I have been fooling with cameras for almost 60 years, since I was in junior high school in the early 1960s in the Detroit, Michigan area. In those days the Nikon F series of film cameras was the professional’s choice and I lusted after them. I was unable to float the cost of such a device back then, but I finally purchased my first Nikon F2A at the post exchange in Seoul, Korea in 1974 when I was stationed at Yongsan as part of my military service. The 1974 price was around $400 (U.S.), which is about $2400 in today’s valuation. These days I buy almost pristine used models of all the Nikon line on eBay for a fraction of their original cost. I sold my original F2A in 1976 but purchased this one in the spring of 2022 for $240 in March.
The F2 camera bodies were produced between 1971 and 1980, featuring some improvements over the original Nikon F produced between 1959 and 1973. The camera I purchased this year was made in 1977 according to the serial number. The F2 is a fully mechanical camera, but the shutter speed was tightened to 1/2000 second over the Nikon F 1/1000 second, added better motor drive support, has hinged rear door, and faster flash sync.
Since the F2 uses the standard F-mount lenses, my old glass from the 1980’s works with the camera. I have Nikkor 28mm, 50mm, 105mm, 135mm, and 300mm lenses from my F3 and they work in the F2, all the later F series cameras, and even in a D850.
I love close-up work and photographing flowers. Flowers are easy subjects. They don’t complain, are easy to pose, and often produce startling images. My wife grows them, and I shoot them. These five frames were taken in the neighborhood around my house outside of Salt Lake City, Utah in October of 2022. I captured them with a 105mm NIkkor lens and a 13mm extension tube. The extension tube and 105mm glass lets me get close-ups while standing back enough to prevent casting a shadow on the image.
The film is Kodak Tri-X 400 and was developed in Cinestill Df96 at 70 Degrees Fahrenheit (21 Degrees C) for six minutes. The negatives were scanned on an Epson V600 flatbed photo scanner at 6400 dots per inch and 16-bit grayscale. They were converted to 24-bit jpeg and resized for this blog page.
I only recently started processing my own film again and had to get the hang of winding it onto the stainless-steel reels in a changing bag. I kinked more than one roll while relearning the technique. The other problem is preventing water spots on the negatives. At first, I used too much PhotoFlo in the final rinse solution leaving some of the negatives with odd stains. I cleaned up the stains and a few stray hairs and dust particles with GIMP. Other post-processing was minimal.
All the shots were hand-held using a monopod to steady my now not-so-steady hand. Shutter speeds were between 1/125th and 1/250th at f11 or smaller in bright sunlight. I cropped the images down from the original negatives.
These are Rose of Sharon blossoms on a tree next to my house. The morning sun gives their violet hue a bright, ragged appearance. They appear fairy-like on the Tri-X.
The bark of a tree a few blocks away. I was going for texture and the rough bark didn’t disappoint.
Dahlias are marvelous blossoms. With color film they produce almost glowing images. The Tri-X gives them a fine, almost sinister look with dark lines along the edges of the petals. I think Morticia Adams would like this rendering.
These tall, grassy bushes were glowing in the morning sunlight, and I stood right up in the plants with the monopod. The black and white image is not much different than the color image of the same plant. Fine seeds and razor-wire fronds.
These orange gazanias present themselves with wonderful edge detail in the afternoon sun. They caught my eye every day this summer. They close every night and only reopen in the early afternoon when the light is bright. The Tri-X captured their petal folds and texture with little grain.
Kurt Vonnegut, the author and humorist, is quoted as saying “I tell you, we are on this earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.” Thanks, Kurt, for the inspiration. I retired from my job as a software developer last spring and major part of my retirement routine is to fart around with cameras. I don’t feel guilty at all. None of these are great photographs, but I had a very good time making them.
And thanks to Sok Sun, my lovely wife of 47 years, for fussing over the blossoms around our house. She lets me indulge my passions and obsessions with nary a complaint.
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16 thoughts on “5 Frames on a Morning Walk with a Nikon F2A – By Stephen Hanka”
Many believe that the Nikon F2 was the pinnacle of a 35mm, all mechanical SLR. The finest 35mm SLR ever manufactured. A piece of suburb engineering.
I carried the Nikon F & F2 throughout my undergraduate & graduate school studies in the 1970’s.
I’ve always loved close-up work in black & white, it reveals hidden worlds filled with geometric shapes and beautiful form.
Your work proves that.
I yield you, sir, for your photo longevity. I only have been working with film & darkroom for 53 years. BTW, I must acknowledge your nod to your lovely wife of 47 years. We just celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary.
My first serious camera was a Honeywell Pentax Spotmatic that I purchased in about 1966. Before that I used whatever I could borrow. I still have the Pentax, although the light meter is no longer alive.
The Nikons are wonderful cameras. My wife gave me an F3 in about 1986 and it has served me well. I still use it, although the brass is showing through here and there now. I have never worked as a professional photographer, just as a hobbyist.
I looked at your flickr.com page. The images are gorgeous. The quality is something for me to aim for.
Thanks for your input.
A very interesting walk through the F2 series, though I suspect something is slightly off on the timing of your models. But the F2 was the camera I drooled over in j-school, and when I finally got one in my last year in college, I felt somehow legit. LIfe has its twists and turns, and I never was a full-time photojournalist, though I dabbled over the years. Since 1979, I have always had an F2. Now I have an F2 with DP-1, an F2S, and an F2AS. Wonderful cameras, wonderful lenses. In my last job before retirement, at an NPR news station, a couple of frames from an F2 wound up with news stories on the website, a testament to what these cameras, and film in general, can still produce.
– Steve Hanka
For Christmas this year I was given a mint F2A by my wife. I have an old F as well as an FM but it has always been the F2 I have coveted. I just shot and developed my first test roll in it this past week. It truly is a wonderful camera. I greatly enjoyed seeing your images and will posting my own “5 Frames” article with my new to me F2.
– Steve Hanka
Lovely images and write-up! My favorite is the Dahlias. Congrats on your retirement!
– Steve Hanka
Excellent images, well processed. If it’s of any help, to avoid water spots, I use a tiny drop of washing-up liquid in the final rinse before drying and have no problems. It’s a cheap solution to a problem that works.
Thanks for the tip, and the compliment.
– Steve Hanka
Stephen, you and your Nikon F2A, me and my Nikkormat FT2. Horses for courses, as they say down under where I now live. What they means exactly I’ve never quite figured out, but it seems appropriate. The right tool for the right job, that sort of thing. Nikons all the way.
All those early Nikons before the manufacturer sold out to the budget consumer market and went all out for the cheaper models which for the most part haven’t held up to the passing of time, well, those “oldies” were in their own way, unique works of art. They cost plenty back then, but they did the job, and even to this day, many decades later, they continue to do the work to a very high standard, without fuss or bother, not breaking down under even ordinary use and holding up to the heaviest usage. And when they do wear down, the best part of it is they can still be repaired. Mechanics built to last. The good old days. Woo hoo to all that!!
One of my pair of FT2s I use fr street work and travel, and has had a 35mm/2 ‘O’ Nikkor on it for so long, it wouldn’t surprise me if that lens is firmly stuck on to the camera body. That ’35 has had a Nikon K2 yellow filter on it also fsince the 1990s and I’m sure it’s now equally wedded (or welded?) to the lens permanently. The other ‘mat is my general purpose one and often used with my collection of Nikkors – 28/3.5,50/2.0, 553.5 or 135/3.5. Somewhere in the house I have a 300/4.5 which I bought about 20 years ago but haven’t yet used. I’m almost ashamed to say this. I’ll take it out for a shoot next weekend, I promise.
Your B&W images are exceptionally good with that “softness” I find so pleasing in monochrome work. Unlike all the overshapened digicrap images now overwhelming the ‘net.
I have always thought that subjects closest to home reflect where one’s heart really is. In my case, not so much a garden as we live in an apartment, but our three cats. Again, horses for courses.
On the other hand, we do have an Australian bush garden, planted to save on water and attract local wildlife. Eucalyptus, papyrus, bamboo, succulents and other native plants, also lorikeets, cockatoos and cockatiels (two different species, but please don’t ask me how they differ) and possums racing along the fence at night. I must put on my 50/2 or the 55 Micro and get out there to see what is blooming or what I can record in black-and-white mid-tones…
Again, many thanks for a most enjoyable and truly excellent rewrite.
Greetings and best regards from a fellow Nikonian close to you in age and a shared love for Nikons/Nikkormats and Nikkor lenses.
From Dann in Melbourne
Thanks! I would love to see some film shots from Melbourne. It is freezing here in Salt Lake City.
– Steve Hanka