dante stella stories photographs technical guestbook

Libby Stella's take on what people call a dog.
Nikon N2020: Underrated

N2020 (F501) bashing is a prime sport on the internet. One of the most ridiculous things I have seen around the internet is the constant bashing of the N2020 (probably explaining why bodies go for $150 and under). One writer calls it "tolerable but still ugly used as a manual focus camera."

Au contraire. There's nothing ugly about using this camera for manual focus work.

— Other than the F4s, which still costs 7x as much used (and which has the same dog-slow AF system), the N2020 is the only camera with focus assist that can be used in Program mode with AI and AIs lenses. Nikon figured out that requiring lenses to have a CPU to get programmed automation was an easy way to sell a lot of AF lenses to owners of subsequent bodies. Note that some of Nikon's superstar lenses -- like the 35/1.4, the 50/1.2 and the 105/1.8 are available only in manual-focus -- and these lenses do not have CPUs (unless you have them retrofitted, which is a bit costly and mutilates the lens).

— The N2000/N2020's 2.5fps built-in motor drive comes in a total package that is much smaller than the FG with MD-14, its closest functional equivalent. It's also cheaper. The N2000/N2020 was the smallest Nikon platform with an integral motor drive.

— The N2000/N2020 has better ergonomics than the FM/FE/FM2/FE2/FA, FG, and F3 bodies sans motordrive.

— The N2020's focusing CCD, while not as sophisticated or fast as that in the N90s or F100, is not demonstrably less accurate in focusing. This is a big deal; a lot has been done since 1986 to increase sensor coverage (vertical/horizontal) and microprocessor speed, but there has been little (if any) advance in focusing accuracy when the lens does come to rest.

— The N2020 has interchangeable focusing screens. A grid screen is really nice with 28mm and shorter lenses. This is something completely missing from the FG.

— The N2020 still has focusing screens that allow manual focusing. Same note about current manual-focus-only lenses such as the 35/1.4, the 50/1.2 and the 105/1.8. The N90s and F100 only have B and E screens, neither of which have focusing aids. At that point, you're pretty much relying on the AF system alone to confirm something is in focus. In addition to B and E, the N2020 has an optional J screen, which includes a microprism spot.

So before you write off the N2020, consider a killer deal in a manual-focus body.