Monday, May 22, 2017

Review of the Nikon F5 film camera

Note: AmateurNikon and its staff (meaning just yours truly) will slow down for the summer vacation - from where I'll hopefully have a lot of interesting photos and photography stories to share. In the meanwhile, take a look at the literally hundreds of articles and reviews hosted by AmateurNikon. I should be back with new articles at the end of June or beginning of July. 


A film review, after some time. I'd tried the Nikon F5 when I was looking for a go-to film camera for my "film adventure", a couple of years ago. I'd tried several other film cameras then, and picked three to take a closer look at. The Nikon F5 was not one of them, and I ended up selling it after trying it out for a short while - I didn't even bother writing a review then. So, why suddenly now? Because I saw somewhere online someone suggesting it as the "only film camera you'll even need". I'm very suspicious of such blanket statements, not necessarily because the Nikon F5 wouldn't be such a camera (more of that in a while), but because it wouldn't necessarily be such a camera for everyone.


+ a tank, period. Super construction quality, it will take a very thorough beating
+ its matrix metering must be one of the best in the film camera world, if not actually the best.
+ Very deep customization...

- ... but good luck trying to remember how to set them. Ah, it's so much easier with the electronic monitor of the digital cameras
- Unless you're married to a battery factory owner, prepare to spend time recharging, or money buying lots, lots, lots of batteries.
-  Big, fat, heavy. This isn't a camera for those traveling light

Intended Users

Great for:
  • film aficionados who look for a tank to drag through volcanic ash and keep shooting.
  • sports with film? If you're in such a niche, nothing can beat the Nikon F5. Nothing.
  • The big weight can be a plus when trying to balance long teles (see comment on sports, right above).

Not for:
  • if you're just wetting your feet with film, get any basic camera, this will be too complex and frustrating for you.
  • [tongue-in-cheek] those not married to a battery factory owner. The F5 needs 8 (eight) AA batteries to operate, and they don't last very long.
  • travelers. Forget it, really. You'll spend more time buying batteries and resting your neck from the immense weight.

Final Verdict

I've mentioned on more than one occasions that I like traveling light - indeed, writing this article I'm toying with the idea of getting only my mobile phone to my summer vacation. You can imagine what was the reason I didn't keep the F5 for long. It's a traveler's nightmare: big, heavy; eats batteries like candy; its settings, for all their deep customization, are difficult to remember (basically you need to drag the manual or a cheat-sheet with you). No thanks.

That doesn't mean it's not a good camera for someone else. If, as I mentioned above, you're into sports photography with film, this is the only camera to use, basically. If you're also the kind of traveler who wants to photograph with a film camera an exploding volcano, the Sahara desert, or the tropical forests of Brazil, then the Nikon F5 will pull it off with style. When other cameras stop operating, the Nikon F5 will dust its shoulders, eat another set of 8 AA batteries, and keep going as if nothing happened.

You can get it (used, in very reasonable priced) here and here.

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