Cameras, Photography

The year of the Nikon F2

I’ve learned so much from you film photographers whose blogs I follow and who follow my blog. I don’t remember which of you said it first — was it Mike Connealy? — but more than one of you suggested that you’d become a much better photographer if you’d just stick to one camera. I thought about that idea often. I love shooting different cameras, but I also want to get better at making pictures.

So I decided that in 2014 I would primarily use one film camera. I wouldn’t rule out buying a new camera here and there and putting a test roll through it, and I would still use my digital camera for all the things it’s good for. But for film shots, I’d use one camera for almost all of them, and I’d put extra time and energy into shooting with that camera.

I chose my Pentax ME to be the camera. I liked its smaller size and lighter weight. I love its aperture-priority shooting. And I have fine collection of SMC Pentax lenses for it.

But then John Smith threw a monkey wrench into the works. First, he sent me a Nikon F2A and said, “Some were born to shoot the F2; we will see if you are among them.” I had a great time with that F2. John declared me so born, and sent me another F2, this time an F2AS — and one that had been overhauled to new operating condition by Sover Wong, the world’s foremost F2 expert. And then he sent me a smattering of AI Nikkor lenses to go with it.

Nikon F2AS

I immediately abandoned my Pentaxian plans and became a Nikonian for 2014. And then I watched my work steadily improve all year. My composition and use of light both got a lot stronger, both through deliberate repetition and through trying to emulate some of the things I see in your photographs. Also, freed from the hindrance of constantly fiddling with new cameras, I found myself more and more using the F2AS well without thinking. I was able to think entirely about my photographs; my hands increasingly automatically worked the F2AS to get the look I wanted.

I am so happy I did this!

For 2015, I plan to leave black-and-white film in the F2AS, and color film in the F3HP John also sent me, and use them as my go-to cameras. I’ll resume buying cameras, too — even though my interest in collecting has waned, I can’t ignore that my camera posts are enormously popular. I’m also going to revisit some old favorite cameras — first among them being my old (and well loved) Pentax ME, just to see how it feels to me now.

Here are some photos from my F2AS that appealed to me today as I reviewed the work I’ve done this year.

Agfa Clack

Agfa Clack. 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Ilford Delta 400

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Zoom-Nikkor, Ilford Delta 400

Expired

Expired. 55mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor, Kodak Gold 400 (very expired)

On the Monon Trail

On the Monon Trail. 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Zoom-Nikkor, Kodak Tri-X (expired 2002)

Old cars under an awning

Old cars under an awning. 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Plus-X (expired, cold stored)

1950 Hudson Commodore

1950 Hudson Commodore. 50mm f/2 AI-Nikkor, Kodak Plus-X Pan (expired, cold stored)

Lady Ornament

Lady Ornament. 50mm f/2 AI-Nikkor, Kodak T-Max 400

Grape hyacinth

Grape hyacinth. 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200

Main Street, Casey, IL

Main St., Casey, IL. 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Zoom-Nikkor, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200

Lavender

Lavender. 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Ektar 100

Evening light at Oldfields *EXPLORED*

Evening light at Oldfields. 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Ektar 100

Margaret

Margaret. 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200

Farmall *EXPLORED*

Farmall. 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Superia Xtra 800

In transition

In transition. 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Velvia 50

Red tree parking lot *EXPLORED*

Red tree parking lot. 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Velvia 50

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28 thoughts on “The year of the Nikon F2

  1. I have to agree. I have the first quirky model Fujifilm x100, with fixed lens. And I am still learning new things after 2 years of no other camera use. A slow learner perhaps!

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  2. First of all, I’ll have to say that I’m quite envious of people sending you cameras like F2 or F3. But more to the point, I do agree, doing this seems highly beneficial. And even though I’ve managed to buy less cameras this year, I may still try a “one camera” project in 2015 (see http://urbanhafnerphotography.com/blog/2014/12/11/one-camera-one-lens-one-film-one-year-but-which-camera). Maybe, just one camera will be too restrictive, but at least one main camera and 1 or 2 for specific projects seems doable and will hopefully lead to me shooting more instead of wasting time getting to know new cameras and most importantly, trying to decide which camera to take when the whole family is waiting for me. :D

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    • When I think about it, I still feel shock that I’d be the recipient of such generosity.

      My advice, which you didn’t seek and is worth what you’re paying for it, is not to be rigid about “one camera.” I wasn’t. I shot and reviewed a Yashica Lynx 14e, an Olympus 35 RC, and a Nikon N2000 this year while primarily shooting the F2. And I used my digital Canon S95 a good number of times too. I’d say 60% of the total shots, and 90% of film shots, were made with the F2 this year.

      And how have I not been following your blog all along? I corrected that problem just now.

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      • Yes, the “primarily” is probably the key. Especially with specialty cameras like the Horizon 202 or the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye with the flipped lens. It would be a shame not to use them for a whole year.

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  3. Christopher Smith says:

    All though I do understand what your saying and the benifits of single use of one camera for me the pleasure is still in collecting and using as many different cameras as time permits. Mabe this will change overtime.

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  4. Jim,

    You’ve inspired me to start shooting film again.

    In Chicagoland, when I started shooting film about 3-4 years ago, there were at least 4 Costco stores that would develop film and burn it to a CD. Their price was only $5 and some change.

    Then three of their developing machines died and only one Costco had the develop/burn to CD service. Then they stopped burning to CD.

    I had no scanner to resolve the problem.

    I experimented with developing a roll of film via Walgreen’s. After two months they finally developed my film, gave me my prints, and gave me a blank CD (it should have had my images). Yikes, talk about a lack of quality control.

    But now, thanks to an eBay Epson scanner for $30, I am now scanning photos.

    Although I am busy, I can start working with film cameras again. Thanks for your inspiration.

    Best Wishes,

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  5. Jim,

    I have the same problem too many cameras and not enough time to shoot them all. I have found I do better when I use one camera and get really use to it. Last year I shot my Taxona Zeiss Ikona (1952, camera that takes square pictures on 35mm film) a lot and was pleased with the results. The last couple of months I have shifted to Argus Cameras (made in the USA). If I can get a C3 fine tuned I plant to shoot the C3 mostly in 2015. Or maybe a Argus A. Oh, by the way great shots.

    Bob

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  6. That’s a fine collection of images. Though I myself have an obscenely large collection of old camera I have an incongruous intolerance to rants about gear which are not accompanied by actual photographs made by the gear in question. You always maintain a nice balance between talking about the gear and showing images made with it which go beyond mere test shots. Keep up the good work.

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    • I, too, have little interest in straight discussions of gear. The gear is the means to the end, and I’ll read about someone’s gear as long as s/he shows me that end — the gear discussion then sets some context for the shared photos.

      I’m amused as I look around the Net for info about the F2 how many people treat them like museum pieces and never shoot with them.

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  7. I currently only have a single, working AE-1 in my possession (for film cameras), so my repertoire of film cameras is limited. I’ll keep my eye open for an F2 though. Your photography is great!

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  8. bodegabayf2 says:

    I have found some of the sites that strictly review old cameras informative. Many have helped me make decisions on what to buy or not to buy. Knowing lens compatibility, battery needed, quirks, etc. have probably saved me some money and frustration. That being said, Jim Grey’s blog offers the best of both worlds–real life reviews and great photographs!

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    • John, so sorry I missed replying to this earlier. I really appreciate these kind words about my photo/camera posts. I like seeing the photos that come from the camera being reviewed, too, which is why unless I can’t get film for the camera anymore I always show photos from the cameras I write up!

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  9. Your photography has gotten better. Excellent shots! I think about this all the time… the concept that one film camera will make you better. Henri Cartier Bresson only had one camera for decades. Why would we continue to change every year?

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  10. There are some cameras that demand you take better pictures with it, and the F2 is one. One of my best friends swore by it and used one for years. And when I finally had the chance to buy one, I found out why. Lately though, it’s become unreliable. The repairman said to say goodbye to it. I’ve been mourning ever since – an F2 and an F3 gone in the same year. Oh well, I still have the F, F4s, Fm2n, and a Nikkormat FT3n. But they’re just not the same…

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