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A Brace of Vintage Nikon F's
Old 07-07-2010   #1
P. Lynn Miller
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A Brace of Vintage Nikon F's

This pair of Nikon F's have become my daily user's...



The first is my original Nikon F bought quite a few years ago, #6424323 with an early Nikkor-S 5.8cm f1.4 #158742, making them both 1960 vintage. This Nikon F has restored my belief in the Nikon F, it has fully recovered from its second burial at the beach with no ill effects. I thought that the Nikkormat FTn was the only camera that could survive such an ordeal.

The second Nikon F is a recent acquisition found in a box lot of stuff bought off the local eBay, #6409109, making it the oldest Nikon F I own, apparently made in late 1959. It is mated with a very early Nikkor-S 3.5cm f2.8 #920429 'Tick-Mark' with a nine-blade aperture.

After several years of experimenting with a number of different formats and types of cameras, I have come full circle and found the Nikon F to be the best camera for me. As a tool, it simply disappears. Oddly, the Nikon F with an eye-level finder is the only camera that I can use thoughtlessly, I do not even second-guess my exposure choice, it just happens.

The Nikon F only requires me to make 3 decisions when making a photograph, shutter speed, aperture, and focus, which happen instinctively allowing me to concentrate on the world through that huge 100% viewfinder.
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Old 07-07-2010   #2
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Very nice Pair of F's.

It's nice to see these early ones get used. I have one that fits in-between yours, with the 5cm f2 Nikkor-S on it.
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Old 07-07-2010   #3
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I had 2 of those , a black one with small finder which I bought new in 1974 and a 1969 chrome one with Ftn finder , bought in 1987 . The first one was stolen just a year after purchase and I sold the other one , still regret it .

Luckily , I still have my 1971 F2 . Love these cameras !

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Old 07-07-2010   #4
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Thanks, Brian.

Have you ever used the 5.8cm? It is vintage Nikkor at its very best. I must get some of my prints scanned. The 5.8 has been a real discovery!
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Old 07-07-2010   #5
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I keep the 5.8cm/1.4 on a Bullseye Photomic, and have used it. It is as close to a Summarit as you can find in F-Mount. Lower contrast, swirly Bokeh. I like the magnification of it compared to a 50. A 50mm lens has a Slight Retro folded into the formula. I end up using a 55/1.2 more than a 50, and the 5.8/1.4.
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Old 07-07-2010   #6
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A very nice pair of early F's indeed. An SP would be the perfect RF comparison, and would operate seemlessly when used with these cameras
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Old 07-07-2010   #7
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Brian,

The out-of-focus areas just seem to melt with my 5.8 instead of the expected swirl of most Nikkor 50's. The Nikkor 55/1.2 is still on my list, but after a nine-blade 10.5cm and Nikkor-H 85/1.8 for portraits and a 2.1cm f4 for landscapes.

Maybe I will start a separate thread about the 5.8cm f1.4...
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Old 07-07-2010   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonmanjiro View Post
A very nice pair of early F's indeed. An SP would be the perfect RF comparison, and would operate seamlessly when used with these cameras
A really nice S2, SP or maybe an S3 will be the only thing that could tempt me back into the rangefinder fold at this point. I have to just clear my shelves of all my unused M-mount stuff to fund such an acquisition.

One day... soon.
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Old 07-07-2010   #9
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I'll post some with the 58/1.4. we should start a thread on it. Roger would like that as well, one of his faves.
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Old 07-07-2010   #10
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Very nice Lynn ... as much as I admire my FM3A I'm not convinced it offers me any more than what one of these beauties would, maybe I made the wrong choice.

But then, that may start another whole 'gas' cycle ... and we can't have that!
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Old 07-07-2010   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by P. Lynn Miller View Post
A really nice S2, SP or maybe an S3 will be the only thing that could tempt me back into the rangefinder fold at this point. I have to just clear my shelves of all my unused M-mount stuff to fund such an acquisition.

One day... soon.
Definitely an S3 or SP over an S2, for the same type of shutter speed dial. I should have kept this F...

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Old 07-07-2010   #12
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You should have kept it definitively !

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Originally Posted by jonmanjiro View Post
Definitely an S3 or SP over an S2, for the same type of shutter speed dial. I should have kept this F...

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Old 07-07-2010   #13
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I once lusted after the Nikon line, but couldn't afford it for what I perceived of my photo needs at the time. I ended up with Yashica and Fujica. No real regrets.

Those two look nice indeed! The Nikon F is mentioned in Jason Schneider's most recent column on vintage cameras in Shutterbug.
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Old 07-07-2010   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Sweeney View Post
I'll post some with the 58/1.4. we should start a thread on it. Roger would like that as well, one of his faves.
Brian,

Sounds good to me. We will start a new discussion dedicated to the Nikkor-S 5.8cm f1.4. If you have images handy, take the lead, I still have to scan my prints. Which forum should it go under?

Jon,

I am really bummed out that I missed that S3 that you sold in the classified last week. Since I only really use a rangefinder with 50mm, I am thinking an S2 will be fine for my needs. I am trying to resist the S-series until I have completed my vintage F kit.

In case, anyone is listening... that list includes the following items...

Type 1 self-timer lever and screw for the 4-digit F
Beat-up black eye-level finder
A couple of AR-1 soft-releases
A couple of AR-2 cable releases
Nikkor-P 10.5cm f2.5 'Tick-Mark'
Nikkor-H 85mm f1.8
Nikkor-O 2.1cm f4.0

I am trying to convince myself that I am not a collector, but an appreciative user. In fact, I have no shelf-queens. Everything I own is used and abused. Nikon F #6424323 was buried in the beach while taking this photo a few years ago...



After being thoroughly flushed with acetone and mineral spirits, it shows no ill effects of the salt-scrub.

So I am slowly putting together a kit that would have been found in the early years of the Nikon F being released which will also be the photographic kit that I use everyday.
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Old 07-07-2010   #15
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Lynn,

these are very nice cameras indeed. And the picture on the beach is outstanding!

I am wondering whether you would possibly like to briefly sketch what made you leave the rangefinder fold? I am asking because your thread on the then new 28mm f2 VC Ultron was very inspiring... Sounded like the rangefinder way and you were a good match. Myself, I come from SLR (and Nikon F2 and F was the nicest I used, too), and sometimes suffer from "metaphysical doubt" as to whether I could save myself some pain (and money) by switching back to SLR. I would get a plain prism F2 and the VC 40mm f2 Ultron in that case as main outfit.
Then I use my M2, and cannot part with it, shortcomings (close focus, frameline issues etc...) and all.

Whatever you use though, you have great pictures to show for, which, of course, is all what counts :-)

All the best,
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Old 07-07-2010   #16
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well Mr. Miller
Quite PLEASED that YOU 'FEEL' back on Track with the F....
Beautiful Cameras Indeed !!!!

How is the S2 'Experience' compared to the F ?

on Flickr I ADORE Table 33 & Alfresco....Drooool

Cheers- H
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Old 07-07-2010   #17
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Great F's. I have a non-descript eyelevel F that I used so much that the strap lug wore through. Everything you said about the camera disappearing in your hands was also true for me. I was in love with m F's before I found the Nikon RFs, and immediately fell in love with them because the controls were identical.
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Old 07-07-2010   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by helenhill View Post
well Mr. Miller
Quite PLEASED that YOU 'FEEL' back on Track with the F....
Beautiful Cameras Indeed !!!!

How is the S2 'Experience' compared to the F ?

on Flickr I ADORE Table 33 & Alfresco....Drooool

Cheers- H
Helen,

Thanks! I cannot tell how an S2 will be similar or different to a F as I do not own or use an S2... yet!

Interesting the photos you mention... one was taken with the iPhone and the other with the M5.

I have used the Nikkor 50mm f1.2 plenty, but never the 55/1.2. You need to ask Brian for more details on that lens.

Thanks!

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I am wondering whether you would possibly like to briefly sketch what made you leave the rangefinder fold?
Ljós
Ljós,

It has been a long and twisty road back to the Nikon F's.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with rangefinders and will readily admit their advantages for some people and places. And I only concede that the Nikon F is the perfect camera for me.

But why?

Little annoyances with a rangefinder... only being able to focus in the middle of the view-finder... minimum focus distance of .7 meters and often a full meter... not being able to see distortion when using super-wide angle lenses... general feeling of the cameras feeling fragile and vulnerable, this includes Leica.

Specifically M-mount cameras and lenses... the aperture rings and focus rings turn the wrong way... I am not so old and dogmatic that I cannot learn a new trick. After almost 2 years I learned to be aware of the direction that I should be turning the aperture and focus, but when chips were down and I had to use the camera without thinking, that is instinctively, everything went wrong. Always, the camera never disappeared, I had to be aware of what I was doing with the camera, so in effect the camera ended up in the way.

I can do almost anything with a Nikon F that I could do with a Leica... and some things I could not do with a Leica. Such as pop the prism off and look straight into the top of the camera... very handy and useful. With the mirror raised on the F, it is nearly as quiet as the Leica. I can shoot the Nikon just like many people use a rangefinder, f8 and be there, not even bother to look through the finder. Size is not an issue as the M5 is nearly as big as the Nikon F, although normal 'M' is smaller, I found the M3 I had uncomfortably small.

My time with the rangefinder has taught me some great things... like shooting with both eyes open and not living and dying by what I see in the viewfinder.

Then there is the simple course of circumstance... I had committed myself to the M-mount only a few months ago, putting all my Nikon equipment up for sale with a local dealer. I bought what I considered the perfect, compact rangefinder kit, Bessa R, 28/3.5, 50/2, 90/3.5 and kept the M5 for the 35/1.2 and 50/1.1. I used this kit for a few weeks or about 20 rolls of film, and found myself reaching for my Nikon F's. I was determined to continue with the M-mount, when I received a call from the dealer telling me that my favorite Nikon F #6424323 was unsaleable because the shutter was sticking on all speed below 1/8 sec. That simply doomed the Leicas and Bessa's.

I crossed town the same day to pick-up my Nikon F, I was never so glad to get a camera back in my hands. It was almost like that Nikon F was determined not be sold because by that evening it was firing perfectly on every shutter speed and has not missed a beat since. Go figure.

Since that day a few weeks ago, I have shot more film with more beautiful photographs than I have in years. I am fearless, there is an unspoken trust and confidence that I have with my Nikon F's that I never had with any rangefinder, I know I can carry them with me everywhere and anywhere, bang them, drop them, soak them, fill them with sand, anything, without fear or favor and when I need a camera I can expect them to deliver. And that helps me take better photographs.

I had this conversation with the lovely Helen Hill not so long ago regarding tools and that while we all know that the tool does nothing on its own and an accomplished craftsman can use most any tool to produce his craft, a good tool allows him to focus on the craft and not the tool, thus often allowing the craftsman to produce superior work with that superior tool. That is how I feel about the Nikon F.

I expect to soon have a rangefinder back in my bag, but it will be a Nikon rangefinder. I have briefly used an S2 not long ago, and it felt as familiar as an F.

But more importantly, I am now thinking more about the photographs than the equipment. That is a good thing, I am even having fun putting together photo albums again. Can you imagine that?
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Old 07-07-2010   #19
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Wow ... the last time I encountered this much SLR passion was in the Olympus OM threads.

This is a worrying trend!
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Old 07-07-2010   #20
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Thanks to everyone that has contributed to this thread. I am enjoying the discussion very much.

Keith,

That is the irony of this discussion. There is much fuss and fretting about a possible 'Leica Killer' in this forum. The Nikon F, introduced in the 1959, was by all intents and purposes, the 'Leica Killer'. It definitely ushered in the era of the SLR and ended the reign of the rangefinder.
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Old 07-07-2010   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by P. Lynn Miller View Post
Thanks to everyone that has contributed to this thread. I am enjoying the discussion very much.

Keith,

That is the irony of this discussion. There is much fuss and fretting about a possible 'Leica Killer' in this forum. The Nikon F, introduced in the 1959, was by all intents and purposes, the 'Leica Killer'. It definitely ushered in the era of the SLR and ended the reign of the rangefinder.

I was just reading the bartender's excellent write up on the F ... it was the camera that took the industry domination away from the Germans effectively!

Pretty impressive credentials!
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Old 07-07-2010   #22
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Quote:
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Wow ... the last time I encountered this much SLR passion was in the Olympus OM threads.

This is a worrying trend!
I have a cupboard with 5 shelves. One each for Nikon SLR, Olympus SLR, Leica M and screwmount RF, various medium format cameras, and various fixed lens and P+S cameras.
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Old 07-07-2010   #23
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Here are my "classic" Nikon SLR's........guess which one came back with me from Vietnam?
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Old 07-07-2010   #24
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Congratulations on finding the tool that works best for you, something that many people cannot always comprehend as they look for a universal "best camera". My Dad was quite the lover of the F (and shot a Leica IIIG as well) so I'm well aware of the gravitational pull of that camera once you use it a bit.

You might try a F2 with the unmetered prism if you see one around sometime. For me they "fixed" a few things, like shutter release placement, while keeping the brick-like character of the F. Just a thought.

Enjoy your Fs, wonderful cameras. Also enjoy the S2 if you get one, terrific 50mm shooting platform.

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Old 07-07-2010   #25
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I have two Fs, both motorized.
One is the guts of a chrome camera purchased on ebay inside the black body of a parts camera also purchased on ebay, attached to a KEH "As is" F-36 drive, with an old DE-1 prism. It has become my favorite SLR, and gets more use than any of my other motorized SLRs: F2, FA, or FM.
The other is a pristine black body (of no significant serial number) which spent its life attached to a microscope in the Botany department at the University of Toronto. It has a microscope focusing screen and is attached to an early (no body support pin on back of handle) f-36. I got it with a chrome-faced FTn prism. it is squirreled away and likely will be sold as I really don't need it and could use the money to fund rangefinder lens purchases.
The F is simply basic transportation, and is in my opinion, really all the camera God meant for any man to have.

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The (half)case against the Leica ;-)
Old 07-07-2010   #26
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The (half)case against the Leica ;-)

Lynn, thank you very much for taking the time to elaborate on your journey SLR - Rangefinder and return. Much appreciated, and I am sure others here at RFF reading this will agree.

I think one observation here at RFF underlines your subjective gut feeling about the F being a camera that one simply does not need to worry about: the halfcase threads :-) I will readily admit that I got myself a Zhou case for my M2 - and I would never dream of getting a halfcase for a F or F2. I carry the M2 with me every day in almost any situation, always in the hand(s), no strap. That means I put it down, pick it up often (getting the groceries, anything, you get the picture.) Now I know the camera is tough, and I do not care about the cosmetics, but I feel that without a case I don't want to just plonk it down on a counter... what about the rangefinder alignment etc.? And I know it may be silly, as longtime veterans will credibly tell that they motorcycled around the planet without babying their Leicas without problem. When I had my F2 it never occurred to me to take such precautions.

Another thing is the shutter burn issue. For normal walking about even in strong sunlight I have made my peace with it, in strong sun the lens will be stopped down anyway and I am not concerned. But there have been picture taking situations, where I was unsure how long I could safely have the lens pointed in the general direction of the sun. Never a burn - but the nagging thoughts. Oh, you can put the lens cap on, scout the picture until the cows come home, THEN take the cap off briefly and take the picture... not what I call freedom of expression ;-) ;-)

Quiet(er)ness and compactness is chiefly what keeps me with my M2... but put a CV 40 f2 on a Nikon, and by the time you add a decent sunshade to the Leica the setups will be essentially the same size. I am sure that at some point I will get another F2. At the same time I am sure I do not want to part with my M2... let's see how this pans out ;-)

The long and the short of it is, I congratulate you on finding the bliss and peace of mind with your tools. The fact that you are thinking about/are putting together a photo book may be the strongest testimony that you are on the right track.

All the best,
Ljós
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Old 07-07-2010   #27
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My three get semi-regular service these days. Few cameras feel better in the hand than an F (my hand anyway).
I also have a slew of Nikkormats which I love just as much.

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Old 07-07-2010   #28
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I have been a Nikon F user since 1972. I have always been able to depend on them. They fit my hand very well, using them is second nature, I have used the same Nikon F in high school as a yearbook photographer, in college at Brooks Institute of Photography and for a couple of assignments at Sandia National Livermore Labs. My original F is an Apollo model my other F is chrome 1969. In high school all the yearbook photographers used Nikons or Nikkormats, we wrote to Nikon on how we used their cameras, in turn they took out an ad in our yearbook. We thought that was real cool. I just started using my black F again after a CLA. After all these years I could never get use to my Leica M3 like I have with my Nikon. The M3 is a great camera. Manual focus Nikkors can be purchased for very few dollars. Two years ago I picked up a 135mm f3.5 for $11 and a 28mm f3.5 for $34 on that auction site. Long live the NIKON F!!
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Old 07-07-2010   #29
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how much should i be prepared to spend on a beaten but well working F body + 1.4 lens??
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Old 07-07-2010   #30
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So what's the viewfinder like on these old bangers compared to an FM3A in terms of brightness and focusing ability.

I've been spoiled by my OM's and I'm curious if they'd be up there with the Oly?
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Old 07-07-2010   #31
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So what's the viewfinder like on these old bangers compared to an FM3A in terms of brightness and focusing ability.

I've been spoiled by my OM's and I'm curious if they'd be up there with the Oly?
Larger and darker. I found my now sold F easier to focus in bright light, and my FM3A easier to focus in low light.
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Old 07-07-2010   #32
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Hmmmm. Food for thought. The Nikkormat FTn I bought new back about 1962 is sitting on the shelf with film in it, and yesterday I bought an M6. One of the Bessas (probably the R3A) is likely to go.
I stopped using the Nikon a few years ago when my cataracts prevented me from being able to focus it, and turned to rangefinders. I tried a couple of IIIf's but the antique squinty viewfinders did nothing to improve the shining hour and so I bought one, then a second Bessa. One big benefit I noticed was the reduction in bulk and weight of the RF kit compared to the SLR.
I've had my eyes fixed and can actually use the SLR again. Why now get an M6? Well, I wanted to own a Leica before I died, and I still like the compact size and lower weight of the RF, but I also needed two Bessas to cover the range of lenses I use (else use accessory vf's a lot). I'm hoping that the M6 will cover the requirement in just one body.
But I'm not selling the Nikon and I might even ask my daughter to give me back the second one as she no longer uses it.
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Old 07-07-2010   #33
bobkonos
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Yes, much the way Spain did today in the World Cup.

Great set of F's, Lynn. Cool that you are using them, especially the four-digit F. I have the 2.1cm f4 lens and finder and it is a very nice 21 and looks awesome on my "64xxxx" F camera with the finder in place.


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I was just reading the bartender's excellent write up on the F ... it was the camera that took the industry domination away from the Germans effectively!

Pretty impressive credentials!
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Old 07-07-2010   #34
P. Lynn Miller
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Wow! I have not started a discussion that has caused such a flurry of activity in a very long time. Many thanks to everyone that has contributed.

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Originally Posted by Ljós View Post
Lynn, thank you very much for taking the time to elaborate on your journey SLR - Rangefinder and return...

...At the same time I am sure I do not want to part with my M2... let's see how this pans out ;-)...
Ljós,

I hope that it works out for you and your M2. The Leica M is a great camera and serves many people very, very well.

Speaking of size... the set-up that I was most comfortable and instinctive with was my M5 and Nokton 35/1.2, which in RF terms is huge. I find the tiny lens of RF's often too small for me to use quickly and efficiently with my big hands.

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........guess which one came back with me from Vietnam?
Don't leave us hanging!

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Originally Posted by kdemas View Post
You might try a F2 with the unmetered prism if you see one around sometime. For me they "fixed" a few things, like shutter release placement, while keeping the brick-like character of the F. Just a thought.
Kent,

I have a pair of Nikon F2's as well. But I do not mesh with the F2 as well... not sure why... just me.

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Originally Posted by JSU View Post
...This past January the pair of FTn's complete with the 24/2.8 & 105/2.5 were stolen in a burglary...
JSU,

Theft is not a top priority for me, but if I caught the thief in the act, he would quickly realise that he put his life in my hands. Grrrr....

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Originally Posted by cary View Post
...Manual focus Nikkors can be purchased for very few dollars. Two years ago I picked up a 135mm f3.5 for $11 and a 28mm f3.5 for $34 on that auction site...
Vintage Nikkor glass is one of the best bargains going... you could build a whole Nikkor kit for a few hundred dollars, from 24mm to 300mm, if you were not choosy about your maximum aperture or not a collector.

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Originally Posted by akremer View Post
how much should i be prepared to spend on a beaten but well working F body + 1.4 lens??
Regularly on Australian eBay for $250AUD, give or take abit. I got both of mine for free by buying a lot of gear and selling off the bits I did not want.

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So what's the viewfinder like on these old bangers compared to an FM3A in terms of brightness and focusing ability.

I've been spoiled by my OM's and I'm curious if they'd be up there with the Oly?
Keith,

I have used the Olympus, not sure what the fuss is about. Nice, but not nicer than a F/F2/F3. The original Nikon F focusing screens are not the brightest, the screens brightened with each new model. All of my F's have either F3/F4 screens or after-market screens such as the Beattie, which will shame a FM3A.

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Originally Posted by bobkonos View Post
I have the 2.1cm f4 lens and finder and it is a very nice 21 and looks awesome on my "64xxxx" F camera with the finder in place.
The 2.1cm is on my list of lenses to buy soon.

Thanks!
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Old 07-08-2010   #35
normclarke
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Nikon F's

I have a pair of F's that I aquired from the well known site, a very shabby black late model and an early chrome body that came w/o prism. In fact I payed more for a respctable prism than the body at Ł75. I have had several F2's and always found them to be 1st class and probably more refined than the F. The shabby body that had been hand painted over the original black was stripped down to brass and repainted fairly successfully and along with a 105/2.5 started renewed interest in a mark that I've flirted with over nearly 50 years. I once owned the 21/4 and adapted it for the Leica M and foolishly sold it when I replaced it with the 21/3.4 SA, from tests I did at the time there was little advantage with the SA but of course it focussed with the M. I have just aquired an early 24/2.8 which completes a line up of 24, 35, 50,105 and 80-200/4.5, I would like another 21/4 but they do hold a price premium in the current market. Still eminently useable though!

Best,

normclarke.
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Old 07-08-2010   #36
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Keith--

The K3 screen that comes standard in the FM3A is perhaps the best all around screen for manual focus that Nikon has ever had. It certainly brings the FM class cameras to about the same brightness and contrast as the best of the MF Nikons (F & F2.) The Nikon F screens were at this same level decades earlier.

I have the K3 screen in one FM3A and a Beattie Bright Screen variant of the Nikon "B" screen (plain matte) in a second FM3A, both display equal brightness and virtually the same contrast. Meter readings are identical between the two cameras.

The real difference between my FM3A's and my OM2n's is the percentage of image displayed on the screen. If I do an A:B comparison between a FM3A and an OM2n, the difference is quite apparent. My numbers may not be precise but the FM3A shows ~93% of the actual image, the OM2n shows ~98% and the F series Nikons show 100% of the image.


I have to confess to being a little disappointed in my FM3A regards focusing and I'm beginning to wonder if there's a fault with my camera. I was alternating between the FM3A and my OM-1 (stock screens) the other night focusing on a book several feet away. With the Nikon reading the lettering on the binder was relatively difficult ... with the OM it was much more vivid and appeared sharper to my eye! Both viewfinders appear to be equally bright but this slight but noticable difference in clarity puzzles me?
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Old 07-08-2010   #37
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Ok the plot thickens!

I've just done a comparison between my OM-2, which actually has a fairly battered standard screen in it, and the three Nikons I own: N90s, FM3A and my new D700!

Focusing on some black text approximately 3mm high on a white background about a meter away the Nikons are all pretty much the same, just OK ... I hate to say it but the OM-2 absolutely slaughters them for clarity by comparison!

I'm stunned!
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Old 07-08-2010   #38
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I have two, both beaten but perfectly working F's, one with the plain prism and the other with a Tn Photomic. This thread makes me want to put them into regular use again!

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Old 07-08-2010   #39
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I also very much enjoy reading this thread, hope more people will post their Nikon F stories.
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Old 07-08-2010   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith View Post
Ok the plot thickens!

I've just done a comparison between my OM-2, which actually has a fairly battered standard screen in it, and the three Nikons I own: N90s, FM3A and my new D700!

Focusing on some black text approximately 3mm high on a white background about a meter away the Nikons are all pretty much the same, just OK ... I hate to say it but the OM-2 absolutely slaughters them for clarity by comparison!

I'm stunned!
Keith- The F series viewfinders are larger and brighter than the "semi-pro" Nikons you're testing. You'd be pleasantly surprised with an F2, for instance, in comparison to the Oly. The OMs do have nice finder views, no question.

Kent
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