Vacation camera audition: Nikon N2000 with 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens

I think I was made to shoot 35mm SLRs. I am happiest using them, and consistently get my best results from them. So despite wishing for a pocketable compact camera for my upcoming trip to Ireland, I also decided to audition an SLR.

My ideal SLR for this trip would be small and light — and one over which I would not cry if it were damaged, lost, or stolen. As much as I love my pro Nikons, the F2 and F3, they are none of these things.

Nikon N2000
Not pictured: the 35mm f/2.8 lens

But my N2000 checks most of those boxes. My Pentax ME and Olympus OM-1 are noticeably smaller, but are no lighter thanks to the N2000’s polycarbonate body. And should I need to replace it, N2000 bodies can be had on eBay every day for under $30.

The N2000 has many useful features, first among them being programmed autoexposure for times I want to just point, focus, and shoot. It also offers aperture-priority autoexposure and manual exposure for when I want more control. It also winds the film automatically, and is powered by four common-as-pennies AAA batteries.

Because I wanted to shoot a 35mm lens on this trip, I bought one: the 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor. And then I dropped in some Kodak T-Max 400, clipped a shoulder strap to the lugs, and went out. Except for the jarringly loud motorized winder, this camera handled beautifully.

Sunlight over the gazebo

I got beautiful tones everywhere I turned with this 35mm lens and the T-Max.


The film and lens did have a little trouble with Margaret’s white hair here, though.


I was impressed with how this camera, lens, and film managed scenes with both bright and dark areas. I did, however, tweak a few scans (including this one) in Photoshop to lighten the shadow areas a little.

Garfield Park north

Moving up close with this 35mm lens I was able to get a reasonable blurred-background effect. I shot this whole roll in program mode, and I like very much how the N2000 biases toward shallow depth of field at close range.

Bucket o' flowers

I almost always shoot 50mm lenses on my SLRs with their relatively narrow field of view. This 35mm lens let me see so much more of my surroundings.

Village Yarn Shop

I’ve tried to capture this ice-cream shop with my 50mm lenses before, and I can’t back up far enough on this street to get it all in without first bumping into another building. The 35mm lens opened the view up wide, and the house fit right in.

The Scoop

I fell in love with this 35mm lens. Now I want one for my Pentax K-mount SLRs, too. This is just a wonderful focal length for walking around in the world.

This 35mm Nikkor is also plenty small and light. On this light N2000 body, I barely felt this camera when it was slung over my shoulder. It’s bigger, of course, than the Olympus Stylus I reviewed on Friday, and the Olympus XA that I’m auditioning as I write this. But given how much I enjoyed using this camera and how much control it gave me over my images, this N2000 and this 35mm lens stand at least an even chance of going to Ireland with me.

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35 responses to “Vacation camera audition: Nikon N2000 with 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens”

  1. James Whitburn Avatar
    James Whitburn

    Very good pictures but I think my minolta maxxum with its 70-210 beercan lens can do almost as good but it’s hefty around the neck.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, “hefty around the neck” is what I’m trying to avoid here!

  2. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    I had a 28mm in my SLR days, but didn’t always like the distortion. The 35 looks like it gives you a little more breathing room than a 50 but the wide angle effect is much more subtle.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Exactly!! I have a 28mm lens for my Pentax K-mount bodies and everything comes out slightly twisted end to end. That’s missing on this 35mm. It makes me want a 35mm lens in K mount.

      1. Steve Miller Avatar
        Steve Miller

        Back in the day, a 28 was my go-to. Today’s phone cameras have a similar focal length and it usually drives me nuts. Just too wide a field of view — the subject of the photo gets lost or, if you creep up on it, gets that fisheye effect. I guess tastes change.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Yeah, I don’t always like how wide my iPhone is, either. It’s terrible for close-up shots.

  3. Bill Bussell Avatar
    Bill Bussell

    Excellent demonstration pictures. My late father bought the N2000 when he retired, and I have it. It is like any great camera, and produces wonderful pictures. It replaced his Argus C3 he had from before WWII. He also had a Busch Pressman Model C. I used a 35mm Takamur F2 95% of time in newspaper work, as did most everyone else use 35mm foval length. The so called nifty fifty does not work in fast-paced work often involving groups. Cheers

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Having now shot this 35mm lens I can see why you’d use this focal length in newspaper work. 50mm is just too narrow.

  4. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    You are talking about one of my favorite cameras, and of course the 35mm FF size is one of my favorite lenses. I have no idea why this camera wasn’t more popular? Or isn’t around much? Back in the day, someone said they broke in the shutter pretty easy, but I always liked the one we had at work. I always wish I bough one for myself…now I have no more Nikon lenses…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You know, I don’t love this camera. I don’t dislike it either. It’s just a useful tool, and one I keep reaching for when I need a knockaround Nikon body.

  5. mfobrien1956 Avatar

    I think the perfect mate for that lens is a Nikon FG and Ilford HP-5+ film. The N2000 is a much-overlooked camera; and the next-one up, the N2020 was an AF model. Going light and dependable on a trip is a good thing. While there are smaller cameras out there, nothing really beats an SLR for getting the focus where you want it. 35mm is a perfect travel lens, too. Bring a polarizer and a yellow filter and you are set.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I have a lust for more Nikon manual-focus bodies that I have so far successfully kept below “insatiable” levels. If I get to choose just one to own, it’ll be the FM2.

      Ooh yeah, yellow filter. Gotta get mine out. Don’t own a polarizer; maybe it’s time.

  6. roykarlsvik Avatar

    Nice to see you pick the N2000 to be honest. It’s all you can ask for when going on a trip like this, just like you mention in your text. Lightweight stuff is always good when you’re on the go. And the 35mm E series lens is very good in the way that it’s also both quite cheap and not of the biggest things around. Maybe you could also find room for a 50mm E series if you like. I would probably go for a FM2 or something, but that’s me… would keep it a bit more on the simple side when it comes to batteries and noise, but it’s just personal thoughts and preferences.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      At this point, with just a few weeks to go before the trip, I’m using a body that I already own and have tested. But yeah, I’d like to own an FM2 for future trips!

  7. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    Pick up a Nikon FE, FE2 or FM2. Slap that 35 Nikkor on it and you’ll never look back. I’m telling ya!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You’ve yet to be wrong in my experience! I do want an FM2 or FE2. Someday! Given that I’m less than a month out before making this trip I’m gonna stick with a camera I already own!

  8. Carole Grey Avatar
    Carole Grey

    These photos are pretty awesome to me!!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I like them too!

  9. Marcus Avatar

    It must be nice to live in a place where used film cameras are cheap. I found one N2000 for sale and the owner wants 250,000 Korean Won for it. That’s 1/8 of an average month’s salary. Another used camera site wants the same amount for an Olympus Stylus. Ouch. It’s much cheaper to buy stuff on Ebay and get it shipped over here (South Korea), even if I do have to pay customs (which isn’t often).
    I hope you have a great time in Ireland. I’m looking forward to seeing your photos.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeahhhh, that’s pretty expensive. It’s pretty sad when it’s less expensive to buy in the US and pay international shipping. Oy.

  10. Dan James Avatar

    Jim, I’m very similar to you in that I feel most comfortable using SLRs and all the control they give. And my favourite focal length on an SLR is 55mm for that “life size” view in the finder, though I have 50mm and 58mm lenses that are close.

    With compacts though I love 35mm, and my favourite compacts like the Olympus XA, Konica C35 EF3 and Minolta AF-S all have 35mm f/2.8 lens. The 35mm focal length just makes most sense on a compact.

    Having said this though, I very recently got a Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35/2.4 in a bundle of stuff with an old Prakitca. After a couple of test rolls on my Contax bodies (with M42 > C/Y adapter) I have to say I really enjoyed the wider view. Plus the Flektogon focuses really closes (around 0.2m) which I love and is closer than any 50/55mm lens. First look at the results and the Flek looks really impressive too.

    So, like you, I might be entering an exciting new chapter with SLRs, and using the wider 35mm focal length that’s become so natural with the compacts.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve been a devoted 50mm man for years, but this 35mm is widening my view. (There’s a really subtle pun there.) I’ll still always love my 50s, especially the 50/1.4 I have for my K-mount Pentaxes. But I can see me easily walking around oudoors like I do with this 35 on.

      That Flektogon sounds awesome!

      1. dan james Avatar

        Talking of Pentax, I had the Pentax-M 50/1.4, 50/1.7 and 50/2, and in all honesty I couldn’t tell the difference between the images I got with each of them. The 50/2 is a stunning little lens, and is smaller and lighter, especially the versions with the plastic aperture ring. Plus you can pick them up so cheap, I had a couple I only paid about £5-7 pounds for each. I wonder if one of those with a small Pentax-M body would be another candidate for your trip?

        I’m planning a post on 35hunter about the Flektogon pretty soon. With the Pancolar 50/1.8 and Sonnar 135/3.5 I also have in M42 mount, these three Zeisses make a formidable set up.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          My Pentax ME is my favorite camera! I’ve had several Pentax 50/2s pass through my hands over the years. They are brilliant lenses. I have a Pentax 50/1.4 as well, which is what I leave on my ME. I shoot events at church with that camera a lot, and with Fuji Superia X-tra 800 in that camera, I can shoot in our dim basement without flash.

          Anyway, at this point I very much want to shoot a 35mm lens and I don’t have one for my Pentaxes. Seems silly to buy one now, when I have a perfectly good one for my Nikons and this N2000 body ready to go. I’ll get that 35mm Pentax lens one day, though!

          1. dan james Avatar

            I really like the Pentax-M range of bodies, and they were my favourites for about three years.

            Then I tried a Contax 139 Quartz, fell in love and haven’t looked back!

            Your images are really detailed with the Nikon combo Jim, very impressive.

            I just looked on eBay UK and the cameras (called F-301 over here) can be had for less than £20 fully working. Very tempting. Though I know Nikon lenses are generally more expensive than their M42, Pentax and Minolta equivalents. And I really don’t need to start a new system of SLRs!

        2. Jim Grey Avatar

          I haven’t tried Contax yet. I’m sort of afraid to. I have extensive Pentax and Nikon SLR systems already and I’m afraid I’ll like the Contax and have to buy everything for that system too!

          The N2000/F301 is a great way to try out Nikon glass. I got this 35/2.8 lens for $60, which really isn’t bad. I think I paid $50 for my 50/2.

          1. dan james Avatar

            The main reason I tried the Contax 139Q was I wanted a camera to use M42 lenses on with aperture priority, that was small and light, and of great quality. For when I didn’t want to use my all manual Spotmatics or Fujica ST701.

            I’ve used M42 lenses on Pentax-M bodies with an adapter, with great success. But I just wanted something a bit more special somehow.

            I thought about getting an M42 adapter for the Minolta X-700 I had at the time. It has a sublime viewfinder. The only trouble is I didn’t like using the rest of that camera all that much, and preferred the Pentax ME, MG etc.

            A friend online mentioned the Contax bodies, and around the same time I saw a review on Casual Photophile –

            These two factors swung it and I found one on eBay soon after.

            I didn’t (and still don’t) want to build up a new set of lenses (in Contax/ Yashica mount), I mainly got it (plus an M42 to C/Y adapter which was about £15) to use with my collection of M42 lenses.

            There’s not much I can say except it’s the best SLR I’ve ever used. I liked it so much I bought another as a spare, and have since got another two later Contax bodies (159MM and 167MT) which are equally fantastic.

            1. Jim Grey Avatar

              Aieee, you’re making me want one now!

  11. urbanhafner Avatar

    I get my best results with SLRs (be it 35mm or medium format) as well. And if you pick the right one then it doesn’t have to be much bigger than a rangefinder at all.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s a fact. I haven’t given up hope on taking a camera that fits into my back jeans pocket, and no regular rangefinder or SLR will do that. But this N2000, lens, and film have returned such great results that I’m feeling increasingly willing to just take it anyway.

      1. urbanhafner Avatar

        These days I mostly use medium format SLRs (Bronica SQ-Ai and Pentacon Six) so almost all 35mm SLRs feel small and light to me. ;) on top of that I just don’t like using point & shoot cameras with their tiny finders and complete automation.

  12. hmunro Avatar

    I don’t know anything about the N2000, compared to your other readers — but I *love* the results you got with it and the 35mm lens! Looks like you’ve got yourself a strong contender here, Jim.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! I agree. If you made me decide today I’d just choose this camera and be done. But I still have 10 shots left on the audition roll in my Olympus XA so I’m going to try to finish that up this week and get the film processed and scanned. Then I’ll decide for real.

  13. Gerald Avatar

    Lovely contrast in these pictures.

    I have a 35mm Nikkor. I think it’s the perfect all round everyday focal length. You don’t get the distortion that you get with a 28mm, but that slightly wider view is really useful. Good for taking candids too as you can get in close without the subject being aware that they are……erm, the subject,

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you! I’m seeing why people really like 35mm lenses; they’re so darned useful for walking-around photography.

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