Nikkormat FT2, The Africa Camera

I own two cameras that I will never sell.  One camera is a Canon AE-1 and the other camera is a Nikkormat FT2.  Paul’s Nikkormat FT2 is shown below.  It has a small dent on its 50mm lens, perhaps dropped on safari in Africa.

Nikkormat FT2

Nikkormat FT2

Paul’s Africa Nikkormat

The Nikkormat FT2 traveled to Africa in 1975 in the hands of a recent college graduate named Paul.  I met him 3 years later, he was the best man at my wedding, and I named my son after him.  He died at the age of 50.

Paul’s Nikkormat FT2 went to Africa, was with him when he dined with cannibals one evening over 35 years ago, and was with him when he photographed lions with its telephoto lens.  So as you can understand, some film cameras just aren’t meant to be sold.

When Paul passed away I inherited his two cameras and his Africa slides.  Cameras and slides sat in the basement for 8 or 9 years in a box.  I haven’t found the slides yet.  But 9 years after his death, in a digital camera age, I started looking at Paul’s old cameras.  That’s how I began collecting, testing, recording camera stories, and yes, also shooting 35mm film.

Nikon FT2, Flowers and Bokeh

Nikon FT2, Flowers and Bokeh, Chicago backyard

Nikkormat FT2 – How does it feel?

It’s heavy, darn heavy.  And cool to the touch.  Perhaps its because it’s part aluminum.

My FT2 has a Nikkor 50mm 1.2 lens on it.  Also, I own an 80-200 mm zoom.  Together, the camera and lenses weight 3.4 pounds.  It has a great solidity to it.  Even at slower shutter speeds I don’t feel any camera shake.

Would you carry 3.4 pounds through an African summer just to take photographs?

Nikkormat FT2 Technical Details

As is my custom, I don’t rip quotes from photographer’s blogs.  But since Wikipedia has a few nice words about the Nikkormat FT2, I encourage you to visit Wikipedia .

I’m hoping Camerapedia is in the public domain because I’m going to quote an important section from their website regarding how you attach lenses to the FT2 so the light meter works properly.  Read this carefully if you own an FT2.

Manual indexing on the FT-2 When attaching a lens it must be set at F/5.6 so the camera’s meter coupling pin will be aligned with the lens’s meter coupling fork(rabbit ears) above F/5.6 then you must rack the aperture ring all the way back and forth so the camera will know the maximum aperture of the lens.

In time as this blog develops, as my skills grow, I hope to become better at explaining technical details for my cameras.

Provenance or History

As described, my friend Paul carried this camera to Africa during the summer of 1975.

Nikkormat FT2 and Zoom Lens

Nikkormat FT2 and Zoom Lens

The camera knows where it’s been, I can only tell you a few stories.

  1. The camera photographed a lion on the African plains.
  2. The camera accompanied Paul to visit a local tribe for an evening dinner.  After dinner he was given a tour of the village, most likely with his camera on his shoulder.  He turned a corner and found some bones on the ground.  “What are these bones?”, Paul asked.  “Don’t worry, they’re from a local tribe we don’t like.”  Cannibals.
  3. There’s a photo of my friend drinking Coca-Cola from a local Coca-Cola stand.  (I’m going to find those slides.)

I can’t find the original price for the Nikkormat FT2.  But the minimum wage was $2.10 in U.S. dollars.  I wonder how long it took a minimum wage college graduate to pay for the camera plus 2 lenses.  Long time.

My Repairs for the Nikkormat FT2

I’m happy to report that Paul’s Africa camera needed no repairs at all.  I guess that made up for his Canon AE-1 that cost me $200 in repairs for a camera I could probably purchase used for $40.

But as I said, the Nikkormat FT2 required no repairs after waiting over 3 decades for someone to take it out for a stroll.  I put a new battery in it and the light meter worked just fine.

Nikkormat FT2 Test Roll

Do inanimate objects have a memory?  Perhaps yes, perhaps no.

I found myself walking around Mount Prospect where I work and my Chicago backyard taking photos, wondering if the camera realized it was no longer in Africa.  Sure, go ahead and laugh.  But perhaps my FT2 was missing a more adventurous stroll.

When taking the photograph below with a zoom lens, I imagined someone photographing a lioness over 35 years ago.  This is my lioness.

Nikon FT2, Lioness on Backporch

Nikon FT2, Chicago Lioness on Backporch

Will I use the Nikkormat FT2 Again?

I think so.  The camera feels good in my hands and the photos are better than average.

I do know I’ll never sell this camera.  Walking with Paul’s Africa camera put me at final peace with his passing 10 years ago at the age of 50.

A Final Note on Paul the Photographer

His last name is his own.  Privacy is a good thing.

After Paul finished his Africa trip he raised 250,000 dollars in the late 1970’s in Chicago to start a non-profit taking care of Illinois orphans.  His little agency grew and today its one of the biggest in Chicagoland.  Last time I checked, his agency had over 25 staff members and an operating budget in the millions.

I met him when I worked as a volunteer for his non-profit.

He became a therapist and later became a psychologist.  He preferred the most difficult cases imaginable.  He was a tough as nails advocate for the rights and welfare of abused children and teenagers in Chicago, IL USA.  He was my best friend.

As I said, I’ll never sell his Nikkormat FT2 camera.

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