Repair: Nikkormat FTn part 1

Hello, everybody! I was window-shopping at the watch section of the mall and something caught my eyes – a Seiko-5. The Seiko-5 movement is reliable and tough, it’s easy to fix so it’s not hard to see decades-old samples still working like they were new. It’s familiar to a lot of watch repairers because it sold very well and parts are easy to obtain. The bad side of this if you can call it that is they don’t hold value very well unless it’s special or rare. It is easy to find one for less than $100 used (and new!) so they’re popular for people who’s budget dictates what they wear. While we’re on the tangeant of cheap and reliable, I will share with you a camera that I believe has the same qualities as the Seiko-5 and it is one of the classic Nikons that every collector or Nikon user should have – the Nikkormat FTn.


The Nikkormat FTn is the most common Nikkormat variant you will ever encounter. This is probably the most successful one in terms of units produced and it’s not hard to figure out why because the Nikkormat FTn is a wel-rounded camera that’s still relevant today. It was developed from the earlier Nikkormat FT which is a good camera but it added things that made the original camera even better in terms of handling. Both models have built-in TTL meters that have an average 60/40 metering pattern that’s standard with Nikons. I also love how you can the meter’s needle without looking-through the eyepiece since it’s also visible at the top part of the camera. This makes it easy to measure your exposure so you don’t have to look like a creep pointing your camera at your subjects just to see if the exposure is right. It also has a handy mirror-up switch so you don’t have to waste a single exposure (like on the Nikon F) just to flip the damn mirror up. A self-time is also standard and you also have a useful DOF preview plunger for stop-down metering and checking if the DOF is right. You even get an auto-resetting film counter! I know that all these sound trivial today but they were considered to be premium back then.

IMG_1167The Nikkormat FTn’s are the cheapest Nikkormats you can get these days because they’re the most common type and as a consequence their value is highly depreciated. They also use the old 1.35v mercury cell batteries that are not made anymore these days and this is also another factor for their cheap price. The ones that were sold domestically (Japan) all use the Nikomat trade-name instead of Nikkormat but they’re basically the same. More


Repair: Nikon FE

Hello, everybody! I just got back from a trip from the ¥100 shop, it’s Japan’s version of a dollar shop and you can buy just about anything you need here for your daily needs. The products are cheap and flimsy but for people who have other priorities or those who are constrained by budget, these shops offer a means of survival in an expensive place such as Tokyo. We’re simple people with simple needs and so these shops are more than OK to help with easing the burden of upkeep. Some of the products offer great value and you’re not going to find anything better in a more expensive shop. I sometimes get my tools and equipment from these shops and many of them have served me very well. While we are on the topic of being cheap, I will show you a camera today that offers great value today, they are cheap not because they’re bad but mainly because they’re old and some people prefer cameras with different sets of features and specs. This is the perfect choice for art student who can’t afford much or a traveler who wants a capable camera to bring along with them on a trip but don’t want to bring their expensive cameras with them. Read my article to find out what this is.


The Nikon FE was released around 1978, roughly a year after the Nikon FM debuted. The Nikon FE shares many similarities with its mechanical sibling so accessories can be used with either models. Both cameras replace the popular mechanical Nikkormats as well as the all-electronic Nikkormat EL series in their respective categories. Both are smaller and lighter, built with newer technology, used newer materials and have better handling. The Nikon FE sold decently but the Nikon FM sold better because it’s all-mechanical and you’ll only need batteries to operate its meter. People didn’t trust electronic cameras those days but the Nikon FE proved to be a reliable machine and many can still be found today for a nice price and they still work as reliably as the day they were sold. Fewer moving parts means less things that can go wrong due to mechanical failure but the flip-side of this is you will need batteries to operate the Nikon FE or you’re going to be stuck with its 1/90s mechanical back-up speed that will let you fire the shutter even when you don’t have any batteries in the camera, this gives you a certain insurance in case things go wrong.

IMG_0735The Nikon FE has a beautiful silhouette that it inherits from the Nikon FM. Its design is its biggest asset because everything just makes sense once you hold the camera yourself. It’s also worth noting that it has a retractable Ai-coupling tab so you can use pre-Ai lenses if you choose to and meter with it using stopped-down metering. This is the only reason to choose the Nikon FE over its successor, the Nikon FE2. More

Repair: Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series-E

Hello, everybody! Me and the family just had a Korean dinner at Daruma, one of the best shops for Japanese-style Korean food in Nakano. It’s not the cheapest shop around but it offers the best value when it comes to selection and quality. There are several shops near it that serve similar things for a bit less but this shop is hard-to-beat so we keep on going back to that place when we have the chance. Other shops may have better reviews on the food review sites or may have better/cleaner location but they’re all just hype and you’ll soon realize it as soon as the food is served before you. Some people probably just don’t know the difference or is ignorant about this shop so they thought that they had a decent deal when in fact they just got ripped-off. This also applies to photography gear and there are plenty of examples of a hyped product and I will show you one now.


The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series-E lens is very popular. It was made to be cheap so it carries the Series-E brand instead of the Nikkor name. Series-E lenses are basically Nikon lenses that were made with cost-cutting in mind while retaining acceptable performance and a decent build quality. Cost-cutting come in the form of using plastics instead of alloys and simplification of parts. The optics were also sometimes tweaked to give the impression of sharpness and contrast wide-open at the expense of other important but subtle factors. It will attract the attention of beginners but more experienced photographers will know if something is missing. The good news is this lens is one of the few Series-E lenses that did not have the optics watered-down in order to make it cheaper. This lens shares the same optical formula as the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 Ai-Sa lens that has a great reputation amongst the photography community for being sharp, small and well-rounded. This makes this a great lens because you get the same performance of the more expensive model for much less. That was generally true until the internet hyped this lens so much that you can buy the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 Ai-S at times for a bit less than this lens. It used to cost about half so buying this lens had a purpose but that line has been blurred today and I will explain everything to you in the introduction and the repair section so you can compare what’s inside this lens and the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 Ai-S.

IMG_0147The lens is small and can be considered one of Nikon’s smallest and lightest lenses ever. I personally prefer the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 Ai-S because it’s more durable and it feels better in my hands but I certainly won’t mind bringing this one out with me at all. In this photo, it’s mated to the Nikon EM. The Series-E lenses were made for the Nikon EM so Nikon can have a cheap line of lenses to sell to budget-conscious consumers. Produced from 1979 to around 1985, it has a moderate production life and is considered to be a successful lens. I am sure that this lens sold very well considering how common it is to find these.


Repair: Nikon FM2n

Hello, everybody! We bought some pearl shakes from a shack this afternoon because the little one likes it a lot. This tapioca and tea drink originated from Taiwan but you can see them everywhere across asia these days. I also heard that they’re quite popular in other regions and it’s young people who consume them the most these days. I can consider the humble tapioca tea to be a classic in this regard since it has remained almost unchanged and people still buy them to this day. The only things that changed so far is the inclusion of tapioca balls and flavoring. You now get to choose from a wide spectrum of flavors like fruits, chocolate, dairy, vegetables and other things. This makes the whole thing complete unlike the original ones which were basically just based on tapioca. Today, I’ll introduce to you a camera that many considered to be near-perfect but Nikon pushed the limits and gave us a masterpiece that has endured the test of time.


The Nikon FM2n is one of Nikon’s longest-selling cameras. It was introduced in 1983 as an update to the very popular Nikon FM2 and the differences are subtle but important. The flash sync is not 1/250s, an improved mirror box assembly has been implemented, a new type of focusing screen replaced the older (dimmer) one and a host of other changes that are too minor to point out but improves the handling and reliability of the older design. I love this camera a lot and it’s easy to see why this camera became one of the best designs that ever came out of Japan. You can still find professional photographers today using it as a “hobby camera” and kids these days prefer using these over other models because it has a “modern” feel despite being a true manual camera. Its popularity is also its curse as these are often sold at inflated prices and are usually priced as much as a Nikon F3 for a nice sample with minimal surface blemishes and no defects. I was lucky to find one for a decent price, sold by a friend to me. It wasn’t in perfect shape but it is working properly and there aren’t any serious defects that needs to be repaired, all it needed is a thorough cleaning and changing of all of its foam seals and dampers. I will outline what I did here in this blog and I hope that this will help you see what’s inside of this camera.

IMG_2412The Nikon FM2n’s lines are simple and elegant. It’s a robust little camera that was mostly made using brass and aluminium alloys but some of the details and fittings were made of plastic. This is a departure from the Nikon Nikkormat series where it derived from since the Nikon Nikkormat cameras has nearly no plastic parts that you can find externally. It’s a small sacrifice to make since the new cameras are much smaller and lighter so they’re going to be better as all-day carry cameras since your neck won’t get as stressed.


Repair: W-Nikkor.C 3.5cm f/3.5 (LTM)

Hello, everybody! Me and my family just got back from a Spanish fiesta in Tokyo and we had some Spanish food the whole afternoon. The Paella tasted familiar but it’s certainly not authentic because the ingredients and preparation has been altered to suit Japanese tastes. I am not saying that it’s bad, it’s just different! The good thing is we got to enjoy it in a different way (eating it with chopsticks!) and saw how culture, circumstances and the economy can transform something so unique as the paella into something else. I am going to show you something similar today. An example of how Japan turned a German optic into their own and added improvements that made it work in a different way. See what it is in this article.


The W-Nikkor.C 3.5cm f/3.5 was made in 2 different mounts and we will look into the one that was made in Leica Thread-Mount (LTM) in this article. For all intents and purposes it is basically the same lens as the one made for its native S-mount except for the barrel. It even shares the same serial number block as the one made for the S-mount so Nikon sees these 2 versions as one single model, only made for 2 different mounts. This is a bit rarer compared to the one made in its native mount so they cost a bit more as a consequence. I have always wanted to own one of these for history’s sake and for using them with all of my Barnack-type cameras. This model is one of Nikon’s earliest lenses, it was made from the late 1940s to somewhere around the mid-1950s. There’s not a lot of data concerning it and its manufacturing details so it’s hard to date these lenses (LTM Nikkors).

IMG_9618It’s a very compact lens but it feels dense when you hold it because the barrel was made using brass and plated with chrome. Imagine if it has a nickel base for the plating then it will end up being a bit heavier. They don’t make lenses like this these days! The design is inspired by early Leica lens barrel designs while the optics remind me of a Tessar. Nikon looked-up to Zeiss in its early years because it was the world’s best optics manufacturer in those days. Nikon outgrew this stage after a couple of years and their designs began to look unique and even best whatever the Germans had at the time. More

Repair: Nikkor-Q.C 5cm f/3.5 (LTM)

Hello, everybody! I just spent $8 on a small cup of coffee. It was exquisite and it’s smooth, rich and refined. It also doesn’t leave a harsh after-taste in your mouth or throat just like what many cheap instant coffees tend to do. I certainly appreciated it but I won’t drink it regularly because I can just use that amount to buy me a decent lunch. I will assume that many people will do the same and some people won’t even think of spending that much for coffee. I’m not an expert on coffee but I do appreciate a good cup. Today, I’m going to introduce to you a lens that’s only appreciated by people who know their lenses and the going price for these things today will turn many people off. It’s a very special lens and it has a special part in Nikon’s history. Please read the article to find out what that is.


This is the Nikkor-Q.C 5cm f/3.5, a rare lens that not many people knew about. It’s Nikon’s version of the then-popular Zeiss Tessar and its simple 4-elements-in-3-groups design is a near-identical copy of the Tessar design. This design is one of Nikon’s oldest lens designs, it was first used on the 1935 Hansa Kwanon if I am correct and it was popular until some time in the early 1950s as a cheaper alternative for shooters looking for a 50mm Nikkor. This is the later “rigid” version, the earlier one is collapsible and is considered to be rare. I would love to own one of those but they’re not cheap. Apart from the barrel design, you can consider both lenses to be the same since they share the same optics. This was made in the mid 1950s to “refresh” the older collapsible version’s design so Nikon can stretch its profits from this old but tested lens design. This particular version wasn’t made for long, it was only made for about a year or so compared to the collapsible version which saw a long production life since 1940 and sold in numerous versions. The unusual thing is that this is easier to find these days on the used market compared to the collapsible one and it costs much less, too.

IMG_9545The lens barrel design in unique amongst Nikkors, you can easily recognize it because of its pudgy look. The long post you see here is used for constraining the focusing ring so it’s not going to turn beyond the lens’ focusing range since it’s in the way of the infinity lock. The lens has a special feature in that it can extend beyond its focusing range wherein it’s now de-coupled from the camera’s rangefinder. This will allow it do “macro mode”, that’s something that it shares with other Nikkors like the Nikkor-H.C 5cm f/2 (L39). You cannot use the rangefinder to focus in this mode and you must focus by measuring the distance between your subject and your film plane which is conveniently indicated as a red dot or a black circle with a horizontal line slashed across it. I am not sure if other brands offer this feature as well but it’s certainly one of the things the LTM Nikkors are known for.


Study: Nikon’s Lens Making Procedures

Hello, everybody. I’d like to show you this interesting display that I saw on how a piece of optical glass is turned into a lens element, the finished item used on lenses, binoculars or glasses. Nikon (then Nippon Kogaku) was formed to make Japan self-reliant when it came to manufacturing optics for medical and scientific uses. Japan used to import lots of stuff from Germany and that’s draining the national reserve so a solution had to be made. The formation of Nikon not only gave Japan the ability to make her own optics, it also made it possible for Japan to make her own research and development. All of these happened in the years leading to the Great War (WW1) so you can say that Nikon has the heritage and experience in this field so you can even consider Nikon as the “Asian Zeiss”. I need to give you a short intoduction on Nikon’s heritage so you can appreciate that a company with a long history in optics is showing us how their lenses are made.

IMG_9383The vials to the left contain some of the materials used in creating optical glass. Its usual component is silica and rare earth elements or other additives are added to alter its base refractive index or other properties. Every manufacturer uses a different recipe for their glass and they even variations within their formulas for special purposes. The big slab of glass you see at the center was cut from a big ingot of cast glass. It’s then cut into smaller pieces like what we see to the right and it’s then ground-to-shape before it gets processed even further. This will be a constant process of refinement before we get to see the final product. It’s very time-consuming and labor-intensive to say the least.


Previous Older Entries