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Nikon F query
Old 06-18-2019   #1
davidswiss
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Nikon F query

Hello all.
I've the chance of a Nikon F black body in the 644 range (1961) in good cosmetic condition.
It comes with 50mm 1.4 and 200mm lenses and a motor drive.
No cases, bags, boxes or straps.
The shutter speeds seem ok but I have no information on when or if it's been CLA'd. It was owned by an enthusiast so it's not been worked to death by a professional. I was told that the viewfinder was replaced some time in the '60's.
My experience has been with Contaflex and Pentax slr's and a Leica IIIc. I know about the Nikon F but have never bought one.
My question is the price, it's advertised at £440 and googling it results in prices well below and well above that number. Is this good, bad or about right ?
Or would I be better looking for an F2 ?
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Old 06-18-2019   #2
DC1030
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depends on the finder it has. if it comes with the eyelevel finder it ist a good offer, if it comes with the more common photomic finder its more on the expensive side...
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Old 06-18-2019   #3
Huss
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Plain prism or metered prism?
If the shutter timing sounds correct i wouldnt worry about cla. I’ve bought 2 and they’ e worked perfectly w no cla done.
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Old 06-18-2019   #4
davidswiss
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thanks for the feedback Huss and DC.
It's an eyelevel plain prism. It was one of the things I liked as it's simple, no electrics involved. I didn't realise it made a difference in desirability to others.
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Old 06-18-2019   #5
ktmrider
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I have a chrome F with the eye level prism and it works perfectly. Unfortunately, my eyes no longer focus quite as well, especially with the "B" screen which is my favorite. I recently put a really nice 55f3.5 Micro Nikkor on it and WOW.

In my experience, if it was not abused by a pro (which would show cosmetically), it will work fine and for the cost how can you go wrong.
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Old 06-18-2019   #6
Contarama
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What's the speed on the 200mm lens?
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Old 06-18-2019   #7
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The camera and 50 lens are solid. when I got my first F I took it to my repair guy and asked him to check the shutter timing. he refused and said they are always fine!
Dont know much about the motor drive, check ebay SOLD listings for its worth. As Contarama mentioned, what is the 200mm lens? But I have to say if the motordrive works this seems like a good deal.
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Old 06-18-2019   #8
bucs
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Check shutter speeds. Mine hangs at 1/8s. Only at that speed lol.

I bought mine for $300; body only with plain prism. That was a year ago and my sample looks like it went through war with brassing all around.
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Old 06-18-2019   #9
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I bought my Nikon F off a Craigslist ad. Serial #64650xx, it came with the Photomic F Finder Serial #885993. I traded a Minolta AF Lens, that was given to me, for the Standard Eye-Level Finder (Type 3)
All in all I have just over $10 into this body...
It works perfectly and the only drawback is that the Filmback bottom has a small dent and shows wear from mounting on a tripod...
It just shows that they can go for whatever one is willing to pay or how little someone is willing to sell for...

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Old 06-18-2019   #10
Paulbe
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A complete motor drive with the proper back, etc, is getting hard to find--at least here locally. But--440 pounds still sounds a little high to me. Will the seller negotiate?
Best of luck--they are still fine and robust cameras!
Paul
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Old 06-18-2019   #11
jim_jm
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If the view thru the prism is clear with no desilvering or lines, it's desirable. Especially if it's a black body with black prism in good cosmetic condition. Here in the US the body/finder in good condition with no major mechanical issues might bring about $200-300 USD. Unless it's really in mint condition, I wouldn't pay more than that. If the lenses and motor drive are also in good shape, the seller's price for the whole kit isn't crazy high, but you may want to try negotiate a bit.
If the shutter needs servicing, it may exhibit sticking slow speeds at 1/15 and lower. Take the lens and back off and fire the shutter at different speeds while looking thru the camera. Sticking slow speeds will be very obvious. This is easily repaired during a CLA and the camera won't need service for another 20 years at least. Here in the US, a CLA would run $150-250 USD, so try to factor that into your price negotiation if you think the camera needs it.
Cameraquest's site has a bunch of info on the Nikon F, scroll down to "Nikon SLR's". Also, this site here has the most comprehensive info I've seen on the Nikon F system.
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Last edited by jim_jm : 06-18-2019 at 16:54. Reason: corrected text
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Old 06-18-2019   #12
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I have to say that the Nikon F with an original non-metering prism is one of the, well not pretty exactly, cameras ever made but certainly one of the most most business-like, pleasant to look at and enjoyable to use. If you are like me and the "look and feel" of the camera equipment you use has psychological value then this stuff is as important to you as it is to me - though I suppose it should not be so - or at least it should come a distant second to the importance of function.

But then again as certain leading architects of the early 20th Century were fond of saying, "form follows function." And they were right of course. The same principle was espoused even more succinctly by aircraft designers of pre war Britain who were reputed to have stated that if an aircraft "looks right, then it will fly right". Unfortunately these days, aircraft (and cameras) are more often designed by engineers and accountants with an eye on the bottom line rather than to beauty. Which I suppose is why the best selling commercial passenger aircraft tend to look like bloated monstrosities who have just won a pie eating contest, not super-models (all the money is in stuffing more pies - err people in them, not in making them look well).

Which perhaps, is also why some people, me included enjoy handling those old beauties (cameras that is) from the robust early days of design when the instincts of good designers still held some sway. And who cares if those cameras feel as if they were carved from a solid chunk of adamantine steel.

Lugging a heavy camera around all day - that's what all us real men were born to do - grrrrr! Truth be told though, it is probably also a contributing factor in why I have just had to have a surgical operation to fix a serious problem my spine which laid me up for nearly four months.
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Old 06-18-2019   #13
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I finally got a silver eye level prism for one of my F bodies, then went for a black one for another. My original F had a motor drive attached, but it was from a black body, so I just converted it back to a standard model. Then I got a black body with the Nippon-Kogaku logo on top, but with a chrome FT prism, and knew that was formerly a motorized model from the holes in the bottom plate, so I had to get a black eye level then, and still need a black back as I parted out the motor drive (which was worn out and inoperable).


I find the eye level prism fun to use as I calculate exposures just like with a lot of my rangefinders. And the F with its more conventional shutter speed dial seems to handle better than a Nikkormat.


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Old 06-19-2019   #14
steveyork
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Seems like a fair price. Fs now days are a'a dime a dozen,' but according to Cameraquest website, black Fs in the 64 serial number range are rare.
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Old 06-19-2019   #15
Benjamin Marks
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It is a classic design, in my opinion. The prism viewfinders could be a little dark. I would make sure that you can focus in the conditions you plan on using the camera in. Your price seems a little high to me, but condition is everything. It sounds like you plan on using the camera rather than having a collector's item. Any chance of a pre-buy inspection with a neutral repair person?
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Old 06-19-2019   #16
dbarnes
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A very early black F in nice condition is collectible to some degree. In excellent condition, very collectible. If some of the other gear is contemporaneous, it might also have some extra value.

If I were in your shoes and specifically wanted to get some experience shooting with an F or F2 kit, I would consider buying and flipping this gear and then having the fun of shopping for a more tailored set of less collectible items.

There are a couple of very authoritative Nikon F collector websites:

When the metered prism finders appeared, early Fs would not fit them unless modified. A key question as to the value of the body in question is whether it has been modified.

Similarly, is the meterless prism of the same vintage as the body? At a gross level: Early prisms had rectangular viewfinder eyepiece bezels and later bezels were square.

There several battery packs for F motors. The earliest ones attached by cord. Later ones were attached directly to the motor.

The 50/1.4 and 200/4 are respected lenses. It's hard to go wrong with Nikon glass.

The F was the quintessential photojournalism camera of its day. Many photojournalists preferred this lens lineup: 24/2.8, 35/2, 85/1.8, 180/2.8. Other folks say you can't appreciate an F without a 105/2.5 for portraits or a 55/3.5 macro lens.

YMMV. Have fun!
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Old 06-20-2019   #17
leicapixie
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The Nikon-F is reliable, almost always works.
My "F's" were in storage many years but a lil exercise and they were off to the races whatever!
Compared to Pentax SLR , Nikon-F is bright viewing.
Leica Barnack are small and have same viewfinder, small..
I found my non-working Photomic finders brighter than plain prism.
The plain prism makes it a lovely camera..
Price seems high but has motor..
My 200 f3.5 Takumar (special fit by Magnum photographer) is a classic.
Slam film in, hit the streets and enjoy.
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thanks guys
Old 06-20-2019   #18
davidswiss
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thanks guys

Many thanks for all the very informative feedback.
I'm off on Friday afternoon for another, better informed, look and if all is good will make an offer.
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Old 06-20-2019   #19
Erik van Straten
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I have a Nikkor H Auto 50mm f/2 on mine, but I do not like that lens very much because of the distortion. I always think about putting this lens on my Nikon F plain prism:






Is this lens optically and mechanically good?


Erik.
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Old 06-20-2019   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik van Straten View Post
Is this lens optically and mechanically good?
Mechanically : the Nikkor GN 45mm f/2.8 is designed to be used with a flash (hence the "GN" for Guide Number).
You can disconnect the GN coupling so that you can use the lens normally (focusing will not change the diaphragm settings once the GN coupling system is disengaged). In this case - the only way to use the lens in 99.99% of the time - you will notice some significant wobble in the focusing mechanics which - I know you a little bit - you will hate sooner or later for sure.

Optically : Tessar formula pushed to f/2.8. Suffers from the same problems as all Tessar formula lenses not limited to f/3.5. Probably the exact same formula as on the recent Nikkor 45mm f/2.8 Ai-P lens.

Our RFF fellow Dante Stella has written a good article some years ago :

https://www.dantestella.com/technical/gn-nikkor.html
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Old 06-20-2019   #21
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One thing you would like is the focus throw is the same direction as Leica. Check out this thread:https://www.rangefinderforum.com/for...d.php?t=166560

Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik van Straten View Post
I have a Nikkor H Auto 50mm f/2 on mine, but I do not like that lens very much because of the distortion. I always think about putting this lens on my Nikon F plain prism:

Is this lens optically and mechanically good?

Erik.
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Old 06-20-2019   #22
davidswiss
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Contarama View Post
What's the speed on the 200mm lens?
Apologies for not answering earlier, it's a 200 4
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Old 06-20-2019   #23
Bill Clark
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In 1972 I was in the market for a Nikon as I was in Asia with the military. I thought Nikon F but after going through in my head what I wanted, I decided on a Nikkormat. I was told it was as good quality as the F but less expensive as it I couldn’t change the prism. The F is heavier and I’m not a fan of camera straps.

At any rate perhaps, at least, look at the Nikkormat. It takes the same Nikkor lenses as the F. I bought quite a few lenses back then and still use them all.

It has never failed me. Never has had a CLA. The only item I replaced myself is the small sponge rubber bumper by the prism that the mirror hits when activating the shutter. I bought the bumber from a gent named Goodman.
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Old 06-20-2019   #24
Steve M.
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I never got on w/ those, and much preferred the Nikkormats, which you can pick up for peanuts. Nikon had serious sales issues when the pros that bought the F cameras for their main use, and a Nikkormat for a backup, started selling their F's, stopped buying new ones, and kept the Nikkormats as their main camera. Nikon had to kill the Nikkormat in order to sell the F's. The Nikkormats have the sweetest sounding shutters that I have ever heard on an SLR, and I have no trouble focusing them w/ or w/o my glasses on.
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Old 06-20-2019   #25
Huss
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Here's Don McCullin's famous Nikon F:

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Old 06-20-2019   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik van Straten View Post






Is this lens optically and mechanically good?


Erik.
Yes and yes. I use it on my Nikon F:






Not sure what is meant by the focus ring 'wobbles'? Never experienced that. It does have an unusual feeling to the focus action where in the mid range the helicoid feels that nothing is happening. But it is. Mine has been much better since a little lubing.
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Old 06-20-2019   #27
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And I happened to have this 100% crop from a B&W version of the above colour pic :



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Old 06-20-2019   #28
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Also make sure to get the original Gothic script lens hood (here on my Z7):

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Old 06-21-2019   #29
davidswiss
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I went today without the rose tinted glasses, applied the information from you all and gave it a miss.
Not in as good condition as I remembered, motor drive worked very occasionally, viewfinder not so good and no movement on price.
The problem is that Nikon F's were only of passing interest before this but now I have an itch to get one.
Thank you all.
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Old 06-21-2019   #30
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Don't forget about the F2. Different than the F (it had some electronics) but every bit as robust. Same focusing screens (I prefer the P screen that many feel too busy), the motor drive that doesn't require a different back (unless you go 250 exposure rolls), available batteries w/o conversion and several different finders (Plain Prism, Ai, Non-Ai, Sports, etc.).

IMHO Nikkormats rock too. I used one for years and except for the lack of a 100% finder I never had an issue. Again, the earlier FTn was great, very similar to an F. I'd recommend you look at an FT3 as it takes AI lenses.

Find a great F with a plain prism and you will never go wrong. F2, while a classic in its own right, the F was what started professional 35mm professional photography for the masses.

B2 (;->
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Old 06-21-2019   #31
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I was given a plain-prism 1971 Nikon F by a newspaper photographer more than 20 years ago. It looks even more well-used and brassed than Don McCullin's, picrured above. It still works just fine -- a great classic.
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Old 06-23-2019   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve M. View Post
I never got on w/ those, and much preferred the Nikkormats, which you can pick up for peanuts. Nikon had serious sales issues when the pros that bought the F cameras for their main use, and a Nikkormat for a backup, started selling their F's, stopped buying new ones, and kept the Nikkormats as their main camera. Nikon had to kill the Nikkormat in order to sell the F's. The Nikkormats have the sweetest sounding shutters that I have ever heard on an SLR, and I have no trouble focusing them w/ or w/o my glasses on.
The shutter speed selector around the lens mount kills the Nikkormats for me. Tried, but couldn't get used to it. Otherwise great bargains.
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