Nikonos RS Underwater Lenses Modded to Work with Nikon DSLRs


Launched in 1992 and discontinued in 1996, Nikon’s Nikonos RS was considered one of the best underwater photography solutions back in the 90s. The cameras and the 50mm f/2.8 macro, 28mm, 13mm fisheye, and 20-35mm lenses still sell for relatively high prices these days. Unfortunately for Nikon enthusiasts, the RS mount lenses were not compatible with F mount cameras… until now.

Underwater photographer Andrej Belic spent over a decade dreaming of using an RS lens on his Nikon DSLR, and over the past year he was able to get the combo working.

The two lenses Belic managed to make compatible are the 13mm fisheye and the 20-35mm wide angle (the first underwater zoom lens) — two lenses that are considered the best in underwater optics.

Belic writes that the RS lens bayonet is identical to F one, so the lenses fit without any modifications. He then began look into allowing the lens and the camera to communicate with one another electronically, and eventually figured out how to make it work.

Here are two videos showing RS lenses working on a Nikon DSLR, with autofocus and camera settings all functional:

You can follow along with Belic’s progress through his blog and see some of his beautiful underwater photography here.

(via Andrej Belic via Nikon Rumors)

Image credits: Photo and videos by Andrej Belic

  • Matt Himmelstein

    But why?

    The great thing about the lens is that they could be used underwater without a housing, when coupled to the RS. No housings to deal with… The lenses can’t be any better than the high end standard lenses, and are probably more money.

  • Amadeusz Leonardo Juskowiak

    Exactly, why even to bother… You can buy these lens in F mount. No point of using them without underwater camera.

  • Carter Marquis

    I’m sure the Nikonos lenses were designed with the refractive index of water in mind, but I’m not sure it’s worth the trouble to adapt them to work on regular DSLR’s that you still have to put in a waterproof housing…

  • lelandPalmer

    this is great because everyone has so many of these lenses that they’re neglecting…right???

  • DozenMeda

    “Unfortunately for Nikon enthusiasts, the RS mount lenses were not compatible with F mount cameras…” … “Belic writes that the RS lens bayonet is identical to F one, so the lenses fit without any modifications.”

    Now what please?

  • Zos Xavius

    But he dreamed about it for years!! Years I tell you!!! YEARS!

  • Zos Xavius

    It could be that there is no digital version of this system. By adapting the lens to a DSLR, it might be possible to use a waterproof container for the dslr and have the lens exposed in the water as it was designed. I believe the optics are designed to better deal with the optical properties of water as well. There have been a lot of people asking nikon for a digital version of the nikonos. I don’t know how you would seal a DSLR against this lens, but this might fill a serious niche.

  • niXerKG

    This is what he did. He adapted a housing for his camera to allow the Nikons lens to be used as intended. He basically engineered a CPU adapater to make the Nikons lens communicate correctly with modern DSLRs.

    Also there was a digital Nikons camera, but it was modified by Kodak for the U.S. Navy Special Operations.

  • Lee Harris

    Ufff, some people really have too much time on their hands…

  • Zos Xavius

    This highlights how badly nikon needs to update nikonos. There obviously a large market for underwater cameras given the sheer number of aftermarket housings out there.

  • niXerKG

    I mean I think it’d be great if they did even though I have no need what so ever for a Nikonos type camera but it just doesn’t make sense.

    If they outed a Nikonos camera it would be more expensive than buying a DSLR + Housing mostly because you need to help payback their R&D into a digital Nikonos and updated Nikonos lenses.

    Also the reason the housings cost so much in the first place is due mostly because not a lot of people buy them in the first place so it’s a very small market anyways.

    As sad as it is to say I think the only thing to a digital Nikonos we’ll see is the AW100 line which is why they come in Orange.

  • Zos Xavius

    You are probably right thought I don’t think cost would be an issue for those interested. I’m pretty sure the original nikonos line was not exactly cheap either. Diving gear is pretty expensive all around. I’ve read that a lot of people still use nikonos because there really isn’t anything else like them. having the optics exposed with no air gap and plexiglass/plastic in between is pretty cool actually.

  • Stanislaw Zolczynski

    Nikonos RS was seriously expensive and heavy. But what about Nikonos V line in digital edition. Nikon made some far out lenses for underwater use, like 15mm and 20mm