Any Nikon Rangefinder Users?

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by snegron, Nov 30, 2007.

  1. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I'm curious to know if anyone here uses Nikon rangefinders? It seems that there is much talk about every other brand, but very little (if any) about Nikon rangefinders.

    How do Nikon Rangefinders (particularly the S2) compare in terms of ease of use and reliability to Leica M3's, Canons, Contax's, etc?

    I started another thread on this forum about using a modern film canister in an S2, but I didn't get too many responses. That made me do some research here and I found very little threads about Nikon rangefinders. Any particular reason why Nikons are hardly mentioned? Again, just curious.
     
  2. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    The S2 was a workhorse Nikon RF. It's early version was "discovered" by a "Life" magazine PJ who suddenly needed to get to Korea (war started there) and had just purchased one of these Nikons in post-war Japan.

    The story is legendary. You should read up on it.

    What was key to the Nikon RF was the quality of its lens - particularly the simple 5.0cm/1.4.

    The "ultimate" Nikon RF was the SP with a built-in 35/50/85 frame VF.

    It "premiered" earlier in the same year (c. 1958) that Nikon "scrunched" a SLR viewfinder onto a S2 body!

    The rest is history.

    The "F" was born.

    BTW, lenses b/w the RF and SLR were incompatible due to focal length etc. After the popularity of the SLR during the 1960 Tokyo Olympics Nikon began phasing out RF production.

    Much more recently, Mr. Kobyashi, who bought the Voightlander name and combined it with Cosina introduced the R2S.

    This was a version of his R2 that mounted the S-lenses.

    BTW: The Nikon S-mount is a variation on the German Contax C-mount. After WWII, the Contax facilities wound up on the East German side and the plants were dismantled and moved to the former Soviet Union.

    In order to "protect" this "system"; the US occupying forces in Japan encouraged Nikon to develop a camera using the C-mount, as the S-mount. Up to 50mm (5.0cm) old Nikon and Contax lenses are compatible and can be mounted on bodies of either manufacturer.

    However, differences in film planes prevent such compatibilty at 85mm and higher focal lengths.

    Oh, and just as the US encouraged the Nikon to make C-mount; they did a similar thing with Canon; which produced camera/lens kits in the early post-war era using the Leica screw-mount system.

    Was all of this outright patent violations? Without a doubt. And much more has been written about it elsewhere than I could ever write here.

    Anyway, enjoy your Nikon S2. The fact that they keep working after all these years is a testament to what great gear Nikon once made.
     
  3. snegron

    snegron Member

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    Thanks George! I was doing a bit of research last night and you are right about the history of the Nikon rangefinders. I'm assuming that the lack of Nikon rangefinder threads can be due to scarce availability of bodies and lenses, not because of performance issues (I hope).

    Something else that I noticed during my brief research was that there are small handheld light meters that can be placed in the accessory shoe of the rangefinder. I think Voigtlander makes them in silver and in black. I also saw a Nikon rangefinder with a Digisix meter attatched to it. I think that is a pretty cool idea, especially since the idea of using the rangefinder will be for low light shooting.

    Also, I discovered another film forum yesterday during my search, www.rangefinderforum.com . It is comforting to know that there are more people out there like us who enjoy using film and old film cameras! :smile:
     
  4. Mackinaw

    Mackinaw Member

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    Also take a look at the Nikon Historical Society's website: http://www.nikonhs.org/index.html

    I have an old Nikon M I picked at a antique show for a pittance. Great old camera.

    Jim B.
     
  5. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    That would be this item http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/274510-REG/Gossen_GO4098_Camera_Shoe_for_Digisix.html or something home-made that's similar. The Digisix/Digiflash meters cover about the same angle as a 95mm lens, so you could estimate what you're reading by bringing up appropriate framelines. IIRC, the Voigtlander VC meters and Leica M meters cover about the same angle as the Digisix/Digiflash on reflective readings.

    Some people report that this hot shoe adapter positions the meter too far back over the shoe so that it pokes them in the forehead. A DIY version could overcome that problem.

    Lee
     
  6. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I just checked the specs of the Voigtlander and the Digisix on B&H. It looks like the Digisix's EV range starts at 0 but the Voigtlander starts at EV1. I like the convenience of attatching a meter to the hotshoe, but I wonder if it would be more practical to use the Digisix handheld (strapped around the neck)? I like the idea of using a compact rangefinder, so adding a meter on the top plate accessory shoe makes it appear bulkier. Not sure on which one yet.
     
  7. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    I like keeping my rangefinders compact as well, so I don't have or use a shoe mount. It would help if you're trying to align the meter with the 90mm frames in a finder.

    With the Digiflash I take a reading and set the dial to match the metered EV. Then I set my camera to my preferred f-stop / shutter speed combination. The metered EV stays on the Digiflash display indefinitely. If lighting changes, I look at the EV readout, take a quick new reading and then add/subtract EV to see how many stops to adjust, and then make that adjustment on the camera. Your new EV reading stays on the meter display and you can make further adjustments to your camera settings from that. Once I've made my initial reading, I only reset the Digiflash dial occasionally, working mainly with the EV reading changes and camera settings.

    I really like taking a quick incident reading over my head or shoulder, facing the subject. It's also less obvious to take a reading with a handheld meter, transfer that to the camera at waist level, prefocus a bit, then lift the camera, fine tune focus, frame and shoot. This is great for street shooting... incident if I'm in the same light as my subject, reflected with correct mental adjustments if I'm not.

    In difficult situations, like a dark-skinned soccer player backlit in bright sunlight, I turn to match the position of the player relative to the sun, meter incident in the shadow at the center of my chest, then use that to make the shot. The meter is as good as the user.

    I was making the same decision between the CV meter and the Gossen Digiflash a couple of years ago, and the Gossen met my varied needs better. Of course it's gone from $169 up to $225 the last time I looked, so it's a harder choice now.

    Lee
     
  8. lens_hacker

    lens_hacker Member

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    I use quite a few Nikon RF's, mosty shoot with the S2, S3, and SP. I've also done simple repairs and adjustments on them, including Shimming Sonnar's and FSU lenses to the Nikon standard.

    The S2 is a simpler mechanism than the M2 and M3. It will not require as many CLA's as a Leica. My analogy is that Leica shutter's are like dual-point distributers on fast cars. Need a lot more tune-ups, but get a few more horses out.
     
  9. snegron

    snegron Member

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    Thanks for sharing your metering technique! The idea of metering at waist level is actually a very good idea.
     
  10. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Yup, the Nikons were modeled after the Contax. I've never gotten used to the wheel focus on 'em & much preferred the traditional focus of the Leicas. Other than that, the layout of controls is much the same. I guess you can't argue with success.
     
  11. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Interesting question. What has become of your dream of a Leica M?
     
  12. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I found an S2 at a decent price (less than a 50mm Leica M mount lens). So, I'm not really going back on the agreement I had with the wife about buying the Leica when I dropped to 185. In reality it's not a Leica, so I'm not really "cheating". :D

    Besides, I just purchased another D200 a few weeks ago as a back up for my other D200, so the Leica was going to be out of my price range for another year or so... :wink:


    p.s., forgot to add; the wife gets a trip to Puerto Rico or wherever, no questions or complaints on my part. We agreed I would sell off some excess equipment I have just out of principle. I guess I will be saying goodbye to one of my D1X's, an F3HP (maybe the F2A because it bores me), and a couple of more odds and ends...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 1, 2007
  13. Marc Akemann

    Marc Akemann Subscriber

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    Up until last year, I had a Nikon S2 (black dial) and a Nikon S, both with 50/1.4 Nikkor lenses. Included with the cameras were the never-ready cases for both, the original box for the S and some accessories. The S2 was in such nice truly mint condition I was afraid to use it, and the S needed simple a CLA and I didn't want to spend the money on it since I wasn't interested in shooting with that one, so, after about a year of holding on to both cameras, I sold it all for just under $2000US. I originally purchased everything at a garage sale in '05 for a total of $35. I shot one roll of slide film with the S2 and the slides turned out pretty good. I thought I'd find a good user S2 and some lenses one day, but I haven't really looked since I sold those two Nikons. This thread has rekindled my interest so maybe I'll have an S2 or SP soon. :smile:
     
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  15. Eric Mac

    Eric Mac Member

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    I cut my teeth on my family's Nikon SP. It was retired when I found out that it was a collectable. However I now have a an S and S3 that I use. Right now my main carry around camera is a Voigtlander R3a due to my love of RF cameras. My 2008 goal is to shoot the Nikon stuff more. After 30 years the Sp is still going strong.

    As far as handling, I like them as well as my Leica stuff.

    Eric
     
  16. snegron

    snegron Member

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    Are you currently using Leica or Voigtlander lenses with your R3a? Have you had a chance to compare them to the Nikon lenses? If so, I would be curious to know how they compare from an actual users point of view.

    I have heard lots of praise for the Leica M and some Voigtlander lenses. It would be interesting to see images shot of the same subject with different lenses to see the actual differences. Just a thought. :smile:
     
  17. Trask

    Trask Subscriber

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    I have an S2 w/1.4, and a 35mm f/2.5 extra lens that I use somewhat frequently. I really like the fact that the S2 has a 1:1 viewfinder, so you can look through the viewfinder with the "shooting" eye and also look at the scene with your non-camera eye. Framing is accurate only with the 50mm, of course. I like my S2 very much, as it reminds me of my S3 and several Nikon RF I had stolen in Zaire in 1975 -- God knows where that stuff is now!

    My S2 needs a CLA, however, as the slow speeds are too slow. Off to Essex Camera, I suppose, unless someone has a better idea. For more info on the Nikon RF system, get a copy of Robert Rotolini's excellent book.
     
  18. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    I used a Nikon S and S2 in the late 1950s and I loved them.

    Now I have a Nikon Historical Society Voigtlander Bessa -R2S with several lenses - a wonderful camera!

    http://www.cameraquest.com/inventor.htm
     
  19. snegron

    snegron Member

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    Any word yet on the release date of Rotolini's book? Amazon.com displays it but doesn't have any in stock.
     
  20. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I'd like to know what Roger Hicks has to say about Nikon rangefinders and lenses. I'm a little concerned we haven't heard from him in a while. I was hoping he would chime in on this thread. His knowledge about older cameras is amazing especially since he has used and compared just about everything out there.
     
  21. Mackinaw

    Mackinaw Member

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    Roger's been spending a lot of time over at the Rangefinder Forum the past several days. I suspect he'll come back here eventually.

    Jim B.
     
  22. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I'm not to sure. I was on rangefinderforum and Nikonians the past couple of days and didn't see him there. :sad: Maybe he is on vacation!
     
  23. Mackinaw

    Mackinaw Member

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    He's there. Check out the "Using flash with a Leica" thread. You'll find several posts from Roger there, including one sent today.

    Jim B.
     
  24. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    ".

    BTW: The Nikon S-mount is a variation on the German Contax C-mount. After WWII, the Contax facilities wound up on the East German side and the plants were dismantled and moved to the former Soviet Union.

    In order to "protect" this "system"; the US occupying forces in Japan encouraged Nikon to develop a camera using the C-mount, as the S-mount. Up to 50mm (5.0cm) old Nikon and Contax lenses are compatible and can be mounted on bodies of either manufacturer.

    However, differences in film planes prevent such compatibilty at 85mm and higher focal lengths.

    Oh, and just as the US encouraged the Nikon to make C-mount; they did a similar thing with Canon; which produced camera/lens kits in the early post-war era using the Leica screw-mount system.

    Was all of this outright patent violations? Without a doubt. And much more has been written about it elsewhere than I could ever write here.

    As I understand it both German and Japan lost their patents following the war as retuibution, Pentax used the 42mm, Topcon the Exacta mounts.
     
  25. snegron

    snegron Member

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    Interesting info! Is there any problem with compatibility in wide angle range? I was looking at newer S mount Voigtlander lenses today. The 35mm looks tempting.
     
  26. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    The Cosina lenses are fully S-mount compatible as they are intended to fit the R2S which is basically a SP with a built-in light meter (although not built as well).

    Contrary to the statement above - the patents were not surrendered as war retribution.

    But there was a Cold War b/w the West and the SU, the latter of which had shipped Contax plants eastward and also chose to violate Leica's patents for the screw mount as well as Contax's for the C-mount.

    SU "Contax" cameras were built in the Ukraine as "Kievs". Someone else here will know the name of the Leica-likes that use screw mounts (the name escapes me right now).

    At the same time, the US could not know for sure if the "Iron Curtain" would advance westward and take over the western German plants Leica and Contax/Zeiss.

    So they "authorized" Canon and Nikon to make bodies and lenses that used those systems. This was a case of expediency over law. And since Japan was an occupied country at the time under US military law - who was to stop this?

    Eventually, Contax/Carl Zeiss (the West German version) pursued patent claims against Nikon throughout the 1950's and finally entered into a settlement agreement in the early 1960's.

    By then the issue was moot. Nikon had moved on from RFs to SLRs and Contax/Zeiss, as a camera manufacturer, was dying a slow death.

    Meanwhile, Leica ultimately protected itself by abandoning the screw-mount and adopting the M-mount for its new, post-war bodies. Since Canon's foray into screw-mounts was brief, and since Leica had "moved on", Leica never engaged in patent litigation against Canon.

    The ultimate irony is that Zeiss introduced a line of F-mount lenses about two years ago after the F-mount patent expired. I'm sure they had real business reasons for doing so. But maybe also, it was a kind of a way of reminding Nikon that some "hard feelings" remained?