The Nikon F2 is a professional-level, interchangeable lens, 35 mm film, single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. It was manufactured by the Japanese optics company Nippon Kogaku K. K. (Nikon Corporation since 1988) in Japan from September 1971 to 1980. It used a horizontal-travel focal plane shutter with titanium shutter curtains and a speed range of 1 to 1/2000 second (up to 10 seconds using the self-timer) plus Bulb and Time, and flash X-sync of 1/80 second. It had dimensions (with DE-1 head, see below) of 98 mm height, 152.5 mm width, 65 mm depth and 730 g weight. It was available in two colors: black with chrome trim and all black.
The F2 is the second member of the long line of Nikon F-series professional-level 35 mm SLRs that began with the Nikon F (manufactured 1959–1974) and followed each other in a sort of dynastic succession as the top-of-the-line Nikon camera. The other members were the F3 (1980–2001), F4 (1988–1996), F5 (1996–2005) and F6 (2004–present). The F-series do not share any major components except for the all-important bayonet lens mount (‘F mount’).
All Nikon professional F-series SLRs are full system cameras. This means that each camera body serves as only a modular hub.
The Nikon F2 is an all-metal, mechanically-controlled (springs, gears, levers), manual focus SLR with manual exposure control. The camera itself needed no batteries, though the prism light meter did (and of course the motor drive if added). The F2 replaced the Nikon F, adding many new features (a faster 1/2000-second maximum shutter speed, a swing open back for easier film loading, a wider assortment of detachable finders and metering heads, a 250 exposure film back, a larger reflex mirror to ensure no vignetting, and a shutter release nearer the front of the camera for better ergonomics). It also offered a detachable motor drive, something the F only had as a custom modification. It was the last all-mechanical professional-level Nikon SLR.
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The F2 accepts all lenses with the Nikon F bayonet mount (introduced in 1959 on the Nikon F camera), with certain limitations or exceptions depending on the F2 version. The later F2A and F2AS Photomic variants (see below) require lenses supporting the Automatic maximum aperture Indexing (AI) feature (introduced in 1977). The manual focus Nippon Kogaku made AI lenses were the Nikkor AI-S, Nikkor AI and Nikon Series E types. The AF-S Nikkor, AF-I Nikkor, AF Nikkor D and AF Nikkor autofocus lenses are also AI types. The original Nikkor “non-AI” (introduced before 1977) lenses, will mount but require stop down metering. Nippon Kogaku had a service to retrofit non-AI lenses with a new aperture ring with the AI feature to produce “AI’d” lenses, but this service ended decades ago.
The older F2, F2S and F2SB Photomic variants (see below) require lenses with a “meter coupling shoe” (or prong, informally called “rabbit ears” by photography enthusiasts). These lenses are the Nikkor non-AI, AI’d Nikkor, Nikkor AI and Nikkor AI-S types. Lenses without rabbit ears, such as the Nikon Series E, AF Nikkor, AF Nikkor D, AF-I Nikkor and AF-S Nikkor types, will mount but require stop down metering.
The F2 with plain/eye-level DE-1 prism (no light meter; see below) will work with either lens types. Note that the Nikkor AI-S and Nikkor AI types are AI types plus have rabbit ears and will function properly on all Nikon F2 variants.
Nikon’s most recent 35mm film SLR lenses, the AF Nikkor G type (2000) lacking an aperture control ring; and the AF Nikkor DX type (2003) with image circles sized for Nikon’s DX digital SLRs, will mount but will not function properly. A few exotic fisheye lenses from the 1960s require mirror lock-up and therefore an auxiliary viewfinder is preferred. IX Nikkor lenses (1996), for Nikon’s Advanced Photo System (APS) film SLRs, must not be mounted on any F2, as their rear elements will intrude far enough into the mirror box to cause damage even with the mirror locked up.
In 1977 Nippon Kogaku made about 55 non-AI and AI lenses, ranging from a Fisheye-Nikkor 6 mm f/2.8 220° circular fisheye to a Reflex-Nikkor 2000 mm f/11 super-long mirror telephoto. This was the largest lens selection in the world by far.
The standard lens for most professionals was the Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4, but some preferred the Nikkor 35 mm f/2 with a wider field of view for grab shots. The Nikkor 105 mm f/2.5 was renowned for its superb sharpness and bokeh and was a favorite for head-and-shoulders portraits (“head shots”).
Special purpose lenses included the Micro-Nikkors 55 mm f/3.5 and 55 mm f/2.8, Micro-Nikkor 105 mm f/4 for close-up “macro” photography, the Noct-Nikkor 58 mm f/1.2 for low light photography, the PC-Nikkor 28 mm f/3.5 shifting perspective control lens, the GN-Nikkor 45 mm f/2.8 for automatically setting the proper aperture for flash exposure based on distance (also useful as a very small/light “pancake” lens), the Nikkor 13mm f/5.6 widest angle (118°) rectilinear lens for SLRs ever made, the Nikkor 300 mm f/2.8 ED IF fast telephoto useful for sports and wildlife photography, the versatile, but heavy Zoom-Nikkor 50–300 mm f/4.5 ED and the quick framing, but notoriously middling optical-quality Zoom-Nikkor 43–86 mm f/3.5.
There were innumerable independent manufacturer lenses available in the Nikon F mount. The most famous was probably the Vivitar Series 1 70–210 mm f/3.5 Macro Zoom (released 1974), the first independent zoom lens to meet most professional photographers’ quality standards.
Major accessories for the F2 included the Nikon MD-1 (introduced in 1971) and MD-2 (1973) motor drives, providing automatic film advance up to 5 frames per second, 6 if the mirror was locked up, plus power rewind. They both required a Nikon MB-1 battery pack holding 10 AA or LR6 batteries in two Nikon MS-1 battery clips. Note that the 5 frame/s rate required that the F2 have its mirror locked up and the MD-1 or -2 be loaded with two Nikon MN-1 nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries. (These batteries are long since dead.) With the mirror operating, the maximum advance rate is 4.3 frame/s; with AAs, the rate is 4 frame/s. The addition of the MD-1 or MD-2 greatly increased the overall weight of the camera. With a fully loaded MD-2/MB-1 and 50mm lens, the F2 would weigh in at just over six pounds.
The F2 also accepted the lighter, cheaper and less capable Nikon MD-3 motor drive. The MD-3 did not have power rewind and had an advance rate of 2.5 frame/s with the standard MB-2 battery pack holding 8 AA or LR6 batteries. Optionally, it could reach 3.5 frame/s with an MB-1 battery pack with 10 AA or LR6 batteries; 4 frame/s with MB-1 and MN-1 nicad battery.
The F2 could also mount the Nikon MF-1 (33/10 feet/meters film = 250 frames; required two Nikon MZ-1 film cassettes) and MF-2 (100/30 feet/meters film = 750 frames; required two MZ-2 film cassettes) bulk film backs. These were very useful if a photographer had a motor drive mounted and needed to take more than seven seconds’ worth of photographs. Note that the MF-2 and its MZ-2 cassettes are very rare.
Starting in 1976, Nippon Kogaku introduced the Nikon Speedlight SB-2 (guide number 82/25 (feet/meters) at ASA 100), SB-5 (guide number 105/32 (feet/meters) at ASA 100), SB-6 (guide number 148/45 (feet/meters) at ASA 100) and SB-7E (guide number 82/25 (feet/meters) at ASA 100) electronic flashes. Note that the F2 did not use a standard ISO hot shoe to mount flash units. Instead, the SB-2, -6 and -7E mounted in a unique-to-Nikon-F-and-F2 hot shoe surrounding the film rewind crank. Manually rewinding film could not be done with a flash mounted in this shoe because the flash blocked the crank. Standard ISO foot flashes can be connected to the Nikon shoe via the Nikon AS-1 Flash Unit Coupler.
The Nikon ML-1 Modulite was a wireless infrared remote controller with a 200/60 feet/meters line-of-sight range. It was a two part device: a handheld transmitter plus a camera mounted receiver. Note that the receiver needed to be connected to a motor drive. The Nikon MW-1 was a similar device, but was larger and more powerful and used radio signals for a longer 2300/700 feet/meters obstructed view range. The MW-1 could also control three separate F2s by broadcasting three different codes.
The Nikon MT-1 intervalometer allowed completely untended time lapse photography. It could fire the F2 for a specific number of frames at a particular shutter speed at set time intervals.
Nippon Kogaku also made scores of minor accessories for the F2, such as straps, cases, bags, remote firing cords, eyecups, eyepiece correction lenses, supplementary close-up lenses, lens hoods, filters and cases. In 1978 the complete Nikon photographic system of cameras, lenses and accessories totaled nearly 450 items priced in excess of US$110,000—the most extensive and expensive in the world.