Nikon F2 History

Input of Thousands

Because of the Nikon F's incredible popularity among professional and advanced amateur photographers, Nikon had a huge base from which to draw inspiration for the impending replacement for the F. Several refinements transformed the F into the more modern F2, including modularized internal construction (championed by repair personnel), a smoother and shorter winding stroke (welcomed by all), easier motor synchronisation (applauded by photojournalists), and a hinged back (cheered by all people with fewer than three hands). Batteries were moved from the finders into the body itself, and mirror lock-up was now a routine affair.

The F2 is a direct descendant of the F. The controls may have changed a bit, but the basic design was so similar that finders, screens, and of course lenses may be swapped between cameras without loss of function (except for the metered finders). Overall, the design smoothed off most of the F's hard creases; the sides of the body fit the hand a bit more nicely, plastic-tipped control levers were easier to manipulate and felt better, and the finders generally appeared slightly more modern, with the large, blocky angular Photomic prisms replaced by slightly smaller (by moving the battery compartment to the body), blocky DP-x Photomics. I think that the F2 with DE-1 looks just as good as an F with eyelevel, while the various F2 Photomics look a bit too corporate and undistinguished/unusual compared to, say, a F with FTn.

Of course, there were those who groused that the F2 wasn't as durable or reliable as the F, and who refused to adopt the new camera until the last new F's were all sold out. Of course, these were the same people who later wholeheartedly avoided the F3 when it came out in 1980. On the whole, though, the F2 was a runaway success. The improvement in mirror lock-up is nearly worth the added cost. The price was still forbiddingly steep, the camera was still heavy, but it offered the same bulletproof reliability and compatibility (to a degree yet unmatched by successive F models) demanded by loyal Nikon users.

System in Full Bloom

Not only was the F2 system impressively huge (including such esoteric items as an infrared remote control), it was extremely well thought-out and tightly integrated. Chances were that if you could think of a particular photographic method, Nikon had already thought about it, and had an accessory for you. Even if you didn't need that Multiphot now, who knew what you'd be doing with your camera in the future? The Nikon System offered room to grow beyond walking and snapping shots to setting up your camera unattended for time-lapse photography to offering a complete motorised camera + fast flash for reportage.

Even if you think you'd never need something like a Microflex, having it available was better than not having a good solution to microscope photography. Buying into the Nikon system meant that you were buying photographic insurance, of a sort -- assurance that your needs, no matter how esoteric, would be taken care of in the future.

Even today, the F2 system is unsurpassed. The 1970's saw an explosion in manual-focus technology, with amazing new lenses (e.g. 13f/5.6, internal focussing, and ED lenses), incredible triggering technology (MW-1, ML-1, and MT-1), and

Professionals' 35mm SLR

At the close of the 1960's, Nikon had a virtual stranglehold on the professional 35mm market. Minolta was only just beginning to make their own system camera, the XK. Canon had just unveiled their F-1 bare months before Nikon took the wraps off the F2. Pentax was left struggling with the inconvenience of the M42 thread mount before coming out with the KX and later LX. The wizards at Olympus conjured up a svelte dream in their OM-system. Kyocera/Yashica were about to ressurect a distinguished name and roll out the rapid Contax RTS. Even venerable Leitz partnered with Minolta to produce the first R3. Yet with all of these pro-oriented, system cameras flooding the market, the F2 continued to thrive and, indeed, extended Nikon's domination through the 1970's. Why?

In large part, the F's popularity had quite a bit to do with it. Many professionals and amateurs had already heavily invested in Nikkors, whether for use with their F, Nikkormat, or Nikkorex cameras. Because the F2 offered the same lensmount and accepted many of the same accessories, and would continue to do so for the forseeable future, professionals could be assured that their investment was protected.

Again, it cannot be said enough that the F2 system was the most extensive in virtually all kinds of photography. Sure, there were many specialised cameras that did one thing better than the F2, but the fact that the F2 was capable of performing virtually all of the photography that you'd ever need (short of larger formats -- and with the Speed Magny system, even that was a bulky possibility) was very attractive. Besides which, many of the different Nikon accessories were quite useful in many different fields: the Modulite ML-1 could be used to remotely trigger a camera, useful for either getting yourself into the picture or out of harm's way, the MF-1 250 exposure back freed reporters from having to stop and reload and made amazing time-lapse sequences possible, with the appropriate accessories.

Extending the Legend

As more and more F2's found their way into (and falling out of) professional hands, people quickly discovered the most touted F2 virtue -- its earth-shaking reliability and solidness.

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