Collecting Cameras

Deep inside my Nikon F2A

Sover Wong photo

When my wife asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I told her that I wanted to send my Nikon F2A to Sover Wong for an overhaul. Sover is the world’s premier Nikon F2 repairman. The overhaul was expensive, but when my camera returned it was factory clean and functioned like new.

Nikon F2

This F2A joined my collection in 2013 as an incredibly generous donation from a reader. He enjoyed my blog and my SLR adventures, and wondered whether I was F2 material. “Many are called, but few are chosen,” he said to me. I loved using this camera — turns out I was chosen.

The “A” in F2A means that my camera comes with the DP-11 metering “head.” That’s the black contraption atop the camera with “Nikon” spelled out in white letters. The prism and meter are inside. Nikon made a number of other F2 models with different letter suffixes; each used a different head.

My DP-11’s meter was never quite right, so when the same reader gave me a beautiful F2AS already overhauled by Sover Wong, I turned to it and left the F2A on a shelf. But I knew I’d eventually send it to Sover. I just didn’t know it would take me seven years to get around to it!

When Sover put my F2A on his workbench, he first tested it and emailed me his findings. The meter was off by about a stop. The shutter was reasonably accurate at 1/125 sec and below, but not at faster speeds. The top two speeds didn’t work at all. Sover set to work, emailing me photographs every step of the way. He disassembled and cleaned everything, installed new foam seals and bumpers, put in new CdS metering cells, calibrated the meter, calibrated the shutter, lubricated the works, and made sure things like the frame counter, the timer, and the depth-of-field preview button worked right. He even installed fresh batteries. He did all of this work in just a few hours.

When the F2A arrived, it was clean — if it weren’t for the bit of brassing it had picked up from its years of use, you would have thought it was new. It even smelled new, thanks probably to the scent of the lubricant he used. I put a roll of Ilford FP4+ into it straightaway and took it on a photo walk. Every control felt solid and snappy. My F2A was in okay shape before I sent it to him; the controls were solid before the overhaul. But after the overhaul, they were all noticeably more crisp and precise.

I developed that roll of FP4+ today (by which I mean the day I am writing this, Nov. 13), so I’ll have images to show soon!

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29 thoughts on “Deep inside my Nikon F2A

  1. Marcus Peddle says:

    That’s quite interesting. Very nice of him to send photos as he goes through the repairs. I wonder if people will be sending their vintage digital cameras in to third party service people in twenty years’ time. I imagine the complicated electronics won’t allow repairs. No parts, etc. And maybe the companies will make them unrepairable, like Apple seems to be doing these days.

    • Yeah, I think that most digitals will end up in landfills. My Pentax K10D would deserve repair when components fail but who will be there to repair it? And is it even repairable?

    • I’ve been making photographs since the 60’s and for me, the divide is that film cameras used to be like watches and the skill set to repair them were in the same league as a watchmaker, and could be rebuilt over time. Digital cameras are like computers with lenses and just age out. Not much of a movement these day people waxing poetic over their Nikon D100 (a camera I did own) or worse yet my Kodak 4800. Computers/digital cameras are the essence of a disposable economy. BTW, Sover has rebuilt 3 F2’s for me and two motor drives, he is a pleasure to do business with and worth every penny.

  2. How exciting! Most of us spend our lives buying new consumer products and then slowly wringing the life out of them until they finally fail or until we tire of them. Very few get to rewind that cycle and start over with a favorite item.

  3. Greg Clawson says:

    Looks great Jim! I have a black Nikon F2A that cosmetically looks mint, but no power to the meter. I too have been wanting to send it to Sover, but haven’t because of the cost. Maybe this will get ball rolling and send it in. Is his waiting period still 4 months plus?


  4. Andy Umbo says:

    Nothing prettier than a clean, reworked vintage camera! Seems to me I remember CameraQuest servicing Nikon meters and restoring them to working function:

    I lament not being able to buy the repair services I even bought ten years ago! I got on Flutots repair list for my Synchro-Compur shutter, waited for 6 weeks, then she still couldn’t get to it, so we decided to put it off until after Christmas because of the holiday mails. In the 90’s, this would have been a 3-4 day turn-around in Chicago!

    Testing a new repair guy for me, I read a few “pluses” about him on a web search, with an old Canon FT, that ended up more damaged than I thought. Probably put more money into it than I should of, based on it’s sale value, but I love the Canon FTb, FT series (and the breech lock lenses), so I’ll let you know the results.

    Haven’t found a place that could “do it all” since Essex Camera went out of business after the hurricane! So many recommended places on the internet from even a few years ago: closed or retired.

    • Thanks for the CameraQuest liink! I’ll bear it in mind when I have my F2AS’s meter head looked at.

      I worry that all of the camera repair guys are at least middle aged and that there’s nobody behind them learning how to do this.

  5. The Nikon F2 is just a marvelous camera to own and use. We are so fortunate that there are technicians out there like Sover that are committed to keeping these great old machines running. I have sent six different F2 bodies and meter combinations to him. Always a fabulous experience and amazing work!

  6. I had my F2sb worked on by Sover a few years back, his work is exceptional.
    Camera returned with lots of photographs and comments about what he cleaned, repaired and adjusted. I only wish he worked on other Nikon cameras, my F and F4 are in need of a little TLC.
    As you say,
    “Here’s hoping Sover can keep doing this for many years to come”

  7. First I have to make everyone cringe by mentioning that I gave away more than two dozen Nikon and Nikkormat cameras a couple of years ago.
    Second I have to say I wish I had inherited my Dad’s fine motor-control skills: he could repair cameras and watches, making the most intricate drawings as he disassembled them.
    Third, you’re spot-on that digital cameras will not be so enduring. The excess of plastic and electronics is a formula for fast failure of a kind that won’t be repairable by any practical means. Most of them can be classified as “disposable”, which is why you should always be cautious of used digital cameras.
    And aside from their function as photographic equipment, these Nikons are a work of art in themselves. The same can be said for many other classic 35mm SLRs.

    • That’s why I was willing to invest in this CLA and repair — this camera is fine equipment and it deserves this boost that will let it shoot well for another 40 years or so.

  8. I got on his waiting list a few months back, but I think the waiting list is so long now that I won’t be up til next Fall. Still I’m glad that I bit the bullet and committed to getting this done, but I plan on sending Sover multiple cameras by that time, so it will be very expensive, but worth it! If your DP-12 is having problems it might need to go to Sover as the ring resistors wear out; this is a proprietary service and it’s too bad you didn’t send in that meter with your other camera!

  9. I am very lucky we have a couple of great technicians here in New Zealand for our film cameras. I imagine if this film movement continues there will be some younger folks come into the business as nature abhors a vacuum. Perhaps society will someday realise that newer is no necessarily better, and that real artistry takes place in the artist’s head, not in the electronic wizardry they can afford to deploy.

    • I think people have been taken with gear for as long as there’s been gear — yet a small cadre of people get on with making art with their tools.

  10. Jim good for you! These magnificent cameras deserve to be rebuilt by skilled technicians as long as they are still in business. You are lucky that the repair fellow still had CDS cells for the meter. You will be able to use your F2s until the end of your days or end of 135 film in cassettes.

    I think we will never see craftsmanship like this again, but I may be wrong. After all, Leica still makes their superb M-A (yes, it’s a bit expensive, but so what?). And Nikon did re-manufacture their SP and S3 rangefinder cameras, so amazing things might happen if there is demand. Look at mechanical watches: man jewelry for which almost no price is too high.

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