Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by ben_hutcherson, May 3, 2020.

  1. Earlier last week, I posted something about how I had most every Nikon film body but needed to fill out my Nikkormat collection. At the time, I only had an FTN and FT2. Member @orsetto reminded me of the FS also.

    As it so happened, about an hour after making that post, a former co-worker texted me saying that he'd found a camera bag in his garage and wanted to know if I was interested. I asked for pictures, and saw someones nice 70s kit with an FT3, 50mm f/2, 135mm f/2.8, and of course a couple of off brand zooms. I paid a fair price, if a bit higher than I wanted.

    My FT2 was bought with a dead meter and battery damage. I finally decided to dig into it yesterday. Initially, I spliced and resoldered the "rotted" negative wire at the battery chamber. I still wasn't getting any action of the meter, so pulled the top plate off(Rick Helmke called me while I was fighting with that and he asked me why i was bothering :) ) and found that wire rotted at the circuit board. I cleaned that up as best as I could, and fortunately was able to resolder it. As soon as I did that, the meter came to life, and amazingly it's accurate.

    So, that success inspired me. I went on Ebay and found a nice FT with a fluted ring 50mm f/2. That one didn't hurt too badly.

    There was also an okay FS listed for an okay price. I dickered a bit, but finally settled on a price this morning.

    So, hopefully in a few days, my Nikkormat collection will be complete, although I'm also eying a black FTN(I maybe should try now). Rick also mentioned to me that I was overlooking the Nikomat cameras.

    I'll post a "family portrait" here when all are here. I'd go out and shoot the FT3 today if it weren't for the fact that I've exceeded my maximum loaded camera rule, and also the weather is supposed to be nasty today.

    That more or less rounds out the Nikon film camera collection, too, aside from the FM3a(which isn't in the budget now) and some things like the titanium F2, F3, and FM2 variants.
  2. SCL


    Ben - I think sheltering in place has given you a severe case of GAS...if you don't act quickly you may find yourself in the Camera Repairer's and Collector's Hospital. Seriously, though, congratulations on your skills getting the resoldering done and metering working. Those Nikkormats are wonderful cameras.
  3. Now I am not sure between Ben and Andrew who spends more money on cameras.
  4. Marvelous user cameras, esp now considering how plentiful and common most of them are. Build quality is top notch (the flagship F really has very little over them), and they're sturdier/smoother than the FM and FE that replaced them.

    The three bugaboos for people who aren't Nikon fetishists are the tedious lens indexing (esp pre-FTn), tendency to need meter repair, and viewfinder that's ridiculously cropped for a premium-brand camera. Opting for a newer FT2 ups odds of functional meter, FT3 adds easy lens mounting, but with their built-on hot shoes they don't look quite as classy as the shoeless FS, FT or FTn (which closely resemble the F with plain prism). With FTn selling for sparrow feed, you could buy one for display and also a later FT2or FT3 to use.

    The Nikkormat FTn further splits into two variations: early and late. Early has solid chrome one-piece advance and self timer levers, late has the "Apollo" levers with comfortable black plastic tip as found in final F runs, the F2, and Nikkormat EL. Black Nikkormat FTn with earlier chrome advance & ST levers is the most distinctive of the classic Nikon camera series.

    The Nikkormat vs Nikomat thing is sorta pointless to bother about collecting unless you're a devoted completist. And even then, you'll never really feel one or the other looks "right": if your country normally had the Nikkormat nameplate, Nikomat always looks like a Soviet knockoff (and vice versa). Ditto the "Nikkor F Photomic" German model, but at least that one is rare and unusual:

    Nikon "NIKKOR" F camera models - Export Models - index page
    Last edited: May 3, 2020
  5. Does the Nikkorex F count as a Nikon SLR, even though it was made by Mamiya? I see it as the ancestor of the Nikkormats which in turn spawned the FE and FM series.
  6. I count it and have one, along with the Cosina-made FM10 and FE10.

    Actualy, I guess I have to revise my statement, since I don't have an FE10.
  7. It was not my first, nor my last Nikon camera, but the EL is still one of my most favorite:
    Nikkormat-EL-and-kit.jpg .

    If you run out of cameras, try lenses or other accessories, including the 'rare' panoramic head:)
    Last edited: May 3, 2020
  8. The Nikkorex is interesting as a step in Nikon's evolution toward the legendary classic lineup they had in the early-mid 1970s, but feels nothing like a Nikon-made camera of the era (or a good later Mamiya SLR for that matter). It is what it is: a misfired attempt to field a more affordable Nikon-mount body at a time when all of Nikon's resources were tied up producing the premium F.

    The Mamiya Nikkorex gave Nikon a solution to a dilemma, and it sold well, but in the end proved problematic because it wasn't really what budget buyers wanted. They were entranced by the already legendary F, and expected a feature-stripped version of that (not some weird Mamiya franken-body). Nobody was looking for a cheap knockoff body to mount a collection of Nikkors: they wanted as close as they could get to an F for use with the one 50mm lens most owners would ever buy.

    Nikon finally read those tea leaves, ramped up and offered the Nikkormat (look and feel of the F minus the removable finder and motor options). After a couple revisions of FT they added an F2-inspired electronic auto-exposure EL model. Once locked in place, Nikon then had THE hottest camera lineup on the market for a good couple years with F2, EL, FTn. Not likely to have happened if they stuck doggedly with the Mamiya workaround.

    Interesting, Canon offered nearly the exact same camera lineup during the same period with their flagship pro F-1, mass-market FTb, and luxe electronic EF body with AE. Subtle differences gave Canon the edge for some buyers (F-1 retained metering with all optional viewfinders, their EF had the more popular intuitive shutter-priority AE vs Nikkormat EL aperture priority). But broadly speaking, Nikon and Canon competed against each other with a lineup of three near-identical camera models.

    Minolta tried to horn in on that triple threat paradigm with SRT, XE, and XK, but the XK misfired badly (too soon for an electronic pro body, and lack of any motor drive doomed it). Olympus mounted a clever challenge with just two models, Pentax wasn't fully targeting the pro market yet, but there were Spotmatic equivalents of Nikkormat FTn and EL.

    Then Canon broke ranks to shake up the entire industry with the cheaper, plastic, feature-laden, heavily-marketed AE-1, which prompted Minolta to rush into AF before vetting the legal hurdles ;), which led to modern DSLRs.
    Last edited: May 3, 2020
  9. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Nikkorex. Mine is mostly reliable, but it will occasionally just decide not to work. It's chunky and doesn't feel or handle like a Nikon. I do like the first generation Copal Square that has a bright yellow writing silk screened on the strut.

    The FTN was actually one of my first Nikons(got at the same time as an F3 along with two 55mm f/3.5 Micros and a 20mm f/4 U.D.) and initially I didn't take to it with its weird shutter speed dial positioning. I've since come to appreciate how convenient it is, and especially that it can be changed without moving your hand too far away from the focusing ring.
  10. Never tried the Nikkors, that’s a new one to me. A few years ago I bumped into an FT2 with a Vivitar 80-200 lens at a repair shop and for $60 I couldn’t leave it. The lens surprised me at how sharp it is and the body has been a good one although the meter is iffy on a good day. I use it as a go anywhere camera and it seems to have a lot of life left in it. I may have to talk Ben into working on the meter.

    Rick H.
    johnfantastic likes this.
  11. You might have convinced me to look at it, Rick, but no promises that I can do anything with it :)
    Rick Helmke likes this.
  12. Minolta tried to horn in on that triple threat paradigm with SRT, XE, and XK, but the XK misfired badly (too soon for an electronic pro body, and lack of any motor drive doomed it).


    Minolta XK Motor by Satosh Oka
  13. I owned a Nikkormat for about 3 months. Picked up a cosmetically OK non-worker for peanuts. It was a version with the AI follower (I think just previous to the EL), and the fault turned out to be grease and general clag on the meter resistor ring that runs directly under the AI follower. A fairly easy fix.

    The ergonomics of the camera didn't impress me, and I traded it for something else at the earliest opportunity. Easy come, easy go.

    Rarest Nikon 'curio' that I own is a Photomic Illuminator. This fastens to the eyepiece of an F2 and has a small lilliput filament bulb and battery housing. It puts a tiny amount of light into the diffuser window on top of an F2 metering prism. Neat, intriguing... and almost uselessly impractical. I've only ever handled one of them; the one I own!

    Nuff Nikon Nostalgia for now.
  14. Yes, but it arrived five years too late as the answer to a question nobody asked. The XK had already long been written off as not-quite-pro due to electronics, quirks, and inability to be motorized. Trying to turn that tide by suddenly dropping the opposite (always attached motor centric body) was like throwing a pebble at an ocean of Nikon F2 and Canon F-1 (or Contax RTS, Olympus OM2 if we posit AE).

    A pity it flopped, because the XK Motor was ironically the perfected XK a lot of Minolta enthusiasts had wanted (just not with a pricey heavy motor permanently bolted on). The meter prism rivaled the capability of Nikon F2AS and Leica SL2, while also offering integrated AE. Some flakier aspects of the XK body were revised or eliminated.

    Altogether it was a compelling package, but overshot the mark by having a nonremovable motor. That instantly pushed it out of the larger camera market, with just a small pent-up demand from the minority of die-hard Minolta pros who were looking to upgrade their aging, similar perma-motor SRT Motor bodies. In the lucrative advanced amateur market that bought boatloads of Nikon F2 and Canon F-1, the XK Motor landed with a gigantic thud. Those buyers liked the idea of owning a top pro camera that could be motorized, but didn't really want (and seldom bought) the big heavy expensive motor.

    XK Motor was the pinnacle of classic-era Minolta: probably the best camera body they ever sold. Today its collectible status is well-earned: the closest I ever got to one was a standard XK upgraded with the XK Motor (AES) silicon meter prism. Which I foolishly traded for an XD-11 (fantastic camera, but not so durable).
    Last edited: May 5, 2020
  15. Yes but you seemingly weren’t aware of the motor version till now. Oh well...
  16. Yeah the XK was faulted because it has electronically controlled shutter and no motor drive (the XK motor drive is only 2fps much slower than the F2). But what made it not desirable back then helps make a decent copy of the XK worth about the same as a mint F5 today.
  17. Joe I had one of those Photomic Illuminators back in the day when I would buy any widget I could get my hands on. It turned out to be useful at times when working in dark conditions but it was hopelessly awkward and looked like the gadget it was.

    Rick H.
  18. Unless restricting one's collection to mechanical Nikkormats only, I think The EL must also be included. And if the EL is included, then it seems to me that the Nikon EL2 must also be included. Personally I think the EL and EL2 are jewels and are historically important, since they are the obvious ancestors to the FE -- in terms of features, at least, if not design and weight -- which I consider to be one of Nikon's all-time great cameras.
  19. I've been aware of the XK Motor since the month it debuted at the NYC camera shows, at which I picked up the rather lovely brochure as a teenager. The context of my post above concerned Minolta's primary initial best-known attempt to challenge Nikon's and Canon's copycat camera lineup in the '70s with a very different approach to their flagship pro XK model.

    The standard XK was bold and innovative, but failed to make serious inroads because it lacked a motor drive accessory for the first four and a half years of its existence: a deadly and baffling omission that shut Minolta out of the pro market during the absolute peak of big bulky pro 35mm film SLRs. While an excellent camera in its own right, the XK Motor came on the scene too late at too high a price with an un-competitive, inflexible motor configuration. During the entire Nikkormat era discussed in this thread, Nikon and Canon had killer pro flagship models with simple, proven handling, traditional controls, rugged mechanical shutters, optional (if klugy) shutter-priority AE modules, and versatile, detachable motor drives. Minolta's XK underdog brought a figurative knife (early electronic shutter, aperture priority AE, fussy quirky controls, no motor option whatsoever) to the Nikon/Canon gunfight, and got drubbed.

    By the time Minolta woke the heck up to finally offer a motor option, it was yet another misconceived XK gutter ball: instead of a retrofit modification for the original bodies, or at least a new updated XK with baseplate coupling optional motor, they offered a permanently-attached, slow-ish motor configuration at a cost out of reach to the huge enthusiast market. That year, Nikkormats were on the verge of being phased out, as were the equivalent Canon FTbs, and both Canon/Nikon were prototyping more-rugged than-XK electronic AE successors to their pro cameras. Had the XK Motor body arrived in 1973 shortly after the standard XK launched, Minolta might have succeeded (even with the built-in motor), but by 1976 it was a lost cause.
    Last edited: May 6, 2020
    Kent T likes this.
  20. Yes, I have the FT3 and EL2, ancestors to the FM and FE.

    I never had an FE, but do have an FE2, though.
    It seems to me that the FE2 meter is about two stops off, so I set
    the exposure offset to correct it.

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