The Nikon SP was the last and most sophisticated of the Nikon rangerfinder cameras. It shared the shutter design of the immortal Nikon F SLR, and used the Zeiss Contax lens mount, which I why I was able to use it with the 21 mm Biogon shown. This shutter was probably the first commercial use of metallic titanium, using titanium foil instead of the usual rubberized cloth.
The primary viewfinder was optically neutral, so you could use the camera with both eyes open, and everything would be in register. This viewfinder had switchable frame lines for 50, 85, 105 & 135 mm lenses. The frame lines were extremely accurate, and showed exactly what would appear on the film. In addition to the primary finder, a second eyepiece right next to it showed the field of view for 35 and 28 mm lenses. With the 21 I had to rely on a bit of educated guesswork.
This was a camera that could be operated nicely with only one hand. I installed an oversized split ring in the strap lug, and my ring finger would fit through this ring for safety. My ring finger could focus using the small milled focus wheel above the "ko" in "Nikon."
Like earlier Nikon rangefinders, it used the lens mount/focussing helical of the Zeiss Contax. That's why I was able to use it with the wonderful 21 mm Biogon lens shown.
The photo of the Nikon SP was made with my Soligor 66 using the "painting with light" technique. I used an open shutter, and a handheld flash unit. I flashed 8 times, moving the flash around behind the camera. You can see the 8 "catchlights" in the lens.
I got the camera with a 50 mm f1.4, 85 mm f2 and a 135 mm f3.5 for a very favorable price, because the rangefinder was broken. (The prism had come uncemented, so that everything in the viewfinder was black except for the RF spot and the framelines. Fortunately I was able to re-cement it, and it came out fine.
I used it for several years, but wound up trading it for a Nikon FE and matching motor drive...I was doing a lot of bicycle racing photography at the time, and really felt the need for a motorized camera. Nevertheless, if I still had the SP, it would be worth several thousand bucks.
This camera is also immortalized on the album cover of Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited
Last Updated: by Harriet Fell