TBT – Nikkormat EL

Post by Paul Brodek our Used Equipment buyer

Nikkormat EL front view shown with 50mm f2 lens

The Nikkormat EL is a fan favorite here at BCC, both for how it feels / handles and for what it represents. Introduced in 1972, it was Nikon’s first camera with an electronically-controlled shutter, and the first with aperture-priority exposure. Nikon managed to do this utilizing their original non-Ai lenses, since the Ai system wasn’t introduced until 1977. The FE is still the only Nikon camera to offer aperture-priority metering with non-Ai lenses. 

The electronic shutter does usher in the bugaboo of battery dependency, and eliminates the charm of mechanically timed shutter speeds, but it also eliminates the charm of inaccurate shutter speeds and the need for expensive, and not infrequent, shutter cleaning/adjustment. Aperture-priority metering significantly speeds handling, minimizes missed moments, and increases your hit rate. Being an early implementation of aperture priority, the EL doesn’t have a separate adjustment dial for under/over exposure compensation, but an inward press of the self-timer lever locks exposure to make compensation easy for the knowledgeable photographer.

Nikkormat EL Top View

The EL also takes the prize for weirdest, best-hidden battery compartment in the camera world. The battery lives in an easily-overlooked compartment at the base of the mirror box, shown in the last photo.

The ELs simple control interface, and its build quality, is what makes it so endearing. Not being the step towards compactness taken by the FM/FE series, it fills your hands with brass and steel, and feels like a top-quality, all-mechanical, ’50s-’60s piece of hardware. Having that heft and smoothness combined with an electronic shutter and aperture priority is what makes the EL so endearing, and keeps bringing a smile to our faces when we pick one up, even today, 47 years (!!!!) later.

Our example is very well preserved, has been serviced, and is paired with a very clean 50/2 Nikkor non-Ai lens, for the low, low price of $279.99.
BTW, say hello to Gnomey, our camera gnome—cheese!       

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