Nikon F5
SLRs

Nikon F5 review – A dream come true – By Vladislav Stanimirovic

May 22, 2020

Starting out with photography when l was in grammar school with just a lowly Zenit (passed down to me by my dad), for the longest time l felt the need to upgrade. However, as fate would have it, l stopped taking photos altogether the same year l started going to college and then for a long time after.

Then, the summer of 2017 was particularly stressful. l had managed to fail some exams and had to prepare for six of them in about a month and a half. Somewhere between the long study sessions and procrastination, l managed to dig out that Zenit, some of my old photos and an unopened FujiColor 100 which had expired way back in 2011. It was at that moment that l decided to dive right back to where l left off six years before. Right after l passed my finals, that is.

A dream come true

As a “reward” for being a good boy and passing all of my exams, my girlfriend gifted me a Nikon F90X, and just like that, sparked my love for Nikon. I’ve always admired journalists and sports photographers for having the privilege of using only the best tools available. After a nose dive into the history of Nikon l decided to start saving up money for the professional photographer’s go-to camera, the Nikon F5.

However, they aren’t really abundant where l live, and even when a wild F5 would appear in the classifieds, the price was really steep for a college student living off a tight budget. So, l had to be patient and keep saving up. Finally, after selling a couple of film cameras that l hadn’t really been using l managed to save enough money for the Five. A fellow photographer sent me a message in October if 2019, asking me if l wanted to buy his minty looking F5, after seeing my WTB post in one of the Facebook groups for film photographers. Two days later, l was holding the F5 in my hands. I couldn’t believe it: my dream had finally come true.

The F4 and the F5

The F4 and the F5 represent two magnificent pieces of industrial design

Nikon F5 back

Nikon F5 Top

Shooting the Nikon F5

Since then, l’ve been shooting the Nikon F5 almost exclusively. I’d carry it with me through the streets of Belgrade for hours on end, shooting roll after roll. I couldn’t get enough of that feeling and the sound of the shutter, that made me feel like a true photographer (even though my photos rarely reflect that *cough*). The F5 is one heavy camera alright, but the rounded edges and the soft rubber that covers the cast aluminum body skillfully hide the weight so it’s not as apparent. If anything, it instills confidence.

“Imported from the future” was the official slogan for the camera, and judging by its capabilities it truly is! A piece of engineering perfection that managed to get a seat in the NASA space program aboard the Discovery space shuttle, it truly feels like it’s out of this world. The F5 served as a basis for every future Nikon film and digital SLR camera, since the dual thumbwheel control layout and a display on the top right side of the camera has been present on every Nikon SLR camera since then. In addition, the body is made of cast aluminum whereas the removable prism with its unique 1005 pixel RGB light meter sensor was encased in a titanium shell, giving the camera that “built like a tank” feel.

Nikon f5 Scree

Nikon F5

The Nikon F5 Body and brains

Autofocusing is fast and precise, both with AFS and screw-driven AF lenses. The camera spins the 50mm 1.8D with ease, making for an instant focusing even in low light situations. An added benefit is that the camera also supports the VR function, which can really be handy when shooting with longer exposures, especially if you have ’em shaky hands.

Many users have criticized the custom functions, of which there were 24, that allowed the user to fine tune various functions regarding the use of flash, self timer, LCD illumination, thumbwheel control direction, bracketing… Setting the custom functions wasn’t really straightforward: you needed a cheat sheet that was in the manual in order to set them all. However once this was done, it was all set, and there was rarely the need to change any of them.

Loading film is done in a matter of seconds, as with any SLR with automatic film transport, as well as rewinding which is a big improvement over the sluggish rewind on the F4. You can also rewind the film manually if you feel like sparing the life of your batteries. There are four exposure modes, and the exposure can be tuned to a 1/3 of a stop which in combination with the cutting edge light meter sensor makes this camera ideal for shooting slide film.

The Nikon F5 can use all autofocus lenses (except the most recent E type with electronic diaphragm control) as well as Ai and AiS lenses. Manual focus lenses can only be used with average or spot metering. Unfortunately, Non Ai lenses cannot be mounted on the F5 unless the meter coupling tab around the mount was modified by Nikon, which was an option during the time the camera was manufactured.

The logic behind all of this was that the autofocus lenses were widely available, so there was no need for professionals to use Non Ai lenses on such a cutting edge body.

Sample images

Conclusion

Do my needs as a casual photographer demand a camera such as the F5? I don’t think so. Would l buy another one if l had the chance? Probably yes. The Nikon F5 is one of those cameras that the more you read about, the more you look at, the more you fall in love with. Yes it’s heavy, and yes it can eat through a pack of 8 AA batteries as if it were a snack, but there is so much more to the camera than the mere specifications and numbers.

It’s sleek design with that signature red line carved in the grip by Giorgeto Giugiaro, the finest Japanese craftsmanship, the feeling you get when you look through one of the nicest viewfinders out there, the sense of confidence this camera instills, make all of the downsides disappear never to be spoken of again.

A photographer has to focus solely on composition. The Nikon F5 takes care of everything else.

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32 Comments

  • Reply
    Rod ZX
    May 22, 2020 at 10:20 am

    Definitely a dream camera, some people are intimidated by its size and weight. But they just need to hit the gym a bit more regularly, hahaha. I love my F100, little brother of your F5. Enjoy, keep on shooting.

    • Reply
      Vladislav Stanimirovic
      May 22, 2020 at 1:15 pm

      I believe so too, it’s definitely a heavyweight champion, and I’m not really a gym kind of guy, so my arms and shoulders do take a beating when I’m out shooting! But I don’t mind it, to be honest, all is forgiven for the enjoyment.

    • Reply
      christian thompson
      May 22, 2020 at 6:51 pm

      I’d love to go back to a Nikon F5. Is there any way of converting it to digital? If so I’m in . A digi F5 back please. 👍

      • Reply
        Vladislav Stanimirovic
        May 22, 2020 at 10:37 pm

        Well, you can always get a D1!

      • Reply
        Bent_Brent
        May 22, 2020 at 10:54 pm

        Hey Christian. A digital F5 would basically be a D3, wouldn’t it?

    • Reply
      loris
      May 23, 2020 at 4:39 pm

      eh, dai, per fortuna che non hanno fatto l’ F7 !!
      io mi accontento delle mie f 90x, f 4s, fe2, f 801s e, chissà, magari un giorno …

  • Reply
    David Allen
    May 22, 2020 at 11:17 am

    I bought my brother an F2 for his 70th birthday to re-kindle his love of film. I’m a Pentax die hard, but he has used Nikon for 40+ years. He loved it so much he bought a F6 body so he could use all his digital Nikkor lenses!

    If you think the F5 is good the F6 will blow your mind………………

    • Reply
      Vladislav Stanimirovic
      May 22, 2020 at 1:18 pm

      Recently an F6 popped up at no other place than a fleamarket! It was missing the battery holder so I had to pass, but I’ll definitely get it one day if the finances allow…

    • Reply
      Brian Sweeney
      May 22, 2020 at 11:50 pm

      The Kodak DCS760 is a Digital F5.

      https://www.dpreview.com/reviews/kodakdcs760

  • Reply
    Brian Sweeney
    May 22, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    These were $2500 bodies “in the day”. Do you need one- not the question.

    Do you like using a camera. Does the way you want to record the world flow through the two of you?

    Enjoy the F5, judging by your pictures- it’s in good hands.

    • Reply
      David Allen
      May 22, 2020 at 12:56 pm

      why is your link to a forum?

      • Reply
        Vladislav Stanimirovic
        May 22, 2020 at 1:11 pm

        I’m sorry Allen, which link are you reffering to?

        • Reply
          David Allen
          May 22, 2020 at 3:46 pm

          Brian Sweeney’s

        • Reply
          Brian Sweeney
          May 22, 2020 at 4:27 pm

          I think he’s asking about my post and why clicking the name brings up my forum. Hamish is a member there, I often post links to his site.

          When you post on this website, it asks for “your website” or something like that. So, I put up my forum.

          I could have posted this one:

          http://camerageekgear.com/home.html

          But everyone would have been really disappointed to find out it was not a real business.

          Especially Hamish.

          http://camerageekgear.com/CAMERA3.HTM

          But- you can see threads on most of the lenses on the forum tied to my name.

          • Ahnaf Irsyad
            May 22, 2020 at 11:01 pm

            Hey Vladislav!

            Congratulation on your F5 purchase! Reading your story makes me feels like reading mine as I also dream of an F5 for a long time before I could have it.

            Im sure you are enjoying it so much now as I am too! What I like most about the camera is the light metering. It is dead accurate and allows me to exclusively shoots slide film now.

            A very tough camera indeed it gives me a good feeling whenever I hold it. The weight vanished once my hand is wrapping its nice grip.

            I would have it a long time and would never consider selling it. Definitely a stuff of a dream!

    • Reply
      Vladislav Stanimirovic
      May 22, 2020 at 1:16 pm

      Thank you for your kind words! really enjoy using it, it’s been my faithful companion during the recent isolation!

  • Reply
    Ted Ostrowski
    May 22, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    I have an F5 and mine at least annoys me. Going up or down in shutter speeds is inconsistent. It can be at 125 and then jump to 2000 or 30 of second by a touch on the command shell. This happpens in manual or shutter priority. A camera should advance shutter speeds uniformity ie 60, 125, 250, 500, 1000, 2000 etc not 60, 15, 500, 640, 30, 125 if you take my meaning. I have access to one other F5 and it does the same thing, drives me crazy. I have tried a reset but no luck. Any suggestions ?

    • Reply
      Vladislav Stanimirovic
      May 22, 2020 at 3:27 pm

      A very common problem amongst the F5 cameras. You’d need to remove the right-hand portion of the camera and clean the thumb-wheel switch variable resistors with some contact cleaner. Dirt can find its way in there and cause that characteristic skipping. Nothing to worry about, but I understand the annoyance. Mine had a problem that I would turn the camera on, and it would power off for a fraction of a second and then it would come back alive. A puff with a blower bulb in the area of the shutter button and on/off switch solved the problem.

      • Reply
        Ted
        May 22, 2020 at 8:43 pm

        Thank you Vladislav , I will carry out the clean up and give it a go. Cheers from Western Canada 🙂

    • Reply
      Lee Griffith
      May 22, 2020 at 7:36 pm

      It’s a sticky dial. Take some electricians solution to it, let it sit overnight and it will be back to perfect. Had the same problem with mine and was lucky that the repair shop didn’t hit me but instead helped with just what my lovely old F5 needed.

  • Reply
    Bruno Chalifour
    May 22, 2020 at 8:35 pm

    Hi Vladislav, nice review and story. The F5 was too a sort of dream camera for me (after a Nikkormat, an FE, and F2 and F3 and F4) but when I finally got one (financially) the digital craze had caught up. After using it I found myself going back to my F4S. Heavy too, yes, but more compact (and a long common history with me too I must confess). Great photographs illustrating your point: a lot of it has to do with the photographer and the lenses… with film, the camera is just a sophisticated dark box (camera obscura), thence the one that fits your hand and your purposes is the right one. The F4 remains my favorite Nikon film camera the added bells and whistles of the F5 (and increased size) and F6 did not add much to it… in my opinion and practice that is. If I had to recommend a Nikon film camera I would choose the F3 (for its smooth film advance system, the best ever designed) or an F4… and they are even more affordable now.

    • Reply
      Vladislav Stanimirovic
      May 22, 2020 at 10:37 pm

      Thank you, Bruno! I agree, the F4 is one hell of a nice camera, I really enjoy mine! A strange thing though, I didn’t really like the F3, of course its just a matter of personal preference, no doubt that it’s a superb camera, however I much preffered the F2. As far as the F6 goes, I don’t really think of it as a true successor to the F5, more like an evolution of the F100.

  • Reply
    Julian Love
    May 22, 2020 at 8:42 pm

    I’m glad you’re enjoying your F5 but it seems strange to me to carry around a huge camera capable of fast autofocus and high frame rates only to shoot static subjects that don’t move. All of these pictures could have been taken on a Nikon FM or FE just as easily and saved you a lot of money and shoulder ache 🙂

    • Reply
      Vladislav Stanimirovic
      May 22, 2020 at 10:31 pm

      That was kind of what I was saying when I wrote that my needs as a photographer do not really demand a sophisticated camera such as the F5. However, I do like the looks and the feel of it, so that’s why I wanted to get that particular model. Also, I’ve only had the camera for the past 9 months or so, but when the opportunity presents itself, I’ll make sure to test its capabilities with a sporting event or such. Come to think of it, I was shooting a FIBA 3×3 basketball tournament last year, only I did that with the F4, I might do it with the F5 this year.

  • Reply
    David luttmann
    May 23, 2020 at 12:18 am

    I have two F5 bodies, and am looking for a 3rd that would be the 50th anniversary edition. To me, the F5 is simply the best 35mm camera ever made.

    • Reply
      Vladislav Stanimirovic
      May 23, 2020 at 12:03 pm

      I couldn’t agree more David!

  • Reply
    eric
    May 23, 2020 at 2:00 am

    Hiiiiii 😉 images are wonderful : bravo !
    I am a Leica, Contax, Rollei, Minolta and Nikon guy …
    All Nikons I have used, the F5 is one : this is a fantastic machine which has given to get all the images I wanted perfectly exposed with Velvia 50, and the 50 1’8 asph, it is perfect, just one big problem : it is heavy, too heavy.
    But a tank, an electronic mastering !!! One of best camera if we want to solve any difficulties, if we want a high level pro camera with high level possibilities enter the Canon, Leica R8/R9, Contax RTS III, the Nikon F5 is the winner. Why ? The less expensive, the best build, the Nikon matrix, and and, the Nikkor which are nearly as better than Leica, Zeiss, … I used the others. The difference is very little, and the Nikon rendering is great. Now, I am more a Leica M guy.

    • Reply
      Vladislav Stanimirovic
      May 23, 2020 at 12:06 pm

      Thank you!
      I believe that Nikon decided to incorporate the grip, rather than make it an accessory because the camera demanded so much power, and yet they wanted to stick with AA batteries because you can find them pretty much anywhere in the world, thus making the camera heavier than it could’ve been had it been using CR123 or a similar battery.

  • Reply
    Leo Tam
    May 25, 2020 at 1:34 am

    What are your favorite lenses to use with the F5?

    • Reply
      Vladislav Stanimirovic
      May 26, 2020 at 8:13 pm

      I haven’t got too many lenses, but l mostly use the 50mm 1.8D, 70-210mm E Series and sometimes l borrow the 100mm 2.8 Micro from a friend. I have tried the 28-85mm AfD, and l quite liked it.

  • Reply
    osynlig
    May 26, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    I used FM2’s and and F3 for many years as well as an F100. The F5 is my favourite. I don’t need the frame rate or the AF speed but its simply about how the camera feels. The F5 is unbeatable. The F3 is great too but I like having AF when doing portraiture. Letting the camera track the subject I can concentrate on what matters rather than managing settings like focus and exposure. The sound and the feel of the F5.. amazing. I tried the F100 for a while to see if it was “a smaller F5” as many say. But it really isn’t anything like the quality of an F5 I think. You can feel when a product is “no expenses spared” like on the F5 vs the consumer models.

    • Reply
      Vladislav Stanimirovic
      May 26, 2020 at 8:17 pm

      Yes! The feel that this camera gives is unparalleled, you just have to see it to believe it. I was fiddling with an F100, and like yourself, l don’t really think it’s build quality is anywhere near the F5. It is still a solid camera though, l’d be lying if l said it wasn’t, but it’s in a completely different league. The F3 just didn’t click with me for some reason, however l quite liked the F2, and the F.

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