This highly sought-after micro lens was introduced in 1961. It can focus all the way from infinity down to only 10cm and achieve 1:1 magnification without extention tube.This lens can be attached to the bellows unit in reverse, producing an astonishing 4:1 magnification. The only problem is finding the rare M-B connecting tube required between bellows and lens front. It is also a well-known problem that the M-B tube may be stuck in the lens if over-tightened. There are around 2,500 units produced in two versions, starting with serial no. 171529. The first version has a recessed filter ring which makes it difficult to even just attaching a normal lens cap. (Unless you have the dedicated front cap with longer pins for this lens.) It was rectified with a protuded filter ring in the second version. A drawing of a prototype with "Tick marks" is shown in some early literature. The production version doesn't have any "Tick marks". Most users claim this lens is razor sharp and outperforms many modern optics. You know, they just don't make thing like this anymore!
The lens extends from 6.6cm to 12cm as its focus changes from infinity to minimum focus distance.
  The second version of 5.5cm Micro with a protruding filter ring    
I always wonder how this classic gem would fare against its more modern counterpart like Ai-s Micro-55mm f2.8. Let's find out in the test below!
D700 + Micro 5.5cm f3.5 preset stopped down to f5.6. The photo shows the full frame.
D700 + Ai-s Micro 55mm f2.8 stopped down to f5.6. The photo shows the full frame.
100% crop from the 5.5cm f3.5 shot
100% crop from 55mm f2.8 shot
As shown in the above samples, the sharpness of the two lenses are so close that any difference you see is probably down to focus error. That is pretty impressive for a lens released in 1961?! Bearing in mind that the Ai-s Micro 55mm f2.8 can only achieve 1:2 magnification without using extension tube while the 5.5cm preset can go all the way to 1:1. See the full power of this lens unleashed in the 100% crop photo below!
Approximately 1:1 magnification (100% crop)

Updated on 17 Dec 2013