Friday, June 29, 2012

Nikon F2 S Photomic and the Walky

Last week was a time of coincidence, I found three separate items. On Monday I found a mans wallet lying on the pavement which I returned it to its owner. On Wednesday I found a glass marble, which is unusual. And on Thursday, while walking to the post office, I found the photograph you see below. Was the photo lost or discarded? Whatever, it has a new home now, in my collection. The type is known as a Walkie.

People are ingenious in finding ways to earn a living from a camera, from weddings to wars and everything in-between, but without doubt the boldest and bravest were the Walkies. These were the men (I've never known of a woman Walkie), who spent 12 hours a day, seven days a week patrolling summer holiday resorts and snapping holiday makers, walking towards them.

Found image taken by a Walkie
Until about 20 years ago, every seaside resort in Britain had at least one Walkie. Starting around mid morning and finishing when the crowds thinned out, the Walkie would comb every inch of beach, promenade and fun fair, taking photographs of anyone and everyone. What a job, eh! The very thought of it makes my feet ache and my shoulders sag.

The Walkie's I remember were extremely professional. They would appear in front of you with a broad smile and take a single photo. You were given a card with the name address of a shop or pub, where you could view your photo, usually the next day. They were always well groomed with polished shoes, smart trousers, white shirt and polyester tie (used to clean the camera lens). Occasionally you'd  see the a showman Walkie, with a monkey or parrot on his shoulder. Men at the top of their game.

There can't be many people in Britain who don't have a snapshot taken by a Walkie, I have at least ten photos of members of my family with a walkie stamp on the back. It was always part of our summer holiday to find our photograph amongst the hundreds on display, either in a shop window or behind the bar of a pub. The photo was affordable and usually cost the same as a pint of beer.

The photos in most collections and those that are found tend to be like the example above, rather bland and casual. But like gold nuggets on a pebble beach, there are examples where subjects are caught in a moment of happiness that transcends the snapshot and becomes beautiful record of social trends. 

Walkie from my collection
Walkie cameras had to be tough to cope with the summer conditions of heat, humidity, salt and fine sand blowing around. Leica and Nikon were obviously the most popular brands, indeed I once saw Walkie using a Leica 3f, whose film advance knob had been worn to smooth brass. Which brings me to the Nikon F2 S Photomic, you see below, it's a Nikon F2 with a DP-2 head and was the considered very exotic in its day. This one is a veteran ex-Walkie camera that spent ten years on the sea front at Blackpool between 1974 and 1984. It's one of two Nikon F2's owned by the same photographer. One camera was loaded with negative film for prints the other loaded with slide film which was used to make little souvenier viewers on a key ring.

Nikon F2s with Tim Irving Bespoke camera strap
Nikon F2 S Photomic - The Walkie Camera

Nikon F2's are remarkable cameras, elegant in form and function, and you can fully appreciate the quality when you handle and use a well worn example. Despite the hard professional life the camera still works perfectly and there's no evidence of sloppiness, it walks and talks as it should. The heart of the camera, the shutter, sounds smooth, strong and its slow speeds are music to my ears. This is from a camera that has never had a service or CLA (clean, lube and adjust).


  1. great post Tim, that brought back memories of the walkie on New Brighton front when I was just a kid, the photograph was lost somewhere, pity.

  2. How interesting! I've never heard of walkies and am not sure we had them over here. Locating a holiday photo of yourself pinned up at a shop after a day at the shore must have been a delight.



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