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.
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.
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.
The sun was bright that afternoon, and cast strong shadows.
I had a great time exploring this 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.
This little reader decorated another grave.
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.
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.
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.
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.