Buying recommendation for Nikon AF cameras

Here is short buying guide if you are looking for modern AF 35mm film camera. I will write about Nikon cameras, while Canon cameras were better in 1st wave of  AF cameras. Nikon quickly catched up and you can buy their top end models very cheaply now. Canon has better AF while Nikon has much better metering in Matrix/Evaluative mode,  i think metering is far more important especially if you shoot slides so I recommend choosing Nikon, but everyone can decide on their own. BTW Canon EOS 3 and 7 have very interesting feature eye controlled focusing, i haven`t tried it but same like some hate it 🙂

At first I recommended only buying newest crop of camera. While older AF models like N801 are good, they still cost same as newer ones and has lesser features. Nikon`s newest AF bodies are: F6, F5, F100, F/N 90/90s, F/N 80, F/N 75.  I think F6 is too expensive even used models are costing over 1K$, while new one costs about 3000$, for that money you should get superior medium format camera, like Mamiya 6 or 7 rangefinders. But if you wish best 35mm camera there is then F6 is way to go. On other end F/N 75 also can`t be recommended, firstly most of the bodies are in ugly silver plastic it looks fag and they come with 28-80mm kit lens, alright lens it self isn`t terrible but if you are going to shoot slow films you will need fast primes like 1.8 50mm or even 1.4.  You can read many recommendation on internet that F/N 75 is good buy, thing is most of these reviews are several years old and in that time more expensive bodies like 80/90/100 and F5 have significantly decreased in price making F/N 75 not so good anymore. Next is monster F5 which now costs about 300$. It only film camera with 3D color matrix metering, fastest FPS and AF for any Nikon camera beating even F6 + nearly indestructible.  On downside it is super heavy and big, something like D3, and i don`t think anyone shoots sports on film today. As it was introduced in 1996 it`s ergonomics (button placement) is not so good as later bodies F100 and F/N 80.  And  if you want to get into film cheaply this is not way to go. When i bought  my Nikon F100 in summer I couldn’t decided between F/N 80 and F100, so i`ll tell you in more details about these two bodies. I didn’t choose F/N 90 because it can`t use VR (Vibration reduction), it can use VR lenses but not VR function and several other features, it is also 8 years older than F100. Price for F100 is about 150-200$ depending on accessories, condition and time of day you buy them (in eBay). F/N 80 costs about 50$ now it price has increases slightly in last months in summer it was 35$ for body in good condition.

So what does extra 100$  or 3 times the price, buy you if you go for F100 instead of F/N 80.

1. F100 has much more rugged and professional body which can take some beating. F100 is like D700/D7000, while F/N 80 is more like D40/40X/60

2. F100 has much better auto focus and faster frame rate.

3. F100 uses same meter as F/N 80 But exposure can be change in 1/3 step instead of 1/2 steps.  Also it has +/- 5 exposure compensation while 80 model only has 3 stops compensation. Both has maximum ISO rating of 6400. So Delta can`t be pushed to 100K and 200k numbers with F/N 80 if you would wish to do such a silly thing

4. F100 has viewfinder coverage of 96% while F/N 80 has 92%.

5. F100 can meter with older manual focus lenses (AI AI-S)

6. F100 has 1/8000 shutter speed, F/N 80 tops out on 1/4000.

7. Flash Sync for F100 is 1/250 while F/N 80 has 1/125

8. F100 has PC connection port to download shooting data, F/N 80 has more expensive model with data back.

9. F100 uses 4 regular AA batteries and uses battery holder/cartridge for fast battery swapping.  While F/N 80 uses less common and expensive CR123 batteries, there aren’t many rechargeable models for CR123 and they won`t be available everywhere.

Both models share 5 point AF and some other features, like Nintendo-type focus point selector

Some advantages of F/N80 over F100 are:

1. It is  much lighter and much cheaper

2. It has modern PASM command dial, instead of F100 where you push “Mode” button and turn dial ring.

3. F/N 80 has “On-demand” horizontal grid lines in viewfinder for better composing.

4. It takes standard screw mount release cable instead of some sort of electronic junk, which is also more expensive.

5. Has built-in flash


I myself got F100 because of sweet deal from local “Craigslist”. I got it with free bag and D1X focusing screen which has both horizontal and vertical grid lines.. Also got batteries for free but they died after couple of  shutter tests.


So I suggest either F/N80 or F100 depends on your shooting habits and how much are you gonna shoot with this camera. F100 is much professional while F/N 80 is consumer body. Some use F100 as their main body and F/N 80 as secondary. If this is going to be your only camera then F100 would be a better, buy but if you use many cameras then F/N  80 may be a better for you.


P.S. I write F/N 80 in this article, but could write either model, It`s N for North America and F for rest of world. It was Nikon marketing decision, which i think just complicated things too much.


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