Nikon FTn

This camera has recently been the bane of my life. It was such a mistake to buy. I was gassed up by the blackness of it, the full black body being a bit rarer than the dual tone one. Though this camera is hardly rare.

It didn’t come with that lens, you will read more about that later. When I first saw it on Facebook marketplace it had a 35mm Nikon lens on it and that let my heart persuade my head. I wanted that lens. It also came with a couple of other cameras. They were all in terrible condition, there was green stuff on them among other things. But there I was with extra money for a change, usually, I am broke.

Anyway, when I got them all home I started to clean this up. I put a battery in and actuated the shutter a few times. I found the light meter worked and the speeds all seemed correct. BUT, after a few more actuations the wind on locked and wouldn’t move, the mirror was up but could be manually reset. It didn’t help the wind-on issue, which remained jammed. I sent it to a friend and he fixed it. When it was returned I started playing with it again and it jammed once more. Not one to give up I sent it to a repair shop and they said it needed stripping down due to the jam and oil on the shutter blades. I couldn’t afford what they asked so they just fixed the jam and sent it back.

I looked at the shutter and though it was oily, it seemed to function as I watched it on B setting. I loaded a film and did a test run.

Damn, the shutter was sticking occasionally and getting more frequent.

Other than that the photos were ok and it was the first time I had used Agent Shadow from Kosmo Foto so I tried to save something from the shots by cropping the half shutter shots.

To avoid the cost of stripping it down, I spent ages actuating and cleaning the shutter with isopropyl. It seemed to work, the shutter was definitely no longer sticking…I think. So I loaded another film. This time just to save film, I used some expired RAR which I have loads from a bulk roll. I also tried the 35mm lens that came with the camera.

The results weren’t bad but the lens really was in a terrible state.

I was surprised anything got through that front element. I have cleaned front elements before using a variety of materials including toothpaste, but that was for haze or fungus. This was way beyond that so I decided to really go for it and ordered some glass polishing paste to use with a Dremel polishing attachment. I figured the lens was so bad what did I have to lose, toy cameras have terrible lenses and I use those, so why not use a Dremel on a damaged one.

I really would not recommend you do this to your lens so do not follow my example. But for me at the end of a few passes, my lens was improved so I put it back together ready for another test film. There were still lots of scratches on the front element, but at a certain angle, you could see through it without obstruction as evident by the final photo.

The next film I tried was an Orwo NP55 an expired monochrome film. Here are the results with the newly polished lens.

As you can see in a couple of the shots, the sticky shutter was starting to return. But that was not the only issue. When I came to write this post, I picked up the camera to find the wind-on had jammed again. I was not willing to spend any more money on this example. So I tried taking it apart myself and could not fix the issue. I am also not willing to spend any more time on this example and I am certainly not going to invest in a new lens for Nikon camera system when I currently don’t own another vintage body. So now I have a nikon body that can be used for a few parts, screws etc.

As for the camera, if the example I had tried had been a better one I think I would have liked it. I did like the meter window on the top of the camera. Oh well, lessons learned…maybe.

27 thoughts on “Nikon FTn

  1. William says:

    Valiant efforts, Peggy; Bravo! to the no-net, all-in & gutsy Dremeling.
    As to badly scratched front elements, it hs been said that flowing black ink into them (wiping excess away, of course) can – sometimes – ameliorate the light-scattering of remaining scratches and give decent-ish shots.
    And it’s reversable, of course

    Liked by 1 person

      1. William says:

        That sticky shutter … post-retirement, I worked at a pal’s camera shop. He was very fond of repeated flushings with Ronsonol lighter fluid, rather than isopropyl, to un-gum elderly parts. The dissolved lubricants would often re-coalesce, of course, and stick again, but he’d just re-flood over-and-over until they consistently worked (at least until it went out the door). The place smelled like a failed barbeque on a damp day, so maybe an outdoors thing. That won’t help a worn gear or pawl or bad spring or what-have-you, of course, but nothing to lose, so what the heck.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Kurt Ingham says:

      Yes, it seems counter intuitive- but what William suggests works. Similarly, I bought a 300mm f2.8 Nikkor with a giant scratch across the front element (heavily discounted and all I could afford) and I blackened the scra5ch. Lens performed perfectly BUT – with the money I made from using it I bought one sans scratch- it was just too weird seeing that black line

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Johnny Martyr says:

    I’m a big Nikkormat fan. Due to their cheapness and availability, I’ve probably owned a dozen of them and currently keep three good, fully serviced ones in use. I have a very beat-up black FTn and 50/1.4 AIS with a bent helical that I use in rain and other situations where I need to shoot but could potentially ruin the camera while doing so. The Nikkormats never let me down aside from the occasional jumpy meter. But of course, these were serviced.

    These cameras are a victim of their own success and nowhere have I seen it so thoroughly demonstrated than here in your account of this black FTn! Sadly, because they sell for less than the cost of a CLA, Nikkormats are seldom treated to the normal maintenance. What mechanical device will continue to work, even as well as yours did, for 50 years without any normal and routine maintenance? I can’t help but wonder how much the film, chemicals, rubbing alcohol, gas to drive the camera around, and other peoples’ time added up to and if that approaches the cost of the CLA it needs. I also wonder if you could sell off the probably unrepairable lens and other cameras you got in the sale to pay for the CLA. It seems quite a shame for a black FTn to be turned into a parts camera without being given a real chance.

    I view cheap fully mechanical cameras like an endangered species. If we don’t take proper care of the ones we have, I’m afraid there will be nothing left but $6,000 Leica MP’s.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Peggy says:

      I don’t think it even came close to the cost and even then I think the state of it meant it might not ‘stay’ fixed. The places I sent it to did their best and they are good people, but it was too far gone. You are saying all the things I thought too. Sometimes, it is just its time. I am going to make sure its remains have a new lease of life though.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Darrell Meekcom says:

    The camera was cursed. I sometimes come across a camera that is nothing but trouble from the outset and think that maybe the long dead owner ‘s spirit doesn’t want me to have it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Peggy says:

      I was thinking the same thing. I am not very skilled, but you are and so was the other person who allegedly fixed it. Both of you swore it was now fixed, but then it jams again. I don’t want to sell cameras to pay for this to be cla’d for a third time and then it jams again. Time to move on.

      Like

  4. William says:

    You guys are killing me.
    Fairly rang the bell, Johnny’s post did, and I’m racing off on the ‘Net drooling, slathering, howling like Pavlov’s dog. Who doesn’t love the sheer cachet, the class of a battered black, brassy-edged Nikomat/Nikkormat in good (-enough) nick? And we just *hate* facing-up to un-fixabilty.

    ( Ah, Lord; like I need another camera … with a paracord strap … and some XP2 … and an H series 50 or a 35 … in a grimy canvas bag, with holes in the corners and crumbs in the bottom …)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. William says:

        Oh, yeah, before the sun goes down this day.! Mama’s tryin’ to drag me away from the keyboard and a big screen full of overseas “Exc-Plus-Plus!”, “tiny dusts!” “No fungus” offerings

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Kurt Ingham says:

      I have the ones (FTn and F) that I worked with, but never use them (though the lenses do find themselves on digital bodies) They are, after literally (not figuratively) thousands of frames, just too familiar. These days I am just as likely to grab a Petri for film work- and if it lets me down-well the mortgage payment won’t be endangered

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Johnny Martyr says:

      LOL – well the point of my comment was that we should pay professionals to properly service what we have currently, NOT continue buying neglected cameras only to neglect them more! Get your single black camera, service it, and use the hell out of it. That’s how you get your classy battered black camera 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Peggy says:

        I was never took advantage of the era I was born into. I just went with the flow to where I am now. C’est la vie.

        Like

  5. Kurt Ingham says:

    I only had that limited gear because I was trying to earn a living at photography and money was very tight. 2 things now-film is more a hobby, and tons of great film gear sells for a fraction of it’s value in ‘the day’

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Roger B. says:

    Kudos to Kurt. The original F, maybe an F2/DP1, and a Nikomat. All that fine legacy glass we bought new in the 1970s for income shoots – fits and produces fine images. Stateside one could pick up Nikomats (silver) on the Bay for $25 until about two years ago. They were plentiful. Today, still cheaper than that stupid millennial favorite, the K1000.
    As an aside, Peggy, I note you inadvertently got yourself another half-frame camera!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Toby says:

    Will the lens hold together without its front element in place. I’ve had a couple of lenses in similar condition. One was front element, one was rear element. I got a cracking macro lens out of the one I removed the rear element from and a weird almost short rage fishy eye out of the front element one at certain zoom lengths. Not always possible I know cos sometimes one element holds others in place

    Liked by 1 person

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