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nikon F2A photomic        nikon's 2nd generation F

Wolfgang Bleier
Austria, June 2010

Legends never die. The F2 is one of the dinosaurs of Nikon's F camera series, which have substantially contributed to the success of professional Nikon cameras. The F2 was the king of press photography in the 70s and 80s. It is a high end product that evolved from the original Nikon F camera, it went on sale in 1970 and was produced until 1980. Together with the F it was the only professional F Nikon with purely mechanical shutter and very popular with professional photographers.

Haptic and perception
Nikon's F2 is an all-metal camera like the original F, but better. Sharp edges of the original F were smoothened out and various levers made more handy. Its body is rugged and heavy, built to withstand mechanical stress that occurs during heavy-duty professional use. In 2008 I could buy a mint F2A Photomic, its previous owner must have been a serious amateur photographer who really care of his camera. Nikon F2AIt is fully operational after well 35 years. What else, it's a classic, professional Nikon. After I have tested all functions and the exposure meter with a roll of slide film the F2A was allowed to retire in a glass cabinet. During ten years of production Nikon came up with six different models mainly as a result of improved exposure metering, viewfinders and the new Ai lenses introduced in 1977, and with some versions for special applications. As one of the best selling F2 cameras, the F2A came with the DP-11 viewfinder, which uses the match needle method for exposure metering, and it accepts Nikkor Ai lenses. The F2A was among the first batch of Nikon bodies, which profited from the then new automatic aperture indexing (Ai). The metering sensor used in the meter prism is similar to the F2 Photomic from 1971.

Features & Specifications
As a highly versatile, modular system camera with interchangeable viewfinders and an extensive range of accessories, the F2 is built on the same concept as the original Nikon F and later the F3. It is built for ultimate quality, performance and reliability in manual photography. Only the center weighted exposure meter in the Photomic viewfinder is battery powered, all the rest is mechanically controlled. The meter is switched on by pulling the film advance lever out into its ready position and battery power can be tested by a separate test button on the viewfinder. Nikon F2 Data The film speed ranges from ISO 6 to ISO 6400 and is to be set by lifting and turning the index ring fitted on the viewfinder. Shutter speeds are mechanically controlled from 1s to 1/2000s, from 1/80s to 1/2000s the shutter speeds are infinitely variable. The shutter speed dial also provides bulb (B) for time exposures, and a red line between 1/60s and 1/125s indicates 1/80s as the fastest sync time for electronic flash units.
The film advance lever advances the film by a single stroke or by a series of short strokes. The shutter release button is fitted with a finger-guard that also selects the shutter operation mode. In position L the shutter release is locked, in center position at the dot it is ready to release, and in position T it is set for time exposures. To make time exposures controlled via the built-in self timer just set the exposure time to bulb (B), lift and turn the finger-guard until the index dot aligns with the T, set the desired exposure time on the self timer (it is provided with numbers to indicate times from 2 to 10 seconds) and release the shutter. To make time exposures longer than 10s set the exposure time to B, the finger-guard to T and press the shutter release to open the shutter. The shutter will close again when turning the finger-guard to the center position.

As a professional SLR the F2 has a depth of field preview button to stop down to the pre-selected aperture, and a mirror lock lever, which can be turned after the depth of field preview button is pressed down. Multiple exposures can be made by pushing the film rewind button at the bottom plate while advancing the film. The exposure meter of the F2A uses TTL center weighted exposure metering at full aperture. It reads the light over the entire focusing screen but favors the central 12mm-diameter circle. Nikon F2AS The meter uses the match needle method and is visible in a small window on top of the finder and inside the finder, where it is easy to read together with the aperture number and the exposure time. The Photomic finder has also a ready light for use with Nikon Speedlight flash units. Exposure compensation is done via the film speed index ring. Four other interchangeable viewfinders can be fitted on the F2, and the Nikon K-type standard focusing screen can be exchanged against eighteen other screens. The DP-11 finder of the F2A is fitted with a meter coupling-lever that provides for coupling between the finder's metering circuit and the lens' meter coupling ridge. When the camera body is used with Nikkor Ai lenses, the lever remains in the normal position, if non-Ai lenses are used this lever must be locked up to permit exposure measurement via the stop-down method.

Major functions of the F2 are stripped-down to the simple equation of Shutter Speed + Aperture = Exposure. Of course, in comparison with today's modern analog and digital SLR cameras the F2 doesn't offer automation at all, and its exposure meter can't cope with highly advanced 3D color matrix meters used in Nikon's flagships since 1996. By comparing such features one understands also why in the old days professional photography (especially in the press media) was much more hard work with less success rates than today.
Nowadays the Nikon F2A Photomic is a great analog all-metal camera for old-school photography. It is for photographers who enjoy the stops and clicks of the aperture ring and the buzz of a mechanical shutter, which signals the completion of a well composed photograph captured on film.

Nikon F2A Photomic
Camera type
35mm single-lens reflex camera
Focus control
AF area modes
Eye-level pentaprism type.
Exposure metering
TTL, center weighted full aperture exposure metering system;
meter's sensitivity concentrated on a 12 mm diameter circle.
Exposure modes
Manual exposure control (M).
Exposure compensation via film speed setting
Auto exposure memory lock
Horizontal-travel focal-plane shutter (mechanically controlled).
Shutter speeds
1s to 1/2000s (from 1s to 1/80s in whole increments, from
1/80s to 1/2000s infinitely variable shutter speeds),
10s to 2s available via self timer in time exposure (T),
Bulb (B) for long time exposures.
Film speed range
ISO 6 to ISO 6400
Film speed setting
Manual setting
Film loading
Film advance modes
Manual (optional motor drive)
Film rewind
Viewfinder display
Symbol for flash status
Shutter speed (direct optical system)
Aperture value (direct optical system)
Overexposure and underexposure zone indication
Battery power test
Flash unit connection
Dedicated Nikon F-style accessory shoe
(optional AS-1 flash coupler for flashlight with ISO-type shoe)
Flash synchronization
1/80s to 1s.
Flash exposure metering Automatic flash output control via Speedlight.
Flash sync modes
Synchronization with 1st (front) shutter curtain.
Mirror lock-up
Depth of field preview
Mechanical push button
Self timer
Mechanically controlled 2s to 10s
Multiple exposure
1 x DL 1/3N Lithium batteries
Other features
Mechanically controlled infinitely variable shutter
speeds from 1/80s to 1/2000s,
4 (optional) interchangeable viewfinders and
19 interchangeable focusing screens available.

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