I bought my F2 about 4 years ago in response to a Gumtree advert placed by a guy a few miles down the road from me. I had been curious about the camera since I first took up photography in the early 1980s and read about the camera’s legendary reputation.
The seller explained that he had purchased the camera new in the late 70s but had hardly used it as he had bought an F3 on its release soon after his purchase of the F2. Shure enough the camera was in great condition displaying little sign of any use and was in my preferred black finish, so money changed hands and the camera was mine.
This review relates to the F2AS variant, the last in the line & featuring the DP-12 metered prism, the review isn’t going to be a detailed analysis of every technical aspect of the camera (plenty other reviews cover this) more a general overview of how the camera works as a tool for my purposes i.e. street / general walk-around photography.
A phrase quite commonly used to describe this camera is that it’s a beast, & on first handling the camera you immediately know why as its heft is instantly apparent. It’s a large camera, especially when compared to something like a Pentax MX or Olympus OM1.
There is nothing remotely flimsy in the construction of this camera, everything appears to be metal & machined to the tightest tolerances & exuding a feeling of quality, manifest in the ever so smooth wind on action etc. Of course, this is an entirely mechanical camera relying on battery power purely for the exposure meter. The camera is capable of delivering timed shutter speeds from 10 sec – 1/2000 sec, yes 10 seconds, and is even capable of delivering in-between shutter speeds from 1/80 – 1/2000 sec. Has mirror lockup & self-timer with variable delay, unfortunately Nikon chose to use a proprietary flash mount which requires an adapter to accommodate a standard hot shoe, this unfortunately then covers the re-wind handle, but does move the flash off centre.
The camera has interchangeable viewfinders & focus screens the viewfinder in this case being the DP-12 metered prism. This affords full aperture & shutter speed info in small windows either side of the exposure indicator led’s which consist of a + sign for overexposure and – sign for under exposure, correct exposure indicated by an O sign. 1 stop over or under being indicated by a combination of the + O or – O indicators on together. Happily, all the information is placed along the bottom of the viewfinder unlike the Nikon FM for example which spreads the info all over the viewfinder. As mentioned earlier the aperture & shutter windows are small, much smaller than those on the FM and are hard to see in low light although there is a switch on the top of the finder which illuminates the shutter speed info. The meter appears very accurate and I would happily trust it for slide film, it’s also sensitive in low light -2 EV if I remember correctly, which was remarkable for its day. The meter is activated by moving the wind on lever to its stand-off position, but the shutter can still be fired without activating the meter unlike the later versions of the FM & FE, where the shutter button is locked until the wind on-lever is in the stand-off position, much to the annoyance of some street shooters.
The shutter button can be locked by a rotating collar that surrounds the button, firing off the shutter results in a sharp clack, but without the sensation of any vibration being transmitted through the body, surely the result of a well-damped mechanism and the solid mass of the body, all adding to the reassuring feel of engineering excellence.
As you will gather from the description outlined above I am impressed by this machine and have had excellent results from the film I’ve put through it, unfortunately that totals only 2 rolls to date. I think there are several reasons behind its lack of use, one being that my copy is in such nice condition and with values rising so quickly I’m reluctant to damage it, another being it’s heavy to lug around all day, and consequently I find myself picking up something lighter. Also, the physical size of the camera doesn’t lend itself to low profile street photography, however it certainly would make a useful weapon if attacked on the street.
In conclusion, if You’re not bothered by weight / size. A manual only camera is ok & you don’t need aperture priority mode’s etc I would strongly recommend this camera, after all it’s undoubtedly a classic, and due to its build quality be more likely to give reliable service than lesser cameras from this era. It’s also not going to devalue any time soon and of course it uses Nikon glass, giving access to a huge range of optics to meet most requirements.