Which Film Nikons still work?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by gene_aker|2, Jun 26, 2010.

  1. Saturday, June 26, 2010
    I am looking for thoughts about film Nikons for students. Below, I've sketched some of my experience. I know other Forum readers have a world of experience. Any other thoughts?

    I teach film photography to about 6o high school kids a year. They mostly love the darkroom, making prints, and sharing them. The students used to supply their own cameras---usually their “grandfather’s camera.” But in the last few years—acquiring film cameras is more and more problematic.
    Consequently, I have started buying up cameras that work. Here’s what I’ve discovered.
    Forget about everything with electronics from the 60’s thru the 80’s---- a lost cause. ( Of course there are a few exceptions.)
    The mechanical models from that same period continue to work—even with stiff glue! I can depend on the Pentax K1000, Nikon F, F2, and F3. FM’s usually are OK. Fe’s forget ‘em.
    The N models seem to holding up ok. I see lots of N6006, N,8008. The N90 is still reliable, as are the N70 and N80. When I see these models, I buy them.
    Canon modes—the hugely popular AE series; seldom work. The lovely little Olympus modes---forget it.
    About new film models. Freestyle and others started selling the old Vivitar. Last year we put five of these in service. I think three broke apart. The Nikon F10 seems to be bit more hardy; One of these lasted two sisters for five years!
    Our high school students like film; but they wish someone would make a good one.
     
  2. Most Nikon F801 or F801s (the European models) -and- N8008 and N8008s camera bodies may fit the bill. They run on four AA cells, and have a Manual mode, so the student would have to set the f-stop and shutter speed as needed. The F3, needing a at-times-hard-to-find battery, is good but for a student maybe overkill.
    The Nikon F10 is not manufactured by Nikon, but by a second-company for Nikon. The F10 and the FM2N are much different in construction and durability.
     
  3. "The F3, needing a at-times-hard-to-find battery ..."
    Hard to find? LR44/A76 alkalines are as common as dirt! :)
     
  4. Nikon F, F2, FM, FM2n, Nikkormat FT, FS, FT-2, FT-3 all mechanical, batteries are usually button batteries, some may require a sleeve, some may need hearing aid zinc oxide batteries #675. Google info. on the 'net on the (8) totally mechanical cameras listed for more info.
    Others I have or have had in the past: Canon F-1 and F-1n; Canon TX; Pentax K1000, Pentax Spotmatic, Minolta SRT series, also totally mechanical with similar battery issues.
    With metering issues, use "sunny sixteen" rules or handheld meter.
     
  5. Are you looking for cameras that have built in metering that works. That would severly limit your choices. There are many good choices among cameras where the meter is no longer functional. Spotmatics, Canon FTs and FTbs, Nikkormats, Minolta SRTs.
     
  6. Sounds about right, Gene. Your observations pretty well match my own experience handling lots of used cameras in photography shops, pawn shops, etc., tho' I'd add several manual-everything Canon, Olympus, Minolta and other SLRs to the list of good values. I'm not a fan of the Canon AE-1 but the FTb(n), TX and others are reliable. Ditto the Minolta SRT-series and Olympus OM-1.
    The Nikon N6006 may be a best buy in a beater camera for students. The plastic film door latch is notoriously fragile and while it can be repaired I just tape mine shut. Great camera otherwise. I've seen a camera shop put a boxful of used N6006's by the door for a few bucks apiece.
    Those Cosina-made SLRs have been sold under various marques, each with slightly different features, some even offering auto-exposure modes. Offhand, I can recall variations of the same body sold by Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Vivitar. Probably a few other variants floating around too. Seemed to be a reasonable value but there have been anecdotes suggesting reliability problems. Supposedly that same chassis served as the basis for the first Cosina/Voigtlander not-quite-rangefinder (used an optical finder in the accessory shoe) for use with Leica type screwmount lenses, but later Cosina made bodies specifically for their Voigtlander lineup.
    My usual advice tends to irk some folks but I typically advise against the Nikon EM and Olympus OM-letter/double-digit series (OM-G/20, etc.). I've seen more of those that didn't work than in good working condition. Some folks also advise against the Canon T50 and T70. Personally I had good luck with both the T50 and T70, but that was more than 10 years ago and those models haven't gotten any younger. The T50 offered very limited control over exposure and the T70 had a reputation for auto-winders that wore out before the rest of the camera.
     
  7. Thanks, Lex. I'm glad to have a bit of confirmation. I've purchased five of 8008's and one of the N90's last month. They actually survived student handling for a few months. I think the Vivitar is --or was a Cosina---the winding broke on one, the advance on another, on another one the self timing lever fell off. enough! better to get one of the older real cameras.
    I forgot to mention The old Canon Ft models; I used them in the 60's--now here they are again!
    I can't think of any other appliance that still works after 50 years--maybe a doorstop!
    I should have retired 7 years ago--but I'll hang on for a couple more years- teaching part time. Kids still love film and the darkroom.
     
  8. I own a Nikon FE that is still in perfect working order. I don't know why you think they don't work.
     
  9. "Kids still love film and the darkroom."​
    A very true statement. I lurk on a few photography/art sites with a younger demographic and there is a genuine interest in film, darkroom and comparable non-digital artistic media. For some of 'em it's a fad, a hipster/retro fashion statement. But others are seriously interested in the process itself as much as the end product - the print.
     
  10. Craig, Gene isn't claiming your FE doesn't work. I think he's just noting the same tendencies I've observed and referring to generalities based on handling a lot of older cameras. Granted, these are anecdotal, not scientific. But like Gene I've seen more used Nikon FE's with certain problems than Nikon FM or FM2(N) bodies. Not a knock against the FE, but it's just enough to make me a little less enthusiastic about recommending that model to a newbie who may not know how to examine a used camera to determine whether it's in good working order. For all I know it may be a coincidence that people with faulty FE's dump theirs onto the used market while others either keep their functional FE's or have them repaired. Our sampling group may be skewed by various factors. But I've noticed the same tendencies he's observed.
     
  11. How about the Canon Elan models? Or the Canon A2/A2E? Is canon marketing any film cameras new these days?
    I agree kids love the 'magic' of the darkroom. Its a cool process and many do want to master it.
     
  12. Lex, of course I realize the issue is not one particular FE but a general pattern, but I've not come across an FE that had any fundamental issues related to its electronics failing from age. I agree in general that mechanical cameras are likely to outlast electronic ones, but in my experience the FE is still holding up well.
     
  13. How about the Canon Elan models? Or the Canon A2/A2E? Is canon marketing any film cameras new these days?
    I agree kids love the 'magic' of the darkroom. Its a cool process and many do want to master it. I hope schools continue to students the film experience, that they might not get otherwise.
    There used to be lots of various film cameras for sale pretty continuously on e-bay. Have you checked there lately?
     
  14. I bought my first DSLR a couple of years ago but still use film medium format. Recently I bought a used Nikon F5 and it works a treat. Very robust and I am sure your pupils will find it difficult to damage the titanium on the prism although it is possible!
    Look at Ffordes website. They have loads of film cameras and do postal sales form Scotland. I bought my F5 from them.
    Good luck
     
  15. F100s are $150 each and everywhere. Truly the bargain of the century if you ask me.

    Kids might be happy even with a simple Nikkormat FT. FM is also good. P76 batteries are at all the drugstores, they power so many things, more than just cameras. My Lorus travel clock (from 1989) uses one! So don't rule out a good cheap F3 body.
    Kids these days grew up with digital, and film is something new and exciting for them. Luckily the college near my home still has a working darkroom, and classes are full every quarter.
     
  16. Well I pretty much think you have assessed it pretty good. Of course there are always exceptions but it's no fun buying camera's that do not work or break quickly. I think with the Nikons the inexpensive AF models probably are a good choice as you said. Partly because they are not horribly old yet. The older electronic models are a waste of time as you said. The manual camera's like the FM are certainly nice but without having them serviced I imagine the shutter speeds will be poorly timed. The kids need a camera that will work properly and do not need a camera that has a collector following. The N8008, N90, N80 are excellent choices. They also take modern batteries. The N90 is a pretty hardy camera and I would think it would be excellent. It will also function well with the manual focus AI lens. I have a N80 that I use and think a lot of it. I have a motor on it so I can use rechargeable batteries. Otherwise it takes batteries that are certainly available but kind of expensive.
     
  17. Fm2n is the last of the all manual FM models so would be the newest FM body. The FM3a is still quite expensive used. The F801, F80 and F90 bodies are usually bargins used. My F801 still works. I bought it used about 4 years. It is far from mint but still works well.
     
  18. Many FE's and FE2's are still working great and are perfect for use in school. I used a FE2 with no problems and it still works great. Also the other ones you mentioned, all manual FMN2, F2, F3. Also the Pentax K100 you mentioned. The AE1 by Canon is a favorite for photo department equipment rooms for beginning and any 35mm film work, though I prefer the Nikons. Many 70's cameras with electronics are still great and give good service with proper CLA etc.
     
  19. The trick is to not spend too much money on one. In most cases, once something breaks, it's not economically repairable, even if it can be repaired at all. It's cheaper to just buy another one to work with the lenses we already have. Working is better than "mint" appearance, in my experience.
     
  20. Gene,
    I owned Nikon FEs and FE2s for years without any reliability issues (Though have heard that the FE2 shutter may not be as rugged as the FM2 version, but that's merely rumor.). I also loved owning a Nikon F2, which is probably the best built, best handling non-automatic manual SLR I have ever used. I would also highly recommend the Nikkormat series, especially the FT2 and FT3. Haven't used Canon, but in addition to those mentioned, am surprised no one has mentioned the F-1. One of my uncles used an Olympus OM-1 for many years without problems, so that's another marque I can highly recommend too.
     
  21. Thanks Everyone for your thoughts and ideas! I have lots of questions based on your answers. (You guys should teach with me next year!)
    “Are you looking for cameras that have built in metering that works. That would severly limit your choices?”
    Query:
    Nikon guys give me your top three, one sentence advice tips for getting good exposures without a meter.
    Remember, tips for kids. Keep it sweet and simple. I have several exposure tips, but I want to hear yours. (Assuming 400 speed film.)
     
  22. Short and sweet answer: Fred Parker's Ultimate Exposure Computer.
    Basically, it's Sunny 16 expanded to include virtually every exposure scenario. It describes typical EV (exposure values) for all sorts of ordinary and tricky lighting situations. Follow that number down to the ISO, shutter speed and aperture.
    Really simple. Helps when I'm shooting indoor stuff to avoid errors caused by backlighting from windows in daylight, or artificial lights in the frame. I just keep in mind that if the EV should be around 6 and suddenly I notice my meter is claiming 1/250th at f/8 at ISO 400, well, pretty good chance the matrix metering is being fooled by that overhead track light, the window behind my subject, etc.
     
  23. You might start buying some Yashica-mat TLRs, too. If the kids like the darkroom now, they'll love it with roll film.
     
  24. Lex, hey. Fred looks great! Have you seen the Black Cat Exposure guide?
    "The EV around 6."----I haven't thought of that. I tell them if it's outside and daytime sun (90% of the time in Santa FE) got to 250 at f 11.
     
  25. Good exposure w/out a meter: Sunny 16, estimating the number of stops 'away' from the Sunny 16 setting a given scene is; bracketing in the direction you might be 'off'
     
  26. John: I do have some Yahsicas and Rollei V TLR--some kids love them. So do I. and they look very cool--always important to kids and immature adults like me!
    Chris--I like the way you stated it Sunny 16, estimating the number of stops 'away'
     
  27. Despite their legendary reputation I haven't been THAT happy with the FM and FE2's for durability (although it might be that the models I've owned have been through a lot in past lives!) At least they are easy to repair. To me, the K1000 comes out pretty close to top and so does the grandaddy: Nikon F.
    F100's are much newer obviously, but incredibly well built for the dollars. Agree with Dave Lee - excellent value. I also have quite a few friends still using EOS 5's, and they seem to keep going solid despite the electronics and plastic body.
    I don't really have enough experience to make calls on this stuff (I guess not many do), but I do believe as far as lenses go, nothing beats AIS. Nikon really put a lot into their lens builds.
     
  28. Canon AE's seldom working? I've owned three of them, one I sold, one was stolen, and one finally developed a glitch after 6 years of use, and it's been suggested that all I need to fix that problem is to clean the EM contacts that govern the shutter release, something I could do myself if I hadn't broken my good set of screwdrivers.
    They all performed admirably and got me through many darkroom classes.
     
  29. I have bought over 200 used film SLRs of all brands and very few of them (about 5%) have problems. The broken ones are Pentax K1000, ME, Canon AE-1, and Minolta SRT-101. Mostly they are broken because of being abused and not taken care of, not because of their age. After I bought them, I take very good care of them and no problems ever happen after that (including the Ricoh, Konica, Vivitar, Chinon, Albinar) In fact both the Leica I bought had serious problems when I bought them.
    If someone offers you two cameras, a Nikon F and a Vivitar 2000 (without showing them), you cannot know which one is in better condition, and which one will work for a semester in your class. But if that person offers them for the same price (say $50), I'd bet the Vivitar is better (besides Nikon manual prime lenses are more expensive than other brands, except Leica's)
    The only way to make sure your students get the working cameras is to check (inspect) them carefully when you buy (experience is a must here), not to compare serial numbers (or years of production). Also, it is very important to teach the students how to take care of their cameras properly. Normally, they thought buying an expensive camera bag, stuff it in, is all to take good care of it. No need any camera bag to keep them working like new. I dont need any neck strap either, and I never drop one (from my hands). On the other hand a perfect SRT101 of mine dropped from a one-meter high shelf on a carpeted floor and the advance mechanism was broken
    I never understand why people turn away from the Maxxum cameras. The first Maxxum (9000, 7000, and 5000) have some common faults but all the ones after that work fine (the i, si, xi series). Only the Maxxum 9 and Maxxum 7 are commonly appreciated.
     
  30. In my limited experience many of the overall trends in (un)reliability and durability of different film bodies as picked up from the web or flea markets, are not nearly as much of a concern if you browse the BGN rated parts of KEH's offerings.
    Things like BGN grade Minolta 7000 and 5000 with AA or AAA battery holder have all the basic controls, are built like a brick and often pile up dirt cheap in the KEH catalog. If they're not rated "as is" and have no other spelled out issues, then you have the option to return them in case any trouble does show up within two weeks. And (again in my limited experience) if they worked fine when you received them then they're likely to keep going trouble-free for years to come.
    Canon T70s and T50s are usually not as abundant (personally I wouldn't recommend the T50 for a photography class) but also cost next-to-nothing when they do show up as BGN in their catalog.
     
  31. I find my self in general agreement with the original post. The main knock on the FE is that many of the examples I have had in my hands just didn't age well. They were popular amateur cameras, and used and abused examples are common. The other think is that if the film advance lever is pushed away from the body, it will eat the batteries overnight.
    The F3HP is, in my opinion, the best of the Nikon manual film cameras, so long as you are not trying to get fancy with flash. The FM2N, the best of the all-manual Nikons that can operate battery-less in a pinch. The Nikkormats and the F and F2 are not great student cameras for a bunch of reasons, primarily due to the battery issues, metering problems, and of course, having to learn the "Nikon -twist" which is not needed on subsequent models. The N8008 is a wonderful camera that can use most AF and many manual lenses, and while the N6006 isn't quite as good, it IS a good bargain, and will work just fine -- and it can use a normal cable release.
    Any of the older cameras that have not been abused, and have been well-taken care of ought to work fine today. The problem is, those examples become increasingly less common, so it pays to stick with the models that offer the best chance of working without having to go to the shop.
    Of course, a plain prism Nikon F will work gloriously well for as meter-less manual camera, but you can buy an FM2N or two for the price of that plain prism.
     
  32. (deleted)
     
  33. I still on occasion shoot old nikon FM2N and friend of mine shoot N80 & N90, Pentax MF, and they are still great cameras, sometime we use them as try out on some weddings, ceremonies, etc... specially MF Pentax
     
  34. Les, what a wonderful collection. Each one is a piece of history, and probably personal history for many people!
     
  35. I'm truly delighted that young High School and University students currently enjoy film photography, in view of the fact that we've moved on to the video age. They do at the institution where I still teach. Anything that works in terms of camera equipment will do just fine, actually, for its not in the any one particular model or brand of equipment that one uses that good photography depends and/or originates in, its in what the individual wants to and is trying to say "visually" that matters, and in how successfully the individual communicates said ideas. The camera and the lens are a merely a means to achieving that end. Does it really matter if you write the definitive poem, novel or play with a fountain pen, a ballpoint pen, a pencil or a word processor? It will be equally good, or bad, no matter what tool you craft it with. It may take you somewhat longer to write your novel with a pencil than it will be using a word processor, but it will still be fundamentally the same expression that you are composing and communicating.
    Among a few other things I've engaged in, I've been playing at, working seriously with and teaching visual communications through photography and cinematography for some sixty years. I've used just about every type of image making tool available during that time, from Box Brownies to 35mm, intermediate and large format film cameras, to the latest in digital still and professional video equipment currently on the market. It really boils down to this: buy the best you can afford, use it vigorously, but treat it with respect, care and affection, and maintain it. If you do this, virtually any instrument will continue to work and serve faithfully. I've been collecting, currently have and regularly use fully functioning Nikons and Hasselblads that date back to 1960. That's a half century of dead reliable service due to my approach - above - to the acquisition, use, care and feeding of any type of tool. That lesson should be learned and practiced as an integral part of the educational processes in photography, or in any other field. It will never fail to offer dividends.
    Alfredo Montalvo-Rivera
     
  36. Gene,
    Thank you for your commitment to teaching children a subject that will give them a break from the virtual world of electronic devices and encourage them to study the real environment around them. Thank you also for helping to keep film photography alive.
     
  37. For years, the "go to" high school film class camera was the Pentax K 1000. Consider that.
     
  38. I think if you give today's students a camera that they see as being 'old' or antiquish, you're not likely to have them take care of the camera. Keeping them working longer may just require an adjustment of attitude. Is there any way to, if the kid can't provide his own camera, require a 'security deposit' for the use of it? $100 or so, kept until the camera is returned in working order might get them respect/protect them a bit — at least to not toss them around. Things that are 'free' AND old probably don't hold any value to them.
     
  39. Derek, thanks for writing your thoughts and observations. I guess lots of people have a Nikon history and are interested in “Nikons that still work.” Our prep school has a very large art department—including digital, video, and film. For the last 20 years (how time flies!), I have taught still photography with black and white darkroom. You might be surprised how much interest there still is in black and white—alongside the digital. Kids still love the romance of the darkroom---red light, music, the alchemy of printing. And of course the socializing. My biggest challenge is not from digital; it’s from the declining stock of film cameras.
    For years, kids used their parents’ film cameras—usually nice ones. Now they use their “grandpa’s camera.” Usually one without a meter, and in need of CLA—which would cost more than the camera is “worth.”
    You are quite right—“things that are free, are not valued.” So I have been buying film Nikons from the 90’s and a bit later. I let the students think they are from “my collection.” That makes them feel a little more responsible. So we get along that way. But the days of buying a new reliable film camera for a modest price --are gone. Last year, I learned that the attractive Vivitar Slr—is not worth the postage. So I continue to be on the trail of Nikons.
     
  40. Derek, thanks for writing your thoughts and observations. I guess lots of people have a Nikon history and are interested in “Nikons that still work.” Our prep school has a very large art department—including digital, video, and film. For the last 20 years (how time flies!), I have taught still photography with black and white darkroom. You might be surprised how much interest there still is in black and white—alongside the digital. Kids still love the romance of the darkroom---red light, music, the alchemy of printing. And of course the socializing. My biggest challenge is not from digital; it’s from the declining stock of film cameras.
    For years, kids used their parents’ film cameras—usually nice ones. Now they use their “grandpa’s camera.” Usually one without a meter, and in need of CLA—which would cost more than the camera is “worth.”
    You are quite right—“things that are free, are not valued.” So I have been buying film Nikons from the 90’s and a bit later. I let the students think they are from “my collection.” That makes them feel a little more responsible. So we get along that way. But the days of buying a new reliable film camera for a modest price --are gone. Last year, I learned that the attractive Vivitar Slr—is not worth the postage. So I continue to be on the trail of Nikons.
     
  41. A few cameras that have not been mentioned here are The large group of M42 camera's and basically anything that does not need a mercury cell and for amore nikon specific one; The F301/N2000.
    It can be used both fully manual and in auto exposure and both shutter and Aperture priority, further it uses cheap and readily available AAA batteries and is quite rugged.
    Because it is mostly out of the scope of 'collectors' it is fairly cheap and most come with a E-Nikkor 50 1.8 for around 20 to 50€ (I believe you are in Europe).
    just my 2c
     
  42. They all work if they are in working order. And they all can be fixed if not.
     
  43. I'd just say you may want to fix two limits. (i) abundance and price. As repairs may break your budged I would stick to only the most common models. Should you lose one of those by any means it will be at least replaceable. (ii) only two to three models/makers. Should you eventually need to repair some, you will be able to use parts from one to fix others.
     

Share This Page