Nikon N2000 Review – a Stunningly Cheap Film Camera

Nikon N2000 Review – a Stunningly Cheap Film Camera

2200 1238 James Tocchio

Almost ten years ago, Casual Photophile sprung from the realization that there was a whole galaxy of cameras which nobody seemed to be talking about. At that time, many exceptional cameras could be found and bought for a tenth their original retail price, and yet they still functioned as well as the day they were made. It quickly became my favorite thing— to discover and to write about wonderful cameras and lenses which most people have forgotten. The Nikon N2000 is such a camera.

While not exactly forgotten by true camera nerds (many of my friends in the camera blogosphere have written reviews of this relatively hidden gem), the Nikon N2000 certainly fails to garner the kind of wide acclaim foisted upon other SLRs from the era of manual focus SLR dominance. Its popularity doesn’t come close to that of cameras like the Nikon F3, the Canon AE1 or the Pentax K1000, to pick three easy comparisons.

Which is strange, since the Nikon N2000 is better equipped than an F3, just as small as an AE1, and far more advanced than a K1000.

Why, then, don’t people squawk endlessly about it on YouTube? No idea. Don’t care. Let’s move on, so that I can get back to what I love— squawking endlessly about cameras that I like.

What is the Nikon N2000

First released in 1985, the Nikon N2000 (known as the Nikon F-301 in Japanese and European markets) is a manual focus 35mm film SLR camera using Nikon’s ubiquitous F mount lens system. As a replacement for the earlier Nikon FG, the N2000 was (and remains) a truly capable consumer-level camera with a number of surprising capabilities.

In fact, the N2000 represents a number of “firsts” in Nikon’s lineage.

It was the first Nikon camera with an integral motor drive. It was the first Nikon camera to use polycarbonate plastic extensively in its construction. It was the the first Nikon with DX-coding capability, and it was one of only four Nikon SLRs which was able to support the advanced exposure modes made possibly by Nikon’s AI-S F mount lenses (the others being the Nikon FA, the Nikon N2020, and the Nikon F4).

It’s a compact SLR, lightweight, surprisingly robust, easy-to-use and easy on the eyes. It’s powered by a common battery type (either four AAA batteries, or four AA batteries with an optional extended baseplate). It meters well, has multiple shooting modes, is equipped with one of the most versatile lens mounts in the history of photography, and can even beep at us when it’s angry.

The N2000 was, and still is, a solid, well-equipped, highly capable film camera. That said, it was short-lived.

By the mid-1980s, the autofocus era had truly arrived. Nikon was more than happy to push their manual focus past aside as AF was embraced by buyers in the lucrative entry-level market. The N2000 was quickly replaced by the far more modern and AF-equipped Nikon N4004s in 1987. (Tragic, because good lord, is that camera ugly.)

Specifications of the Nikon N2000

  • Camera Type – Integral-motor 35mm single lens reflex (full frame, 24 x 36mm image area)
  • Lens Mount – Nikon F mount
  • Exposure Modes – Program, Program Hi (for high speed shooting), Aperture Priority, Manual
  • Exposure Metering – Center weighted TTL metering, EV1 to EV19 at ISO 100 with f/1.4 lens
  • Shutter – Electronic vertical-travel focal-plane shutter
  • Shutter Speeds – Stepless speeds from 1 to 1/2000 second on Program, Program Hi, and Aperture Priority modes; non-stepless Manual mode speeds from 1 to 1/2000th second; Bulb mode for long exposures
  • Viewfinder – Fixed eye-level pentaprism; 0.85x magnification with 50mm lens; approx. 92% frame coverage
  • Focusing Screen – Fixed Nikon Type K2 with central non-shading split-image rangefinder circle, microprism collar, and matte-/Fresnal outer field; 12mm diameter reference circle denotes metering area
  • Viewfinder Info – Shutter speed LED readout; Over- and under-exposure warning LED’s; Ready light when using flash
  • Exposure Compensation Control – Plus or minus 2 Ev in one-third stop increments
  • Film Speed Range – ISO 25 to 4000 for DX-coded film; ISO 25 to 3200 for non-DX-coded film
  • Film Advance and Rewind : Automatic film advance up to 2.5 frames per second; manual rewind
  • Flash Sync – 1/125 second or slower with electronic flash
  • Additional Features – Frame counter, film type window in film door, audible warning alarm for multiple events, self-timer, red indicator LED, hot-shoe for flash and monitor, tripod socket, exposure lock

Using the Nikon N2000 Today

I’ve temporarily owned a dozen or more Nikon N2000s during my time as editor of this site and owner of a camera shop. I’ve shot a few examples of the same, here and there, over spans of weeks and months, and what has always struck me about the N2000 is just how quietly good it is.

But don’t confuse that with actual audible quietness. It’s not a quiet camera. It’s loud. But I don’t mind that. Like a Contax G2 or any good camera in a movie from the early 1990s, the Nikon N2000 makes all the right noises for a camera-liker like me. Its shutter chonks hard, its winder whirrs brightly, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In the hand, the N2000 feels amazing. With its geometric grip, it balances one-handed better than something like a Nikon FE or a Canon AE1, cameras which are slippery in their gripless-ness. With a compact lens mounted, such as the 45mm Nikkor Pancake or the Nikon 50mm Series E, the camera is compact and subtle enough to be used as a travel and walkaround camera.

The camera’s F mount is capable of mounting any Nikon AI or AI-s lens. Naturally any third party lens made for the same mount will work as well. Only a few exceptions exist (see the manual for those).

The Nikon N2000’s controls rest exactly where they should, and handling the camera becomes second nature within just a few frames. By the end of the first roll of film I’m able to set shutter speed (or exposure mode), adjust exposure compensation, use the exposure lock, frame, and focus, all without ever taking my eye from the viewfinder or fumbling about with confusing dials and switches.

The viewfinder is informative and among the brightest viewfinders I’ve ever seen in a manual focus camera. This brightness, and the ample focusing aids packed into the fixed focusing screen, make manual focus fast and easy. Additionally, the in-VF LED display does everything I want it to do.

In manual mode, the bank of LEDs on the right-hand side of the VF shows our set shutter speed as well as a flashing speed recommendation based on the camera’s meter. In Aperture Priority mode, it shows the automatically selected shutter speed based on available light and the lens’ aperture, and when using the exposure lock it displays the locked speed and recommended setting. In program mode, the camera takes care of everything and the LEDs let us know what’s happening.

What’s missing from the VF is an indicator to show our selected lens aperture. While this is something that becomes known by feel over time, I wouldn’t have been upset if Nikon had managed to shoehorn that feature into this otherwise perfect viewfinder.

Set to single shot, the camera advances the film one frame after each shot. Set to continuous mode, the camera fires shot after shot at a pace as fast as 2.5 frames per second. Film rewind is manual – we only must remember to slide and press the two-factor authentication that is the camera’s rewind switch, and then crank the crank like on so many earlier manual cameras.

For the way that I use film cameras (aperture priority is my preferred mode, I like manual focus and single lens reflex shooting) the N2000 is an uncomplicated hit. It just works.

The Nitpicks

But not all is perfect. The N2000 does fail me in certain ways.

To start, the On/Off switch is annoying. It’s a spring-tension collar that surrounds the shutter release button. To turn the camera on or to select our drive mode, we pull it up from its L (locked) position and rotate it to either S (single shot) or C (continuous), and the motion just doesn’t feel good, being kind of vague and cheap. This is admittedly a minor annoyance, at most, but its an annoyance that’s felt every time I have to turn the camera on or off, or change drive modes from single to continuous.

Next, the tripod socket is positioned almost at the very edge of the bottom of the camera, so that when mounted to a tripod, the whole thing kind of dangles precariously with all of its weight on one side. Another nitpick, for sure, and one that will rarely impact me or anyone else. But I’m paid to complain.

Lastly, the exposure compensation dial has an egregiously protective locking feature whereby it is impossible to adjust the exposure comp by even one increment without pressing and holding down the lock button.

My very favorite method of shooting is to shoot in aperture priority, and to rely heavily on exposure compensation control as I’m reading the scene. If the subject is backlit, for example, I like to use exposure comp, or if the metering circle of the center-weighted meter happens to be in an area that’s extra dark or extra light, I will typically notice that and compensate accordingly. But with this dial’s lock, the process becomes tedious and frustrating, so that eventually I end up attempting to achieve my exposure compensation through use of the AE lock (which is hit or miss, and even more frustrating).

Other minor grumbles include the following: There’s no depth-of-field preview; the camera won’t work without batteries; it’s made out of plastic; there’s no cable-release thread on the shutter release; there’s no mirror lock-up; there’s no shutter blind. None of these things bother me, but they might bother you.

[Above: The Nikon N2000 makes great shots with all types of lenses and in all types of light. It just works.]

Final Thoughts

We all love cameras. But the cameras we all seem to love best are the ones that surprise us with their capability and quality at an equally surprising low price. The Nikon N2000 is just such a camera. Fitted with a standard, compact Nikon lens, it’s hard to think of another manual focus camera that outperforms the N2000. Especially when we consider that a used Nikon N2000 can be bought for about $50.

However, there is one big reason that a certain type of camera-liker might not like the N2000. If you’re the kind of photo nerd who can’t abide manual focus, the N2000 is a non-starter. It’s manual focus only, and that’s the end of that.

But if the N2000 sounds just right in all ways but one. If the only thing holding you back is that nagging little lack of autofocus, worry not. Nikon made an almost identical camera, called the N2020, which is nothing less than the very excellent N2000, but with autofocus. Wow. What a time to be alive.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • I’ve been waiting for this review for a while, as it is on my favorite Nikon camera ever (and I’ve had an F2, F3, FE2). The first one I bought while living in Australia, I bought it on ebay from a Latvian seller, and including the shipping cost it was still under 50 bucks. That camera has a funny story: while visiting the free-to-grab section of a vintage camera store, filled with old filters and broken lenses, I somehow managed to leave my N2000 there, with the 105mm f2.5 attached. Once at home, when I realised my mistake, I called the shop but the camera was of course gone. The shop owners were so nice and posted on their social media trying to let me have the camera back, and lucky me the person who had grabbed it contacted them to return the camera and lens. I thanked her by gifting her with the Chinon Multifocus, another hidden gem I discovered thanks to your site.
    Great writing, as always!

  • I had an N2000 and used it with the 2nd gen 50 1.8 E lens (the 2nd gen was much nicer built and looking than the first).
    Great camera, really did everything you’d need. Sold it because I just had too much stuff. Of course I recently acquired an FG because it was so cheap and I always wanted to try one, but the N2000 is better. I should just have kept it!

    • I’d agree. I went the other way; I wanted to like the FG but the lack of a release lock drove me nuts. The F-301’s lock ring isn’t its best feature but it’s there.

      But the 301’s viewfinder display is great — almost as intuitive as the FE2’s, and easier in poor light. And the killer feature is the winder: my human subjects invariably produce their best expression just after I’ve released the shutter. The 301 is ready to catch it.

  • Nicely written review! I wasn’t aware of this model. My experiences are with autofocus Nikons: N65 and the 6006. Both have gone
    the way of a thrift store. What bothered me about them especially the N65 was the all too frequent Error codes mainly related to the
    film frame being advanced. Oh one other disappointment: no visual check that the film was being advanced. At least the N2000 had
    the conventional film rewind crank. Ah, I feel better now! Tom

  • Mariusz Ciesielski December 6, 2023 at 6:10 pm

    That’s been a good read James, thank you! Just wanted to mention that tripod socket being off-center is an important information. Fortunately it cured me from GAS growing by the second just in time. I have Fujica ST 801 with such a socket and that’s the only thing that I don’t like about it. I shoot mainly landscapes, most often with a tripod, and it doesn’t fit in the backpack or a bag very well with a tripod plate attached.

  • Forgot to mention, the downfall of this camera (which is not the camera’s fault), is so many owners stored it with the alkaline batteries still loaded. Alkaline batteries have a propensity to leak over time, and that can ruin the camera. I have seen lots of N2000s ruined that way.
    So if you are looking at one that says ‘untested/for parts’ etc, always ask if they can check to see if there has been battery leakage. The base plate comes off so it is very quick and easy to check for.

  • Definitely an under-appreciated camera today. In its time it was just a little bit too plastiky to be a front line camera for professionals the way that the FM/FE series were … but today that is of less importance. It’s cheap enough now to be expendable, so it’s a great choice for certain applications where the camera might not survive.

  • I have the F301 Version of the Nikon, which I got in March of 87, It did Wonders for me for the 1st 2 Years, until I got an Pentax SF1N in May of 89, the F301 became my Backup Camera, along with my A3000 Pentax & K1000.

    The F301 did me Good for 21 Years (87/08) & brought me Results, I did have issues with it, Not having a Real True Dedicated Nikon, or Vivitar, or Sunpack Flash with the Camera, just a LOW End Nikon Flash that did good, but Didn’t work with Some Features.

    The Program HI did good for me, I did this Woman who Modeled Part Time & we’d Shoot in the Park or Street & get her Walking & it brought Stunning Photos, MyFavorite of her was in Late July of 96 Near her Condo here in L.A. where she was Dressed in Slacks & Blouse, Black Mary Jane Platform’s & Knee-Hi NYLONS & I shot 3 24 Rolls of Fuji 200 Film on her Walking on the Sidewalk & Streets & Crosswalk & shot her with her Shoes On & then Off Walking along the Crosswalk & on the Sidewalk in her Stocking Feet.

    & did Other Projects with her Later on with with my F301.

    When I Started going to Church, I used the F301 my Photos of Church Members, for 10 Years (98/08) with the F301.

    I’ve done Weddings, Funerals, Class Reunions, Models of Female Friends, Etc with the F301.

    But Sadly…Age & Maintenance Caught up with my F301.

    I haven’t use it since Summer of 08 when I Switched to Digital at the End of 07.

    I Still have my F301, it’s in Storage & Planning to Sell it as is on EBay, Cheap in the Future if somebody has An Connection to Overhaul my F301.

    Damn Good Workhorse that Nikon Put out in the Mid 80’s.

    Wayne Wright

  • I am actually using a Nikon N2020 at the moment with Ilford 400 BW film loaded. I have had it for years but haven’t had a roll ran through yet.

    If anyone has any interest in the results, check out my YouTube channel Adam K. Smith Photography.

    I appreciate your thoughts on the n2020. Thank you!

  • A great article! I bought a 2000 in 1988 after my Nikormat FT2/ 55 1.2 was stolen during a break in. I bought it from a local shop that just closed this year when the owner retired. At the time I was deciding between the 2000, a 2020, and a FE2. The FE2 was significantly more expensive than either the 2000 or 2020. The first gen auto focus on the 2020 was incredibly slow. With my much younger eyes in 1988 I could manually focus the 2000 faster than the 2020’s auto focus. The motor winder sold me on the 2000 for some reason. The 2020 was my only camera and served well until from 1988 until about 2008 when the meter went wonky. It wasn’t repairable. It was a good basic relatively inexpensive consumer Nikon that served well. In many ways the N2000 was much better than many of the later N series. The N80 is an exception that statement and a far better camera than the N2000.

  • Had an N2020 that I got for the lens attached to it. Liked it well enough. Autofocus was primitive but usable. Program mode worked with AI-S lenses. Then it just suddenly bricked mid-roll. Never had a Nikon do such a thing before. Was too cheap to bother repairing, so off to Goodwill it went. These cameras are fun, but I think the next generation – the N8008, N6006, and N90 – are the better deals these days.

  • This article truly brings back memories. I bought one for the first money I earned and kept until the plastic broke 24 years later in 2010. It traveled with me on the Trans Siberian railway and on holidays all over Europe. I brought it To South Africa and used it in 2 wars in Ex-Jugoslavia. I brought it to Greenland and traveled on dog sledge out on the frozen sea with the Eskimos and photographed polar bears with it. I only got rid of it because the plastic broke and digital photography became the only thing. In fact I kept using it so long because it was a damn good camera. I truly miss it so dearly and wish I still had it. Thank you so much for reminding me of one of the best things in my youth; my beloved F-301!

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop

All stories by:James Tocchio