- Cost: $25-100
- Features: minimal
- Relative size: medium
- Relative weight: heavy
Nikon’s Nikkormat is a stylish and robust yet inexpensive 35mm film SLR that would be ideal for a photographer wanting to try analog photography and the distinction of carrying a classic camera at a fraction of the cost of the premium brands.
The Nikkormat was introduced as a budget alternative to their professional grade SLR cameras for serious amateurs that still wanted the solid build and reputation of the Nikon system. This would have filled a market position below the out-of-reach F and F2 professional cameras, but well above the common consumer grade options of the day. It seems from stories that get passed down with the cameras that a typical owner might be the “photographer dad” stereotype. This kind of person would invest in quality gear that would deliver good results, but equally be discerning about cost. Years later they would have shoeboxes full of memories in photo prints and a camera ready to be passed to their grandchildrens’ generation.
Today the camera represents an attractive introduction point into the world of analog photography, especially if found with a lens at an estate or yard sale where prices can dip down into what one might pay for dinner out. This price point makes the camera an attractive back up camera or one to use in situations that involve an excessive degree of risk to your gear that. There are two types of buyers, however, that a bargain Nikkormat is particularly sorted for; those who want to try analog photography but do not have any gear that is shareable with their digital kit, and those who would consider the camera as much of a fashionable accessory as a useful photographic tool.
The first camp includes people who shoot mirrorless systems or only have lenses suited to APS-C digital cameras. These photographers will be familiar with concepts like the exposure triangle, composition, and lighting. Analog photography will be a zen like experience of slowing down, minimalism, and being in tune with the craft; or it might be absurdly frustrating! The beauty of film cameras is that you can usually resell them for nearly what you bought it for if you end up not wanting to keep the equipment. Take some interesting photos with good film and be amazed at the color response you get that is quite not-digital. Note the falloff in the shoulders and toes of the histogram; the sky will be less washed out an the shadows will still have some detail. Enjoy how different it is than digital, even if it’s just to try it. The effort and cost per exposure may not ultimately be worth it to you, but it is still something worth trying out for yourself.
Then there is the type of person who thinks the idea of having an “old school camera” would make them look cool; by all means they should check out this camera. The culture of photography tends to disparage anyone who does not conform to arbitrary standards, and here is where you break out a healthy non-conforming attitude. The Nikkormat has that chunky retro style, especially paired with the older Nikon silver and black lenses. Get that! Get one of those chunky custom neck straps that will probably cost you just as much as the camera. You have achieved that cool look; now take it a step further: get a cheap roll of film - something like Kodak Gold 200 or Fujicolor 200C. Set speed on the body to the red 250 speed, and the aperture on the lens to ƒ/8 (move the inner most ring until the dot is over the 8), go out in the daylight and snap away photos of you and your friends doing crazy stuff. Will the photos be perfect? nope. Will they be better and cheaper than an Instax camera? Oh yeah. Send in the film and get some prints and a week later or so relive it; make an event out of it with your friends - delayed gratification at it’s finest! Now take some time and look at your prints. Are some too bright? too dark? out of focus? Make notes, buy another roll of film, and do it again. Learn how metering works and how to make adjustments to the camera speed and aperture to compensate for the lighting conditions. Take more photos. Make more prints. Write more notes. You are learning the craft of photography.
Older Nikon cameras - such as these Nikkormats - had a metering system that
They are from the older days of the Nikon F system, so metering is accomplished by the camera’s external feeler connecting with the prongs on older Nikon lenses.