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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…