Say Hello to Nikkormat FTn

Allow me to introduce a new member of my little camera family — Nikkormat FTn. I bought this well-worn work horse for a pittance. Judging by the overall shape, the camera was heavily used, but not abused. There are a few dents here and there along with a fair share of scratches. Naturally, there is also some brassing which gives the camera this special vintage look. My only real concern is something that looks like friction traces and a tiny dent on the shutter curtains. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to affect the shutter’s performance, so fingers crossed. Basically, the only thing the camera needed was a thorough cleanup. So I spent an evening doing some serious scrubbing and polishing.

Nikkormat FTn and NIKKOR-S Auto 50mm f/1.4 Ai

I paired the camera with a NIKKOR-S Auto 50mm f/1.4 Ai lens that was sitting idly in a storage box. Anxious to try my shiny vintage Nikkormat FTn, I loaded a roll of Ilford XP2 Super 400 into it, jumped on my bike, and traversed the city looking for something interesting to shoot.

Nikkormat FTn and NIKKOR-S Auto 50mm f/1.4 Ai

Although the camera’s light meter worked, the exposure readings were wildly off — most likely due to the fact that I used a regular alkaline button battery instead of a long-gone mercury PX625. Being a fully-mechanical camera, Nikkormat FTn can function perfectly well without a battery, and I used a Gossen Luna Pro F light meter (a really nice, albeit a bit bulky, device) to calculate exposure settings. After taking a handful of random shots, I ended up near the Klostervangen social housing blocks, where I shot the rest of the roll. Coincidentally, the buildings were constructed around the same time as Nikkormat FTn was introduced. But while the camera’s design has stood the test of time, the high-rises look today as charming as car parking structures.

Nikkormat FTn and NIKKOR-S Auto 50mm f/1.4 Ai

Nikkormat FTn turned out to be pleasant in use. Despite its weight (it’s a real back-breaker, actually) the camera is comfortable to hold. Usability-wise, Nikkormat FTn is probably the best camera I’ve ever handled: a readable frame counter, bright viewfinder, a shutter speed dial mounted around the lens — these and other creature comforts make using the camera a rather satisfying experience.

Nikkormat FTn and NIKKOR-S Auto 50mm f/1.4 Ai

The only fly in the ointment is the camera’s focusing screen. Nikkormat FTn uses a focusing screen that has a 4 mm circular microprism surrounded by a 12 mm diameter matte surface. It’s usable, but less convenient than a split-screen focusing screen.

Because of its weight, I doubt that Nikkormat FTn will become my grab-and-go camera, but I easily see myself taking it for a photo walk once a while, especially if I can figure out how to get the light meter going.

Tech writer covering Linux and open source software

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