Nikon F2SB

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by ben_hutcherson, Apr 5, 2018.

  1. I wanted to show off and also give a bit of background on a recent acquisition of mine.

    After diving fully into the Nikon ecosystem, I discover what is-in my opinion-one of the finest 35mm SLRs ever made in the form of the F2. I enjoy using them so much that I'm now at a half dozen or so of them.

    For those not familiar with Nikon-speak, I'll give a general overview. Like most pro Nikon bodies(and many other top of the line cameras of this era) the prism on the F2 is interchangeable. There are a variety of specialty finders, but the most ones are various eye-level 90ยบ pentaprism finders. These all differ in the specifics of their metering system. The F2 meter is full integrated into the prism housing, although it's powered by two button cell batteries in the bottom of the camera.

    The various eye-level finders have both a numerical designation and a common name. When describing an F2, the common designation is often appended to the "F2" name. The three basic eyelevel finders are the DE-1, which is an unmetered prism, the DP-1, and the DP-11. In this context, an unqualified F2 might be understood to have a DE-1, although it's also sometimes called the "F2 plain prism." The DP-1 is also called the Photomic finder, and is a non-AI finder with a center-the-needle readout. The DP-11, also called the "A"(leading to the name F2A), is functionally identical to the F2 Photomic but works with automatic indexing(AI) lenses.

    Also, again for those who don't know Nikons, the non-AI/AI distinction might need some explanation. The first Nikon SLRs with a built-in meter relied on a "fork" on the aperture ring of the lens to communicate the set aperture. This fork is located at f/5.6, so its possible to know the set aperture. For a TTL meter, however, the maximum aperture must also be known. Initially, this was manually set on the film speed dial. Nikkormat cameras, however, introduced "semi-auto indexing" where the maximum aperture is communicated by turning the aperture ring to its largest aperture after mounting the lens. On pro Nikons, semi-auto indexing made its debut with the F FTN finder, and was used on all non-AI F2 finders. AI lenses have a "step" in the aperture ring in which a small tab rides and communicates "stops from full aperture" to the meter-the follower is still present to this day on all the better Nikon DSLR bodies.

    In any case, there were a couple of "upgraded" metered finders. The best known and most popular is the F2AS, which uses a silicon photodiode and uses three LEDs for the meter reading rather than a needle. There was also the F2S, which was a non-AI finder with a CdS cell but extended low-light sensitivity and a two LED meter read-out.

    Finally, we have the F2SB(DP-3 finder) which is effectively the non-AI version of the F2AS. It uses a silicon photodiode and also has the three LED read-out. The meter read-out is comfortable to anyone who has ever used an FM, FM2, or FM10. Most others familiar with manual exposure cameras will find it intuitive. Essentially, it has 3 LEDs-a + sign, - sign, and an O arranged in a linear array(at the bottom of the finder on F2s). The plus indicates that the current settings will result in overexposure, the - indicates underexposure, and the O is "correct" exposure. If the O and one of the other LEDs are lit simultaneously, the camera is telling you that you are within one stop of the correct exposure.

    For anyone using non-AI lenses, the F2SB is arguably the best option. It certainly has the most sensitive meter and can meter out to a 10 second measured exposure time(although the F2S does this also). Some folks might prefer the Nikkormat EL, which can give auto exposure with non-AI lenses, but I still consider the F2SB king. It's also one of the more difficult F2 finders to find, as it was made for 2 or 3 years. It's also worth nothing that it can give full aperture metering with ALMOST any lens with an aperture ring. Manual focus lenses-including the ones still made today-largely still ship with a metering fork installed on the aperture ring. The exceptions I can think of are the series E lenses, along with the 45mm f/2 AI-P(there is not room on the aperture ring of the latter). What's more, most AF lenses have pilot holes pre-drilled on their aperture ring so that a fork can be installed if desired.

    After looking for a while, I recently picked up a nice example. An absolutely beautiful DP-3 sold on Ebay a few weeks ago, but as is often the case, desirable finders off cameras are often as expensive if not more so than a complete camera. My example is a bit rough around the edges, but woks beautifully. Also, in the fun game of Ebay, it came with a 35mm f/2 lens(late version, AI converted)-this lens generally sells for about 2/3 what I paid for the complete camera. The camera SN starts with "72", meaning that-as was certainly even common at one time-an owner "upgraded" the meter on their camera.

    So, after all my rambling, here it is.

    Moving On and James Bryant like this.
  2. Beautiful! Thanks for an interesting and informative write-up.
  3. Ben - your opinion - I have never owned an F (but have used extensively) or an F2 (played with a bit), but I sold a lot of them. Seems like well over 50% of those who up-graded from F to F2 preferred the older F. Your opinion?
  4. I acquired a F2as last fall and have been pleased with it. Never had an original F.
  5. Chuck,

    That's interesting to see that a lot of folks preferred the F. I suppose a lot is in what you're use to.

    I could point out a lot of difference that for most users don't really matter(like easier to use MLU) and some better technical specs but for me it comes down to two things.

    First, the F2 has a swing open back. With an F, you're stuck trying to find somewhere to put the back while you change film.

    Second for me is the shutter button placement. Someone coming from Leicas might prefer the location on the F, but for someone use to the now more conventional "forward" placement the F2 is a lot more natural. Also, the F2 has a lock on the shutter button(that I admittedly never use) whereas if you want to prevent the F from going off in your back the only way is to just not cock it.

    I would get use to this if I used Fs all the time, but when I use one I often intuitively start feeling on the bottom plate for the rewind button-of course a futile exercise since the rewind setting is a collar around the shutter button. There again, someone using Leicas(or at least screw mount Leicas-I don't know about M series models) will be use to flipping the rewind switch on the top plate so it won't be that different.

    The F2 is fundamentally an F that's been massaged in a lot of ways. Overall I find it a much nicer camera to use. The shapes are certainly different, and of course that's a matter of preference but I find that the F2 fits my hand better.

    If you prefer a meterless camera, my comments on meters won't apply to you, but metering on F is a totally different world from the F2. The best F meter is in the Photomic FTN finder, and it's effectively the same as the F2 DP-1 meter. As a history lesson, there were four F metered prisms-the original Photomic, the Photomic T, Photomic TN, and the Photomic FTN.

    The original is not a TTL meter. The photocell is on the front, and covers I think about the equivalent of a 35mm lens. An add-on restricts the field of view to that of roughly an 85mm lens. This meter also has an incident attachment.

    The T and TN are both TTL meters. They both require manually setting the maximum aperture. The big difference between the two is in the metering pattern-the T is simply an averaging meter, while the TN uses the now familiar and ubiquitous 60/40 center-weighted average pattern.

    The FTN uses the 60/40 average, and also adds semi-auto indexing by rotating the aperture ring to the largest aperture after mounting(I usually go to the minimum to be sure the follower is engaged before then turning to maximum).

    To me, one advantage of the F2 meters is that they are turned on and off by the film advance lever, while on the F you have to deal with a separate button or switch on the prism itself.

    Finally, with metering, the F2 has one advantage that's a big deal in 2018, but wouldn't have mattered in 1972. Namely, all the F meters require 625 mercury cells, while the F2 can use the ubiquitous LR44 in any chemistry available. I usually use silver for its better shelf life(F2 batteries can easily last years) but anything that will center the needle when pressing the battery check or light the LEDs will allow the camera to meter correctly. Of course, meters like the DP-3 and DP-12 are MUCH better than anything offered for the F.

    There are a bunch of other little areas where the F2 was "massaged" and, while none of them make or break the camera they all add up to a nicer(IMO) overall package. The F2 gives a broader range of shutter speeds. The fastest speed is 1/2000, and it's possible to use the self timer in conjunction with the bulb setting to get timed speeds out to 10 seconds. The flash sync speed is improved to 1/90th(or maybe 1/80th), although that's not a huge advantage over the 1/60th of the F. I mentioned the MLU thing, which requires shooting a frame on the F both to enable and disable it and can be enabled at any time on the F2. The advance lever has a big plastic tip, something which I find a lot more comfortable than the flat metal one of the F(and virtually all other SLRs from the 60s and early 70s). The F2 has a memo holder for the film box end or whatever. The F2 rewind crank pulls up and out of the way to make swapping film cartridges easy(although having it also open the back would have been REALLY nice). There again, none of them individually is that significant to me, but taken as a whole I much prefer the F2.

    I'll add that I also have I think 7 or 8 Fs including all the finder variants, and am constantly on the look-out for nice examples of things like first run serial numbers. Fs are fun to collect and I DO use them, but I just like the F2 a lot better.
  6. Thanks, Ben. Those who preferred the older F seemed to think it was more durable.
  7. Chuck,

    If size and weight alone dictated durability, I could understand someone drawing that conclusion.

    With that said, my experience is that time has shown the basic F2 body to be much more durable than the F. I have two or three Fs where the slow speeds don't work, and yet another that's locked up solid. I've had others with a variety of quirks that I was able to fix.

    By contrast, I have one or two F2 bodies that look like they were run over by a truck. Without fail, however, it seems that every single one I pick up just works. The meters can be iffy, but the bodies themselves seem to be perfect. Not only that, but even the ones that look to have never been serviced usually are within 1/2 at the extreme shutter speeds and 1/3 or better at mid-range speeds. My Fs vary a WHOLE lot more than that.
  8. I just realized that I did something incredibly stupid...the camera I photographed for this post is an F2 Photomic, not an F2SB.

    I promise I do have one :) . I'll get it photographed tomorrow and post the picture of it.
  9. Just thought that the finder looks a lot like a DP-1 :D
    Wish I could have afforded an F2AS when I purchased my first camera back in 1979; got the "little sister" FM instead.

    Wouldn't mind owning an F2 Titanium to put on the shelf :cool: (not the one with the "Titan" writing on the front, the one without).
  10. I was out shooting with my F2as that I bought last Fall and it is rapidly growing on me. Since my other mechanical cameras use the MS 76 (SR44, 357) that is available I find the battery convenient. It may become my favorite camera.
  11. NIB after 40 years.
    There is a certain magic appeal to that.
    If I wanted it I'd make an offer. I expect you'd have a degree of protection from several aspects beyond his "no return" policy.
    Sometimes that is more to guard against buyer's remorse or using something and then sending it back.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
  12. Yes, if I had the cash and couldn't think of a anything better to do with it, maybe I would give it a go, On the other hand, just because the seller says it's new in box doesn't mean it's in perfect shape or if it really is NIB. Beyond that, I just saw an "excellent +" at my favorite on-line store for $200 less. (FYI - I trust NOTHING on e-bay - burn me once shame on you, burn me twice . . . )
  13. I had good luck with two Nikons and several lenses.
    The cameras, FM2n and F3 were NIB and pristine but pricey.
    The lenses are nice as well.
    Guess I've been lucky.
  14. I'll add in the wife factor, too. I have an extensive Canon system, and I can always claim that I have had that 300 f2.8 for years, but if she sees a Nikon on the shelf, well, you can guess what will happen.

    As for buying on e-bay, I restrict it to things I know can't be broken or faked (and not too expensive). My last purchase was a filter/diffuser set for my Vivitar 365. Other than that, I have been burned a couple of times too often.
  15. I'm glad that I have my foot in the door, so to speak, on enough systems while I'm still single that that will work one of these days :)

    Of course, I've also been selling off some of my better Canon FD stuff to re-invest in Nikons. I'm not getting rid of bodies, nor are favorite lenses like my 24mm f/2 and 135mm f/2 going anywhere. I have my 400 f/4.5 on Ebay now, though, as I just can't justify keeping a lens that valuable in a system that I rarely use anymore and have only used a handful of times anyway. The 200mm f/2.8 IF is the next one "on the bubble" so to speak, although it makes SUCH a nice and lightweight 280mm f/4 with the 1.4x(much lighter and better handling than my AF-Nikkor 300mm f/4, a lens which also has some quirks that make manual focus on an AF body a pain).
  16. Congratulations on the post and the camera(s).

    Although my favorite Nikon shooter is still my Nikkormat EL, both the Nikon F and the Nikon F2 are cameras I would not want to be without.
    And yes, I do mostly have non-AI lenses...
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
    James Bryant likes this.
  17. I have my 400 f/4.5 on Ebay now,

    You have a link to it?
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
  18. Check your PMs-don't want to cross the line and post it on the open forum.

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