A picture of the camera Nikon F3P

How I came to shoot Nikon cameras – By Hasse Gustafsson

Actually, it might as well have been Minoltas. My best friends older brother had a Minolta X-700 that instilled a great deal of envy in me. The year was 1982 and I was at the time 12 years old. My used Praktica with a Pentacon 50/1.8, wasn’t quite on par with my ideals. The Praktica was given to me by my parents sometime when I was 11 or 12 years old as a substitute for the Kodak Instamatic 77X I got for my 7th birthday.

A picture of the camera Kodak Instamatic 77X
My first and perhaps most memorable one. Now serves as decoration together with my old course literature.

The Instamatic made me immediately fall in love with photography. I ran about the garden and photographed my moms flowerbeds, our dog, the birds. Anything and everything. The squares that came back from the lab was mediocre at best (remember, I was 7) but that was of no concern to me. I pressed a simple button and that saved me a physical memory.

How many cartridges of Kodacolor II 126 I put through that Instamatic I have no idea of. It was many. Enough to make my parents entrust me with that used Praktica I guess, and they did right.

However I wanted something better, or more modern actually, not that I was ungreatful, on the contrary.

And so, on my 13th birthday it happened. Unbeknownst to me, dad had taken the Praktica to the local camera shop and traded it for a brand spanking new Nikon EM with a Series E 50/1.8 AND 135/2.8. Not only that, it also came with the SB-E flash, a camera bag and… a prerequisite. I was to attend an evening photography course. Suffice it to say I wasn’t hard to convince. And I lowered the mean age of that group of people trying to understand photography quite a bit…

A picture of the camera Nikon EM and Series 135 mm
The setup that got it all started

What I hadn’t been told was that the course also included darkroom work. And that my completion of the course also earned me a room of my own in our basement where I could set up a permanent darkroom. How about that for a birthday present?

Then when I was 14, I had also spent a week with the news photographers at dads work. That week with the photographers was something special. There were cabinets filled with Nikon FM2’s and F3’s, boxes and boxes and boxes of Ilford HP5 (remember those black/green cartridges?) and as long as no one needed them, I could use any camera I liked. And as much film as I wanted. The same went for the darkroom (if I recall correctly, there were 3 Leitz Focomats), I disposed it as I saw fit. And boy, did I…

Come 1985 and I went to the photography show in Stockholm. As we all know by now the main star that year bear the name Minolta 7000 (or Maxxum if you are on that side of the pond). If money had not been an option, again, it could have been Minoltas I shoot. I can actually still recall the feeling of that marvel of AF in my hands. Magical.

Time passes. Life happens. Photography is put aside.

It is now 1992, the urge to start making pictures again sets in but time has passed, technology has raced, and my now ageing EM is somewhat obsolete. I scour the market for a new modern camera within my rather limited budget. My dad who works in the ads dept. on the local paper has connections which gets me a deal on a… Minolta. The Dynax 7000i with 35-80 and 80-200 zooms becomes my new pal for many years to come.

In the summer of 2006 I walk past the camera shop where my Instamatic, the Praktica, the EM and the Minolta all were bought. As I enter and the doorbell sounds its ping, I greet the shop assistant with “Oh, hi I’m just browsing”. Photography has entered the digital era, I have mostly been using a compact superzoom, and haven’t really payed attention to the camera market for years and am somewhat shocked with what I see in the shop. Digital SLR’s. How about that?

I’m not really in the market for a camera but I browse the offers on hand and the assistant and I get involved in a conversation. It turns out he knows my dad professionally, and his dad who owned the shop had been the one selling my dad the Instamatic and the Praktica. The man I am talking to had been the one making me the deal on the Minolta and also the one selling dad the Nikon EM.

In the bag when I exited the shop was a Nikon D50 with 18-55 kit lens. I honestly don’t remember why I chose to go with a Nikon, but I think the fact that I had the EM and that I have had the opportunity to borrow an FM2 with the MD-12 motor drive for a few weeks once. It was probably something to do with that week at my dad’s work too.

A picture of the camera Nikon F3P
One Nikon to rule them all. The centerpiece on my camerashelf. Currently carries an expired (but frozen since new) Velvia 50 in its belly.

The D50 was replaced by a D200 after about two years. Better glass was bought. When the D700 arrived in the shops I immediately ordered one. I hadn’t, and still haven’t, gotten used to converting focal lengths for the APS-C format. Today my main camera is a D500, 99.9% of the time there is a 300/4 PF with 1.4TC attached to it as I mostly photograph birds and animals.

As I have gotten older, and more nostalgic, a small collection of old manual Nikons, lenses and accessories has amassed and they are not only on display but they are being put to use, even if not daily, and I still prefer Ilford films.

A picture of the camera Nikon FM2n
My precious. As always, ready to go, loaded with Ilford FP4 or HP5.

But I still haven’t answered the initial question of how I came to shoot Nikon cameras…

I guess the answer is mostly nostalgia. And that I can use pretty much every lens that has come out of the Nikon factories since 1959.
And perhaps, the marketing guys got it right for the EM commercial; “It’s not just a camera, it’s a Nikon.”

Find me on Instagram (@fotografhassegustafsson)
or http://www.hassegustafsson.se (In Swedish only)

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14 thoughts on “How I came to shoot Nikon cameras – By Hasse Gustafsson”

  1. Loved your story. I’m also a Nikon nerd. I started my interest in photography later in life. My first 35mm camera was a Mamiya-Sekor but I immediately became enchanted by Nikon. First an F, then and F2, then…. You get the picture. I worked for a daily newspaper for over 15 years using Nikons but when I quit the job I pretty much put away photography for several years. When I started back, I bought Canon because autofocus was a new thing and Canon was said to be the best. I used Canons right on into the digital era but the big old head of nostalgia reared up a few years ago and I bought a used D800 along with a 60mm Micro-Nikkor and a Nikon Digitizing kit to copy some of my old negatives and slides. After handling the Nikon, I fell in love again. Now I own several Nikon bodies and a huge stack of lenses. Using them feels more natural to me than any other camera I’ve used, including my beloved Fuji X-Pros.

    1. Hans Gustafsson

      Thank you! There just is something about those Nikons isn’t it? I still haven’t tried anything that feels quite like them in your hands. Also the ergonomics of the more recent ones, say from F100 an onwards are second to none for me.

  2. The timing of this article struck me personally. Over the past few years I’ve shot most of the “mirrorless” options available and have been left unimpressed for varied reasons. I’ve thus gone back Nikon DSLR’s, where I started in the days of film. To me “It’s a Nikon” still means a great deal. The legacy glass options dating back to 1959 display pride in Nikon’s past work as well as respect for the consumers. I have a few old AI /AIS lenses that resolve beautifully with unique character on my D850. Thanks for your article it made me revisit my camera paths.

  3. Ah, that’s funny. I started photographing when I was 9 with an Agfa Iso-Pak (a 126 camera), then switched to Praktika, then to Minolta (XG-1, XD-7, X-700) – and eventually gifted myself with a Nikon F3 … 🙂 It still works like a charm and it feels good next to my Leicas. I love film photography in b/w.

  4. My last film Nikon was an F4-my first an F, my favorite the F2. But many of the ‘Nikons’ in between were(good) consumer machines that would have been called Nikkormats. Marketing felt that calling them all Nikons would sell more cameras – and they were probably right.One thing that kept us loyal was keeping the same lens mount (unlike Canon)
    I love my wife’s Df- but I shoot Sony’s- full and Apsc- so I can readily use my other legacy lenses. I haven’t picked up Nikon SLR in years-after decades of handling them they are just too familiar. Now that my income doesn’t depend on them I’m happier trying cameras I would never have considered – like the working (!) Petri on my desk

  5. Conor O'Brien

    Great article Hans. Reminds me of my own start with my mum’s Kodak instamatic but at the much more mature age of 9. I too had a Minolta 7000 for a few years and having moved to Nikon DSLRs, I too have gone back to Nikon and Minolta classic film cameras. My F3 is my favourite, but I also really like the older Minoltas and love the XE1, which is a beautiful camera to use.

    1. Hans Gustafsson

      Thanks! The Nikons will always be closest to my heart, but recently the need for a Minolta has begun to grow… 🙂

  6. Oh…I understand all this ony too well. I started off with a Minolta SRT 101 and later got a Nikon FM. Had a Yashica rangefinder in between. After the military I got further involved with Nikon, Rolleiflex, Mamiya and Hasselblad. All this started in the early 60’s. Now I have collected all the Nikon flagship cameras from them F to the F5. Don’t really want the F6. I have so many cameras that if I even look at another one…my wife will kill me and then divorce me. In that order.

    1. Hans Gustafsson

      Haha! I’m not married, but I do have a very understanding fiancé with expensive interests of her own… 🙂

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