The desk is getting a little full but frankly I’m enjoying the view! But there’s a huge history to this view, both personally and for photography itself.
The three cameras are all Nikon SLRs and the company started selling cameras like this a little after I was born with the introduction of the Nikon F in 1959!
In all honesty the reason why all of these cameras sit on my desk is that a friend asked me for some advice on getting a film camera for her daughter. Although I’d already bought the Nikomat, it was too well priced to ignore, I’d not thought about actually using it. But then I started considering the process and the viability of it and now I’m going to spend some time playing with film again, hence the F2 was added, and I’m looking forward to it.
I saw the Nikomat FTn on Facebook recently it came with a short telephoto and a fast standard lens, it was very similar to my first ever proper cameras so I thought I would buy it. Through the years I’ve often said that there is a ‘body memory’ to this older equipment that doesn’t happen with modern gear. Putting it simply I have never forgotten the feel of my Nikkormat FT2s. To be fair my modern Leica offers a similar tactile experience, maybe it’s the metal, maybe it’s the manual aspect to the camera, particularly the manual focus.
I then saw the F2 advertised locally, the camera on the left which wears the lens that came with the Nikomat (so I bought that too!) I’d always wanted one even though I owned a later F3 back in the day. The F2 is a film camera as is the Nikomat and was the last ever purely mechanical Nikon and seen by many as one of the best cameras of its type ever; many people say it was the best. The F2 has been an object of desire from when I used to sell cameras in London in the late 70s and now one sits on my desk!
The Nikomat body is from 1970, the F2 body is from 1977 though its lens that came with the Nikomat is from 1970. The metering head of this F2 is a relatively rare DP-3 that will take the older Nikon lenses making this camera an F2SB. Finally the D850 is one of my current work cameras and it’s wearing a slightly older generation 50mm lens; I was comparing the metering of the F2 and D850 prior to running film through the F2.
With the move to mirrorless cameras the D850 will quite possibly be the last ever Nikon DSLR but it is just ridiculously good. Though the F2 and D850 are both pivotal tools from their respective times the history that links them is worth appreciating as is the movement that has gone on in photography during this period.
People often comment that the F2 is a tank of a camera and I’ve just weight it at 1.25Kg with the 50 ƒ/1.4. The FTn came down to 1.87Kg but the D850 is 1.29Kg with the much lighter 50 ƒ/1.4D. In all honesty this surprised me a little but I know the D850 with the modern zooms that I generally use pushes 3Kg; I have previously been that man at the airport weighing his cameras.
I’m looking forward to running film through the F2 though I will go a hybrid route and may even use the D850 to digitise the negatives which probably sounds absolutely barking. I’ve stripped and cleaned the thing, its got some dings to it but frankly I wish I’d weathered the last 35 years as well.
Sometimes though it’s great to consider the history of what we are immersed in, visit it, appreciate it and be grounded by it. When I sell some of the bits that came with these old cameras the investment is remarkably low, and assuming they keep working they will keep their value.
So hopefully once I’ve run a couple of test films I will be that man walking round with a ridiculously old camera, it won’t have the lens cap on though.