This is the story of how I discovered the Nikon F6. To begin, I have to admit that I am really a Leica fan. Especially the analog M cameras with the beautiful viewfinder, the excellent feel of the surface and last but not least the legendary quality and size of the lenses made me addicted immediately.
I do a lot of analog portrait shooting with my Leica M4 and a 50 or 90mm lens. I was absolutely happy with this combo, the shots were very relaxed and at the end I liked the results a lot. In light situations with strong contrasts I used a light meter and everything was perfect.
Perfect until the day I talked to a friend of mine who uses the Nikon F6 for his landscape and street photography. We were talking about the pros and cons and the myth of these two well known brands. He proposed that I should use his Nikon F6 for my next portrait shooting with a Nikon D 1.8/85 lens. “Come on, forget this thing about the perfect moment, creating your photo through the viewfinder, focussing, pressing the shuttler“ were his last words when he gave me the camera (and a 188 pages manual). “And leave your light meter at home“.
Of course this is not a real test of a camera with different lenses, measuring distortion, frame rates etc… It is just a very subjective report about my experiences with a Nikon F6 and one 1.8/85 lens during a portrait shoot.
I have it now in my hands, Nikon’s famous F6 – the final professional film camera which is still available brand new today. Some enthusiasts say it is the best film SLR Nikon ever made. The Nikon F6 is the last of the F-series of SLRs and was presented in 2004, full of the latest electronic features, the last man standing against digital photography.
It is bigger than my M4 and looks much more modern with its screen on the backside and all the different buttons. The camera lies very good in my hands, the body is magnesium alloy and weather sealed. It feels heavy, solid, like a brick. I scroll through the manual and I am happy: no need to read it for my needs, the camera is self explaining.
I just read the information about the exposure metering and a new thing which call some people “autofocus“. Looking through the bright finder I notice eleven AF zones which can be placed where I want. Wow! Welcome to the new world!! The Nikon F6 has shutter speeds up to 1/8000, color matrix metering, different ways of metering, 100% viewfinder coverages (you get what you see), many possibilities for customizing the functions, AF-tracking – Sounds difficult, but after all the theory, let’s find out how the F6 will work under real conditions.
The Nikon F6 is waiting now for the first roll of film. Inserting the film is a piece of cake, very easy. The 85mm lens looks solid, but with a lot of plastic, did not feel so good. I hope that the image quality is better than the feel of the surface. But Ken Rockwell praised its optical and mechanical quality.
Now the shooting can start. Ready to rumble. I use an Ilford Delta 400, Ars Imago 320, Fuji Acros 100 and Portra 400 (at ISO 200).
Before I start my portrait session, I talk a while with the model about the shooting, clothes, mood and then we start. I always tell them that it is a more or less slow shooting, it takes time to focus manually and the whole process of taking photos takes a while. I like this way of taking photos, no hurrying at all. Some call it Zen photography.
But a Nikon F6 can change this approach: you look through the finder, set your aperture, move your focus points, click, that’s all. The AF is really so fast and accurate, to be honest, it makes the life of a portrait photographer so easy. After some minutes you feel very comfortable with the camera, almost like taking photos with an old friend. All essential functions are very easy to find. And you shoot much more photos (if you want) because the photo is finished so fast.
But now it is time to come clean: what about the quality of the photos? Unsharp wide open? Ugly colors? Bad results with strong contrasts? Reliable AF? The answers are: excellent, no, no, yes!
Let’s have a look at two samples with the Portra 400: Really beautiful colors, perfect exposure:
Strong contrasts with the Art Imago 320 (no external light meter)
Most of the time I use the Ilford Delta 400 and it also was a joy to use it with the F6
Of course I do not always shoot wide open but to test the AF I used it more than I do normally. To be honest the rate of photos out of the focus was lower as with my M4 and the 90mm Summicron. But sometimes focusing with 90mm on a rangefinder camera can become a challenge.
I always loved (and love) the timeless elegance of a Leica M. To me analog SLRs were ugly, plasticky, full of unnecessary electronic gimmicks (before I tested the Nikon F6).
I have to admit that the Nikon F6 is really a stunner. After one portrait session it is very very difficult to find some shortcomings. I am sure there are some, but I did not find them. It is a joy to use, it works perfect and you can fully concentrate on your photo. It is the best analog camera I have ever used for my purposes. It is almost like digital photography but with a film. It doesn’t feel like an old analog camera at all. The exposures are without any failures. You have a huge range of lenses including the modern G AF-lenses. It worked perfect, but was it too perfect, too boring, no analog feeling? Well this is a personal decision for every photographer and it depends on your needs and preferences. But I made my decision and gave the Nikon F6 back to my friend…
…and bought a used Nikon F6 and a D 1.8/85 in a very good condition on eBay the next day. My M4 will now have a Japanese companion for portrait shootings.
If you want to see more of my portrait photography, would love to see you on Instagram: wick_marc
Contribute to 35mmc for an Ad-free Experience
There are two ways to experience 35mmc without the adverts:
Paid Subscription - £2.99 per month and you'll never see an advert again! (Free 3-day trial).
Content contributor - become a part of the world’s biggest film and alternative photography community blog. All our Contributors have an ad-free experience for life.
Sign up here.
32 thoughts on “Nikon F6 Review – Never borrow a camera from a friend – by Marc Wick”
Hi Marc, truly beautiful photos. I too love and prefer my Leica film bodies + lenses, and have been considering a digital body. However I tell myself I’d have to sell my rather large Nikon collection, which contains an F100 (which the F6 reminds me of, and I also have the 85 1.8D…), and I haven’t quite been able to do it. I haven’t used it in a couple years since Leica found me, but maybe that should change, and this is quite and inspiration. I’ll give you a follow on IG. Cheers- Brian
Thank you very much for your kind words Brian. From time to time I also get a GAS for a brand new digital camera which makes your life for sure much easier but also too boring. Keep your Nikon equipment, the F100 is a great camera.
“I have it now in my hands, Nikon’s famous F6 – the final professional film camera which is still available brand new today.”
Actually today marks the day that Nikon officially discontinued the Nikon F6. Perfect timing for the review 🙂
Very bad news!!
Today, the Nikon F6 is listed as discontinued, according to the Nikonrumors site.
Apart from possibly the Cosina built Nikon FM10, which is reported to be out of stock almost everywhere, then that’s it for the production of the 35mm film single lens reflex. There’s still the Leica rangefinder hanging on (first in, last out).
I’m a bit saddened to hear that the legendary Nikon F series is finally over and with it also the last of the metal manual-focus Nikkors, but then as they say, as one door closes another door shuts.
I agree, it is really sad. The F6 is really a perfect analog camera. But in different times like now for the camera market, they saw that they earned too less money with this camera. I am happy that at least Leica produces analog cameras.
Gosh – thank you for sharing! What WONDERFUL images that can only render like that via film. Lovely shooting, lovely young lady. I have an F100 (purchased used) and three Minoltas. Sadly, they are at the back of a 10×10 storage unit crammed w furniture and boxes. I tried recently to retrieve it but realized it was hopeless. The idea of temporary storage sort of has been flawed by reality. One day, I shall hopefully retrieve that camera and shoot film again. I had just picked up a used Tokina 100mm (repaired by Tokina) and signs were promising in the first roll… a friend’s G 85 1.8 was used to capture some strong portraits. Meanwhile, you’e confirmed the D85 as a solid tool. Thanks again, beautiful shooting.
Thank you very much Scott! Good luck with your analog project!
FABulous!!! Great camera, shooting and young lady. I have an F100 in storage (crammed in back of a 10×10 stuffed w boxes and furniture) and this makes me want to shoot film b/c you’ve shown how amazing film renders when in the right hands. Bravo!!
My M4-P camera bag buddy is a eye-level prism Nikon F2. Contrary to popular practice, the F2 is fitted with a 28mm AiS f/2.8 Nikkor, not a tele or a zoom. I can’t use anything wider than a 35mm lens on the Leica. I just need to actually see the image field & distortion.
The Leica has a 35mm Summarit-m. A good combo.
I bought the 85 f/1.8 when I used the 8008s. The lens is beautiful and has a pleasant rendering of the subject. The F6 is the epitome of taking a design to it’s logical conclusion. Just too heavy for me. BTW, I’ve heard that Nikon USA is not repairing non-USA F6’s. They are not even supplying parts for independent repair facilities. Not nice.
Hi Daniel, you have the perfect combo! I am also a fan of the summarit lenses, very compact and great performance. And the 1.8/85 is really a great lens!
Yes you re right. I have a Nikon F6 and I lagree it’s the best SLR ever made. It’s just a pleasure to shoot with it. Unfortnatly, I am afraid Nikon stopped production.
Yes, really a sad decision
I have a NIKON F6 and I can opnly say you are damm right. The F6 is the best SLR camera ever made. Unfortunately, Nikon has just stopped production, according to the its website. I also have a LEICA MP and I can only say It´s a pleasure to take pictures with this one as well.
I have the F6, as well as a bunch of others. I actually prefer the F4 to the F6 – nicer switches, no menus, not a battery hog, no internal clock to lose settings..
But want a real kick in the chicken tenders? Pick up a Nikon N75/F75 for about $20, put on that 85mm D lens, and shoot it next to your F6. Then compare the images…
If you want to splurge, cough up another $5 and get an F80 which is more featured and better built than the F75.
The F6 does feel like a rubber covered chunk o granite though. Which is very nice.
I bought an F6 last year, and it completely cured me of my GAS affliction.
Thanks a lot for your comments Huss. Taste is always different. The F6 fits perfect in my hands and to be honest, I have no ideas about the menus, I do not need them. But for sure the F4 is also a stunner. In order not to be disenchated, I will not test the N75/F75/F80 ????????????
No kidding about how the F6 fits in the hand. It really does feel perfect. The next closest Nikon I’ve used that feels like that is the D850. My Z7 is miserable in comparison!
That does make a difference as it encourages you to use it, even if other cameras can use the same lenses. A Bessa R3A I had took the same lenses as my Leicas, but I hated using it (just felt clanky) so it was sold off.
Anyway… waiting for the F7! Completely get rid of the menus, bring the F4 dials back. Update the AF but keep the incredible manual focus screen. Make it work with the new e-aperture lenses. Give it the same rechargeable battery as the DSLRs.. And don’t change the grip!
A F7 would be great! But I am sure it will never came. There is no place (and money) anymore for a brand new analog camera!Nikon will stop the delivery of analog cameras…
Yes Even you are completely right. What else do you want more? But the GAS will always be there. Be careful!!
Apart from all the Nikon F6 and Leica praise, I just have to say that your photos are absolutely stunning, esp. the Porta images blow my mind. Incredible colors and skin tones and a gorgeous model.
Thank you very much Matthias! Your kind comments are much appreciated. The Porta 400 is in my opinion the best color film for portraits. The skin tones always look so natural.
p.s. really nice shots!
Glad you like it! Thanks a lot!
Nice review which makes me want to get back into analog photography. A few weeks ago I dug out my circa 1970 Nikkormat FTN and installed a new battery. Loaned the camera and 50 f/1.4 and 43-86 f/3.5 lenses to my grandson for a project in his graphics art class. Kudos to his instructor!
Anyway, he shot a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus and will soon head to the classroom lab to develop it and make some prints. This kid has been using a Canon DSLR for 3-4 years now, but really had a great time with the Nikkormat, shooting street scenes in a revitalized small Texas town, and longhorn cattle a few miles from town. Can’t wait to see how the photos turn out. I also have a “modern” Nikon FG that I really like, so I plan to start playing with it.
What a great idea Michael! Good luck for you and your grandson!! Enjoy film photography!!
I have two Leica MP film cameras and Nikon F6. (This is after many years of trying different cameras and settling on these – very happily). Both the MP and the F6 are beautiful cameras, being the pinnacle of film camera engineering by their respecting companies. But for me they serve different purposes. The Leica bodies (at least one of them) go with me everywhere but the F6 is really wonderful for portrait shoots, as you have discovered. The way it nails exposure every time is uncanny. I use in studio with strobes as well. By the way, I’ve bought and sold the F6 three times. Each time I sold it I regretted it and bought another one. The last one I bought as brand new, bought last year. If the rumours that Nikon are discontinuing the F6 are true, then it’s really sad. But I’m happy I managed to get a new one in time, and this one is never leaving.
You are right Tom, with these two different cameras, you have the best of both worlds. And for portraits, the F6 is really a stunner! Enjoy your analog photography!
I have two Leica MP film cameras and a Nikon F6. (This is after many years of trying different cameras and settling on these – very happily). Both the MP and the F6 are beautiful cameras, being the pinnacle of film camera engineering by their respecting companies. But for me they serve different purposes. The Leica bodies (at least one of them) go with me everywhere but the F6 is really wonderful for portrait shoots, as you have discovered. The way it nails exposure every time is uncanny. I use in studio with strobes as well. By the way, I’ve bought and sold the F6 three times. Each time I sold it I regretted it and bought another one. The last one I bought as brand new, bought last year. If the rumours that Nikon are discontinuing the F6 are true, then it’s really sad. But I’m happy I managed to get a new one in time, and this one is never leaving.
I have a hard time relying on electronic cameras, Like you I own an m4 along with an m6. I usually use my 90mm cron with my m6 because it has the .85 finder. Lately my leicas have been getting all the attention. I also however have many nikon film bodys and lenses. I have always been a nikon fan. I actually would love to get an sp or s3 nikon rangefinder but for now I have an f4, f5 , (had an f100) an f3, f2, a pair of fm2’s and an fe2. I will say my nikon f5 has recently kicked the bucket. the iso button stopped working and the camera does not like to stay turned on. its probably a battery corrosion issue. the f100 I sold but I was always worried about the plastic film door. My f3 also does not seem to function anymore. I think the f3 broke on a camping trip where the condensation on the tent got on the camera. not really sure though because it slowly just started metering erratically until it would not work altogether. My f4 works fine but it is very plasticy much more so than any of nikons pro film bodys. The only reason I keep the f4 around is that it matrix meters with older ai and ais lenses. Now I reach my point of the rant. since my f5 and f3 have kicked the bucket I tend to bring my f2 or more likely due to wight my black fm2 on trips. I actually dropped my f2 off a 50 foot cliff after the strap got snagged on a tree limb on a hiking trip and it works fine not even a scratch. The fm2 has a very similar meter to the m6ttl and it has two stops of extra shutter speed. no small feet for a mechanical camera. I feel I have more trust in these cameras. The best part of the fm2 is it is still relatively cheaply priced for what it is.
Especially the FM2 is really a beast. I also had one for many years and it worked without any problems!Let’s see how the electronics from the F6 will work……
Mark, I just had the opportunity to read your review on the Nikon F6 and I must say that it was a breath of fresh air. Many of the reviews that I have read are focused on the camera build, the technical specification, and some of the best features of the camera, which is OK, but the purpose of your review was to put the camera to the test, to see if it was as good as people say it is, and my goodness did you delivered! The results are outstanding, specially the Portra 400 portraits are stunning. I just wanted to add I have have checked your work on instagram, which contains portraits from different cameras and different films and they are all wonderfully taken photographs, which proves the photographer makes the pictures not the camera. The camera is just the tool in the hand of the artist, just as the brushes and the paint in the hands of a master painter.