Nikon AF600

Nikon ‘Lite Touch’ AF600 Review – A Forgotten Fling

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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36 thoughts on “Nikon ‘Lite Touch’ AF600 Review – A Forgotten Fling”

  1. Pingback: Nikon AF600

  2. 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:

    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…

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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!

  6. Pingback: Nikon AF-600 — Lite Touch | 6500K

  7. 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.

    1. 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!

  8. 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.

    1. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    1. 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 …

  11. 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).

    1. 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?

      1. I don’t use flickr that much. I’ve put a selection into a folder on my ftp – 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.

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

  12. Pingback: The Land of the Cameras of the Dead - mike eckman dot com

  13. I just picked up one of these after seeing how good the pics look in this review. New Old Stock!
    Still shooting the first roll. Wow it is tiny. And yes even brand new this thing is super cheap and creaky feeling. I’m actually surprised that Nikon would make something that feel this chintzy. VF is fine as the camera is small. I had to re-read the manual to make sure it was meant to briefly flicker the flash light to confirm focus.
    Slowest film wind on ever! Anyway, looking forward to see how the pics look.

  14. An AF600 was my travel camera of choice for quite a few years, until early digital gear prompted me to forsake my film cameras. What a mistake that was, as digital “wasn’t ready for prime time”. The AF600 was the smallest and lightest 35mm camera offered at the time, perhaps ever, up to that point. Lightweight = fragile and I recognized that immediately. The best camera is the one you have with you; the AF600 was so small and light, there was never an excuse to leave it behind. Always in a case or bag, this camera never failed me. I lost it in an airport X-ray machine in Sydney but got it back the next day in Singapore. Recently I’ve digitized negatives I shot with the AF600 twenty years ago and I am seriously pleased with how good they look. The Panoramic feature was a popular gimmick at the time and I have a few panoramic prints taken by accident, as I didn’t notice I’d hit the control in the heat of a moment. Still, even those panoramas, enlarged as they were in print shops to something like a crop from an 8″ x 10″ are surprisingly sharp. The AF600 lens and light meter worked beautifully. Today, my travel camera of choice is a Nikon Coolpix A. Same recipe; a sharp 28mm lens and excellent meter in a form factor not quite so flimsy as the AF600, and a bit larger and heavier, but still with the vulnerability of the telescoping lens behind a plastic door (no panorama setting, haha). That’s okay with me, the results are worth it.

  15. I feel like I was either 1) expecting too much 2) did something wrong or 3) have a lemon. I don’t mean to promote my video, but I am curious if my samples are in line with the results that people who have shot more rolls through it have gotten.

  16. I have three. My main one has a broken film door switch. Another only shoots in infinity mode. Lol. The third has a motor that sounds like it’ll die any moment. This one also has a sticky lens door. The motor one I MAY take a part to get the door for the first one. I am trying to find schematics or something online about pulling these apart…. The main one also has a cracked flash (still works but if I am taking one apart, why not?). Any ideas about videos or anything pulling these apart? I love this camera & it’s one of few go to point & shoots.

    1. I’ve not dismantled one of these, but I’d guess you’d be surprised at how easily they come apart – many point and shoot cameras like this just have a few screws on the outside then the whole outer shell just clicks off. Try it on the one that only shoots at infinity- that’s the least likely to be fixable and can give you the spare part you need for you main one ????
      Also, take photos of the process then write about what you did and submit it as an article to 35mmc 😉

      1. Hi all,
        I have one too recently and the lens door is always opened. It never closes.
        What is the problem in the long term of not being able to close the lens? dust and scratches? can it make it unusable? were you able to tinker with a lens cover ?

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