The camera of for this stroll was an easy choice. Not only is it a beautiful camera, but it has a reputation of being quite the workhorse. The Nikon F. A good friend of mine, Chris Etzel, and I were discussing this camera recently and he suggested we should each put a roll of film through ours and share our thoughts on what it’s like to shoot this classic beauty. You can see what Chris has to say about it here.
The Nikon F is an iconic camera and one I’ve been wanting to add to my collection for quite a while. A little over a year ago, I was lucky enough to get a great deal on a clean 1966 model with a working Photomic meter. Just two days ago, I picked up another. This one is an even cleaner 1969 model with a working ftn meter. But before we look at the results from my shoot, let’s take a closer look at the camera.
The Nikon F was produced from 1959-1973 and was Nikon’s first SLR camera and was the weapon of choice for many of the professional photographers of that time. It has interchangeable focusing screens, allowing the shooter to tailor the shooting experience to their preference. It also has interchangeable prisms. The camera itself is purely mechanical, meaning it does not require a battery to shoot. The only batteries needed are for the metered prisms, which can be used either on or off. This means shooting is still possible even if the meter battery were to die.
Film is loaded into the camera by removing the entire back covering of the camera. This is done by turning a small lever on the bottom of the camera. Once the film is loaded, the film speed is set by lifting and turning the small ring on the shutter speed dial. Again, this is only necessary if the meter in the prism is going to be used.
A step that might be missed by those new to the Nikon F is the film direction knob. Turn it to “A” to shoot the camera and advance the film. Turn it to “R”, and the film can now be rewound by turning the rewind knob on the top left of the camera. Those unfamiliar with this might mistake a camera in working condition for a broken camera, and the film advance lever will not work correctly when this “R” is selected. Embarrassingly enough, I learned this the hard way when I couldn’t figure out how to rewind the film once I completed my roll. A quick search of the interwebs was all it took to make me realize I should have reviewed the camera manual before shooting my first roll.
Changing lenses on the Nikon F is nothing new if you’re already familiar with the “Nikon Twist”. If you’re like me and this is your first time shooting an older Nikon SLR, do yourself a favor and watch a few YouTube videos before attempting to change the lens. It will save you a world of frustration. I shot the images for this article using the Nikkor-S Auto 1:1.4 50mm lens, my favorite manual focus Nikon lens to date.
Once you hold a Nikon F, you understand why people say you can always use it as a weapon if it were to ever stop working. It’s a hefty beast of a SLR. I personally like this. I’m not the steadiest of shooters and find the weight of the camera actually helps me out here. I find it’s heavy enough to provide some stability without being so heavy that it’s a burden to hold.
For my stroll, I chose the small town where I live, Franklin Ohio. It’s a quiet little town with parts that appear as if time has forgotten them. It’s located on the Great Miami River in SW Ohio and was one of the canal towns.
I’ve recently started rolling my own 35mm film cardtridges from a 100’ bulk roll. The first film I’ve tried is Kentmere 400. The photos below were taken from this roll.
So how did I like shooting the Nikon F? I loved it! I love the solid all mechanical feel of the body. I’ve always used the metered prism when shooting the F, but would feel just as comfortable shooting it Sunny 16, and just having the ability to do so will make it a more frequent shooter for me. Nothing annoys me more than having a photography outing cut short because of a dead battery. You can bet this camera will be finding its way into my camera bag more often.