Metal Mechanical Marvel- The Nikon F2

Nikon F2S, Built In Japan, In 1976.

Nikon F2S, Built In Japan, In 1976.

After a lengthy hiatus (too long), I am back photographing. So much so that I am behind on my developing. And suffering yet another medical setback, that has forced me to slow down lots of activities. How does one cheer up? Maybe pick up yet another camera body that has been on the “bucket list” for years now. The classic, quintessential mechanical 35mm SLR, the Nikon F2.

Introduced way back in the Fall of 1971, the F2 originally was slated to be called the Nikon F Model A. Thankfully, Nikon settled on the numeric nomenclature that exists today with their D series. The F2 was more an evolution than a revolution, a refinement of the Nikon F that came out 12 years earlier. The F2 was on the drawing board for years before its introduction. Despite the fact that Nikon was selling a ton of F’s, even going into shortages in many parts of the world in the early 70’s.

The F2 set out to correct a few quirks that the F had since 1959. The body was now more rounded, making it easier to hold in the hands. A slightly faster flash sync speed was now at 1/80th of a second, up from 1/60th. The top end shutter speed was now 1/2000th of a second, almost unheard of in its day, and still a marvel for an all mechanical camera. Amazingly, exposure can be fine tuned by choosing intermediate, stepless settings about that 1/80th sec. speed. The batteries for the light meter were now of the silver oxide variety- no more mercury. The batteries are available today, still,ejust about anywhere you can think of.  Not that you always need them, because, like the F, the F2 is 100% mechanical. A larger mirror reduced the likelihood of viewfinder vignetting with longer glass. There are about 1500 parts in the camera. Yes, you still get a bullet proof titanium shutter. And, a hinged back door with a memo display. No more removable door, a holdover from the rangefinder days, which maybe is one of the original F’s very few design flaws.

The F2 was conceived as more of an “automatic” Nikon, allowing for add on’s that would automate modes such as shutter priority. Those with the mindset that an F should be a full manual camera, always, would later be disappointed in 1980, with the introduction of the F3, and its Aperture Priority mode. Ironic, because when the F3 ended production almost 20 years later, it was then hailed as one of the greatest 35mm SLR’s of all time.

The model I scooped up this past weekend, at Photographica, is the F2S. Built in 1976, it was impossible to resist, condition, functionality, and price were all to the liking. The F2S was the first 35mm SLR with LED’s in the light meter to display exposure. They are beautiful to look at, helpful to measure exposure, and a huge plus in low light situations over the previous needle mechanism. And nicely tuned with the stepless shutter speed capabilities.

The F2 is a joy to use. The better handling and ergonomics really make it easier and even more fun to operate than the F. while still admittedly a very heavy camera, it does not feel heavy in use. It is perfectly balanced. And feels more like a finely tuned instrument than a camera.

NOTE: If you plan on using the F2 with a “modern” day Speedlight, you will need to get, which I did right away, the very handy AS-1 flash coupler. This slides over the rewind knob, and allows you to slide on most Nikon Speedlights, even thouse such as the SB-600, or SB-900!

The F2 made way in 1980, for yes, the F3. Samples from the 1st roll below, shot with Portra 160, in Wakefield, MA, home of Photographica-

From the first roll shot on the F2- exposures are slightly hot, but maybe due to the time of the day, and just not used to the light meter yet.

From the first roll shot on the F2- exposures are slightly hot, but maybe due to the time of the day, and just not used to the light meter yet.

What you see is what you get with the Nikon F2- 100% viewfinder coverage, always.

What you see is what you get with the Nikon F2- 100% viewfinder coverage, always.


2 thoughts on “Metal Mechanical Marvel- The Nikon F2

  1. Not only a mechanical marvel but a mechanical wonder. I love running Kodak Elite Chrome through it. Most of the time I use it with the meterless DE-1. Sometimes I’ll put the DP-12 on it. Depends on the situation. I actually prefer to do my own incident metering when time permits. Incident is so accurate. IMHO, when the F2 was made, everything made past that point was irrelevant…

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