Nikon F5 in 2019

The Nikon F5 review

Bulletproof.

This is probably the first word that one says when one picks up the F5 for the first time. The second word will be "tank”. And the third probably something like “wow.”

Yes, this is one of the last great camera ever made. This camera was made without any cost sparing. It was made to be the best camera ever made. It was so good that it was still used daily in the ISS until 2006. It was made out of a solid block of steel and even the viewfinder was made out of something indestructible (titanium).

I bought on used on BHphotovideo in 2014 and never looked back. This camera went through hell since then. as It literally spent a full summer at the back of my Jeep (which had no roof, so it rained and snowed in quite a few times…) before I found it again, among a bunch of tools and tow straps. I thought I had forgotten it to a friend’s home. So what a surprise when I found in, six months later, randomly squashed between a jerry can and some work tool that I never used. I threw a set of new batteries…and it just fired away. I finished the roll and got it developed. All the pictures were perfectly exposed. That was back in 2015, and I’ve used it quite a bit since then. It’s just like an ol’ friend: It’s always there for you when you need it.

The Nikon F5’s best feature: The removable viewfinder.

Yes, you can shoot at hip level using the screen, once the viewfinder is removed. The glorious days of Nikon, it was.

Yes, you can shoot at hip level using the screen, once the viewfinder is removed. The glorious days of Nikon, it was.

The five buttons are covered with a solid steel plate when not it use. It closes with a solid clunk, and it’s magnetically stays in place. It’s everything you ever wanted for a war-zone proof camera.

What is this thing!?

That’s the usual comment when people see the F5 in 2019. And most seems to not be able to register that this is a film camera. I had many conversations where I say that’s a film camera, and yet the person doesn’t understand what I mean, or why they can’t see the picture I just took from them. It’s the ultimate camera to bring at parties: You’ll steal the show by the crowd you’ll gather. “OH! A FILM CAMERA! NOOOOOO”.

It seems like shooting film in 2019 is the hottest thing, in Canada anyway. I had countless of discussion started because of this camera, which can translates in countless of new photography opportunities. People love film. They don’t want the overhead burden of dealing with it, but they will gladly accept to get shot with one of these, wherever a Nikon D4 will turn people off. So that’s something to keep in mind. Maybe this would be the reason why I recommend the Nikon F5 so much in 2019: It creates new shooting opportunity. But that would be true with a Leica QL, a Canon 1Dv HS and such. Film camera is hot. Get one. It’s fun.

The most beautiful Nikon ever made.

Autofocus speed

This thing is fast. As fast as a Nikon D3/D4s, but with a meaner tone to it. It focuses instantly with a 600mm f/4 and such. This thing rips apart the D800E or the X-Pro2. It is precise and ultra fast. Only down side is that you are limited to five autofocus points. But if you know what you’re doing, then the number of focusing points doesn’t really matter.

It will shoot and keep track of your subject for 8 frame per second, which is 3 seconds before the buffer is full (24-exposure roll of film).

Build quality

I used the Nikon F5 body once to hammer down nails into 2x8 for a greenhouse project. Kidding. But it would probably work better than a hammer. As a matter of fact, I did hammer down a small nail once in a 2x4 with the bottom of the F5 to prove my point to a family member. The Nikon F5 survived to tale the tell. Look: This is the toughest body ever made, and you’d really have to try to kill this thing before it goes out by itself.

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The Hammer

It weights a ton and it’s bulky as a MacPro G5 (okay, maybe not) but the satisfaction of shooting with this Nikon F5 outweighs everything about the weight. Heck, I carried it on Easter Island as my main camera and it felt right to do so. There’s something special about carrying the F5 around. You feel like a boss. The manacle of death itself bows down to the F5; the burden of everyone’s own mortality get lost in the effing that separates Exceptional cameras to Good cameras. The Nikon F5 was always the elite’s tool, the official Ever To Excel's camera. It was a camera meant to be passed to your grandson, that he himself will pass down to his grandson, and so it goes.

In 2019, the Nikon F5 is relevant more than ever, as the main motto by camera manufacturer seems to be regression is evolution. It was always an unique camera, that seduced secretly hardcore Canonist back in the day.

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The untutored photographer was intimated in 1996 by the F5 and even more so in 2019. If you do not have a basic understanding of photography, the Nikon F5 will show little mercy (although films are very, very forgiving when it comes to over-exposure). There’s no "green mode”. There’s no all automatic mode (some would say Program mode is a sort of automatic mode, and I will agree with these people). There is no easy peasy dial. But with the best autofocus ever made on a fill camera (something like that anyway) and the best matrix exposure mode ever made on film camera (also something like that), the Nikon F5 will find a special place in your heart.

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You can get it for quite cheap in 2019: around $450-600CAD, depending on the conditions. And yes, it is worth every penny. Even with the cost of film and development, the F5 will be cheaper on the long term than a throwable DSLR, like a D5600, Pen-F or Nikon D7500. Because every shots you take will be carefully planned and premeditated, you will have so much more keepers. I have about 90% keeper rate when I shoot on film, versus a single digit percentage when I shoot on digital. Shooting film in 2019 in Canada is not easy: You have to send your roll to a lab in another province, and then hope it doesn’t get lost in the mail by Canada Post, and you hope the lab doesn’t screw up your film. Three weeks later, you receive your rolls on a DVD…and that day feels like Christmas.

Happy shooting. Feel free to ask me any questions concerning the Nikon F5, I will try to answer as quick as possible.

Cheers,
JP