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Film Fridays: Nikomat FT2 review - because photography isn't complicated enough

The Nikomat FT2 is a heavy, overly-complicated, fingernail-destroying film SLR from the 1970s. If you're wondering why it carries the "Nikomat" name instead of "Nikon," well, it's because the latter was reserved for pro bodies, the former for consumer. Yet despite its "consumer" status, the FT2 is easily one of Nikon's most difficult cameras to use, ever.

Everything from loading the film, to changing the shutter speed, to mounting a lens is needlessly complicated. Still, 35mmc.com's Aaron Gold found reasons to love this ugly duckling.

Read: Nikomat FT2 review - because photography isn't complicated enough

About Film Fridays: We recently launched an analog forum and in a continuing effort to promote the fun of the medium, we'll be sharing film-related content on Fridays, including articles from our friends at 35mmc.

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steveTQP
steveTQP

Well, in New Jersey, US, my very first SLR was the Nikkormat FT3, with a few manual Nikkor AI-S lenses. I found it to be a solid, well-designed camera, that didn't require a battery unless one used the built-in light meter. Film loading was not complicated, nor was focusing, setting ASA, shutter speed, or setting aperture on the lens. It was uncomplicated, simple, and produced great results with the Kodak Tri-X, Plus-X, Tech Pan, or Iford FP4 B&W films I was using at the time. A classic camera indeed!

May 13, 2020*
Caledonia62

Here in the UK, they were sold as Nikkormats, I still have my very first Nikon the Nikkormat FT2 with its original 50mm f2 standard lens, I loved the camera battleship build quality and still working perfectly.

May 7, 2020
Col Hanzaplast

Shutter speed control around the lens was the best idea compared to top scroll wheel. Good old time you turn diaphragme and speed with left hand.

May 7, 2020
snagglepuss1

Wow, I take you've never used a folding view or technical camera...you'd be overwhelmed with how 'difficult' they are to use.

May 6, 2020
JJPL

Yesterday, I made my first roll with FT2 and 35/2 (non-ai) . Results below.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/janusz_janiszewski/albums/72157714177168891

Body purchased Poland, lens Japan. Both look like new. Total cost with shipping and VAT: USD 230. 00 I have a feeling, will use it equaly oft as my Z6.

There is one big argument for the film cameras. When you ask strangers for permission to take a photo, explanation, that I have old, film camera is developing trust and permission is mostly granted. Not the case with digital camera, even more tragic with phone...
So film offers you not only different look, but also trust.

May 6, 2020*
DaveShooter

I think that the author has gotten his hands on a bad FT-2. I owned one - as well as the AI FT-3 - and I don't remember any resistance to turning the shutter speed ring nor pulling the tab out to adjust the ASA - as it was then.

I have no dewy eyed appreciation left for film photography one hour too many in a darkroom put the nail in that coffin. Still what I like about film cameras was that when you turned THAT dial, this happened. And that's all that happened. In a modern DSLR any one button or dial may change dozens of things depending on what ever else is enabled. The level of complexity in the FT-2 is negligible.

The awkward lens indexing comes from the first 1959 Nikon F. It was introduced with no meter, but Nikon knew that meters were coming and put the meter into an interchangeable prism. Now the camera and the prism had to be linked and thus the pre auto-indexing pin/connector. That certainly was better than an F becoming obsolescent every time a better meter came out.

May 5, 2020
mepaca

The FT2 was my first slr back in the mid 70s. I loved that camera.

May 5, 2020
Smaug01
Smaug01

The shutter speed control on my old FTN is easily (but not TOO easily) moved when grasped between my index and middle fingers of the left hand.

I feel like the location of the depth-of-field preview button is better than on other Nikons too.

Some Nikkormat competitors failed to put the shutter speed readout in the viewfinder. (ex. Olympus OM1/N, etc.) It's HANDY. I wish aperture showed too though...

May 5, 2020
Smaug01
Smaug01

Great article. I too have found Nikkormats to be near-invincible. More rugged than FMs, for example. I'd rather have my FTN than an honest-to-God Nikon F. F2 vs. Nikkormat becomes a tougher choice, but I'd STILL go with a Nikkormat, as the FTN has a more rugged (and less clunky) meter/prism.

May 5, 2020
Hans Petermeier

I state that I am not a Nikon fanboy and that I professionally shoot with Canon, Nikon and Hasselblad DSLR. I had sent a comment that the moderator probably didn't like, so I rephrase. I find it childish to define the Nikkormat: "Everything from loading the film, to changing the shutter speed, to mounting a lens is needlessly complicated", for the simple reason that in the 70s a standard for the position of controls in the reflex cameras did not exist yet and each manufacturer designed his own way. The Olympus OM1 (a masterpiece) for example has a control arrangement similar to the first Nikko(r)mats. An FT2 was my first SLR camera, bought secondhand 30 years ago. I still own it and it still works now after being abused by me for many years during my teenage, and never had any problems using it. And I don't think I'm a genius... Maybe some editing of your articles before publishing wouldn't be a bad idea.
P.S. Yes, Nikkormat are heavy. it's the only thing I agree with the author.

May 5, 2020
pwilly
pwilly

I sold them. They never came back. People found ways to break Minolta, Pentax, Canon, even Leica. I never saw a Nikkormat come back.
P.S. the US version had an r in its name.

May 5, 2020
Hans Petermeier

"heavy, overly-complicated, fingernail-destroying film SLR" and "verything from loading the film, to changing the shutter speed, to mounting a lens is needlessly complicated".

Well...I can imagine that for a kid accustomed to take pictures with a phone, nikkormats -and any other 70s SLR- seem complicated. But come on, this article is totally crap. Any editors out there? DP review used to be a serious source, long time ago. But now...you really pay "authors" to write things like that? LOL

Just one more thing... Olympus -award winning- OM1, Mr. Matani's masterwork, has the same shutter speed scale on the lens base. So I gave you a free idea for the next "full of content" article.

May 5, 2020*
Dr Mabuse
Dr Mabuse

I used the Nikkormat FT3 for some rolls of film as a Nikon collector which is very similar except for the new AI aperture indexing mount. In contrary I found that an easy camera for beginners.
The only difficile thing is to adjust the ASA scale. Since I had used a Zeiss Contaflex before the move of the shutter speed scale on the lens base was not so strange for me. The loading and rewinding was even no problem for me.
Is it a true memory that Olympus OM series had the shutter speed on the lans base too?
And have you ever tried to use the first Contarex "bulls-eye" or an Exakta Varex ? That are the real 3-D puzzles.

May 5, 2020*
Smaug01
Smaug01

Yes, Olympus OM's have the shutter speed dial around the lens mount.

May 5, 2020
VeriWide100

I join with every comment here pointing out what an ignorant Klutz the author is. Author: you are obviously from the recent "Jerry Springer Show" mentality where diminishment by the unknowing as entertainment substitutes any meaningful content for smarmy put-down talk of anything 'old'. As everyone who weighed in has said the same, no point in repeating how empty and stupid the article is

This article is a disgrace to DPreview, which has moved away from analytical measurement and comparison to the ever so popular "Put-down" culture the young seem quite emboldened to embrace as some sort of superiority.

The FT-2 was the best Nikkormat, which allowed people who couldn't afford an 'F' entry into the nikon system. It was not much better or worse than any of its peers.

This writer should be given a non-customer facing job as this article is immature and demeaning... not of the FT-2 but of himself, dragging DPreviews reputation down with him.

Yeah: is there an editor on board?

May 4, 2020*
dstate1

Wow, speaking of “put down culture”....I suggest filing for a refund of your subscription fee.

May 4, 2020
Smaug01
Smaug01

You make a good point, but it was intended to be read tongue-in-cheek. You'll also notice that it is linked from here, not hosted here, so DPR has distanced itself somewhat. ;-)

May 5, 2020
John McMillin

I used to favor my Nikormat over the F because the cheaper camera had the faster flash sync speed, by a whole stop. The shutter speed ring on the lens mount worked wonderfully. It was stiff enough not to be moved accidentally, but I had no trouble changing settings one-handed. Typical top-mounted SS dials tended to stay put once set, because they were out of reach. There used to be a mechanical reason to mount the speed dial concentric with the wheel that wound up the cloth shutters, but no more.

One other quirk of the Nikormat wasn't mentioned- the Depth of Field Preview button, which looked more like a shutter button than the real shutter button. Handy and easy to use, though!

May 4, 2020*
RexRay

I shot my way to my photojournalism degree with this beautiful and quirky piece of kit. I came to prefer its idiosyncratic controls over those found on most other SLRs, such that operating it was second nature. Paired with some excellent Nikon glass, I took some of my best film shots with this camera!

May 4, 2020
kayaker353

I have owned and used three generations of these cameras. First, a Nikkkormat FS(no meter), then a Nikomat non-AI indexing, and then two AI indexing Nikkormats. I thought all were great cameras, the most user unfreindly feature for me was the nonAI lens indexing. While I used them and loved them for thirty years, I moved to the D200 when it came along. I have no desire to go back.

May 4, 2020
120 to 35

Lookiing at the photo I wondered if I'd misread the camera name all those years. Wikipedia to the rescue: "Nikkormat (Nikomat in Japan) was a brand of cameras produced by the Japanese optics company Nippon Kogaku K. K., as a consumer version of the professional Nikon brand."

May 4, 2020
JEROME NOLAS

Nikomat, Nikkormat, Nikon?

May 4, 2020*
User8562468884
User8562468884

The Nikomat FTN is not UGLY... It's what a real SLR should look like. I borrowed this model several times in college during the early '70s to take photos for the college newspaper and never had any trouble at all using it... and got some great shots. When Nikon introduced the Df DSLR which is reminiscent of the old "F's", I immediately fell in love and bought two... one in black and the other in "classic" silver. The Df reignited my passion for photography which had mainly laid dormant for the previous 25 years. Thanks to the Df, I'm now using a number of vintage Nikkor AI and AI-S manual lenses dating back to the 70's and 80's which were built like tanks and are still great...

May 3, 2020*
BrownieVet

If this Aaron Gold is the same and one Aaron Gold, the surfer, I probably sign-up for a lesson in surfing. Photography, nah.
My then 5 year old daughter figure our and use my Nikomat EL by herself, does it mean Aaron Gold is not as smart and dextrous as a 5 year old girl?
I have owned Leica, Canon Pellix, Canon EF, Kodak Retina, Asahi Pentax Spotmatic, Yashica Lynx, Minolta SRT-101, Rollie, Konica Autoreflex T, Miranda, Aires Viscount. . . decided to settle on Nikon F and Nikomat EL. I still have my Nikon F and Nikomat in perfect working condition.

All my Nikon/Nikkor lenses are compatible with my Nikon DSLRs.

May 3, 2020*
Film at 11

When I worked in camera shops in Milwaukee in the late 80s, these commanded top dollar on the used market.

Really solid over engineered stuff.

May 3, 2020
DFPanno
DFPanno

Loved my Nikkormat FTn.

Still have my F.

May 3, 2020
iso rivolta

Many early cameras with the Copal Square S vertical shutter had the shutter speed dial on the front panel. Look at Konica Auto-Reflex, Topcon RE-2, the first Cosina Hi-Lite, Chinonflex TTL, Ricoh Singlex TLS and TLS 401. The design of the shutter made top mounting difficult. Probably the most ergonomic and simple solution was to have the shutter speed dial around the lens mount.

May 3, 2020*
Ranger 9

I smell clickbait...

May 3, 2020
Vallkar
Vallkar

Difficult to use ?????

May 3, 2020
lightandaprayer

Nikon owners are subjected to a hefty dose of condescension by author Aaron Gold before the "review" actually begins: "And now I’ve written 200 words and haven’t told you anything. I really am turning into a Nikon owner!" It adds nothing to the reader's understanding of the FT2 and it's the first indication that the article would have benefited by having an editor.

It then becomes obvious that Gold doesn't really know how to operate a Nikon from that era, including how to properly position his left hand to steady the lens and make accessing the controls easier. To Gold's credit, he admits to the latter deficiency after it is pointed out in a couple of comments from readers.

Some of his complaints about the stiffness of the camera controls can be easily addressed by having the FT2 properly serviced. My FT2 and MF glass work like new thanks to CLA maintenance.

Finally, Nikon lenses do no operate "backwards." It's every other camera system, etc. that has it wrong. . . ;)

May 2, 2020
TomCodyPleasedToMeetYa

I had a Nikon D750 as my one and only Nikon and it was great but every time I changed a lense it took me ages to work out how to remove it and replace it. It's completely unintuitive and is counter to ever jar lid, wall screw etc that twists on and off or in and out. Agh!

May 3, 2020
Mac McCreery
Mac McCreery

Shot a wedding with mine at 15. Loved it and wish I still had it. Cracking camera and not at all 'complicated'.

May 2, 2020
BrownieVet

sure not complicated unless you are Aaron Gold

May 3, 2020
jmknights1954

Disagree totally with..... Everything from loading the film, to changing the shutter speed, to mounting a lens is needlessly complicated. If you could do that then you should get yourself an Instamatic!

May 2, 2020
jeffharris
jeffharris

My last film camera was a Nikon FM2n.
Loved that camera! Still have it.

Some days I’ll think about buying a few rolls of film to play around a bit…
until I remember that it’s film.

Nein! Danke…

May 2, 2020
Michiel953
Michiel953

Find a good lab that does scanning as well. You'll have a ball!

May 2, 2020
dstate1

I still have mine and every few months I’ll run it through the shutter speeds just to satisfy my need to know that, like Willie Nelson, my FT2 is still there.

These are from an era when most camera companies tried to build the best gear they could, and THEN set the price. Over time they learned that “good enough” makes more money and now we can’t have nice things.

May 2, 2020
Michiel953
Michiel953

Built up to a quality or down to a cost...

Ask Borgward.

May 2, 2020
joshmeduri

Please, please, please combine forces and have Chris and Jordan do a video with you about this camera!!

It would be so hilarious and bring tons of attention to 35mmc!

May 2, 2020
smithim

I can't say that I ever found my FT2 difficult to use. Sure, the shutter lever was very stiff, but at least it couldn't be changed accidentally. The shutter noise was ridiculous, scaring off wildlife for miles around, but it all fitted in with being a tank of a camera. I'd actually gone into the shop to buy an OM-1, but when I actually handled the camera I realised how fiddly it was - can't say that of the FT2 ;-)

May 2, 2020
FrancoD

That comment was correct. The Nikomat/Nikkormat series were the entry/consumer level cameras, the Nikon were the pro models.
Now it's done with digits . One ,two ,three and four. (pro to entry level)

May 2, 2020
spacecadets

" If you're wondering why it carries the "Nikomat" name instead of "Nikon," well, it's because the latter was reserved for pro bodies, the former for consumer"
Er, not entirely correct. They were called "Nikkormat" outside the US.

May 2, 2020
Michiel953
Michiel953

Young people don’t know that... 😂

May 2, 2020
Gil Aegerter
Gil Aegerter

That's incorrect. In the U.S., models were called Nikkormat.

I had to laugh when I read the 35mmc post. The controls are on the front of the camera not the top -- that makes it complicated? Maybe go back to the Sony A7 menu system, where things are simple!

I have an FTN, FT2 and FT3. I shoot a roll a month using one or the other.

The FT2 improved the ASA setting mechanism -- if the one on a nearly 50-year-old camera is stiff, maybe lube it.

I shoot a roll every month or so using one or the other. Love their simplicity and guts.

May 2, 2020
Commando961
Commando961

My first camera was a Praktica LLC with a 50mm f1.8 Oreston lens which could focus very close. This was replaced by a Nikkormat FT2 with a 50mm f2 lens eventually updated to the f1.8. The only real complication I can think of with this camera was the requirement to manually index lenses where you had to set them to f5.6 before you mounted them then turn the aperture ring from maximum to minimum. I eventually got an FT3 with Automatic Indexing. This was followed by a Nikomat EL, then a refurbished F2 Photomic and an FE2 which was my last 35mm film camera. The only real issue I had with this camera was the screen brightness and focussing. You could get 3rd party bright screens for later cameras but you were stuck with the one in the Nikkormats. But overall it was a sturdy and reliable camera.

May 2, 2020
Ergo607
Ergo607

"And now I’ve written 200 words and haven’t told you anything. I really am turning into a Nikon owner!"
That put a smile on my face....!

May 2, 2020
Pixel8888

Loved my Pentax spotmatic f. Handling was kind like the fuji XT 2 today.

May 2, 2020
JustGeorge

In 1974, I took my wife to Brooks Cameras in San Francisco to buy a 35mm camera. I'd narrowed down the selection to either a Pentax (don't remember which model) or the Nikkormat FTn; I was sure she'd pick the Pentax because of size/weight and her generally petite size, but she surprised me and bought the Nikkormat. Still have it today, with the same 85/1.8 lens. Turned out she never really got into photography, but she would use it when the spirit moved her, and was useful in a later job where she would have to use college camera gear to photograph events when no one else was available, and most of that gear was Nikon. Even though I haven't picked it up in years, I just did and still know how to use it, and it still works a treat. And I still really miss the K Screen.

May 2, 2020
JNR
JNR

Would have been the Pentax Spotmatic in one form or another at that time. Most likely, an SP1000, or the F that could meter from open aperture but otherwise similar... Asahi or Honeywell (no difference other than label). Not sure there was much size difference - and either the Nikkormat or Pentax would have been a fine choice, IMHO.

May 2, 2020
RudivanS

I've had my Nikomat for over 30 years now. Bought it second hand here in Sydney, Australia from former Fletchers Fotographics on Pitt St. Still works pretty near perfectly. Now sitting on my bookshelf in retirement complete with Nikkor 50mm f1.4 Ais lens.
Was it originally sold in Sydney by an American military guy on leave during the Korean war?

May 2, 2020*
Michiel953
Michiel953

Think you’ve got your dates mixed up.

May 2, 2020
May 2, 2020
FrancoD

I worked in that shop.

May 2, 2020
mikegc
mikegc

I was a combat photographer in Vietnam when the Nikomat came out and I purchased one. It performed quite well. Later, I bought an FTn and carried it, the Nikomat and a Leica M-2R into Cambodia 50 years ago during the invasion. I still have the FTn and it works. I have a bunch of Nikkor lenses, focusing screens, bellows and other accessories. Great cameras.

May 1, 2020
GeorgeofSacto

After I get past the writer's attempts at being humorous (Fro 2.0?) I finally got into the actual content. Amazing how I was able to survive this super challenging film camera when I got mine during my 20's. For me, my Nikkormat FT was the replacement for my Minolta SRT system (untimely death-by-stupidity) and all these things the writer is complaining about were just part of the journey. Quirks? Well, when I later worked in a camera shop, I discovered that virtually every camera maker had their own "quirks" as (except for the copycats) everyone had a completely different take on how a perfect camera should operate. Loved that first Nikon and the collection of lenses I've built up over the years carried me into and through the modern DSLR era.

May 1, 2020
silvano
silvano

I had one, but was FTn model, silver (it was the "sister" of my Nikon F black) !

May 1, 2020
Billy Von

This camera got me interested in photography in my early 20s. Sister bought it in Japan and spelt with one K. It was a wonderful, magical camera. I took some 50,000+ shots with it and it never failed. Only thing ... when I digitized my b and w's and slide film I noticed some were slightly out of focus. Just a tad. My fault of course. No autofocus. Like your first love you never forget it. Hats off to the FT2!!!

May 1, 2020
A Owens

If that is an ugly, overly complex duckling, what is a modern digital camera?

May 1, 2020
(unknown member)

You did not notice the sarcasm?

May 2, 2020
May 3, 2020
(unknown member)

More reading then, 10 000 hours. Good luck.

May 3, 2020
May 4, 2020
BrianSF

Oh, it's so nice to visit in the Wayback Machine!

My first 35mm was a Nikkormat FTn that my father bought after teaching me how to take my first pictures on his Rollei Automat the previous summer using a handheld light meter.

I have both cameras and had to pull out the Nikkormat after seeing this post. I was surprised to see that mine was in pristine shape and protected by a beautiful hard case from Nikon.

I love the Nikkormat! I shot two high school yearbooks with it. Yea it's heavy, but it's solid. I love the feel and sound the lens makes when it snaps into place. I could change the lens on the fly while keeping an eye on my subject. I knew when I heard the second "snap" I ready to shoot.

I actually liked the shutter dial. It made sense to me. And yea, the ASA dial was a pain, and the accessory shoe was floppy.

I still love how a Nikon feels in my hands and have Nikon digital bodies that I use today.

Stay safe and happy shooting.
Brian

May 1, 2020
NarrBL

much enjoyed this -- thanks, Aaron.

I think I had one of these for a while...picked up in Shinjuku, lost by leaving in the back of a taxi after a ride from rural Korea to Kimpo to take a big bird...away from home. That home it still feels...

Take care,
Clive

May 1, 2020
Sardonic G

My first slr was a Vivitar 220/SL with a variety of lenses available due to its M42 screw mount, but it looked like a Nikomat....

May 1, 2020
lightandaprayer

The first SLR I ever owned was an FT2 I found in an LA pawn shop. It was really beat up. Most of the paint was gone, leaving behind a lovely brass patina. There was a serious dent next to the film rewind crank. I always wondered what kind of impact it took to damage that heavy brass top plate. And yet I HAD to have an FT2 so I wound up paying too much ($189) because it was your typically irrational love at first sight.

I learned photography using the FT2. It was my first and only "work camera" until I bought an FM2. That camera took a licking and kept on ticking like a Timex watch until I sold it over 10 years later. (I immediately regretted selling my first "real camera.")

BTW, I always enjoyed the little Nikon dance required to mount the lens and index the camera meter. It meant that I had joined the fraternity of Nikon owners, something that meant a lot to me as an aspiring pro. Because back then every professional photographer seemed to be carrying a Nikon.

May 1, 2020*
Mach Schnell

I bought one of these as my first SLR in 1976 (well, the Nkkormat variety that is). I didn't find it complicated or an 'ugly duckling'. I loved the camera, and still have it today. I hauled it all over Europe for 2 years back then and it never let me down. And it had advanced features like mirror lock-up and DoF preview that I appreciated and used frequently. And, thanks to Nikon's consistency with the F mount, I can still shoot with the 50mm f/1.4 on my dSLR and mirrorless bodies today.

May 1, 2020
Thomas Caudle
Thomas Caudle

Can't say much about the FT2, but I had a Nikkormat EL that worked pretty well, tho it was mostly all about the lenses. Still it didn't seem to take as good pictures as the Pentax Spotmatic I had then.

May 1, 2020
Total: 75, showing: 1 – 50
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