The Interesting Nikomat FT2

I wanted to delve a little bit deeper into my experiences with the 1975’s Nikomat FT2, as it sure is an unusual little 35mm camera, with a number of surprises in store …

The Nikomat FT2

On a side note, I never knew that Nikomat was a consumer version of the professional Nikon brand, producing simpler and more affordable versions of the flag-ship Nikon cameras … good to know.

The next big surprise was the interesting design quirks of the FT2, which caught me completely off guard:

  • Mounting a lens isn’t straight forward … it has to be set to f5.6 first and manually ‘indexed’ – a whole new experience me !
  • The shutter speed is selected using an outer ring attached to the lens mount – quite unique to my prior SLR experiences
  • Changing the film ISO definitely requires very nimble fingers, preferably with long nails 😉

After reading an online pdf copy of the FT2 user manual, I watched a YouTube review, to 100% confirm this manual ‘indexing’ process, required anytime you wish to attach a different lens to the camera:

  • First set the lens to f5.6
  • Mount the lens using the coupling lug (aka ‘rabbit ears’)
  • Twist the aperture ring all the way to to minimum aperture, and then twist it all the way to it’s maximum aperture
  • Finally confirm that a small red marking on the lens mount coupling matches that of your lens

Being an engineer myself, I completely understand the logic of this process – how else can the camera know what your maximum aperture was, without you running the lens through it’s entire range first. It became second nature to me after a while, but I have to admit, it sure was unusual !

As I mention, selecting the shutter speed on this camera was a bit of a novelty to, it was like an old fashioned gear-stick on the side of the lens mounting … as opposed to the knob on the top of the camera we’re all mostly used to. I have to admit, after a while I could instinctively tell whether I was at 1/15 or 1/60 simply by feel, as the shutter side lever moved through a predictable arc … very neat 🙂

Within two months I became very accustomed to the FT2 and its quaint yet quirky operation, I even began to really enjoy the clunk & whir of it’s gears.

However, after 6-7 months a couple of things began to bug me, and eventually I had to sit the FT2 on a shelf, and ‘upgrade’ to a Nikon FE2 instead:

  • The FT2 metering was wasn’t reliable in lower-light situations, with the metering simply not playing ball when I had to use speeds less than 1/2
  • Any attempts to use TTL flash wasn’t going to be an option, and I’d have to try my luck with manual flash & separate metering
  • The FT2 max shutter speed was too slow, especially when using shallow dof outdoors
  • It was actually a heavy little camera, and once you start attaching larger lens (e.g. 80-200mm f4 AI-S) it wasn’t becoming walk-about friendly

That all said, I look at my FT2 fondly now, here beside my WFH computer set-up, as it was the camera that kick-started this entire rediscovery of 35mm.

Thank you FT2 🙂

💻 Instagram: @irishanalogadventures