Our 10 Favorite Film Cameras of All Time

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3. Nikon SP

The very last iteration of the classic, interchangeable-lens Nikon rangefinder camera, the SP of 1957 is the most famous and prized Nikon S-series model, and I know from personal experience that it’s a superb picture taker. Its signature feature is the distinctively shaped, wide window for the viewfinder, which includes projected, parallax-compensating framelines for focal lengths from 50-135mm and a separate built-in viewfinder for 28mm and 35mm lenses. The SP was also compatible with an electric motor drive. Features include: Single stroke film-wind lever, cloth focal-plane shutter with speeds of 1/1000 sec plus B, and self-timer. Most common normal bayonet (S-mount) lenses: 50mm f/1.4 or f/2 Nikkor. A great user-collectible collectible, the Nikon SP is most often found in chrome finish, but it was also made in black. Chrome versions in pristine condition with original lens currently sell in the $1,100 to $1,800 range and rarer black versions fetch about twice as much.

4. Nikon F2

Everybody loves the original Nikon F, the first truly professional system 35mm SLR, but ask a seasoned camera repairman and he’ll chose the ultra-reliable F2 every time. This handsome, rugged camera had a long production run, from September 1971 to June 1980 and it incorporates a mechnaically controlled horizontal-travel focal-plane shutter with titanium shutter curtains that provided speeds of 1-1/2000 sec (up to 10 sec using the self-timer) plus B and T, with flash sync at 1/80 sec. and required no batteriies. It also has a swing back for eaier loading, a larger reflex mirror to eliminate vignetting, and a shutter release placed closer to the front of the camera for better handling. It accepts a wider assortment of meter heads, all with a more secure mounting system, and offered a detachable motor drive that fit the camera directly, a feature lacking on the F. The later F2A and F2AS versions required AI or AI-S lenses, which is one reason I prefer the original F2. However, I wouldn’t refuse a Nikon F2A with a titanium body and DP-11 prism if I could find one at a good price. The Nikon F2 is an awesome camera that will probably last three lifetimes and it’s a superb picture taker. You can snag a clean chrome F2 for about $350-550 with classic 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor, which is a pretty good deal. Black ones go for a bit more.

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