#photographyblog

Nikon F2 review

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Having owned the F2 for 6 months now I can confidently say it has become a firm favourite (yes I know i say that about all my cameras)! The F2 has a big reputation for being a seriously kick ass camera and I can heartily confirm that this reputation is well deserved! The Nikon F2 is an absolute joy to shoot with - I’ve used it on portrait shoots, taken it hiking and shot landscapes with it, used it for street photography and candid portraits of my little boy running about and playing at home - in every situation the F2 is the right tool for the job.

Often when we think of professional spec cameras we assume that these are complex esoteric beasts which require some form of initiation rite to operate and only the enlightened few can master it - and while that may ring true in some cases, not so for the F2! It is a VERY simple camera with an intuitive set of controls laid out in a such a way that it allows the F2 to do what all great cameras do - it gets out of your way and allows you to concentrate on your subject, lovely.

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I’ve already introduced you to the F2 on this blog HERE but it’s such a great camera that I feel it deserves it’s very own blog review! I’ll give a run through of the features and operations of the camera and then we’ll get down to the business of sharing photos taken with it on various shoots and thoughts on using the F2 in practice.

The F2 is a modular design and when it was originally released back in 1971 it was a major selling feature that you could choose from a range of different focussing screens, in later years different prism heads were released which were interchangeable with any F2 body made at any time during it’s production run - this allowed you to decide on which kind of metering system (or no meter at all) worked best for you/a particular situation - my F2 is an F2A which means that it has a metered prism head that uses a needle meter readout, I much prefer this form of read over LED’s but if you like an LED readout then you can check out the F2AS head, or if you don’t want a meter at all you can get a plain prism - lovely! These days the interchangeable nature of the F2 is probably less of a selling point although it will be nice to experiment with some alternative viewfinders at some point in the future.

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OK so we get it, its a nice camera - so what? how’s it different to all the other bloody cameras you have…. great question! I’m glad you asked! let me explain:

Form factor: it’s a big camera! bigger than your standard 35mm camera, I like this! fits in my hand comfortably, the F2 is perhaps the most ergonomic camera I have had the pleasure to shoot with so far!

100% viewfinder: What you see is what you get! the viewfinder shows the whole of the frame (not always a given on some cameras) it’s big, it’s bright, it’s beautiful!

Mechanical: The body requires no batteries to operate, it’s powered by springs and gears - I like this very much! (obviously the meter needs a battery)

Build quality: The F2 was hand built to a very high specification for professional shooters, in an age when things were built to last, its like a Swiss watch that you can also use as a hammer from to time (or just maybe, make photographs with it)!

Looks: yes I am shallow enough for this to be a ‘thing’ in my choice of camera, but flipping heck look at it! Industrial Design at it’s finest - an exercise in form following function if ever there was one.

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I enjoy shooting with the F2 so much and I am such a big fan of the amazing Nikkor lenses that I’ve decided to concentrate my 35mm kit around two Nikon F2’s (I just bought a second one) and an FE2 which I already own (and who knows what other Nikon F mount bodies I’ll take a shine to in future) in part because these are simply amazing pieces of equipment and also because running several different lines of camera (Olympus, Pentax, Canon and Nikon) at the same time gets a bit expensive!

I’d much rather own several bodies which can all utilise the same lenses - giving me more capacity to get some killer glass and shoot it across any camera body that takes my fance. Obviously for Medium Format shenanigans the indomnitable Pentax 67 will be a fixed feature and for just the sheer lunacy of it a Holga 120N is also firmly on my ‘keeper’ list of cameras!

I want to share some of the images I’ve taken with the F2, to date I’ve used it on several portrait shoots and also a few hikes into the wilderness to shoot landscapes, I’ll start with some of the portrait images which I took on a shoot with my friend Arya Ravenswood you can see the full shoot HERE these were all shot on Portra 400 on the F2 with the Nikkor 50mm 1.4 AI lens.

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And now a few images from out and about in the moors around my home, the following images were taken on the same day at two different locations - first three are from Dovestones Reservoir and the rest are from West Nab, all shot on Fomapan 200 on the F2 with the Nikkor 24mm 2.8 AI lens and an orange filter (the observant will notice this is also the same time that I took the header shots for this blog - planning ahead you see, I don’t just throw these things together you know)!

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So there we have it - another blog during which I heap praise upon a particular camera, stating something like ‘so this is the only camera I’ll ever need’ or whatever, clearly I’ve established that I am prone to bouts of enthusiasm when it comes to this kind of thing but this time it’s different… as a result of how much I enjoy working with the F2 I’ve sold off pretty much all my other cameras now, I‘m a photographer not a collector so my ultimate aim here is to shoot not to have loads of cameras just sitting on the shelf - the F2 is a shooters camera, a pro series camera from a time when being a pro photographer was a badge of honour. I make no claims to that badge myself and certainly just owning a decent camera will not make you a better photographer, but owning something as well made with such attention to detail and design is a joy in and of itself - to use it as intended to create work that you are proud of is a whole other level of joy. I can’t guarantee that I won’t buy some other random cameras in future but what i can say is that for me the F2 is the ultimate 35mm film camera.

The Ineffable Pathos of Ruin....

I flipping love a good ruin, don't you? I also love hiking and film photography - if you like those things too then today's blog will be right up your street, or path or moorland, whatever - you're in the right place!

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Raistrick Greave is an ancient derelict farmhouse atop Heptonstall Moor in West Yorkshire - these photos were taken on a walk in 2017 but the roll of film has been languishing in the fridge since then (i keep film in the fridge - it's a thing, honest) but no longer, the images have been awoken from their icy slumber to tell the tale of the haunted ruins of... RAISTRICK GREAVE!!! (que thunder sound effects and scary music)!

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Not only do I love a good ruin but I flipping love an open moorland too, the seemingly endless expanse of sky and undulating sea of grass - I can't resist the urge to stick my walking boots on and head for the horizon, which sounds like a really polite way of telling someone to bugger off doesn't it?! These photos were taken on one of my all to infrequent jaunts out into the wilds, on this occasion accompanied by my mate Dom who had discovered the ruined farm house on a previous walk and suggested we take a look.

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On the approach to the site the first traces of human occupation appear - the remains of rough stone walls sunken into the ground tracing the boundary of what must have once been grazing or even farm land but is now very definitely open moor - this just adds to the sense of dereliction and dissaray.

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It is difficult to obtain much detail about the history of the place except for it's name Rasitrick Greave and that it was (obviously) a farm house - when I say difficult to obtain I don't mean that the information is hidden away behind myriad booby traps in an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom kind of way, just that having spent, ooh... litreally minutes on google I couldn't find anything - anyway myself and my esteemed Colleague Mr. Dominic Ranson Esq reckoned it to be 17th Century ish and that's good enough for me - alternative suggestions are welcomed!

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Looking back at the photos now It's difficult not to get into a reflective mood -  this was once a home, build to withstand the elements and provide shelter and warmth, a place to live! People lived here, the buildings were... alive....host to all the mundanities of daily life, the hustle and bustle, the highs and lows, the births and the deaths....but now fallen silent, deprived of the one thing that brought them meaning - life! Home now only to the wind whistling through the cracks in the wall

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I wonder how many people sat around that hearth warming themselves by the fire after a hard days work in the fields,how many times did they sit at the window and take in the views, what were there hopes, dreams and aspirations? All that's left are these tumbledown stones, monuments to forlorn hope. I wonder if in a few hundred years enough will remain of my own home for some itinerant soul to ponder....

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I'm feeling far too reflective to bang on about the film gear used to create these images suffice it to say that they were shot on Rollei Retro 80S on my trusty Olympus OM2n and developed in Adonal which has once again prove itself to be a great means of creating images with contrast, depth and sharpness.

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Fomapan 200 35mm film review

Film photography is a dear doo, don't let anyone tell you otherwise - if it's not cameras, lenses or film then it's developing kit or just random bits of film related paraphenalia all of which takes it's toll on the old bank account! So it can be very welcome to discover some relatively cheap film - enter Fomapan 200...but is it any good? well if you can't be bothered to read the rest of this review then the short answer is YES! Hopefully you'd like a little more insight than that, and hopefully I can oblige!

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The first group of images were taken on a photo walk around the fair city of Bradford in West Yorkshire on my Olympus OM2n and trusty Zuiko 28mm 2.8 lens - I wax lyrical about this combo HERE,and the second group of photos were shot with the same camera and lens many months later in the fair town of Dewsbury West Yorkshire with a couple of shots in Hull and Huddersfield for good measure - it's like a tour of all the most glamorous towns in the world!!

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I started my Bradford photo walk in the National Media museum - hoping to catch the National Photography collection before it was pilfered (sorry I mean transfered) to London... as sods law would have it I missed out by two days and was presented with nothing but this snazzily decorated staircase leading to a locked door :( whilst i was gutted to have missed the exhibition I was quite impressed how Fomapan 200 handled the dimly lit scene, helped along no doubt by my chosen development process of Semi Stand developing in Adox Adonal (Rodinal) for 1 hour (with 3 inversions at 30 mintues) at a dilution of 1:100 - this is my go to sem stand process and as you can see from the results here the Fomapan 200 responded very well to it, I was slightly nervious first time round for two reasons 1: at that point 200 speed film was the fastest film I'd semi stand developed and 2: Fomapann 200 is a 'Tabular' grain film (in the same vein as Kodak Tmax and Ilford Delta) formulations which traditionally do not respond well to stand development. Your mileage may vary but I think it works great in this developer - there is a grain texture which looks more like a classic old school film grain rather than 'Tabular' grain which is inherenlty smoother but for me grain is a good thing, when I shoot film I want it to look like, well - film! I've recenlty bought some developer specifically for Tabular grain films so I'll be interested to compare the results some day.

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Fomapan Creative 200 (to give it's full name) is manufactured in the Czech Republic by long standing film producers Foma, there aren't really that many 200 speed films around most manufacturers offfer a choice of 100 or 400 films but Foma in their infinite wisdom have provided for those who would like a little more flexibility - in fact they claim that the film can be rated anywhere between 100 and 800 ISO but I've only ever shot it at box speed so I can't comment on how it performs when pushed/pulled in that way, what I can say is that on photowalks in varied lighting in and around busy city centres, inside buildings and the like it performs wonderfully!

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They do a good line in 60's architecture in Bradford - here I've used the perspective to enhance the brutalist vibe of this civic building, the home of some truly brutal bureaucracy no doubts!

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I find that the tonal range is very pleasing with rich blacks, smooth greys and clean white areas, look at he mod scooter above! very smooth image with a nice texture and finish - proper two tone! BELL BOOOOY!!!!!

The following two images are from Bank Bottom Mill - a semi abandoned building near where I live, I was just using up the last couple of frames on my roll after my visit to Bradford - again a great balance of tones, quite high contrast and nice detail and grain throughout.

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We leave Bradford behind us and our travels now take us to Dewsbury - same camera, same lens, same make of film, same bottle of developer and guess what..... same outcome! Very balanced images with perhaps a touch more grain in than the roll I shot in Bradford - this could be from the development process maybe I introduced some extra inversions (which encourages grain) and of course the two rolls were shot months a part from each other so lighting was totally different, either way once again I am very pleased with the results so the first roll wasn't a fluke!

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I've walked past this doorway so many times I can't remember, it's amazing how having a camera in hand encourages the eyes to pick out previously unseen details and generally be more open to your surroundings....in this case my eye was drawn to the faded paintwork where a Christian Cross was once fixed...suddenly this dilapidated old doorway was transformed, it had a story to tell - one that spoke of a once proud heritage but no current sense of purpose, a forgotten place echoing with the ghosts of finery long since faded... or something like that, whatever... either way cool doorway eh?!

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Change your perspective and see the world afresh! For me this is part of the enjoyment of  photography, how do you show a subject (in the case above a building) in a new light, how do you generate interest through form and structure - it's a constant challenging to your composition to make the most of your surroundings within the confines of a 35mm frame, and of course you dont get to look at the results until you've developed the film! It's also one of the many valid reasons for shooting with a fixed focal length/prime lens - if you want to change your perspective then you need to move your body! it's a more physical and therefore meaningful experience - this is a lesson I need to translate into my digital work more and stop relying on telephoto zooms to do the work for me!

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I suspect that films are NOT developed there anymore, in fact last time I cheked this building was covered in even more scaffolding so perhaps (unusually for Dewsbury Town Centre) it's about to be redeveloped - I'm not bashing Dewsbury although I think anyone would agree that it's a bit rundown - this makes it a great subject for street photography as many of the buildings have an evocative (if somewhat forlorn) sense of what used to be which I find quite visually appealing "the ineffable pathos of ruin" indeed! Having said that I do hope things start to change for the better for the town!

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We leave Bradford and Dewsbury behind and head East for the next image which was snapped whilst on the train to another fair City - Hull, capital of culture no less - and what better subject than the Humber bridge, I really must go back and shoot this properly (i.e. whilst not on a train) it's an amazing structure - looks so graceful in the distance spanning the Humber estuary, for those who are interested in it's history have a look HERE

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Photographically speaking (this is a photo blog after all) I quite like the reflection of the train lighting in the image and the blurred foreground which gives a sense of motion and direction to an otherwise static image, the shot was literally from the hip before the view was obscurred by trees and stuff so I was pleased it came out as well as it did.

A big yorkshire sky filled with cloud (it's default setting) underpinned by the Emley Moor Mast which is the seventh-tallest freestanding structure in the UK, fourth-tallest tower in the EU (sorry brexiteers) and 24th tallest in the world! At the risk of this turning into some sort of public information service about the buildings, bridges and towers of Yorkshire (that would be a niche website) there's a link for more info about Emley Moor Mast HERE

I like the simple composition a thin band of landscape and the tower piercing the huge blanket of sky - this image just presented itself to me as I was driving along one day, my view of the foreground obscurred by a wall and I literally abandoned the car in a grass verge and jumped out to see if I could match the image that originally caught my eye - and I did! The number of times I've been out and about without a camera and seen sweeping vistas, tiny details and all manner of scenes that I would have wished to capture are imeasureable.. all these moments are now lost, like tears in the (yorkshire) rain...

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We've seen lots of buildings on our tour of Yorkshire with Fomapan 200 but what's it like on other subjects - portraits and the like? well the above photo taken in the fields behind my house attests to the loveliness of the film (and the horse)!  great contrast and level of detail and that grain structure that by now we've come to know and love too. it also works on people - here's a shot of my son when he was about 6 months old :) in it he's doing a great impresssion of one of those old Soviet propognda photos like he's a baby Kosmonaut or something!

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So in summary then I am a huge fan of Fomapan 200, it's versatile, works well in mixed lighting, gives great contrast and high levels of detail, works well in a semi stand development process and ultimately it's very reasonably priced - you can buy 3 rolls of it for £14.99, which these days is pretty bloomin good! I heartily recommend this film, it's lovely, there is no compromise in quality in my experience and it creates a really useable alternative to all those 100 and 400 speed films out there, give it a whirl!