Nikon F2AS

Nikon F2AS Review – The Camera That Filled The Void – By Chris Barrett

On a sticky early morning lines of cars crawling up the small highway give way to vendors for miles on either side of the small country highway. It’s the first weekend of August and the World’s Longest Yard Sale is in full swing for its 35th year in a row. I grew up at the start of it, or for some the end. On top of Noccalula Falls it begins every year, like a three day celebration for antiques, cool finds, and that one thing you know you shouldn’t have bought, but did anyways.
I felt this way about my Black Nikon F2AS, at first. I already had a chrome F2, but never liked the look of it. I used it extensively, but the chrome never filled the void. Looks aren’t everything, sure, but why settle for less!

The Hunt

Back in 2016 my beautiful U.S. Navy Canon F-1 got stolen out of my apartment parking lot at the time. It was my first film camera. My grandfather bought it for me from a man who did an entire book with it on paranormal photography. It was the only camera that could give a decent flash sync to capture, what he thought, were ghosts and aberrations. I miss that camera to this day. Little did I know that it’d be a silver lining. In searching for another film camera I eventually got into buying and selling and continue to do so today. A few dozen cameras later I settled on a minty chrome F2 I had found at an estate sale. It was perfect, for a little while.

Nikon F2AS sample
Signal Mountain, Tennessee. One of my favorite spots.
Nikon F2AS sample
Old barn off Tabor Rd, Gadsden, AL

Love At First Sight

Six months later a notification popped up on a defunct buy/sell app. A lady selling a black Nikon F2AS. $80. With a couple of lenses. I thought no chance. Sure enough I messaged her immediately and she answered with “I’m getting a ride now, could you meet here.” She dropped a pin a bit far for my liking, but a deal like that I couldn’t complain. It was April 2020, Covid was in full swing and gas was cheap. I met her at the pin and looked over the camera. It was in immaculate shape. The lens, unbeknownst to me was a 28mm F2 AIS, worth the $80 alone that she was asking for. I handed her the money and we went our separate ways.

The camera felt good, everything was tight, the seals were still perfect. Whoever used it before me, knew what they had, and I did as well. A perfect sidekick, a desert island 35mm SLR. The 28mm felt at home as well. I had never used a prime that wide, but it grew on me the more I used it.

Nikon F2AS sample
Sand Rock, Alabama
Pickers Field

Real World Use

I had so many projects that year, the Nikon F2AS was there for all of them. The biggest one, every year is The World’s Longest Yard Sale. Antiquers came out in droves to find a bargain for the ages or to sell their rusty, rare wares. Rain or shine, it’s a week long holiday that stretches all 690 miles of the 127 country highway. I brought three cameras, my Yashica T4, an RB67, and my trusty Nikon F2AS with a 35mm F2. The Nikon stays on me at all times. It’s tack sharp focusing through the DP-12 prism makes it hard to miss focus. There’s the full 100% image in the viewfinder every time I lift it up to my eye. It’s an extension to my hand when photographing, a feeling that I’ve longed for with every other 35mm SLR I’ve tried. At times, it welcomes a conversation. Every stop someone asks “did you just buy that.” Or “What kinda camera is that.” It never fails.

One of the best stops on the entire sale, year after year,was seeing Dutch. He passed away earlier this year.

A Case for the F2 – The Near Perfect Camera

Outside of having an excellent viewfinder, the Nikon F2AS isn’t lacking in features. It’s 1/2000 of a shutter speed has been more than useful on a bright midday with a 400 speed film loaded in it. The light meter in mine has never been wrong or even slightly off, so much so that I don’t ever feel the need for a handheld meter to accompany it. It has a certain heft to it, but not heavy like an F with a Photomic meter. It’s built like a light, ergonomic, tank.

Flipping the light meter on is easy enough, just push the advance lever out half way and it’ll give you a meter read out with a “+” for overexposed “o” for right on the money and “-“ for underexposed. It works pretty good, but by far this is my least favorite thing on the entire camera. I generally dislike these kinds of meter readouts. They just don’t provide enough info. I’d love to have the same meter readout like on the FE series cameras where it shows your shutter speed exactly. A small gripe and definitely doesn’t hinder the cameras usability in any way.

Long exposures are super easy with or without a release cable. The 2 and 10 second self times works flawlessly and is always there if you need it with a flick of the switch.

Outside of the camera itself, you get a wide array of already lored about Nikon glass that needs no review or more praise. My 35mm F2 AI stays on mine 95% of the time. I believe the Nikon F2AS is the perfect medium between the vintage tactility of generations past and the new aged autofocus plastic fantastics of the 90’s. The F2AS isn’t laden with bells and whistles or fancy electronic modes. It is perfectly simple, with rugged good looks and reliability to boot.

Just outside of Dogtown, Alabama

Final Thoughts

Would I recommend this camera over every other Nikon F, FE, FM model. As someone who has used all of them up to the F4, without a doubt, yes. You could make a case for the F3 or FM3a, but they feel too modern in a way. The F3 a beautiful camera, with a big, bright viewfinder and clean design, but I don’t get the type of tactile feel like I do with the Nikon F2AS. It’s also not fully mechanical, which is a major pitfall. The older F is a classic with similar features, but the smaller form factor of the F2AS just feels right to me.

Would I recommend this camera (or any other F2) over every other 35mm SLR. Yes. Everyone has their preferences though, which is one of the many beauties of film cameras. A Nikon F2AS, can still be found for a decent price, it has an unmatched build quality compared to other “starter” film cameras like the Pentax K1000 and forever overhyped Canon AE-1 (Program). Are those cameras always available, usually, but if you just dig a little, you can find an F2 and maybe never have to worry about having GAS again…

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About The Author

13 thoughts on “Nikon F2AS Review – The Camera That Filled The Void – By Chris Barrett”

  1. Pingback: Nikon F2AS Review – The Camera That Filled The Void - General Advice

  2. I feel your love for this camera! I have a black F2A and love it’s feel in the hand – especially with the 55 micro ais on it. I love my 35 2.8 ais as well – a much more useful standard lens than a 50 in my opinion – but that seems a better match to my FM2. That combination is like an extension of my hand.

    Gorgeous colour in your photos, by the way!

    1. Yes sir. I felt that as well. And felt it for my own. I too had an F2AS (DP 12 makes it that. Right?). I unlike the author used a light meter (spot/flash/ambient) thus never needing, or using the cameras built-in meter. Or the “on/off” switch. (Wasn’t trust trusting of the general overall averaged method of metering). So I had a totally mechanical beast. I had a Tameron 70-200mm(? All glass – heavy) lens and the MD-2 motor drive. (6AA’s?). It wasn’t lightweight. But I loved it. Bought it (+ the 50mm on it) in 1986(? early or late ’85) and was stolen in ’98-99(?). Ironically about 3-4 weeks after my insurance co. informed me they no longer would cary that type of equipment. Before I could get another company. Left me with my FG (given me for my high school graduation. ’84). And my Mamaya 645. Both good. Abd definitely improvements over the first camera I ever used. Itself decent. A Brownie. M

  3. I enjoyed reading your post. The Nikon F2 has a special status in my collection. It compels one to go out and make photographs and with its heavy motor drive one feels empowered to handle any job. A co-worker gave me his F2 and I had it cleaned and it works great. I used the F3 and FM professionally and they fit in my hand like a well used glove, but the F2 is a special camera and I immediately wanted to get one the first time I borrowed one. I also have F, FtN, F4, F5 and N90s bodies and use them regularly.

    Thanks for your article

  4. The FE, FA, and F3 do have one advantage over the F2 – they can take long exposures at night in auto mode, exposures sometimes lasting several minutes.

    That said, the F2 is possibly the best-looking camera Nikon ever made. My daughter is using mine, and also gave her my F, so her cousin can take pictures too when they get together. And of course the F2 works just fine without batteries. 80$? You got a screaming good deal.

  5. You made a comment here that the F2 has a smaller form factor than the F. I am confused as I was under the impression that the F2 was essentially the same dimensions and chassis as the F. The F3 is where Nikon truly developed a new body. I find the F2 to be bigger and heavier than my F3, FE2, or FA by a noticeable margin which is not necessarily bad. You apparently have the DP11 or 12 viewfinder with the SDS metering and the LED indicators. My F2 has the DP1 finder with the needle indicator which I prefer. Regardless of these details I whole heartedly agree that the shooting experience is one of those “the whole being more than the sum of the parts” type of phenomenon. When it comes time for me to further “thin the heard”, the F2 will be one of the few I hold onto until the end.

  6. Clive Prothero-Brooks

    that is very nice camera, I have a related one to that the “SB” great cameras , I agree the + and – in the finder can be frustrating at times. just bought a F4s what a camera very ergonomic to use and weight not an issue compared to my Pentax 67 and RB67

      1. After early years of Canon usage, I found a used F2 at my local camera store and plan on keeping it FOREVER. One of my favorite portrait lenses is the 85mm 1.4! And the icing on the cake? I literally just bought a 40mm F2 Voigtlander Ultron lens TODAY. Needless to say, I’m all in.

  7. Loved reading about your love of the F2AS, as I share that affinity. I got a good if not great deal on a really clean, black AS that after two rolls decided would never leave my modest collection. The heft, the layout and industrial design really appeal, it just feels like quality. It has soul! I keep the 35mm f1.4 AIS on it when stored so I can grab it and go with my favorite focal length. I also have a chrome FE that I bought new in the late 80’s, an F100 also bought new in 2000, an immaculate chrome F with prism and fTn finders, and a near mint F3HP. I sent the F2AS to famed F2 specialist Sover Wong in the UK, for a thorough going over in 2020. It was really good before, but great now. It is good for the remainder of my life and beyond. I’ll admit, I do struggle with the viewfinder a bit with my glasses, and wish I could blend the excellent viewpoint of the finder on the F3HP with the rugged beauty of the DP12 finder of the AS. Despite this niggle, it hasn’t reduced my love for the F2! Thanks for the article and happy shooting!

  8. I too have a black F2AS. Purchased new in 1979, used professionally for a few years until it was stolen with other gear in a break-in at my home in 1994. Three years later got a call from the police in Cairns (1000km north), they had found the camera, sans lens, in a routine check of traders at a boot sale market. Serial number identified me as owner, hence the call. Got the camera via post a few days later. Was a bit grubby but not damaged, sent off to Nikon for CLA . Now pride of place in my collection. Would never sell.
    Thanks for the article. Brought back memories.

  9. After early years of Canon usage, I found a used F2 at my local camera store and plan on keeping it FOREVER. One of my favorite portrait lenses is the 85mm 1.4! And the icing on the cake? I literally just bought a 40mm F2 Voigtlander Ultron lens TODAY. Needless to say, I’m all in.

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