All-purpose Camera Review

My vote for the best all-purpose camera in the world goes with no hesitation to the Nikonos V “underwater” camera used not just underwater but everywhere!

Here’s why: it is…
* sturdy
* impervious to water, sand, mud, grit, rain, snow
* quiet (no mirror noise)
* easy to handle (it has a great hand grip)
* not adversely affected by high or low temperatures

It has:
* a super sharp lens
* an excellent TTL metering system
* an extremely accurate shutter
* flash sync of up to 1/125 of a second with a regular Nikon flash
* a single-stroke easy-to-use quick film advance lever

Here’s the deal. Since it’s a viewfinder camera, there’s no single lens reflex mirror to malfunction. Since you advance the film by hand, you need no motor to drain your batteries. Needless to say, you have no auto-focus to drain your batteries either.

You can get it muddy on the roads through Zaire, drop it, go swimming with it, photograph hurricanes with it.

Its standard lens is a 35mm 2.5 (which translates to 50mm underwater) and this lens is super sharp and relatively fast.

It has an aperture-priority TTL electronically controlled (quartz) metal bladed vertical transport focal plane shutter that goes from 1/1000 of a second to, officially, 1/30 of a second though, in practice, it will take photos even below this speed. If you really need a longer shutter speed for a night shot, it has a “B” setting.

The batteries last forever. Should the batteries ever fail, which I’ve never seen though I’ve owned one for years, you can always use the manual setting of 1/90 of a second. Its only batteries are two tiny 1.5V LR44 alkalines used to measure light and light up an LED to show the shutter speed, so there’s next to no drain on them.

You’re worried that you will be out of focus because you can’t see through the lens itself? That’s what the easily readable depth-of-focus scale on the lens is for. Remember, this camera was designed to be used underwater, so everything is easy to read and do.

Left: Photo taken with the Nikonos

Let’s take the old rule of thumb ASA/ISO equation for shutter speed based on film speed. It’s the reciprocal of the ISO value at f/16 if you’re shooting outdoors on a bright day. Let’s say you’re using a film with an ISO of 800 – or, to make it even simpler, ISO 1000. The exposure on a sunny day is then 1/1000 at f/16. But your lens goes to f/22. So you can set your lens to f/22 and your shutter will slow down to 1/500 automatically. Now what do you have? If your f/stop is f/22 and you set your primary focus to 6 feet, you’re in focus from 3 feet to infinity (and you can easily read this from your lens). You’ve effectively found universal focus – you don’t need to look through the lens except to compose.

You want to use the camera to photograph charging buffalo in Kenya? Well, think how much more effective your photos will be if you’re three feet away instead of taking the cowardly approach of photographing them with a 600mm tele. 35mm is actually an ideal focal length for most purposes. But let’s say it’s dark. If you use ISO 800 film, you’d be surprised what great photos you can get at 1/30 or below at f/2.5.

In this situation, of course, you do have to be far more careful about focus (since there’s next to no depth of field), but you’ll find you can learn to estimate distance quite well with time and the 35mm focal length is far more tolerant of camera shake if you hand hold your shot. On a tripod you will have no camera shake at all since there’s no mirror to shake during the exposure.

Here are the specs from Nikon:

http://www.nikon-image.com/eng/35mm/index_nikonos-v.html

Unfortunately, this camera has now been discontinued, but if you see one for sale, buy it (unless I’ve bought it first). You will love it! It will give you some of the best photos you’ve ever taken anywhere with any camera.

  1 comment for “All-purpose Camera Review

  1. September 5, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Sounds like a sturdy piece of kit, I’ll look out for one in the second hand ads!

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