Film is alive and kicking – tips, cameras, beginners advice.

For over a hundred years film was the only option. The greatest names in photography all shot film; I’m sure you’ve heard of Ansel Adams.

Some of the most inspiring, well-known photographs ever produced were shot by famous photographers—so why do all the modern-day pros shoot digital if all the greats shot film? The answer is quite simple: convenience and cost.

If Film Is So Great, Why Do We Shoot Digital?

I would like to preface this tutorial by saying that I make the majority of my income from shooting digital. Film versus digital is a very controversial subject and the point of this tutorial is not to claim that one is better than the other, but rather to provide the reader a better understanding of film, and what it can do for them today, even in a digital world.

The digital format…

  1. Allows you to review your work after every single shot, from the camera, without having to wait for film to be developed.
  2. Is easily transferable in digital format from one computer to the next, or from one mobile phone to another, or from one email box to another.
  3. Costs less in the long run to print because there are no developing costs.
  4. Is more versatile because the digital sensor is able to change ISO on the fly.
  5. Does not expire like film does.

I could go on. The simple fact is that digital simply makes sense for the modern 35mm photographer and certainly for the weekend hobbyist. There are no messy chemicals to deal with, you’re not required to sit in a dark room for hours on end to see if your film [properly] developed, and you only need a memory card or two instead of roll after roll of film.

If Digital Is King, Why Are You Recommending Film?

If you are interested in becoming a photographer, starting out can be very expensive. Granted, if you buy used equipment you can save a lot of money. But even used, a digital SLR (DSLR) can run you a few hundred dollars whereas a mint condition film SLR will cost less than $100.

Even the most expensive, top of the line, professional film SLR’s on the used market go for a couple hundred bucks. On the other hand, top of the line DSLR’s go for thousands, even well used. Start-up cost is one of the toughest hurdles to overcome when getting into photography and this is where film can save you a bundle while getting your feet wet in the world of photography.

The second reason I recommend film to beginners is that it’s a more immersive way to learn about the relationship between aperture, ISO and shutter speed. You also have to be more cognizant of your surroundings and available light when shooting film. I have to admit, I’m a little grumpy knowing that many modern photographers never touched or even wanted to try their hand at film; they’re robbing themselves of a truly wonderful experience that I believe can take them to a whole other level.

The digital format allows one to be very sloppy, especially if you’re shooting in digital RAW format. You’re able to over or underexpose and fix it in post rather than doing it right in the first place. Heck, worrying about white-balance seems to be a thing of the past; a simple eye-dropper tool fixes everything for you in post! Learning on film teaches you to truly care about your surroundings while getting intimately familiar with your camera and all of its little quirks.

If you thought my reasons for shooting film were subjective, my final reasons are even more so; but hear me out. In my opinion, black and white photography has yet to be reproduced in digital format to echo the beautiful black and white film formats that are still available today.

It’s hard to explain; maybe it’s the film grain versus digital grain, maybe it’s the seemingly infinite tones that black and white film can produce or maybe it’s a combination of a lot of different elements aligning to “make it happen”. All I know is that I have yet to see consistent results from digital black and white prints that are as astoundingly gorgeous as examples from countless black and white prints that I have seen throughout my life. Obviously, this is subjective, but there you have it.

Canon EOS 630 – Kodak T-MAX400 B&W Film

Okay Fine, Where Do I Start?

Where else? The camera! There have been so many makes, models and formats of cameras over the years that it would be silly to try and review them all. And I don’t want to “fake it”, I’m not going to scour the internet looking for info on camera systems that I know nothing about. I believe that would only dilute my information and rob you of truly useful, real-world experience. My goal is to provide some of what I know so that you can make an informed decision when you go on the hunt for your own film camera.

In this article, I will not address medium or large format film cameras since I could write a book on that topic alone. Not to mention, I wouldn’t be saving you any money by recommending the medium/large format route anyway. Instead, I’ll start with Canon’s EOS systems, I’ll continue with a short glimpse into rangefinders and finish up with film recommendations.

I apologize ahead of time for those interested in Nikon or other manufacturers. I have far more experience with Canon, but some of these same principles should apply to other systems and the film recommendations should work across the board.

Let’s get started!

Canon EOS Elan

Models Include:

Elan II(e)
Elan 7(e)(n)(ne)

Up For Review: Elan IIe

The Canon EOS Elan IIe is a steal when you compare the price to performance ratio. While a 1v is a wonderful (and legendary) film SLR, even now a good copy is being sold for several hundred dollars and that might be a bit much to invest on a used film camera when you’re first starting out, especially since the Elan is so cheap and provides many of the same functions.

The Elan is also very easy to find in online auctions. It uses typical 35mm film and has the modern EF lens mount (versus the older, discontinued FD lens mount). I would highly recommend buying one that comes with a battery grip if you want to use AA batteries, the body itself will only take the more expensive 2CR5 batteries.


  1. Cost. ($20-$50)
  2. Performance and Features
  3. Ergonomics
  4. Pro Features


  1. eBay
  2. Buy/Sell sections on Camera Forums
  3. Local Camera Shops
  4. Yard Sales


  1. Silent Film Operation (Elan was the first SLR with near-silent operation)
  2. Simultaneous AF/MF with USM lenses
  3. A large thumb wheel for control
  4. High speed flash sync
  5. Basically the first “auto everything” SLR with just about every professional control you could ask for in a film SLR


  1. No AE Lock
  2. Not weather sealed (although I’ve had mine in the rain plenty of times)
  3. Known for underexposing when in difficult, mixed lighting situations if using lower ISO film (50,100)
  4. Make sure to buy one that comes with the grip so you can use AA batteries

Photo Sample

Canon EOS 600-Series

Models Include:

EOS 650
EOS 620
EOS 630

Up For Review: EOS 630

The reason I’m recommending the 600 series of cameras is that they’re extremely cheap, built like tanks, and can still be found quite easily. This series was among the first to rely on electronic focusing by communication between the on-board microprocessor and auto-focusing motors in EF lenses. The AF system out-performed anything else at the time.

The EOS 630 was the latest from the 600 line. It had the fastest processor which resulted in faster AF, had interchangeable viewing screens, had an illuminated LCD and could use databacks. It was also all metal construction; it has held up amazingly well over the years.

If I had a gripe, the biggest would be that it’s a pain to do manual metering because of the multiple button operations required to accomplish it. The camera is also not the most comfortable to hold in your hands in comparison with other EOS systems.


  1. Cost. ($5-$50)
  2. Performance and Features
  3. Build Quality
  4. Pro Features


  1. eBay
  2. Buy/Sell sections on Camera Forums
  3. Local Camera Shops
  4. Yard Sales


  1. Modern AF
  2. Interchangeable viewing screens
  3. Illuminated LCD
  4. Databack Compatible
  5. Metal construction


  1. Ergonomics not the best
  2. Multiple button presses for some operations

Photo Sample

Canon EOS Rebel Series

Models Include:

Rebel SII
Rebel X/XS
Rebel G
Rebel 2000
Rebel K2
Rebel Ti/T2

Up For Review: Rebel G

The Rebel series is probably the one you know as the “Andre Agassi camera”. The famous tennis player was hired by Canon to market their line of Rebel cameras throughout the 90′s and 2000′s. It was one of the most successful, mass-produced lines that Canon ever made (and continues that course with the digital Rebel today).

I’m recommending this camera because it costs next to nothing; I’ve seriously witnessed people give them away. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them, on the contrary! They’re quite capable with some pro-level features in a very light and compact package.

The reason they’re so cheap is that there were so many of them made and since they were never a “professional” camera, they were not that expensive, even when new. Don’t expect a lot of pro-features and amazing build quality, however.

If you want to spend next to nothing on a body just to get the experience of shooting and developing film, this is your camera.


  1. Cost. ($5-$30)
  2. Size and Weight
  3. Easy to find


  1. eBay
  2. Buy/Sell sections on Camera Forums
  3. Local Camera Shops
  4. Yard Sales


  1. Very compact and lightweight (half the weight of the Elan II and 630)
  2. Accepts all modern EF lenses
  3. Full meter scale in the viewfinder at all times, even in metered-manual mode


  1. Lacks DOF preview
  2. Viewfinder is cramped
  3. Built-in flash is weak
  4. Plastic lens mount rather than metal
  5. You only have one control to set both shutter speed and aperture, so manual mode metering is more difficult than it should be.

Photo Sample

The Rangefinder

What the heck is a rangefinder? It’s a camera fitted with a rangefinder, duh! For all intents and purposes, a rangefinder is a method of focusing. Most rangefinders show two images of a subject; when you turn a focus wheel, one of the images moves until it is lined up with the other image and that’s how you know it’s in focus. Personally, I really enjoy this method of focusing. Rangefinders are popular because of the following:

  1. Very compact
  2. No moving mirror
  3. Quiet operation
  4. “Both eyes open” shooting

Rangefinders offer a unique shooting experience in that you’re not looking through the lens like you do with an SLR. It’s sort of like shooting through a modern point-n-shoot. Because the viewfinder is off to the side, you can leave both eyes open while looking through the viewfinder to survey your scene as you’re shooting. This makes the rangefinder very popular amongst urban and photojournalist photographers.

If you’ve researched rangefinders at any level, you’ve probably run across mention of Leica, they are the bad boys in the realm of rangefinders, the top of the pack. Unfortunately, that means they’re also insanely expensive.

I’ve had experience with several rangefinders over the years, but I always go back to my Canon QL-17 GIII. I love the photos that come out of this thing, especially black and whites. It is often referred to as the “poor man’s Leica” because the lens quality was able to produce incredible photos for the price.

Canon Canonet QL-17 GIII

You can find them on used camera forums and eBay for $20-$30. The reason you can find them so cheap is that the light seals are often shot, sometimes the aperture blades are frozen and the shutter speed may be off.

If you are lucky enough to find one that only needs the light seals replaced, it’s a relatively easy and cheap fix (we’re talking $12-$15 for the new seals) if you do the repair yourself.

Light Seal Replacement on my Canon Canonet QL-17 GIII

Photo Sample

Canon Canonet QL-17 GII – Kodak B&W T-MAX400

You’ve Convinced Me, So What About Film?

First and foremost, find a reputable local camera lab and give them a call. They’ll tell you what kind of film they’re able to handle as well as what they can print and what sort of print medium they can print on.

Don’t be shy about admitting you’re a film beginner. In fact, I encourage it. Otherwise, they’ll assume you know what you’re doing and you may miss out on some very important lessons while working with your photo lab. After you’ve developed your first couple of rolls, feel free to see if there are other services that are cheaper (including online) if you’re so inclined.

I recommend your local camera shop because I’m a believer in supporting your local industry. And, as I eluded to, you can learn a lot by asking questions and dealing with your lab in person.

Negative and Slide Film

Generally speaking, there are two types of film; slide film and negative film. I’m going to focus on negative film, it’s the easiest (and cheapest) to work with. As you progress, you may want to dabble with slide film as it can technically produce better prints than negatives can and slide longevity is much greater than negatives (which start to deteriorate well within a decade).

Film Speed

Next up is film speed. ISO speeds in digital cameras came from the ISO film rating system and the same principles apply. The larger the ISO number, the less light you’ll need to expose your scene on the film negative.

What I would recommend is starting with an ISO400 film (or thereabouts) so that you have a little more latitude with available light. Any higher and you’ll really start to see a lot of film grain and any lower will require sunlight or lots of interior light, more than a typically lit room in your house will provide.


You may have heard that some people store batteries in their refrigerator. Well, I have no idea if that does anything for batteries or not, but it certainly does for film. I store all of my film in the fridge. Why? Film is made of chemicals that start to break down as heat is introduced. The warmer it gets, the faster it deteriorates.

If you keep your film cold, the process is slowed, although never completely stopped. It doesn’t matter whether you keep your film in the fridge or the freezer, there are no ill effects to film if you freeze and defrost it. However, I keep mine in the fridge so that I can use it immediately instead of waiting for it to thaw.


Here’s some film that I’ve used over the years. I shoot B&W Kodak T-MAX400 almost exclusively these days, although I do pop in a roll of T-MAX100 once in a while. As for color, I can’t remember the last time I used a color negative film slower than 400. I would probably recommend starting with TMX400 if you’re interested in B&W, I find it to be very versatile. Again, call up your local shop and make sure there will be no problems developing whatever film you decide to use.

Black & White

Slow: Ilford Pan F50
Mid/Fast: Plus-X, FP4,Tri-X, T-MAX400


Slow: Kodak Gold 100, Fuji Super G 100
Mid/Fast: Kodak Professional Portra / Royal Gold 400, Fuji NPH

Important Note

When you buy your first used film camera, make sure to put a roll of cheap color film through it and have your photo lab develop straight to a CD so that you can check for possible issues with the camera. You’ll be able to see if there are light leaks, if the shutter is off or the aperture blades are malfunctioning.

I also recommend getting yourself a light meter or using your digital camera to meter (if you have one, of course). Write down the readings and compare them with the photos you get back to determine if your film camera has a metering problem.

Wrap Up

I know you’ll have many questions when you buy that first film camera and run that first roll through it, and a lot of it will be trial and error. But I hope this article will be enough to get you started and I encourage each of you to at least try shooting a couple rolls of film.

I’ve provided some options that cost next-to-nothing, so even if you don’t enjoy yourself, you’re not out that much cash. I’m betting you’ll have a blast!

Just be careful, it can become very addicting very quickly. Before you know it, you’ll be buying developer chemicals and trying to figure out which room in your house you can get away with turning into a darkroom!

All photos © Shane Parker Photography


How to Collect and Identify Vintage Cameras.

Collecting vintage cameras has become more popular in recent years, especially as digital cameras have replaced film cameras in most homes as the first choice for family and holiday snapshots. Collectors should follow a few simple guidelines when considering vintage cameras, whether they are collecting for fun or hoping to find rarities that will gain value in the future.


  1. Find out what cameras are collectible and which are just junk. Get a vintage camera collector’s guide, such as the McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras. The guide is large and expensive but is the most comprehensive book on vintage cameras on the market. Watch auctions on eBay and see which cameras get a lot of bids. These two sources alone can help you become familiar with vintage cameras.
  2. Poke around antique stores, thrift stores, flea markets and vintage camera shops. Look at the cameras that are available and see what prices these stores are asking. While browsing, you should pick up the cameras and give them a good going-over, checking for dirt, rust, mold and other conditions that might make the camera inoperable. You should also try the mechanics of the camera to see what works and what doesn’t. The more you handle vintage cameras, the more familiar you will become with the various brands and styles that are out there, as well as what a mint-condition camera versus a poor-condition camera looks and feels like.
  3. Look for cameras that were extremely popular brands and that were produced in high quantities, which may be easy to find in a decent used condition. These are great cameras to search out, especially for vintage camera collectors who wish to use the cameras to take photos and not just to display or resell them. Leica, Nikon, Canon, Minolta and Yashica are all well-known brands that created quality products. Beware of cameras that have no name on them or that are imprinted with brand names you don’t recognize. While some of these might be decent cameras, it is always a good idea to do the research first and find out before you buy. You will become familiar with the common cameras quickly, and after some study, the rare finds will begin to stand out.
  4. Look for cameras that will hold their value for a long time. Usually these are cameras that introduced new, groundbreaking technology when they were released or that became known as workhorses–cameras that could function well for a long time with little maintenance. Leica cameras were the first 35 mm cameras that were compact and portable and have maintained a lifetime reputation for being great cameras with exceptional lenses. Argus was the first American compact 35 mm camera, which sold for $12.50 when it first hit stores in 1936. While their value isn’t very high, vintage Argus “Bricks” can still be found in good working order, and they make great 35 mm cameras for amateur photographers who want to play around with manual film cameras. Rollei was a popular brand, especially for their medium format Rolleiflex, which was used by several fine art photographers. Rolleiflex cameras are still easy to find in good working condition. The Nikon F introduced an updated SLR design that made it much easier for photojournalists to use it in the field. Nikon still produces the F series, so there are several generations of these to be found, from the original through to the more recent F6. There are other great cameras to look for; just do your research and find one that suits your style.
  5. Decide what is of value to you and then start learning all about that type of camera if you want to collect vintage cameras. Small, portable cameras have been marketed to consumers since the 1920s. Millions of makes and types of cameras have been produced since that time. Some vintage camera enthusiasts are photographers first and want to collect cameras that will be usable either as is or with some minor cleaning and repairs. Photographers frequently collect several of the same kind of camera so that they can use the ones in good condition for photos and the others can be broken down for parts. Other collectors have no intention of using the cameras but are interested in finding and collecting vintage pieces to display for nostalgia or in hunting down rare treasures to resell them.

Tips & Warnings

  1. Visit your local vintage camera shops, thrift stores and antique stores frequently. In many places, the turnover of stock happens quickly, and frequent visits will allow you to keep up with what’s coming in. Also, the more that store owners get to know you and what you’re looking for, the more likely they are to start buying those items from others and letting you know about them.
  2. If you’re looking for vintage cameras that are still in working order, become familiar with how to check camera functions and how to clean old cameras. Some conditions, such as mold in the lens, are not easily reversed and make the camera inoperable unless you replace the lens.


Intro to film cameras.

In this video You can check :

  • several vintage cameras
  • photographies shot with different kind of films
  • tips how to set the camera with manual settings





Celebrities with film cameras.

Between the 1950S-1970S.

Arnold Schwarzenegger with an SLR

Audrey Hepburn being photographed by Fred Astaire

Bob Dylan with a Nikon SP Rangefinder

George Harrison with (left to right) A Nikon F, A Kodak Retina IIS and his Rolleiflex

Grace Kelly taking Frank Sinatra’s photo with a Hasselblad

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis with an SLR

James Dean taking a photograph of Anna Maria Pierangeli with a Rolleiflex

James Dean with a Rolleiflex

Leonard Nimoy and a Nikon F

Liz Taylor and a Rolleiflex

Marilyn Monroe with Nikon Camera by Bert Stern

Michael Jackson with an SLR

Mick Jagger with a Polaroid (Image by Baron Wolman)

Nick Drake with a Hasselblad

Paul McCartney self portrait with a twin reflex camera

Paul McCartney, a cup of tea and a Pentax Spotmatic

Ringo Starr with a Pentax SLR

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page with Nikon F2s

Sammy Davis Jr. puts in face time with his Rolleiflex in the early 50Õs.

Sean Connery with an SLR

Stanley Kubrick with a rangefinder

The Queen with a Leica

The Supremes with their Polaroid Land cameras


Nikon F2.

Nikon F in full flower and evolution to Nikon F2

Demand for Nikon F exceeds production

The introduction of the Nikomat series on the market in 1965 triggered an additional surge in the demand for high-end SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras, after which SLR cameras reached the zenith.
We, at what then was Nippon Kogaku K.K., phased out of producing the unprofitable popular models and placed emphasis on production and sales of high-end models. Nikon F, the leading model of high quality SLR cameras, played the driving role in changing the policy and contributed to an increase in sales.

In April 1967, Nikon F Photomic TN went on sale as a successor to Nikon F Photomic T (released in September 1965); following the redesign of the Photomic T finder assembly and changing the exposure measurement system from averaged brightness measurement to center-weighted metering, which concentrates the meter’s sensitivity on the center of the picture frame (φ12 mm).
This model evolved into Nikon Photomic FTN in September 1968, featuring an expanded metering range (giving the exposure time of 4 seconds at T shutter speed) and an easier way to set the maximum aperture when changing lenses.


American bank and airline makes advertisement motivated by the spirit of Nikon F

In response to the surge in demand, the Camera Division expanded the production plant and made organizational changes to increase the production capacity. The streamlining of production, and the increase of production through expansion of production facilities in subsidiaries followed. In actuality, however, all this while the sales volume continued to increase sharply, and production had a hard time catching up with the demand for a long period of time.
This situation was remarked upon by writer Saburo Shiroyama in the 1970 March issue of the “Camera Mainichi” magazine, in an article entitled “Why can’t we get a Nikon F?” in which the unavailability was attributed to the corporate culture of Nippon Kogaku K.K. involving the sincere attitude of the engineers, which has helped Nikon in gaining a solid reputation though it is acting as a brake on production increased. His comments ended with the statement that the unavailability would persist unless Nippon Kogaku K.K. abandoned their sincere philosophy of emphasizing the technology.

Nikon F was produced in Yokohama Works starting in 1971, and production was to discontinued in March 1972 after the introduction of the next-generation mainline camera (Nikon F2). However, in response to the persistent demand in the domestic and export markets, it was decided to continue production and an output-increasing system was set up involving the subsidiaries which were asked to share in the production.

Development of the next-generation mainline SLR camera

Nikon F was developed originally as a system camera and then was brought nearer to a perfect system through the successive introduction of accessories designed to be detachable from the body to allow a wide range of shooting distances.
The needs of the users became sophisticated and the request for improved functionality and performance increased. Then, we devised a plan to develop a new model A Camera which would follow the basic features of Nikon F and share the interchangeable lenses and other accessories with Nikon F, in consideration of the fact that the body mechanisms would have to be redesigned for a thorough improvement of functionality and performance with an eye to the near future, and started the prototype manufacturing in September 1965.


Nikon F2

Nikon F2 Photomic

The development was started with the emphasis placed on fulfilling the four requirements listed below:

  1. The highest possible quality,
  2. Ease of operation and the fastest possible shooting,
  3. Full compatibility, and
  4. Automatic operation

In July 1970, a pre-production prototype was completed as the embodiment of “system camera” which successfully achieved the four objectives. This A Camera inherited the technical philosophy for designing the highest quality SLR cameras, which had been accumulated and refined in the evolution of Nikon F, and added the novel features as listed below.
For the shutter system:

  1. The shutter blind running speed was increased by two times to 10ms (milliseconds) and the high-speed shutter speed of 1/2,000 sec. was newly incorporated in the shutter system.
  2. A high-precision variable speed control cam was adopted to allow intermediate shutter speeds from 1/80 to 1/2,000 sec.
  3. The flash synchronization was at 1/80 sec. (at 1/60 sec. in Nikon F).
  4. An ultra slow shutter speed between 2 and 10 sec. was attained with the use of a self-timer.

These enhancements of the shutter contributed to the further expansion of the shooting range.

For the finder system, a large mirror was adopted with the mirror vertical length increased to 30 mm from 28 mm to prevent possible eclipse on the mirror in the finder system of long-focus lenses.

In addition, Photomic Finder was improved to allow the indication of the shutter speed and an aperture value in the field of view, as well as reading on any coupled exposure meter despite its reduced size.

Furthermore, the hinged opening/closing design was adopted for the back cover (the back and bottom covers in Nikon F were removable), and the shutter release position was moved to the front on the top cover (from the rear on the top cover in Nikon F).

In terms of the profile design, the battery holder and switching mechanism for the exposure meter, which had been integrated in the Photomic finder in the Nikon F Series, were moved to the body to help downsize the camera head. In addition, the body was redesigned with both ends rounded to fit snugly in the palm of the hand with consideration given to tactile feeling.

The completion of the prototype was not followed by immediate entry into mass production. It took about one year from completion of the prototype to the appearance on the market for these reasons: The pace of startup of mass production of any new product was decelerated since the production line had been busy with boosting the production of Nikon F for a prolonged period of time, and particularly greater importance was attached to quality assurance including the achieving the stability of the high-speed shutter for use by professionals and the performance of the 500,000 lux-minute light leak test (to expose the articles under test to 10,000 lux for 50 minutes).

Specifications of Nikon F2 Photomic
35 mm single-lens reflex focal-plane shutter camera (finder interchangeable)
Interchangeable among 6 different types
Finder screen is interchangeable among 17 different types
A vignetting-free large reflex mirror with the quick return mirror mechanism, upper fixing available (mirror-up)
Lens aperture
Instant-return type with lockup facility
Exposure measurement
Center-weighted exposure measurement at open aperture, Manual exposure control.
Metering range EV1 to 17 with ASA/ISO 100 film
Titanium foil focal-plane shutter,
Shutter speeds: 10ms, T, B, 1 to 1/2,000 sec. with intermediate shutter speeds available from X (1/80 sec.) to 1/2,000 sec.
ultra-slow shutter speeds possible from 2 to 10sec.
Flash sync. at X (1/80 sec. or less)
(Approx.) 152.5 x 102 x 65 mm (body alone)
(Approx.) 840g (body alone)

Disclosure of Nikon F2

Roll-out of Nikon F2 (Osaka)

The A Camera which successfully fit the needs for increased performance and greater versatility was named Nikon F2 (with eye-level finder) and Nikon F2 Photomic (with Photomic finder incorporating a new TTL exposure meter), which were disclosed to the news media in August 1971.

Then in September, a preview was held at Tokyo by inviting a total of about 3,000 guests including professional news photographers, distributors, and selected users. Additional previews were held in succession in six big cities, Osaka, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Sendai, Hiroshima and Nagoya.

In addition, in the Tokyo Nikon Fair held in the same month (September 17 to 22) at the Keio Department Store in Shinjuku, Tokyo, to commemorate the appearance of Nikon F2 on the market, 260,000 camera fans rushed in exceeding the 230,000 visitors to the Japan Camera Show in that year, causing a large turnout at the Fair.

In other countries, a preview was held in August in New York, U.S., and an announcement was made at the meeting of sales agencies in European countries held in September in Amsterdam, Netherlands, which was followed by the release in October.

Nikon F2 Photomic S with EE control

Nikon F2 Photomic was evolved into Nikon F2 Photomic S in March 1973 by replacing the Photomic finder with the Photomic S finder which adopted the LED (light emission diode) indication and expanded the metering range in the lower luminance to -2 EV.

Nikon F2 Photomic S implemented the shutter-priority automatic exposure control with the EE Control Unit which went on sale in conjunction with it. This, combined with the automatic film wind and rewind function available with the specifically designed motor drive MD-1, and the later described automatic focusing achieved with AF Nikkor 80 mm f/4.5 (trial manufacture), contributed to meet the three requirements for automatic cameras: 1.) correct exposure, 2.) film wind and rewind function, and 3.) focusing, and provided the first step toward “full-automatic cameras”.

With the emergence of the Nikon F2 Series, the production of Nikon F Series, which had been a favorite for 15 years, was discontinued in September 1973 with a total sales volume of around 862,600, and sales were concluded in June 1974 with the clearance of the inventory.

Expectations for electronic cameras

Nikomat EL

From 1960 onwards, technological innovation made remarkable progress with the use of computers and ICs. Cameras were also becoming increasingly electronic with the introduction of cutting edge science and technology. In fact, a camera with electronically controlled shutter made is market debut in 1965, and in 1968 TTL automatic exposure control 35 mm single-lens reflex (SLR) camera appeared.

We released the Nikomat EL in December 1972 as the first electronically controlled shutter SLR camera aimed at the electronic camera market.

A key feature of EL was, needless to say, the adoption of an electronically controlled shutter, which allowed step-less automatic control and selection of the proper shutter speed in the range from low 4 sec. to high 1/1,000 sec. for a (aperture-priority) correct exposure once an aperture was set.

The core of the shutter speed control circuit was configured with a single monolithic IC. This camera was the first to practically apply to cameras the monolithic IC, which was made up with 74 transistors, 27 resistors and aluminum-deposited lead wires printed directly on a 2 mm-square silicon chip.

For the power supply for the electronic circuit, a silver oxide battery (one 6V 4G13, the present 4SR44,) was used for its superior low-temperature resistance and long useful life.

This camera was also configured with the FRE (a metal foil resistor that delivers the information such as film sensitivity and lens aperture value to the control circuit) and a storage circuit that made good use of the automatic exposure control. This provided any intended correct exposure even during shooting in backlit condition. The product was a full-scale electronic camera making full use of our electronic technologies.

On top of the penta prism, there was a JIS-compatible hot shoe.
In addition, giving consideration to the limited availability of silver batteries for cameras in those days, provision was made to allow use of a mechanical shutter at 1/90 sec. whenever and wherever the battery went dead. The interchangeable lenses and accessories were mostly shared with Nikon F Series.

AF Nikkor 80 mm F4.5

In 1965, the Laboratory launched the development of an automatic focusing (AF) system for single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras and succeeded in April 1971 to implement the automatic focusing lens AF Nikkor 80 mm f/4.5. It was designed to identify the position at which the image of the subject at the center of finder became sharpest, using a photoconductive element.
The lens was put on display in the Photo Expo held in the same month at Chicago and attracted considerable attention. It was exhibited also in the 12th Photokina in September 1972 together with the Nikon system configured primarily with Nikon F2 Photomic S and the Nikomat EL, and the world’s first developed autofocus interchangeable lens was hit by a barrage of questions from earnest visitors.

Responding to higher public estimation

Nikon for recording expeditions

In April 1961, Major Gagarin in the former Soviet Union succeeded in making one orbit of the earth in the first manned spaceflight in the spacecraft Vostok 1. Then, in May the U.S. launched a manned satellite ship and the astronaut Colonel Shepard used a 16 mm cine camera (of special design manufactured in U.S.) first in space to take photos from the ship.

Since then, cameras have been playing an increasingly important role in spaceflight. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) selected Nikon products as payload cameras for the spaceships Apollo 15 to 17 in the Apollo Program which had been launched in 1961 aiming at manned lunar landing, and in January 1971 we entered into a contract with NASA to supply our cameras.

Nikon Photomic FTN was selected as the base model for the cameras for the Apollo Program. However, the lubricating oil and other materials and equipment used were all based on the special NASA specifications, and product specifications also included special requirements. The requirements were exacting as follows: the cameras should pass the tests to demonstrate that camera operation never affect the electrical systems in the spaceship; the outside of cameras should be black matte finish to eliminate any problem due to reflection of sunlight; adequate reliability should be assured against extremely high and low temperature, humidity, and vibration and impact (approx. 7 G) during the launching; and delivery times are shorter.

We delivered 9 cameras (with 55 mm f/1.2) and relevant accessories in June 1971 that had successfully satisfied all of the NASA requirements, and the spaceship Apollo 15 with the Nikon products was launched in July.

Nikon Photomic FTN on the basis of NASA specifications

Nikon Photomic FTN was also selected as a special camera system for use in the space station “Skylab” which operated in 1972 for the objectives of proving that humans could live and work in space for extended periods and achieving rendezvous and docking with artificial satellite in addition to the above described application for the Apollo Program.

In the Skylab, the Photomic FTN cameras were primarily used to take pictures of the ozone layer over the earth and the aurora at dusk at regular intervals using the interval meter. One camera model was designed to the same specifications as for the Apollo Program, and the other one was a motor-driven camera equipped with the specifically designed long-loading magazine with the UV Nikkor 55 mm f/2 lens for ultraviolet rays to allow shooting in the UV range of 200 – 400nm (nanometer). These products were all supplied successfully by March 1972.
Also installed aboard the Skylab was Nikon Portable Microscope Model H (put on sale in December 1958) that was modified to take micrographs when coupled with a camera.

By the way, in the Antarctic expeditions involving exacting requirements, a variety of Nikon products have been adopted as formal observation equipment since the first Japanese Antarctic expedition in 1956.

The project of Antarctic expedition was interrupted once in 1962, but it was resumed in 1965, and in November a total of 27 various cameras including various spectroscopes for aurora observation, microscopes, Nikon S3, NIKONOS, Nikon F, Nikon F Photomic T, Nikomat FT and Nikomat FS and a lot of various NIKKOR interchangeable lenses to be coupled with theses cameras were dispatched as formal equipment for observation and research with the 7th Antarctic Expedition Party.

These pieces of equipment had all passed the low temperature tests as eligible equipment for polar expeditions to demonstrate that they could perform fully even in the extreme cold at 60° below zero, and they delivered their performance in the observation and research of auroras, terrestrial magnetism, ionosphere, weather, living things, geological feature, and earthquake.


The Twenty Most Popular 35mm Photo Cameras in History

Olympus OM-1 (1972)


The OM 1, thanks to its compact size and versatility, quickly became the favored tool of astro-photographers, in the 70s. Its metal body weighed just over half a kilo, and this is probably why the OM 1 was (and still is ) a part of many astronomers’ kits. The fact that it is still sought after on the used markets speaks of just how much of a pleasure this camera is to use.

Canon T90 (1986)


This was the last of the manual focus professional cameras from the Canon camp, and also the last to use the FD mount. It was a top of the line camera of its time, boasting of features such as the user interface, professional design and automation options. It came with an in built motor drive, giving 4.5 frames per second. The T90 also had the most sophisticated light metering system of its times.

Pentax Spotmatic


Asahi Corporation’s Spotmatic was a legend in its own right. Introduced in 1964, it was the first company to successfully market and sell a through the lens, or TTL metering system. As the name suggests, the camera sued a spot metering system, which turned out to be a delight with photographers around the world. Moreover, the legendary image quality of the Super Takumar lenses that this camera used, is talked about even today!

Leica M7


The ‘M’ series is Leica’s iconic line of range finder cameras that somehow had a special appeal with photojournalists of yesteryear. The M7 is a ‘new’ model in the series, launched as recently as 2002. It bridges the classic M series 35mm versatility and portability, with modern cutting edge technology. It offers complete manual controls, as well as an aperture priority mode. The M7 can still be used mechanically (with limited control options) if you run out of batteries.

Leica Leicaflex SL2 (1974)


This was the third ever SLR to be launched by Leica, following the Leicaflex and the Leicaflex SL. It came with a micro prism and also a split image focusing system, which many found easier to use than the conventional systems of the day. Leica was definitely late to enter the SLR markets, but people who swear by Leica still feel that the Leicaflex SL2 was one of the best SLRs ever to be launched.

Minolta SRT 101


Launched in 1966, the Monilta SRT 101 sold well for over ten years, with only minor changes to the body over the time. This was the first camera from Minolta that offered full aperture metering capabilities, something that took Nikon an additional twelve years to accomplish! The camera had an extremely bright viewfinder with a center prism focusing aid, and was a pleasure to use. It was sold with a 58mm f 1.4 ‘standard’ Roccor lens.

Olympus OM 3


The OM3 was definitely one of the most advanced mechanical cameras ever to have been produced. It offered an incredibly high shutter speed of 1/2000 sec and also the latest metering technology of its time – multi spot. It had a compact body, and a viewfinder that was extremely large and bright. It offered surprisingly long battery life, but of course you could still make use of the mechanical shutter even when and if the batteries were drained out.

Pentax MX


Until the LX came out, this was the flagship professional SLR from Pentax. Like many other cameras of the time, the Pentax MX depended on batteries only for its light meter. The horizontal curtain type shutter was completely mechanically controlled. This was a well-built camera, small in size and high on performance – something that is commonplace today, but quite remarkable at the time. The depth of field preview, lacking in the K1000, was a welcome feature with the MX.

Canon EOS 650 (1987)


When the Canon EOS 650 was launched in 1987, it was unlike any other camera on the market. It had an intelligent lens-camera mount, sensitive to information transfer apart from of course simply mounting the lens in place. This camera marked the beginning of a series of automatic features and ‘intelligent’ cameras from Canon. The electronic input dial on this camera was an instant hit with photographers.

Pentax LX


Launched in 1980 as a ‘pin-sized jewel of a camera’, the Pentax MX remained in production until 1997! This camera body was rugged and dependable, and the choice for many many professional photographers during its 17 year production. The LX came to be known as a camera that would rarely let you down. It was an iconic model if you look at the development of 35mm camera systems over the years.

Minolta Maxxum 800si


The 800Si is yet another camera to remember. This was truly a feature packed model by Minolta. A zoom-flash, auto film loading, auto wind, auto rewind, low light AF that locked onto even moving subjects in low light…you get the picture! The 800SI was aimed at the advanced amateur user. Its pop-up flash was one of the most powerful in-built flashes ever to be put into a camera.

Nikon F4


The Nikon F4 was launched in 1988, and it was popularized as ‘the legend’. The choice of professionals for many years, the F4 took any manual or AF lens produced by Nikon since 1959. A rugged design, and dependable build quality were the hallmarks of the F4. This was a fully electronic camera, and required at least one of its three batteries to be charged for normal operations. A range of film backs and viewfinders made this a classic professional camera body.

Contax G2


The G1 and G2 formed the core of the ‘G’-system from Contax. These rangefinder cameras were, in appearance very much like the classic range finder cameras from the 30s or 40s. However, advanced technological features such as auto focus and auto wind made the G2 a pleasure to use. The CZ lenses from the G series gave subtle and realistic color tones on film. Rangefinder cameras are not for everybody, but people used to this system agreed that Contax could definitely give the likes of Leica, a run for their money.

Pentax K1000


Most photographers have used, or known someone who has used a Pentax K1000 at one time or the other. This was an affordable camera aimed at the amateur photographer, and was launched in 1976. This model quickly became a students’ favorite, and accepted all K-mount Pentax lenses, and lenses made under licensees such as Ricoh and Cosina. It remains a collectors’ favorite till date.

Pentax ZX-5N


Many people looked at the ZX-5N as a ‘modern classic’. People transitioning from classic manual body SLRs may have found using tiny buttons to change settings, quite a tiresome process. To them, the ZX-5N was a welcome product with traditional shutter speed dials, with the AF thrown in for good measure. Its plastic body was surprisingly robust, and it was a fitting camera to use with the amazing Pentax lenses of the day.

Canon A-1 (1977)


This was an advanced SLR aimed at the professional user, and remained in production from 1977 to 1985. This was the first camera ever to offer a completely electronically controlled auto exposure mode. What this meant was, the photographed did not have to work out that he needed to use shutter speed priority when for example, shooting sports. The A-1 had a microprocessor that automatically worked out the perfect settings based on the light meter input!

Minolta Maxxum 700SI


The Minolta Maxxum 700SI was a feature packed SLR, aimed at the professional or advanced amateur user. Its eye-start autofocus system was quite a commendable achievement for its time. But what was appreciated most about this camera was its thoughtfully laid-out control dials. The photographer hardly ever needed to get his eye away from the viewfinder, to change settings.

Minolta Maxxum 70


Minolta launched their last two film cameras in 2004, and the Maxxum 70 was the better of the two. Also known as the Dynax 60, this was a low cost product, but thoughtfully so, entering the markets at a time when film cameras were quickly losing popularity. It offered a range of exciting features, and robust build quality. No wonder we still find people using the Maxxum 70! If you are looking for a low cost film body this could still be the right back-up camera for you.

Canon EOS Elan 7


This was a wonderfully light and easy to use camera. Existing EOS users could adapt to it in a matter of minutes, without even reading the manual. It had a very useful mirror lock facility, and photographers who shoot macro or tele would understand the true value of this feature.

Contax RTS III


This was an excellent camera launched in the early 90s, which lacked some features but gave other sin return. The Contax RTS II boasted of a vacuum-oriented system to hold the film as flat as possible (Real Time Vacuum or RTV)!