Monday, June 23, 2008

Cheap Photography (Nikkormat FT2)

Recently I chanced to come across a Nikorrmat FT2 for £25 .
The camera was made in the mid 1970's a time where mechanical cameras were the norm, most being assembled and tested by hand.
Looking at the camera it seems to have been hewn from on solid lump of steel, it has hard un-egonomic (by todays standards) edges that give it a very rugged purposeful look.
In the hands it feels very solid, and has the precision instrument feel of a very expensive hand made mechanical device, and feels remarkably comfortable in the hands.
The shutter sounds absolutely wonderful, noisier than a Leica (just) but has just about the most positive feeling release of any manual camera I've used. The design of the shutter is a Copal square with metal blades and speeds 1-1/1000 + B, flash sync is 1/125.
The speeds are located round the throat of the lens mount á la OM1 which takes a little getting used to if your previous camera had the speeds on the top plate.
The top plate has a minimalist feel without the speed dial. The control from right to left: wind-on lever (also switches on the meter) frame counter and stop down button.
To the left of the prism is a match needle meter which I'd imagine might be useful for macro work or street shooting.
Next to the meter is the serial number and the re-wind crank is in the normal position.

On very welcome feature of this model is the mirror lock up situated to the left of the lens mount, to the right is the mechanical self timer which seems to take around ten seconds, maybe slightly less.

Mounted on the camera is a 50mm F2 Nikkor H, which seems to slightly pre-date the camera but nonetheless is a very capable performer with very sharp good contrast, flare free images.

One problem with this model is that over time the meter seems to either become erratic or stop working, I'm told there is a resistor that needs cleaning or replacing.
The camera I purchased seems to have a non operational meter, which doesn't worry me as I'm used to using a spot meter with most of my film cameras.
Overall the camera is a joy to use, and as these cameras seem to be going for very little money this is a chance to buy something of real quality for pennies.
Like I stated in a previous post, if I could write a note to my younger self about to embark on the start of my photographic odyssey it would be get this camera, and a Rollei TLR.
finally a couple of pictures with the 50mm F2 H

Kodak gold 200

© Mark Antony Smith 2008


Antony One said...

The Nikkormast FT2 is a beauty of a Camera, and it provides an enjoyable Lens mounting system with its pre AI Lens. Your Lens shown look ace and sturdy. I own the Metalic version, although I hanker for the professional looking Black Model. The metering needle can in time, become a little eratic, but for Camera made over 30 years this is a small price to pay. The Nikkormat series were so full of convenient Manual innovations that I would imagine the enthusiasm for them, rivalled the buzzing Digital SLR market of today

thomas branham said...

i need help as my nikkormat camera's mirror is locked in the "locked up position" can anyone help me free this camera as the shutter will not advance the film or allow me to snap a photo

Photo–Smith said...

I have seen this before. These cameras are pretty old and after a time the rubber seal either near the mirror or even the shutter comes away due to the glue coming away.
This often jammed shutters or mirror mechanisms.
What you need is some tweezers to remove the rubber and a cotton bud (Q tip) soaked in isopropyl alcohol to clean off any glue.
I have seen Nikkormats work without these seals, but if you like you can but complete kits on ebay.
good luck

Duncan said...

I'm a sucker for good old cameras. My first new SLR was the FT3, and I concur with everything you say about the FT2. I sold it somewhat reluctantly when I moved up to the Canon EF, but every now & then wish I'd kept it. It was beautifully simple & uncluttered. I almost despair over cashed-up beginners buying 5D and 1DsIII techno-marvels. Sigh...

Photo–Smith said...

Hi Duncan.
I love the Nikkormat, yes its simple but it does all anyone could realy need. The shutter sound is one of the most satisfying sounding mechanical shutters I've heared and that includes Leica!!
Also the 50mm F2 Nikkor H is a great lens.

Peter Abzug said...

I owned a Nikkormat F3 for years and was sad when the meter just died of old age. It was a beautiful and, yes, sexy camera...especially in black. I own a Nikon F100 now, and it gives me just about the same feeling...but not exactly. Long live "the poor man's Nikon!"

Photo–Smith said...

he thing I like most is the shutter, I've had F2,3 and FM2 nothing has that wonderful sound of the Copal square- I keep it for that even sans meter.
The Nikkor 50mm F2 H lens is terrific too..

Peter Abzug said...

Very true.

Mark said...

The nikkormats are lovely vintage cameras.
Calling all nikkornat lovers/users please feel free to submit content at

Dave said...

Thanks for your post about the Nikkorformat FT2. I found it after googling. I've been very lucky today with a purchase from a car boot sale. I only wanted the lens, but I had to buy the whole package which included the FT2. I'm glad I have it now after viewing your lovely shots. Pop over to my flickr page for more Cheers, Dave

Photo–Smith said...

Dave enjoy the Nikkormat its a great hand made camera. I like the Nikkor H lens even more than when I wrote this post-one of the best lenses ever made!