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Hall of Fame: Nikon F

A real classic snapper and a serious piece of tech-history

Now this is old-school. We’re going way back to 1959 for this “Hall of Fame”-er, long before most of us at Stuff were even a sprog. 

For the lucky bunch who were around at the time this should serve as a hearty dose of nostalgia, for the rest of us younglings though, it’s sure to be a fun look at one of the most iconic cameras of the 20th century.

From paparazzi pics to images from the front lines, the Nikon F did it all, and still can to this day – if you can get your hands on one, that is.

Nikon F: what’s the story?

Nikon F: what

If you wanted a pro 35mm camera in the ’50s, you bought a Leica rangefinder – no one made serious SLRs, and certainly not ones as well made as a Leica. Then there was the Nikon F. It was built like a tank, sold alongside a range of super-sharp Nikkor lenses and started an SLR revolution that still rolls on. One advantage of SLRs is their ability to accept huge telephoto lenses, which instantly made the F a favourite of sports and wildlife photographers.

Image credit: Jim O’Connell on Flickr

RelatedNikon Df review

Why should I want one?

Why should I want one?

Film photography is far from dead, and the best film scanners will still give you a bigger image file from a 35mm frame than most digital cameras can output. It’s also nice to be reminded how well things were made 40 years ago – more than one F has saved a snapper’s life, including the one that stopped a bullet for war photographer Don McCullin. You can also pretend you’re David Hemmings in Blow Up.

Image credit: leebamforth on Flickr

What should I watch out for?

Even an F that’s been used to hammer in tent pegs is still likely to work, but as with all classic cameras, you need to check that the shutter doesn’t stick at the slower speeds – getting a camera expert to clean and lubricate will be costly. Deteriorated light-proofing seals can usually be fixed easily using DIY kits. Early serial numbers are worth more, as is black paint rather than chrome, and plain prism finders are preferable to the Photomic light-meter heads.

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