Friday Film: My 1st roll of film in a Nikon FM2 by Huss Hardan

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Friday Film: My 1st roll of film in a Nikon FM2

by Huss Hardan

Hi Steve!

Thanks for providing such a great site and forum.

I love shooting film and I love shooting digital. The thing with film is that I find it nostalgic, using it just brings back happy memories from when I was a kid and used an Olympus OM10 SLR.

Does film make sense today? Well, if it is fun and you get results that you like, yes.

I have a bunch of other cameras, but for some reason I got a bee in my bonnet and decided to grab a Nikon FM2, with a Nikkor 50mm 1.2 lens off Craigslist. This was a semi pro/pro camera from the late 1980s.

Full manual – you set the exposure, you set the focus. Just as a I like it (my main shooter is a Leica M3 for film, an ME for digital).

It’s one thing writing a review of a camera that you have already shot extensively, so I thought it would be more fun to show images from the very first roll of film I put through it. No chance to get used to it and improve technique. Just pump a roll through it and see what happens.

My method – the cheapest film I could find (Kodak 400 for $2.50 a roll from B&H!) – as, well, what if the camera’s shutter was tweaked?. Or the lens’ focus was off? I didn’t want to blow a roll of Portra on that chance (my fave film). Shoot it in a day trying to find something quick and local so I could get it processed ASAP. This also means that, well, these ain’t gonna be Pulitzer prize photos!

I had it developed and scanned to DVD at my local Costco (just under $5, they do it in an hour – cool). Costco scans are good for prints up to 18 by 12 inches. If you’re going to print larger than that, use the negative directly or have it scanned by a pro shop.

I took my scanned shots, plugged them into Apple Aperture and topped it off with a smattering of NikEfex. This is how I handle my pure digital work, and this is how I really enjoy handling my film/digital fusion cuisine. Yeah it’s not a “pure” workflow but it’s an entertaining mix of old and new. Showing respect to the past while simultaneously embracing the future. Woof.

Back to the camera, the Nikon FM2. It’s a gorgeous solid piece of no frills industrial design. It has all that is needed to create images. An excellent fully mechanical metal bladed shutter that reads from 1/4000 to 1 sec, manual metering (a +, – and o showing exposure) with a massive and bright viewfinder that also mechanically displays the aperture and shutter speeds. The viewfinder is something to behold. Images just snap in and out of focus. Incredibly I did not miss the focus on one shot – well apart from the very first one as you will see! I wish I could say the same about my Leicas..

The lens – a 50mm 1.2 Nikkor – is a big solid chunky munky piece of glass and metal. No plastic here. The way I like it. I picked the 1.2 as I don’t use flash, and the fastest film I use is 400 speed. So I’d need all the help I could get for indoor and low light photography! As an aside, the Nikkor 1.2 is meant to be one of their best pieces so there is that too.

All photos were shot wide open, or as wide open as I could a la Leica as this is the test roll. Most all lenses are great stopped down so shooting at max aperture shows nuances. I have an ND filter coming in the mail to help with bright situations. I have to say, I’m happy with the results and really happy with the camera. Especially given that this was with the cheapest film I could find.

How much did this get up cost me? $100 for a perfect condition Nikon FM2 (imagine that, a full frame SLR for $100! 😉 ) $340 for the lens. If I didn’t care about the 1.2, I could have got the 1.8 which would have given equally as good results from 2.8 downwards. For a total system cost of about $180. Not bad, not bad at all. And remember as this is a full metal and glass mechanical everything, it should last for decades.

I had so much fun doing this I have my eye on a Nikon F2as from the 1970s. Now THAT puppy is a workhorse!

All photos taken on the same day around my home in Venice Beach. The first is an homage to Steve’s many selfies!

Take care and happy shooting, whatever and however you do it.

Huss

 

Pic 1 – 1st shot ever. The camera, the lens, the pasty dood. If only I was able to chimp..

FM2 with 50 1.2-1

Pic 2 – Pepe’s feet. Attached to the rest of Pepe. On my bed where he is NOT meant to be.

FM2 with 50 1.2-2

Pic 3 – Typical Venice scene of a mermaid in a basketball hoop.

FM2 with 50 1.2-4

Pic 4 – Typical Venice scene of a mermaid browsing.

FM2 with 50 1.2-5

Pic 5 – Typical Venice VW.

FM2 with 50 1.2-6

Pic 6 – Typical Venice Mercedes.

FM2 with 50 1.2-7

Pic 7 – Hey, look, a flower! Actually a good demonstration of the tonal range of a $2.50 roll of film and 1 hour Costco scan.

FM2 with 50 1.2-8

Pic 8 – Soups up!

FM2 with 50 1.2-10

Pic 9 – Daisy waiting.

FM2 with 50 1.2-11

Pic 10 – The subject of Daisy’s wait. And mine..

FM2 with 50 1.2-13

46 Comments

  1. A slightly different view on the 50/1.2AiS here. I bought that lens new a few years ago for just over 400 euros and I love it. As with almost every lens faster than f2.8, I don’t use it wide open all that often. DoF too thin, focus too critical, and the lens does improve stopping down even only one stop.

    I’ve used it on my D800, entering its data as a non-CPU lens so most functions are retained, and it did not disappoint at all. I use it mostly on my older slr’s though, with Tri-X, and it really shines with reasonably close up (a minimum of 80 cms. 😉 ) portraits, usually at f2.0 or 2.8. Sharp in the centre with a pleasing contrast, softer towards edges and corners, which aids the lovely bokeh.

    I think it’s a bargain.

  2. Hi Huss I really enjoyed your review and images. I liked the sense of exploring your world for a day and particularly the last shot for who you both were waiting for. A lovely portrait. I noticed that you also use Leica. Do you see much difference between images from the M3 to the Nikon? Cheers Richard

    • Hi Richard
      Thanks for the comments. The Leica can be handheld to much slower shutter speeds as it has much less vibration. I’ve been lucky at 1/15 with a 50mm lens.
      If I use the 55 Micro Nikkor 2.8, I notice very little difference compared to the Leica glass. The advantage there is the Leica stuff can shoot up to 1.4 or 2.0 (depending on lens) compared to 2.8.
      I cannot emphasize how good that 55 2.8 lens is. And it is so handy as it focuses really close too. On top of that no lens hood is needed as the front element is really deeply set into the lens. This is the only lens that by choice I do not use a protective filter with it. One – because you will then need to use a hood , Two – the front element is so recessed it is out of the way, and Three – it is so cheap and easy to come by you relax and just shoot instead of worrying about pricey glass.
      If I use the 50 1.2 on the Nikon, then yeah all my Leica glass blows it away, as well as the Zeiss planar.

      Best regards
      Huss

      • Thanks Huss yes I will seek out a used 55mm 2.8, you have saved me the trouble of getting the Nikon 1.2 to find out its not as sharp as I may want. I was thinking of the Zeiss f2 macro but the price of the Nikon is very appealing. Cheers Richard

  3. Great post and photos, Huss. And I think that cheapo Kodak looks just fine (okay, a bit over-saturated – but I like that look). I like using “granny” films, as they’re more forgiving than Portra, and I like B&W conversions with them – they work very well using the color channels.

  4. Beautiful stuff! I’ve been looking for decent and cheap processing here in LA too: Which Costco do you use? I haven’t recently checked if Burbank still does film.

    Thanks!

    • Hey George.
      I use the Costco in Marina Del Rey on Washington. You can call any branch and talk to the photo dept to see if they still develop film. They only do C41 process.
      I used to use a really fancy pro lab in Oceanside, CA that was recommended on another site… but there always was a surprising amount of hair/dust on their scans, plus there was an extra charge for a contact print. Costco (at least the one I use) returns clean scans, AND they print a contact strip of all the images directly onto the CD. So you will always know what is on that disc.
      And.. you get it back in an hour. $4.86 total.

      Best regards
      Huss

  5. I love my FM2! Paid $85 off Craigslist. It replaced my FM. Actually, I liked the meter on the FM better. The meter in the FM2 is supposedly optimized for slide film, so it overexposes by 1/2 a stop. Not a biggie, especially when shooting negatives. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for a nice 105 f2.5 to go with it!

  6. I had an FM2. It was great camera. I really liked better them my old F2s. Try to find the motor drive. It will give a great feel and balance to the camera. Also a better grip, along with weight. Of all the manual focusing cameras it was the best, even the my F3 did not have the same feel, but i must say the motor drive put it over the edge for me. AF brought me to the F4, sold all my MF Nikon to get an M6 TTL and 35mm f2 and 90mm f/4 (?). Makes me miss that old FM2.

  7. I use my FE2 and F3 now and then (B&W, own processing in Paterson tanks) and they are excellent cameras.
    Had a 1.2 but sold it and still do not regret that; at 1.2 it was too soft for anything but taking portraits of aging relatives. It was a lot of lens for the occasional 1.2 soft shot.

    The last shot (now I’m not suggesting this is an aged subject!) is good, but to be honest, I’m a little underwhelmed by the others.

    • That’s cool James, this was the very first test roll with el cheapo film that I put through the camera to make sure nothing was broken. My later photos are legendary…
      😉
      Nikon made three 50-ish 1.2 lenses. The fantabulous 58 Noct, the middling 55, and the pretty decent 50.
      I only found the 50 1.2 soft at 1.2, and that was when I was pixel peeping on the Nikon DF. It has really nice bouquet, but the sharpness does not compare to any of my 50 year old Summicrons, let alone modern day Planars or Summiluxes. But neither does the price!
      For shooting on film, the 50 1.2 is excellent. For film or digital I rate the 55 2.8 Micro Nikkor much more unless you need the wide open shallow DOF (and corresponding bouquet)

      Peace out
      Huss

      • Agree about the 55/2.8 Micro – a superb lens, Huss.

        I don’t have a modern lux or cron, but a few Elmars from the 1950’s and later which seem to have that slightly lower micro-contrast that can be flattering for portraits. I’ve tended to use them more on a Nex-7 though, rather than my M3 (getting lazy, I guess).

        Anyway, great to see film in use and perhaps my inspiration here is to put another roll of XP-2 in the Voigtlander Perkeo E and keep shootin’.

        Thanks for the reply.

  8. I love your images Huss, thank you for sharing ! I also have a FM2n with a 50 1.4 attached that takes pride of place sitting on my office desk. I was eagerly awaiting the release of the DF, but after holding one in my hands for five minutes I quickly put it back down. Something about it just doesn’t feel right for me. I recently added a right angle finder to the FM2 it which makes it even easier to focus (for me) and strangely enough it seems to improve my composition. (Maybe it just slows me down a bit).
    A “Hermes” edition FM2…Wouldn’t that be nice 🙂

  9. The FM2!

    Yes, it’s a really great camera that deserves more attention.
    In ’84 or ’85 the FM2n was the first camera I bought new, together with the 50 1.4 and 105 2.5. For almost 25 years I only shot with this camera, everywhere. In the high mountains in Europe, in an extremely hot Sahara, everywhere. It never failed me. And the batteries last for years. This is such a good camera!
    I even prefer it above the F2 that I also have and which is an extremely well made camera, but for me just a tad too heavy. I prefer it above the autofocus bodies I have because I just cannot bond with those big things.
    And to me the FM2 is a thing of beauty.
    She didn’t need it, but out of greatfulness I had her serviced last year.
    This is one of those cameras that’s really worth the money.
    Did I already say this is a great camera that never fails?

  10. I loved my FE2. It rode with me everywhere. 50 /2, 28/2.8, 105/2.5, a few filters and half- a-dozen rolls of film in an old ammo box lived in my truck as we bounced down the back roads of New Mexico and Arazona. The FE2 was essentially the same camera with an auto setting for the shutter. Absolutely wonderful and nearly indestructable photo machine. My daughter still uses this old kit and it still works just fine.
    Great photos. Your wife/girlfriend is absolutely lovely. You are a lucky man.

  11. Fantastic report and great pictures! I have a Nikon FE (as recommended by some guy called Ken) with some cheap Nikkor Ai(s) lenses (50mm 1.8; 28mm 3.5; 35-105mm 3.5-4.5). I love this camera and the lenses so much that I often just focus and use the viewfinder without even taking a shot! I can make a film last for weeks/months. It’s only worth taking a picture if it looks good through the viewfinder. I have a five pack of Ektar 100 which I look forward to testing but haven’t finished the last roll of cheap film yet. I agree, these old Nikons are definitely worth seeking out.

  12. Great post. 🙂

    I bought a pair of FE2’s for $125 each, and $450 on a used 50/1.2 AIS. It had been 20+ years since I shot my last roll of film. Now? It has me all kinds of excited for photography all over again.

    • That combo, FE2 + 50, will never let you down Craig; they’ll outlive you, which is such a testimony to great craftmanship.

  13. Love this. Your enthusiasm and your photos. Also love the colours, tonal range, the lovely natural highlight ‘shoulder’ – it may lack the ultimate resolution and sharpness of modern digital capture, but film has such a lovely look.

  14. Your excitement gets me excited. Makes me realize how exhausted I am with any digital talk on any topic, including the latest camera you need to buy. Your photos turned out great. I’d really like you to do a test of black and white film. Every time I’ve checked the web for cost of film, processing, and scanning to a DVD or CD, the cost gets up into the $20 range. Well five trips and your up to $100. Multiply that by say 7 and you can go buy the new GR digital camera, and then beyond. That always discouraged me from playing around with it. The only camera I have left is my old 1969 Pentax Spotmatic and 50mm f1.4 lens, looking at me from the shelf asking me to put film in it. I suppose if I try Cosco will tell me that b&w film costs more or most likely, I’d have to use the latest b&w film from Kodak that can be processed on color machines. I may check their prices. I’d do it simply to test out the lens and camera. I had it checked many years back and was told as long as I run the shutter release 10 times at every shutter speed once in a while, that it would “stay in good shape.” Sounds like advice for people as well. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Nice one Rob! The X700 was the first camera, if I remember correctly, that came with a built in grip so that it would actually fit in your hand comfortably.

  16. I love using negative film in my Lomo toy cam. The less expensive the better. Never needed the “Pro” stuff. I use Costco, too. Can’t beat their price and mine does a pretty good job for processing, prints and scans. Thanks for posting these pics. I remember my FM2 from many years ago. I sometimes miss a nice viewfinder like that.

  17. Old film cameras are wonderfully cheap (as long as they don’t say “Leica”). I shoot with a Minolta X-700 and dropped my 28 2.8 into a river. $32 later I had another in perfect condition. My 50 1.8 developed a loose lens mount. $65 later I upgraded to a 50 1.4
    Your pictures are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  18. I just acquired and FM2n, damn I love this camera already. I have a 50 1.8 and 1.4 – so pleased with the results and as you say the focusing is nice and crisp. I don’t shoot colour generally, normally Tri-X so I can process and hand print at home. It’s all about patience, the process and pure satisfaction. Nice shots too BTW 🙂

  19. Thanks for sharing this. Have a whole bunch of Olympus OM’s in my cupboard that really need to see some fresh air again. Very inspiring post, I’ll load one of the gems and go shooting, crappy weather permitting 🙂
    Best regards from Switzerland
    Rob

  20. Thanks for the comments!

    Funny thing is I sent this in a long time ago and forgot about it.
    Since then I bought a Nikkor 55 2.8 AIS Micro lens, and have to say that that is the lens to have.
    It is fantastic on film, and fantastic on the Df that I rented. Much better than the 1.2 and u can pick up a sweet one for about $100.
    The 1.2 is better if you need apertures larger than 2.8…

    I used it on my Df review that was posted on this site, and it has made me some money, especially with the hummingbird at sunset photo. Zero flare and full contrast in that pic. Seriously people, if you have a Nikon Slr and dont mind manual focus, you need to get the 55 2.8

    Best regards
    Huss

    • I can imagine that manual focusing of a such an f = 1.2 beast is quite difficult, even with the very good old school split screens that Nikon’s F-Series had. I have much respect for skilled shooters who can tackle such a paper thin depth of field manually. I have an 85/1.2 for my Canon gear and I am pretty much happy that I can rely on an AF system as little helper, in particular because modern DSLR’s viewfinders do not support so well MF

  21. Interesting photos, and it’s clear you have all the basic photographer’s skills very nicely in hand. :^)

    The colours are fun, and nostalgic for this middle-aged viewer.

    I wish there was a deal like that here in Canada — $5 to develop and scan to disk is crazy cheap! Especially considering it’s competently done.

    Keep ’em coming!

    • Yeah, honestly those scans are better looking than what I was doing for two years with my Plustek. Photography itself is fantastic also. Great eye. Love this post.

  22. Beautiful shots, Huss! So inspiring… this really drives me to grab one of our three old FM-2’s (my wife still shoots them aside digital), and load it with film, too. The FM-2 was my first and longterm SLR. For me, just personally, it is THE Nikon of all time. Before I get sentimal. too, I stop this.

    The Nikkor 50/1.2 produces a fantastic look! Creamy bokeh… Never could afford such a superb pro lens in my old FM-2 days.

  23. Huss, so much fun reading this and looking at the images! I got a bit emotional as I just finished a roll of Tri-X, rated at 800 ha ha, some portraits with that really superb 50/1.2AiS (hold on to that one; it’s a gem), and am now changing for next week to my oldest camera, the FM2n, bought new in 1989. The very cheap and very excellent 50/1.8AiS attached (50 euros a year ago…), off I go…

    The FM2n has a very special place in my heart. I’ve had it for so long, it’s seen so much, it only needed a new battery twice, it never failed me, I know it so well, and I never sold it and never will. I bought the FE2, an as new FM3a and as an new F2AS to supplement it in recent years, but this one will always be my camera, in a way a digital camera will never be able to. My D800 has been languishing on a shelf for weeks.

    I apologize for the sentimental rant Huss; all your fault!

  24. Glad to see a woman’s post!
    Thank you for the pictures. I like that little dash of irony on your work.
    I own an FM2 since the 80’s but haven’t used for the past 15 years…. time to take it back to the field.
    Maurizio

  25. Dude, those photos are fantastic. As much fun in them as you sounded like you had in your writeup. Thank you very much for sharing this story and pictures!

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