Modern Classic SLRs Series
Nikon F - Camera Controls Part I


This section covers:
Shutter Controls | Flash Sync Selector | Self Timer
Next section (Part II) covers: Depth of Field (DOF) Preview | Mirror Lock-Up
Lens Bayonet (Bajonet) Release | Prism Release;
Last section Part III covers: Film Advance Lever | Frame Counter and Film Load Reminder | Film Rewind Crank | Film Guide Rails and Pressure Plate | Serial Number and Film Plane Indication | Film Speed Reminder | Shutter Speed Dial | Shutter Release Button | Shutter Curtain | Camera Back | Tripod Socket

Shutter Controls

The shutter speed selector is on the top deck of the camera close to the prism. The shutter release is on the back edge of the top deck, between the advance lever and the shutter speed selector. Shutter speeds may be selected from B, T, and 1 - 1/1000 sec, with (electronic) flash sync at 1/60th of a second.

These are selected by lining up the desired setting with the black (or white, depending if you have a chrome or black body, respectively) dot on the left side of the speed selector (i.e. the prism side).

"B" stands for bulb and opens the shutter for as long as your finger depresses the shutter release (use it with a cable release on a tripod), while "T" stands for time and opens the shutter when your finger depresses the release and does not close it again until you wind on to the next frame.

As a side note about electronic flash sync, it is useful to know that this is the fastest speed at which the shutter is completely open. Modern focal-plane shutters use two blinds which travel either horizontally (in the F, F2, and F3) or vertically (almost every other Nikon SLR, including the F4 and F5). At slow speeds, the first curtain has completely uncovered the film plane before the second curtain begins its travel. At the sync speed, the second curtain begins its travel the instant that the first curtain reaches the end of its travel. At faster speeds, the second curtain will begin to move before the first curtain reaches its end, but the curtains will be travelling at the same velocity that they do at the sync speed. The effect is to create a slit of variable width (depending on the speed) travelling at a constant speed across the film plane -- the narrower the slit, the less the effective exposure time (and thus the faster the shutter speed). At least one famous early photograph was made with a vertically-traveling focal plane shutter, that one that implies a racing car's speed by showing the wheels as distorted, forward-bending ovals. Because the shutter was moving vertically as a slit across the film plane, the wheels were exposed at different positions relative to the camera, thus "stretching" them to create a timeless illusion of extreme velocity. Modern focal-plane shutters are now probably too fast to create the same dramatic distortion, at least at the speeds now regularly turned in on the F1 circuit (there probably still is some distortion, but it is so slight as to be undetectable).

Flash Sync Selector

Why did Nikon make it impossible to rewind the F with a hotshoe-mounted flash (or accessory) attached? There are several reasons, the most attractive of which is that the mechanical stress on the prism would have been too much with a flash mounted on top of it. Should you happen to drop your F or even jar it, probably the flash and prism would come off of your camera, which wouldn't make the F seem as sturdy as it is. Another possible reason is that in most "professional" situations, you'll either have an assistant to help you rewind the film (and several bodies so that you may shoot uninterrupted) or most professional-type flashes would mount via the PC socket on the left edge.

Flash sync is selected through a control coaxial with the shutter speed selector. Flashes may be connected through the Nikon F/F2-type hotshoe surrounding the rewind knob, or to the sync terminal on the left edge of the body.

Remember that just a few years after the F's introduction, the Honeywell Strobonar, a large potato-masher (side-handle) flash, came to dominate the professional (photojournalist) flash field (its grip was later broken by the far more convenient Vivitar 283 during the 70's and 80's, but by then, photojournalists were using motorised rewind and didn't bother with the rewind crank).

At any rate, if you dig up an F-based flash/accessory, you slide it onto the flash shoe, back to front, and then rotate or snap down the locking device (from experience, at least the AS-1, SB-2, and SB-7E are rotating locks). The PC-socket is a standard push-on socket, and no special instructions are necessary, except for setting the flash sync on the camera (not the sync speed, 1/60, but rather the delay between firing off the hotshoe/PC sync and releasing the shutter).

To set the flash sync on the camera, lift up on the milled ring around the shutter speed dial and rotate, left or right. For the 99% of you who are using electronic flash, the appropriate setting (visible in the small window immediately forward of the shutter speed dial) are the red letters "FX", and you may fire the shutter at 1/60th or slower. For the rest of you using flashbulbs, please consult the chart below:

fxusablechart.jpg pcsocket.jpg
I have a more detailed explanation of flashbulb usage on my questions page. I think it would be nice to have a bulb flash on hand, personally, so that I didn't have to worry about lack of power or portability issues.

But everyone thinks I'm a Luddite already for going manual focus, hand-metered exposure in this era of AF and matrix metering (both technologies sound great, but I have such a heavy investment in AI lenses that I'd have to get an F4 to keep using them effectively) so when I use flash with the F, I am a lazy slob and usually put a Metz 45-series on it in automatic mode. The Metz is usually smarter than me when it comes to flash exposure, anyhow.

Self Timer

The self-timer is the lever on the right front of the camera. Its release is hidden when the self-timer is not engaged.

You charge the self-timer by rotating it clockwise; Nikon has provided marks for an approximately 3, 6, or 10 second delay -- these are the small black tick marks on the ring surrounding the self-timer hub.

You can start the countdown by pressing the small silver button that is exposed when you move the self-timer lever out of the way. Remember that it will take a picture only if you have already cocked the shutter by winding the film on. I find that the self-timer is sometimes useful for somewhat vibration-free releases if you've forgotten a cable release, as long as your mirror is locked-up.

This section covers:
Shutter Controls | Flash Sync Selector | Self Timer

section (Part II) covers: Depth of Field (DOF) Preview | Mirror Lock-Up | Lens Bayonet (Bajonet) Release | Prism Release;
Last section Part III covers: Film Advance Lever | Frame Counter and Film Load Reminder | Film Rewind Crank | Film Guide Rails and Pressure Plate | Serial Number and Film Plane Indication | Film Speed Reminder | Shutter Speed Dial | Shutter Release Button | Shutter Curtain | Camera Back | Tripod Socket

Main Reference map in HTML & PDF:
Body with FTN Finder | FTN finder | camera body |
External links for F & F2

| Back | to Nikon-F - Main Index Page
Michael C Liu's Nikons Classic Site

Other Nikon F Variations

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Dedicated Lenses for Nikon F3AF: AF 80mm f/2.8 | AF 200mm f/3.5 EDIF
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Tele-Converters: TC-1 | TC-2 | TC-200 | TC-201 | TC-300 | TC-301 | TC-14 | TC-14A | TC-14B | TC-14C | TC-14E | TC-16 | TC-16A | TC-20E


Nikon F
| Nikon F2 | Nikon F3 | Nikon F4 | Nikon F5 | Nikon F6 | Nikkormat / Nikomat |
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Recommended links to understand more technical details related to the Nikkor F-mount and production Serial Number: by: my friend, Rick Oleson by: Hansen, Lars Holst

Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikon F - Index Page

Copyright © 1998. Michael C. Liu ®

Site rearranged by: leofoo ®. Credit: Hiura Shinsaku® from Nikomat Club of Japan for feeding some useful inputs on the introductory page. The great 3D logo by Kiasu; Ted Wengelaar®, Holland for his continuous flow of input of early Nikon bodies. Stephen Gandy's Cameraquest; Marc Vorgers from Holland for his additinal images on Nikon F Apollo; Hayao Tanabe corrected my Red Dot and Early F assertions. Gray Levett, Grays of Westminster publishes an excellent monthly historical look at Nikon products, from where I learned about the high-speed F's. Made with a PowerMac, broadcast with a Redhat Linux powered server.

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