Nikon Acquisition Syndrome (NAS)


What makes people acquisitive? Most of us in the developed world are lucky enough to have moved beyond the rigours of simply subsisting. We have enough disposable income both to meet our basic needs and to acquire things which are not, strictly speaking, essential to the process of living. Though they may well be essential to enjoying the process.

Having and using a camera is certainly a great source of pleasure to millions of people. Most people start and stay with just one, but some of us get badly bitten by the bug and accumulate far more pieces of kit than we can rationally justify.

This applies particularly to classic cameras like Leicas and Nikons. In the Nikon Manual Focus (MF) Group, they have a phrase for this: "Nikon Acquisition Syndrome" - NAS for short.

The origins of this definition are obscured by the mists of time, but I suspect it came from the pen of my highly amusing fellow-Brit, John Owlett of Southampton, who characterises many other related photographic conditions with a similarly felicitous turn of phrase.

The Nature of the Beast

NAS is normally characterised by the fatal first step of acquiring or inheriting a Nikon camera. It really doesn't matter which model. Once you have your first Nikon, you're hooked.

In my own case, it was spotting a battered Nikon FTn at an incredibly low price in the window of my friendly dealers here in Cork, Ireland about seven years ago. Up to then I'd been a Leica guy pure and simple - ever since using my first well-brassed 1933 Leica IIIa rangefinder as a staffer on the university newspaper back in the Swinging '60s. But the Nikon F was a camera I'd always coveted. In the '60s it revolutionised pro photography, but was way out of the price range of a humble impoverished student. Now, of course, classic Nikons are relatively cheap, especially since the digital revolution has started to wipe the floor with the market for film

But low prices are only part of the reason why this affliction spreads so easily. The Nikon F series in particular are pro cameras designed to take cruel and unusual punishment, which accounts for the fact that there are still so many of them about in good working order. They are also system cameras supported by an enormous range of Nikkor lenses and accessories. NAS sufferers are definitely spoilt for choice!

Even more central to furthering NAS is that stroke of Nikon engineering genius, the Nikon F bayonet mount. Backward compatibility means that almost any Nikkor can be used on almost any F camera of whatever age.

So, when you've acquired your first Nikon camera with its standard lens and discovered what great images it makes, NAS really starts to kick in. You tell yourself you're definitely not making the most of the camera's potential if you don't have a wide-angle and medium telephoto lens as well. After all, they're so reasonably priced and readily available from dealers and on the ubiquitous Net.

The Net is Infectious

And the Net has a lot to answer for. The Nikon MF Group, for example, is actually one of the major sources of NAS infection. Got the original F? So why are all those informed people enthusing about the virtues of the F2/F3/F4? They're obviously great cameras, and by now you've got lenses to fit them anyway, haven't you?

The siren song of fellow NAS sufferers is not easily resisted. I recently asked the Group to give me good reasons not to buy an F4 which my dealer had on the shelves at a ridiculously low price. All they said was "Buy! Buy! Buy!". So I did, and haven't regretted it one bit.

It's worth observing here that most people who've caught the NAS bug are users, not collectors. This is a marked contrast to the smaller Leica market, where prices have been driven ever upwards by a much larger proportion of collectors taking mint and rare equipment out of circulation. It's a pity, because Leicas are tough cameras too and thrive on exercise.

Kicking the Habit

Is it possible to go 'cold turkey' when you have NAS? This depends on many things - principally the goodwill of your bank manager, the forebearance of your better half, and the size of your camera cupboard. Some people try to alleviate the symptoms by operating on a 'revolving door' principle - if you buy something, you sell something. But then the MF Group is full of people bemoaning the fact that they traded in that classic F for something else. In extreme cases they've even been known to miss an item so much that they buy it back.

In conclusion, we have to ask ourselves whether NAS is really such a bad thing. My personal view is that it's not - providing we never lose sight of the fact that even Nikons are only a means to an end. Take pleasure in the cameras and lenses by all means, but if you're not exploiting their potential to make superb images, then you're missing more than half the fun.

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