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Nikon F 21/4 Auto-Nikkor

1st  Japanese SLR Super Wide Lens

21/4 Nikkor  # 220204 mounted on Nikon F # 640246,   the 103rd 21/4 and the 246th Nikon F. 

The 21/4 Nikkor was introduced to the US market in March of 1959 at the Philadelphia camera show, with the introduction of the Nikon F.     Production apparently started in October 1959 in both Nikon F and Nikon Rangefinder mounts.   It was a  landmark lens,  by far the widest lens ever offered on a Japanese 35mm SLR to that point in time.   No other Japanese SLR manufacturer had ever offered anything  wider than 28!     The widest Canon lens for the Canonflex was only 35mm!   As far as I can tell, the 21/4 Nikkor was the first super wide introduced for 35mm SLRs.   I am not sure, however, if the 21/4.5 Contarex Biogon actually beat the 21 Nikkor to the marketplace.   This early Nikon Super Wide helped establish Nikon's reputation for optical leadership and innovative design.

The 21/4 Nikkor is a non-retrofocus design, which means the rear elements protrude deeply into the body. In order to mount it, the F's mirror had to be locked up.   The photog used a separate viewfinder, slide over the rewind mounted hot shoe.    Perhaps I should explain that since the F's prism was removable, Nikon mounted the hot shoe around the base of the rewind lever to make sure it was secure.   That's right, to rewind film you had to remove the finder.  Not exactly the most convenient design, but it worked.   Virtually all Nikkor lenses rotate to mount on the body, not the 21.  With its deeply recessed rear elements inside the film chamber, instead you rotate the chrome mounting ring to mount or dismount the lens.   The filter size is 52mm.  The 21/4 is very compact and light, weighing just under 5 oz and extending only 11/16" from the camera body.

The 21/4 is an excellent lens. It quickly became a favorite with pros not only for its ultra wide coverage, but for its lack of linear distortion and edge to edge sharpness.   The 21/4 does, however, have noticeable vignetting at the corners.   The optics are essentially the same as    the much rarer and  more expensive 21/4 Nikon Rangefinder lens -- with minor modifications.     7,163  21/4's were made in F mount, compared to only about 600  Nikon rangefinder  21's.    Often used by pros, mint- or better Nikon F 21's are difficult to find.   Even harder to find is the lens shade,  or its special deep  rear lens caps that don't have broken lens tabs.   I am not a fan of the Nikon 21 finder, it's  just too squinty for my own tastes, though the rare Type 4 is much more usable. 

Nikon F 21 Viewfinders

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There are at least four  variations of the Nikon F 21 finders, perhaps more. The earliest Type 1 finder  has a PLASTIC mount which slides over the F's hot shoe and rewind lever. Serial # starting with 20000x.   Production is unknown, but 500 or less seems very reasonable to me.   Of those, many were forgotten in the circular file due to broken mounts. Today a plastic mount 21 finder with early 21/4 is rare indeed.   If you look closely, you will see the repaired mount on this example.  The plastic mount Type 1 was replaced with the more rugged metal mount of the Type 2 finder.    Notice the F has no accessory shoe on the prism.   The 21 finder slides over the flash shoe which is mounted around the rewind lever.

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Type 2 is the metal claw versionType 3 has a regular shoe, designed to fit on the Nikkormat--which had a normal hot shoe, not the F type hot shoes around the rewind knob.  The earlier 21/4's before 225001 will not fit on the Nikkormat cameras due to internal restrictions.  It was from this point that the Type 3 finder was produced, concurrently with the Type 2.   The Type 4 finder looks much like the Type 2 finder, but has improved optics with a wider field of view.  Types 1, 2, and 3 DO NOT have brightlines.   Type 4 has a thin brightline, if my dim memory is correct.  Its been years since I saw a Type 4.    Note that while the finders for the Rangefinder lens and the Type 3 are essentially identical, they do have a different set of serial #'s.  Type 1, 2 and 4 finders are ONLY usable on Nikon F or F2 cameras since they have the special claw mount to fit over the rewind lever.  The Type 2 finder is by far the most numerous, outnumbering all other versions put together.  While the Type 3 version is rare, Types 1 and 4 are extremely rare. 

The F 21/4 Nikkor has Variations, even in the first 600 lenses!

21/4 # 220204, the 103rd lens        21/4 # 220631, the 530th lens

NOT marked "Lens Made in Japan" Marked "Lens Made in Japan"
NOT marked "PAT. PEND." Marked "PAT. PEND." (not on late 21's)
Light Blue Lens Coating Deep Blue Lens Coating
Plastic Mount Type 1 Finder Metal Mount Type 2 Finder
Both have Red "R" infrared markings 
Slightly Different Lettering Type Styles on filter Ring

Interior Mounting chrome catch machined differently

Different Rear Element barrel construction
Solid Machined lens mount, no mounting screws

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Revised: November 26, 2003 Copyright � 1998-2002  Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved.    This means you may NOT copy and re-use the text or the pictures in ANY other internet or printed publication of ANY kind.  Information in this document is subject to change without notice.  Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.