Review: Nikon 75-150mm 3.5 Series E

Introduction

nikon series e z00m 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens
Sony A7rII with Metabones adapter and Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5

The Series E lenses were meant as a low cost alternative to the more expensive yet reknown Nikkor lenses. This didn’t work out so well for Nikon, at that time many people were simply not interested in “cheap” lenses made mostly from plastic. Nevertheless, some of these lenses are quite good optically, therefore I take a look at the Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 zoom lens.

Sample Images

nikon series e zoom 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare
Sony A7rII | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 | 150mm | f/3.5 | full resolution
nikon series e zoom 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare
Sony A7rII | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 | 75mm | f/5.6 | full resolution
nikon series e zoom 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 portrait lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare
Sony A7s | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 | 150mm | f/3.5 | full resolution

Specifications / Version History

This was the first 75-150mm 3.5 zoom by Nikon and there hasn’t been another one since. It has the following specifications:

    • Diameter: 65 mm
    • Field of view: 32° to 16° (diagonally)
    • Length:  126 mm
    • Weight: 518g + adapter
    • Filter Diameter: 52 mm
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 7 (straight)
    • Elements/Groups: 12/9
    • Close Focusing Distance: ~1.0 m
    • Maximum Magnification: ~1:4.8
    • Mount: Nikon-F

These are very cheap, you can get one used for as little as 40$/70€ on ebay.com/ebay.de (affiliate links)

Handling / Build Quality

nikon series e z00m 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens
Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5

First I must say, I also own the Series E 50mm 1.8 and I expected a similar build quality, but this is unfortunately not the case. Am I the biggest fan of push-pull-zooms? No, but this not my main concern here, zoom creep is. This lens is quite famous for that and for a reason: the big ring which is used for zooming (push and pull) as well as focusing (rotate) is very very loose on my sample. Setting precise focus (or even focal length) is an almost impossible task with this lens and I really disliked using it at all because of this.
The front ring also rotates during focusing, so using a polarizer is not very straightforwarded either.

Vignetting

nikon series e zoom 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens vignetting shading vignette

Wide open there is visible vignetting of roughly 1.8 EV at 75 and 150mm, stopped down to f/8.0 it is negligible (~0.2 EV).

Sharpness

infinity
nikon series e zoom 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare

At the shortest focal length the lens holds up quite well, even on the 42mp sensor. Wide open it is already usable across frame, but stopping down to f/5.6 eliminates some purple fringing and the corners look best at f/11.

nikon series e zoom 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare

At 150mm things don’t look as good anymore. The center ist rather soft wide open, even looks a little hazy. The midframe is far from great, the corners are nothing to write home about.  At f/5.6 the center looks much better, but the midframe and corners look best at f/11 where the corners still don’t look particulary great.
The shots at f/8.0 might be slightly affected by camera shake or defocus. As I was using a Series 4 Gitzo tripod with Arca Swiss P0 head in combination with 5 sec self release and electronic first curtain shutter it might also be possible the loose focus ring was once more the problem here.

Flare resistance

nikon series e z00m 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare
Sony A7rII | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 | 150mm | f/3.5 | full resolution

It seems to me coatings are one of these things they tried to save money with the Series E lenses. If you follow my reviews you already know this is an important aspect for me as ghosts and flare can really ruin your shots. And that happened quite often with this lens, regardless of focal length, distance to subject and position of the sun inside or even outside of the frame.

nikon series e z00m 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare
Sony A7rII | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 | 75mm | f/8.0
nikon series e z00m 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare
Sony A7rII | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 | 150mm | f/3.5

Distortion

At 75mm there is very mild barrel distortion, at 150mm quite pronounced (yet uniform) pincushion distortion, which I had to correct for some shots.

Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 distortion characteristics | Before: 75mm | After: 150mm

Bokeh

nikon series e zoom 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare
Sony A7rII | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 | 150mm | f/3.5 | full resolution

With a maximum aperture of f/3.5 at 150mm you can get quite a good amount of background blur, especially when being close to your subject. It is also more of the smooth kind, even with rather demanding backgrounds like tree branches. I spotted hardly any outlining, but the cat’s eye effect is certainly visible in some shots.

nikon series e zoom 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare
Sony A7rII | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 | 150mm | f/3.5 | full resolution
nikon series e zoom 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare
Sony A7s | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 | 150mm | f/3.5 | full resolution
nikon series e zoom 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare
Sony A7s | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 | 150mm | f/3.5 | full resolution

Sunstars

nikon series e z00m 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare sunstars blende blendensterne
Sony A7rII | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 | 75mm | f/11.0

Because of the 7 straight aperture blades you get quite okay 14-stroke sunstars, but with this lens sunstars also come with ghosts and reduced contrast. Bummer.

Chromatic aberrations

nikon series e zoom 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens distortion
Sony A7s | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 | 150mm | f/3.5 | 100% crop, minimum focus distance

Longitudinal CA (loCA) are present, at the minimum focus distance you can see green outlining behind and magenta outlining in front of the plane in focus. Also when shooting near infinity purple fringing is present. Take a look at these crops from one of the sample images:


100% crops | Sony A7rII | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5@150mm 3.5 | Before: plane in focus | After: background

Alternatives

Minolta MD 75-150mm 4.0:
This is a third of a stop slower, has only 6 aperture blades but does not suffer from zoom creep as badly. Phillip owns one but did not yet write a review. Seems also to be a less common lens compared to the Nikon.

100 or 135mm prime:
Depending on your preferences and/or the other lenses in your kit a 100 or even 135mm prime might be the better choice. We listed some of the lenses we would recommend in this article.

70-200mm 4.0 zooms:
A bit more reach, third of a stop slower, mostly much bigger. The only one I have thorough experience with is the much more expensive Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0L.

Conclusion

good

  • sharpness at 75mm
  • price
  • size/weight
  • bokeh
average

  • vignetting
  • sunstars
not good

  • flare resistance
  • correction of longitudinal CA
  • build quality (loose focus/zoom ring)
  • sharpness at 150mm wide open
  • corner sharpness at 150mm in general
  • distortion at 150mm

No manufacturer produces small telezooms anymore, so I decided to try this rather famous Series E lens.
Unfortunately it didn’t really meet my expectations. The problem isn’t that it struggles with the 42mp sensor – this was to be expected. But the handling and flare issues really let me down.
Telling you the ring is loose on most samples doesn’t nearly cut it, a fly landing on the lens is probably able to turn it. Of course the slightest tilt of the camera will also make the ring bang right to one of the end stops. One of the main reasons for me to use manual lenses is being able to set very precise focus for my landscape shots, with this lens this isn’t an easy task.
But the mediocre (to say the least) flare resistance really spoiled the game for me: I like to include the sun in the frame, let alone during sunrise or sunset, and this is almost impossible using this lens.
Regarding sharpness this lens holds up suprisingly well at the 75mm end though, even on the 42mp sensor, but at the 150mm end: not so much.
Of course it is still possible to take nice shots with this lens, but for me there are just too many little caveats you have to work around. I also found myself mostly shooting at the long end, so for me an even smaller yet faster 135mm prime would probably be the better choice.
There is one aspect I didn’t talk about yet and that is the price. This lens is ridiculously cheap. You know everything to be aware of now, so in case you find one in pristine condition without the loose zoom/focus ring and you rarely shoot with the sun inside (or near) the frame you might find yourself liking it much more than I did.

These are very cheap, you can get one used for as little as 40$/70€ on ebay.com/ebay.de (affiliate links)

Sample Images

nikon series e zoom 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 portrait lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare loca architecture
Sony A7rII | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 | 150mm | f/3.5 | full resolution
nikon series e zoom 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare
Sony A7s | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 | 75mm | f/3.5 | full resolution
nikon series e zoom 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 portrait lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare
Sony A7s | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 | 150mm | f/3.5 | full resolution
nikon series e zoom 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare
Sony A7rII | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 | 150mm | f/3.5 | full resolution
nikon series e zoom 75-150mm 3.5 metabones adapter a7 portrait lowcost lens lens flare ghost ghosts veiling glare
Sony A7s | Nikon Series E 75-150mm 3.5 | 75mm | f/3.5 | full resolution

Further Reading

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My name is Bastian and for many years I have been mostly shooting Nikon DSLRs. As of today I have made my transition from Nikon to Sony and I am mainly using small but capable manual lenses. My passion is landscape photography but I also like to delve into other subjects from time to time.

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19 thoughts on “Review: Nikon 75-150mm 3.5 Series E”

  1. Rather good when the price is taken into account.

    I have the 50/1.8 Series E and it has noticeably better edge sharpness than the Nikkor 50/1.4 Ais .

    There are numerous manual focus zoom Nikkors well worth testing, including the sometimes unjustly maligned 35-70/ 3.3-4.5, the wonderful 35-70/ 3.5 (Ais), 35-105/ 3.5-4.5, 35-200/3.5-4.5, 28-85/3.5-4.5, et alia. Great build qualities, too.

    Thanks for an excellent site, and best wishes for 2017.

  2. In my experience, the focus/zoom ring is quite loose by design – I’ve never handled a sample where it did not slide around when the lens is pointed up-/downwards. You should probably regard that as a feature – love it or leave it 🙂 For hand held shooting I quite like this, though it probably takes some practice if you’ve never used a push/pull zoom before. For tripod use, I think there are better options.

    Even though I rarely use it (it doesn’t fit into my favorite “carry always” bag) this one one of my favorite lenses. Not quite sure why – I just happen to like the look it produces.

  3. If you find the time to compare this lens to the Minolta 75-150/4 mentioned in the alternatives section, I think you might find the Minolta the better choice. It’s smaller, lighter, handles better (by the sound of it) and image quality is at least as good and probably better. I’ve collected nearly all easily obtainable Minolta MD zooms and the 75-150/4 is one of the better ones. Altohugh I’m only able to test on a crop format digital.

  4. You gave this one a fair chance and even produced some great shots with. And a constant aperture of f3.5 says something. Maybe starter zoom for the budding photog?

    1. Taking the price into account you can hardly go wrong with this lens, I have many adapters more expensive.
      But for me handling is important and the 75-150 really got in the way of my shooting from time to time.
      If someone would produce a modern high quality incarnation though, I would be very tempted…

  5. Hi Bastian

    thanks for the review! Thank god for us A7 users that focal range is covered by the magnificient Canon FD 80-200 4.0 L 😉 I don’t know any better (reasonably priced) manual focus zoom lens in that range.

    1. Did you ever use the Contax/Zeiss 4/80-200? At least my sample has sharper corners than the FD 4/80-200 L that I used to own, is better build and cheaper. Phillip had some Hotspots with the Contax that I didn’t see so far in my images.

    1. You are welcome!

      I think it is sad no one makes such small zooms anymore. But with most people buying huge 2.8 zooms I am not even sure there is still a market for these today.

  6. As another alternative if you are willing to try, Canon also made a 70-150 f4.5 lens. Quite a bit slower, but might be worth a look. It’s a push pull design as well, and I wasn’t a fan when I owned it so I sold it without testing it too much, they go for like $20 though

  7. Probably just luck on my part but my 75-150 is in absolute mint condition (I’m not sure if this thing was ever even used) and has virtually no zoom creep. If I’m at 75mm and hold it lens facing down it stays in place. It’s not quite as tight if I’m somewhere in the middle but it still doesn’t move much. I paid $50 for it. If my Nikkor 2.5/105 wasn’t such an incredible lens I’d probably never take it off my camera.

  8. My copy was almost mint when I received it and so far I don’t have problem with zoom creep. I seldom use mine because I have a lot of primes. But lately I re-checked the few photos I had taken with it and it surprised me how sharp it was! I should give it a second chance out there in the field and create memorable photos with it.

  9. I like those lightweight, not so fast, zooms – useful to have instead of all the heavy f2.8s sometimes.

    The Angenieux 70-210 f3.5 is really interesting, and smaller than many 70-200 f4 lenses are. Contrast isn’t super-high on my copy, as is often the case with older zoom designs, but that can be helpful at times and is easily corrected in post if required. It’s sharp ‘enough’ and the bokeh is really nice, to an extent that zooms seldom are. Wonderful build quality, but still quite light in weight.

    (It’s also parfocal, so the movie makers are probably driving the prices up a bit these days.)

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