This is my latest find; an early Nikon FM (Serial Number 2194502).

Nikon FM circa 1977

Nikon FM circa 1977

The FM was the successor of the Nikkormat range of cameras, labelled by Nikon as the first compact reflex camera. The FM is a fully manual camera with built-in exposure meter – similar to the one that Nikon used in the DP12 prism of the F2AS.

Nikon FM with Knurled Re-wind Lever

Nikon FM with Knurled Re-wind Lever

Early examples carried an engraved Nikon logo above the serial number. Having compared this early FM against a later FM in my collection it’s interesting to find several other slight differences between the bodies. Notably the re-wind knob is knurled on the early version, but not on the later. Likewise with the shutter button surround – knurled on the early version, but not on the later

Nikon FM with Knurled Shutter Button

Nikon FM with Knurled Shutter Button

The FM was an instant success due to the improvements made over previous Nikkormat models. The new camera included Ai metering, usable with both non-Ai and Ai Nikkor lenses.

Nikon FM Early Version on the left

Nikon FM Early Version on the left

The FM has gone through an amazing production cycle; over 20 years, the longest in Nikon’s history; the last model being the FM3A, a hybrid auto/mechanical camera.

The FM is still enthusiastically treasured by photographers today; some 36 year after it was launched – a timeless classic if ever there was one!

Nikon FM Shutter Button .. Early version on the left

Nikon FM Shutter Button .. Early version on the left

From a collectors point of view look for early examples that show the engraved Nikon logo above the serial number. If you’re looking to add a 50mm lens a good match would be a 50mm f2 with a serial number between 3500014 and 3700001 these were made between 1977 and 1979.

Nikon FM with Engraved Nikon Logo .. very early versions only

Nikon FM with Engraved Nikon Logo .. very early versions only

Price wise; expect to pay between £80-£120 for later bodies, plus another £60 to £80 for a 50mm lens.

Happy hunting!

My Nikon collecting obsession escalated recently as my hunt for a 1965 Nikkormat FS was put on high alert as my search went global! Despite the fact the Nippon Kogaku (Nikon) manufactured the all mechanical FS between 1965 and 1971 it never really sold in great numbers, which means finding one today is a pretty tall order – finding a box one is near impossible!

Nonetheless, I never give up a challenge and so my Nikkormat project began just over a year ago, my plan, to collect all 8 Nikkormat models – 5 mechanical and 3 electronic. These were: FS, FT, FTN, FT2 & FT3. The electronic ones were: EL, EL-W & EL-2.

Nikkormat EL

Nikkormat EL

The used market at the moment is littered with FTN’s and FT2’s. The electronic EL and EL-2 seem plentiful at the moment too – so no real problems there either. In fact, I picked up these cameras in pretty fast succession, choosing the best I could find (and afford) from what was on offer.

What you have to watch out for are cameras being offered in “Mint” condition! Yes, we would all like shiny new examples, but beware, these cameras are now approaching middle age – 50 years old – they’ve had a life! Mint examples are very few and far between. Check that the mint example you’ve just been offered hasn’t spent the last 20 years sitting in someone’s loft because it got broken and was forgotten about and left there to rot! Only to be found again by its new owner and sold off on eBay!

Nikkormat FT-N

Nikkormat FT-N

I’ve been caught out twice, once with a beautiful chrome FA and then again with my Nikkormat FT3. Luckily for me both cameras were fixable, only because I know a retired camera technician, who still likes to dabble with old cameras.

I always knew the camera I was going to have trouble finding would be the FS. The reason it never sold as well as the FT was simply because it had no built-in meter. All light-meter readings had to be obtained with a separate hand-held meter. It is reported that Nikon had a large number of FS parts going spare that they started using them to repair later models. Whether this is fact or not I have witnessed a FT2 sporting an FS serial number! Clearly an indication that the top plate from an FS was used to repair the FT2.

Very Early NIkkormat FS

Very Early NIkkormat FS

All the Nikkormat models were built like tanks! Made to last forever, from steel and brass. Many of which were probably assembled by hand like the Nikon F and F2. Looking at them now, today,  its hard to tell the difference between the build quality of a Nikon F or the Nikkormat FT, both in my opinion are thoroughbred classics!

All three electronic models were relatively easy enough to track down. However, the AW-1 winders for the EL-W and EL-2 were proving a little more difficult. The thing to watch out for with these winders are the plastic gears Nikon used in their motors. Plastic, with age, turns brittle and cracks, as a result many of these drives, along with those of the MD-1, MD-2 and MD-3 are also susceptible to breakage.

NIkkormat FS #7400571

NIkkormat FS #7400571

I now had a permanent search set up on eBay informing me daily of any Nikkormat FS activity – things were slow! Painfully so. . . Then, as if by magic all my Nikkormat dreams came true. Not only did I find an Nikkormat FS in excellent condition – it came serviced and warranted for 30 days, so at least I had the opportunity to check it out. The other thing that had me jumping for joy was the serial number, which I instantly remembered, FS 7400571. This was the 571st Nikkormat to leave the factory, quite possibly en-route to America where I purchased it from, who knows? Anyway, The previous owner didn’t much care – he considered it to be just another old fashioned camera and sold it accordingly.

All 8 Nikkormats (1965-1972)

All 8 Nikkormats (1965-1972)

Nikon F401 Trilogy

I can remember Nikon introducing the F401 back in 1987, as a follow up the highly acclaimed F501. Like many other photographers at the time, I wasn’t a big fan of the F401. Although Nikon added a built-in TTL speedlight to the F401, the first Nikon camera to have built-in flash, the F401 still lacked many of the advanced features that the more seasoned ameteurs wanted like exposure compensation and manual override. The viewfinder information is also very basic too, showing only focus confirmation, under or over exposure and a flash ready light. No aperture or shutter speed are shown.

Nikon F401

Nikon F401 circa 1987

It didn’t take Nikon very long, less than 12 months, to issue an up-grade in the form of the F401s. The F401s had the same physical appearance apart from the fact that Nikon moved the 401 branding from the top of the camera to the front. Internally, Nikon installed their new and improved AM200 AF module, which was more responsive. The F401s was still very much aimed at the ameteur market, it still lacked any worthwhile viewfinder information. However, the camera did have a few plus points; it was solid, reliable and it was powered by 4 AA batteries.

Nikon F401s

Nikon F401s circa 1988

The Nikon F401x was the 3rd and final camera in the 401 series it is also the one with the best specification too. Nikon finally added a manual exposure mode along with an
extended film speed range and the flash was upgraded to give an angle of view that now covered 28mm lenses.

Nikon F401x

Nikon F401x – 1991

Although the cost of obtaining 35mm film bodies appears to be on the increase F401 cameras are still cheap and relatively easy to get hold of. Yes, there’s a few dealers
asking silly money for each model, but if you shop around, like I did, you’re bound to find a bargain, or three!

Nikon F401 Trilogy

The Nikon F401 Trilogy

This trio of F401’s cost less than £30 (the lot) and they’re all in good working order.

In April, 1959 Nikon introduced their first Single Lens Reflex (SLR) system camera; known simply as “the Nikon”. Nikon incorporated a host of improvements over the outgoing range-finders, such as interchangeable view finders, focusing screens and a motor driven film advance. The original F would have been fitted with a no frills, non-metered eye level finder; despite being the cheapest to buy when new, are now among the more expensive and hardest to find. Nonetheless, a Nikon F with eye level prism is one of the most elegant and stylish cameras ever made – a true icon of the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies! In fact, 862,600 Nikon F’s were made from 1959 to 1974 proving that Japan was the new leader in camera designs.

Despite my efforts to find a Nikon Eye Level Finder in good condition (and one that I can afford) to match my early F (S/N 6410855), I have managed to find a Photomic Finder (S/N 895055) from 1962, as a stand in until one comes along.

The Photomic finder was introduced by Nikon in April 1962. It was Nikon’s first metered finder for the F. Its main distinguishing figure is the round opaque window on the prism’s front, where incoming light is gathered onto a CdS photo-resistor. These Photomic Finders were discontinued in 1966.

Early F Collector Facts:

  • Early F’s are especially collectible, the earlier the serial, the better
  • The first 100 F’s had Cloth Shutter Curtains
  • The Self Timer has Slanted Serrations
  • The Advance Lever has two hollow cavities on the underside
  • Black #64 F’s are rarer than Chrome #64 F’s

Early F’s had “Nippon Kogaku Tokyo” stamped on the top plate of the camera, but later F’s (1965-onwards) had Nikon.

Well! I did it, it may have taken me 25 years, but I’ve finally got myself a Nikon F3.

Since I took up photography back in 1986 I had my sights set on owning an F3. Back then it was Nikon’s flagship model, state of the art – top of the range and way out of my price range. Besides, what was a poor novice photographer like me going to do with professional SLR? I needed to keep things in perspective and so I purchased a Nikon EM instead!

A bit of a come down maybe, but at least it was a start! And we all had to start somewhere.

The F3 was Nikons third generation of the professional classic. Introduced in 1980 it was the successor to the original F (1959) and the hugely popular; some might say, “Best Ever Mechanical Camera”, Nikon F2 (1973). Despite some early misgivings from the pro’s regarding the F3’s dependence on batteries it went on to sell 750,000 units over the 21 years it remained in production.

I purchased my F3 (two in fact) from my local camera fair. Well, more of a punt than a purchase! The first one I picked up was missing a few parts, but I was told it did work. I paid £30 for the body, DE-3 (standard finder), MF-6b back (quite rare) and a 43-86mm Nikkor lens. The main missing item was a simple battery cover.

My second purchase was for a dead F3, with AS-4 (flash coupler) and an MD-4 motor drive. I paid just £20! I figured the flash coupler was worth that.

Back at base I proceeded to dissect the dead F3, carefully removing all its body parts after which an autopsy was performed on the MD-4. Although the MD-4 appeared to be dead it was only pretending! I made a make-shift repair to a broken terminal pin and cleaned the battery contacts, the MD-4 was back in business. With two new LR44’s in the rejuvenated body, just like the man said it would, that too came to life. Over the next couple of days I replaced the light seals along with the wind-on and re-wind levers and the MD-4 received a new lick of paint. Job well done!

Here we see 3 out of the 6 “F” models produced. Missing (at the moment) is an F2, F5 and F6, all of which I hope to add to my collection in the future.