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Nikon RF This forum is dedicated to Nikon Rangefinders: the Nikon One, Nikon M, Nikon S, Nikon S2, Nikon SP, Nikon S3, Nikon S4, and Nikon S3M, Nikon S3 2000, Nikon SP 2005. Plus the ONLY production camera ever made in Nikon Rangefinder mount WITH TTL metering ... the Voigtlander Bessa R2S.

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Review: Nikon SP (1957)
Old 02-12-2019   #1
eckmanmj
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Review: Nikon SP (1957)

Today I take a look at what is perhaps one of the best 35mm cameras ever made, the legendary Nikon SP.

Graciously loaned to me by a local Nikon collector, I was able to pick the best example in his collection and take a look at a near mint example of this camera.

While there is already a ton of information about these cameras online, I did my best to give some historical insight to this model and compare its use to another legendary 35mm rangefinder.

http://www.mikeeckman.com/2019/02/nikon-sp-1957/

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Old 02-12-2019   #2
xayraa33
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Still one of the most beautiful RF cameras ever made, even 61 and a half years later.
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Old 02-12-2019   #3
Phil_F_NM
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If I had gotten a Nikon SP before my Leica M4, I may never have bought the Leica. When I bought my Nikon rangefinders I all but abandoned Leica because I preferred the Nikon system more and kept my combat hardened M4 just for sentimental reasons.
Personally, I think the Nikon SP and the Nikon rangefinder system are really the pinnacle of the rangefinder era.
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Old 02-12-2019   #4
Larry Cloetta
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The SP was one of the 20th century’s high points of industrial design, esthetically and functionally. IMO.
Then they painted some of them black, just to rub it in.
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Old 02-12-2019   #5
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As you can see from my signature line, I have a "few" Nikons. Conspicuous by its absence is the SP.

I must correct that oversight someday.
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Old 02-12-2019   #6
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I dunno, guess I’m the outlier here but I hate the rf blob in the Nikon rangefinders and much prefer the distinct rectangles in Leicas, Zeiss Ikon ZM and Bessa r2/3/4s.
I find them much quicker, more accurate and easier to use.
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Old 02-12-2019   #7
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A very well written and interesting article. Thanks
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Old 02-12-2019   #8
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when I first got an SP I was a little surprised by the RF blob, but after owning a few of these and other Nikon RFs, I've decided I'm ok with the blob, since it accompanies the lifesize (both eyes open) viewfinder, along with the lower mag 28/35 that is built-in. Much prefer this over a reduced magnification viewfinder that covers the full range of focal lengths. A Leica-style RF patch along with 1:1 for 50mm and up would be sublime.
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Old 02-12-2019   #9
bayernfan
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a very informative review. thank you for including the original articles and brochures. cheers!
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Old 02-12-2019   #10
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Not necessarily an outlier. I own & use Leicas (LTM & M), Contax RFs, & Nikon RFs, & also much prefer the RF patch of the M Leicas & their modern progeny. That said, while I do find the Leica-type RF patch quicker & easier to use (especially in low light) because of the clear outline, I haven't found it to be more accurate (there I think the advantage still goes to the Nikon & Contax II/III due to greater magnification for the Nikons & bigger baseline for the older Contaxes).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Huss View Post
I dunno, guess I’m the outlier here but I hate the rf blob in the Nikon rangefinders and much prefer the distinct rectangles in Leicas, Zeiss Ikon ZM and Bessa r2/3/4s.
I find them much quicker, more accurate and easier to use.
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Old 02-12-2019   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by furcafe View Post
Not necessarily an outlier. I own & use Leicas (LTM & M), Contax RFs, & Nikon RFs, & also much prefer the RF patch of the M Leicas & their modern progeny. That said, while I do find the Leica-type RF patch quicker & easier to use (especially in low light) because of the clear outline, I haven't found it to be more accurate (there I think the advantage still goes to the Nikon & Contax II/III due to greater magnification for the Nikons & bigger baseline for the older Contaxes).
I find them more accurate because you can use them as a split image rf or a coincidence rf, depending on subject matter. That being said ultimate accuracy depends on the adjustment of the rf mechanism.

Anyway, I think one of the best looking RF cameras is the 2000 S3 Limited in black.
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Old 02-12-2019   #12
richardHaw
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RF in old Nikon RF is hit/miss depending on the condition.

i personally prefer Nikon RF because the magnification is bigger than the Contax and the wheel makes it easy to shoot 1-handed.
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Old 02-15-2019   #13
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Such a beautiful camera
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Old 02-15-2019   #14
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I’ve never found the perfect rangefinder, but after owning S2, S3 , S3 2000, SP and Leica M4P, M6 and M7 I keep coming back to the SP, and eventually selling all the others. I only use the 50mm F1.4 lens. I could never get used to the second window on the SP or the Barnack Leicas but do find the SP combo I use easiest to focus.
The only thing against the S2 was the slow speed shutter dial, and stopping me from using the S3 was the dimmer focussing patch. Besides, the SP looks so damn good.

Last edited by TerryMcC : 02-15-2019 at 22:24. Reason: Extra comment added
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Old 02-18-2019   #15
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The camera is stunningly beautiful. But it has serious flaw. The Carl Zeiss Contax RF lenses are not compatible.
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Old 02-18-2019   #16
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Depends on which Contax lenses; the wides will focus accurately enough, there are RFF shooters who use the 21 and 35 on Nikon bodies.

And...the 50 and up Nikkors are Sonnars (Zeiss) designs anyway.
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Old 03-01-2019   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by View Range View Post
The camera is stunningly beautiful. But it has serious flaw. The Carl Zeiss Contax RF lenses are not compatible.
You should read the article. Contax mount 50mm and wide angle lenses work fine.

Telephoto lenses 85mm and above have a small focus error closeup, but are fine at infinity. So as long as you dont need to take tack sharp portraits of someone less than 10 feet away with a tele lens, they'll work fine.
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Old 04-13-2019   #18
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Still one of the best RF ever made. Had the chance to try fumbling a film into a Leica - well - it is possible but . . .
Focusing, cocking, releasing with one hand - if necessary :-)
Lifesize viewfinder.
And besides all of that, just plain beautiful.
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