Searching for an old Nikon film Camera

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Bodhi395, Sep 24, 2010.

  1. Bodhi395 macrumors 6502a

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    #1
    I have a fancy Nikon DSLR, and love it, but I'm also interested in getting a film camera to compliment it. I want an older Nikon that can use lenses that will also work on my DSLR. I also want a film camera that uses no batteries.

    Any suggestions of old Nikons that will fit those two categories and are decent cameras? Specific models would be very much welcomed.
     
  2. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #2
    I'm not a current Nikon shooter, but I have some thoughts anyway. By no battery I assume you mean no AA or rechargeable. Those would only be used for a motor drive to automatically advance the film. All film cameras with a light meter have a small lithium ion battery to provide power for that function. The Nikon I had in 1970 had no meter and no battery. The Canon I got as a gift in 1978 had a meter and a battery.

    The Nikon shooters like pdxflint will be better able to address the lens question, but I know (believe) you need to use autofocus lenses with DSLR cameras.

    Dale
     
  3. EugeneA macrumors newbie

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    #3
    FA or FM-2

    Nikon FA,FE-2,FM-2,FE or FM fit your description well. They all take a battery, but the battery lasts for years and they all can be used in a limited fashion even when the battery dies. The only limitation for these cameras is that they don't work with G lenses, i.e. lenses without an aperture ring. However, such lenses use electronic coupling for aperture so your requirement of no battery excludes them anyway.
     
  4. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #4
    Nikon I? What is that?

    F, F2, FM, FM2, FE, and FE2 all fit your criteria.
     
  5. Pikemann Urge macrumors 6502

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    #5
    The F3 is a possibility, too. It needs a pair of little button cells, though. But they last for a long while. And spares are easy to carry. It can take any lens (almost) with an aperture ring. Even old, pre-AI lenses. And the F3 is panzer tank tough.

    I mean, when you think about it, there's nothing compelling about a battery-free camera. What is compelling: cells that last for a long while.

    Luminosity, I think you read Designer Dale's post too quickly. :p
     
  6. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #6
    The Nikon shooters like pdxflint will be better able to address the lens question, but I know (believe) you need to use autofocus lenses with DSLR cameras.

    That's not true. All Nikon pro DSLRs and many prosumer ones (D200, D300, D300s) are able to meter with AI/AIS manual focus lenses. Other Nikon DSLRs will mount all AI/AIS lenses but will not meter with them. The new D7000 was given the ability to meter with AI/AIS lenses, so that was an unexpected surprise.

    I skipped the F3 because it needs batteries to fully operate and the thread starter said they wanted a camera that didn't need them.

    I mean, when you think about it, there's nothing compelling about a battery-free camera. What is compelling: cells that last for a long while.

    Take an FM2 into extremely cold conditions and watch it function normally. Watch a battery-powered camera fail because the batteries freeze up.
     
  7. carlgo macrumors 68000

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    #7
    The 1 camera I would never own as it is so rare that I, for 1, could never afford it. I do have 1 FM2 that I will part with.
     
  8. Cliff3 macrumors 65816

    Cliff3

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    #8
    True enough. I had an FE from 1981 until the shutter died in 2003. The batteries only served to power the meter, and they lasted for years.
     
  9. smchan macrumors member

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    #9
    Since you're starting with a DSLR, you need to consider backward compatibility as well. DX lenses - which are common for DSLRs - will probably not work on older 35mm cameras.
     
  10. Bodhi395 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #10
    I understand that. However, I want the film camera more as side hobby and don't care if it won't work with my newer lenses. But it would be nice if I found some old lens that worked with the film camera and then i could experiment with them on my digital camera too.
     
  11. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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  12. Policar macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    I mostly left this forum as my interests shifted toward LF-only, but I have to chime in (and then maybe reverberate for a couple more posts) here:

    The history of the F-mount is complicated. Lots of weird compatibility issues. But to put it simply, what you need to worry about (besides FX/DX issues, which are obvious) are pre-AI lenses, AI and AIS lenses, and G lenses.

    Pre-AI lenses are old, metal, fully manual lenses with a single aperture ring located directly above a bare metal coupler. The metal coupler mates with a prong on the camera body, which then communicates with the camera (as you focus wide open) what f-stop you're exposing for and what f-stop the lens will briefly transition to when you take a photo. Virtually all lenses on modern system cameras are designed to meter and focus wide open, so this was a fairly primitive way of doing that--no batteries (except the tiny battery for the ttl meter) required! These date back to like 1959-1977.

    AI and AIS lenses look basically the same as pre-AI lenses (and are also manual focus), but they have a tiny aperture scale engraved under the main scale and directly under the little metal prong. The metal in the lens body surrounding the mounting ring is also shaved down differently, but that's a little harder to notice. Anyhow, the AI and AIS lenses couple directly with the mount on the camera body (but also have an external coupler for older cameras) and provide the same (actually, better) wide-open metering functionality as with the coupler, but in a cleaner, more automated way. (The coupler is a pain and sometimes aligns wrong.) These are basically any manual focus lenses made in 1977 and after. It's possible to convert a pre-AI lens to an AI lens but some conversions are better than others.

    G lenses are autofocus lenses without a manual aperture ring. You have to adjust the aperture through the camera body. You can't do much with one of these on an older body.

    Okay, so why does all this matter? Because pre-AI lenses, unless they are modified correctly, can damage the AI ring on some dSLRs, which is a very very bad thing. You also can't adjust the aperture on G lenses with a fully manual camera body. My advice, if you don't have any pre-AI or G lenses? Don't buy any unless you're okay with them working on only one camera. Granted, pre-AI lenses won't damage some entry-level dSLRs or a Canon camera using a Nikon adapter, as they all lack AI prongs, but they won't meter very well on them either (stop down metering on Nikon bodies, slight overexposure on some Canon bodies).

    There's a ton of nuance to this: different functionality between AI and AIS and AIP; which lenses meter with standard metering, which with stopped-down metering, which with matrix metering; that some lenses won't even mount on the F4 and newer cameras; which dSLRs can use which lenses; etc. So it would be really helpful to know what dSLR and what lenses you have to start with! We're not just nosy.

    As for what camera to buy, it's up to you and all the above suggestions are nice. But "no battery" is nothing to aspire to. You'll need a battery for the light meter with ANY Nikon camera. My recommendation would then be an F3, I guess, although if you have pre-AI lenses the F2 might be better. The F2 can function with no battery, it only loses metering, but external meters are such a pain for 35mm cameras. You're shooting on a tiny format because you want speed and portability; don't sacrifice that by using an external meter, especially if you shoot in natural light. I use an external meter with my Nikon F and it works okay, but what a pain. If you shoot slides, you might even want an F4 or better. The F4 and F5 have AMAZING meters. The F4 is the best Nikon camera ever because it has a retractable AI prong and therefore the best compatibility of all. I had to sell mine since it was ruining my exposure technique, though.

    If you get a camera with a mechanical shutter, make sure it works accurately. Somewhere in the shutter speed range (around 1/15th of a second) the mechanism changes...so you can have a camera that's highly accurate between 1/30th-1/500th of a second but useless at 1 second. I have such a camera. With an electromagnetically controlled shutter, your battery doesn't last quite as long but your exposures should be way more accurate and you won't need a CLA to recalibrate your shutter. So unless you have a ton of pre-AI lenses to start with, I've got to recommend an F3, FA, or FE-era camera. I think those have electronic shutters but are otherwise fully manual. Not sure.

    Here's a good article on all this:

    http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/nikortek.htm#ai

    If any of that contradicts what I've written, I'm probably wrong. He's right that AI lenses are great deals, too. The good ones are really sharp.
     
  13. Bodhi395 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    I have a Nikon d5000
     
  14. Policar macrumors 6502a

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    #14
    Lucky you! You can use any manual lens (pre-AI, AI, AIS, etc.) without damaging your camera body, which lacks an AI prong. However, none of them will meter. At all. Focusing will be a pain without a custom-built split prism screen, which then needs to be calibrated for accuracy.

    But you can work around these limitations if you don't mind shooting more slowly.
     
  15. Bodhi395 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #15
    Without metering, would it be hard to effectively use the camera to take pictures with these old lenses?
     
  16. Policar macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    I've never tried it. You'd have to guess (by eye, by sunny 16 rule, or by using an external meter) and adjust. Once you get one shot right, others in the same light should be similar. Most modern AF primes (excepting the Nikon G lenses) work great on older film bodies, fwiw.

    My intuition is it would be okay, but really a matter of personal taste. Without a split prism screen, focus might be an issue, too, as the indicator light is a bit generous, at least wide open on a DX body. I don't know. I'd start with one inexpensive lens and try it. Many of the old lenses have fantastic optics and are very affordable.
     
  17. H2Ockey macrumors regular

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    #17
    My experience with the indicator light is that it is spot on. I can usually get close without a split screen and then use the indicator light to dial in the last bit.

    Also remember most AFS lenses are 'G' lenses but do not have the 'G' in the name so you need to double check you have the aperture ring on the lens. Essentially since you are looking for a film camera without a motor drive and your D5000 does not have a built in motor all the lenses that they can share will work in a similar fashion.

    I can say that the full frame typically bright viewfinder of a film camera will probably make you want to get a split screen prism installed in the DSLR. As I said I do OK, but if i've been shooting any amount of film at all and switch back to my D300 the viefinder just seems small and dark.
     
  18. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #18
    Hand-held light meters are still quite viable and on the open market. I still have one and need to replace the battery. A manual meter can be used with both of your cameras once you get the film one.

    Dale
     
  19. Maui macrumors 6502a

    Maui

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    #19
    Check out the FM3a. Great camera -- uses batteries (which last forever) for the light meter, but you don't have to use the light meter. I see them for sale at Adorama, KEH, etc. in the $300-$350 range. I use it with the same lens set as my D3s and never think twice about it.
     
  20. iPhone1 macrumors 65816

    iPhone1

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    #20
    I have a Nikon F4 that just sits in my camera bag. Got it used from Adorama in awesome condition. Serial numbers indicates it was made in the last year the F4 was sold.

    Seems a shame to just let it sit there. PM me if interested.
     
  21. Bodhi395 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #21
    Thanks for all the good advice. I've been watching ebay and there are alot of listings for the various FM's and FE's that I'm interested in. I saw a couple listings that came with an E lens, and were fairly inexpensive. I have no experience with E lenses, are they any good?
     
  22. acearchie macrumors 68040

    acearchie

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    #22
    I realise that you are looking for a battery free camera however, if you are tempted by a battery camera consider that some of the batteries that were used are no longer made due to health and safety issues.

    I can't remember exactly but some of the older batteries would emit exactly the same voltage over time until they died.

    More modern batteries lose their power over time meaning that your exposure readings will be wrong (at least this is what I read when I considered getting a battery for my Konica AutoReflex T4!)

    Since I also have a access to a non-metered Hasselblad I have a dinky light meter that I carry around with me however, as I have used it more and more I have found that I have been able to more and more guess the EV or Aperture/Shutter Speed to what would have given me an exposed shot!

    I would consider getting a camera and light meter (Even a battery less light meter that sits in the hot shoe would be good). This way you will have no more costs associated with batteries.

    Also since you are starting film photography as a hobby have a look for some nearly/just expired films as from my experience they still provide just as good images for a fraction of the cost!
     
  23. pyramis macrumors member

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    #23
    E series lenses are of cheaper build quality, more 'consumer' level, and therefore more numerous and cheaper ebay. Of course, Nikon rarely made crap and these are good, sharp lenses with a lot more mechanical craft and heft than today's cheap-ass plastic lenses.

    If you're looking to build a nice collection of different sorts of lenses to go with your new SLR, series E might make economical sense to get you up and running fast. If you're more patient and want to make careful investments in a couple of good old lenses, go for non-E versions.

    BTW, I made the jump into film this year too. I got a Nikon FE which I love and 2 prime lenses: 28mm AI-S and 50mm AF. Since you, like me, have a D5000 which is DX, don't bother going for lenses that work on both. They are different formats.
     
  24. Bodhi395 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #24
    So I ended up buying a Nikon FG with two lenses on ebay for $50. I know most people were recommending the higher end FM or FE, so I'm a little unsure if the FG will be good since its the lower end camera from that era. However, I like the fact its small and light. Also, it came with a 50mm Series E lens and a 75-200mm Macro Phase 2 lens. The lenses themselves seem to be worth the price, and I could always just get an FE or FM body later on if I don't like the FG.
     
  25. Bodhi395 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #25
    Got the FG and lenses in the mail and am loving them so far.

    The FG is small, but has weight to it and feels very well made and sturdy in my hand. I'm guessing the FM or FE are even heavier and studier, but I am really liking the small size of the FG.

    Also, I got the 50mm Series E lens with it, and its the tiniest lens I've seen for a Nikon. I put it on my D5000 and it makes it look like a completely different camera. It seems to work well on my D5000, except it won't meter and you have to use it completely in manual mode. However, by using the screen I can take some test shots and get an idea of what settings I'll need for a particular scene. So using it is a lot slower because I have to figure out the settings and then manually focus too. However, the small size of it transforms my D5000 into a very small camera that's really easy to walk around with.
     

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