Why the Nikon F2 is my favorite camera.

I was a child in the 1960s, but I grew up in the 1970s. While I was aware of The Beatles, The Byrds and The Mamas & The Papas, I adored Boston, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, The Eagles and The Doobies. The soundtrack of the 1970s is imprinted on me, indelibly. When I hear songs from the 70s, they still make me feel good.

The generation before me had The Ed Sullivan Show and Jack Paar. I had the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, Carol Burnett and Johnny Carson. The Tonight chair has changed ownership twice since Carson ruled late night, but those old clips on You Tube still make me laugh.

The women of 1970s rock-n-roll stirred the hormones of a young teenager, sitting on the floor of his Upstate New York bedroom, listening to their music on his Technics turntable. They're older, grayer and a little less petite today, but I still find Stevie Nicks and the Wilson sisters sexy.

I got my drivers license around 1975. The Arab oil embargo was in full swing. People were dumping gas guzzling muscle cars for pennies on the dollar, trading them in on Datsun B210s and Toyota Coronas. The 396 cubic inch 69 Camaro SS was within the reach of a high school kid with a little financial help from his old man and I wanted one! I settled for a tamer 302 cubic inch version in Kelly Green--but my old 69 Camaro remains my favorite car ever.

AM radio was still vibrant in the 1970s. Album rock on FM was up and coming, but AM Top 40 ruled the airwaves. With it's 50,000 watt clear channel signal, I could listen to New York City's Musicradio 77 WABC pretty clearly three hours away in my little upstate town. Harry Harrison, Ron Lundy and the amazing Dan Ingram were the jocks that me decide that someday, some way, I wanted to be on the radio too.

Didn't have an internet in the 70s. We read magazines. Popular Photography, Shutterbug and Modern Photography. Modern was the coolest of the three. Herb Keppler wrote great gear reviews with humor and passion. Couldn't afford a single camera he wrote about, but it didn't stop me from dreaming. That's where I first read about and drooled over the Nikon F2.

It was in the pages of Modern that I first saw ads like this one. This was the camera every young photo freak wanted in the 70s, but only pros could afford them. 

I was shooting with my Dad's Kodak Retina rangefinder at this time, developing and printing Tri-X Pan and Plus-X Pan in our basement darkroom. One Saturday afternoon, I needed more chemicals and convinced my Dad to take me to Tuthill's--the "big" camera store in Binghamton. They had a new F2 in the display case and I asked the salesperson if I could look at it. Knowing that I probably had scraped together my lawn mowing money to buy the D-76 and KodaFix I had in my hands, he humored me. Holding the Nikon F2 that day solidified forever in my mind everything a camera should be. Metal, glass, gears, substantial, designed and built by hand, long lasting. They say lots of things get imprinted on you when you are young. The F2 sure did that day and stayed with me a lifetime.

It would be four decades later before I actually owned an F2. After many life changes, I finally had some time and a little money and started looking online for a good, sturdy, easy and fun to use film camera.

I've owned and had restored about a half dozen F2 variants over the past few years. I've sold one to buy another and gave one away to my blogging friend Jim Grey, but most of them I still have. Use often. And smile every time I do.

You can read just a bazillion online reviews about how great this camera is. How photographers beat off muggers by hitting them with their F2s or how the camera survived after tumbling down a mountain. There are places where you can read in finite detail about the various finders that turn an F2 into an F2SB, F2S, F2A or F2AS. There's a passionate Facebook group and dedicated Flickr pages.

I too have written some posts, both here and on a previous blog, about the wonderful technical aspects of the F2. But as I purchased my seventh...I think...F2 a few weeks ago...I decided that maybe, just maybe it was time for me to throw out the bullshit flag. Sure, the F2 is a fine camera. A really fine camera. The reason I like it...ok...the reason I love it...is that it makes me feel good. Just like listening to Deacon Blues off of vinyl, watching an old clip of Johnny cracking up as a marmoset pees on his head, Stevie Nicks, Ann Wilson, muscle cars or remembering the echoing monster sound of WABC...holding and shooting a Nikon F2 just makes me feel good. And for me, that's good enough.