Nikonos V and surfing? You’re probably thinking I live in California, Australia or Hawaii but where I surf you’re more likely to catch frostbite than a shark bite; this is cold water surfing on Scotland’s east coast.
Winter is the only time there is waves, so it’s the only time I surf. It’s not unusual for the air temperature to be below 0°; 5mm wetsuit, boots, gloves and hood are most certainly required.
Surfing is hard and I’m not very good, so once I get tired of falling off I tend to float around and take pictures. It might just ‘the stoke’ of being in the water but I’d say the dawn light at my local beach is extra special, it makes the beating I take from the waves totally worthwhile.
So, enter the Nikonos V, I wanted a Nikonos from the first time I saw one, even more so after following @Nikonosproject on Instagram; that account is solid gold inspirational material.
Looking in my bank account quickly encouraged me to abandon that dream and instead led me first to the Hanimex Amphibian (5 Frames With to follow). The Amphibian was fun but it was a bit bulky and tricky to use with thick neoprene gloves on.
When a friend offered the Nikonos V in exchange for my Minolta Spot Meter F, I jumped at the chance. The amphibian was looking a bit forlorn so I shipped it off to a new owner in the Emulsive secret santa gift exchange.
Shooting The Nikonos V – First Impressions
A military green Nikonos V is a purposeful, almost intimidating bit of kit but the day I shot these images everyone in the water and on the shore was interested in it and were more that happy to have their photo taken with it. The perfect icebreaker built like, well, an icebreaker!
This was my first time shooting the Nikonos in the water, from a single 36 exposure roll of Fuji Superia 400 around 30 shots were keepers.
For an unfamiliar viewfinder / scale focus camera, while wearing 5mm neoprene gloves and getting battered by waves, that speaks for itself; this camera is super usable and foolproof.
The DOF Scale With A Difference
Viewfinder cameras can be a but hit and miss in general but the Nikonos V has a killer feature to make it stand out from other scale focus cameras; the DOF scale on the face of the lens.
These two red tipped needles move with the chosen aperture and focus distance to show you the range of acceptable focus, neat and perfectly fit for purpose they make shooting a viewfinder camera so much more intuitive.
The only other ‘special’ feature is the shutter release lock. This is 100% necessary for surfing as the camera gets knocked around a lot by the waves, the only slight negative point is that the switch is a bit small and hard to operate while wearing gloves.
Apart from that its standard fare for a semi automatic 35mm camera; on the right hand side you have shutter release, film advance and shooting more dial with aperture priority mode, manual shutter speeds, bulb and M90 for when the batteries are dead.
On the left hand side there is an iso selector from 25 to 1600 and film rewind. The shooting mode dial (on the right) needs to be rotated to “R” before you try to rewind your film. Nothing more than you need again very intuitive to shoot right off the bat.
Get Out There!
If you do plan on surfing with your Nikonos, I recommend you add a chest strap to the existing shoulder strap, this allows you to secure the camera on your back while you’re surfing and easily swing it into the shooting position. With the shoulder strap alone the camera is just not secure enough and due to its (satisfying) heft, if the camera swings into your face or hits your board it could do some damage!
If you’ve been inspired to get in on the action I would recommend you check out @Nikonosproject for inspiration and get in the water, you are guaranteed to get a new perspective and with the Nikonos V, you’re almost guaranteed to feel like this: