Steve's Web Site

A History of my Photography - The New Millennium 2000 - 2007

Later Years and the Digital Era Part 2


    Well the bug has bitten hard. With the growing popularity of digital cameras the prices on film cameras has been dropping steadily. I had most of what I needed but with prices as low as they were some tempting deals that came my way. While the FE was a mistake, having the F, F2, F3 F4 is very satisfying. Anyone know of a good F6 at a bargain price? How about an FM3A?

Nikon FE

Nikon FE with 55mm Micro-Nikkor

    I picked up this camera on eBay as a backup to my F2. It would work with my pre AI lenses though in stopped down mode. The FE was the further development of the EL2 and the FM. It used the FM sized body but had the electronic control system of the EL. It added an exposure compensation dial and the ability to read the aperture optically off of the lens in the viewfinder. It would also work the the lightweight motor drives the MD 11 and MD 12. Alas when the camera arrived the metering system was non functional. I returned it to the vendor and they later sent it back stating it was fixed. The metering system worked (well sort of ) but not accurately and the AI coupling would stick. When I bought an MD12 for it it wouldn't work with the FE but worked fine with the FA. So this camera sits in a drawer awaiting my decision on its fate. I have since purchased a Nikon F with FTn finder, and an F3 and F4 all of which can backup the F2 with my older lenses.

Nikon D70

Nikon D70 with 18-70mm lens

    This is my first digital camera. I did my first experiments with digital photography in the early eighties. I spent a lot of work time developing digital imaging systems for military and medical uses in the late eighties and early nineties. I was familiar with what could be done and what the drawbacks were. In the past digital cameras have either had too many problems, too high a cost, or too low a resolution. The D70 was the first digital camera that would fit my budget and yet give good results.

    I quickly found out that white balance, an item of limited importance with film, was very important in digital photography. A white plastic disk over the lens allowed me to take a white balance reading suitable for a picture. The battery life is excellent and I have yet to need the spare battery I always carry. The 1.5X lens factor is a boon for telephoto shots, though it does limit wide angle shots.

I bought it with the 18-70mm kit lens. I use it primarily when I need results right away or I'm going to be taking a lot of pictures. All of the picture taken for this web site have been taken with the D70. The D70 is especially great for studio flash work. Although the manual says that the camera has a maximum flash sync speed of 1/250 second this only applies to dedicated flash units. Using studio flash units with a sync cord I have used the D70 at shutter speeds as high as 1/4000 of a second.


Nikon F4

Nikon F4 with 50mm f1.8 AF Nikkor

    I bought this camera in January of 2005 at a camera store in La Jolla. After a couple of days of tests I noticed it was not working properly when used for more than a few shots. I returned it to the store and they sent it out for repair. Four months later I finally received the camera back and found it working perfectly. I took it with me on vacation in July 2005 and ran 25 rolls of film through it without a problem. A month later it started acting like it did when I first bought it. The camera store I had purchased it from had since gone out of business so I paid a local camera repair place to fix it and it has worked fine since, but I'm always going to be nervous about it.

Top view of the F4

    I wanted an F4 because of its compatibility with a huge variety of Nikon mount lenses. Just about any lens will work - except for IX lenses for the Pronea cameras. All this with a camera body that is built like a tank. Of course if cameras were tanks this would be a Tiger 2 - it's a real heavyweight. A press photographer could easily clear a path swinging one of these babies around. It has four motors, three metering modes and a wide range of shutter speeds.

Main controls of the F4

    My F4 came with a MF-23 Multifunction Back. This is like adding a Swiss Army Knife to the camera. If provides an intervalometer, long time exposures, exposure bracketing, in-frame imprinting, between frame imprinting, alarms, and a rear LCD panel that shows you the shutter speed and f stop This is especially useful with variable aperture lenses. It's primary drawback is it's thickness - it adds over half an inch to the thickness of the camera.

Rear of the F4 showing the MF-23

    On a recent outing in La Jolla I slipped on some wet algae covering a rock and fell to the beach below. I landed in wet sand, but managed to regain my feet before the next wave came crashing in. I was using the F4 with a TC-16A teleconverter and a 80-200mm Nikkor. Everything survived the fall, but the F4 had salt water enter the MB-21 battery holder. It caused the camera to act as if the shutter release was at half press, activating auto focus and the metering system. When I returned home I first tested the camera with a MB-20 battery holder and found that the camera worked perfectly. I then opened up the MB-21 and found saltwater on the little circuit board within. I cleaned it with distilled water and circuit board cleaning solvent. I then put it in a warm place and let it dry. I checked it again two later and found everything is working fine.

    If you love old style camera controls the F4 is the camera for you. Every function has its own dedicated control and an excellent metering system. I have heard complains about the auto focus system but it has served me well. This is a workhorse of a camera that is still very useful.


Nikon F3

Nikon F3 with 85mm f2 Nikkor

    I bought the F3 while waiting for my F4 to return from the shop the first time. It needed the foam replaced and the LCD fixed but those repairs didn't cost much. I haven't used it a great deal but it has done very well when I have. It works great with my older lenses and has a solid no nonsense feel to it. It has the original prism, not the HP version. The biggest gripe is the flash coupling system. An expensive coupler is require to use a TTL flash unit with this camera so I never use it for TTL flash. It works fine with my studio flash units since it has its own sync socket.

Top view of the F3

    I bought an MD4 motor drive on eBay for the F3 but it has given me more problems than the F3. One of the battery contacts in the MD4 has corrosion on it and it only works intermittently. I have to decide whether to try fixing it myself, have it fixed or buy a replacement. An update to this problem - I worked over the surface of the problem contact with a diamond coated needle file and now it works fine.

F3 with MD4 Motor Drive

    One thing that must be remembered about the F3 is how long it was in production. It was first introduced in 1980 and was kept in production until 2001. That is the longest production run of any Nikon camera. It's not a feature loaded electronic wonder like some of it's competitors, just a solid dependable camera that you can always count on.


Nikon F Photomic FTn

Nikon Photomic FTn with 50mm f1.4 Nikkor-S

    This is a beautiful late production F. It has the plastic tipped film advance and self timer levers of the F2. Among collector these are known as the Apollo models. The FTn meter is fully functional and accurate as long as the right batteries are used. I had the foam replaced and it works great.

Top View of Nikon F



Nikon F5

Front view of the Nikon F5

    At this point I had an F, F2, F3, and F4. I started watching F5 prices in hope of finding a bargain. I found some one on eBay who was selling an F5 and F100 plus a 24-50mm lens and the old model 24-120mm lens plus an SB-25 and an SB-26 flash units. I bid on the set and my max bid was still under the reserve. After the auction ended I was contacted by the seller who was willing to sell everything to me for my bid so I bought the whole set. Everything was in excellent condition and was fully functional so I feel I made a good deal.

    The F5 is no small camera. as you can see from the photo it has a built in battery holder for eight AA batteries. I put Lithium batteries in the camera and found them much lighter than alkaline batteries. The F5 is lighter than the F4 but has the same solid feel of all the pro Nikons. Nikon included a vertical release on the camera but hadn't thought of adding control wheels yet (command dials in Nikonese).

Top View of the F5

    The F5 was the first Nikon to add a second control wheel (called the sub command dial) and electronically control the aperture. this means you lock your lens on the maximum aperture and leave it there. The depth of field preview button work in all modes, not just Aperture Priority and Manual. The F5 also introduced the 1005 sensor element color matrix meter which does the best job of evaluating the entire scene in the viewfinder of any camera I have ever seen.

Rear View of the Nikon F5

    Another first for the F5 was a 5 point auto focus system. Up until this point Nikon only had one auto focus zone in the center of the screen. Now you have a selection of five sensor in a cross shaped pattern. To select the auto focus zone a four way controller was added on the back of the camera. Dynamic auto focus mode is provided allowing the camera to shift focus zone to track a moving object. The selected focus zone can be used as a spot meter if desired.



Nikon F100

Front view of the F100

    I acquired the F100 in the same deal I acquired the F5. It looks even better than the F5 and I suspect it was recently purchased by the original owner. The F100 was introduced two years after the F5 and two years before the N80. When I purchase my N80 new I had considered an F100 instead but figured I could use the difference in price on other things. Now I have a used F100 for less than I paid for my N80.

    The F100 was designed as the second best Nikon model after the F5. It copied the F5's auto focus but had only a 10 area matrix metering system. I has the same high speed shutter and what most users (myself included) consider an improved control layout. A few features were left off but the F100 was a very popular model. Unfortunately the abandonment of film cameras in favor of digital ones led to its demise. You can still find new grey market F100 cameras so there is still some demand.

Rear view of the F100 with the MF-29 I added.

    Because Nikon has discontinued the F100 some of its accessories are dirt cheap. I purchased an MF-29 for a mere $20. There are a great number of bargains in film cameras now.

Front view of the F100 with the MB-15 battery pack mounted on the camera.

   The F100 is normally powered by four AA batteries in the handgrip. When I purchased mine it came with the MB-15 battery pack. This accessory hold six AA batteries for faster motor drive performance. It also provides a vertical release with an AF on button and a Main Command Dial. I find it improves the feel of the camera in my hands and provides a wider base for the camera when resting it on its bottom.