Nikon F2S – Quick Impressions

Two weeks ago, I finally became the proud owner of a professional Nikon film camera – the F2S with the 50mm 1.4 (1975) lens. For a long time, I have been searching for a FM2 or F3 with no success. Finally, their predecessor came to me through a very reasonable sale on Kijiji. Here are my first impressions:

 

The Feel

The black paint body is worn in the usual places, with brass peaking through to show its age (the serial number on the body leads me to believe it came out of the Japanese factory in 1973). At 44 years old, it is amazing that everything is functional and buttery smooth. Its heft is unbelievable, definitely a tank of a camera that should outlast me if treated right. I immediately got rid of the old leather strap (it was ugly! Looked like some sort BDSM gear) and replaced it with a slim Domke shoulder strap. This is the first time that I actually wore a camera on the shoulder. The weight on the grippy strap held it on nicely, though part of me still gets nervous that it will slide off.

 

The Bad

The mirror and film gate foam has deteriorated into a gooey mess, something all cameras this age would have suffered. Fortunately, the mirror was clean and the interchangeable focus screen clear and bright. Although I had all the materials to replace the foam, I got overly excited and loaded it with a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus. I figured, better test the function of the light meter first!

 

The Good

Looking through the 100% view finder is a treat! Everything you need is within view, though I’m not used to the light meter that only has two LEDs! This made my Fujica ST801 look space-aged with its 7 LEDs. The proof is in the pudding though, as the light meter worked wonderfully during the day. At night, I still got very reasonable exposures, even though it was so dark that I had a hard time focusing! I definitely need to fully test the meter on a tripod at night. Perhaps a trip to Nose Hill Park will be in order. It will also let me test that 70-200mm Vivitar Series 1 lens that came with the camera. Oh, did I mention all the goodies that came in the package? Let’s see… multiple image splitter/filter, center lens, other filters, auto exposure module (probably a collector’s item now), 2x and 3x extension tubes, plus a nice camera bag to hold it all. I really need to sell some these extras to make the camera free!

 

The Next Test

After the first roll of film proved that the camera is a shooter, I spent the time giving it a proper cleaning. More specifically, I replaced all the foam. I paid special attention to the mirror bumper, opting to use velvet felt on top of foam to ensure there is no chance of future foam disintegration. I now can shoot all out. Now on to the next issue.

Being such a beast of a camera, one of the important tests for me will be if I will like it on me all the time. Recently, I went hiking with the Minolta X-700 and it was a breeze to carry its lightweight plastic body. However, the Minolta felt delicate which matched its price tag of $40 dollars. For the Nikon, it could be a dealbreaker if I find the F2S too clunky for everyday use. The test will come soon as I head to Vancouver for a short vacation. There, I will dedicate time to the Nikon for a thorough review.

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