Sunday, March 3, 2013

Legends: Nikon FTn camera

Nikon's first SLR camera, the Nikon F, was first introduced in 1959. It had an interchangeable viewfinder that allowed the camera to grow through several variations of metered Photomic T finders known as "photomic pentaprisms" beginning in 1962. The first was nothing more than a built-in meter with a photo cell that could be opened to read light.  The light was not read through the lens with this meter. Subsequent models, culminating in the FTn introduced in 1968 and featured in the photos shown here, were able to read light directly through the lens. The meter was a 60/40 type, meaning it delivered an exposure based upon 60% of the light from the center circle of the viewing screen plus 40% of the light from the rest of the screen.

The camera was known for its durability and a special model was outfitted for NASA to record early space missions including the Apollo moon landing.. The Nikon F was a very modular system accepting special 250 load backs, viewfinders for various applications, a motor drive, and a complete line on lenses from a super-wide 21mm to 1000mm telephoto. In the studio we were able to mount a polaroid back on the rear of the camera to test exposures.

The Nikon F and FTn were the first professional SLR cameras I used. The one above is shown with my press pass to an early space shuttle mission.
An inconvenient feature of this early camera model was that the entire back had to be removed to load film. I was always trying to stuff this back into one of my pockets so I could have two hands free to change the film.

A Nikon FTn shown here with the back removed to load film, in this case Kodachrome II which had an ASA (ISO) of 25 -- not exactly a speed demon.
The pentaprism viewfinder was removable so the camera could change focusing screen and accept a variety of other finder types. The Nikon F above is shown with its standard finder and a right angle magnifier.

The lens aperture coupled with the camera meter by connecting to a pin beneath the front of the meter. By ratcheting the diaphragm back and forth to its extreme apertures, the meter was set to know the most open aperture of the lens and thus was able to compute the other apertures as the ring turned.

This top end of the meter prism housing shows the on/off button towards the front, a widow that showed a meter needle to indicate the correct exposure, and an ASA (early name for ISO) setting ring. There was also a centering exposure needle inside so the photographer did not have to remove an eye from the viewfinder. The lever on the front left was pressed to remove the pentaprism housing from the camera.
The Nikon FTn was a state of the art professional camera in the 1960's until it was replaced by the Nikon F2 in 1973.

Two photos of the Brazilian Baroque town of Ouro Preto taken in the late 1960's with my Nikon F camera.