3other Nikon cameras in my collection:


JapanNikon Nikkormat EL [1972 - 1976]



Between 1965 and 1978, Nikon produced SLR cameras for serious amateur photographers, and called them Nikkormat (or Nikomat in Japan).

EL shutter dialThe EL was the Nikon's first model with an optional aperture priority auto-exposure system, and an electronically controlled, step-less shutter, with electronically timed conventionally stepped manual shutter speeds from 4 to 1/1000th seconds. According to Nikon's Camera Chronicles, setting the shutter dial between 4 and B sets a speed of 8 seconds, but it was discovered at the final stage of development this speed wasn't always accurate. Thus, the "8" was removed from the dial, leaving a wide space between "4" and "B". That 8 second speed is still available for anyone who cares to use it.

As with other first generation electronic exposure SLRs, the EL is power hungry, and has a reputation for rapidly draining batteries. The battery compartment is - bizarrely - found in the bottom of the mirror box. The EL will still function without batteries, but in a very limited way: the light meter doesn't work, and only one mechanical shutter speed is available (1/90th).

EL match-needle pointerThe EL's viewfinder match-needle exposure control system consists of two needles pointing along a vertical shutter speed scale. In manual mode, a black needle points to the shutter speed recommended by the light meter, while a translucent green needle shows the actual shutter speed set. In automatic mode, the EL's black needle indicates (approximately, because it's step-less) the shutter speed automatically set, and the green needle indicates that the camera is in A mode. The self-timer setting lever also functions as an exposure lock, allowing re-framing after an exposure value has been set by the metering system.

The Nikkormat EL wasn't the first SLR to offer auto-exposure (the 1964 Topcon Uni was first), nor the first to have a electronic step-less shutter (the 1968 Yashica TL Electro X did that). Neither was it the first to feature an exposure lock; the 1970 Mamiya Auto XTL got there first.

When the film advance lever is flush to the camera it locks the shutter release. When it is pulled to the 30° stand-off position, the exposure meter is switched on.

An extra-large mirror eliminates the image cut-off with long telephoto lenses. The mirror is efficiently dampened to produce low levels of vibration.

The Nikkormat EL's design pays special attention to holding film truly flat. The film winds onto the take-up spool emulsion side out, which counteracts its natural curl, along with a large pressure plate, film roller and film cassette stabilizer.

According to advertisements in an October 1974 edition of Amateur Photographer, the EL body was typically sold for £155, which was a bit more than 3 weeks average UK wages.

After 4 years in production, the EL was followed by the ELW, which accepted an auto winder. The next year came the EL2. The key differences were the abandonment of the Nikkormat name in favour of Nikon, adoption the new AI system which replaced the function of the bunny's ears coupling prongs, and a switch from CdS to more a responsive SPD light meter sensor. The next evolution was significant weight loss leading to the Nikon FE.

Practical Photography Test Report - September 1974




Lens mount: Nikon F bayonet with mirror lock-up for ultra-wide angle lenses. Works with any lens with bunny ears: pre-1977, AI, AI-s, but not E or auto focus.

Diagram of Nikkormat EL viewfinderFocus: There were two different fixed screens. On my camera, there's a matte Fresnel field and central micro-prism spot. An outer circle denotes the area of the centre-weighted metering. Others have an additional central split-image rangefinder spot. Viewfinder coverage of 92%. DOF preview button.

Shutter: Electronically controlled, vertical travel, metal focal plane shutter. Step less speeds from 4 sec to 1/1000th. Manually set speeds in the same range at standard time stops. B plus mechanical shutter speed of 1/90th. 10 second self-timer.

Meter: CdS, centre-weighted TTL full aperture metering.

Exposure: Fully automatic aperture priority and match-needle manual, with shutter speed shown in viewfinder. A left push and hold on the self-timer setting lever locks the exposure reading.

Film Speed: 25 to 1600 ASA with selection lock switch.

Flash: Standard X-synch hot shoe at 1/125. PC socket with bulb/electronic flash selection via shutter speed selection dial (pull up edge and twist).

Film Advance: Single stroke lever with 105° advance angle plus 30° off-set (switches on meter and unlocks shutter release button).

Frame Counter: Automatic count-up and reset.

Rewind: Via crank and bottom release button. A small release button on the film speed selector has to be switched before an upward pull on the wind crank knob will open the back.

Size: 145 x 93.5 x 54.5mm (W x H x D).

Weight: 780g.

Battery: 6V silver-oxide battery - X-28 or 4 x SR44. Battery check lamp on back of top-plate.



My Camera

I bought my camera in November 2016. It was advertised as being in working order, but in need of new seals, a thorough clean, and a new viewfinder(?). I could see the battery check-light cover was missing, but was willing to take a punt on it ... especially if I could get the camera for under £10.00: I got it for £8.50. I expect the needs a new viewfinder statement put off other bidders?

The camera certainly needs new light seals, including the door hinge felts, and a replacement mirror damper (no problemo). It was a little dusty, but not especially grubby. There were a few tiny paint chips, which I have touched-up. There are some black marks on the prism side of the view-screen, but they are on the top edge, and I can easily live with them. HOWEVER, on this particular camera it is possible to remove the view-screen from inside the mirror box as part of the mirror damper foam replacement process (ProSeal Nikkormat EL light seal replacement instructions). The battery check doesn't illuminate, but I suspected that would be the case. Otherwise, the camera is in full working order, and even came with a working battery installed.

I was expecting the EL to be a bit of a boat anchor, but it's a very similar size to a Spotmatic, and only fractionally heavier. It's well made, and thoughtfully designed, with lots of nice little touches. It's very smart, but I have to say, I'm not blown-away by it to the point I have turned into a Nikon bore!



Nikkormat EL - images pending

Nikkormat EL

Nikkormat EL

Nikkormat EL

The Nikkormat EL is a pre-AI camera, so a procedure has to be followed when fitting a lens, to ensure that the maximum and minimum apertures are indexed by the meter.

1. Push the camera's indexing pin as far to the right (facing) as it will move.
2. Set the lens aperture to f/5.6.
3. Insert the lens into the bayonet so that the indexing pin sits between the bunny's ears.
4. Twist the lens counter-clockwise until it locks into place.
5. Turn the aperture ring to the smallest possible aperture.
6. Turn the aperture ring to the largest possible aperture.

On my camera/lens, a small lug on the lens aligns with the maximum aperture of the lens, on a scale to the left side (facing) of the indexing ring.