Nikon F2AS, 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor
Fujifilm Neopan 400
We were the last family in the neighborhood without color TV. Dad was resolute: “Our set works. We’ll use it until can’t be fixed anymore.” And so we soldiered on with a black-and-white console set through most of the 1970s. It broke down occasionally, as tube-type sets did. Mom called the TV repairman, a small, wiry, salt-and-pepper-headed fellow who remembered our set: “Oh! The 1966 RCA black-and-white console! I’ll be over this afternoon.”
Dad’s latent impulsive streak emerged one evening in 1977: he brought home a new color set. Surprised us all! It was a table model, metal cabinet, solid state and reliable. We never saw our TV repairman again.
I brought that old RCA to my first apartment in 1989. The picture was out. A buddy of mine with electronics skills came over to have a look. We pulled a bunch of suspect-looking tubes and carried them over to an electronics shop a couple blocks away. Their tube tester — an anachronism even then — told us that a couple tubes were bad, so we asked a crusty old fellow at the counter for replacements. “Tubes!” he said, shaking his head and smiling. “Bill! These kids are here to buy tubes!”
Mom and Dad moved out of the family home last summer after 38 years. All manner of stuff emerged as Mom prepared to downsize into a condo — including a bag full of tubes. Were they from our old TV? Mom said she thought so.
General Electric is one of the world’s largest manufacturers, but in recent years the company has sold off most of its consumer products lines. For example, Electrolux makes and markets GE washing machines and refrigerators. Walmart slaps GE labels on coffeemakers and toasters that are probably made in China. I guess GE still makes light bulbs.
DuMont manufactured televisions and television components, and even had its own fledgling television network in commercial TV’s early days. Wikipedia has a pretty good article about the network; read it here.
We associate Raytheon with government military contracts today, but apparently they were once in the tube business. I’d never heard of IEC or Tung-Sol before.
I unboxed a few tubes and set them up for this photo. I was shooting my Nikon F2AS and my 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor lens, which focuses very close. I had a roll of expired Fujifilm Neopan 400 inside. I made all of these photos on my family-room coffee table with the blinds wide open on a gray day, with five incandescent lamps turned on around the room. Even with all that light, my shutter speeds were very slow; I put my camera on a tripod. All of these photos looked a little better in the viewfinder than they do here, but I’m not displeased with them.
I lament how the red lettering (“Electronic Tube”) ended up a little washed out in this shot. I wonder what filter I might have attached to the lens to make those letters pop. But otherwise I like how all of these colorful tube boxes turned out in black and white.
That old TV is long gone; we never could get it to work. So I’m not sure what I’m going to do with these tubes. But I enjoyed their vintage package designs and had fun photographing them.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
This Ford Falcon’s rear quarter is captured with that 50/2 lens on Kodak T-Max 400.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.