-Nikkor lenses, see the PDF here. The design of the Scanner-Nikkors are surely based on the Tochigi - Nikon - Rayfact 105mm f/2.8 A Printing-Nikkor lenses, they share the same 1X magnification range, almost the same focal length, the same number of elements and groups, the same 60mm field of view, and interestingly are corrected to the same level in the same wavelength range, 400~800nm, and both have the same working distance of 140mm.
When my Scanner-Nikkor arrived it was installed in a plastic carrier secured, surprisingly, with a just metal band secured with one self-tapping screw. The lens barrel is flat black and has calibration and inspection markings all over it. The cosmetics of the lens is almost the opposite of the gold badges and rings that you would find on a Nikkor ED lens. You can't help notice the weight, its impressive, like a solid hunk of glass. The first time I picked up the lens I placed it on the end of a 100mm extension tube made a few images at 1X by holding the lens with one hand and the camera in the other. The images were super clean and without any hint of color fringing with excellent detail and very high sharpness from edge to edge.
Long working distance
Optimized for 1X or life-size magnification
High sharpness and resolution from center to edge
Zero distortion and zero vignetting
Type: Reproduction / Scanning
Focal length: 100mm Aperture: Nominal aperture f/2.6.
Optical Design: 14 elements in 6 groups design, including 6 ED glass elements. APO correction.
There are two Scanning-Nikkor ED lenses that I know of, one uses a 14 elements in 6 groups design, including 6 ED glass element lens, the other uses 7 elements in 4 groups including 3 ED glass element lens in the design. Eventually there will be a separate web page for the 7 element lens.
What Does ED Stand For?
ED is the abbreviation for the extra-low dispersion glass that is used in the lens design.
Most current macro lenses feature some low-dispersion elements in their design, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro and Sony's FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS lens both have 3 low-dispersion elements. Nikon lists 6 extra-low dispersion elements in the design of this lens but it looks like all of the elements in the lens are low and extra-low dispersion type glass.
Chromatic Correction: This lens is APO corrected in the spectral range of 438 – 852nm. The correction extends into infrared range to cover the LED output since dust and scratch removal functionality is based on the hardware by using the scanner‘s infrared channel for defect detection. This infrared light wave-length allows it to pass through film emulsion of negatives and slides without resistance but the scratches and dust particles reflect it. The image is scanned two times, the first as the regular RGB scan and the second captures defects like dust and scratches preserving the important details.
An apochromatic or APO objective is corrected for chromatic aberration at the red, blue, and yellow wavelengths. This really adds to the subjective perception of sharpness. An APO objective should have correction of both types of chromatic aberrations or CAs, lateral CAs, or color fringing, and longitudinal CAs, or LoCAs, also called Bokeh CAs.
Magnification range: unknown. The 14 element Scanner-Nikkor ED lens seems to be optimized for 1X or life-size.
Coverage: Full frame. 60mm image circle.
Working distance: I measured 140mm WD at 1X.
Mounting threads: None Filter threads: None
Normal or reverse mounting: Unknown.
chromatic aberration Test
Click on one of the images below to open in a full-size light-box view. All images made with Scanner-Nikkor ED lens, full frame camera, Nikon D810, 1X magnification, Photoshop CC ACR with chromatic aberration correction turned off.
Notes on chromatic aberrations
The Scanner Nikkor ED lens is an apochromatic or APO lens, corrected for chromatic aberration in the red, blue, and yellow wavelengths, this really adds to the subjective perception of sharpness. An APO lens should have correction of both types of chromatic aberrations; lateral CAs and longitudinal CAs.
Lateral CAs, or just CAs, are visible as red and blue fringing at hard edges, especially towards the corners of an image. CAs are pretty common with fast lenses and wide-angles at larger apertures. Longitudinal CAs, or LoCAs, are visible as halos of different colors in out-of-focus areas, usually magenta in front of the focus point and green beyond. LoCAs are extremely difficult to correct, especially wide-open, and only a handful of lenses are LoCA free. Almost all fast lenses and almost all macro lenses show LoCAs at larger apertures.
The optical glass used in lenses disperses or separates light in varying degrees (this effect is best illustrated with a prism). This is bad for image quality because it causes chromatic aberrations or CAs, where the different wavelengths or colors end up being focused at different points. This causes unsightly fringing that will reduce sharpness and resolution. The chromatic aberrations, or CAs, produced by a lens occur because the lens was not able to bring all the different wavelengths or colors of light, to focus on the same point. With a low dispersion lens element with a lower the dispersion ratio, the less the light is scattered which makes it easier for the designers to correct CAs.
Clean Image Quality
Awesome price to performance ratio
Can live with:
Lack of a lens mount
Lack of iris
Extremely shallow depth of field
Image Quality: Incredible sharpness with zero aberrations from edge to edge.
Mounting the Scanner-Nikkor ED
There are no external or filter threads on the Scanner-Nikkor ED lens but the lens isn't too difficult to mount. There are two methods that I have used, a 52mm mount adapter and a 52mm threaded sleeve adapter.
52mm Mount Adapter
Only by pure luck I found an extension tube with 52mm mounting threads that slides right over the lens barrel with just enough clearance so there is no play or wobble. This tube is available for sale on Ebay for about $7 USD, you can find the tube using the search terms: X1/X2 Adapter Tube For 52mm Leica X1 X2 Camera.
Not all 52mm tubes will work, out of the five or six 52mm tubes that I own, only two of these had with a large enough clear internal diameter to fit over the lens.
To keep the lens securely in place inside the tube, I drilled and tapped the tube and installed four 8-32 set screws at a friend's machine shop. The image below is the tube mounted on the lens.
The white paint mark and the faint number 3 written on the side are quality control markings from the factory. I have to assume that silver lines on the segments are also for QC purposes.
52mm Threaded Sleeve Adapter
This is my preferred way to mount the Scanner-Nikkor using 52mm threaded sleeves that cover the front and rear sections of the lens. The main reason that I prefer this method is that the sleeve makes magnification adjustments quick and easy without the need for any tools or without any chance of losing set-screws.
These sleeves, available from Thorlabs, have 0.3mm clearance so shims should be used in the installation. I used stainless shim tape and long-set epoxy to fix the sleeves to the lens barrel. The rear threads are normally used to mount the lens, the front threads are meant to mount a lens hood but you could also use the front threads to reverse mount the lens. The rear sleeve is slightly longer than the rear section of the lens barrel so the sleeved lens in the image below is taller.
Where to get a Scanner-Nikkor
Nikon discontinued its Coolscan line and stopped selling spare parts for the scanners in 2010 but the scanners are available used on Ebay, sometimes you can find them in non working, only-for-parts condition, and sometimes you can buy just the lens assembly, which is how I found mine. Three Scanner-Nikkor ED lenses sold on Ebay between May and June 2017 for $120 - $220.
What Scanners use Scanner Nikkor ED lenses?
The Scanner-Nikkor ED lenses are available in these scanners:
The 14 elements in 6 groups including 6 ED glass element lens:
SUPER COOLSCAN 8000 ED LS-8000 ED
SUPER COOLSCAN 9000 ED LS-9000 ED
The 8000 ED scanner should be easy to find on the used market but don't pay for than $400 or $500 for a working scanner or more than $300 for sold for parts. The 9000 ED scanner is a little harder to find on the used market.
The 7 elements in 4 groups including 3 ED glass element lens:
Coolscan IV ED LS-40
Coolscan V ED LS-50
Super Coolscan 4000 ED LS-4000ED
Super Coolscan 5000 ED LS-5000ED
The 4000 is probably the most common Nikon scanner on the market with the ED lens. Do not overpay, I have picked up a parts only condition 4000 scanner for $40-50. I working 4000 scanner can be found for less than $150.
Scanner Nikkor versions
There are 3 different Scanner Nikkor ED versions that I know of now. As far as I know there is one 7 element lens and 2 different versions of the 14 element lens as you can see in the image below. Right now I am pretty sure the two 14 elements are different designs. The only things that I can see that are similar are the lens coating color and the dimensions of the middle section that is used to mount the lens into the scanner chassis. Differences? Front element diameter, overall length, number of lens sections, thickness and position of sections. There is no way to know for sure why Nikon changed the the 14 element lens but it is most likely just a product update when the 9000 scanner replaced the 8000.
To see if there are any differences in image quality between the two 14 element lenses I do plan to run some tests, but I doubt there will be much difference if any.
Nikon Coolscan Scanner production
Nikon Coolscan 8000 ED scanner was released in 2001, and was replaced by the 9000 ED in 2003, which was available until late 2010. The 8000 ED sold new for $2900, Nikon dropped the price to $1900 with the release of the 9000 ED.
The 4000 ED scanner came out in 2001, the 5000 ED was released in 2003.
Links for more information on the Scanner-Nikkor ED lens:
Marco Cavina's Scanner-Nikkor ED lens article in PDF form: http://www.marcocavina.com/articoli_fotografici/articolo%20Scanner%20Nikkor%20ED.pdf
Enrico Savazzi has posted some good information on the Scanner-Nikkor ED lenses:
Lots of excellent info the the Nikon Coolscan line on Nico vandijk’s site:
Follow these links for a Scanner-Nikkor ED lens discussion on the www.photomacrography.net forum:
Tests of Scanner Nikkor vs Printing Nikkor
Update June 26th 2017
This is the 7 element Scanner-Nikkor ED lens on the left, out of a Coolscan IV LS-40. As you can see the lens is very small, about 25mm in diameter. The Coolscan IV scanner sensor width is 35mm so the image circle of this lens will be much smaller than the 14 element Scanner-Nikkor ED next to it.
A quick test made at 1X with the lens showed sharpness from corner to corner at this magnification. Images made at higher magnifications, up to 3X, showed very good detail but I need to come up with a way to mount the lens before I can really test lens.
I will be putting up a separate web page for the 7 element lens at some point.
Update July 1, 2017
Today I managed to pick up a 14 element Scanner-Nikkor ED lens from a Nikon Super Coolscan 9000 ED scanner. The lens overall is identical to the 8000 ED lens but the factory calibration markings are totally different. Tomorrow I am leave to Alaska for a 10 day tour so any testing will have to wait. I will post more info soon.
More info coming soon.
Any questions or comments be sure to email me using the contact link on the left.
Update August 18th, 2017
Just posted a quick guide on how to remove a Scanner Nikkor lens from a Coolscan 8000 scanner.
I have been out of the office for a few weeks photographing but now that I am back I plan on shooting lots more with the Scanner Nikkor lens so I will posting more soon.
Update August 31st, 2017
Just finished some new tests on the 14 element Scanner Nikkor ED lens and the lens shows a large nominal aperture of f/2.6. that is an effective aperture of f/5.2 at 1X magnification. The fast aperture means it has the potential to beat the earlier Printing-Nikkor 105mm lenses and the Printing-Nikkor 105mm A version since they have maximum apertures of only f/2.8. The larger the aperture, the more potential resolution of the lens.
Finally I have found the perfect subject for testing lenses, a 6 inch silicon wafer. It is perfectly flat and has lots of ultra fine details. I plan on posting more about these in a couple of days.
This week I picked up two more 8 element Scanner Nikkor ED lenses for testing recently so expect to see more on this lens soon. Since these are a lot easier to find they are cheaper than the more rare 14 element version. I paid only $50 for the two lenses!
Update September 1st, 2017
Looks like there are at least two Scanner Nikkor ED 14 elements lenses. Just a guess but it looks like the Nikon Super Coolscan 8000 and 9000 models use different lenses.