While in Manchester a few weeks ago I was lucky to find a Nikon F2 in very good condition. Not only that, there are quite a few variants of this beast, and it was the exact one I wanted: silver with the non-metered prism.
The F2 was Nikon's flagship camera for the 70s. It improved on the previous flagship, the F, by being slightly lighter, smaller and having improved technical specs. It also had a 'swing back' - the mode of opening the back which lasted until the end of the film SLR era. Much like its predecessor it is a fully mechanical 'system camera', meaning that it's highly modular allowing users to replace things like the prism and back to fit metered heads, high speed backs and then clip on motor drives. The body is notoriously sturdy. It's essentially a block of aluminium with a shutter in it. I think someone famous once said you'd never be mugged while carrying an F2 because throwing the camera at your assailant would ensure they had a really bad day.
One of the great features of this camera is the plethora of viewfinders which it can mount. On board light meter technology was improving in the 60s and 70s and this was the end of the era when photographers had to carry a separate metering device. Consequently the F2 could mount various 'metered heads'. All of which are very ugly. The connection between the lens and the metered heads is particularly abstruse and requires 'bunny ear' lenses to allow the communication of the aperture to the meter. So I was really pleased to find a silver model with a much prettier 'non-metered head'. Meaning I have to rely on a light meter app in my phone (while trying to also not use my phone to take the photo - damn you convenient 2019 technology!). Also, I can mount most Nikon lenses from the 2000s backwards. No metering, no bunny ears needed.
The famous Nikon 'bunny ears' showing how they connect to a metered head. Photo courtesy of DPReview.
The F2 is a simple beast by today's standards. But an absolute joy to use. The ca-chunk of the shutter is incredibly satisfying, as is feeling the gentle thudding of the gears as you alter the dials. Without a metered head attached, there is no need for any batteries. So you can use the thing in the cold without fear of it powering down.
In terms of its cultural impact, the F2 was the camera of the 70s. Weirdly it's a bit under-represented in Hollywood, with the F being 'the camera that shot Vietnam' and the pro-sumer FM featuring in The Eyes of Laura Mars. Nick Nolte uses an F2 in the 1982 movie Under Fire, set in 1979 Nicaragua, though.
Below are some of the best shots I got with the test roll. To finish, I'd highly recommend a visit to The Real Camera Co. in Manchester if you're in the area. They have an amazing array of stock and are very generous with their time and advice.
Part 2 will follow very soon, which showcases another purchase. Because you can never own enough Nikons...