Ok, I have good news, and then I have really good news, excellent one may say. My Nikon F4, one of most cherished camera that I own has returned from the dead. I said cherished not for what it is or does, although that is reason enough, but because it came as a gift from one of my best and long time friends, Valentin.
I have used this Nikon not very often, mainly when I was out for the day, kids in the park, some picnics, the usual. Nothing heavy, and certainly not when traveling. The heftiness of a Nikon F4 is something to reckon with, when walking long walks, not to mention that if you have the large MB21 battery grip and motor you may end up with a sore neck and arm, if handling the camera for several hours. Just joking, but the truth of the matter is that the camera is a heavy one, much heavier than everything I have, own and use nowadays. By comparison, the Nikon FM3A or one of Olympus OM cameras feels like a Minox in the pocket versus a melon in your arms.
It developed a problem, actually several of them: suddenly, the lower line in the viewfinder went off. You know, the one telling you the shutter and aperture, which is actually the metering information. Dead like the legendary dodo bird, and I could see no reason on why this should happen. I never dropped it, never fiddled with it, such as dismantling it, never poked within, never nudging the internals or anything like that. I have ruined my fair share of objects to know by now that if something goes “whirrrr”, it is because it’s meant to and it doesn’t mean “take me out of here and look at me, eventually drop me on the floor”. So yes, a mystery to me.
At that moment, I figured I can use it as it was, because I shoot in Manual mode anyway, most of the times. But soon after that, the Ph, P and S settings became not functional. When I set the dial on any of these settings and press the button, the shutter clicked and closed down for like 30 secs or so. That was bad, because although I usually shoot in Manual mode, I like to have automatic settings available to me if I need these. I told myself, oh well, until I send it to be repaired, I will use it as it is, i.e. in manual mode. Beside the A(perture) setting, the M(anual) it was the only one working anyways.
Wait, there’s more, for the plot thickens: the proverbial final straw came when the meter went dead. The last film I run through the camera was blank with some barely seen images here and there. That was the moment I decided this is a lost cause, and I decided to scrap the camera altogether, sorry as I was to have it put aside for ever.
Some friends (and family too) encouraged me to get a second one, prices are excellent on very good condition Nikon F4 cameras nowadays. But I could not and I didn’t wanted to; the Nikon F4 was not one of the cameras I wanted “since I was a toddler” thing, my usual range of cameras are lighter and more, well, simpler than the might of the electronics and buttons and gears one enjoys when using a Nikon F4. So I packed it up, took the lens out, because I can use it on my other Nikon cameras, and all went quiet on the Nikon front.
Niggling thoughts, this is what I call these. I could not stay off this camera. I swear I took it out of the package several times, trying to see if it somehow has repaired itself. Obviously it didn’t, doh, but man, I was anguishing over the fact that I could not use it. I checked and re-checked it with new batteries, swapping the grips, trying any imaginable combination of settings, pushing this button and turning that wheel, to no avail. Dead as the bird aforementioned.
One day, a fellow photographer, who knew about my predicament, advised me to send it to a repair shop in Sibiu, where a good friend of his “does really good work”. I knew of course the camera could be serviced, but I somehow gave up the idea to send it somewhere for an overhaul. Cost, time, but above all, the fear to have it returned labelled “no can do, camera’s dead”. It felt like a final sentence, and I do not like final sentences. I believe solutions do exist, it is only for us to seek one and sort things out.
Long story short, I sent it away, and 2 days later I get a call from Adrian (the repair shop owner) who told me that the prism had two contacts bent, and a diode shot. WTF ??? This was causing all my problems. Heart in my throat, I asked him if there anything he can do. The answer made me jump with joy: yes, he could repair it, and for a very decent cost too. Just marvellous.
Today, I just got it back. It works like new, and I am going to have it checked with film, this weekend. I do believe anguishing over this camera is over, and I really look forward to shooting with it and enjoy the whirrs and the clicks and all the heftiness of it. As said, really great day !
PS – for those in need of a camera repair shop in Romania, I do highly recommend Adrian, he is a great guy, personable and really skilled. Just let him know you need his help, he will oblige, I am certain of it.