Sunday, 28 March 2021

Nikon Film Camera Quick Takes

Nikon FE, HP5+, lens unknown but probably 55/3.5 

Here's a series of quick opinions on the various Nikon film bodies I've owned.

Nikkormat FTn - This camera could be used as a hammer and my copy clearly had been at some point based on the condition of the bottom plate. Mediocre viewfinder, solid build, shows clearly where Olympus ripped off the OM series UI from. Kinda fun to use though and unstoppable. The person I sold mine to travelled the world with it for several years with good luck.

Nikon F2a - Probably my favourite Nikon for user experience. Bit of a brick, VERY well built, so smooth. I loved this camera and was an idiot to sell it. Thankfully I have another F2 now and it will be an F2a once I acquire another DP-11 finder for it.

Nikon F3 - A very good camera compromised by a lousy metering display. I really like the original F3 finder, but the HP one is not as nice for non-glasses wearers and I've had both. I've had at least 2 F3's over the years (may have been 3). Needs batteries unlike the two above. Very good camera and probably the best option for somebody wanting a solid and very capable AE body.

Nikon EM - My favourite toy Nikon. I've owned at least 5 over the years and will no doubt buy another one if I start shooting film at all seriously again. Just a fun little bag camera that's cheap & cheerful, especially if paired with a Series E 35/2.5 or 50/1.8. Requires batteries, no Non-AI compatibility

Nikon FM - I quite enjoy these but seem to be cursed. I've owned two and tossed both due to shutter/advance jams. It's a really solid and basic manual mechanical camera. The right size, the right ergonomics and no battery requirements. 

Nikon FM2(n) - I've owned an FM2 (with 1/200 sync) and a couple FM2n's (with 1/250 sync). In my opinion this is the penultimate manual mechanical SLR. It has everything I want in a manual mechanical SLR except spot metering and aside from that, is missing nothing. Solid, reliable, not too large or heavy. Very high on my to-buy list, but everybody else agrees so they're not cheap. Doesn't do non-AI lenses unlike the FM.

Nikon FA - The first 'serious' SLR I ever bought and I've had two over the years. Basically an FE2 on steroids. All the usual benefits of the FE/FM platform, plus a neat little griplet. First Nikon with PASM modes and Matrix metering but also shares the F3's utterly terrible metering display. Requires batteries and no non-AI support.

Nikon FE - The Aperture Priority AE version of the FM. I've only had one of these, which was given to me by my Aunt and it's my primary film body for now. Enjoyable to shoot, but not the standout that the FM's are for me. Just a really solid little body. Batteries required.

Nikon FE2 - To the FM2n what the FE is to the FM. I've had a couple and they didn't last all that long as they're solid but unexceptional. Wouldn't say no to one though as they are quite good cameras, I've just always had 1-2 options I liked better at the time. Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility

Nikon FM10 - The Cosina SLR in Nikon FM form. My other favourite toy Nikon. I've had 2-3 and keep selling them and regretting it afterwards (plus all the other-mount versions I've owned). Like all the Cosina SLR's, it's cheap, plasticky and a great shooting camera. Very high on my re-buy list, probably higher than the FM2n just for price reasons. No non-AI compatibility.

Nikon FG - Given its close relationship to both the EM and the FM10, I expected to like this camera more than I did. It is a solid camera but I never really gelled with it. Recommended for those who want both P mode and a decent meter readout in a traditional SLR format, but I probably won't rebuy unless I find a deal on it. Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility

Nikon F601m (N6000) - I've owned at least 3 of these over the years. A manual focus SLR built on the frame of an AF SLR (the F601/N6006) but actually getting better lens compatibility (it supports G lenses in P &S modes, which the AF version doesn't). These are pretty solid but there's no reason to get one over an F801(s)/N8008(s) today, which is a much more capable camera for similar used pricing. Batteries required (lithium) and no non-AI compatibility.

Nikon F801(s)/N8008 - I've owned many of these over the years. Nikon's first enthusiast AF SLR and also a very competent manual focus SLR. Runs on AA batteries, cheap on the used market and the 's' version gets a spot meter. Also noted for the 1/8000 shutter. Probably will end up with more of these if I dive into film, I have a harder time resisting these than EM's. Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility.

Nikon F90x - The bigger, faster F801s. Everything I said there applies here except it's bigger, supports AF-I/AF-S and G lenses and has an optional grip. Good camera in its day, but you're better off with the smaller F801s or the more capable F100. Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility.

Nikon F100 - The D700 of film cameras. It's almost an F5 and that's both its selling point and its weakness. Very good camera, I've owned two. Lousy plastic vertical grip though, plastic door release, big & heavy. Supports basically every AF lens before the 'E' types, including VR. If you shoot F mount Digital and don't have E lenses, this is one of the two film cameras to look at (the F6 being the other). Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility.

Nikon F80 - The D70 of film cameras. It looks more like an F100 than it actually delivers. Small & light, crap viewfinder, no non-CPU lens compatibility. Runs on Lithium cells although there was a battery grip that took AA's (but had no vertical controls). Can be fun if paired with an f1.8G prime or two. Dirt cheap on the used market. Batteries required and no non-CPU compatibility.

Nikon F70 - F80's predecessor and a complete UI experiment. Really weird UI. Kinda F90-ish ergonomics, very limited lens compatibility although it does have an AI tab unlike its successor. Lithium cells. Avoid unless a collector or it's the only thing you can find. Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility.

Nikon F65 - Basically a decontented F80. Single wheel, no support for non-DX coded film, really the EM of the late film line. Skip for either the slightly nicer and smaller F75 or the F80, either of which aren't more expensive. Batteries required and no non-CPU compatibility.


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