Camera Reviews, Photography

Nikon F2AS

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During 2013 I felt a growing desire to really get to know a single camera, rather than shoot with a different camera every time as I’ve done for years. It was one of several signs that I was becoming more a photographer than a camera collector. I was leaning toward using my very enjoyable Pentax ME, especially since I had plenty of good Pentax lenses for it. But after reader John Smith sent me a Nikon F2A, I quickly adjusted my plan. What better camera to use for a year than arguably the best all-mechanical 35mm SLR of all time?

Except that the exposure meter inside the DP-11 Photomic viewfinder didn’t work quite right. So I asked John if he could recommend someone to repair it. “Forget it,” he said. “I’ve got something even better for you.” Shortly, a box arrived with this inside: the Nikon F2AS.

Nikon F2AS

Introduced in 1977, the F2AS was the final elaboration on the original 1971 F2. It came with the DP-12 viewfinder, which features center-weighted through-the-lens metering. The most obvious way it differs from the DP-11 viewfinder on the F2A is that the DP-11 uses a match-needle system, while the DP-12 uses LEDs to show exposure. + appears when the shot is more than one stop overexposed, +o when it is up to one stop overexposed, o when it is properly exposed, o− when it is up to one stop underexposed, and − when it is more than one stop underexposed. Two SR44 batteries power the meter.

Nikon F2AS

The F2AS is as bulletproof as any other F2, and works just the same. But this one received extended service from known F2 technician Sover Wong. It included some new parts, all new foam seals, and a complete cleaning, lubrication, and adjustment. It should last the rest of my life!

I itched to put it through its paces, but an unusually cold and snowy winter kept me from it. While I waited for the weather to improve, John sent me another gift: a 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor lens and a 135mm f/3.5 AI-Nikkor lens. I also bought a 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom-Nikkor lens. I was set for bear!

Spring kept teasing us. Several times it gave us one lone warm day before giving us more cold and snow. On one of those days, I visited St. Paul’s Episcopal Church with Ilford Delta 400 film in, and the 35-70mm zoom on, the F2AS. This is my favorite photo from the day.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

The sun was bright that afternoon, and cast strong shadows.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

I had a great time exploring this church.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Later, I had some expired Kodak Gold 200 inside the F2AS, and had attached the 55mm Micro-Nikkor. I’m not a huge fan of expired film, but I’m also a cheapskate, and I hate to throw away the film that sometimes comes with the old cameras I’ve bought. I figured a little expired film was just the ticket as I continued to get to know the F2AS. It was a chilly, gray day when I visited the cemetery at Bethel United Methodist Church. The expired film was just right for the subject and the available light. One fellow in his eternal rest has this parking meter as his grave marker.

Expired

This little reader decorated another grave.

Reading

Finally, I put some Fujicolor 200 into the F2AS. Fujicolor 200 is my go-to film largely because it is inexpensive and easily found. I get it for less than two bucks a roll at Walmart. But it’s also decent stuff – and I’ve shot a ton of it, so I know how it behaves. I shot the whole roll in a couple hours on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, using the 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor lens.

This statue normally features a spider dangling off that stick, but somebody broke it off since I was here last in the fall. Apparently, the IMA has had to replace several missing spiders. With the spider, this statue functions as a sundial. Just look at that color and detail.

Studying the map

Here’s another statue on the IMA grounds. I like how this photo is pin sharp and perfectly exposed, but I love the sky’s shade of blue and how it offsets this statue’s head.

Robed

When it was time to go, I still had one shot left on the roll, so I quickly framed up this Toyota Camry’s tail light. The subject isn’t that interesting, but it shows the color and detail this lens can deliver.

Camry tail light

For more photos, see my Nikon F2AS gallery.

This Nikon F2AS performed wonderfully with any film I threw at it and any of my four lenses attached. Now, I thought I’d really miss aperture-priority shooting when I chose the F2AS. That’s my favorite way to shoot and one of the reasons I originally planned to use my aperture-priority-only Pentax ME. But with every roll of film I put through the F2AS, the easier it becomes to quickly set both aperture and shutter speed. And otherwise, the F2AS always quickly disappears in my hands and becomes an extension of my eye. It doesn’t get any better than that.

And so 2014 will be, for me, the year of the Nikon F2. I will put film into a few other old cameras in my collection that I haven’t used yet, but I will always keep film in the F2AS this year, and will shoot with it as often as I can.

Do you like old cameras? Then check out my entire collection.

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18 thoughts on “Nikon F2AS

  1. Nice to see one of these great old Nikons actually being put to good use. Most are acquired for exorbitant prices and parked on a shelf. I clearly recall my astonishment at the quality of the images from the lens on my old Nikon rangefinder when I finally figured out how to use it correctly in photo school. You’ve made a great start with yours and I’ll look forward to your adventures with it in the coming year.

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    • MIke, thanks for your encouragement. The F2 is a joy to use. And I’m really coming to appreciate the Nikon glass. One good thing about having shot so much Fujicolor 200 over the years is that I know it pretty well, and so through using it as a known reference I can see the qualities of whatever lens I’m using. I’m really thrilled with the fine and subtle qualities of all of the Nikkor lenses I have, even the 35-70, which is Nikon’s entry-level 35-70 and is often panned when compared to other 35-70s that Nikon has made.

      I’ve actually been shooting this F2AS all year so far, and many shots in many posts are from it.

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  2. Christopher Smith says:

    Great photos Jim from a nice camera it’s in capable hands, if one landed in my lap I wouldn’t say no but alas a the present prices I still have to dream and stick with my Nikon F801s. I’m glad you say that you will still put film through a few of your other camera’s as that’s what initially drew me to your blog.

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    • I know I’m taking a bit of a risk with my audience by emphasizing one camera all year. But it really does symbolilze a shift I’ve made from collector to photographer. I haven’t bought any cameras in months!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I’m looking forward to becoming a better photographer, simply by finally focusing on one camera. I’m also finding that the F2AS has probably the best light meter/exposure system that ever used. I’m consistently delighted by the exposures this camera returns to me.

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      • bodegabayf2 says:

        The DP-12 and the DP-3 meters are the most accurate. I just bought a DP-3 from Sover Wong and I’ve been out shooting some Plus-X with it. The DP-3 was the rarest of the Nikon finders. Not many made.

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  3. Larry Miller says:

    It’s 4/2015 and I’m still shooting film. Not in to digital at all. I have a like new F2AS and shoot 100 Velvia. It does not sit on the shelf for sure. I do handle it with kid-gloves however. It’s a precision instrument made to be used. Personally I love the sound of the shutter in this camera. Kinda reminds me of my F3 in that respect. Just came back from a 4,000+ mile road trip using those two cameras. They performed as I had expected from Nikon. The lens I use the most is a Voigtlander 40mm F2. What a fantastic pancake lens! The second lens used most is the Nikkor 20mm F2.8. I would never sell F2AS. Would never sell my F3HP either. Nikon did very well with those cameras!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Paul Myatt says:

    Jim. I think your photograph of the Episcopal church doorway is masterful. I purchased an F2AS brand new in 1978′ it was so expensive I couldn’t believe it, and I was a student. I hadn’t got a clue how to use it, I was seduced by all the glamorous advertising and beautiful brochures. I actually found it very awkward and I eventually got 2 F4s, I’m afraid to say I thought these cameras took the pictures for you, packed with more onboard computer technology than your average space shuttle, how wrong I was, anyway. In hindsight I wish I had got a second hand Leica M6 because after working professionally the golden rule I learnt was simplicity, which is what Leica’s are, funnily enough, rather like the Canon dial, I always used a tape measure to calibrate the distance to my subject, that way, I always got crisp results. Seriously, put a big flash on a canon dial, tape measure, set your distance and lock the aperture , Kodak Tri X. Bingo. I’ve really enjoyed reading all your stuff, your shed should be in the Smithsonian.

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    • Thank you so much for your nice compliment of my photo of the church door. I was pleased with it too.

      Using primarily the F2 last year really improved my photography. Most of it was sticking with one camera, but some of it was that the F2 is such a fine instrument.

      It’s hard to go wrong with Tri-X. If I still had my Dial I might be tempted to try that combo.

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  5. nick says:

    Jim,
    that picture of the sundial-statue really makes it for me. It’s become one of my all time favourites.
    Glad I found it again, although intentionally coming back here to thank you for mentioning the Arista100 EDU film on your latest post, but lacking a link there to post some comment, made me reread your F2AS posting, as I had just recently got hold of a Nikon FM also fully mechanical. I love it.
    These old Nikkor lenses are amazing. Looking at the picture makes me almost try and reach out for the statue.
    So thanks for the great pictures!
    Nick

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  6. David Murray says:

    Unlike Larry Miller, my F2AS is not like new, fR from it! I bought it a couple of years ago in Cambridge (UK). It’s a black one, like yours Jim. There’s a lot of brass showing through but it works just fine. I half-expected the metering head to be defunct, but it woke up with a new battery
    and I have teamed it up with an equally battered 28mm f2 Nikkor.
    I love the church door. I use my F2AS for street photography and people do as if you can still get the films for it! I take my ‘tatty’ camera and lens on holiday as I like to look discreet and also take my Rolleicord IV, made 1952 the same as me. Digital? I dont want a camera I have to plug into the mains each night? I use a Weston Master V to meter with the Rollei as its non-battery. I check the DP
    12 head with it and its generally spot on. Film? I use Kodak BW400CN for the Nikon and Ilford FP4 (125iso) in the Rollei

    Liked by 1 person

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