The Nikon F2 Overview

November 05, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Canon 5D, Canon 50mm f/1.8 II, ISO 400, 1/500 @ f/4

Many thanks to Peter from Foto Art in Owen Sound, who loaned me this Nikon F2 from his personal collection!

The Nikon F2 is one on the most celebrated SLRs of all time.  Manufactured from 1971-1980, it was Nikon's professional level SLR for close to a decade.  Featuring an all-metal body, the F2 had a reputation for its ruggedness and reliability in the field.  The F2 is the replacement for Nikon's original SLR, the F.  The F3 was added to the lineup in the early 80s, but due to being the last fully mechanical F camera, the F2 has remained popular for many years after its original production run.  The F2 is a full-system camera, meaning that the bodies are all modular, with lenses, viewfinders, focusing screens, grips and motor drives being fully interchangeable.

Canon 5D, Canon 50mm f/1.8 II, ISO 400, 1/500 @ f/4

The F2 is a manual-focus camera.  The body doesn't require batteries to function, though they are required to use the built-in light meter.  The F2 has a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000, up from 1/1000 in the original F, and faster than most cameras from that time.  The F2 also added a swing-open back to allow for easier film loading.

One of the main advantage of shooting with any Nikon film SLR is that you can share lenses between film and digital bodies, which can allow you to cut down on the amount of gear that you need to carry out into the field.  On top of being able to share lenses, you can also use modern Nikon lenses with the older cameras.  ​The F2 is capable of mounting all Nikon lenses to date, including the modern AI-S lenses.  Only the modern G and DX lenses will give you problems, due to a lack of aperture control in the former, and the latter not being designed for use on full-frame cameras.  You can also use Nikon-mount lenses from Zeiss, allowing you to take advantage of some of the best modern manual focus lenses while still shooting film.​

Nikon F2, Nikkor 50mm f/2, Fujicolor 200

​I enjoyed my time with the F2, but ultimately found it to be slightly large and heavy for my main use, which was landscape photography.  The F2 weighs around 840g, compared to just over 500g for my Leica M4-P or Olympus OM-1n.  In general I prefer smaller and lighter cameras for when I'm out hiking, or if I am carrying heavier gear I would prefer to be using a medium format camera to get more out of the extra weight.

If you would like a highly versatile, all-manual and mechanical SLR, the Nikon F2 is a good option.  You get your choice of a wide range of vintage and modern lenses, as well as a very durable camera body that is capable of taking the abuse of daily professional shooting.  For me, the main downsides of the F2 are the size and weight of the camera.  If you would like to take advantage of the lens lineup in a smaller body, and don't mind losing some of the system interchangeability and build quality, I would also look at an FE2, or an F100 if you would prefer a more modern camera body.


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