Nikon Nikkorex F
In the 1920s, Leitz introduced the kleinbildkamera – a small picture camera- that paved the way for this camera style in the coming eighty years. With a decade of setbacks due to the war, this style kept evolving and inspired established and freshly minted camera makers. Another photography giant, Zeiss, with its post-war reincarnations, presented a different style and concept with the same 35mm format, the Contax. Not to be undone, the Soviets and Japanese promptly copied the Contax style, with Nikon as the flag bearer. The Contax-styled Nikon rangefinders of 1947 onwards made Nikon the industry leader of what it is now.
The photography market had grown in leaps and bounds, with the user’s pyramid widening at the base. Further, the compact SLR cameras gained a significant foothold against the bulky, heavy, and unreliable (East) German models. Nikon, together with other Japanese makers, aimed to reach this market, and with the legendary F models, further established their place at the top.
The F was an expensive model, sold at about USD 3,000 at today’s rate. The market at the top end was stable, but the bottom end was ever-growing. Not to be left behind, Nikon offered an entry lever SLR model line under the Nikkorex banner. A line of odd-looking fixed-lens SLR cameras with limited features.
To borrow an analogy from the motor industry, American car makers can not make small cars. Any such model was a failure. To date, all small cars sold by the big three were either a European or Japanese rebrand. Same here. Nikon would / could not make a cheap camera. Bening royalty, even the name chosen for the lower line, a merger between Nik(on) and Rex. The Nikkorexs were tried on the local market, did not yield many followers, and were promptly withdrawn.
Yet, Nikon needed to cover the base market, so they took a step sideways and introduced a model bought from Mamiya. They added the F to the model name for good measure, so the Nikkorex F was born.
I wonder what magic the ‘F’ hold. Nikon, Miranda, Konica, Canon, Yashica, and Petri had models with the ‘F’ proudly waving off the mast.
This model bore no resemblance to the Nikon F, save for the same lens mount, which was the only change Nikon made to the Mamiya model. If at all, it resembles the Mamiya Prismat of 1960. With this mount, most Nikon lenses could be used here, save for the very wide and extreme tele lenses.
A revolutionary shutter, the Copal Square, was borrowed from the elusive Konica F. A metal, a vertical focal plane shutter that was developed together with the brains at Konica, with its name spread on the blade in gold letters.
After all that, the main attraction was the price, about 1/3 less than the top-end Nikon F. Regrettably, with the gaggle of other Japanese camera makers offering similar cameras, this model did not last long and was called off after three short years. It got a fresh lease of life, although as short, under Sears SL II and Ricoh’s early Singlex.
The camera is a basic model, simple to use, with no fancy attributes. Just what is needed to take pics of the kids at play. It is manual and fully mechanical; the only electronics are in the meter accessory. There were two versions, almost identical. The early version had a film speed memo dial at the back.
What does stand out is the add-on light meter. It is as big as a truck bumper and is the camera’s focal point. There are other cameras with a similar contraption, such as the Leica and Pentax S models, but neither is as massive as this. The meter mounts on an accessory shoe positioned at the front of the camera and facing front, which takes high imagination to see other accessories mounted there. An optional add-on accessory shoe mounts on the back viewer as if an afterthought. The meter speed dial sits on top of the camera dial. An EV calculator by the meter needle recommends the shutter/aperture settings.
For the collector, this is not an important or breakthrough camera, but if you come across an inexpensive one, it would be nice to add it. My unit is in almost mint condition, smoothly operating, and the meter too. It is common for 60 years old Nikons to run flawlessly, while east German or Soviet cameras of similar age are badly crippled, both cosmetic and mechanically.
|790 gr, Body with lens
|Class average weight
|620 gr, Body with lens
|25-2500 on meter
|Focal plane vertical metal