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The Origins Of Nikon's 'Three Big Dragons'

What are the '3 Big Dragons' and how did they come to be known as this? We find out.

|  Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II in Interchangeable Lenses
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Nikkor 3 big dragons

The '3 Big Dragons' is a term that's used for 3 key Nikon Nikkor lenses - a fixed wide angle zoom, standard zoom and telephoto zoom. 

This combination was known as the mahjong hand, or '3 big dragons'. With this combination, photographing most subjects would be possible, guaranteeing the best image quality, too. All 3 original 'dragons' had a fixed f/2.8 aperture.

Nikkor wide angle

The Wide Angle Zoom

The AF Zoom Nikkor 20-35mm f/2.8D(IF) was released in 1993. It featured the ability to zoom without complex inner cam mechanisms. This minimised movement of the point of focus. 

The next generation of this lens incorporated an ultrasonic motorised SWM, and the AF-S Zoom NIKKOR ED 17-35mm f/2.8D(IF) along with the AF-S Zoom NIKKOR ED 28-70mm f/2.8D (IF) launched in 1999.  

For the third generation of the lenses a Nano Crystal Coat was added to help with rapidly growing high pixel counts in DSLRs. The third generation were created with greater form and accuracy than the older lenses. 

The latest wide angle zoom to be included in the 3 big dragons line up is the AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, which produces such amazing images that many didn't believe it was a zoom lens. This was released in 2007.

Nikon Nikkor 35-70mm lenses

The Standard Zoom Lens 

The AF Zoom NIKKOR 35-70mm f/2.8S is the original fixed aperture standard zoom. It was unique because of a concave-convex-concave combo of lens elements instead of using ED glass. 

This lens evolved into the 24-70mm f/2.8G ED, setting the standard for ultra high performance. 


Nikkor 80-200mm zoom

The Telephoto Zoom Lens

The AF Zoom NIKKOR ED 80-200mm f/2.8S zoom lens, the final member of the 3 dragons family, went on to become the best-selling normal telephoto zoom lens. 

This 4-group zoom lens had a convex-led group that followed in the footsteps of manual focus telephoto zooms. The third generation of this lens, the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II was launched in 2009.


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