Tag Archives: Nikon F

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

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Nikon EM

Nikon EM - 35mm Film (1979 - 1982)

The Nikon EM was produced in Japan from 1979 – 1982. The EM series of cameras was introduced as an entry-level SLR camera for budget minded photographers, $231 (USD). It’s interesting to learn, the EM was designed for, and marketed to, a growing market of female photographers. The camera weighs 16 ounces, has no manual exposure mode, and features a shutter speed from f/1 – 1/1000, bulb, and flash X-sync of 1/90 second. The thought was beginners had not mastered exposure, shutter speeds and f-stops. This section of the market was also moving up from rangefinders and compacts, but were intimidated by traditional SLR features. In the viewfinder is an exposure meter that beeps at the photographer if the exposure is too high or low, very cute. All Nikon F bayonet mount lenses can be used on the EM. To distinguish the EM from other Nikon cameras, the Series E line of lenses were created to differentiate between professional Nikkor ones. I bought this EM at a local pawn shop for $20. It’s the first Nikon product I’ve ever owned. Why? Not because I haven’t wanted to own a Nikon camera. It’s because every time I find a Nikon camera, they never have a lens! There’s nothing more depressing than a box of lensless Nikon cameras. You Nikon fanatics have the ability to hold on to your glass longer than any other camera manufacturer has allowed. I say that jokingly, but I mean it as a sincere compliment. I really enjoy this camera. I like the small footprint and weight. My first roll of film through the EM was 35mm Kodak Hawekeye Super Color, also known as Film Photography Project hand rolled Kodak Hawkeye Traffic Surveillance Film. Unfortunately, as you can see from photos, my EM has a light leak. I’m going to replace the light seals next week.

 

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