With the exception of pre-war black Leicas, no black paint camera ages as gracefully as the Nikon F. The black paint wears astonishingly evenly and smoothly, and the brass beneath peeks through perfectly. This is why black paint Nikon Fs command such a premium over chrome. From the point of usability, there's nothing in it; but it's always nicer to use something inherently beautiful. A good black F makes many photographers go weak at the knees, and when Frances used to carry one around her neck at photokina, she said it was like being a teenager again: "Men kept staring at my chest". 

The word "iconic" is much over-used, and very few cameras qualify. One of them is, however, the F. Introduced in 1959 it was the first modern SLR to combine all the features that had appeared piecemeal in other models: lever wind, instant return mirror, auto diaphragm, all shutter speeds on one dial, modular construction allowing interchangeable screens, finders and backs (including bulk backs and motor drives)...  

The base generally shows the most wear, from being put down and (of course) from being rubbed against the photographer's clothing. Other scars, such as the one on this base-plate, are usually centred around scratches rather than a result of the paint just flaking off as it did on the Olympus Pen W

One of the reasons the F ages so gracefully, though, is the chrome wind-on lever. The black paint lever on Leicas normally goes pretty scabby, pretty quickly. Also, though of course it's an aesthetic judgement, it seem to me to make the black paint on the rest of the body gleam even more impressively. 

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Words and pictures copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2016