1950's Nikon

Nikon F

Nikon F

First introduced in 1959, the Nikon F was a gamechanger in the SLR game. Despite being late to the SLR market, this is the camera most people remember as the first SLR.

If you were asked to name the first mp3 player, what would be your answer?

Probably an iPod, right?

However, the iPod was not the first mp3 player in the world. Five years before the iPod launched, several companies had already been producing mp3 players. But very few people remember these mp3 players.

Everyone remembers the iPod.

And it’s the same case with Nikon’s first professional camera.

And for good reasons.

Here’s why it is considered a “first.”

Features of the Camera

The Nikon F didn’t come with any innovations. What made it stand out was the amalgamation of all the best features of SLRs at the time. Nikon incorporated all the innovations that Leica, Contax, Exacta, and Asahi had introduced in their cameras.

And the result?

A camera that had solved all the limitations that cameras at the time had. It came with interchangeable lenses, an improved viewfinder and was of better quality and build.

And that’s not all…

It featured a modular design—it was possible to interchange some of the parts of the camera.

One of these parts was the lens. It was the first camera to feature the F-mount bayonet lens mount. This mount allowed easy swapping of the lens.

If you own a Nikon, F, you can use any Nikon manual or AF lens produced since 1959—as long as the lens isn’t rated ‘G.’

It doesn’t end there…

The modular design also allowed easy swapping of the viewfinder. With this camera you got the choice of three viewfinders, namely:

  • Standard prism
  • Waist-level prism
  • Sport’s finder—good for you if you wear glasses.

The interchangeable viewfinders made this camera suitable for every shooting scenario.

There’s more…

The Nikon F was also a fully mechanical camera.

  • There were no batteries to leak
  • No contacts to corrode, and
  • No circuits to degrade.

A camera built to last.

And that’s not all…

The Nikon viewfinder also came with an impeccable metering system.

Earlier versions of the F camera didn’t feature TTL metering. However, cameras produced after 1961 came with a more advanced photonic meter head, which allowed Through the Lens metering—a system that Nikon would use for decades.  

Metering on the camera was 60% center weighted.

Design and Physical Appearance

The Nikon F was a classically styled camera, with only the bare essential included. All controls were easy to access and simple to use.

On the top plate, you had:

  • Shutter speed dial
  • Film advance lever
  • Shutter release
  • Film rewind knob

On the front you had

  • The self-timer dial.
  • Depth of Field preview button
  • Lens release button
  • Mirror lock-up switch.

Shortcomings of the Camera

One of the most significant shortcomings with this camera is its weight. At 850g, it is one of the heaviest SLRs ever made.

If you’re a traveller or the kind of person who throws their camera in the bag for a day of shooting, this is not the camera for you.

Another shortcoming with the camera was the rigid shard design. This camera featured sharp edges which made it feel unnatural to the hand. This rigid design makes the film advance lever uncomfortable to use.

Although not a shortcoming, the photonic meters are large and take away the elegant feel of the body. These finders have also become non-functional in the 21st century. However, you can easily switch up the finder to the more ergonomic waste level and eye-level finders.

Final Thoughts

The Nikon F is one of the most significant cameras in SLR history.

It was the first camera to show the world what a well-designed SLR was capable of.

With a bulletproof design, a wide range of accessories, and long-term usability, the Nikon F is a great camera. It’s a camera that will turn heads and start conversations. A worthy addition to your vintage classic camera collection. 

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