Camera Reviews

Nikon F2AS

As a longtime camera collector, I seldom shoot the same camera more than one roll of film in a row. I was hankering to get to know a single camera well, figuring it would improve my photography. When this Nikon F2AS, arguably the best all-mechanical 35mm SLR of all time, fell into my hands, I knew I had that camera.

Nikon F2AS

Introduced in 1977, the F2AS was the final elaboration on the original 1971 F2. It came with the DP-12 viewfinder head, which features center-weighted through-the-lens metering. Nikon called their metered heads “Photomic,” and while earlier Photomic heads used match-needle systems, 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. Everything else about the F2AS is mechanical; you can use this camera fine without any batteries as long as you guess exposure yourself.

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!

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This camera, as well as a number of AI and AI-s Nikkor lenses, have been gifts to my collection from a particularly generous benefactor. I’m truly blessed.

By the way, if you’re into Nikon SLRs also see my review of the F2A (here), the F3 (here), the FA (here), the N2000 (here), the N60 (here), and the N90s (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I have shot this camera extensively, with many lenses and films. Here’s a selection of the photographs I like best that I’ve made with my F2AS. This is a grand door at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Indianapolis, on Ilford Delta 400 and a 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 AI-s Nikkor lens. This lens is soundly panned by the Nikon elite but, except for some barrel distortion at the wide end, I love it.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

The F2AS is large and heavy, but I am built sturdily and it seldom fatigues me even after a long day slung off my shoulder. I made this photo in the Bethel United Methodist Church cemetery in northwest Indianapolis on expired Kodak Gold 200 with the 55mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor lens. This is someone’s grave marker.

Expired

To activate any F2’s meter, you pull the wind lever out. This brings up my only beef with any F2: that lever sometimes pokes into my forehead. Here I put that 35-70mm zoom on again and loaded some expired Kodak Tri-X 400 for a walk through Indianapolis’s South Broad Ripple neighborhood. This is Locally Grown Gardens, which sells seasonal produce.

Locally Grown Gardens

Especially given my F2AS’s expert CLA, every control on this camera works with satisfying heft and precision. I photographed this spotlight on a 1950 Hudson Commodore with a 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens on expired but always cold-stored Kodak Plus-X.

1950 Hudson Commodore

This Ford Falcon’s rear quarter is captured with that 50/2 lens on Kodak T-Max 400.

Falcon Corner

Collectors prefer the 50mm f/1.4 AI Nikkor to the 50/2 I own. Bah, I say; the 50/2 does wonderful work at a far lower cost on the used market. This is the Lilly mansion on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art on Kodak Ektar 100.

Evening light at Oldfields *EXPLORED*

Somewhere along the way I picked up a 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor lens. With Fujicolor 200 on board, I aimed it at this statuette on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The lens delivered fine sharpness and bokeh with a slight swirl to it.

Studying the map

The sheer volume of Nikon gear I own gives me great versatility in so many situations. One long winter I experimented with long indoors exposures in available light, as with these old vacuum tube boxes on my coffee table. 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor on Fujifilm Neopan 400.

Tubes

I’d never shot Fujifilm Velvia 50 before, so I put a roll through the F2AS. Here I used my 135/2.8 lens again.

Red tree parking lot *EXPLORED*

The 55/2.8 Micro Nikkor is a fine lens for walking-around photography. I made this photo in the military section of Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis on Kodak Ektar 100.

Military cemetery

This is one of my favorite places for photography. I brought my son along one day and he made this portrait of me with the 50/2 lens on Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros.

Me at Crown Hill

For more photos, see my Nikon F2AS gallery.

This Nikon F2AS performed wonderfully with any film I threw at it and any of my lenses attached. I thought I’d really miss aperture-priority shooting, my favorite way to fly. But with every roll of film I put through the F2AS, the easier it became 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.

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27 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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    • John Cairns says:

      The manual for the dp-12 does not show or explain the function of the wondow at the top

      When activated both the left and right sides of the window glow red

      I thought they were to show the speed and f stop

      When you shine a light on the window it show the speed in the view finder and by changing the light a bit one can faintly see the aperature

      I wish the manual clearly alluded to what the functionality of this window is. Otherwise one can infer that the meter is not working properly

      John

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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

  7. Just got done uploading my F2AS photos to my Flickr. https://flic.kr/s/aHsmdRomq5 No Michigan Road shots though, haven’t been home in a long while. Will have to fix that shortly.

    Issues I have with the results I got can be traced to the lab where they were processed and scanned. I’ll be looking for another place, likely will be mailing them in from now on. I have confidence in the camera operating correctly from the photos that did turn out good. It was a short test though because I was using a roll I took out of a camera that had a shutter failure.

    I’ve really slowed down on the collecting bit, though I still can’t pass up a bargain. Only three Nikon SLRs to get (excluding variations), the F4, 5, and 6. But I’ve been using my manual cameras so much I really have to pick an event where I need speed of use over contemplative composition to break out one of the auto models.

    Been a long time since I’ve visited your blog too now that I think of it. I like the Paul McCartney article.

    PF

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    • Very contrasty results on that Delta 100. I am in the same place as you: not collecting seriously anymore but love a bargain. And $22 is definitely a bargain on an F2! Always happy when you stop by.

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      • Yeah, I should go through your list and see how many of the same models I have/had. For a long time I had a habit of hitting up all the Goodwills in the area for $1 and $2 cameras, but they put all of those on the Internet now.

        PF

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  8. Certain models I’ve had no luck, like the Minolta XD-11. But I’ve gotten pretty discerning over time, and know when to look the other way, mainly when they say it hasn’t been tested, which means they’re not going to tell about the exploded batteries. I used to look mainly for the oddball stuff no one seems to know anything about, but I did get an FM-10 that’s in really good shape for far less than you’d find on eBay.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Updated review: Nikon F2AS | Down the Road

  10. Pingback: Nikon F2 – Ultimate Legend - Photo Thinking - Camera Review

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