Nikon F2: Finishing what the Nikon F started.

In a previous post, I claimed that the Nikon F was the start of something great. Well, moving forward to 1971, the Nikon F2 continued, and some would say, finished what the F started.

The F2, in my opinion, cemented Nikon’s position as the #1 choice among professional photographers. I am personally a big fan of Olympus OM System cameras. The OM-1 and OM-2 made a dent, but a very small dent in the market share controlled by Nikon in the 70’s and into the 80’s. The vast majority of pros used Nikon F2 cameras.

Nikon F2SB with Nikkor-S 50mm f/1.4 Non-AI Lens

Being able to update the technology by changing finders was a great idea, and a good way to allow photographers to upgrade when they want, without buying a whole new camera.

Also, lens compatibility was/is a big deal. I know everyone tries to do it, but I actually think Nikon did it best. Most lenses were backward compatible – so if I bought a new lens, it would generally work, some way, on my older body. I like to use the older Nikkor lenses (pre-AI) on my older Nikon bodies, like the F2SB. If I want, however, to use my new AI or AI-S lenses, they will work just fine because they kept the “rabbit ears” tab that was the connector on older lenses – even though it wasn’t used on newer bodies. Very nice compatibility with newer lenses.

So, here’s an interesting fact about the Nikon F2 (that I learned from Ken Rockwell’s site – click here to read). It seems, the F2 has the capability of allowing you to manually set any shutter speeds between 1/90 and 1/2000 (the speeds in green on the dial). So if I set the shutter speed dial between 250 and 500, at say 324, the camera will allow that, just like setting the lens to f/2.2. I never heard of any other camera that is capable of that – manually setting any shutter speed at all. Electronic shutters are able to do that in auto mode (aperture priority or programmed mode), but to have that ability of manually setting it on the dial… well, I just never heard of that. So, I can say that I learned something new! I like the way that feels!

The F2, although it’s a little large (especially with Photomic finders), still feels good in my hand. I like to hold and carry my camera with one hand (I’m not really a neck strap person), and it’s a little hard to do with an F2, but this isn’t really a compact camera, and it never claimed to be.

I’ve been shooting continuously, but casually with my F2SB for the past couple weeks. I’ve shot both black and white (HP5) and color (Portra 400). The F2 has a distinctive click when you press the shutter button. It sounds familiar, like I’ve heard that before. It’s a comfortable camera to shoot with – nothing much to remember while you’re shooting – just set the exposure then focus and shoot. Much like the simplicity of my OM-1 – it has a comfortable, nice mechanical feel to it. It’s solid, and smooth. I generally prefer a match needle meter, but I’m getting quite comfortable with the red led lights in my SB. I’m anxious to get an AS to try the meter in that – it should be very similar to the meter in the SB’s DP-3 finder.

So, what can it do? Here’s some images I shot with my SB. The SB is the last body/finder made specifically for non (pre) AI lenses. The F2A and F2AS only couple with AI or AI-S lenses in fully auto mode. Using older lenses works, but only in stopped down mode (you press the depth of field preview button to get an accurate meter reading). This is because the lens can’t couple to the A or AS finders (DP-11/DP-12), but they still can be used. As I said before, newer lenses will generally work on old bodies (with a few exceptions) so I can use newer AI or AI-S lenses, and they fully couple with an F2 and DP-3, or earlier, finder. Very nice. Here are some of my images.

I like the metering in the F2, or maybe it’s because I’ve used center weighted average metering before, and I’m just used to it. In any case, it works well for me.

The F2 was a remarkable camera. I’ll be shooting with mine quite a bit. Do you ever shoot with an F2? I’d love to hear what you think.