My Nikon F Cameras
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Nikon F Cameras

The Nikon F was Nikon's first single-lens reflex model, introduced in 1959. It also introduced the Nikon "F" mount, which has turned out to be the longest-lived system in camera history...they still use it to this day!

The Nikon F may be the sturdiest, most reliable 35 mm camera ever. When I was a camera repairman I saw a lot of these, many of which had received extremely rough professional use, and I was always impressed by how well they held up. Indeed, I've always believed you could use one as a murder weapon and it would not impair the operation of the camera.

Unlike its contemporaries, the Nikon F shutter curtains were made of titanium foil instead of cloth. This shutter, first used on the Nikon SP rangefinder, may have been the first consumer product to feature titanium parts.

Another unique feature of the Nikon F was the 100% viewfinder--it showed exactly what would be exposed on the film, no more, no less. This was a mixed blessing, since most slide mounts and commercial printers would wind up cropping the image a bit, but for the photographer who wanted complete control, it was the best for many years.

The Nikon F was designed as a complete system, with interchangeable backs and viewfinders as well as interchangeable lenses. Some of the viewrinders incorporated exposure meters of various sorts, all of which were good for their era, but are obsolete now. Mine has a plain prism, and I also have a folding waist-level finder. I actually own several of these bodies. When I was using them regularly it was handy to have different bodies loaded with different types of film.

The lens shown is the legendary Vivitar Series I "flat field" 90-180 zoom. The zoom range was never very impressive, but this is a very high perfomrance lens, intended mainly for macro use. It's big and heavy, and has a tripod mount built onto a collar near the middle of the lens.

The tripod mount turns out to be a super feature. When I was doing a lot of product photoghraphy in 35, this gave some of the versatility of a large format camera, because I could have a couple of bodies loaded with different emulsions, say one with Tri-x and another with Kodacrhome, and once I had a shot set up I could just switch from one body to the other, much as a large format camera changes backs.

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