What’s the deal with Nikon?

Via social media, I teased that I am moving into the Nikon camp for a bit and I feel I need to add some context to that.

In digital, I am mainly a Canon and Fuji shooter and for 35mm film photography it is also Canon. However, what I really like and much to my partners’ annoyance, is to build a little collection of somewhat iconic cameras. I have a Canon EOS 650 film SLR which was the first EOS model Canon has released. I also have an EOS 1n which, in its day was one of the proper hi-tech film cameras. I bought these because they are iconic and yes, they fit all my Canon lenses which is just fantastic I think.

I wrote about my mishap with the Yashica Electro 35 and I am going to get another one soon (separate blog coming about that…. more explanation needed.) as it is also very iconic. My Canonet QL17 is also one of the staples in vintage film camera circles.

All this led me to Nikon.

I can’t really ignore the other big camera maker and thought it would be nice to get a nice, mechanical film SLR. Off I went search of one. As with many things I do, it was rather spontaneous and not really planned…

The Nikon F3, arguably the most iconic of Nikon film cameras was out of my price range. After all, I didn’t want to spend a fortune on this. I kept on looking and stuck with the Nikon FE2. I wanted the FM2 which is almost identical but due to the fact that it operates 100% mechanically, it is rather expensive as well.

The FM2 on the other hand, used LR44 batteries to operate the shutter and light meter and these are widely available to buy. Not much of a risk in the end so I took to Ebay and bid on a couple. I lost out and felt a bit dejected but I kept on looking. Then, on a drunken whim, I bought one. No lens, a bit of a cagey item description and only £89.

The camera arrived and at first it looked okay. The shutter fired, the shutter speeds kind of sound okay (I have to do an actual test of shutter speeds. I downloaded the Shutter Speed app for that, which records the sound of the shutter and that gives you a good idea of how accurate the shutter speeds are…)

However, when I looked closer, all the light seals are mushy, the dampener seal in the mirrorbox is all flabby and falling off and the viewfinder is really dirty. The ASA/exposure compensation dial is completely stuck and it is difficult to open the back. In contrast, the two lenses I got for the camera separately are in totally mint condition: A beautiful 50mm 1.8 and a 28mm 2.8, both like new with smooth aperture and focussing rings and really cheap.

What to do?

I could just give it to a repair shop for a quote and pay the money to have it refurbished. This very much crossed my mind as I had the idea of using the Nikon as my main film camera and maybe build a little bit of a system with a couple more lenses.

Dreading the cost, I saw an opportunity.

How about, I refurbish the camera myself? And what about if I then sold it on for a good price?

Hang on a minute. Did I just not say that I want the Nikon to be my main film camera? Yes, I did. How do you do that when I you sell it off I hear you ask?

Well… keep in mind what I said above: “…on a drunken whim”.

Let me explain.

The camera I bought for £89 was not actually the camera I wanted to buy. I had already put in a bid for another FE2 but because it was a “drunken whim”, forgot about it and then suddenly won the auction albeit having bought one already…

D’oh.

How dumb right?

Hear me out…

Here’s the plan: The second Nikon FE2 should arrive fairly soon and will be in an arguably much better condition (the photos of the auction make it out to be a stunner!). Once I have that one, it will go to a camera repair shop for some TLC and the first one I bought, I will attempt to refurbish myself. This means, I got myself some nice tools i.e. precision screwdrivers, cleaning solvents and a light seal kit to get it up and running again. I am planning on taking the shoddy camera totally apart and build it back together again with the help of the official Nikon repair manual for this camera (which is available online.).

Should I do a good job, it will then go for sale at a reasonable price whilst the second camera will be the one I will be using.

What a turnaround eh? I bet none of you saw that coming.

Just to clarify: I have not switched camp, jumped ship or abandoned Canon. That’s unlikely to happen. For digital at least.

When shooting film, that is a bit different now as my drive to obtain and shoot with iconic film cameras is still quite strong.

A quick rundown of the film cameras I still want and use at some point in the future in no particular order:

Yashica Electro 35 (on its way, more on that soon)

Leica M6 with 35mm 1.4 Summicron lens

Hasselblad 503C medium format camera and 110mm & 50mm lenses

Contax (not sure which one yet)

Minolta Hi-Matic F

Olympus OM-1

This is it. The story of the Nikon saga.

In a future post I will talk about how I am getting on with the refurb project and what the hell is going on with the Yashica???

Until then.

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