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Review: Three Decades of Nikon SLRs (ELW, N2020, N90s)
Old 02-24-2017   #1
eckmanmj
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Review: Three Decades of Nikon SLRs (ELW, N2020, N90s)

There is a ton of information about Nikon SLRs on the web, and many excellent reviews have been written about many of Nikon's most popular models.

Less is talked about the non F-series models from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. There are those who would say Nikon has never made a bad camera, so, how good are some of the less talked about models.

I present to you a "three-in-one" review of 3 Nikon SLRs in my collection that you don't often see discussed, the Nikomat ELW, Nikon N2020, and Nikon N90s.

(Yes, I am aware that sometimes my site shows up as suspicious with some anti-virus programs. This is a result of a problem with how my site is hosted, and not a result of any actual security issue with the site. I promise, you can ignore any security issues with my site.)

http://www.mikeeckman.com/2017/01/th...des-of-nikons/

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Old 02-24-2017   #2
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Thanks.
Good work!
I've bought my F90X (N90S) in the 90ies new. And I am still using it from time to time (mostly I am using my 2 F6 ).
Absolutely trustworthy workhorse!

Cheers, Jan
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Old 02-24-2017   #3
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Mike -

Thanks for the article. There were just a few corrections I wanted to note:

The ELW only has a center-weighted meter, no (true) spot meter. The metering pattern concentrates 60% on the 12mm central circle and 40% on the rest of the frame, which is the standard pattern for many SLR's.
The meter switches on when the wind (not rewind) lever is pulled out. There is also a switch around the shutter button that turns the meter on.
I agree that replacing the battery in the ELW is a PITA.

The N90s (and N90) does meter with AI and AIS lenses, just center-weighted and spot meters, no matrix. You also have aperture-priority and manual exposure capability. I would have never bought one if it couldn't use manual lenses, and I suspect Nikon wouldn't have sold many back in the 90's as they were still making a lot of AIS lenses.

Good article, though and nice photos!

Cheers!

Jim
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Old 02-24-2017   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jim_jm View Post
Mike -

Thanks for the article. There were just a few corrections I wanted to note:

The ELW only has a center-weighted meter, no (true) spot meter. The metering pattern concentrates 60% on the 12mm central circle and 40% on the rest of the frame, which is the standard pattern for many SLR's.
The meter switches on when the wind (not rewind) lever is pulled out. There is also a switch around the shutter button that turns the meter on.
I agree that replacing the battery in the ELW is a PITA.

The N90s (and N90) does meter with AI and AIS lenses, just center-weighted and spot meters, no matrix. You also have aperture-priority and manual exposure capability. I would have never bought one if it couldn't use manual lenses, and I suspect Nikon wouldn't have sold many back in the 90's as they were still making a lot of AIS lenses.

Good article, though and nice photos!

Cheers!

Jim
Jim, thank you for both your kind words, and also for the corrections. I make every effort to research as much as I can before typing these reviews, but sometimes I miss stuff. I will make the corrections in the review for the ELW and clarify about the wind lever turning the meter on, and not calling it "rewind".

Oddly, mine does not have any kind of switch around the shutter button to turn on or off the meter. I wonder if that was a mid-model addition (or subtraction).

Your point about metering with the N90s is why I consider it to be one of the best values of all Nikon SLRs. Sure, some people will always prefer the pro level F#'s, and the F100 is certainly an awesome camera, but considering the feature set of the N90s and for what you can buy it for today, it represents one hell of a bargain.

Metering with manual focus lenses is the one and only reason I stopped using my N80. Sure, I can use an external meter or Sunny 16 with it, but if Im going to do that, I'm going to select a more interesting body than the N80 to do it!

Thanks again, and I hope you have a great day!

-Mike
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Old 02-24-2017   #5
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The n2000 and n2020 are nice ways to get a cheap Nikon MF body - the n2020, while terrible at AF, is OK at giving focus confirm
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Old 02-24-2017   #6
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The Nikon EL2 has a shutter button lock, but it doesn't turn on the meter.

I have no problem with the battery changing on the EL series. If you push the lid back far enough, it pops the cell right out of the holder. At least you can still get the proper batteries for them.

Just noticed something kind of funny with my EL2. I pointed it at the computer monitor, and the meter needle went crazy. Has to do with the scan rate of the screen (yes, I'm a Luddite with an old CRT).

One thing with the shutter release lock (not on the Nikkormat EL), it only seems to work when the winding lever is stowed, not when it is at the ready (pulled out past the meter on mark).

Love the N90S. When I had to divest myself of almost all my camera gear, that's the only SLR I kept, because I had a nice set of lenses for it. The N2020? I got one just to say I have one. Can't stand the coffee grinder sound when it winds.

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Old 02-25-2017   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eckmanmj View Post
Your point about metering with the N90s is why I consider it to be one of the best values of all Nikon SLRs. Sure, some people will always prefer the pro level F#'s, and the F100 is certainly an awesome camera, but considering the feature set of the N90s and for what you can buy it for today, it represents one hell of a bargain.

Metering with manual focus lenses is the one and only reason I stopped using my N80. Sure, I can use an external meter or Sunny 16 with it, but if Im going to do that, I'm going to select a more interesting body than the N80 to do it!

Thanks again, and I hope you have a great day!

-Mike
Turns out I did read your N80 review a while ago. In summer my underwater Canon P&S gave up the ghost and thought... Nikonos hover around 100$ and despite wanting to shoot at the beach I did not submerge the camera that much, how about a Not so Nikonos for $40? So I grabbed from the classifieds a F80 kit and shot around.

Used the kit zoom throughout the summer, it went in (over) the water and exposed to some of the harsh elements. Still good. And it grabbed me a comment from some kids mentioning that funny guy with the Camera in the water, and a bet to see if I dropped it.

Have no system of Nikkor lenses nor want to, but in the fall I bought a cheapish 50 1.8D ($65) and now it is a staple of the film kit.

I did search for a F90, but in my corner of Europe they aren't that cheap. Infact, I was more interested to get a 24-70 and the body as a "freebie". Occasionally I am genuinely interested, though the F80 does a great job and is light. Appreciate the convenience when the "main" camera is a Medium Format without automation.
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Old 02-25-2017   #8
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Good read.

There are currently indeed some excellent bargains for Nikons on the used market. These cameras are available much below under their real value:
- Nikon F80 (N80)
- Nikon F90X (N90S)
- Nikon F100
- Nikon F5.

Excellent time for buyers, and currently it is the best time to built up your complete system, with main camera and second camera (or backup).
Now is the time to buy. It will not become cheaper.
In the coming years the prices will rise with the increasing interest in film and its revival.
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Old 02-25-2017   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HHPhoto View Post
Thanks.
Good work!
I've bought my F90X (N90S) in the 90ies new. And I am still using it from time to time (mostly I am using my 2 F6 ).
Absolutely trustworthy workhorse!

Cheers, Jan
I'll back this statement up. I bought my F90x in the early 90's for newspaper work. It's not an exaggeration to say it almost certainly has 50,000 rolls through it maybe more over the many years I used it for work...and still, it works perfectly and has some of the best metering I've ever had in an SLR body.
It's a real workhorse and I think a bit underrated.
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Old 02-25-2017   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by farlymac View Post
The Nikon EL2 has a shutter button lock, but it doesn't turn on the meter.
Actually, I just discovered on my ELW that this switch does both!

You know you've got too many cameras when you start forgetting how to use them...
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Old 02-25-2017   #11
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Originally Posted by jim_jm View Post
Actually, I just discovered on my ELW that this switch does both!

You know you've got too many cameras when you start forgetting how to use them...
That's the one model I don't have yet, so I hadn't downloaded a manual yet. But if I had read the EL2 manual fully, I'd have known about the meter switch-on when using the AW-1 winder.

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Old 02-27-2017   #12
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Good read indeed, though considering that I've been shooting with a variety of Nikons for about twenty years now, it's probably no surprise that I enjoyed it.

Given that you also extensively reviewed the F80, I was wondering whether you also noticed the marked difference in mirror black-out vs. the F90x. I find there's one thing about the F90x that can never be highlighted enough though, and that's its incredible responsiveness.. Shooting them side by side, the F90x completes its exposure cycle faster than it takes the F80 to move the mirror out of the way of the film alone..

That probably also explains why the F100 remains so popular; fully supports AF-G lenses and VR on top of being as agile as the F90x..
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Old 02-27-2017   #13
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I always wanted an EL2. I think its a good-looking camera despite not having Nikon's usual leatherette on the VF prism (I think most cameras which don't have that are, at best, ungainly looking).

Big fan of the N90S here. I'm another one who bought theirs brand new, for over a thousand dollars. No idea how much film I shot through it but it never once had any issues. I shot mine with the databack which provided autobracketing if needed.

I've told the story a few times here about the time my N90S rolled out of my camera bag and fell down the stairs - bang, bang, bang, bang, one step at a time, all the way to the bottom. barely a scratch on it but it woke up the whole house and probably the neighbors too. Didn't hurt the camera at all.
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Old 02-27-2017   #14
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Thanks for the review. I enjoyed it. As someone who generally dislikes AF film cameras, I found it very relateable; especially since I just picked up an F90x.
As compelling a case as you make, I'm not sure I'll pick up a 2020 though.
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Old 02-27-2017   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pvdhaar View Post
Good read indeed, though considering that I've been shooting with a variety of Nikons for about twenty years now, it's probably no surprise that I enjoyed it.

Given that you also extensively reviewed the F80, I was wondering whether you also noticed the marked difference in mirror black-out vs. the F90x. I find there's one thing about the F90x that can never be highlighted enough though, and that's its incredible responsiveness.. Shooting them side by side, the F90x completes its exposure cycle faster than it takes the F80 to move the mirror out of the way of the film alone..

That probably also explains why the F100 remains so popular; fully supports AF-G lenses and VR on top of being as agile as the F90x..
You know, that's not something I've ever noticed, but to be fair, I havent shot my N80 in well over a year! Since I almost exclusively use manual focus lenses, the N80 doesn't get use much, but I could throw some batteries in it and do a "shutter responsiveness" test. I might as well try it with a variety of Nikons too, to see which has the most responsive shutter!
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Old 02-27-2017   #16
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Originally Posted by defconfunk View Post
Thanks for the review. I enjoyed it. As someone who generally dislikes AF film cameras, I found it very relateable; especially since I just picked up an F90x.
As compelling a case as you make, I'm not sure I'll pick up a 2020 though.
I don't blame you! I was given two N2020s and it took me over a year to even build up the desire to try to shoot with it!

It's certainly better than a garbage bin camera, but as soon as you own an N2020 along with literally any other Nikon, it loses it's luster!
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Old 02-27-2017   #17
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You are making me want to get a F90, although cheap, I don't want to fall in GAS because that is film money!
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Originally Posted by eckmanmj View Post
You know, that's not something I've ever noticed, but to be fair, I havent shot my N80 in well over a year! Since I almost exclusively use manual focus lenses, the N80 doesn't get use much, but I could throw some batteries in it and do a "shutter responsiveness" test. I might as well try it with a variety of Nikons too, to see which has the most responsive shutter!
The lack of metering with manual focus lens is a bummer if you have them, and for sure a reason to have a higher end camera.

Batteries are something that the F90, using AA, beats the F80. (Thought they were AA's, but nope according to you) I did a long exposure once and left the camera on overnight... Bye bye CR123A.
An unscientific test curiously showed that one of the cells was bust while the other still held good current. Well, I got 4 months out of them.

Now, I remembered! So the next day I found it dead while I was in the city. Damn I thought. Cheap CR123 cells are online, so it'd take some days for any to arrive.

I dug out my Dad's F401s/N4004s, put on "The power of love" from the "Back to the Future" OST and loaded a roll of film.

So next day I shot through it. The automaticness of it was unsettling, just a + o - meter indicator. Infact the first ever roll I shot was with this, and I remembered it as a clunky, heavy, noisy AF camera.
My memory recalled things different, now I found it had a reassuring shutter sound and very 1980s looks.

Quote:
For a long time, my interest in film cameras omitted anything from the auto focus era of the 1980s.
In 2008 as a teen, it pushed me to purchase an OM-1 just to properly learn photography fully manually... No way I was carrying that 1980s thing around.
I still think that for manual, dials and rings are much better. I use my F80 in Aperture priority.
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Old 02-28-2017   #18
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@Prest400:

- You can get the F90X in Germany at extremely low prices. Going to a restaurant with your wife will probably be more expensive than the F90X.....

- There is a Nikon power grip for the F80 for using standard AA Mignon batteries. I have one for my F80 and it works great, I use the excellent rechargeable Panasonic Eneloops in it.

Cheers, Jan
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Old 02-28-2017   #19
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You are making me want to get a F90, although cheap, I don't want to fall in GAS because that is film money!
.
At the end of the day, an F90/F90x saves you money over any of the cameras that chew through lithiums.

By themselves, the AA batteries are way cheaper already, but the F90x doesn't mind running on rechargeables if you need to beat even that.

And that doesn't even include the improved economy from less shots lost due to camera shake given the much faster and better balanced mirror design. Granted, this may differ from person to person, but I can definitely handhold the F90x to far slower shutter speeds than the F80/F65..
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Old 02-28-2017   #20
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Presto, I don't know what an F90x costs in Spain, but one was recently on my local classifieds for less than the cost of two rolls of Ektar from the local lab (or about the same as a dinner for two at a fast food restaurant).

For some reason, the F90x sells for less than the F55 or F60 around here. I have no idea why. Mine cost me 1/2 what my used 50mm AF-D cost, and the camera came with the battery grip.
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Old 02-28-2017   #21
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3vs1, not fair

Quote:
Originally Posted by defconfunk View Post
Presto, I don't know what an F90x costs in Spain, but one was recently on my local classifieds for less than the cost of two rolls of Ektar from the local lab (or about the same as a dinner for two at a fast food restaurant).

For some reason, the F90x sells for less than the F55 or F60 around here. I have no idea why. Mine cost me 1/2 what my used 50mm AF-D cost, and the camera came with the battery grip.
Actually they are holding some value. Spain IMO is not a country with many deals for camera gear, less so if vintage. 50€ is the lowest for a body in a local classifieds whereas an F80 can be had, with patience for 30-40€ and a kit lens... Not counting for some listings which still held it really high. On ebay the problem with cheap cameras is that shipping easily costs as much, so the bare minimum is around 30€.

You observation about the F55's holds here too, kits for 30-50€ which are the same value as an F80.

Anyhow, in a few months' time I may be moving and might not as well carry 35mm into my new location (Fuji 6x9 will have priority). Which would leave room to just get a F90 kit cheap online anyways and have an AF SLR in each location.

I keep scanning the market though, because every once in a while something interesting appears. Currently I'm more interested in a Nikon SB flash unit andmay as well find it kitted with an F90.
Infact, back in November I missed a 50mm 1.8 for 70€ with the F90 as rear lens cap! The 50's themselves also are rather hard to find below 90€.

Ironically a Sekonic 308, even old, goes for ~100€. I got one for 59.95 last week. Listed locally my Autometer IIIF, as prefer the sekonic, and may sell at an OK high price. Quite possible to get an F90 with a 28-70 for that.

Actually I'm still transitioning out of a student budget, and it's taking time and some careful budgeting of things. But once the road ahead patches up... Hard to resist.

I think that these cameras are a fantastic introduction to film, but didn't look at them back in 2008 because I was scared off AF after experiencing the F401 and wanted a classic manual touch instead; Prices back then must have been steeper and wouldn't drop 200 as a teen. Now, medium Format is manual and contemplative so I appreciate quicker 35mm gear.
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Old 02-28-2017   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by defconfunk View Post
Presto, I don't know what an F90x costs in Spain, but one was recently on my local classifieds for less than the cost of two rolls of Ektar from the local lab (or about the same as a dinner for two at a fast food restaurant).

For some reason, the F90x sells for less than the F55 or F60 around here. I have no idea why. Mine cost me 1/2 what my used 50mm AF-D cost, and the camera came with the battery grip.
Well, there two main reasons to consider. One is the age of the camera, and how many models have superseded it. The other is the problem with the film door covering degrading over the years into a sticky mess. I've seen lots of N90/F90 models go cheap because you could see all the junk stuck to them. I've thought about getting another body, but I figure as long as mine works okay, and since I don't use it very much, there is no reason to replace it, or even get a back-up. I do have an F100 for when the N90s finally gives up.

Actually, I split them into two kits, with the F100 getting all Nikkor glass, and the N90s with all Tamron.

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Old 02-28-2017   #23
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I bought an F90x about 5 years ago for peanuts with a 50mm f1.8 AF (non D) thrown in. Total cost less than the 50 alone should have sold for. I recall it was about £30 ! Had a never ready case as well for that. It is well worth the trouble of de-stickyfying the back as this is the only part affected and can be easily detached and worked on. I had the same issue with an otherwise mint F100 and both are now cured with the aid of rubbing alcohol and elbow grease. My one minor criticism of the F90X is its lack of back button focussing. As I said a minor issue but I prefer to disable shutter button focussing and use back button. Apart from that it is a stellar performer and one that I shall be keeping.
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Old 03-01-2017   #24
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There are those who would say Nikon has never made a bad camera, so, how good are some of the less talked about models.
Three of the less talked about models I have used include:
EM (good backup for my manual focus Nikon F2)
N70 (good backup for my auto focus Nikon F4)
Nikonos III (great bad weather camera)
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Old 03-02-2017   #25
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Three of the less talked about models I have used include:
EM (good backup for my manual focus Nikon F2)
N70 (good backup for my auto focus Nikon F4)
Nikonos III (great bad weather camera)
I definitely agree the EM is an underrated gem as well. Its the smallest and most compact way to use Nikkor manual focus glass, and it has a very accurate meter as well. I have a full review of the EM on my site here:

http://www.mikeeckman.com/2015/10/nikon-em-1979/

I don't have any experience with the other two, but I would be interested in a Nikonos if I could ever find a kit cheap enough!

My next Nikon review will likely be for the original F, but that won't be ready til late spring/early summer as my review "queue" is quite large at the moment.
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Old 03-02-2017   #26
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Ten years after selling all my Nikon gear I got bitten by the bug again.
How can anyone resist F2 Photomics selling at near giveaway prices?

Later to supplement it I considered an EL, but opted for an FE instead.

Autofocus bodies and lenses just don't interest me, no matter how capable.

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Old 03-02-2017   #27
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I've been thinking about giving some of my excess Nikon gear to a friend, but whenever he uses a manual focus camera, he usually chooses his EL, though he could always use one of his other three models. So why should I mess with that?

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Old 03-02-2017   #28
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I don't have any experience with the other two, but I would be interested in a Nikonos if I could ever find a kit cheap enough!


Now, that one I would like. Nikonos aren't dirt cheap and well appreciated. Infact it'd be more useful to me than a second AF body because I live in a beach town and past speing I can do photography around water.

Infact my F80 was the beach camera this past summer. I could get it into the sea but not getting it extensively wet nor slightly underwater.
Had a Canon AS1/WP1/A1 that I got for $10 including shipping (camera itself for 1GBP) but only lasted 2 rolls. The bad thing about cheap cameras is ending paying a bit much on shipping.




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Old 03-03-2017   #29
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Like the F2 the Nikonos V now sells here for a fraction of its original price.
I too live by the beach and use mine there all the time.

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