5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Nikon F4S and Nikkor 35mm f/2.8 AI and Adox CMS II – By Toni Skokovic

August 23, 2018

Earlier this year (2018), I finally woke up to the reality of Nikon being the most natural camera platform for me. The Nikon grip felt right and various Nikon cameras were the ones least in the way of photographing. This set me on a browsing expedition and, a few weeks later, unpacking a Nikon F4S purchased from B&H Photo.

Did not know what to expect – aside from that familiar grip.While this is heavy and somewhat large for a 35mm SLR (with the BM-21 grip), the F4 handles naturally and is easy. Paired with standard prime lens, a 50mm or 35mm, it will pack well into any bag. Controls are naturally placed and easy to operate without taking your eye off the viewfinder. Perhaps the best statement to sum up the shooting experience with the F4 is that you forget all about the camera and focus on photographing the scene in front of you.

Recently, I loaded a roll of ADOX CMS 20 II film in my Nikon F4S. Wanting to try a new emulsion, this workhorse was a logical choice. Wandering around Evergreen Brickworks park in Toronto was a great way to start figuring out what this film can do, and Nikon F4S made that exploration easy, comfortable and, above all, fun.

Evergreen Brickworks, Toronto, July 2018 – Nikon F4 / Nikkor 35mm – Adox CMS 20 II

Evergreen Brickworks, Toronto, July 2018 – Nikon F4 / Nikkor 35mm – Adox CMS 20 II

Evergreen Brickworks, Toronto, July 2018 – Nikon F4 / Nikkor 35mm – Adox CMS 20 II

Evergreen Brickworks, Toronto, July 2018 – Nikon F4 / Nikkor 35mm – Adox CMS 20 II

Evergreen Brickworks, Toronto, July 2018 – Nikon F4 / Nikkor 35mm – Adox CMS 20 II

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  • Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    August 24, 2018 at 4:04 am

    A good article. Very few people write about the F4. I used to carry TWO of them (one fitted w/the 80-200 AF f/2.8 zoom) and that was tough. But the camera was totally dependable, indestructible, and just so sweet to use. Continued good luck w/it.

  • Reply
    Karl Valentin
    August 24, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    Seems the Nikon F4 is the most underrated professional camera and easy to get for a low price on Ebay today.
    In a lot of reviews and experts thoughts the Nikon F4 was a milestone and big step forward – but collectors
    and newbies who start shooting film seem to ignore that and prefer the pure mechanical Nikon F and Nikon F2
    or the Nikon F3 over it.
    Well I did too till I run into a Nikon F4E and tried it with some old manual Nikkors for a portrait shooting !
    As a result I sold my Nikon F5 instantly………never regret it…..

  • Reply
    August 24, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    I have heard that Adox CMS20 is difficult to work with. Curls, scratches easily, requires it’s own developer for full resolution, overly contrasty, etc…
    Have you found that to be the case?

    • Reply
      Toni Skokovic
      September 5, 2018 at 1:26 am

      Hello Jarrod,

      I did not find this film too difficult. Certainly, there was a bit of a curl but not significant to impact scanning. It did produce contrasty but pleasing results with my default ID-11. This was my first roll of Adox film, so the first impression is that it is a film with a very specific look to it, but I am yet to try the Adox developers or R09 and evaluate. Hope this helps.


  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    August 30, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    The F4 is a great camera. I’m sure you know that. It’s the 35mm film equiv. of a Mercedes extreme off road vehicle (the Zetros?)
    I used 2 back in the day when I could carry such loads.

  • Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    September 2, 2018 at 3:38 am

    The Nikon F4 is one of the best Nikons ever made. Designed to bridge from 35mm manual focus to 35mm auto focus, it offered photographers so many options. M/F, sure. A/F, yup. Manual meters, matrix, aperture & shutter priority, of course. An entire new system of finders, bits and pieces that Nikon is famous for. Drawbacks? Weight. LCD’s than can fade. It was the Swiss army knife of 35mm cameras.
    Now they are under-rated & under appreciated. I used to work w/two bodies, but a back injury made it difficult to continue to carry all that weight.
    Enjoy it.

  • Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    September 4, 2018 at 4:26 am

    I’m pleading internet insanity. I wrote my original comment, but I didn’t see anything posted, so I thought I messed up. I kept on writing, then BOOM! they were posted. Well, you get my drift, I liked the camera.

    • Reply
      Toni Skokovic
      September 5, 2018 at 1:21 am

      Hello Daniel – I share in your enthusiasm – definitely underrated camera, probably because it sits between the fully electronic and familiar F5 and mechanical darling of F3. Very fun to shoot with, no question about it.

  • Reply
    Camera Review Blog No. 1 – Nikon F4 – Alex Luyckx | Blog
    June 6, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    […] my word on the Nikon F4, you can check out the reviews by other awesome camera reviewers! – 35mmc – Five Frames with the Nikon F4s – Casual Photophile – Nikon F4 Camera Review – Photo Thinking – Tale of Two […]

  • Reply
    December 13, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Firstly, I am very happy to see quite a few articles about the F4 written in 2019, 2018, 2017 (which means I will probably leave the same comment to all these articles, sorry;-)…. this means a revival. Until a few years ago, all the articles were from the beginnings of the Internet. However, the second hand market supply has shrunk over the last decade, and some cameras became very, very expensive…

    Anyway, I used to have quite a lot of various 35 mm and medium format cameras (and evern one 4×5 beast) over the last decade. Currently I am left with just two, but looking into getting back some which I miss. But I have experienced many cameras and I know exactly what I want, what I don’t want, what is important to me, and what is less important. I also know my dream set-up, but dreams are out of reach (financially, in this case). Without digressing too much, I am now looking at a 35mm SLR. Autofocus. Why? Because, despite having good eyesight generally, I am really bad at manual focusing on SLRs (RFs are much easier, but that’s a different story, again—financially). I never like Canons. I just didn’t and don’t. I always like Nikons. I had the FA, F3, F4, F5. Talking about AF< we are left with F4 vs F5. I had the F4 first, replaced it with the F5. Loved both. I am not considering any of the other, certainly good Nikon AF SLRs, the F100, F90x, while they have some good asects: price, AF, they lack some key aspects for me: 100% VF (I cannot have anything gatecrashing the edge of the frame!), mirror lock-up (yes, I usually shoot -scapes with 6×7 but on occasion I don't have it with me), and the rock-solid build quality and sealing (I am clumsy, I break soup plates, ink bottles, knock things etc; I know the F100 and F90x are good, but.). I don't mind weight, I am used to carrying a 6×7 and Nikon F5 all day long; I love the weight of the F5, F4, the solidity, the feel. Why is the decision between the F5 and F4 tricky? Well, I love the F4 layout, knobs, and the smaller size and weight with the MB-20. It is also cheaper on the market. I don't like the user interface of the F5, and while it is super comfortable to hold, carry, shoot (especially vertically) it is big, and sometimes hard to squeeze into the bag full of other cameras. I only shoot black and white negatives, so I am not that concerned about the more sophisticated matrix metering, the one on F4 is just fine, particularly, since I also have the spot (never use the CW). Now, for speed, generally. It is important from several aspects. FPS is irrelevant, I never shoot rounds. General responsivness it crucial (with other cameras, especially silly non-SLR digital, I had to wait ages for it to turn on, warm up, and actually shoot), but I don't think there is any difference between the two, both are great. Now, the AF… well, that's the big difference in performance, which is also very important to me. People say that lightning fast AF is key for bobsleigh photographers and "normal" people can sort 99% of situations with the F4's AF. But it's not true. I am no pro, I don't shoot sports. But these milliseconds are equally important when shooting my son executing his knock-out head-on kick during his shinkyokushin fight, or when the happy couple kiss just after saying "YES". I don't mind one AF point. The five on the F5 are no more useful than the on the F4. But the F4's is not even a cross-type… and the speed, and low-light performance, are a real downside… I have used the F4 before and loved it, but I know its downsides.

    There is one camera that is supposed to answer all my prayers, which I have never laid my hands on: the Minolta Dynax 9. Old school layout, brick built but small, very fast, very modern. Looks like The One. Yet, there are very few of them on the market, and expensive (around F5 money, or more), and very few lenses… (The D7 is cool lacks the built quality and 155 VF, so is a no-no; the Canon EOS1… no, just no;-).

    In the end, it will probably be the F4

    Thanks for reading.

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