Thursday 27 July 2017

A Few Thoughts on Nikon Film Bodies

Timothy's with Colour
Nikon FE, Micro-Nikkor 55/3.5 AI, Superia 400

Nikon's 100th Anniversary was on July 25th and frankly, was underwhelming. A teaser of the upcoming D850 (which has been rumoured for months) and some mediocre special edition products with cosmetic-only changes.

Nikon missed a great chance for 2-3 special products.

First off, an F7. This could have been a regular, low-production item. Nikon's had a new F in every decade except the 60's (the F was 1959, the F2 1972). With all the new E lenses, Nikon no longer has a film body for Pro's to use with their modern glass. Nikon should leverage the D810 or D850 electronics to produce an F7. It doesn't need anything fancy, just the new metering, AF and lens control systems from the D8x0 bodies and updates to use the modern batteries instead of Lithium or EN-EL4's. This would sell in moderate quantities to serious amateurs and working pro's who still use film for some of their work and have been purchasing the new E lenses (especially now that the 24-79/2.8 and 70-200/2.8 are E lenses)

Secondly, an FM4. The FM3a was a real missed opportunity for Nikon and its poor sales no doubt made them gunshy about producing a manual, mechanical camera. But the lack of success of the FM3a was entirely predictable, there's a good reason why the FE2 lasted for 6 years of production, but the FM2(n) lasted for 21, and it's because the core market for old manual cameras are the people who want simple, uber-reliable, manual cameras, not AE cameras. The FM3a was an updated FE2 with a battery-free mode, rather than the FM2n update that people actually were interested in. For the FM4, take an FM2n, add selectable spot metering and maybe TTL flash and that's it. Use the excellent B/E/K3 screens and include a flippy AI tab. It'll sell, and sell much better than the FM3a did, because that's what users were actually asking for in the FM3. It helps that today we aren't flooded with used, low-mileage FM2n's like we were in 2004.

The third possibility was to do another S special run. They did one in 2000 and this is a good time to do another one. The RF market is small, but very solid and still heavily film-oriented.

On the subject of my film bodies, here's where I'm at.

FE - My normal body for colour film. This is an heirloom body for me, given to me by my Aunt who bought it new and shot it for years. The FE bodies aren't my favourites, but I do get along with them and it'll stay in my bag for a long time.

FG - My normal body for B&W film. It's a solid little camera that I like a fair bit, but at some point it'll get replaced by an FM2n. It's good enough that I'll wait for the right (black) FM2n rather than snap up the first I find. In the mean time, I enjoy it.

EM - This was a freebie, acquired as a rear cap on a 50/1.8 Series E. I usually have one of these floating around, and have owned half a dozen of them over the years since my I got my first SLR (which was indeed an EM). It's my beater body and will continue in that role.

N6000 - Aka the F601m. A manual camera based on the F601 AF camera, but with a couple minor updates. Another Nikon oddity that I like. I'll keep it around because it's odd & fun. Supports G lenses, unlike its AF elder brother. May get another cheap F801s to go alongside it. Not a regular shooter, but I bust it out for the occasional roll.

F80 - Lightweight but good body, but my only body without AI support. Right now it's my film body in the digital bag, since it supports VR and AF-S, but at some point it'll get replaced by an F100 to get AI support and compatibility with AI lenses (as well as handling more like my D300). When that happens it'll either get disposed of, or I'll pickup a cheap 28-105 and use it as a desk/car camera.

While this does look like a lot of bodies, film bodies outside the desirable FM series, FE2, and F2/F3 are so cheap these days that I quite literally have about $100 total in the 5 bodies I own (and two were freebies).

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