Nikkormat ELW and the Nikkor 43-86

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by CoryAmmerman, Oct 9, 2020.

  1. Hello CMC gang. It's been a few years since the last time I posted here. Glad to see some familiar names (and new ones) are still kicking around the forum. I've been away from photography, other than family snapshots for the most part, due to family obligations and a shift in priorities, but have recently decided to dust off my cameras and get back to shooting whenever time allows. I thought I'd share a few images from a recent outing.

    Up until about 5 years ago, I was a victim of G.A.S and collected quite a few cameras in various stages of operability, many of which I have yet to even use. My goal now is to get as many of these cameras up and running and use them all. For no particular reason, I decided to start with the Nikkormat ELW I got off of eBay as a rear lens cap for a 50/1.4. Turned out that the lens had oily aperture blades (still does, but used to too). The camera, however, fas in fine working order, aside from some questionable light seals around the film door that have since been replaced.

    Generic instructions for camera porn: Step 1-place camera on photography book. Step 2- take picture.

    There's tons of information out there on both the Nikkormat ELW and the 43-86, so I won't go into great detail about either. On the camera, I will mention that the only difference (that I know of) between this ELW and the previous EL version is the added provision for a motorized winder. Functionally, the two cameras are essentially the same. I would also add that I really like the meter display in the viewfinder. Much easier to see than the +/- in my F2 and FTn. As for the lens, I'll mention that my copy is a later AI version of the much maligned 43-86, which is supposedly superior to earlier versions. Despite it's poor reputation, decent quality images can be had from the lens, provided that one stay away from the wider apertures. It obviously can't compete with prime lenses in terms of image quality but is adequate for situations where a single lens with more flexibility than a prime is desired. Also. that color-coded depth of field scale on the top is my favorite thing about the lens.

    The following images are from a recent bike ride on a rather warm and cloudless morning. Ideally, for a kit to take on a bicycle, you would want something that is lightweight and versatile. Naturally, I chose a kit that is neither particularly lightweight, nor exceptionally versatile. Despite the improved visibility of the light meter in the viewfinder of the ELW, I still managed to severely underexpose the first third of the the 36 exposure roll of Ektar when I mistakenly thought the camera was in Aperture Priority while it was actually set to the top speed of 1/1000th.

    Those images came out looking something like this:


    And this:


    And that's after adjusting the exposure in post. I could have pumped up the exposure more, but the grain was getting pretty chunky.


    After the image above, I finally noticed what was going on. And I can't even blame my lack of attention to the settings on learning to shoot on digital... because I learned to shoot on film.


    That's a little better.

    I think they are advocating something with this mural, but I'm not sure what.

    Despite what the sign says, this is not a liquor store.

    The second half of my ride included a section of abandoned railway that has been converted to a bike path.

    My favorite shot from the roll.

    Testing the performance wide open at 86mm. Managed to miss focusing on the flowers and put it squarely on the uninteresting part of the railing behind them. Overall, the image is pretty soft, and the bokeh is getting pretty funky.

    A few more from the way back and I'll stop. I promise.

    Gratuitous peeling paint shot. Are those still popular here or have they become passe' while I was away?

    If you're like me and you have a camera handy when a train comes by, you take a picture. No need to bother waiting until said train is actually prominent in the frame, though.

    Practical part of my brain: "Don't take a picture through the fence." Lazy part of my brain:"It'll be 'artsy.'" 10 yr old part of my brain: "FIRETRUCK!"

    Well, that's it folks. Hope some of you enjoyed my ramblings for a bit. I enjoyed using the Nikkormat and will definitely be using it more in the future. As for the 43-86, I have a couple of third party zooms with more range and equal/better performance, so I see an extended period of rest in its future. Knowing what I now know, I probably wouldn't buy it again, but I don't regret doing so, if only because it was really cheap.

    Concerning the technical stuff, film used was Extar 100 and the images were scanned by me on an Epson V600. I have tweaked the exposures a bit in post processing for most of the images presented here..
  2. Nice work, Cory, and great to see you back! The EL and the oddball 43-86mm lens is a well-balanced combination, and I'd rate the lens much more highly than the bad press it gets would suggest. Thanks for an interesting and very readable post.
    CoryAmmerman likes this.
  3. I had an interest in the 43-86 when I bought my FM in 1979, but got the AI 35/2.0 instead.

    I still like the 35/2.0.

    Sometime later, I got a used AI 35-70, which I also like.

    Somewhat more recently I got an EL2, which uses AI lenses.
    CoryAmmerman likes this.
  4. Thanks Rick. It’s nice to be out shooting again.

    Glen, probably a good call on taking the 35/2. My main complaint with the 43-86 is that it’s just not wide enough.
  5. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I have the combination (including the winder) , and it is excellent. I had the old, original and much maligned 43-86 - worked just fine for many years. Recently had the opportunity to acquire a minty late model 43-86 for a pittance and it is excellent. Used on a digital Nikon, I can zoom in on a nearly full body photo of one of my Labradors and read his dog tag. Coincidentally, just a few minutes before reading this post, I had mounted it on my D 750, and will be using it for the rest of the day.
    CoryAmmerman likes this.
  6. Before I bought the FM and 35/2.0, I used a Canon VI borrowed from my father.
    For that, I had the Canon 50/2.8, and Xenogon 35/2.8.
    Most often, the 35 was on the camera. I used it a lot for indoor shots
    with a Vivitar 283 flash (which covers a 35mm lens), and outdoors for
    scenery shots. And yes, I often thought that 50mm wasn't wide enough.

    Before deciding, I was reminded that 86mm is close to the 90mm recommended
    for portraits, but I don't do much of that.

    The next lens I got was a Vivitar 70-150, which I did use when I needed a
    longer lens. I also had the Vivitar lenses for the 283 to use with longer lenses.
    CoryAmmerman likes this.
  7. Excellent write up. I hope feels nice to be "§back in the saddle again" . I enjoyed your images and ..thinks frequently go wrong for me..but I know whose falut that is, :) Nice to know I have company. Nice that you recovered the setting for particularly colorful pic and both are here to see the difference. I like them all but would also settle on the bike track as a fav.
    CoryAmmerman likes this.
  8. The later versions of 43-86mm lens were definitely better than the earlier, but as in so many cases, it was the convenience that really mattered - and the IQ was good enough even at the start.
    later version on Nikon F2
    CoryAmmerman and Mike Gammill like this.
  9. The 43-86 today would be what we call a "framing lens" or a flexible normal. I've seen countless high quality images taken with the 43-86, ranging from the earliest versions to the last ones. At some point I may get one to go with my FE-2 and FT3.
    CoryAmmerman likes this.
  10. Thanks for the responses everyone. I agree with many of the comments that the image quality of the 43-86 is more than acceptable. And the build quality is certainly up to Nikon‘s high standards. The problem for me lies in the restricted zoom range when compared to some other options I have available. I’m sure I’ll be using the lens again in the future, but it probably won’t be in the regular rotation.
  11. Thanks Chuck. It definitely feels nice getting out and putting some of this gear I’ve accumulated to good use. I wasn’t sure if I should bother posting my screwups, but I figured some people might like to see that other people make mistakes too.
  12. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    My new one $33, minty delivered - from Roberts Used Photo Pro Hard to resist.
    Mike Gammill likes this.
  13. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    Fujica also made an excellent 43-75mm zoom, though like the 43-86 Nikkor its minimum focusing distance is only about 4 ft.--for me, more of an issue than the limited focal length range.
  14. Also Yashica offered a 42-75 that was a good performer.

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