They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

Rehabilitating Old Cameras

This post is, I suppose, for oldsters and youngsters who want to hear about some old school camera ways. (grin)

Recently I've discussed getting Wendy and Paul's 1986 Nikon N2020 back into service. Although it's killing me to have to WAIT for a 24 exposure roll of 35mm film to get finished, then taken in to get it processed and picked up. Oh the humanity from the pre-information age! Still, having the light polycarbonate N2020 in a good leather case with a flyweight normal lens is a pretty portable package. And convenient to carry as I am getting out and about.

But the other Nikon in my sister's camera bag was her black Nikkormat FTn with a 50mm f1.4 NIKKOR-S. She got it around 1970 when she was shooting for the White Plains High School yearbook. Daddy already owned a Pentax Spotmatic with a 50mm f1.4 Super-Takumar and a 135mm f3.5 Super-Takumar. Wendy wanted to go with the pro camera -- about two years later I bought a used Asahi Pentax Spotmatic and 50mm f1.4 Super-Takumar, and Daddy and I shared the 135mm and the later 28mm f3.5 Super Multi-Coated Takumar wide angle.

I thought she should go for the Nikon FTn Photomic, but she felt she didn't need the features of the Nikon F -- and if someday she did she'd buy one. But the Nikkormat gave her access to the Nikon bayonet mount over the slower to change M42 screw mount of the Pentax. She did, however, spend the extra money on the professional black finish.

For students on a budget in the early 70s, outside of a normal lens, most of the Nikkors were deemed too expensive. But telephotos are a little more forgiving, zooms included. Many companies offered third party 85-205mm f3.8 zooms and they were pretty decent. Most of them perfectly fit in the newfangled Pringles can and I knew a lot of student photographers so equipped. On the other hand, the Nikon 80-200mm f4.5 Zoom-NIKKOR was considered the sharpest zoom lens in the world and a top notch pro lens. Alas it cost probably three times what the Vivitar and Soligar, et al, zooms did. I knew no one who owned one in the day -- I had gone with separate lenses 85/105/200, so the 80-200 was always an unnecessary luxury. Wendy's camera bag contained a Vivitar 85-205mm lens. I think it was hers -- Paul's may have been a Soligar, but in the apartment fire I think it ended up in much worse shape, along with Paul's black soot and chrome Nikkormat FTn, and they got traded in on the N2020 and the 35-70mm AF NIKKOR.

So... I bought a Wein zinc-air replacement for the PX625 mercury battery and cleaned up the Nikkormat. Unfortunately, the strap and the little triangular split rings on the N2020 had gone on the Nikon F4s, and the strap and triangular split rings from the Nikkormat had gone on the N2020, so I had a Nikkormat without a neck strap -- or any way to attach then.

Somewhere I may have some spare Nikon split rings I got at the camera store I worked at, but I am in no shape for old supply diving. eBay had ONE auction for a pair of split rings and they wanted $16.95 for Buy It Now. But clever old fool that I am, I looked for an Eveready camera case, having gotten a bargain on a new CF-35 case for the N2020. Because in the old days, the cases for the Nikon F and the Nikkormat came with a strap -- you either used a camera strap or a case strap. Later for F2 and the EL and later, Nikon adopted the conventional system of having the strap on the camera only.

Most Nikkormat cases are hard leather and with a large bulbous front, which I always found caught on my sleeve if you flung it onto your shoulder. For the Pentax Spotmatic and ES, and my later F2, I preferred the semi-soft leather case -- and I found one on eBay for less money than those damned split rings. Bonus. Purists might notice that the name embossed in the nose leather says Nikomat, not Nikkormat. Nikomat was the name in Japan, Nikkormat worldwide. I was amused to see that the case came to me from Detroit.

Paul also had bought a used Tamron 28mm f2.8 wide angle. He had consulted with me about the lens deal, since he was trading in a camera body for it. I told him him it was a good lens, but that he would be happier with a real Nikon lens. But that was more money and Paul figured that he wasn't going to use it all that often, since most of his stuff needed longer focal lengths. The 28mm stopped working years ago and Wendy never used it.

I was playing with it tonight and gave the stuck aperture ring a good hard twist -- and was freed up. Moves smoothly over the whole range, automatic diaphragm works, blades seem to work fine. Double Bonus!

My plan is to use the Nikkormat for black and white. Its ASA ring is already set to 400 and is damn hard to move. I could buy Tri-X, Kodak still sells the venerable old pro film and Lord knows enough Tri-X has been run through the Nikkormat, but developing it is a pain. Sure, I still have tanks and reels, but even if I wanted to do wet chemistry at home, I would still have to get the negatives scanned and then there's still the issue that I don't think D-76 or Fixer should be poured into a septic tank.

But... years ago Ilford XP1 was a black and white film that used the C-41 color negative process. So let's see what they still make now. And I've got two rolls of Kodak Professional BW400CN film coming. Even Walgreens should be able to develop and scan the stuff.

See, I have plenty of good film and digital cameras for color work. So this is a reason to actually resurrect and shoot Wendy's gear. And in B&W, I think I'll try out those old 85-205mm and 28mm lenses. They did good B&W work 30-40 years ago. After testing the first roll, the second roll of 24 is going to be shot two frames a month. At the end of 2014, I hope to have twelve good photos and make a 2015 calendar.

I'll keep you apprised of the project. Meanwhile, I am having so much fun you cannot believe.

Dr. Phil

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