Saturday, February 27, 2021
The Nikkormat FT2 is a mid-range, enthusiast level 35mm SLR camera from 1975. Some camera nerds call it a "poor man's F2" (Nikon's top-of-the-line offering at the time). While this is in many ways true, the Nikkormat is actually quite distinct from its bigger brother, and provides a very different shooting experience. When it comes to price, though, the FT2 certainly is cheaper than the F2 on the used market; I bought mine with a 50mm f/1.4 lens for under $100.
First off, the Nikkormat FT2 is a very handsome camera. I usually prefer my cameras in black, but the chrome version of the FT2 simply looks fantastic. I love how the chrome contrasts with the black leatherette on the prism housing. The oversized frame counter bubble window, along with the secondary light meter readout on the top panel, remind me of a luxury timepiece. Like a classic watch, the FT2 is completely mechanical, and requires a battery only for the internal light meter. The Midwest was absolutely frigid the past few weeks, but my FT2 operated just fine in crazy cold temperatures where electronic cameras might have struggled. Along with being fully mechanical, the FT2 is nearly all metal. It's a hefty, dense son-of-a-bitch that's made to last through at least one nuclear apocalypse.
Controls on the FT2 are similar to other models in the Nikkormat line, but very different from any other Nikon cameras. Instead of the front of the camera like on other Nikons, the depth of field preview control is located on the top of the camera in the form of a little plunger. Depth of field preview is something I never personally use, but boy does that little plunger look cute! Most notably, there is no shutter speed dial on the top panel of the camera. Instead, the shutter is adjusted via a lever attached to a ring around the lens mount. This is so, in theory, all exposure and focusing adjustments can be made with the left hand, while all the right hand has to do is trip the shutter and advance the film.
The shutter speed lever also doubles as a release for the ISO/ASA selector, which is located on the bottom of the lens mount. It's a bit inconvenient and fiddly located down there, but it's not like ISO is something you change very often, so I'll let it slide.
In terms of extra features, the FT2 has anything an enthusiast photographer from the 70's could ever desire. There's a self-timer, mirror lock-up, and even multiple exposures! However, while multiple exposures are indeed possible, the frame counter will continue to count up for each exposure made (not only when the film is actually advanced). So if you take a lot of multiple exposures, the frame counter will not be reliable. One cool little feature of the FT2 is that its shutter button accepts both regular cable releases, as well as Nikon proprietary release cables (a la the F and F2).
The finder, as well as the focusing screen, are not interchangeable. That being said, the viewfinder is big, and fairly bright. Unlike earlier Nikkormat focusing screens that had a simple microprism assist, the FT2 has a split image + microprism assist on the screen, which is awesome, and makes focusing fast. Shutter speeds are also viewable through the viewfinder, which is a feature you don't get on the professional F or F2 unless you attach a bulky metered finder.
Speaking of meters, the FT2 has one built right in! It takes common 357 button batteries, unlike past Nikkormat models that take those Mercury ones that can't be bought anymore. The FT2 is one of the last pre-AI Nikon cameras, and the meter only works with lenses that have the little rabbit ears. The meter is of the match-needle variety, and is located on the right side of the focusing screen in the finder. As previously mentioned, there's also a meter readout on top of the camera for when you have the camera on a tripod and don't want to keep bending over to check light readings. It's a nice touch. Unfortunately the meter in my camera is busted, so I didn't get to try it out.
Below are some photographs I made with the Nikkormat FT2. The film was Ilford HP5+.