Experience report

Nikomat/Nikkormat FT(N)

My two Nikkormat cameras, FT and FTn, were for me the most difficult to sell, emotionally. Both of them are really charming and solid cameras. Fully metallic with chrome finishing. Really stylish cameras that strike a cord between pure photography joy and just enough automation.

The Basics

Type of camera SLR, combination of metal and plastic body (%99 metal!).
Lens mount Nikon F bayonet mount
Film/sensor type/size 35mm film
Viewfinder Fixed. Size? Magnification?
Focusing Fixed screen TTL. Central 4 mm microprism focusing aid plus 12 mm matte focusing surface (FTn had apparently an optional split-image focusing screen that mine did not have).
Depth of field preview Yes. Dedicated button on top plate.
Exposure meter Automatic, TTL full-scene averaged (FT) or 60/40 center-weighted (FTn) CdS photo sensor. Couples using Nikon F lens “bunny ears”.
Exposure program None. All manual.
Exposure lock None. Manual.
Exposure compensation None. Manual. Or use ISO setting?
Shutter type Metal-bladed, vertical travel, focal plane.
Shutter speed Manual 1″-1/1000 + B
ASA setting and range Manual, 12-1600
Flash usage Electronic flash PC socket 1/125 sec
Multiple exposure mechanism None? You can probably use the rewind release button on the bottom plate.
Film advance Manual, single stroke lever
Film rewind Manual, folding crank
Self-timer mechanism Yes – 10 seconds using button in front of the camera.
Mirror lock mechanism Yes.
Interchangeable backs No.
Weight and size 95 mm height, 146 mm width, 54 mm depth and 745 g weight
Battery type Single 1.3 volt mercury battery (for the light meter only). 1.5 625 seems to work fine.
Year of production My FT was probably from 1965 (see here), my FTn was probably from 1974, (see here).
Repair and maintenance Changed light seals on both of them.
Link to manual No need. I sold them 🙁

Shooting experience

Nikkormat is a charming camera. It is very solidly built, much more so than my Canons. It feels the same high quality as Nikon F, with the advantage of having a pretty accurate built-in light meter –something I really miss in my Nikon F. The FT version (1965) is apparently one of the first SLRs with built-in TTL light meter. There is a feeling of quality to Nikkormat which surprises me because they are quite cheap to buy. I don’t think anything will happen to a Nikkormat and they will be functioning –at least mechanically –for many decades to come.

Shooting is strait-forward. Focusing screen is not of the split type that I have on my Nikon F. This is maybe the major drawback for me. It has mirror -lock-up and depth-of-field so here we are talking really well-equipped cameras. Attaching lens is a bit complicated. FTn is supposed to introduce easier attaching but I found FT to be easier. You align widest aperture of the lens with the ISO value of the film. I also don’t like having shutter button around the lens, like in Olympus cameras. It is supposed to be more user-friendly but I think most people are used to having a shutter ring on top plate.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Really high quality solid and charming feeling to it.
  • Built-in light meter that is pretty accurate.
  • Clean viewfinder, no distraction, just the frame. There is needle light meter at the right edge of the viewfinder. FTn also has shutter speed at the bottom of the viewfinder. However, the viewfinder is still very clean.
  • I have a feeling that the shutter mechanism does not generate much vibration.
  • Light meter needle is also shown at the top of the camera. Good for landscape, when you have the camera on a tripod.
  • Above all, high joy factor!

Cons:

  • Shutter controlled by coaxically mounted ring around the lens. I just don’t manage to get used to it!
  • A bit complicated lens attachment, which at the same time calibrates the light meter.
  • Focusing screen does not have the split rangefinder, difficult to focus in dark.

Automation

Everything on this camera is manual except the meter that is TTL.

Improvements compared to earlier rangefinder cameras include:

  • TTL viewfinder. You get what you see in the viewfinder, both the framing and the composition and the focus.

Other resources and references

Sample photos

Here are some photos taken with Nikkormat FTn

nikon-nikormat-ftHere are some photos taken with Nikkormat FT

nikon-nikkormat-ft

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