With Eyes Glazed over . . or . .”My precious”

With eyes glazed over . . . Several years ago I was really into macro photography a truly wonderful facet of the field, mundane subjects take on amazing abstract qualities . . and the closer we go the more we want . . it is like a drug and before you realize it you have spent a sizable amount getting into this realm where beauty defies logic, simplicity is complex and complex borders on the impossible. . . macro photography is the eye candy of the imagination, taken further into micro photography it is the bizarre and unimaginable reality of the beauty of all creation.  Depending on your funds, your desires this will lead you to the dark side of photography and the Exotic lenses and equipment that let you see in detail what the human eye cannot.
Exotic glass or  “My Precious” . . . Here is one of the lenses in my arsenal that you may not have heard of . . The AF Micro-Nikkor Zoom 70-180mm f/4.5~5.6D.  The only zoom macro lens made by Nikon.  Released in 1997 through 2004, it was an odd lens amongst the trio of outstanding fixed focal length macro lenses to contend with, yes the slow speed of this lens even was questionable as well as the variable aperture.  The term Macro (or micro as Nikkor refers to these lenses) has different meaning to different photographic camps, and what constitutes macro varies as well. I will leave that for another discussion at some later time.  What is pretty amazing is what this lens allows the photographer to do. The zoom function allows one to change framing of your subject without moving the camera, an action most macro photographers know all to well. SLOW is the description that most fits this lens, yes it is an AF lens, but AF is achieved via Nikon’s screw drive (make note of this as not all current Nikon cameras are able to use this lens as some do not have the means  . . IE . . Screw Drive), but SLOW is the mode this lens was designed for, you will most likely use this lens in close in manual mode mounted on a tripod. This is where this lens shows the thought and ideas that went into its design.  Now before your eyes glaze over and close-up pictures of butterfly wings and spiders fangs start dancing in your head . . . there are just as many caveats and contradictions that come with its use.

Here’s the Technical Specifications:

Type of lens: D-type AF Zoom-Micro Nikkor lens with built-in CPU and Nikon bayonet mount
Focal length: 70 to 180mm
Maximum aperture: f/4.5 to f/5.6
Lens construction: 18 elements in 14 groups (one ED glass element)
Picture angle: 34°20′ to 13°40′
Focal length scale: 70mm, 85mm, 105mm, 135mm and 180mm
Filter size: 62mm
actual length: 6.9 inches
Close focus: 14 inches from the image plane

micro nikkor 70~180 f/4,5-5.6 AF D

micro nikkor 70~180 f/4,5-5.6 AF D

There are some awesome reviews on this lens and I will include links to them at the end of this post, but let us return to why did I decide it was a lens that I wanted.  I picked mine up in nearly mint condition some time in 2006 when I was very much into macro photography.  I traveled the same path most people do and started (in my film days my normal lens was a 55mm micro nikkor it was tack sharp) with a 55 mm macro, problem was the working distance (subject to lens) was really short.  You had to be really really close, and the closer you got … the more light you needed, but as you got closer you also blocked the light you needed to illuminate your subject.  So I had a 55mm micro . . I graduated up to a 105mm which improved my working distance but not enough, I had few choices as far as Nikkor glass was concerned, so I began to save my coins for the ultimate macro lens . . . a micro nikkor 200.  I was searching the web one day and ran across a nikkor lens I had never been aware of . . . the a fore mentioned micro nikkor zoom lens.  WOW, Yep it was love at first blush and my [GAS] kicked in! I wanted one and it was going to be mine!!!! So with eyes glazed over I went in search of one of these to add to my growing collection of lenses.
Then one day suddenly I was in Nirvana and I held one in my hands . . it soon became “my precious”. I soon fell under its spell and also soon understood its curses.  Not all is good with this lens, but nothing that cannot be lived with as soon as you have learned the limitations imposed by this marvel.
It weighs 2 pounds! yup not a light weight, it is OLD School and built like a tank, don’t let the weight get in your way as it helps when you zoomed in and firing off a macro shot of a bee’s eye . . its mean working distance from subject at max magnification is just under 5 inches, add a 6T diopter and that working distance quickly shrinks which can be an issue for shy or skittish subjects like butterflies.  I see I will have to do another blog on diopters & butterfly rigs . . that will be a fun blog.
Back to the subject, The lens, if you look at the specs it is not a very impressive lens, well it wasn’t for its day, what where limitations in lens speed are now minor concerns and here is why I feel this way.  Today’s cameras are capable of handling higher ISO with minimal noise even when shooting well above ISO 2000, so this almost negates the noise issue.  With a diopter it can reach 1:1 full macro capabilities, it’s variable focal length makes it a very useful tool and cuts down on the gear in the field, it covers the following fixed focal lengths, 85mm & 105mm macro lenses(I know I love my fixed focal length lenses), now realize it does come with a bunch of compromises but I feel these are offset greatly buy using it with today’s high ISO / low noise capable cameras.
This lens is getting harder to find each year, and its value has steadily increased with time, so is it a lens that will have your eyes glazing over? or are other options better for you.  Personally I love this lens, I don’t use it enough actually.  It does have a place in my go to macro case when I head out for a day of macro photography, it sits right beside my micro nikkor 200mm f/4 AF D and PC-Micro Nikkor 85mm f/2.8 D . . each has its purpose and place.  As for my GAS [gear acquisition syndrome] well that’s another story for another blog . . . . come to me “my precious” . . pardon me while my eyes glaze over . . .

Nikon closeup lens (diopter), although these are no longer being produced you can find them on the used market. 3T & 4T are 52mm, the 5T & 6T are 62mm.

Nikon 5T & 6T close up diopters

Nikon 5T & 6T close up diopters


My current butterfly/dragonfly close up rig is comprised of the following gear, Nikkor 70~200mm f/2.8 VR plus a Canon  500D Close-Up

Canon makes close up lens Diopters as well, they come in various filter sizes as well, less expensive  then a full on macro lens.

Canon 500d close up lens

Canon 500d close up lens


You can Google both of these close up lens types for more info, and I might add that you can also use macro extension tubes to achieve higher magnifications, as well as reverse lens stacking, reverse lens techniques as well.  All those methods are fun and some are cheap, some are easy, some are just fun.  I haven’t said anything about lighting and that is another post at some time & place.  Below are some close up & macro photos, I will leave the debate of “what is considered macro verses what is considered close-up” . . .




Jumping Spider

Jumping Spider

Fly Eye

Fly Eye






Hope you enjoyed, remember the above lens is just a tool, but in the film days we had a saying, invest in your glass, the body was just a film transport, today, the camera still acts as the image capture device, a photo from a D4 is far and away superior to that of a D1 of just a few years ago . . . so my suggestion, invest in your glass (lenses) . . . .

Links to more information and reviews

Ken Rockwell review

Thom Hogan review

Mir.com info/review

Closeup attachments Nikon website



Terms used

G.A.S. = gear acquisition syndrome , a common affliction of the photographically infected . . can be found across all levels from novice to pro

Disclaimer about this post and other post in my blog, I am not responsible for any GAS that may occur from the reading of this post or other posts on my blog, if you suffer from GAS seek treatment at your nearest photography store.  There is only one cure, change hobbies, but you may find that GAS is transmutable and will cross over to any hobby . . .

Have fun, go make photographs . . .



2 thoughts on “With Eyes Glazed over . . or . .”My precious”

  1. Tim – your images are creating GAS for me. I still have not invested in a true macro lens. Just not sure the time I can commit to do it well will match the investment. Still on the back burner but not very far back… Love the images.

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