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First impressions of the S2 vs M3
Old 06-09-2019   #1
Huss
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First impressions of the S2 vs M3

Got this last week and just finished the first roll through it:



Seeing that it was on the market at the same time as Leica's M3, I thought I'd give a little comparison even though I've only used the S2 for one roll (and counting!).
Much has been made about the S2's 100% vf vs the M3's 91%.
Thing is, the etched frames lines on the S2 are rougher and not as distinct as the M3's. They pretty much fill up the frame and so I can only see them in their entirety if I mash up my eyeball into the vf. Will not be able to see them with glasses on. This is reflected by how hard they were to photograph. I'm using my phone and just push the lens up agains the VF. With the Leica it easily captures the frames, with the Nikon it barely is able to. So, extrapolate that to then putting on glasses!
The S2's vf has an overall green/gold tint, the M3 is neutral:

S2:



M3:




Sound of the shutters? Now that I am using them side by side, the S2 is a little louder but lower toned while the M3 is quieter but a sharper click sound. So I don't think it makes any difference in the real world.
What is noticeable is the film winding action. The S2 is super smooth and does not change in feel along its entire stroke. The M3 - like all my Ms - has a final extra bit of resistance and the end of the stroke where it then makes a click, whereas the S2 is silent.
So.. one has a louder shutter, the other has a louder film wind!

The S2 has easier film loading, and a quicker rewind crank. The Leica has a much better shutter speed dial where all the speeds are on one dial, the speeds do not rotate as the shutter is cocked, and the dial does not need to be lifted to be turned.
The S2 has a manual set film counter (like the cheapened version of the M3 - the M2), the M3 has an auto reset counter that is easier to read under it's magnifying glass bubble.

The M3's shutter release button is in a much better position ergonomically. It's where your finger would naturally rest. The S2 requires you to reach back to use it - just like the Nikon F - and the fact than Nikon moved it forward on the F2 shows they realized this haptic error.

The M3 allows for a dedicated light meter (MR4) to synchronize with the shutter speed dial, nothing like that for the S2 (AFAIK). This bit doesnt matter to me as I don't use these lumps w meters anyway.

I've left the best for last.. the one thing that actually effects speed and convenience in shooting is the aperture dial. On the S2 it rotates with the focus, on the Leica it stays put as nature and man intended. This is a big deal in many ways
- 1. if you frame/focus and then decide to change aperture you will need to refocus.
and - b with the lens on my S2 (nikkor 50 1.4) just looking down on it the aperture index mark is very small and I have to rotate the camera and/or turn the focus ring to see where it is set.
These things don't effect the quality if the final image, but slow things down. I really have no idea why Nikon adopted this Contax style system, including the serated focus wheel which I never use as it is uncomfortable (literally) and far too slow to use.

So yeah, I get why Leica owned/owns the rf world. But they were/are far far more expensive so they should. As for the S2, I flippin love it still and am excited to get my film back and pump some more through it. The winding action is soo sooo nice, I'm just sitting here firing off blank shots just to feel it!

As an aside, the S2 - because of it's quirks I've mentioned - kills any desire for me to have an S3 or SP because the improvements on those cameras do not address the biggest issue for me with the aperture ring/focus. All the other stuff is incidental (especially as I normally shoot wearing contact lenses). So why pay more?!
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Old 06-09-2019   #2
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Aperture ring moving with focus is only for the 50mm lenses.

Nikon SP with a complement of lenses that can be used with the 1:1 VF or the secondary wide-angle VF is a real treat. The S2 with 50mm is still a great camera. I've honestly never given much thought to the aperture ring but I know some may be particular about that.

However, Leica still focuses the wrong way .
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Old 06-09-2019   #3
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It's one of those cameras you love to use despite the idiosyncrasies. It'll keep you honest.


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Old 06-09-2019   #4
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What slows me down is bottom loading the film, much prefer the Nikon.

When shooting manually with an incident meter the aperture doesn’t need changing very often, it’s the shutter speed that changes. I think in aperture priority mode.

That said, all cameras have idiosyncrasies and quirks, but if they are used regularly it’s fairly easy to learn how to operate them by feel and not let these things get in the way.
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Old 06-09-2019   #5
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Wow, the Leica viewfinder is like HD compared to an old B&W TV set! OK, it's not that bad, but the Leica is sharper, clearer and more contrasty than the Nikon. I'm sure someone could get used to the aperture issue if this was their only camera, but every time you used a different camera........
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Old 06-09-2019   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Corran View Post
Aperture ring moving with focus is only for the 50mm lenses.

Interesting! Did not know that. How does the aperture ring not move, because I thought the focus mechanism rotates the entire lens?
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Old 06-09-2019   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huss View Post
Interesting! Did not know that. How does the aperture ring not move, because I thought the focus mechanism rotates the entire lens?

I think Corran must have skipped his morning coffee here or he’s thinking about focusing with the little focus wheel, because the aperture mechanism does rotate on all S-Mount lenses when focusing. Except one. And it’s a 50mm lens, the Nikkor-N 5cm f1.1 (external mount version).
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Old 06-10-2019   #8
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I liked the S2. Have had several come through the house, both chrome and black dials. Light and compact, they were great travel cameras. All of them had decent rangefinder patches. Even after twenty years shooting a Leica M system, it was easy to adjust to the Nikon's quirks/differences. Certainly a better value these days, because they are not too expensive in Leica terms. Easily buy two or three S2 for the cost of an M3. And Nikkor optics from the 50's compare favorably to Leitz from the same era. In fact, from my experience, from that era, Zeiss optics > Nikkor > Leitz. The S2 is the best shooting Nikon from my limited experience with S3 and SP. If the S2 didn't chew up my eyeglasses I would probably still have them, but a fun time shooting them over an 18 month period.

Leicas have better viewfinders. No one denies that. And the sheer availability of optics to mount on an M, both old and new, from a variety of companies, is unmatched. Modern M mount optics are outstanding. Maybe the Nikons F mount approaches that, but we are truly living in the golden age of M mount rangefinder optics. This, in my mind, is reason alone to opt for the Leica.

But if you are a Leica rangefinder guy/gal, a Nikon (or Canon, ect.) might be a nice change of pace. It's not an either/or option.
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Old 06-10-2019   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huss View Post
Much has been made about the S2's 100% vf vs the M3's 91%.
Thing is, the etched frames lines on the S2 are rougher and not as distinct as the M3's. They pretty much fill up the frame and so I can only see them in their entirety if I mash up my eyeball into the vf. Will not be able to see them with glasses on. This is reflected by how hard they were to photograph. I'm using my phone and just push the lens up agains the VF. With the Leica it easily captures the frames, with the Nikon it barely is able to. So, extrapolate that to then putting on glasses!
Totally agree on this point. Some users have posted about shooting a 35mm lens on an S2 sans external finder and just scanning around the finder to frame 35mm, but I think the S2 is not even close to the 35mm FOV. More like 55mm, really.

The S2 was on the drawing board when the M3 came out. The Nikon engineers were so surprised by how advanced the M3 was that they went back to the drawing board and swapped out the advance and rewind dials for levers!

The SP is worth the extra $€ imo. It’s got parallax correction, all the shutter speeds on one dial that goes both directions (it’s always baffled me why Leica stops at B or 1000 and goes no further). And it has the same guts as a Nikon F, one of the toughest cameras ever made!

But if you want to try out a Nikon RF for the first time, an S2 is really hard to beat!
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Old 06-10-2019   #10
Erik van Straten
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I'm an S2 fan. I have an original black one.

I like the 1:1 viewfinder, it is very precise. No parallax correction needed. I have clip-on correction lenses (these are very hard to find; I got them from Rotoloni himself). I use the camera often. More than sixty years old it still goes strong.

The S2 in black is the most beautiful Nikon rangefinder, in my opinion.

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Old 06-10-2019   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonmanjiro View Post
I think Corran must have skipped his morning coffee here or hes thinking about focusing with the little focus wheel,
You're right, don't know what I was thinking. Probably because I don't even notice this issue in practice. I count clicks when moving the aperture mostly, just like with F-mount lenses. Thanks for the correction.
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Old 06-10-2019   #12
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A great lens for the S2 is the S Skopar 50mm f/2.5. This lens is in my opinion the best 50mm lens for the Nikon rangefinders. It is small and I love the shade. It can be had quite cheap.


Erik.
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Old 06-10-2019   #13
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The only black paint cameras I can afford are Nikon Fs and Leicaflex SL. You rangefinder cats must have bigger wallets.

I always though the S2 were nice looking cameras. Even more so in black. Love the Art Deco type script.
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Old 06-10-2019   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huss View Post

I've left the best for last.. the one thing that actually effects speed and convenience in shooting is the aperture dial. On the S2 it rotates with the focus, on the Leica it stays put as nature and man intended. This is a big deal in many ways

What if you use an LTM lens on your M? Doesn't the aperture ring rotate as you focus on those? The M lenses were an all-new design, not held over from pre-war designs like the LTM lenses or Nikon/Contax.
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Old 06-10-2019   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huss View Post
Got this last week and just finished the first roll through it:


Lovely-looking camera Huss and good to read the usage comparisons with the M3. I like the S2's strong and purposeful appearance and resemblance to my 1937 Contax II.
John Mc
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Old 06-10-2019   #16
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Quote:
Thing is, the etched frames lines on the S2 are rougher and not as distinct as the M3's. They pretty much fill up the frame and so I can only see them in their entirety if I mash up my eyeball into the vf. Will not be able to see them with glasses on.
The frameline condition is more related to the individual camera.

The 50mm frames on the SP are similarly near the edge of the viewfinder window, as there is a separate viewfinder for 28 and 35.

On the other hand, the 50mm framelines on an S3 are more in the center of the window ala the M3; there is a decent sized gap from the frame to the edge of the viewfinder window. This is, of course, because there is also a 35mm frame which is closer to the edge.

This is interesting as all three of these cameras have 1:1 viewfinders, but only the S3 is wide enough for a 35mm view at life-size.

Quote:
Leicas have better viewfinders. No one denies that.
I guess it really depends on what the definition of 'better' is.
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Old 06-10-2019   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by css9450 View Post
What if you use an LTM lens on your M? Doesn't the aperture ring rotate as you focus on those?
Depends on the individual lens; some do this, some don't...

Don't the S-mount Nikkors (50mm and up) have two sets of aperture indicators on the aperture ring, also?
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Old 06-10-2019   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by css9450 View Post
What if you use an LTM lens on your M? Doesn't the aperture ring rotate as you focus on those? The M lenses were an all-new design, not held over from pre-war designs like the LTM lenses or Nikon/Contax.
None of my LTM lenses' aperture rings rotate with focus. I know that the CV 50.35's does.
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Old 06-10-2019   #19
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Nice review Huss. I think, being how old these cameras are, individual camera condition comes into play. My S2 was overhauled by DAG and is a joy to shoot. My M3 finder is a bit brighter, but I like the slight green tint on the S2, and mine has a slight orange tint on the rangefinder, so focusing is really simple. And with lenses 5cm and wider, that little knurled focus wheel is a delight. It gives me the sensation (and results) of super accurate focus.

Totally agree on the super smooth film advance, and do wish the frame counter was automated (been caught out on that a number of times), and I wish it also had the shutter speed dial like the later S3 & SP, as the spinning Barnack style dial seems pretty antiquated.

Hope you get as much joy out of using yours as I do mine.

Best,
-Tim
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Old 06-10-2019   #20
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It's one of those cameras you love to use despite the idiosyncrasies. It'll keep you honest.


PF
I do love it! I also like that it is different from the obvious Leica choice. And the bang for the buck is excellent.
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Old 06-10-2019   #21
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A great lens for the S2 is the S Skopar 50mm f/2.5. This lens is in my opinion the best 50mm lens for the Nikon rangefinders. It is small and I love the shade. It can be had quite cheap.


Erik.
Gorgeous camera! Ya I've been looking at that lens, but seeing I already have the 50 1.4 (like already having a 50 is an excuse for not getting another!) I'm thinking of maybe getting a wide instead.
The CV 50 3.5 is another option, and I absolutely loved the results from the one I briefly had. But I just cannot get over the looks of the thing. I know that seems shallow but the S2 is so beautiful while that lens is, umm, not.
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Old 06-10-2019   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huss View Post
The CV 50 3.5 is another option, and I absolutely loved the results from the one I briefly had. But I just cannot get over the looks of the thing. I know that seems shallow but the S2 is so beautiful while that lens is, umm, not.
I agree with you that lens is butt-ugly, but man I love the way it renders. And the head bartender had them at a REALLY GOOD price, so I picked one up. It doesn't regularly live on the S2, and probably gets more use on the Z6, but when it's on the S2, WOW!

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Old 06-10-2019   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timmyjoe View Post
Nice review Huss. I think, being how old these cameras are, individual camera condition comes into play. My S2 was overhauled by DAG and is a joy to shoot. My M3 finder is a bit brighter, but I like the slight green tint on the S2, and mine has a slight orange tint on the rangefinder, so focusing is really simple. And with lenses 5cm and wider, that little knurled focus wheel is a delight. It gives me the sensation (and results) of super accurate focus.

Totally agree on the super smooth film advance, and do wish the frame counter was automated (been caught out on that a number of times), and I wish it also had the shutter speed dial like the later S3 & SP, as the spinning Barnack style dial seems pretty antiquated.

Hope you get as much joy out of using yours as I do mine.

Best,
-Tim
Thanks Tim.
Nothing wrong with the condition of mine, I think I got lucky! The vf and rf patch is super clean and bright, everything feels nice n smooth n tight. Pretty remarkable given the age of this lump.
The design of the camera clearly shows that it was intended to be better than any existing LTM kamera, with Nikon getting blindsided by the M3 which took 35mm RF design onto a new plateau.
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Old 06-10-2019   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timmyjoe View Post
I agree with you that lens is butt-ugly, but man I love the way it renders. And the head bartender had them at a REALLY GOOD price, so I picked one up. It doesn't regularly live on the S2, and probably gets more use on the Z6, but when it's on the S2, WOW!

Best,
-Tim
I know! The lens is incredible butt why make it look like that?!!
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Old 06-10-2019   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huss View Post
None of my LTM lenses' aperture rings rotate with focus. I know that the CV 50.35's does.

I think all of my LTM lenses have aperture rings that rotate; the exception being my CV 21mm which of course is a modern lens not vintage. Actually, the aperture ring on my Jupiter-12 doesn't rotate either, but its in its own special class of user unfriendliness. A very nice shooter though.
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Old 06-10-2019   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huss View Post
Gorgeous camera! Ya I've been looking at that lens, but seeing I already have the 50 1.4 (like already having a 50 is an excuse for not getting another!) I'm thinking of maybe getting a wide instead.
The CV 50 3.5 is another option, and I absolutely loved the results from the one I briefly had. But I just cannot get over the looks of the thing. I know that seems shallow but the S2 is so beautiful while that lens is, umm, not.

Thank you Huss; I bought this lens for EUR 75 ... It looks really beautiful on an S2, chrome or black. Optically it is a jewel too.


Erik.
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Old 06-10-2019   #27
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Thank you Huss; I bought this lens for EUR 75 ... It looks really beautiful on an S2, chrome or black. Optically it is a jewel too.


Erik.
75 euros?!!! wow lucky you!
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Old 06-10-2019   #28
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I have only tried the S2 of the nikon rf's... something quite sexy about a Nikon RF ... moreso once You get used to turning lens in opposite direction,
sometimes I might prefer it to an M.
I get stopped all the time with my leica M's which I now find embarrassing.


the only lens i know is the 50 f2 which has a Beautiful rendering in both sharpness and bokeh...love it





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Old 06-10-2019   #29
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another with the 50 f2 on S2




shooting the shooter
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Old 06-10-2019   #30
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Great shots Helen! I’m getting my first roll back
tonight...
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Old 06-11-2019   #31
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Success! Film spacing perfect, shutter timing ok, focus dead on. Here's two pics showing the opposite end of the scale (same roll, same visit to the Getty)

1/500 f11 Fuji C200 with the S2 and 50 1.4:



1/30 f 1.4 showing the glow at 1.4:



If I had a slower lens instead of the 1.4 I would have had to use a tripod, which is verboten at the Getty.

Film scanned with digicam, negativelabpro.com
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Old 06-12-2019   #32
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Nikon S2, 5cm 50 1.4-S, Fuji C200, Nikon Z7 scan, negativelabpro.com

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Old 06-12-2019   #33
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Quote:
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Success! Film spacing perfect, shutter timing ok, focus dead on. Here's two pics showing the opposite end of the scale (same roll, same visit to the Getty)

1/500 f11 Fuji C200 with the S2 and 50 1.4:



1/30 f 1.4 showing the glow at 1.4:



If I had a slower lens instead of the 1.4 I would have had to use a tripod, which is verboten at the Getty.

Film scanned with digicam, negativelabpro.com

Old cameras and colour film looking good. You did ok, as well.
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Old 06-16-2019   #34
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Nikon S2, Nikkor 5cm S 1.4, Fuji C200, Z7 scan, negativelabpro.com

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Old 07-06-2019   #35
Erik van Straten
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Nikon S2, S Skopar 50mm f/2.5, 400-2TMY, printed on Adox MCC 110.

I love the combination of the S2 and the S Skopar.

Erik.

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Old 07-06-2019   #36
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S2 + Nikkor 50/2 + Foma 100 in HC-110

Don't have them anymore, but fun to use when I did.

Breakfast Time (Nikon S2, 1956) by Steve, on Flickr
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Old 07-06-2019   #37
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I liked the contrast in the Leica M viewfinder better, but the Nikon S2 was a nice change of pace. And what a distinctive shutter sound. The light and compact dimensions plus the 1.0x viewfinder magnification were very addicting.

S2 + 50mm Nikkor f/2 + Fomapan 100 in HC-110

Master Lock (Nikon S2) by Steve, on Flickr
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Old 07-06-2019   #38
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And also the sheer availability of modern optics (e.g., Voigtlander, Zeiss) pushed me back into the M mount fold, although recognizing that there are a few modern S mount lenses, like the one below (very compact)

S2 + CV 50mm f/2.5 + Kentmere 100 in Rodinal

Strawn Citrus Packing House #3 by Steve, on Flickr
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Old 07-07-2019   #39
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This one I did with the "All black 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor", an early (1953) lightweight professional lens in black paint that was probably made for a series of black S-cameras that never was made because the S2 was already on its way. In those years otherwise only chrome Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 were made.

Nikon S2, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, 400-2TMY.

Erik.

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Old 07-08-2019   #40
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Another one with the S2 and the All Black Nikkor. Doesn't look very sharp but this shot is at full aperture (Bokeh test). Focusing was on the nearest table.

Nikon S2, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, 400-2TMY.

Erik.

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