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Nikon F6 Review: First Reflections

Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs) on October 23, 2005


Keywords: nikon, camera, bodies, product, articles

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INTRODUCTION
I am an avid (and some may say rabid ) F5 user. For the last five years, I have used the F5 a lot and never before has a camera meant as much to me as this excellent piece of machinery. I fell in love with the F5. Actually, my love affair turned into a triangle drama, me and two F5's. Never before have I have been able to take photographs so well metered, to reach such a level of excellence in achieving what my mind-eye had captured.

 

Click for enlargement of the Nikon F6 with motor drive
The Nikon F6 without MB-40 motor drive

 

The F5, king and queen of still film cameras, designed in the early nineties and in production since 1996 is no longer alone on the throne. In the third quarter of 2004, after three years of rumors, Nikon decided to rub the balanced order for many serious amateurs and professionals, me included. They introduce the Nikon F6.

 

 

On the Net in general, we hear a lot about how the F5 is supposedly as good as, or better than the F6. We hear how the F6 is a digital camera with some film advance features and that the F6 is actually prepared for the digital back since film is dead any way. Welcome to reality.

FILM? FILM!
Nine years after introducing the F5, Nikon introduces the F6. Nine years is a long time. For an engineer like me, nine years means something like three computer generations. In 1996 digital photography was close to non-existent, whereas in 2005, you are supposedly a dinosaur if you are still using film. The company producing one of the best black and white film there is, Ilford, out of the United Kingdom went bankrupt 2004 but was fortunately rescued in a management buyout; German Agfa's film division was sold to a separate entity and both Kodak and Fuji have struggled to keep their film operations up and running. In these film volatile times, Nikon releases a new pro film body. Are they sane?

NOT AN F5, NOT AN F4 AND NOT AN F100
Ok, so what is the F6? I could say it is the most versatile tool ever made to intelligently capture your memories, but let me start with what it is not: The Nikon F6 is not an F5, it is not an F100 and it is not an F4. It has a bit of each plus several new features never found in the Nikon film world until now.

The F6 feels a bit like an F100 at first. Let me dig into this a bit. It uses the same design idea as the F3 and F4, providing an optional battery pack.
The model designation for this pack is MB-40 and if you know the MB-15 for the F100, you are looking at a similar unit, with AF lock button, vertical shutter button and sub-command dial. Without this separate unit, the F6 is smaller than the F5 and just slightly larger than the F100.
© Alwin Heijmans

Here we have one of the main advantages of the F6: It is smaller than the F5 and with comparative less power requirements beats both the F100 and F5 in most areas. As said, without the MB-40, it is nearly as small as an F100 and it shares some other traits with the F100 as well: We directly recognize the multi-control lock, the red lit focus areas and the non-replaceable view finder.

Its ergonomically designed grip is very similar to the one of the F100. It is formed a bit differently compared the F5's grip. I hold it just as well in my big hands as the F5 though and it should be very nice to hold for small hands as well.

WHAT A VIEWFINDER!
A closer look at the area around the lens mount and we can even see that the viewfinder is mounted similar as on the F100, with two screws from below and the plastic is shaped similarly, forming a nicely curved "holder" for the viewfinder. The F6 has taking some beating for not having a replaceable viewfinder, but as on the F100, you can replace the standard screen for a whole set of optional screens all replaced by removing the lens and gently pulling down the screen from the inside top of the viewfinder.

...
© Alwin Heijmans

The viewfinder lost the F5's LED's indicating which AF selector is active. These LED's are no longer needed since all available screens have the "red light selector indication".

NO MORE ADR
The F3, F4 and F5 show the aperture in the "old F tradition", through a small window within the viewfinder, directly viewing the lens. This window is called "Aperture Direct-Readout" (ADR) by Nikon. The F6 does no longer has an ADR, but it is really not a biggie since the F6 can let you store up to 10 non-CPU lenses (AI, AI-S etc) and the aperture of these lenses is then showed just as the aperture is shown on chipped lenses, e.g. in the lower LCD in the viewfinder (and on all other locations on the outside of the body)

CLASSY, OLD NIKKORS ON A MODERN BODY
I really like the possibility to define non-CPU lenses in the settings. If you don't bother to program the camera for your 10 most used non-CPU lenses though, it's not a big issue since the F6 still shows the current aperture as a "delta F-stop"; yes, it shows the difference in stops from the maximum possible aperture. Really cool.

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Bo Stahlbrandt Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs)

Bratislava, Slovakia
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