Tag Archives: BW400CN

Nikon F (1959 – 1973) and FTn Viewfinder

Up to this point, I’ve only ever used one other Nikon film camera, the Nikon EM. After spending a few weeks talking with friends, I decided it was time to get a proper Nikon SLR. Something a little older. A classic Nikon. That’s when I learned that I really didn’t know a lot about Nikon SLR’s. My friend Maurice Greeson suggested I start with the Nikon F. Before I continue, I’m sure a seasoned Nikonian will correct me if I describe something inaccurately. Please do, no offense taken.

Maurice gave me a Nikon FTn viewfinder/exposure meter with a 50mm Nikkor-S f/1.4 lens. All I had to do was find a Nikon F body, which isn’t hard to do. What is slightly hard to do is find one on eBay in acceptable condition. As I was searching, I’d send Maurice an email and ask, “What about this one? Or, this one? This one?” What I didn’t understand is the F was originally sold with a standard prism viewfinder. The eye-level penta-prism can be interchanged with a waist-level viewfinder, as well as the FTn. The FTn is essentially a viewfinder with a built-in light meter. When changing the lens on the camera, the meter coupling pins must be indexed with the lens. To summarize, the FTn needs to know what aperture values are available on the lens you are mounting. This was something entirely new to me, but it makes sense.

The Nikon F was manufactured from March 1959 to October 1973. The F was known in the 1960’s as the camera used by photo journalists, capturing images from Vietnam, the US exploration of Mt. Everest, and the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs. There were eight types of viewfinder screens available, as well as interchangeable high capacity backs and motor drives. Originally priced at $186 USD (camera and 50mm f/2 lens), that’s about $498 today, the camera attracted both professional and amateur photographers.

According to the serial number on my Nikon F, it was produced between April – July 1970. This camera is a tank! According to kenrockwell.com, the camera and FTn viewfinder alone weigh 1.92 lbs. When you add the lens, it’s easily over 2 pounds. If I were a photojournalist in Vietnam and found myself in a dangerous situation, I think I would have used this camera as a weapon.

The FTn viewfinder and photographic screen both have 100% coverage, giving the photographer a bright viewing area. The camera has a split-image focal screen and a titanium foil focal-plane shutter. The FTn has an ASA range from 6 to 6400, shutter speeds are 1 sec – 1/1000th sec and bulb.

The Nikon F is a classic camera. This camera set the bar for SLR cameras and showed the world that Nikon, and Japanese camera manufactures, were capable of producing exceptional photographic equipment. Special thanks to Maurice Greeson for donating the FTn, lens, and book Nikon F Handbook of Photography (1971 Edition) by Joseph D. Cooper and Joseph C. Abbott.

Camera: Nikon F (with FTn Viewfinder) (1959 – 1984)
Film: Kodak BW400CN
Process: RepliColor SLC
Scanner: Epson Perfection V600 Photo