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Camera Reviews

The Nikon F5 - Hands On

Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs)

Keywords: nikon, f5, camera, bodies, film

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Here you can read about my first experiences with the Nikon F5 camera and accessories, read about how I [mis]used the stuff and get some price information. Also check out the links to reviews and specs on Nikon gear.


The channel in Hüfingen. Click for 1024 x 768

The channel in the city of Hüfingen, Germany. May 1999.
Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 20mm f/2,8D on Ilford XP2 Super.

May 19th 1999. Well, at last I got the Nikon F5 from the other side of the puddle. After paying the additional import fees at the customs of Villingen (merely 600 Deutsche Marks - hey, you can get a somewhat decent 2nd body for that!), I had this little 1 kg box in my trembling hands. After opening the box, I loaded an old (August 98, though refrigerator cooled) Fujicolor HG 1600 in the camera - thought it might be smart to make the first mistakes on something which was doomed to fail anyway :-)


My first impressions
1. Nice camera; robust and fits those big hands of mine.

2. Wow, this one is fast: The AF works really quick and precise, even in low-light.

3. Yowza! I can even understand most of it; the arrangement of the controls is easy to grasp and you can lock (either by software or by hardware) any controls which might be easy to change by mistake.


The virgin roll
Going out into the darkness of this little village, bringing my Bilora Favorit 820 tripod with me. Quickly killing off the virgin Fuji roll. Back into the house. Fumbling with the rewind buttons. Rapidly blinking error LED. Thinking "Yeah, first roll of film By West...". Pressing the tiny push buttons again. A humming noise. Stops. "Can't be the whole roll, can it?" A sadistic grin plastered on my face as I lean over, putting the camera in the shades of the table while pulling the back open. Correct - it wasn't the whole film. Snapping the back shut. Next try. Buttons pressed firmly. ZzzZzzZZrrrrr..qqqqk. Silence. Ok, must've been the whole film. Opening the back again. Positive result - no silver to be seen.



Summary of my first mistakes and experiences with the F5
1. The error LED blinks rapidly to indicate that you have started to rewind a film but the operation is not completed. I couldn't find this rapid LED blink indication in the manual.


2. I kept the two film rewind buttons pressed for a while, maybe for two seconds and then let loose. This was the mistake: if you let loose, the rewinding stops. Hey, what's this? Even my tiny F-401 kept on rewinding even if I'd let go off the buttons. Now I know it: you got to keep the buttons pressed until the motor stops - or at least for a longer period of time (not sure for how long). Added June 10th: It looks like you must keep the rewind button #1 pressed for the whole time the film is rewinding (you can let go of button #2). If you let go of button #1 the rewinding stops, combined with an angrily blinking Error LED. Pressing the button again and the rewinding starts anew. Comment made later. As several readers have noted: You do not need to keep button #1 nor button #2 depressed the whole time to rewind the film: Both buttons holds by themself when depressed completely and the lever stays up by itself - let the F5 do the job for you.


3. The IR light on the SB-24 flashlight doesn't light up to help the AF if you're using the (C)ontinous AF servo function - at first I thought the IR light on the flashlight malfunctioned... This is sort of mentioned in the SB-24 booklet though.


4. The vertical shutter button is disabled if you have your flashlight turned on. This is a strangie... and I got to get this one confirmed for sure.


May 20th 1999. Brought the camera with me to the office. Was eager to try out the 20mm/2.8 on my fellow collegue photo victims. Packed two extra rolls of b/w Ilford XP2 400 Super while having one in the camera.


May 24th 1999. I have now shot the following film with the F5:


2 (aged) rolls of Fujicolor HG 1600
1 roll of Fujichrome Sensia II 100
5 rolls of Ilford XP2 Super 400

May 28th 1999. Plugged the first Velvia slide film into the F5. Hoping for the best - expecting the worst :-) Was a lovely evening here and I had some interesting-light-situations around the river Breg late evening.


Flowers at St. Märgen. Click for 1024 x 768

Flowers on a field. St.Märgen, the Black Forest, Germany, May 1999. Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 20mm/2.8D on Fujichrome Sensia II 100.


June 1st 1999 - or the second summary of my "first" mistakes
The F5 starts to behave strange :-(((. Mainly the following strangies have happened throughout the last days:


1. When switching from (S)ingle film transport to timer and then back to (S), it has happened that ERR blinks in the LCD's and then the mirror locks wide open for some time after I've been trying to take a new picture. Turning off and on the camera forced the film to be transported one frame and the ERR indication vanished.


2. After inserting a roll and loading it, the film transport stops halway, ERR blinking in the LCDs. I rewind the film manually and redo the operation. It now works ok and the film counter indicates "1". The battery indicator is on half, indicating that there is still some power left in the batteries.



I slowly start to think that the camera needs to be repaired and feel a tad sad about it. After repeatingly trying to load a new roll of film, always ending up with ERR blinking, I of a sudden see that the battery power indicator blinks. Ohoh. Rapidly switching batteries and the "problem" is gone. I have now found out that:


1. Don't simply trust the battery indicator.
2. Switch batteries more or less directly when the "half good" indicator is displayed, don't wait for it to start blinking.


It looks like the coreless motors in the F5 have quite an extreme rush current, i.e. the initial current needed for the motors is very high (seems like it was the film transport motor that mainly was responsible for the voltage drop), causing the voltage to shortly - though rapidly - drop below a state where the camera doesn't function properly. This could very well be an odd behaviour of the alkaline batteries which came with the camera (not a brand that I know of, yellow colored, US made). I guess they reach a nasty, high inner resistance when worn down, causing this behaviour. Btw, I am into buying the rechargable NiMH accumulator pack (MN-30) together with the MH-30 charger.

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Originally written on June 30, 2010

Last updated on June 12, 2016