Sometime back I picked up a very cheap Nikkormat FT2 of eBay. In excellent working condition, all that was needed was a CLA service from Newton Ellis & Co. of Liverpool, England.
For me this was my first ‘proper’ single lens reflex camera I used in the late 1980’s at college. Up till then I had never had chance to use a Nikon nor any other Japanese made camera. Back then, this snotty nose kid had little or no interest in girls, but liked photography, had an unhealthy liking for cameras particularly Nikon, Canon FD and Leica R SLR’s, although I didn’t know it at the time, was suffering from G.A.S. I loved the FT2 rugged build qualities, light meter top plate display, mirror lock and it’s manual simplicity. Everyone else at college would choose to use a Nikon FE, FM or F2 we had use of, I’d pick up a Nikkormat, yet unfortunately I was unable afford one at the time. From then on I always wanted a Nikon F film outfit with all the prime lenses you could ever need. Years went by, I never did get the Nikkormat due to lack of spare funds but 2013 older, wiser and with spare cash in his pocket I start buying in items online.
Unusually for Nikon, as many of you know most Nikkormats have the shutter speeds are around the lens collar. I’d forgotten about this when I first used the camera back at college. For Olympus OM owners the shutter speed collar around the lens mount is nothing new and found once I got use to using the tab on the opposite side, it’s easy enough and soon remembered to watch the display in the viewfinder rather than tipping the camera over to the set speed. I have also admit the meter coupling on Nikkormat’s with the ‘Rabbit Ears‘ has always fascinated me and at one point did think of purchasing a very expensive Nikomat FT body in mint condition from Japan which was the first model to be produced back 1965.
Even without a service or new seals this camera was still perfectly operational even after 45 years since being manufactured. First roll of Fomapan 100 came through with very small amount of fogging along the edges of the film, this despite the seals in the body being near non existent and the foam on the back door long since crumbled away. Every one of the exposures I shot where spot on and matched my Weston Euro Master light meter, I was very impressed, it’s a joy to use. My only wish is that Nikon kept the back release latch design the same as the FT2 and it’s siblings, I find the Nikon FE door release with little lever around the rewind crank a bit fiddly sometimes to use.
Most of my Nikkor Ai lenses I purchased relatively cheap, with the most expensive lens being the 28mm f/2.8 Ai at £170 with metal hood and came with original Nikon box plus polystyrene packaging. My Nikkor 200mm f/4 looks like it’s never been used and the 135mm f/3.5 is mint and only cost £69 plus P&P. Ever since Digital came onto the scene, I noticed the Ai series lenses I wanted originally dropped in price, partly because of their age not being the AiS version but in the early days of Nikon digital would only work in full manual and non Ai lenses stop down metering.
Time passing, many of the Ai lenses seem to have been now snapped up. Slowly over the last few years I’ve manage collect all the Nikkor lenses I wanted and all have one thing in common, they all use 52mm filter size making for a compact but extensive kit. Last month I finally completed my 1980’s Nikon line up with the last acquisition of a Nikkor 85mm f/2 Ai lens with Nikon HS-8 metal hood. This was the last lens I wanted and it took me a while to find one at a reasonable price, most where either in very sorry state or mint condition with a high price tag.
In the above picture, the Ai lenses as follows, Nikkor 20mm f/4, Nikkor 28mm f/2.8, Nikkor 35mm f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8, Nikkor 85mm f/2, Nikkor 135mm f/3.5 and finally the Nikkor 200mm f/4.
I picked up the Nikon DR-3 right angle finder for £28 of eBay, boxed and unused.
Incidently, the Nikkor 35mm F/2.8 Ai I picked up for £50 bought as seen. A ‘user’ lens, it came with no warranty, scratched, few nicks, no paint left around the filter ring, missing it’s rubber focusing grip, some dust within the optics yet had a very smooth focus and with snappy oil free aperture blades, it worked perfectly. It’s since had a CLA and this lens looks a lot better condition than when first purchased the it.
Since 2013 I probably spent around £950 which I think was around what this equipment cost in 1980’s and is around £2700 in today’s money. Dread to think what the equivalent Nikon digital kit would cost these days!
All film images taken with Nikkormat FT2 and equipment pictures taken with the Leica (Typ 240) M-P with the Summilux 50mm f/1.4 ASPH.