This Zoom-Nikkor Lens was Once the Longest-Reaching in 35mm Photography

This impressive manual focus Zoom-Nikkor Lens was the longest-reaching super telephoto zoom lens for 35mm photography until 1990. 

Looking for a noteworthy zoom lens to add to your collection of vintage gear? If you do a lot of wildlife or sports photography, you might want to keep an eye out for this rare 360-1200mm f/11 AI-S ED Zoom-Nikkor lens on ebay. A listing of this lens priced it at US $29,998, but there’s a good reason behind this. With the help of extensive information from, we can piece together the history of this impressive Nikon lens.

The 360 – 1200mm f/11 was hailed as the world’s longest-reaching true telephoto zoom lens before the massive Zoom-Nikkor 1200-1700mm f5.6~8s P ED-IF was introduced. It was remarkable for having the advantages of a modern zoom lens and powerful magnification of an ultra-telephoto lens in a relatively compact, fast-handling package.

The original version of this lens was introduced in 1974, at Photokina, during a time when Nikon was adding one exciting lens after the other in their manual focus roster. It was one of the two lenses to incorporate the ED glass in their optical design and offered 3.3x zoom ratio. ED glass was said to have allowed complete control of chromatic aberration and remarkable reduction of the secondary spectrum. This made outstanding optical performance, image sharpness and contrast possible, even at the widest aperture.

Around the time, many photographers also found the convenience and flexibility of some outstanding Nikkor zoom lenses useful for creative applications. Among these was the so-called “zoom blurring,” where zooming in the lens while shooting with a slow shutter speed creates an action look to stationary subjects.

The AI-S upgrade for the Zoom-Nikkor 360 – 1200mm f/11 eventually came in March 1982. This allowed the lens to operate under automatic exposure modes, including the “intelligent” auto switching Program and Shutter Priority modes Nikon SLRs came with at the time. Full aperture viewing and metering was also possible with this lens when equipped with any AI Nikon body.  It can also be equipped with tele extenders to 1.4x or double its primary focal length.

Needless to say, the AI-S is the best version you’ll get of this astounding lens. Add to this the fact that it was produced in limited quantities and discontinued early and you have a rare lens that commands a high price.

There’s more to learn about this impressive glass if you’re curious. Check out this post for technical specs and more info.