|Nikkormat FTN (Nippon Kogaku), 35mm SLR camera, c1967|
The Nikkormat FTN forms part of a family of cameras created by the Japanese optical company Nippon Kogaku, most famously known for their Nikon range of cameras. The company had existed for around 30 years prior to creating their first civil camera, making a host of optical equipment as diverse as periscopes to microscopes and some military cameras during WW2. They also made lenses for the 35mm Canon cameras. Accordingly they elected to concentrate on the 35mm format and their first Nikon I camera arrived in 1948, being a rangefinder that looks superficially similar to a Contax. Incidently, these are rare and very sought after. That rangefinder camera evolved over the next 11 years or so until Nippon Kogaku went down the Single Lens Reflex route and brought us the scintillating Nikon F in 1959, unashamedly the best camera they could make. And it was very good, establishing the brand Nikon to the point the name eclipsed the name of the company behind it. It was the tool to have for professionals and well heeled consumers even though it's feature packed specifications made it a weighty lump. Lenses were excellent and featured a unique bayonet mounting system and quirky external aperture linkage. The high entry cost lead to the creation of a toned down SLR omitting some of the Nikon Fs specifically professional features and these were the Nikkormats, arriving in 1965. The same company, same fabulous lenses and accurate shutters, different body and name. But the Nikon brand was, and remains, so strong that the Nikkormat never quite acquired the same kudos. The first Nikkormats were the FS all manual and the FT with through lens metering with a viewfinder match needle arrangement. The FT was improved in 1967 for centre weighted metering to bring this version, the Nikkormat FTN. It was further developed becoming the FT2 in 1975. There was also the Nikkorex consumer range which blossomed and fizzled away during the 1960s, but that has little bearing on this exhibit. The Nikkormat FTN is a finely engineered camera based around a die cast alloy body, with pressed brass housings, either satin chrome plated or black painted. Although the black painted models acquire a battered look more readily, they are more desirable to collectors. Particularly if not too battered. The prism is fixed and displays around 92% of the actual image area, so there's a bit more in the actual picture, not uncommon in most cameras in fact. The viewfinder is bright with a 4mm microprism centre focus zone, a 12mm matt circle around that and the remainder is Fresnel. The brightness is helped by the relatively wide apertures of the standard lenses supplied. Nikkormats used the extensive range of Nikon lenses so that optically there is no performance penalty for using a Nikkormat over a Nikon. Whilst many contemporaries used horizontally running rubberized cloth shutters, the FTN focal plane shutter was a vertically running series of metal blades and accuracy was excellent. The CdS metering system is centre biased 60% into the 12mm matt centre zone, the remainder from the surround, and is a match needle system where you use the shutter and aperture controls to align the two needles. The meter itself was powered by the now banned 625 mercury battery and the system becomes live when the advance lever is moved into the partly extended position. The mercury 625 battery has a voltage of 1.35v and there is no direct replacement. But the camera is still highly usable as a manual. The camera looks modern but one feature gives away the era, twin flash outlets, one for electronic flash and one for expendable flash bulbs that were still common in the 1960s. The Nikons and Nikkormats arrived into a space occupied by Prakticas and Zenits, which were too low down the scale for it to compete with - but also Exactas and Pentax Spotmatics which it was. The build quality is such that many will still work very reliably 50+ years after they were made. Bravo Nippon Kogaku, it's not as pretty as a Pentax Spotmatic, but it's a gem.
This example was donated in August 2022. it had been stored poorly in damp conditions for a couple of decades and has also suffered the indignity of a severe drop. An original Nikon skylight filter was corroded into the lens along with a Hoya rubberized lens hood. No amount of warming and cooling antics would release them so in the end the drastic action of breaking the filter, covering the objective and cutting the filter rings released them. This care was rewarded as the lens is amazingly undamaged. The top housing has a nasty dent, but I want to keep the original serial number, so it won't be replaced.
Although the early Nikkormats weren't fitted with an accessory shoe, one could be purchased to be held in place by the eyepiece surround.
|Body No. FT 4222349
Shutter, Built in focal plane, vertical running metal blades, B, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60, 125, 250, 500 & 1000th sec..
Lens, the standard lens supplied with this particular camera is 50mm Nikon Nikkor-S Auto f/1.4, serial 1240701
|View other 35mm SLR cameras in this collection.|
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