Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikkormat EL - Features & Controls Part III


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IC.jpg (4k)
The Electronically Control Shutter This can be reagrded as the first mass scaled production electronic Nikon SLR camera. Nobody has put more attention to its reliability than the company itself, since it could turn out to be either a disastrous first attempt or a success story, which would convince the users of the arrival of electronic age in photography. Thus, Nikon itself developed a solid-state electronic circuit for the EL, which enabled the Nikkormat EL to provide not only completely automatic exposure control, but also exceptionally high and constant shutter speed accuracy.

When set on "A", the camera automatically selects the shutter speed that will give you correct exposure at the chosen lens aperture and indicates that speed in the viewfinder. What's more, the automatic system is not limited to the marked speeds but can select any in-between setting that may be required, and that means that the EL has a stepless shutter speeds control, from 4 seconds to 1/1000th of a second. You can also shoot at a specific shutter speed whenever you wish and still be sure of perfect exposure by simply aligning the meter needle in the finder.

Power on view of Nikkormat EL
That was something new to the users at the time and impossible for a mechanical shutter to achieve. The selling point for the EL expanded, because the exceptional speed accuracy (As I said, those times) produced by the electronic system can be especially useful for color photography with its narrow latitude films. To back its performance, to design the electronic components that form the heart of the Nikkormat EL's control system is quite essential. Let us take a look at those budding age and technologies behind the electronic application in camera design.

: Image coutesy of: Russell Gough® <>". Russell also has a EBAY STORE on his own. All images appeared herein are Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer

Circuit Grey Scale.jpg (14k)
Monolithic Integrated Circuit (IC) Size smaller than the head of a match. Yet, it contains some 100 electronic components - 74 transistors and 27 resistors - all integrated on a 2 millimeter square base plate. The monolithic construction of this IC, developed by Nikon, contributes not only to the compactness of the Nikkormat EL but, more important, to the absolute reliability of its shutter. It eliminates the risk of defective connections between multiple circuits, and helps assure accurate and highly stable shutter performance even under conditions of extreme heat and cold. * Credit: Picture magnification of the chip courtesy of Nikon technical dept. in Shriro Malaysia.

Functional Resistance Element (FRE) Another product of Nikon technology is the Functional Resistance Element (FRE) which transmits the ASA film speed and lens aperture setting to the electronic circuitry. It consists of an ultra-precise, thin-metal resistor on a hard glass base plate and provides stability against changes in temperature and humidity. This important component has been made extra durable by the use of precious metals for the connecting taps and tracing brushes.* Credit: Picture extracted from a reference booklet, courtesy of Nikon technical dept. in Shriro Malaysia.* Compared with a sophistication of a modern multi-modes SLR, this can be very simple, say a New F-1 from Canon. I have more detailed info to explain how the FRE works. But again, that was 10 years after the EL and it was a top professional model from competing company.

Since an electronic camera needs battery to power most of the major functions, the power issue was addressed very well. A single 6-Volt battery supplies power not only for the shutter but also for the metering system. The silver oxide type of battery was selected for its efficient performance even under temperature extremes ranging as low as -15°C (5°F) and as high as 55 C (130°F), as well as for its great capacity. Moreover, the power-saving, advanced design of the Nikkormat EL electronic circuitry helps prolong the battery life. Under normal use, it will last a full year. (Even if it is completely exhausted, the shutter can still operate at 1/90th second. By tripping the mechanical back-up lever - one of the many important reason why the EL, the FE etc. were selling so well, at least it convinced me to change from the FM to the FE, ha!)

won't find a battery compartment cover under the body as with other models, in fact some of the earlier mechanical Nikkormats were the same. Because the battery is housed in the bottom of the mirror box - Nikon realised that as well, eventually, later Nikkormats F and EL series was reverted back to the bottom instead of in body - that was convenient factor but may be Nikon thought the cells must be protected ? Errr.., Nikon claimed officially in the marketing brochures that it helps keep the Nikkormat EL body as compact and slim as possible. Whatever the reasons are, it is easily changed after raising the camera mirror. But a handy and useful feature was, there is a battery test button and condition indicator, located at the back of the camera. This was retained until the FE in 1978.

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

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Recommended links to understand more technical details related to the Nikkor F-mount and production Serial Number: by: my friend, Rick Oleson by: Hansen, Lars Holst

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Copyright © 1998. HIURA Shinsaku ® ; Nikomat ML, Japan,
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* Credit: A Great thanks to Mr Denis Pleic for his volunteering effort to reedit content and and patching some grammatical mistakes found in this section of the PIM site. Miss Rissa (Marketing) & Edward (Techical) of Shriro Malaysia, distributor of Nikon cameras in Malaysia, in providing so many useful inputs to make this site possible. Mr Hong, Ipoh for lending me his FT2 to take some of the images used in this site. This site is created for his eldest son, Yuen who has picked up his father's hobby and the FT-2. My friend, John Walls from Florida, US for his images of the FTn body and the Zoom Nikkor 43-86mm.

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