1980's Nikon

Nikon F3

Nikon F3

The Nikon F3 was Nikon’s third professional camera after the F and F2. First introduced in 1980, the F3 was a fully electronic 35mm SLR camera.

Now here’s a camera that has stood the test of time.

Despite an initial backlash due to the fully electronic system, the F3 became one of the most successful cameras in the Nikon line, with production lasting for 21 years. It even outlasted the Nikon F4 and F5.

But what made this camera so popular?

Keep reading to find out.

Features of the Camera

The F3 didn’t feature any new technological advancements. It didn’t have any new features. Instead, Nikon consolidated all the best features of the best cameras at the time to create one of the greatest cameras of all time. 

One of these features was the use of modular parts that could be easily interchanged. The F3 came with a choice of five interchangeable viewfinders, namely:

  • DE-2 Standard
  • DE-3 High Eye-Point (HP)
  • DA-2 Action Finder
  • DW-3 Waist-Level
  • DW-4 6x Magnifying

If you wear glasses, this is the camera for you. The High Eye Point (HP) eyepiece is a slightly larger eyepiece with a slightly reduced magnification, making it perfect to use if you wear glasses. 

All the viewfinders are bright and are a pleasure to look through. The F3 also featured a digital LCD meter that was visible when looking through the viewfinder.

Talking about metering, how was the F3 metering?

The F3 used the center-weighted metering system. Unlike the F2, which had the metering system in the eyepiece, the F3 metering is located in the body. This feature brought back the ability for Through the Lens (TTL) metering.

Other Features

Another feature that makes the F3 one of the most excellent SLR cameras of all time is its ease of use. The Nikon F3 is an aperture priority camera, which is superb.

With this camera, you only have to think about the depth of field and how creative you want the shot to be. The camera sets the shutter speed for you.

And that’s not all…

The F3 comes with a high range of shutter speeds, which makes it perfect for shooting at different speeds. You can set the shutter speed manually using the shutter speed dial on the top plate. You get a range of 1/2000 sec to 8 sec.

The shutter sound is also quite distinctive. Not silent or noisy, but very unique. Some even claim that the F3 shutter noise was the go-to camera sound for mid-1980s commercials and films.

What about lenses?

The F3 accommodates a large chunk of the Nikon lens lineup. With this camera, you can use all manual Nikon lens produced since 1959., as well as all autofocus lens including the AI-P, AF, AF-I, AF-D and AF-S lenses

Design and Physical Appearance

A universal agreement is that the F3 is a beautiful camera with an innovative design.

Designed by legendary car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, the F3 features several cutting-edge design features.

First off, all the edges are perfectly rounded, making the camera feel natural to the hand. The F3 was also the first Nikon camera to feature the iconic red stripe that is present on all other Nikon cameras.

All controls are ergonomically placed to ensure ease of the camera.

When holding the camera, you can advance the film with your right thumb. Next to the film advance crank, you have the electromagnetic shutter release button and the shutter speed dial.

On the left top plate, you have the film rewind crank, and the exposure compensation and ISO dial.

The F3 does not have a hot or cold shoe.

Shortcomings of the Camera

One of the most common complaints about this camera comes from people who want to use a flash system with it.

This camera relies on a peripheral adapter that’s located near the film rewind. To rewind the film, you’ll need to remove the flash system.

Another shortcoming is that the LCD is hard to read in low light. Long time users have also reported LCD failure with some cameras.

Final Thoughts

The F3 is an incredible camera.

It’s easy to use, feels comfortable on the hand, and is not as heavy as the F2. Despite it being a professional camera, the F3 is also great for everyday use.

The shutter system is excellent, metering is spot on, and the viewfinder is a pleasure to look through. Not forgetting the wide range of accessories you can use with this camera.

What more could a photographer ask for?

1970's Nikon

Nikon F2

With a reputation only rivaled by a few and envied by many, the Nikon F2 is one of the best, if not the best SLR cameras ever manufactured.

Produced between 1971-1980, the Nikon F2 was the go-to camera for many professional photographers in the 1970s—most of the newspaper and magazine photos of this decade were taken using this camera.

But what makes the Nikon F2 so great?

Read on to find out.

Features of the Camera

The F2 boasts of several features that make it the greatest SLR ever created. One of these features is the fact that the F2 was the first-ever truly modular camera.

With this camera, users could interchange certain parts of the camera, including the focusing screen, metering, lens, and eyepiece.

This unique feature allowed users to upgrade their cameras without buying a new body. F2 owners could also use lenses from any other Nikon cameras.

And that’s not all:

You get a choice of 18 different easily interchangeable focusing screen—a feature not available in digital SLRs

If you’re a gear junky, this is the camera for you.

Another unique feature that made the F2 a great camera was the new mirror lock-up system, which allowed the photographer to improve the ability to reduce vibration-induced motion blur during exposure.

The camera also came with a depth of view preview, which made it possible for the photographer to see how an image would look like before taking a photo.

Another factor that made the Nikon F2 popular was the range of shutter speeds. With this camera, you had the choice of shutter speeds ranging from 1/125 sec-1/2000sec.

If you’re a photographer obsessed with precision, the F2 is the camera for you.

The ultra-fast shutter speed also made the F2 an excellent camera for sports photography. When used together with a motor drive, it was possible to shoot six frames per second, making the F2 the best camera for high-speed shots.

There’s more…

The Nikon F2 was also a fully mechanical camera. This meant that it was possible to use the camera without batteries—batteries were used only used for metering.

Talking of metering; what type of metering did the F2 use?

The Nikon F2 came with a center-weighted manual metering system, which is perfect for any photography. You also had the choice of changing your metering system.

As if that’s not enough…

The F2 came with a programable self-timer dial that could be set from 2 sec-12 sec.

Physical Design and Build

The Nikon F2 was designed to be nothing less than perfect.

All the controls were ergonomically placed for maximum comfort while using the camera.

On the top plate, you had the film reverse crank on the left side. The interchangeable eyepiece is located in the mid-section of the top plate.

On the right side, you have the ASA dial, shutter release button, and film advance lever.

When designing this camera, Nikon made all edges rounded, which gave it a more natural feel.

The F2 body is also built to last. Unlike other brands that often require lubrication, the F2 lubricants last forever. The fact that you can upgrade individual parts of this camera means you can use the F2 for a long time. 

Shortcomings of the Camera

The F2 wasn’t entirely perfect.

One of its most significant shortcomings was its weight. The body weighs 840g (almost 2lbs). This is not a camera for people who wish to remain inconspicuous. It’s not a camera you can throw in your bag for a day trip.

Another downside with this camera was the lack of a hot-shoe. However, you got the choice of a PC sync, which made it possible to use an external flash.

Final Thoughts

There’s no doubt.

The Nikon F2 is one of the greatest SLRs ever made.

It was a camera made for all users. It’s uncomplicated and straightforward, making it perfect for film photography beginners. It’s easily customizable, which means you may never have to buy another SLR camera. It’s exemplary design and history make it an excellent camera for collectors. 

I can’t think of a better camera for anyone who loves vintage classic photography.

1950's Nikon

Nikon F

Nikon F

First introduced in 1959, the Nikon F was a gamechanger in the SLR game. Despite being late to the SLR market, this is the camera most people remember as the first SLR.

If you were asked to name the first mp3 player, what would be your answer?

Probably an iPod, right?

However, the iPod was not the first mp3 player in the world. Five years before the iPod launched, several companies had already been producing mp3 players. But very few people remember these mp3 players.

Everyone remembers the iPod.

And it’s the same case with Nikon’s first professional camera.

And for good reasons.

Here’s why it is considered a “first.”

Features of the Camera

The Nikon F didn’t come with any innovations. What made it stand out was the amalgamation of all the best features of SLRs at the time. Nikon incorporated all the innovations that Leica, Contax, Exacta, and Asahi had introduced in their cameras.

And the result?

A camera that had solved all the limitations that cameras at the time had. It came with interchangeable lenses, an improved viewfinder and was of better quality and build.

And that’s not all…

It featured a modular design—it was possible to interchange some of the parts of the camera.

One of these parts was the lens. It was the first camera to feature the F-mount bayonet lens mount. This mount allowed easy swapping of the lens.

If you own a Nikon, F, you can use any Nikon manual or AF lens produced since 1959—as long as the lens isn’t rated ‘G.’

It doesn’t end there…

The modular design also allowed easy swapping of the viewfinder. With this camera you got the choice of three viewfinders, namely:

  • Standard prism
  • Waist-level prism
  • Sport’s finder—good for you if you wear glasses.

The interchangeable viewfinders made this camera suitable for every shooting scenario.

There’s more…

The Nikon F was also a fully mechanical camera.

  • There were no batteries to leak
  • No contacts to corrode, and
  • No circuits to degrade.

A camera built to last.

And that’s not all…

The Nikon viewfinder also came with an impeccable metering system.

Earlier versions of the F camera didn’t feature TTL metering. However, cameras produced after 1961 came with a more advanced photonic meter head, which allowed Through the Lens metering—a system that Nikon would use for decades.  

Metering on the camera was 60% center weighted.

Design and Physical Appearance

The Nikon F was a classically styled camera, with only the bare essential included. All controls were easy to access and simple to use.

On the top plate, you had:

  • Shutter speed dial
  • Film advance lever
  • Shutter release
  • Film rewind knob

On the front you had

  • The self-timer dial.
  • Depth of Field preview button
  • Lens release button
  • Mirror lock-up switch.

Shortcomings of the Camera

One of the most significant shortcomings with this camera is its weight. At 850g, it is one of the heaviest SLRs ever made.

If you’re a traveller or the kind of person who throws their camera in the bag for a day of shooting, this is not the camera for you.

Another shortcoming with the camera was the rigid shard design. This camera featured sharp edges which made it feel unnatural to the hand. This rigid design makes the film advance lever uncomfortable to use.

Although not a shortcoming, the photonic meters are large and take away the elegant feel of the body. These finders have also become non-functional in the 21st century. However, you can easily switch up the finder to the more ergonomic waste level and eye-level finders.

Final Thoughts

The Nikon F is one of the most significant cameras in SLR history.

It was the first camera to show the world what a well-designed SLR was capable of.

With a bulletproof design, a wide range of accessories, and long-term usability, the Nikon F is a great camera. It’s a camera that will turn heads and start conversations. A worthy addition to your vintage classic camera collection. 

2000's Nikon

Nikon F6

Nikon F6

The year is 2004. Digital SLRs have taken over the professional photography scene. Camera manufacturers are no longer concentrating on 35mm SLRs. Then comes the Nikon F6. The last attempt by a camera manufacturer to make a case for 35mm SLRs.

And this time, Nikon had a different target market.

Since many professional photographers had already switched to digital SLRs, Nikon built this camera for wealthy armature photographers who wanted nothing but the best.

And the Nikon F6 was nothing but the best. Every part and feature was designed to perfection.

Read on to find out why the F6 is considered the best SLR to use.

Features of the Camera

One of the most notable features of the Nikon F6 is its foolproof color matrix metering system.  With this system, a photographer was able to achieve vivid and perfect exposure despite the lighting situation.

And unlike the F5, the F6 color matrix system also works impeccably with the manual lenses.

The F6 also came with spot and center-weighted metering systems, alongside the color matrix.

The second feature that makes the F6 such an excellent camera is its large and bright viewfinder that can achieve 100% coverage.

However, unlike previous Nikon professional SLRs, the viewfinder isn’t interchangeable. This is mainly because the camera wasn’t intended for the professional photographers’ market.

You can still change the focusing screen. With the Nikon F6, you get a choice of four focusing screens.

The Nikon F6 also featured a full EXIF data logging system—a first for 35mm SLR cameras.

This system records and stores all your exposure data to a CF card. If you’re like me (I manually log every exposure on paper), this camera will save you time and energy while making technical shooting easier. 

There’s more!

Like the F5, the F6 is compatible with all Nikon lenses made from 1977. This includes more modern VR and G lenses. If you own lenses made between 1959-1976, you can either convert them to AI or pay Nikon $114 to retrofit your camera and make it compatible with all Nikon lenses.

What about the shutter?

Like the F5, the F6 came with a self-checking and self-correcting shutter able to achieve speeds of 30 sec to 1/8000sec.

And that’s not all:

The F6 is also a relatively fast shooter with speeds of up to 5.5 frames per second. With a motor drive, this speed goes up to eight frames per second.

The F6 also features four shooting modes: the shutter priority, automatic, manual, and program mode.

It also came with the quickest and most silent AF system.

Design and Physical Description

At first glance, you’d think the F6 is a DSLR. Its body resembles that of the D2 but without a vertical grip.

On the hand, the F6 feels like a brick covered in rubber. An ergonomically shaped block to be precise. It fits perfectly on the palm and feels comfortable to hold.

The lack of a dedicated vertical grip gives this camera a more portable look and feel.

The controls are also ergonomically placed with every button, dial, and control being located under the fingers.

The mode selector, AF and AE lock, exposure compensation dial, shutter speed, and aperture controls are all located around the horizontal hand grip. When shooting with this camera, there’s no need to stop shooting to change functions.

And that’s not all:

Thanks to the weatherproof magnesium alloy body, you can use the F6 in any weather.

Shortcomings of this Camera

One of the most notable shortcomings with this camera is its price. The F6 was built for a more affluent audience. A new one retails at approximately $2699 with a used one going for $900, making it out of reach for many hobbyist photographers.

The F6 is also not the lightest camera. It’s a bit heavy and weighs 1,006.3 g.

Final Thoughts

The Nikon F6 is a genuinely incredible camera. 

All its features are designed to perfection, and unlike other 35mm SLRs, it’s still in production—if you hate buying used cameras, this is the SLR for you.

If your bank account allows, the F6 is a worthy addition to your vintage classic camera collection.

1990's Nikon

Nikon F5

Nikon F5

Touted as the precursor of the Nikon DSLR, the Nikon F5 was Nikon’s fifth camera in its professional line.

First introduced in 1996, the Nikon F5 was a beast of a camera with tons of unique and improved features. At the time, the F5 was a technological breakthrough that instantly gained popularity among sports photographers, photojournalists, and action photographers.

But what made this camera so popular?

Camera Features

The Nikon F5 wasn’t your average SLR. It was a feature-rich camera that gave photographers a chance to be creative without the need for added accessories.

One of its most notable features was the fast autofocus. Unlike the F4, which had a slow and unreliable autofocus system (AF didn’t work in low light), the F5 came with a fast and near-perfect AF system.

Thanks to the powerful autofocus motor, the F5 achieved a record shooting speed of 8 frames per second (fastest at the time).

The AF system used five sensors to track rapidly moving targets. This fast AF feature made the Nikon F5 a favorite among many sport and action photographers.

Another feature that made the F5 a favorite among most photographers was its innovative color 3D matrix metering system.

This metering system considered several factors when calculating the best exposure. Some of these factors included scene contrast and brightness, as well as subject positioning.

The 3D color matrix made this camera ideal for landscape photographers. If you’re looking for an SLR that’ll give you spectacular landscape photos, this is the camera for you.

It’s however important to note that the 3D matrix metering only works with D-type viewfinders. When using other viewfinders, you’ll have to use either centered weighted or spot metering.

Speaking of viewfinders, what choice do you have?

Like other Nikon professional cameras, the F5 comes with an interchangeable viewfinder.

With this camera, you get the choice of four finders. These are:

  • Standard DP-30 which has a 100% coverage and a 0.75X magnification
  • DA-30 Action finder, which has a bigger eyepiece. (Excellent for people who wear glasses)
  • DW-30 Waist level finder
  • DW-31 6x magnifying finder

And that’s not all

The F5 was also the first camera to come with a self-diagnosing and self-adjusting shutter, which meant a more reliable performance.

The F5 shutter was also extraordinarily fast, with speeds ranging from 30 sec to 1/8000 sec.

What about optics?

The Nikon F5 is compatible with all Nikon AF lenses made since 1977. 3D metering however works with AF lenses made after 1993 but doesn’t work with pre-1993 AF lenses.

It also works with the more modern G type, and VR lenses.

Unlike its predecessor, the Nikon F5 doesn’t work with lenses made between 1959-1976. If you want to use these early lenses, add an aperture coupling system to your F5 to allow you to mount these legacy lenses.  

Physical Appearance and Build

Like other cameras in the F series, the Nikon F5 was designed by Italian car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. Meaning it was a well-built camera.

One of the first things you’ll notice with this camera is its large size. The Nikon F5 was made out of a solid block of steel, making it sturdy and bulletproof. 

Despite the beastly exterior, the F5 is comfortable to handle.

The rubber exterior is grippy and smooth, which makes the camera feel natural on the hand.  The F5 will fit perfectly on your palm and will feel like an extension of your arm.

The steel body and rubber coating make the F5 both rain and dust resistant.

The F5 was the first Nikon camera to lack knobs and dials. This camera came with buttons that are located at the tips of your fingers.

Shortcomings of the Camera

The Nikon F5 is the heaviest camera in the Nikon F series. It’s not a camera you’d carry on vacation or for day shooting.

Another disadvantage with this camera is its battery use. To use this camera, you need 8 AA batteries. And these may not be enough as it drains batteries extremely fast.

Another shortcoming with this camera, especially if you love matrix metering, is that you can only use center-weighted or spot metering when using manual lenses.

Final Thoughts

The Nikon F5 is an incredible camera.

Shooting with this camera is a fun and smooth experience. Not only is it a great conversation starter (people are always attracted to well-made film cameras), it’s also a smooth and quiet shooter.

With this camera, you’ll enjoy every bit of your shooting experience.

And that’s not all:

The camera is also readily available and quite affordable. If you couldn’t afford it when it came out, now’s the time to get it.

1980's Nikon

Nikon F4

Nikon F4

Not many cameras had the kind of features you’d want in the 1980s, except for the Nikon F4. These included:

  • Tough, durable, and reliable
  • Has diverse metering modes,
  • Came with a wide array of creative controls, and
  • Featured Automatic Focusing.

Released in September 1988, the F4 was the camera that brought SLR into the modern world—a real game-changer.

Here are some of the features that made the F4 such a game-changer.

Features of the Camera

Previous cameras in the Nikon F series were mainly improvements of what existed at the time.

  • The Nikon F improved on what Leica and Contax already had in the market. 
  • The F2 was an improved and reworked version of the F
  • The F3 was an evolution of the F2. It was an electronic version of the F2.

The Nikon F4 was different. It was built from scratch. Unlike its predecessors who didn’t come with any new technological innovations, the F4 featured several first.

It was the world’s first professional autofocus camera.

Automatic focus cameras had just started gaining popularity, and many professional photographers were looking for a good AF camera. Being the first pro AF camera made the F4 the top sports and News camera from 1989-1990.

The Nikon F4 was also the world’s first professional camera to feature the modern multi-pattern metering system. Although Nikon had earlier introduced a matrix metering system in the FA, the F4 had a more improved and accurate version.

With the F4, a photographer could choose between three metering modes.

  • Matrix
  • Centre-weighted
  • Spot metering

It was also the first camera with an electronically controlled vertically traveling focal plane shutter, and a shutter release on the vertical and horizontal grip.

The electronic shutter speed allowed the camera to achieve shutter speeds of between 30 sec-1/8000 sec—faster than any camera at the time.

Other Features

The Nikon F4 was also the first camera to feature an in-built motor drive. Previous cameras relied on an external motor.

Other than being a first, the F4 also had several extraordinary features.

One of these features was the large and bright viewfinder. The F4 came with a removable multi-meter finder DP-20 pentaprism. If you thought the F3 had an excellent viewfinder, the F4 had a better one.

And it wasn’t just one viewfinder,

The F4 came with a choice of ten easily interchangeable finders.

Nikon wasn’t done.

The F4 also featured a record five exposure modes. You had the choice of

  • Manual mode
  • Shutter priority
  • Aperture priority
  • Program mode
  • High-speed program mode.

What about lenses?

The F4 could accommodate all Nikon lenses produced since 1959.

Design and Physical Appearance

Legendary car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro designed the Nikon F4. The camera followed Giorgetto’s philosophy of Form follows Function.

Every part of the camera had to have a useful function.

And the result? An ergonomic masterpiece.

The F4 was the last professional camera with knobs and levers. Professional cameras after the F4 made use of menus and dials.

Thanks to the use of an in-built motor drive, the F4 didn’t come with a film advance lever.

Shortcomings of the Camera

One of the most significant complaints among F4 users is its weight. The F4 was a beast of a camera with a weight of 1280g without batteries.

It’s not the camera for a daily shooter.

The F4 autofocus was also not the best. It was slow and performed poorly in low light—the main reason the F4 didn’t experience much success.

Compared to the F5, the F4 matrix metering system was not the best.

Final Thoughts

The Nikon F4 was a revolutionary camera. It sits at the epicenter of the modern camera revolution.

Is the Nikon F a good camera for 2020?

Short answer, yes.

Not only is the F4 compatible with all manual and autofocus lenses manufactured since 1959, but it’s also still a great camera to carry and shoot with.

1980's Nikon

Nikon F3AF

Nikon F3AF

The Nikon F3AF was born. A special and unique version of the highly famous F3. However, unlike other models in the F3 line, the F3AF came with some unique features.

The year is 1983.

Camera manufacturers are experimenting with prototype autofocus SLR cameras. Pentax, Olympus, and Canon already have experimental AF SLR models in the market.

Nikon, on the other hand, chooses a more radical approach. Rather than launching AF in a new flagship model, they choose their top of the line Nikon F3 as the template for their first autofocus camera.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the features of the Nikon F3AF

Features of the Camera

We’ll start with the most obvious.

The Nikon F3AF was an autofocus (AF)35mm SLR camera.

And not just any other AF 35mm SLR camera. It was among the first if not the first SLR to have an AF system based on Through The Lens (TTL) detection. Previous AF cameras from companies such as Canon used active infrared sensors for their AF system.

Another unique feature of the Nikon F3AF was the unique pentaprism.

The camera came with an AF finder DX, which featured a bright viewfinder with a 92% coverage—unlike other F3 models that had a 100% coverage on the viewfinder.

And that’s not all

The F3AF featured a superb 80/20 center-weighted metering system. It also came with a 150,000 cycle shutter reliability rating.

Talk about a camera built to last.

And there’s more

The F3AF was launched together with two AF lenses. These were:

  • AF Nikkor 80mm f/2.8
  • AF Nikorr 200mm f 3.6 EDIF

Despite having its lenses, Nikon maintained the F-mount, which meant that the F3AF could use all other Nikon lenses since 1959. The two lenses could also be used in manual Nikon SLRs.

As if that’s not enough…

The lenses also came with a revolutionary design. A feature that wouldn’t catch on until 15 years later.

Both lenses came with an in-lens motor that drew power from the camera. Cameras at the time and many cameras until the early 2000s had the motor inside the body and not the lens. 

The autofocus feature of the lens, as well as the increased zoom capability, made the lenses and the camera quite popular among sport and action photographers.

Design and Physical Appearance

The Nikon F3AF had the same design as the F3.

The F3AF was easy to handle and comfortable on the hand. It featured a subtle bump at the face of the camera to aid with your grip.

Most of the controls were located at the top.

On the top plate, you had:

  • The frame advance crank on the right
  • The shutter speed dial on the right
  • The shutter release button on the right.
  • The top left plate housed the Exposure compensation and ISO dial.

Shortcomings of the Camera

One of the most significant shortcomings with the F3AF was the weight of the AF lens. The AF lenses were heavier than other Nikon manual lenses.

Like the F3, the F3AF also has problems with the LCD, which seems to lose functionality in time. You may have to replace it after prolonged use.

The autofocus system was also not perfect as compared to other later cameras. However, the F3AF also featured a manual focus mode. 

Final Thoughts

The F3AF was the most unique of the F3 series. Although it didn’t experience as much success as other F3 cameras, it is still an incredible camera.

A trendsetter for the Nikon AF family and a worthy addition to your vintage camera collection.