Camera Model Variations

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by christian_fox, Oct 5, 2015.

  1. I have been sampling classic cameras for a little while, and I am curious about variations of favorite cameras. I am not referring to different configurations, like alternative viewfinders, but simply updates or changes made to the the same model. I would imagine this applies more to a long running model that was revolutionary to the market at the time.
    My favorite example is the original Nikon F. Uli Koch's book and the online Nikon F Collection and Typology reveal several variations of this camera as it evolved towards the F2. For the Nikon F, I would imagine it would would drive a collector crazy to find every example of this camera's external or functional changes, all the way down to the flash contact post insulation (white, black, square, semi-circular). I like to recognize variations of the late model Nikon F, but of course, possible user manipulation has to be considered as well.
    Learning about serial number milestones is very interesting as well. Certain cameras have a flaw up to a certain serial number before it was improved, and its good to know that. If I do not find a table anywhere, I will tally serial numbers I find on ebay or online for a specific camera of interest, and note the configuration of that serial number.
    I would like to ask the CMC community if specific camera models of any brand are well known for its variants, or if one captured a reader's attention for a while. Of course, we all have different interests, so one person may be fascinated with a wide range of variations, while another reader may only be interested in the significant change of a one feature, like the M3 single stroke vs double stroke film advance lever. Do you have favorite references for a specific camera, like Koch's trilogy?
    I would imagine that the evolution of a brand's prime lens may have an interesting evolution as well.
  2. Most Nikon models would have small cosmetic features from future models as their manufacturing "evolved". A good example are the later issued Nikkormat/Nikomat FTN's which featured plastic self timer and winder lever tips from the soon to be FT2 model.
  3. The FM series went through 3 versions that I know of before the FM2. Identified by the Rewind Crank Knob and the Shutter Lock. Version 1 = knurled rewind crank knob and knurled shutter lock ring. Version 2 = smooth rewind crank knob and knurled shutter lock ring. Version 3 = smooth rewind crank knob and shutter lock incorporated into the film advance lever. I have not seen any black versions of Version 1, only chrome. Versions 2 and 3 came in both black and chrome versions. There were two FMA's (reconstructed from FEA's by National Geographic. These had a very obvious DA-1 Finder from the F2 attached. These were used in underwater housings with a MD-11 or MD-12 attached.
    I am not aware of any other "versions" of the FM2 other than black and chrome. There may be some that others can elaborate upon.
    The FM2N comprised several versions, obviously the Titanium clad versions: FM2T and Year of the Dog. The Year of the Dragon was chrome. There were 3 versions which had different base-plates: Plain, CE sticker attached and CE embossed into the base-plate. These were also available in black and chrome. There was also a version made by Lemix (Korea) with a cursive 'L' on the front. The were a few FM2NA's made with a DA-2 Finder from the F3 attached.
    I do not have any information on the FM3A other than it was available in both black and chrome.
    I will leave the FE and FE2 series for others to comment on.
  4. My inquiry was not intended to focus on Nikon only, but the Nikon observations are interesting.
    John, thank you for your contribution to the FM series. I was not aware of these variants. I also believe the FM2 had a transition with the honeycomb shutter within the model's late life. I may be confused, as it may be the FM2n's early life. I would be curious if anyone had a model and approximate serial number range on that transition.
    I am surprised Nikon never transitioned to a smoother "razor" focus wheel on its RF series. I shook my head in disbelief when I sampled the recently produced replica Nikon S3 - same old razor wheel. Even a replica should take out the kinks.
  5. Christian
    Nikon produced a special version of the FM2 (N). It was designed for ophthalmic surgeons and features a circular film gate with a fixed mirror with a special motor drive. I don't know if the mirror is pellicle or not. currently have one on their inventory.
    Nikon also produced a half frame FM2(N) for the Norwegian Police.
    The titanium honeycombe shutter was available in the FM2 and the first version of the FM2(N). The serial number that I have with the titanium shutter is 737xxxx. The 77xxxxx that I have features the aluminium shutter from the F801/N801. This existed up to the end of production of the FM2N.
  6. Sorry to buck the Nikon trend, but I'm a Fujica fan. Their ST series SLRs were objects of desire for a young boy who never had a hope of owning one ... well not until some 40 years later.
    The ST701 (the first SLR to use Silicon photo diodes) came in three variations. It started life with a raised shiny Fujica pentaprism logo, which was engraved and painted in version 2. Version 3 had a more design tweaks of the plastic replacing metal variety, plus it got a split screen focusing spot and a hot shoe (possibly the first SLR with one).
    The ST801 (the first SLR to use viewfinder LEDs) went the same way as the ST701, with the logo change thing, resulting in two versions.
    The ST901 (the first SLR with a viewfinder digital display) had no variants.
    Final came the ST601, which got a name change each time it mutated, so I guess that doesn't really count? However, it's a camera of mysterious logic, since it's changes were sometimes not apparently worth the effort!
    Christian - I share your fascination: it's like watching evolution.
  7. Nikon was quite conservative and for years produced the same types of cameras and lenses. They (and we) are lucky that they are still in business.
    Slow to follow Canon's lead in the early electronic cameras, their first attempts to compete with Canon, which was a much larger and more diversified operation, set them back. The Canon AE-1 set them way back. The Nikon FA was dubbed the FAilure by those of us in camera repair at the time. The entire first batch of flex circuits was defective and replacing them cost Nikon a bunch.
    Don't get me wrong. I used a new Nikon F photographing Big Ten football in the 1960's. One of the finest cameras and series of lenses of the time.
    I would like to ask the CMC community if specific camera models of any brand are well known for its variants,​
    I can tell you that the variants were few. The manufacturers in the 50's, 60's, and 70's were striving for efficiency and that meant long production runs of the same item. Minor changes were not put into production. Competition was so extensive that entirely new models were introduced rather than introducing minor variants in production.
  8. Go to Sover Wong's website for the F2 variations. (No I don't mean the Photomic finders.)
  9. "Minor changes were not put into production."
    I don't know about that. Major changes may be rare, and quite conspicuous. But when, for instance, i look at 'service letters' (the thingies manufacturers use to communicate with authorized service center) and service manuals of some manufacturers it would appear that at least some are constantly changing things to fix minor problems and streamline production. Invisible - to us - changes, but changes still. It might appear sensible not to change production to keep that process efficient. But it often is the production process itself that can be made more efficient by making small changes to the product that is produced. And if small changes prevent having to do repairs, that too improves efficiency.
  10. I like to discover intimate information, like that fact that the Leica R8 early production had a tendency to scratch the film, and the R9 resolved that problem. It drives me crazy when I read a claim like this and no serial number breaks or dates are mentioned. Questions come to my mind, like, was the entire R8 production run subject to this issue?
    The MIR site mentions that the late production run of the Nikon FM was better built internally. It appears that we do not see that unless there is a repair issue for earlier versions.
  11. Many camera lines would do. Retinas, Exaktas and Spotmatics come to mind.
  12. Christian
    I do not think that there was any difference in the build quality between the early versions of the Nikon FM compared to the last version other than an age difference meaning that the earlier versions being older are likely to require more maintenance due to their age.
    I still have a FM (Version 2) that survived a vehicle accident without damage. It was catapulted through the interior of a delivery van, hit the back door, ricocheted back through the van, hit the windscreen and finished up on the floor in the back. It was duly send to Nikon for repairs with a note to explain the circumstances. Nikon said that there was nothing wrong with it and returned it. It still continues to work to this day. The van was a write-off with bent chassis, buckled roof and floor pan, and no front end; and no, I wasn't the driver.
  13. Dating of the Leica M3 from 1954-66 is via all the small changes made to production, even how the rewind knob has a slot, a dot, 2 dots.

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