Nikon Cheap Thrills

More than a couple of you here have decided to shoot just a little bit of film, either with some of your dusty old 35mm gear or with some new found bargain gem from eBay. One lucky person is shooting one of my old Nikon F3's.

There are plenty of great deals on Nikon 35mm film bodies out there, although as I mentioned last week the trend seems to be somewhat up in terms of prices. I don't see near the number of amazing deals that I saw as little as a few months ago. Instead of me generally promoting that you go out and grab some of these for next to nothing, I thought I would start to give a few very specific recommendations.

First off a plain-Jane Nikon FE is probably the best deal around. For some reason the ultra-cheap FE2 of last year seems to be few and far between now. The FE maybe a better choice anyway - you can shoot Non-AI lenses on it. The only thing you really give up is top shutter speed and a slightly strange AE lock compared to the FE2.

Nikon FE's are still available in fantastic/near mint shape somewhere between $50-$100. Really nice Nikon FM's seem to be a bit more and far fewer - are they drying up? The FE maybe even a better choice than an FM in any case. It has aperture priority AE, a fantastic range of slow shutter speeds, most likely more accurate shutter speeds across the range, and a shutter speed dial that is unbelievabley easy but positive to change with one finger while looking through the viewfinder. The FM shutter speed dial is stiffer and seems somehow smaller. Yes the FE needs batteries but they last almost forever on this camera. Spare button cells take up NO room in your pocket, bag, wallet, whatever. The only thing I really like better about the FM is maybe the viewfinder display because it's easier to see the meter in darker environments.

Moving on to lenses on the cheap. There are a bunch of them I would recommend and will post some here but today I want to focus on a fantastically under-rated, under-priced, work of mechanical art. The Non-AI Nikkor 28mm f3.5.

I accidently aquired two of them. One of each major variety. One of them I bought on an impulse for $30 on eBay. How can a lens not be worth $30? The other came with a bunch of other stuff attached to a black Nikon FE. Yes the case and original caps came with it as well. Considering the price of the package, I consider it a freebie.

Here are the two. The first one is the newer, more familiar Nikkor variety. It's multi-coated and has fantastic ergonomics. A perfect balance of damping and focus lightness that makes it a joy to use. The other one has the more dated orginial look of Nikkons first SLR lenses. It's single coated and has a more damped feel to the focus but still impecable. The older one is actually in mint condition. Not a mark on any of the paint, like it was never used.

Both of them are surpisingly good picture makers. In most circumstances you cannot tell them apart on film. These are nothing like budget lenses of today. They came from an era in Nikon where there was no difference in the mechanics, workmanship, or handling of Nikkors. A Nikkor was a Nikkor. Built to last a lifetime and a work of art in and of itself. I swear both of these has the workmanship, fit and finish, and materials that in some ways are better than the newer Leica lenses I have used. All the markings are engraved. No play. Amazing.

I was never interested in these lenses - or any 28mm - when I was buying new Nikon AI/AIS lenses. I bought a 35mm f2 and a 35mm f 1.4. I swear that these lenses are at least as sharp, contrasty, good color, less CA, and possibly less distortion thatn either of those. You do have to put up with a modest aperture but in practice it really is no different than an f2.8 28mm that for some reason brings a lot more money.

Here is a quick snap shot on one or the other of them - don't remember which, just to see if it worked.

Here is another - again don't remember now which was which.

If you really want the convenience of AI you can try to find one that has been factory converted, or even buy the AI version - still a good deal, just not quite as good. I am sure that you can find one like either of these for less than 50 bucks. Maybe even an AI version but you will have to put a little more time and patience into it. Will it ever be worth less? Doubt it.

For my money I would definitly opt for one of these vs the more expensive but pretty much the same f2.8. Will you notice a difference in use - I doubt it.

The really strange thing about the 28 f3.5 is that it has a very large front element compared to the rest of the elements in the design and a very large front element for the maximum aperture. So as an added bonus it's very cool looking on the front of a nice metal 35mm SLR.


blog comments powered by Disqus