Point & Shoot

Nikon ‘Lite Touch’ AF600 – A Forgotten Fling

Nikon AF600

There is a camera out of my recent timeline had skipped my mind. It’s not because it’s a bad camera, it’s just not that great either. It has cons where it has pros … The camera in question is the Nikon AF600.

I bought this camera in the hope that it would satisfy my desire for a 28mm compact camera, it didn’t, and I moved on quickly to the Ricoh GR1. I think the issues for me started with it being very slightly faulty. An eBay purchase, I could see in the listing photos that the little door to the lens wasn’t sitting right. It looked as if it wasn’t closed properly. I figured this would be something I could fix, so undeterred I bid and won it for £16. The one-lady-owner lived locally and dropped it into the reception at my office. I didn’t have to pay shipping, but also didn’t get a chance to question her about the door. She had said in no uncertain terms that should I put a battery in it and find fault she would take it back. As these cameras don’t pop up on eBay that often, and that it had only cost £16 and that I’m not a mindlessly petty person… I let her off this small fault.

Nikon af600

The lens door it turned out, was a right off. It was warped and it didn’t matter how many times I took it apart, straightened it and put it together again it would open and close consistently. So I took it off, just leaving the little lever that moves the leaves of the door in place. I was a little disheartened by this, it’s not that I need things to be in perfect condition to enjoy them, but I do allow silly things to tait my experience of something sometimes …

Nikon af600

I put the obligatory roll of XP2 into it and the very next day was treated to some particularly dreary weather. The walk to work yielded some quite nice opportunities, I do like the 28mm fov so felt quickly comfortable with the camera in that respect. The viewfinder isn’t perfect though, it’s pretty small, and not easy to find when putting the camera to the eye. Even slightly off centre and the finder quickly blacks out. It does feel fairly responsive in use though, and the lens moves to focus after the full press so focusing and refocusing doesn’t make any noise until the shot is actually taken. It seemed to focus correctly most of the time, if not as perfectly as the Yashica T5 does. Features wise it’s pretty sparse, various fairly standard flash modes – slow sync, red eye, auto, on and off. Infinity focus lock, self timer and a double shot self timer… thats pretty much your lot!
One other feature is the panorama mode, I havent used it, I dont really see the point, I can crop in post if I want to.

Nikon af600
Taken on the way to work the first day I shot with it.

Nikon af600
Also taken that morning – The comment I got on flickr was pretty accurate to my feeling – “man that looks crisp Hamish”

Nikon af600
Some vignetting visible here.

The pictures it takes are pretty good, in fact for what I paid they are remarkable! Nice are sharp right across the frame with a little vignetting. Not quite the ‘pop’ of the Yashica T5 though, some Images seem to have a sort of flatness to them.

Nikon af600
I do like the detail in the paint work in this shot.

Nikon af600
There is something about this image that looks a little grey and flat, you can’t argue with the detail though.

Nikon af600
Exposure is pretty good, even with the flash… I really like this photo, don’t know why …

The camera is really quite small, certainly small enough to go into most pockets. But this positive is cancelled out by a just as large negative. It feels a bit cheap, the plastic feels crappy, and it creaks if you squeeze it. I had issues with the lens and my finger too, although not the surprise issue of the lens extending into my finger I get with the Yashica. With this camera it’s thats your middle finger just doesn’t feel like it has a home on the camera.

Overall, a nice 28mm lens in a fairly forgettable cheap feeling camera. It’s almost like the quality of the lens was an accident, Nikon made a cheap camera, made a lens that was fit for purpose and price, but just so happened to be very good. If 28mm is your thing, you have a small budget and don’t mind a patient wait trying to find one, this camera is for you. And to be honest, being reasonable, for £16 it is a gem!
For me, due to it having very little resale value because of the broken lens door I decided to keep it. It actually makes quite a lot of sense as a glove box camera. A lens good enough to feel happy shooting with should a situation where I have nothing else arise. Unfortunately for the Nikon, I carry a camera all the time, even when we just go out in the car, because of this the fuji superior 400 loaded in it will probably go out of date before it gets used up.

You can see some of the rest of the single film I put through the camera here. Should I ever finish another film with this camera they will also be added to that flickr set.

I should also credit this chap, it was these photos that made me want to buy one of these cameras.


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28 Comments

  • Reply
    Nikon AF600
    June 9, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    […] – I have written my thoughts in much greater detail here on my blog Before I bought the Ricoh I managed to pick up a Nikon AF600, they seem to be pretty hard to come […]

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Daire
    July 30, 2013 at 11:33 am

    I LOVE my af600. It’s been a carry around compact for me for a while, including a couple of holidays. I went through a phase of trying to find the perfect compact, I have, um, quite a few. The af600 definately came out as a front runner though.

    Some shots:
    http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=af600&w=31589949%40N00&s=int

    That said, I’ve gotten through 3 of them so far so yeah, the build quality isn’t the best. First one died because it got sand into it somehow. Second one stopped focusing correctly for no reason that I could see, third one is still going strong…

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Urban Hafner
    September 20, 2013 at 8:17 am

    I’m still on my first roll, but I already like how responsive it is. Certainly better than the Konica Big Mini. And the lens door on mine is also broken. It just doesn’t move. Not a big deal, but I’ll have to see if I can get it work again.

    I’m just not sure I like 28mm. I will have to shoot a few rolls to see if that works for me. And I hope the meter is better than the one in the Konica Big Mini.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Hamish
    September 20, 2013 at 9:24 am

    How do you find the handling? does yours creak too?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Urban Hafner
      September 20, 2013 at 9:28 am

      I love the handling. There are no weird noises on mine. But like I said, I have to get used to the 28mm focal length. If the shots are well exposed I might even keep it 😉

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Hamish
        September 20, 2013 at 1:32 pm

        I love shooting at 28mm, it is the fov that most suits me I think!

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Urban Hafner
          September 20, 2013 at 1:37 pm

          This is my first try at 28mm so I cannot say for sure if I don’t like it or if I’m just not used to it. I will find out soon, I guess.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Urban Hafner
    November 21, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    I just received the first roll. Apart from a massive light leak that I hopefully have fixed they shots turned out great. It’s definitely a keeper. But the lens cover seems to be the weak point of these cameras. Mine is also broken. Maybe I should just get another one, after all they’re insanely cheap.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Andrew Paul
    January 29, 2014 at 9:32 am

    I got one last summer, despite it short comings ( and it has a few) it’s quite the hidden gem. My only beef is that you can only use 100, 200, 400 & 1000 iso film 🙁 But the lens is hella sharp. It’s my go to camera now.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish
      January 31, 2014 at 11:01 pm

      Mine got completely shelved after I got the Ricoh GR1, and is now going to a live with someone else … Had I not found the love of a ricoh, I think i would definitely keep it! The size is a big selling point I think! I didnt know that about the DX reading!

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Andrew Paul
        February 3, 2014 at 5:22 am

        Yeah, the DX thing is weird, can’t even explain it, if your curious there is the manual here http://www.kataan.org/images/NikonAF600manual.pdf.

        I actually got it to see if I would like the 28mm focal length as I thought about getting a GR1, It’s great but I much prefer 35mm, matches my style of shooting more.

  • Reply
    Nikon AF-600 — Lite Touch | 6500K
    February 7, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    […] little vignetting makes me happy. Photo by thenewbutton on Flickr Really nice review at kataan.org Helpful review on 35mmc.com Good review on lomography AF600 pool on Flickr […]

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Janet Cooper
    June 30, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Hamish, I am facing a problem with the lens door. It doesn’t always close fully. If you can kindly tell me the steps you took to remove it, I may try doing the same.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 2, 2014 at 10:43 am

      Hi Janet, pardon the delay in response, I have been very busy with my day job this week.
      It was a long time ago, but if memory serves there is a little screw on the side of the lens barrel that you can access when its extended.
      Unscrew that and the front of the barrel should come off. There are some plastic blinds that can be removed and a metal bracket which cannot.
      If you are successful, you should be left with a small bit of metal that moves partially across the lens when the lens barrel detracts into the body. its not perfect, but it does at least mean you don’t have to check the plastic blinds each time you switch the camera on.
      Hope that helps, sorry i cant be more help, I ended up giving mine away.
      Good luck!

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Janet Cooper
        July 3, 2014 at 5:48 am

        Hamish, this is most helpful! Thanks a lot.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    MikeC
    September 15, 2014 at 7:38 am

    I love small cameras with a prime lens.
    Unfortunately they don’t make such cameras nowadays except for those Coolpix A and Ricoh GR which are just too expensive for most people.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      September 15, 2014 at 9:06 am

      You’re right, though I see the Ricoh GR and Coolpix A more akin to the Ricoh GR1v et al. There were and there still are expensive fast prime compacts. What we are now missing is cheap fast prime compacts … This is likely due to the sensor size/cost issue as much as anything else though in my opinion.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    blinx
    December 29, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    I’ve never owned an AF600, but if you told me the street scenes were taken on a Leica I wouldn’t argue, especially given the low light levels and lack of contrast in the scene. By the time this Nikon compact emerged, the bigger manufacturers had learnt a lot about optical quality, but build quality was at semi-disposable levels, and lens covers were often the first (of many functions) to give up the ghost.

    It took another generation of cameras – and a few multiples in price – before film compacts like the GR and Contax could be considered robust enough to carry everywhere.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Adrian
    January 29, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    I recently managed to pick up one of these and it worked fine for the first half of the roll, however recently a problem arose. When I go to focus the LCD at the top says OFF. When I take the shot it seems that the shutter shoots however the camera turns off and the film does not advance. I can turn the camera back on and take another shot with the same problem. If I take the battery out for a few seconds and then put it back in the film advances (a quirk outlined in the manual). Any ideas on what the problem is or how to fix it? I put in fresh batteries and still had the same problem.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      January 30, 2015 at 9:16 am

      Hmm, that doesn’t sound too good. I’d probably investigate the lens make sure there is nothing jamming it or preventing it from moving fully. Short of that, if it’s a problem with the electronics, which would be my next guess, it might be dead …

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Benn Murhaaya
    March 10, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    I had this little camera for a while. I’ve shot 12 films and I have some very nice pictures. Got a great deal on it. It was the first compact I owned, that had a infinity focus lock. Something I was very excited about as Mjus can be little tricky to take pictures through a glass (like from a train or plane). Lens door on mine were stuck as well but a gentle push solved it and it worked like a charm. The lens was capable of blurring the background when taking a portrait even with the 3.5 aperture. The lens is a very nice piece of glass very sharp.

    Even though, I love it’s form factor (damn this thing is small!) and I could live with the pinhole size viewfinder, I had to let it go. The dealbreaker for me was sluggish focus. Maybe it was just my piece, with dust in the sensor but it took forever to focus even in not so dark conditions. The af assist light would lit up and go off and people would think that the picture was already taken so I have quite a few pictures of people turning away. It could not even compare to the reaction time of Mju II which is probably one of the quickies P&Ss I used. The mju has active focus while AF600 has passive if I remeber correctly but shooting through glass or mirror it had about the same success rate as mju in focusing on what I wanted. Some mirror shots are tack sharp, some are focused on the mirror itself.

    The metering worked so so. It had a tendency to underexpose. Golden hour, blue hour are kinda the tipping point to the sensitivity in my experience. When flash was used, it sometimes created stripes in the illumination.

    What also bugged me and bugs me to this day on other cameras, is the panorama switch. I accidentaly switched it once. It at least have a yellow indicator to warn you. Which is nice touch if you watch for it. I’ve never understood the craze for panorama by chopping the part of the picture. Had these switches been replaced by flash off/auto switches, the user experience off all these compacts would went through the roof.

    It build up a great deal of anticipation by it’s size and infinity focus but failed to live up to my expectations (maybe they were too high for it).

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      March 10, 2015 at 8:36 pm

      Cheers Benn, I’d love to see some of your shots taken with it! Do you have a flickr gallery or anything similar you can share?

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Benn Murhaaya
        March 10, 2015 at 11:50 pm

        I don’t use flickr that much. I’ve put a selection into a folder on my ftp – http://murhaaya.com/odd/ja/35mmc/ with the last one being a hi res scan that shows the resolving power of the tiny lens. (If you are intriqued by the shape of the grain in that picture, it’s because it is taken on Agfa Scopix a film for xray cinematography, that I found a 100 meters in a trash bin in front of a photo store in Vienna once 🙂 It lack the antihalation layer and it’s mostly sensitive to only blue and green).

        I should probably go and rescan some of my af600 films now, that I have a better scanner. Some of them are cross processed films scanned by a lab that turned out really ugly. Scanning on a quality scanner gets you a flat image resembling more a normal print film than those colorful images one usually associates with lomo and cross processing. I might be able to pull some decent pictures out of films after all.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Christos Theofilogiannakos
    October 14, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    I just couldn’t get past the horrible viewfinder on this one. What were they thinking?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 14, 2015 at 9:57 pm

      I think there were simply thinking about the bottom line with this camera. A shame the lens Nader made its way into something better

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Alvaro
      May 18, 2019 at 12:22 am

      It’s the plastic AF compact rule—good lens, shitty finder/good finder, shitty lens

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Edward
    October 23, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    This camera is worth over £100 now on ebay. WHAT THE HELL? Btw, great pictures.

  • Reply
    The Land of the Cameras of the Dead - mike eckman dot com
    October 31, 2018 at 5:26 pm

    […] every manufacturer incorporating some form of panoramic modes in their models.  Most cameras, like the Nikon AF600 used nothing more than a baffle that would swing into position masking off the top and bottom of […]

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