Speed Magny Backs Turn Nikon F Cameras into Instant or Large Format Cameras

Screenshot image from the Speed Magny 45 video by Doug Bardwell

From the 1960s to the 1980s, photographers who wanted to check their lighting or churn out images for very quick reportage had a secret weapon: the Speed Magny. This interesting contraption allowed them to produce Polaroid prints with their Nikon F cameras. While the entire setup looks rather bulky and awkward, it was still marketed as the “Instant” Nikon.

“There seems to be no end to the versatility of Nikon F,” a Speed Magny ad said. Simply replace your Nikon F’s camera back with this attachment and you can get color or black and white Polaroid photos. Two models were made for this attachment: the Speed Magny 100 for use 3.25 x 4.25 in. film packs, and the Speed Magny 45 for use with standard holders for 4 x 5 films. In essence, it transforms a regular Nikon F into a large format SLR camera.

Doug Bardwell had a Nikon F body and Speed Magny 45 combo up for grabs some years ago, and he made the short video below to explain what it does.

According to Mir.com.my, and Camera-Wiki.org, the Speed Magny models were developed independently by Mikami & Co. in the early 1960s. Acquired by Nikon sometime in 1966, Mikami continued to manufacture the Speed Magny attachments for the camera company until the late 1980s.

Creating an instant photo with this setup comes with some disadvantages. First, it’s obviously heavy and awkward, and is best used with a tripod. The relay optics were also found to sacrifice approximately 5 stops worth of image brightness. “The long optical path ‘eats’ about 5 stops of light, so a shutter speed of 1/250s becomes 1/8s,” according to Mir.com.my. The Speed Magny’s optical design is also only compatible with a few lenses shorter than 85mm. It also produces a vignetted image when using most lenses with focal lengths under 85mm.

If you’re lucky enough to find one of these, it may not be the best option for instant photos today, but it’s certainly an intriguing piece of photography history you can own. Meanwhile, I’m sure you’re curious about what the photos taken using this mammoth setup looks like, and I found a bunch of them on Flickr. Enjoy!

Thanks so much Ellis for the tip!