Lens mount: Nikon F
Shutter: Titanium focal plane, 1~1/1000 + B
Meter: FTN head
Viewfinder: split-image focus dot (Type A)
ISO: 6~6400 (FTN head)
Battery: PX625 x2 (FTN head)
Weight: 872g (body)
Sold for $233 body only (1963), $1,983 (2021)
Purchased for $70 w/ 45mm f2.8 (2020)
Any text about the Nikon F comes bundled with a lengthy plagarized diatribe about its history, not because the author is a Japanese-speaking, Mugicha-drinking historian, but the fact that the camera continues to emmanate this miasma of legitimacy. A legacy that demands a company-supplied backstory about the SLR's christ-like holy inception, a story that includes ihagees and leicas and vietnam and NASA. Have you seen my hesalite Speedmaster? It's been to the moon you know. I use the chronograph to time my kegels. I'm up to 17 seconds now. Like a broken fire hydrant.
Apollo-era NASA FTN
The reviewer moves on to say oh it's a million pounds and oh the finders come off isn't that just neat and it has a removable back isn't that charingly old-fashioned. The Nikon F, as expected of a late 50's SLR, was mind-manglingly new in the age of painted Zengakuren helmets but seems a touch anachronistic now. 5 years before the Nikon F went on sale the UK was still rationing food. In 1959 American jets were still routinely crashing in Japanese neighborhoods. The MOSFET was just invented. De Gaulle's reanimated corpse was brought to reanimate France.
It was a different period, and that reflects upon the F's final form. Removable backs was one of the first changes to the F. The awkward shutter release was moved forward with the F2. In-prism metering was omitted completely with the F4. And these evolutionary dead ends have a residual impact when using the F, an experience that doesn't quite land within the forgiving "anything goes" mindset that comes with uncoupled rangefinders and no automatic mirror return. OF course grandpa is outwardly racist during thanksgiving, he grew up getting assaulted with atmospheric nuke tests and leaded gas fumes. Neither does the Nikon F find itself in the "surprisingly modern" category of timeless minimalist designs that modern digital cameras like the Xpro and DF sought to emulate.
Within that I expected to grimace my way through using the F. As an OM shooter I didn't see the point. Why not get a FM or FE that's lighter and lacks the horrible shutter speed coupling . Why not an F2 that has a 1/2000 top speed and modern ergonomics?
The Nikon F is Betty White. Over 60, iconic, powerfully erotic, and questioning whether she's even relevant in the modern landscape is itself irrelevant, unthinkable. She's a cultural institution, embossed on our collective consicousness. Legitimacy is king in a hobby haunted by the spectres of working professionals, of distant anecdotes about backup bodies and Kodachrome. And even past the obligations of knowing about the Nikon F, reading about the Nikon F, using the Nikon F, it still remains a compelling camera.
Taizo Ichinose's bullet-riddled F at the Nikon Museum
Film is obselete. To try and extract pragmatic meaning from using archaic mechanical contraptions older than African sovereignty is silly, and this camera helped me realize that. I am irrationally infatuated with the Nikon F whether or not I grew up with re-runs of Golden Girls after Bewitched.
It's quirky aka not very intuitive. The control layout is sensible but it's the little things that get to you. With any metered head the shutter speed dial no longer rotates freely and you can only view selected settings from the back. The FTN head meter display is rather dim and only shows selected shutter speeds. In a masochistic move I'm mainly using the 45mm 2.8, a pancake lens whose aperture ring is somewhat hidden. Turning the aperture past 5.6 is now noticably stiffer. The shutter release is placed a few centimeters back, a vestigial carry over from the Nikon rangefinders' thumb focus ring.
All that said it's certainly not unpleasant. Removable backs are somewhat of a film camera rarity and is a breath of fresh air. The rewind button is a collar around the shutter release like the Canon P, eliminating an intrusive button on the bottom plate. The finder is still brighter and clearer than modern DSLRs. With the addition of an expensive non-metered prism I could see myself use this camera regularly.
Nikon lenses are well-regarded but I've always been curious to how that translates into images. Just like audio the hobby is haunted with the cosmic war between objectivists and subjectivists, of amorphous claims that no one seems interested in really picking apart. Are Minolta MD lenses better than Canon FD? Is a Summicron's results worth $2k? Have a sharpness test. Have my word salad. Have a bokeh test. "analytic." "3D pop." "warmth." "creamy."
For F mount glass the most prominent difference I've seen is the sharpness at wider apertures.
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