lunedì 11 maggio 2015

One take, one frame, one camera: Nikkormat FTn

And also one lens, one film, two scanners. 

I wanted to make a brief review of the cameras I own, or the cameras, for any reason, I consider interesting, so I decided to describe them in only one take, trying to show what is possible to do with that special model of camera I chose.
Today, in this new appointment, I'm going to talk of the Nikkormat FTn, a very strong, mechanical 35mm slr that can be used proudly and with satisfaction also in the digital era.
Many years ago, I owned a Nikkormat FT3, a wonderful camera that could be adapted esily at every Nikkor manual focus lens series: Nikkor pre AI, Nikkor AI and Nikkor AIS.
I own only Nikkor AIS, so when a couple of months ago I found a very cheap Nikkormat FTn body on sale, I had no doubts about what to do. I bought it that camera also if the internal light meter didn't look to work at all and if there was a sort of customization on the lever that changes the film speed, inhibiting to move the sensitivity indications of the camera exposure meter.

General appearance
I love simplicity, robustness and praticality, for me the Nikkormat FTn is a masterpiece of design, force and ergonomy. 
Having in the hands an object partially hand made with precision and heavy metals, bring us back to the time the photographic tools were sort of eternal jewels, instead of plastic with no value made to last 2 years, or a bit more, like it happens now.
One of the things I like best is the finishing of the pentaprism: big, bi-coluored with a squared part on the top and a thick metal plate with written "Nikkormat" screwed (screws on view) onto the front of it.
Without to say that there is not at all the useless shoe flash for stupid flashes.
I hate flash. Maybe you already understood it.
I love to feel the metal on my hands, so I'm very happy the film advance lever is made in a unique piece of chromed plated brass, without useless gummy cover.

The shooting
The camera is very, very tough, I wanted to take a picture where I could give immediately this idea and, at the same time, I wanted to employ the Nikkormat FTn in a typical situation where it could be at ease without asking too much at an old veteran. 
The focusing screen misses a broken image line rangefinder; this means that it's not totally easy to focus only on the matt glass (not so clear) and on the microprism circle that is not too bad either, but not even comes near the extraordinary contrasted Leicaflex SL microprism circle, produced just one year later, in 1968.
The camera was hand held and it was raining.
To determine the exposure I used a separate digital light meter: a Gossen Digisix.

Lens: Nikkor Ais 35mm f 1:2
Film: Kodakcolor Plus 200 Iso: 200 1/125 sec. f 5,6
Scanner: Canon FS 4000 US

Lens: Nikkor Ais 35mm f 1:2
Film: Kodakcolor Plus 200 Iso: 200 1/125 sec. f 5,6
Scanner: Agfa D-lab 1

The result
The scan made with the Agfa D-lab 1 of Emma Canepari comes out of the machine without doing any additional adjustment, while for the scan made with the Canonscan FS 4000 US I adjusted chroma and other variants at my will, including some "photoshopping".
The final result is not stunning, in both cases. I think this depends by 3 factors: the focus could have been made not perfectly on the face, but on the arms, scanning negative is not the best way to enjoy an analog support (expecially if you correct the grain with some noise reduction tool) and finally I think the Kodakcolor Plus can be a good film for snapshots under the sun, but it has not such a good answer under the shadows. 

Nikkormat FTn serial number 3515092. Alleged year of manufacture: 1967
(photographed with a JVC Picsio GM FN 1)

Color film negative: Kodakcolor Plus 200

Why to choose this camera?
Today I had to do some other pictures and I had with me, as usual, my Pentax Q and the Nikkormat FTn, at the end I've been able to take some photographs only with the Nikkormat because, after I recharged the litium battery of the digital camera, there was no way to use it without its own specific battery that I forgot inside the battery charger. Ok, it was my fault, but why can I still photograph with my Nikkormat without battery, without lightmeter, with worn seals of felt and practically without lubrification? 
The Nkkormat cameras are very strong cameras made to last nearly forever, thanks also to their mechanical Copal Square shutter made of metal blades.
Otherwise dual cloth curtains focal plane shutter, the metal blade focal plane shutter doesn't change dimensions or elasticity in the years.
I'm convinced that the Nikkormat are also stronger than Nikon F and Nikon F2.
Hey, wich camera today has a manual mirror lock up? Or any kind of MLU?
We cannot forget that the price of these cameras is ridiculous compared to the value of their manifacture and of the fact that they will probably last longer than you.
I have no idea when my Nikkormat was controlled by a specialist last time, but I don't think to bring it to the photo-repair for servicing too soon. Probably, I will make fix the seals just before my mechanical precision of confidence will retire, that's all.

Commercial value Vs Real Value
I would say it is possible to buy a good Nikkormat for less than 100 € (I payed mine much less), but the real value of an indestructible camera is obviously much higher. I would spend also much more money for buying a good one. I wouldn't consider the Nikkormat the poor man Nikon, indeed I preferred to buy this model of camera rather than a Nikon FM2, for example. Tony Graffio

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