Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Shutter Function inside the Nikkormat FT3


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The Nikkormat FT3 is fitted with a Copal Square-S focal-plane shutter (vertical downward-travel type) offering speeds of from 1 second to 1/1000 second, as well as "B" for longer exposure. The electronic EL2 uses a Copal Square ES electronic shutter but as I can recall the Canon EF in 1973 also used a Copal Square metal focal plane shutter.

Copal.jpg (12k)

The shutter curtains of the FT3 are each constructed with three blades and travel across the film gate in approximately 6.7 milliseconds. With this shutter configuration, the curtains are moving (downward) across the shorter 24mm vertical gate dimension, thus, resulting in a more rapid transition from fully closed to fully open.

This effect means that the gate will be fully open for electronic flash synchronization at shutter speeds of 1/125 second and slower, thus offers approximately a one-step increase in the usable fast shutter speed, as when compared to most horizontal-travel shutter mechanisms. Relative: The
Nikon F's (1959) 1/60 sec; the Nikon F2 (1971) & Nikon F3 (1980) also posted a slow 1/80 sec. The competing professional models like the Canon F-1 (1/60 sec); Canon's New F-1, 1982 (1/90), Pentax LX, 1980 (1/75 sec) - where ALL these pro models were employed with a horizontal travelled shutter as opposed to vertical mechanism as the FT3. The 1/125 sec sync speed limit was eventually crashed by the Nikon FM2's original debut of 1/200 sec and later was mended to a higher 1/250 sec along with the FE2 with a initial offering of a honey-comb vertically travelled titanium shutter (We will discuss that in the later series).

Well, with the mechanical Nikkormats, the only few Nikons that were having their setting of the shutter speeds not through a shutter speed dial on the top panel of the body as commonly found in other Nikons.

Adjust.jpg (17k) ShutterSpeeds.jpg (15k)
Because tthe selection of the desired shutter speed is via a ring located at the base of the lens mounting flange at the front of the camera body (Well, only the Olympuses MF bodies still using that, include the superp top of the line OM3 & OM4 series).

As the ring is rotated through itsfull operation rangeviathelever provided, the changing settings appear successively within the finder so that the photographer can make necessary adjustments while countinuing to look through the finder eyepiece.

What was the logic behind moving these controls around the mount/lens section ? I think it has to do with the principle of human engineering factor. You see, all the controls were essentially a one hand control method. First, you have the left hand control the focus on the focusing ring on the lens, you adjust your apertures through your left hand too, now - the way the Nikkormats present - you also use the same left hand to adjust the shutter speeds (ASA at the bottom is only adjusted when required and thus was place at the least important area - under the shutter speed ring). You need not to move away from the viewfinder when composing and shooting, why ? As any Nikon user notice, the various textures and feel of the focusing ring, aperture ring on the lens is different. The shutter speed control was done through a lever - with a little seasoning and practice, you won't get things mess up. Although from a more modern Nikon SLR users' point of view, this may look primitive - exactly the reason why Nikon decided to change that Nikkormat way started even with the EL, where the current practice and handling was adopted. But it is fine with me, even I used mix system (I have a FT3..hehe).

Externally, the settings can be verified by checking the shutter speed scale on the ring. For precise setting from "B" - 1/125 second (No intermediate settings can be used in this range), click-stops help alignment with the index dot provided; from 1/250 second to 1/1000 second, click-stops are also provided, however intermediate settings can be selected for precise meter settings when fixed aperture lens like the Reflex-Nikkor lenses are used. Specific speed settings provided are "B" for bulb time exposures, 1 for one second, and 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60, 125, 250, 500 and 1000 for fractional values of from 1/2 second to 1/1000 second. Lastly, the shutter speed settings are color-coded for easy reference when flash synchronization operation is required; settings from 250 to 1000 are in red to indicate that these speeds cannot synchronize with electronic type flash units and that intermediate fractional shutter speeds are available, while the remaining settings are in black.

Kho Kingnikkormat_ft3_05.JPG
While the left hand controls those major functions, your right hand is naturally handle the other important task such as tripping the shutter when "things" are okay with you. The shutter is released via the release button fitted atop the camera body, slightly forward of the advance lever. The button may be actuated either by applying direct finger pressure, or via a standard ISO-type shutter release (e.g., AR-3 Cable Release) attached to the button (a Nikon-type release such as the AR-1 or AR-2 may also be used via the additional threads provided).

At shutter speeds of from 1 second to 1/1000 second, the button acts to trip the shutter for the time interval set via the shutter speed ring. When the ring is set to "B," however, the release button operation determines the duration of the shutter opening - as long as the button is depressed, the shutter remains open. This latter feature enables long time exposures.

Nikon has the self timer lever position at the same spot virtually on all of its cameras until the AF revolution started. This applied to even many semi auto MF bodies (Except the F3, strange..).The self-timer fitted on the front of the body can be used to delay the release of the shutter - a condition ideally suited for self-portraits or other special shooting situations. After advancing the film and setting the aperture and shutter speed controls as desired ("B," however, cannot be used), the plastictipped self-timer lever is turned approximately 50° preparatory for shutter release; then, when ready, the photographer simply depresses the shutter release button and the timer begins its 10-second (approx.) delay cycle, ending with the shutter being released for the interval specified by the shutter speed setting.

Selftimer.jpg (5k)
Note that : the self-timer lever is marked with a white stripe for better visibility during the delay cycle. It should be added that the selftimer can be used for vibration-free, special-purpose photography; set the timer as usual, and when the shutter is released, the mirror will rise immediately and the shutter will operate after the 10 second delay.

Viewing/Metering Part One & Part Two
Mechanism around the F-mount
The Copal
Square shutter and relative functions
Transport | Flash Photography | Spec

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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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