Readers of Smart Photography are already familiar with Ashok Kandimalla who authors the series “Basics of Photography” every month.
Less well known is the fact that Ashok is also an enthusiastic collector of Nikon cameras. He started collecting about two decades back and now has every Nikon 35mm mechanical SLR model that has been ever produced (barring a few special cameras that were manufactured for Olympic Games, military forces, National Geographic, etc.). That brings the total Nikon SLRs he has collected to 26.
When asked why he collected cameras, Ashok replies that it is a passion for ﬁ ne workmanship plus precision mechanics (that is why only mechanical cameras) and photography put together. To the question why only Nikon, he says that it was simply the brand which made the concept of 35mm SLR popular for the ﬁ rst time and a 35mm SLR in his opinion is the most versatile of all cameras, till D-SLRs came along.
Apart from the 26 SLRs, Ashok also has two Nikon 35mm Rangeﬁ nder Cameras—Models S and SP. The latter was introduced in 1959 along with the Nikon F. It is equipped with a rare and highly collectable Nikkor 50mm f/1.1 lens. Though introduced nearly ﬁ ve decades ago, this is still the fastest lens ever produced by Nikon. Another unique piece in this collection is the 35mm f/1.8 lens for the Nikon Rangeﬁ nder Cameras, complete with a signed inspection (quality control) certiﬁ cate!
An interesting SLR in the collection is the Nikon F “Apollo”. By the time Nikon F2 was introduced, the legendary Nikon F was in production for more than a decade already and had such a loyal following that many did not switch to the new F2, though F2 is now regarded as one of the greatest SLRs ever made. So, for a time both F and F2 were produced and some of the parts (like plastic ﬁ lm advance and self timer levers) of the newer F2 found their way on to the older F. Those F bodies with F2 cosmetics came to be known as the “Apollo” versions though that was not the ofﬁ cial name.
Ashok’s collection has four different types of the popular FM2 model including the limited production FM2/T. The FM2/Tis made of Titanium, which is a strong, light (and expensive) metal used in the aircraft industry. Also in the collection is the limited edition FM2/Millennium kit. Only 2,000 of these were produced to commemorate the Year 2000. The kit which comes in a beautiful presentation case consists of a camera body and a matching lens. Both have a special “Champagne” ﬁ nish and have the same serial number. The body also has a badge with an image of a Dragon as the Year 2000 was the Chinese year of Dragon.
Which is the most coveted Nikon of all, we ask Ashok. Nikon One he replies. This was the ﬁ rst Nikon Camera that was ever produced (in 1948) and only 739 pieces were made. Nikon One in any condition will set you back around Rs.10 lakhs today. Even rarer and more expensive is the S3M, which is a Half Frame (24mm x 18mm) 35mm Rangeﬁ nder Camera. Only 195 examples were produced in 1960 along with the matching Motor Drive S72. This set (S3M plus S72) was auctioned for Rs.35 lakhs ten years back! Today’s price will be close to Rs.50 lakhs or so.
All the cameras Ashok has are in working condition and most of them are in excellent shape. Some of them have not seen a single roll of ﬁlm through them, that is—they are brand new! Interestingly after switching to digital more than ﬁve years back, Ashok has not touched ﬁlm and does not use these cameras at all.
We at Smart Photography hope that Nikon India will give due recognition to what is perhaps the largest and most complete collection of Nikon SLRs in India.