My first SLR was a Konica, but that was back in the dark ages – my dream was always a Nikon F. Back in the 60’s it was the camera, even the fashion guys were using them. One sunny Saturday morning, having just received my first salary cheque from my first proper job, I found myself in upper Tottenham Court Road in central London entering the hallowed ground of the Fox Talbot Nikon store. The F2 had not long been released… so why buy an old model was the store’s advice; thus I never did get that ‘F’ until last year, forty odd years later. Some dreams just have to be realised. The F2 was far more sophisticated and ‘modern’. It performed beautifully, was much admired, but lacked the character of the ‘F’ and has long since been replaced by ever more complexity and sophistication until last year.
The new camera in question is an early, well used black Nippon Kogaku ‘F’ with a 50mm period Nikkor f/1.4 lens; much admired if only for the amount of exposed brass and much dented hood. No meter of course, that was a later addition, just simple and focussed functionality. It is a serious piece of kit and became a game changer in the world of photography.
The ‘F’s acquisition coincided with a trip to the ‘Festival du Chant de Marin’ a bi-annual festival on north coast of Brittany. It is one of those lovely events, a mixture of proper sailing ships, music, dance, moules et frites and general entente cordiale, and oh yes and it goes on for three days.
My five frames are all taken with the standard 50mm lens using trusty Tri-X 400. Given the almost carnival atmosphere of the Festival, the ‘F’ just merged into the background. Was I pleased with the results… mais oui. The camera is built to last and feels indestructible, no meter of course, just gauge the light and set the exposure as Fox Talbot would have done.
Nikon followed in Leica’s footsteps with the ‘F’, not just developing a camera they developed a whole camera system. Which other camera manufacturer offers you the choice of fourteen different focusing screens, together with a bewildering array of lens’, motor drives and all manor of accessories. Over 800,000 ‘F’s were manufactured. Early models had fabric shutter blinds which were quickly replaced by titanium. These early models are hard to find and are real collector items, but later models are abundant and affordable.
If you get the chance, enjoy one of the many French festivals and if you do, take lots of film.
Nikon un jour….. Nikon tourjours
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