I Bought a Nikon 35TI from Japan

Alex Cook's photo

By Alex Cook

A few months before she passed away, my grandma gave me a fanny pack containing a few cameras and asked me to get them developed. Grandma Cook was the queen of disposable cameras. She always seemed to have one at family events. She was also family famous for her candids; all of the sudden she’d say “smile” and the photo was snapped before the smile cracked.

Kid in a hat his grandma did NOT like; she's wearing a blue vest and a pin on the vest. Both happy.
My grandma and I circa 2005. Shot on my first digital camera, an Olympus with a “10x zoom” I was blown away by at the time. Grandma was not a fan of the hat.

For two years this camera bag sat in my mudroom until I finally made the time today to take a closer look. That’s how it is with film sometimes, huh? When she gave me the bag two years ago I took a quick look and knew one of the cameras wasn’t disposable: It was a Kodak Instamatic 35mm film camera. The other 3 black cameras were the ones I’d planned to get developed.

Photo of a blue FUJI camera back, next to it 4 cameras; 3 black and 1 silver.

After looking closer today I realized none of the cameras are in fact disposables and instead they’re all 1990s low-end, point-and-shoot 35mm cameras. ⅔ of them display an “S” on the photo counter. The 3rd shows there are 22 photos left. Unfortunately, it’s got quite a bit of corrosion on the battery connections. I thought maybe I could add a few batteries and snap the remaining photos, assuming there are 30 photos on the roll, and maybe I’d get 8 surprise photos from Grandma. Another day!

Photo of a black basic camera with a rounded body, looking down on the camera with a small "22" EXP LEFT indicator.
At some point I hope to get the 8 photos Grandma snapped off this camera.

While I’ll probably let all 3 black cameras go (after taking the film out of the corroded one), the Kodak Instamatic will likely stay as shelf art. It’s got a shiny silver front, a green body, and an overall vibe as if it’s looking at you. One can be grabbed on eBay for under $15. It’s nothing special but it sure does look nice.

Photo of a Hawkeye Instamtic Camera from the 90s with a plant in the background.

Studying this Hawkeye got me wondering, what was the very best camera from the 1990s? Being somewhat of a high fidelity audio guy, I knew Japan had a reputation for manufacturing some of the best audio electronics during the glory days of audio. I wasn’t surprised to learn they also produced some of the best cameras of the 90s. The Nikon 35TI is a clear favorite.

On a whim, I bought a 35TI on eBay straight from Japan. I’m curious to dig into why it’s still so loved over 25 years later in 2021.

Nikon 35TI Camera (Right) and leather back (left).
The Nikon 35TI I ordered.