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Early Nikon F's

862,600  Nikon F's were made from 1959 to 1974.The F was Nikon's best seller to date and proved that Japan was the new leader in camera design.   The F established Nikon as the Professional's #1 choice, a position that Nikon would keep until the advent AF SLRs.   Nikon didn't see AF coming, and it took years to catch up with the F5.   See Nikon F History.   Early F's are especially collectible, the earlier the serial number, the better.



Early F Features include:

  • The first 100 or so F's had cloth shutter curtains before the titanium curtains became available.    They may have been a separate, earlier production run.   Originally the American importer of Nikon was strongly against the new Nikon SLR, and fought against its introduction.  
  • A self timer with slanted serrations and sharp edges
  • The prism is engraved Nippon Kogaku rather than silk screened.
  • The advance lever is machined and has two hollow cavities on the underside.  This early type lasted only about the first 1000-1100 cameras.   Close examination will show the machining marks on the underside of the advance lever.
  • The shutter speeds and counter frame numbers are engraved, not printed on
  • The back has six patent pending numbers
  • The back is marked Made in Japan on the closing lock, not on the baseplate near the tripod socket
  • The aperture activating lever is 3mm high, not 4mm as on the later models.
  • The original bodies could mount the original Photomic finders, but not the later Photomic T, FT, and FTN meters.  The early bodies could be modified to take the later meters, but from a collector's standpoint, the unmodified bodies are worth more.  
  • The early focusing screens clearly show fresnel rings which are not visible on the later screens.
  • The four film guide rails are of identical width all the way across.  On later cameras the two inner film guide rails have small extensions going outward from the film path on the rewind side of the camera. 
  • Early F lenses have a heavier chrome and deeper luster than the later lenses.  The early 28/3.5, 35/2.8, 50/2, 105/2.5 and 135/3.5 lenses have "Tick Marks" on their aperture ring which indicate the f/stop.  It was soon realized Tick Marks were unnecessary with click stopped aperture rings, and they were discontinued.  Today Tick Mark lenses make assembling a proper Early F outfit that much more difficult to accomplish, and that more enjoyable once attained.     I'm trying to determine the production of Tick marked lenses.  If you have one, please email the serial number.    Further identify it by 1) number of aperture leaves 2) Whether or not is has a red R for infrared 3) Whether or not the focusing scale is feet or meters 4) Whether or not it is marked "PAT. PEND," 4) the color of the lens coating.  THANKS !!


  • Black 64 F's are much rarer than chrome 64 F's.  The earliest Black F I know of is # 6400675. 
  • Early F's that have been modified to take the FTN finder by replacing the original nameplate and by machining the back edge of the focusing screen box to be flush with top plate, are worth less than unmodified cameras.
  • Early F's with mismatched parts are worth much less than complete, original F's.  The parts most likely to get lost or replaced over four decades are 1) the original prism 2) the original focusing screen 3) the original lens 4) the original back.  
  • 64 F's comprise a block of 100,000 cameras.   Just because it's a 64 F, doesn't mean much to most serious collectors unless it's at least in in the first 15,000 cameras. 
  • Contrary to some written reports, early F's were certainly not of inferior workmanship.   Quite the opposite, in fact.   From the start, the Nikon F was beyond any other Japanese SLR in terms of precision and finish.    

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Revised: November 26, 2003 . Copyright � 1998-2002  Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved.    This means you may NOT copy and re-use the text or the pictures in ANY other internet or printed publication of ANY kind.  Information in this document is subject to change without notice.  Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.