Falling in love

I have fallen in love… with an old camera. Having recently been given a slightly damaged Nikon FG-20 and an f1.8 50mm lens, I looked into having the camera body repaired – necessary since I was fairly sure there were light leaks from the damaged baseplate. The cost of doing this turned out to be higher than expected, and it became more sensible to think about a new body altogether… especially when the camera repair shop happened to have another Nikon, an FM2 for sale for not that much more than the repair to the FG-20 would cost. Since I am able to resist everything except temptation (forgive me, Oscar), I am now the proud owner of an FM2! I am very conscious of the fact that on my website I say that equipment doesn’t matter (and I really do believe that to be true!), but I do want to say a little about the FM2, not so much as a camera, but more as a camera experience – it is quite different to what I have been used to for many years now.

Nikon FM2 (mine is black/silver)

Nikon FM2 (mine is black/silver)

When it was first released in the early 1980s, this appears to have been a really well-received camera, and I still find it an amazing piece of equipment. It is quite small, but with a strong metal body that could probably qualify it as a dangerous weapon. It uses tiny batteries to control the light meter (not matrix-metering – that was to come a few years later, this is the old 60/40 system, that mostly works pretty well for what I want to use it for, as far as I can tell). Apart from that, everything is completely manual. Even though I’m only onto my second roll of film so far, like the slightly smaller FG-20 that I had played with, it feels totally natural in my hands, and all the controls are just where my fingers expect them to be. This means all the essential controls can be adjusted without taking my eye from the finder (try doing that with a digital SLR!). For sure, I love my D40 too (nearly 15, 000 images and it still seems like new – there really is nothing wrong with Nikon’s quality control processes!) but the FM2 is about making photographs in a different way, without all the complicated menus that contemporary digital cameras can’t seem to do without. I can’t wait to see how the images turn out.

So I have been rediscovering the basics of a fast prime lens with a proper aperture ring (it is such a shame the cheaper new Nikon G lenses abandon that in favour of electronic menus… of course, that’s why they’re cheaper!), and manual settings for everything. Of course, for family photographs and the like this camera will be less useful than a digital camera with autofocus and so on, but I can see that the FM2 could easily be my daily camera that goes everywhere with me for landscape and street photography. The 50mm lens is crystal clear and the lens/camera combination feels great in making images. I’ll scan some of them in soon and put them online.

So forgive a post that appears at first to be largely about equipment. It’s not really that – rather, you should read this as a declaration of love! It is, of course, a romance that I hope will continue to be mutual – as I make ever more photographs, I’m hoping I’ll be rewarded with ever more beautiful images. And, of course, I can see that an 85 or 105mm lens for portraits wouldn’t go amiss, and I’ve already discussed wide-angle lenses with the retailer… you can see that this love affair is already at the considering-babies-stage – it must be serious!

P.S. In case you’re interested, I bought the FM2 from Joe at JP Cameras in Edinburgh – a treasure trove of old photographic equipment that is properly restored, tested, and reasonably priced. His camera bodies come with a 6-month warranty, lenses with a 12-month warranty.


5 thoughts on “Falling in love

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  4. Michael Walsh

    I once ( a long time ago) bought, from the same shop, a F2 photomic with a 50mm 1.4. It became my favourite camera of all time – and as it was indestructible I carried everywhere, which helps if you want to take a photograph.

    I really like your photographs – thank you for taking the time and effort to share, and good luck with your new book and exhibition at the Oxo – will try to get along.

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