Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Going Old School

Who said all design in the 1980s was bad?

I was recently gifted an original 1983 Nikon FM2 and for all the advances in DSLR technology, picking up and handling one of these old school film bodies is still quite an enjoyable experience.

The FM2 is a fully operational mechanical camera - whilst it takes (button cell) batteries, this serves only to power the internal center-weighted light meter. The hotshoe is operational without batteries and the FM2 has a 1/200th max sync (marked in red and with X prefix on the shutter speed dial) speed whereas the latter models, commonly referred to as FM2n (but still marked as FM2 on the body), had a 1/250th max sync speed along with updates to the shutter mechanism.

The FM2 being a mechanical camera, it can be used quite comfortably in a studio setting as long as there is still 35mm film available - quite a feat, some 18yrs after this particular camera came off the Japanese production line. This statement, however, cannot be said for a D700 in another 18yrs though but that's that advancement for you even though it's an outstanding camera.

BUT.. a camera of this age does come with it's own problems. Firstly, the Nikon film cameras used some form of foam as light seals and as mirror dampers - the problem with foam is that it tends to deteriorate with time. In the case of light seals, they tend to transform themselves into some compact, sticky black residue which makes it significantly less effective in it's job. Secondly, a camera of this age could do with a servicing which would include the usual clean-lubricate-adjust.

Fortunately one of Nikon's official UK service centers, Fixation, is based in an easy-to-reach part of London (5min walk from Vauxhall tube/rail). Whilst the predominant work of service centers resolves around the digital pro segment, service centers will also take non-pro servicing and luckily Fixation provided a limited set services for film bodies too. The cost of servicing and foam replacement ran to 80GBP plus VAT for time and materials but I figured this was a reasonable trade off against any DIY and effort for the same.

Now, to find some film for portraits (Kodak Portra 160?) and to find a suitable AI/AI-S/AF-D lens. It'll be odd to have this 1980s mechanical beauty mated with a 2000s PocketWizard in it's hotshoe but let's take the technology advances it suits.

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