dante stella stories photographs technical guestbook

Do you think a girl should go to bed with a feller, if she doesn't love him?
No... Unless it's me.

Nikon F: simplicity in primitivity

I found a black 1964 Nikon F languishing in an antique store, lonely in its case but conjoined to a Nikkor 8mm f/8 fisheye.  I took it home wrapped in some green tissue paper.  With some heavy cleanup of dust, funk and multiple dymo labels identifying its prior (and probably deceased) owner, I got it running.  Despite the dents and layers of black touch-up paint,  the little titanium shutter roared back to life.

There is a simple elegance to the early Nikon Fs: simple, clean design, spartan controls, and modular design (backs, prisms and focusing screens).  In fact, the F was a radical departure from earlier attempts at 35mm SLR design - and its industrial design informed every subsequent Japanese SLR in the 1960s.  There was a beautiful simplicity to the use of the camera: no meter needles, LEDs, arrows, anything - just look into the viewfinder abyss.  And even outside, it was just the lens aperture ring, shutter speed dial, winding lever and shutter release.  The one nit was the flash shoe over the rewind crank, but that arguably protected the prism from damage...

But for reasons knowable only to Nikon and George Lucas (since he did something similar with later Star Wars movies), the F series took an ugly and kludgy turn until its third generation: Photomic finders, various forms of lens indexing that involved sharp prongs catching round rods, ADR markings, lens speed posts, linear aperture operation, CPUs, AI, you name it.  The Rube Goldberg nature of Nikons through the 1960s and 1970s made the F3 a revelation.  And the later G lenses, though thoroughly despised by the Nikonians, really did a lot to clean up the deritritus of fifty years of molting technology.