The Nikon F75 Project

My Nikon F75 Project – Part 1 – Going off on a tangent from my usual direction of travel

I’ve started a little project shooting a Nikon F75. I’m calling it a project, as I want to differentiate it a little from my normal trials with cameras. My intention isn’t to shoot, review and put down (or sell) this camera like I so often do. This time, I want to write a few posts documenting my various experiences with it. The main reason being, it is – at least on face value – a big departure from the sort of camera I’m used to shooting with.

Finding this path

I actually started down this particular path a good few months back. I found reason to question my own logic after I decided I should spend good money having a 90mm autofocus lens off a Contax G series camera modified to M-Mount. I mentioned this on social media and loads of people questioned my intelligence (easily done sometimes, I admit).

The main question was, why not just shoot it on a Contax G? The answer to that question is actually quite easy, I really don’t like the Contax G cameras. But, the process of being questioned sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole. I might dislike the Contax G cameras, but was I missing a trick else where? After all, autofocusing a 90mm lens on an SLR is arguably a lot easier than manual focusing one on a rangefinder.

Flirting with a Nikon F90x

The result of this was that I went out and bought a Nikon F90x and 85mm 1.8d lens. I shot a couple of rolls with it – I got some ok photos too:

Nono

Scafold shadow

Sirens

The rest are here

But in the end, found myself disliking the camera – primarily because it’s just too damned heavy, especially with the 85mm lens on the front. But, I did enjoy the autofocus and autoexposure. I treated the camera like a point & shoot, and despite the fact that I don’t shoot them as often at the moment, I do like the point & shoot camera experience! That said, my distaste for the size and weight was too great, and so ultimately I came to the conclusion that I should indeed have the 90mm Contax lens converted (how’s that for well rounded logical thinking…?). Of course, I also REALLY love the character of the Contax 90mm – but all that’s a different story for another day…

Step up the Nikon F75

So, whilst I’d been put off by the size and weight of the F90x, I couldn’t shake the sense that I’d enjoyed the a fair bit of the shooting experience. Believe it or not, I used to be a Nikon SLR collector. As such, the camera was familiar enough to use, I’d had results I was happy with, and as mentioned, the point & shoot way I’d shot it had appealed. This got me thinking – maybe one of the smaller, lighter, more consumer oriented Nikons would work for me?

I know the range really well from my collecting days, so the first two that came to mind were the F55 and F75. If you know anything about Nikon cameras you’ll know that what came before these cameras was quite a bit bigger. Even the previous generation F60 that I cut my teeth on in my late teens/early 20’s was quite a chunk. The F75 is a similar form factor to that of later digital D40 – a camera that at the time it came out I remember was regarded as very small.

Anyway, I did a bit of a comparison between the F75 and F55 and concluded that out of the two the F75 has the least compromised function – it’s a consumer camera, but has multi-segment (“Matrix” as Nikon call it) metering, fairly decent auto focus, and moreover it does allow you a few fancy features (something I will come back to in a later post I’m sure). I should also point out that I picked my F75 up off eBay for £40 in pretty much mint condition.

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Lens choice

I already have a Nikon 35mm f/2d AF lens. I’ve had it for years – it has such a big crack in the focusing ring that I’ve felt selling it would get me less money than I feel it’s worth to me – even as a shelf queen. That said, I didn’t fancy 35mm as my focal length of choice. I also wanted something especially light weight and cheap too.

The obvious choice was the Nikon 50mm f/1.8d AF. If you aren’t up on your Nikon gear this is a current model lens that’s been around for quite a while. It’s Nikon’s entry level prime lens, and in fact the least expensive lens Nikon make. I managed to pick one up used for £60

Cheap, light, fast with a standard focal length

Ok, so to recap, what I found myself with is a camera that felt a bit like a big point & shoot with manual overrides, a fast 50mm lens, is light weight, isn’t much bigger than a Leica M and cost me £100. Comprehending a setup like this – as someone with a not insignificant collection of much more expensive/valuable kit – I did start to call into question some of my ideals when it comes to cameras. I like to think that I’m not so short sighted to write off a combination of kit like this before I’ve even shot with it, but the reality is, for a long time now I wouldn’t have looked twice at a camera and lens like this.

I think for me personally, I feel like I grew out of this sort of equipment a while ago. After the point & shoot cameras I had as a kid, I had a string of Nikon SLRs that eventually turned into a collection. I moved on from the F60 I had first, and the F801s that followed, to likes of the FM2, F3 and FE. From these I moved on to Leicas – and apart from a brief flirtation with a FM3a that made me realise just how well suited I am to Leica cameras (read that post here), and a roll I shot with a Nikon F100 and Sigma 50mm ART lens when I still had my Nikon DSLRs (photos here) – I’ve never really looked back. Since then, all I’ve done on this blog is to consistently reinforce my own beliefs about simple cameras with limited functions being right for me. Something that culminated in this post about the Lure of the Uncomplicated Camera.

A project rather than a review

These preferences are why I’ve decided to pursue this as a little project. I don’t want to get into the complexities of reviewing lots of different fairly modern film SLR bodies, I also know I’m never going to convert myself into someone who enjoys all the bells and whistles. But looking back at how my preferences have developed, whilst holding this this camera in my hand, I’m quite conscious that I might have done myself a bit of an injustice by writing off all SLR cameras.

In the Nikon F75 I have a camera that is small and light – as small and light as my Sony A7Rii in fact. I’m also familiar enough with it from my Nikon days not to get too bogged down by trying to learn the idiosyncrasies of a more feature packed camera that’s completely new to me. These two factors are hopefully enough to allow me to explore a camera like this without becoming too distracted by what usually irritates me.

Ultimately, the point of this is not for me to review a camera, I’ve just become intrigued to explore a path I don’t normally walk – I just can’t help wondering if the F75, a fairly unassuming late model Nikon SLR, might for me add up to be a very competent point & shoot, or possibly something even more? I’ll keep you posted…

Edit – I was going to mention Mauro’s Canon 300x post here but forgot, it’s interesting and along similar lines, read it here

You will find all the posts from this project here

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33 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    jeremy north
    December 17, 2017 at 10:53 am

    You’ve done a bit of a Johnny Nash with this post H (There are More Questions than Answers). Perhaps all will be clear in the following part.
    Why do you dislike the Contax G cameras? Why would the alternative be an SLR? As you like the Sonnar why not a Contax or Yashica SLR which has the mount for the Zeiss lenses?

    Thanks for the interesting read.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 17, 2017 at 8:02 pm

      I just can’t get on with them. As you know, I have tried!
      Because there aren’t many options for AE and AF with a 50mm lens that aren’t an SLR?
      Finally, believe me, I am tempted – no AF though…
      Loads more to come 🙂

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    Reply
    Bill Parker
    December 17, 2017 at 11:53 am

    Another cracking good read Hamish, I collect film cameras and use them there is a saying that, at times, is most appropriate regarding controls and itgoes ‘less is more’ shutter speed aperture what else do you need?

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      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 17, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      I’m on board with the less is more sentiment, almost entirely, though sometimes it’s good to experiment

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    Reply
    Mauro Pastore
    December 17, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Nice write Hamish, I have really enjoyed the reading and I am curious to see the part 2.
    I have a similar setup bur with an F80 body that I have inherited from my father.
    The F80 is a quite heavy and bulky camera and this make often opt for the Canon EOS 300x with the 40mm pancake. Apart this this is a lovely setup, an excellent camera combined with beautiful lens.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 17, 2017 at 7:57 pm

      Your post encouraged this process – I was going to link to it, but forgot. I’ve added it now 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Martin
    December 17, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Great piece. A few years back I travelled the very same road. I bought an F80 for 20 euros, put a lens on it and went out shotting film with it. I should point out that I am an avid collector of 35mm and medium format cameras. I shoot mostly positive film. The first roll of print film in the F80 was shot and taken to a local developer…..the results were horrendous. A second roll that I had shot right after was sent to a pro lab and came back a few days later….perfect!! Turns out the local lab had screwed up. I sold the camera…….and then missed it so much I bought another…..realising that it was one of the best 35mm cameras ever made. Sure it is light and it is plasticky….but it does the job it was designed to do and does it better (if I am honest) than any other camera I own….including F4 Nikons, F1N Canons etc etc…… This is one camera I will not be selling!! Did I mention that I can use almost any Nikon lens on it….including thos nasty cheap new ones with no “F” scales? Anyways, thanks for a great piece!!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 17, 2017 at 7:53 pm

      I’ve had a few people mention the f80 today – I’m not sure, but I think it might be one that never ended up in my collection. If all goes well with the F75 I might look to “upgrade”.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    James
    December 17, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Yasssss! I have so much time for this. I salute your Nikon F75 and await the update 🙂

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    Reply
    Malcolm Myers
    December 17, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    I’m glad you’re doing this project. I think a lot of people new to film photography are likely to come in via the ‘cheap plastic SLR’ route rather than the Leica route. If you get them interested in that then they can read your site to learn about the joys of other types of camera. A bit of a gateway drug, if you like 😉

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 17, 2017 at 7:51 pm

      You make me sound like a pusher, Malcolm! 😉

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ken Hindle-May
      December 21, 2017 at 2:56 pm

      That’s a thought that occurred to me. Digital shooters, especially DSLR shooters, might find the step into film easier to take if it’s with a late-model SLR which operates in a virtually identical way to what the cameras they’re already using. They also have the added benefit of being relatively cheap (compared to the fashionable SLRs from the 70s and 80s) and can probably be used with the lenses they already have.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Hamish Gill
        December 24, 2017 at 10:00 am

        Definitely, and some of the really high end film SLRs are incredible! The Nikon f100 for eg, not to mention the f5 and 6…

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    Reply
    Tony Karnezis
    December 17, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    I have followed a very similar camera path as you, Hamish. Nikon SLR/DSLR and eventually my current kit: Leica M2 (35/50), Minolta TC-1, and Ricoh GXR as my “Leica digital.” But dammit I miss lots of shots because of my lack of quick reflexes with (read: not enough use of) the M2. I think it’s time to break out the MB-20 grip to shrink the F4S down to F60 size/weight and pair it with the humble 50/1.8AF.

    And yes, you’re a pusher, of the best kind.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 17, 2017 at 10:00 pm

      For the most part, I am quite happy RF focusing, it’s close focusing that I’ve been missing … But I’ll come back to that next time… …
      Let me know how you get on!!

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    Reply
    Mike Bareham
    December 17, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed this piece Hamish, which has encouraged me to take advantage of the mint condition Nikon F60 that I have recently been gifted. I have the 50/1.8 which might be a better option weight wise than the 24-85 f2.8-4 which is currently fronting it, but renders it very front heavy.
    I’ll keep you posted.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 17, 2017 at 9:57 pm

      I’m definitely interested to hear how you get on!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Kevin Thomas
    December 17, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    Great article, and I think a good way to approach it. I tend to a (very) hybrid approach when I go on a photowalk, generally Nikon D200, my N75 (the US version – $25 in the original box) and something rangefinderish from the 50’s or 60’s like my Vito II. The N75 is so light and lends itself to go from full manual to full auto depending on the mood and situation. It doesn’t feel as much a workhorse as my Canon A-1 or the Nikon FTn I picked up recently – but it doesn’t need to.

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    Reply
    Dominic Cicere
    December 18, 2017 at 5:02 am

    I think the only bad thing about that body is the smallish viewfinder – otherwise, a light carry everywhere combo.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 18, 2017 at 8:04 pm

      I’m used to compact cameras, so really, I have hardly noticed

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    Reply
    Christos Theofilogiannakos
    December 18, 2017 at 6:06 am

    I too got rid of my F90X for the exact same reasons (size, weight, shutter noise) and kept my F80 to use with a 1.8/50D. Very happy so far, it may well be the best AF SLR camera I’ve ever used in many respects. I only wish Nikon had produced a pancake 40mm lens just like Canon did, like someone already mentioned above, the EOS 300X with the STM pancake is an unbeatable user combo.

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      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 18, 2017 at 8:04 pm

      … another vote for the f80… I can see where this is going

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    Reply
    Matthew Kay
    December 18, 2017 at 6:24 am

    Interesting to see an SLR re-enter your life. I have recently re-entered a mirrored life. Circuitously having abandoned mirrors for mirrorless, then finding film again so that I could experience Leica lenses in a ‘cheap’ manner (I fell for Zeiss 28mm so still haven’t experienced a Leica lens – nor am I wanting to any longer). For some reason a used Nikon F6 has now fallen into my bag. I’m shooting that fully manual including lens focusing – I just can’t quite seem to get the same kind of images I have been with my rangefinder. More film goes through the Nikon which may denote a little more carelessness but still my composition, subject choice, everything seems way off. I see things differently…..maybe it offers me a little too much of the ‘point and shoot’ perspective. I’m keen to see what transpires from your experience.

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      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 18, 2017 at 8:03 pm

      I have written about this before, and have another post coming – have a read of this

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        Reply
        Matthew Kay
        December 20, 2017 at 8:52 am

        Thank you! I think you might have been on to something.

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    Reply
    Blinx
    December 18, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Small 35mm SLRs offer the automation of super compacts without the financial commitment of owning one. The F55 is tiny and very light, the Canon 3000 SLRs slightly bigger, but take the 40mm pancake. The F75 had the trickle down tech of the pro models in an entry level camera, so a good compromise.

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      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 18, 2017 at 8:01 pm

      “so a good compromise” – My thoughts exactly!

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    Reply
    Theo Panagopoulos
    December 18, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    Good article as usual Hamish. I’ve also had a similar thought and currently have my Nikon F70 loaded with film. Most people don’t equate this to easy, due to the mental fanned menu system in the LCD, but as it was my first SLR many years ago I got used to it and I find I can set it to automate a lot. I tend to mount the 50mm f/1.8D on it, with some Fuji Futura 1600, and makes night shooting much more pleasurable.

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    Reply
    Evan Bedford
    December 19, 2017 at 2:34 am

    I’m with you on weight. A month or two ago, I bought a Contax N1 with a 24-85 AF zoom. Amazing photos, and my first ever (positive) experience with AF was slightly mind-blowing. But the thing weighs a ton! (And I have tennis elbow, which doesn’t help).

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    Reply
    Rollin Banderob
    December 19, 2017 at 3:42 am

    I read a lens review once (dang it, can not find it now) that started off with a short list of lenses so special photographically they were considered worth buying the camera to have them in your bag of choices. It is such a great time in photography where adaptors and re-housing lets us sometimes bring lenses into our system, without the outlay of buying a system we don’t care for at the time. Surprised at the backlash you received for re-working an old lens for your prefeed use.

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      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 21, 2017 at 9:40 am

      People just like telling other people they are wrong… Simple as that, I think

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    Reply
    Ken Hindle-May
    December 21, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    I really should make more use of my EOS 10s before its light seals inevitably melt onto the shutter again (horrible design flaw spoiling an otherwise very good camera). I kept hold of my 50mm f/1.8 when I sold all my Canon digital gear, specifically to use with that body but I’ve only put a couple of rolls through it so far. It’s a bulky thing, but the primarily plastic construction means it’s nice and light and it does that modern-era SLR thing of becoming more like an extension of your body that you use without thinking, than a device you operate. That’s a seductive feeling that I do miss from my DSLR days, but I came to realise it’s not ideal for my creative process. I benefit from being forced to think about what I’m doing to a greater extent. It’ll be interesting to see if I can overcome that now I’m more aware of it, and I might put some nice film into the EOS and use it for my next project.

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      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 24, 2017 at 9:59 am

      Is that what causes the shutters to jam in so many of the old Canons??

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