Nikon F2 Photomic

This is my fourth Nikon camera but my first professional Nikon. My first two Nikons – the F301 and the F601 – were made from plastic and were automated. These two were strictly amateur cameras. My third Nikon – the Nikkormat EL – was metal with automatic exposure if required. Again, an amateur’s camera but a nicely made metal one. This Nikon – the F2 – is a strictly professional camera and it shows. The camera is metal, a cast aluminium chassis with brass top and base plates. The basic camera has no viewfinder but the buyer had a choice of viewfinders. This was basically a choice between a plain pentaprism finder for use with a hand light meter or the ‘Photomic’ finder with a built-in TTL light meter.

My camera has the Photomic finder – the DP1 version – which Nikon calls the head. The Interweb tells me that this model camera was made between 1971 and 1980. The Interweb also tells me the date of this particular camera. The serial number starts with 7 5xx xxx and this gives a date range of between February 1975 and April 1975. (data from www.destoutz.ch/typ_production_data_f2.html)

  • lens: n/a
  • focal length: n/a
  • apertures: n/a
  • focus range: n/a
  • lens fitting: Nikon F mount
  • shutter: Titanium foil horizontal focal plane
  • speeds: 1 s to 1/2000 s plus B and T
  • flash: Hot shoe plus PC connector
  • film size: 35 mm 

When writing these articles, I frequently skim over the description of the top plate as they tend to be much of a muchness. The top plate on this camera has a number of idiosyncrasies so I shall describe it in some detail. On there far right is the film advance lever. This has two rest positions. When close to the body, the lever acts as a switch to turn off the light meter if the Photomic head is attached. At the second rest position, standing proud of the body by nearly a centimetre, the metering head is switched on and the advance lever is readily available to the user’s thumb. The lever moves through 90º to advance the film one frame and is on a ratchet so the film can be wound on by a series of short strokes. The lever is metal with a metal cover.

Right in front of the film advance lever is the window to the frame counter. In usual SLR fashion, this is reset to S (-2) by opening the back of the camera. Even numbers are displayed in white, odd numbers by dots. 12, 20 and 36 are in red as these were the standard film lengths in the 1970s. The counter will count up to 40.

Shutter release with collar set to Lock

To the left of the frame counter window is the shutter release button. This is chromed metal as is the collar that it sits in. This button is not threaded for a standard cable release but the chromed collar is threaded for a Nikon proprietary cable. Around the release button is a second collar. This outer collar is black pained brass. This has two functions. If you lift it and turn it clockwise so that the notch aligns with the letter L on the top plate, the shutter is locked against accidental exposures. The second function is to set the shutter speed to T – more later.

Left of the shutter release button is the shutter speed dial. When the Photomic head is attached, this is covered by the head itself. This dial has speeds from one second to 1/2000 seconds. 1/60 and slower are in white, 1/125 and faster are in green. Between 1/60 and 1/125 is a red line. This is the flash sync speed and is 1/80 seconds. Between 1/1000 and 1/2000 is a pin. This is to connect the Photomic head to the shutter speed dial.

Top plate with no viewfinder

Next to the speed dial is a largish hole in the top plate. This gives on to the focus screen which is replaceable. Normally, the viewfinder fits over this hole. On either side of this hole, towards the front, are two sprung electrical contacts to provide power to the Photomic head.

On the left of the top plate is the rewind crank. This is the standard folding crank seen on nearly every 35 mm camera. This crank will pull up six millimetres to make rewinding the film easier. When the camera back is open, the crank pulls up further to ease the insertion and removal of film cassettes.

Rewind crank with flash shoe around it.

What is entirely missing on this camera is a standard, Barnack style, accessory shoe. This prevents you using non-Nikon flash guns. In order to allow you to use Nikon flash guns, there is a Nikon specific shoe around the rewind crank. This has two long springs, one either side of the crank, to keep the flash gun secure. At the rear is a single electrical contact for the flash. At this date, there is no fancy flash control so no extra contacts.

This camera had options for the viewfinder – what Nikon called heads. I shall use the term ‘head’ from now on. My camera has the light-metering head – the DP1 – which gives the model name F2 Photomic. First and foremost, the Photomic head is a pentaprism viewfinder. The pentaprism adjusts the image on the focus screen so that the viewer sees the image the right way around. It also includes a light meter, a method of reading the set aperture and a method to set the shutter speed.

The head measures 68 by 70 by 41 mm and weighs 220 g – which is a significant weight to add to a camera. Looking down on the head, on the right is a film speed dial in ASA. This runs from 6 ASA to 6400 ASA and can be set in 1/3 stop steps. Setting this is achieved by lifting and turning the outer ring of the dial. This dial is also used to set the shutter speed. In this case, you set the shutter speed by turniung the dial without lifting. This dial connects to the shutter speed dial using the pin between 1/1000 and 1/2000 mentioned earlier.

On top of the head, there is a square window. The rear portion of this is translucent grey. This provides the illumination for the meter display in the viewfinder. The front part of the square is a very small meter read-out.

On the right hand side of the head, in front of the film speed/ shutter speed dial, is a small lever. Pushing this towards the head and down at the same time releases the front of the head for removal (there is a second release for the rear of the head). On the left hand side of the head, towards the rear, is a small metal pin. This connects to the Nikon flash when fitted and provides a flash-ready signal in the head.

underside of Photomic head

Looking at the bottom of the head, the base is dominated by the base of the pentaprism. Behind this are two small pins which locate on the fastener on the body (this fastener is released by a small button on the rear of the top plate to the left of the viewfinder eyepiece). In front of the pentaprism base is a third pin which also locates in a fastener on the body and is released in the same way as the other two pins. In front of this third pin are two prongs which locate on two pins on the front of the body – these are released by the lever on the head mentioned earlier. Either side of the pentaprism base, towards the front, are two pointed pins. These connect with the two sprung electrical contacts on either side of the hole in the top plate already mentioned and provide the power for the light meter. Right at the front of the base of the head is a groove which contains a pin which locates on the rabbit ears prong on the lens. This pin relays the set aperture to the light meter.

The front of the head has the legend ‘Nikon’ in nice large letters. While looking at the front of the head, on the left is a small button. This is a test button – pressing this allows the meter needle to move across the meter window if there is sufficient battery power available and if the needle does not move much the batteries need replacing. On the lower left of the front of the head is a window which displays the maximum aperture of the lens. This gets set by the indexing process when fitting a new lens – more later. The rear of the head has the viewfinder eyepiece. This is circular and the eyepiece unscrews to allow the user to add a compensating lens if they find using the camera difficult when wearing glasses.

The front of the camera has the nice big lens mount. This is the original 1959 F mount. There is no screwdriver linkage for autofocus and no electrical contacts for automatic operation of the lens. This is where indexing the lens comes in – when fitting a lens, the aperture ring must be turned to the minimum aperture and then to the maximum aperture – the maximum aperture should then appear in the window on the front of the head. On the right of the lens mount (while looking at the front of the camera) is a button to release the lens. Above this, near the top of the camera, is a PC connector for off-camera flash.

On the other side of the lens mount, towards the bottom of the camera, is the self-timer lever. You set this by turn ing the lever to either 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10 seconds. When you turn this lever, a small chrome button is revealed. Pressing this button starts the count-down. This self-timer also has another function. If you set the shutter speed to B, the collar around the shutter release button to T and then set the self-timer to 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10 seconds then the shutter will stay open for that length of time. Example: shutter speed B, shutter release collar T, self-timer to 6 and then press the shutter release button (not the small self-timer button), the shutter will remain open for 6 seconds. Indefinite exposures can be achieved by setting the shutter speed to B, collar to B and then pressing the shutter release button. The shutter will then stay open until you return the collar to its normal position.

Still on the left of the lens mount, above the self-timer lever, is a combined button/lever. The button is a depth of field preview button. Pressing this closes the iris diaphragm in the lens and allows you to see how much is going to be in focus. The lever here raises the mirror before the exposure. This acts to reduce vibration during the exposure but has the side effect of blacking out the viewfinder, so a tripod is absolutely essential here. To turn this lever, you need to press the lever towards the camera body while turning the lever through 120º.

The base of the camera has six items on it. Starting at the right, there is a folding key marked O and C. This opens the back of the camera. Turn the key to O and then turn further against spring resistance and the back will pop open. When closing the back, you need to turn the key to C to lock the back closed.

Next along his the battery compartment. This holds two button batteries, either LR44 alkaline cells or A76 silver cells. This camera is entirely mechanical and works perfectly with no batteries fitted. The batteries are only required to power the Photomic metering head. Next to the battery compartment is the tripod socket. This is nearly in line with the centre line of the lens which is good for stability. I suspect that a this is the older 1/4 inch Whitworth thread rather than the ISO 1/4 inch UNC thread but I am quite happy to be contradicted.

Towards the other end of the base, near to the rear of the camera, is the button to disengage the film advance mechanism to allow the film to be rewound. It is necessary to keep this pressed in while rewinding the film. In front of the button is a second button. This is a secondary shutter release button which is used by a motor-drive if fitted. Right at the end of the base is the mechanical linkage for the motor-drive advance the film.

The rear of the camera has a memo holder which takes the end flap of a film carton to act as a reminder as to which film is in use. I have never understood why every film camera does not have one of these.

Inside the camera, things are as you would expect in a 35 mm SLR. In fact, it is pretty much the same as the 1949 Contax S which was the archetypical film SLR. In one respect, this camera is more like a German SLR than a Japanese SLR. This is the complete absence of any foam light seals. Light tightness is achieved by deep grooves and flanges. So, no foam to go bad and no need to replace the gooey foam seals with new ones, whichNI was fully expecting to have to do. I have new batteries installed and a film fitted – Agfa Vista 200 ASA (sorry, 200 ISO) which is actually Fuji film.

TEST FILM.

I have my test film back from the lab and all is well. The meter is clearly working well – all the negatives are well exposed. I cannot show this here as the scanning process corrects a lot of faults but visual examination of the film strips shows a good image density. There are no light leaks and I would not expect there to be any as there are no foam light seals here.

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