A Nurse with a Gun

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Nikon F

As I began to delve into photography again over the past few weeks, I have unpacked and unwrapped my collection of old film cameras. At one time, I accumulated and used most of the equipment. My preferred brand of camera was obviously Nikon, Nikon F Click to enlargeand my preferred make was obviously the original Nikon SLR, the Nikon F.

I like the Nikon F because it is a brute of a camera. When the user picks up the conglomeration of leather, brass and glass that make up the Nikon F, there is little doubt that this is a piece of equipment built for serious use. It is a strictly manual camera, yet in today's fast paced course towards becoming obsolete within six months of a camera's introduction, the Nikon F remains one of the toughest, most durable, and versatile cameras ever built.

I like the chunky clunky look of the Photomic viewfinder on top of the Nikon F camera body. It is antithetical to the organic lines of modern camera equipment. Even though the light meter in my Photomicws are long worn out, I never really used them anyway. The viewfinders of the Nikon F are able to be removed and exchanged for different styles, from waist level finders to huge "action" finders for diving and sports, to a simple pentaprism, or even the poor man's waist level finder, no viewfinder at all.

Although the Nikon F appears to be a brick, it feels positively a part of your hand, an extension of yourself, while holding it. The unique feel and handling characteristics of the Nikon line of cameras is is one of the oft stated reasons many people prefer them. That, and the ability to continue to use lenses the photographer already owns. My old pre-AI lenses of the Nikon F era are some of the most precisely made equipment I own.

I don't know why I accumulated the collection of 35mm cameras I did, but I certainly had an affinity for the Nikon F and Nikon F2. Click to enlargeI have used some of them, but others have not created a single image in my hands. A few were simply purchased to get the attached lens in a package deal. Although some are battered, all still function in the manual mode, without batteries. Imagine that.

Most of my old Nikon cameras were saved from a trip to the dumpster as people felt the need to upgrade their equipment. I suppose I don't need a logical reason for accumulating them. I just like them. They are reminders of a time that the photographer had to wait until he was in the darkroom to know for certain if his work was good. Reminders of a time when a camera was little more than a tool for the photographer, a time that the photographer's gray matter was also the brain for the camera.

Since I began shooting images again, I have gone digital. Auto focus. The new technology is great. It allows the photographer to concentrate more on the image. The ability to collect hundreds of shots, immediately viewable for disposal or preservation has transformed photography. I have heard several people say that 35mm film will eventually go the way of the dinosaur. In today's consumer driven camera market, I suppose it will. At some point, my old 35mm cameras will be as obsolete as a Polaroid One Step or a Kodak Disc. But even then, they will be a solid reminder that the photographer is the master of the camera, and the beauty of photography cannot be purchased with the next generation of electronics. That is a good enough reason to keep the old leather, brass and glass on my shelf.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, while it is true that with a digital you can take hundreds of pics that are immediately available, when I use my 35mm Nikon F2 every picture I take seems to be of more quality, significance and has a better story behind it. In one 30 frame strip, there is maybe one or two pics I would consider "trash". With my digital camera on the other hand, out of the 300 pics it holds, usually 1/2 gets erased for lack of "soul".

8:55 AM  
Anonymous TJP said...

"Most of my old Nikon cameras were saved from a trip to the dumpster as people felt the need to upgrade their equipment. I suppose I don't need a logical reason for accumulating them."If they still work...? It's the best kept secret in photography. With my digital point-and-shoot(-and-discard) camera, I can play endlessly with exposure settings until getting the right shot takes as much thought as putting on a jacket, then translate that knowledge to film.

I look forward to attempting B&W film again, only with cameras I could only dream of affording ten years ago. (Monochrome film is better than it has ever been.) With some of the recent SLRs, the only differences in sophistication are the lack of a CCD and an LCD.

I've also seen more than one camera review where the lens was obviously defective, and ruined what was otherwise a great camera body. I don't think manufacturers are feeling the pressure to ship good optics with a DSLR, (except for Nikon.) That's why it's great that so many bargain SLRs are floating around.

Also: AF is overrated. I don't work for a newspaper, I don't wear glasses, and I'm not in a hurry.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Phantastic said...

On a side note, looks like today's Day By Day has a tad of an historical error. The "Join or Die" woodcut didn't have anything to do with the War of Independence or "tyranny." It was about joining together in the French and Indian war. You know, banding together to kill off those Native American "insurgents."

Sure wish he would turn the perv factor down a bit, too. Seems like he enjoys drawing scantily-clad women in every pose imaginable.

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also like Nikon. When I traveled the world in my business career, I carried a Nikon FG - very light and had a mechanical shutter at 1/90 if the battery died. Digital is the present, but there was still something about having to be familiar with the film and everything that the new technology lacks. No soul to it in my opinion.


2:43 PM  
Anonymous Seth from Massachusetts said...

My first serious camera was a Nikormat FTN. Later I bought a used Nikon F and had it converted to take the F2 heard. Had a 50mm, a 28mm and a 90-230 zoom. I still have them both but largely use a digital which I appreciate for the ability to discard bad pics without having to go to the expense of having film processed, not to mention the ability to email them directly to friends and relatives without scanning prints first.

No color image is ever going to be able to capture the detail which a black and white one will.

I'm also busily scanning old family photos for a family history project a relative and I are doing, and note that black and white images last far longer than color ones.

6:39 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

Back in my local reporter days (hometown weekly), I used to like to shoot black & white: "Go burn some film," saith the city editor. "Right, boss," saith your humble cub reporter. We had a bulk loader, and I took a lot of pictures back then.

I don't do that any more, but I miss it sometimes. The family camera is a digital, but I also have (long story) a 1964 Leicaflex (Leica's first SLR) that I want to start using now and again.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous tjp said...

I love going back and reading my own posts. Sort of like embarass-a-tainment I guess. Cuts me down to size. Wow, I have come such a long way since I posted here. (Still not a fan of auto-focus:)

Not that you were lacking talent or experience to begin with, X, but your new studio work compared with your original pictures here shows how finely honed and crystal clear your conceptualizing and execution has become. Practice made you perfect!

8:21 PM  

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