Blog post

First Impressions: Nikon F6

The Purchase Being slightly hypochondriacal, I’d been blaming my lack of sharp photos on my age related macular degeneration, in fact it’s probably as much down to me rushing photos as it is my eyesight, but that’s by the by, I’d convinced myself that was the problem. So, I therefore needed to use autofocus cameras, obviously. I already had some of those, good ones too, including a Nikon F4 and a Minolta Dynax 7, but nevertheless I was soon trawling eBay looking for something even better, that ultimate AF SLR that would be relatively new and robust to see me through my approaching retirement. I’d watched a few Nikon F6’s on eBay, almost exclusively from Japan, and had kind of put one to the top of the list, as having the best value and condition. I wasn’t going to buy it, just looking of course, even though I had been one of the lucky ones where Covid-19 had somewhat helped my bank balance, those visits to coffee shops etc certainly mount up.

Then on a Saturday night, after a blistering veggie chilli and a good few glasses of Côtes du Rhône, well I hit that button on eBay, and it was on its way. Sent by DHL Express, it was with me within 6 days, import duties and taxes amounted to around 21%, a bit better than I was expecting, bonus.

Unboxing Well I opened the box, unwrapped the metres of bubble wrap and tape, and there it was, first feeling in my hand was pretty impressive, just a nice amount of weight, and felt very solid. Given the cameras I know to compare it to, it was heavier than the Dynax 7 but not as heavy as the F4 with MB-20 grip, felt much more solid than the Dynax 7, and just as solid, but with a softer feel than the F4. The hand grip is nicely proportioned and being used to shooting Nikon digital cameras everything was familiar and fell to hand, and I soon had the batteries loaded, 50mm f1.4D lens mounted, strap attached and roll of Lomo 800 CN inserted. All straightforward, just a couple of things to note, I won’t be buying batteries off eBay again, I purchased 2 x CR123A and they wouldn’t light up a tea party for The Borrowers, never mind an auto everything camera. Secondly, inserting the film cartridge, requires you to do it top edge first, OK, but takes a bit of getting used to.

First Roll In this first period of acclimatising to the camera I decided to shoot how I normally do, mostly in aperture priority, without digging into the menus displayed on the rear LCD too deeply. The first menu challenge I found was that it was in Japanese, that was easy to put right, however bracketing was turned on also, this took a fair few prods of buttons to switch off, I guess I could have read the manual …

Other initial defaults I selected were single focusing mode AF-S, and matrix metering, I would leave it in matrix metering for these complete first 2 rolls of film. For the focus area I selected Group Dynamic AF Mode, a mode where a group of neighbouring focus areas are automatically selected, however I would frequently exit this mode to select manual single point AF mode, for many compositions this seemed a more reliable way of focussing. No doubt as I get to know the camera better I may find even easier ways of shooting, we will see !

For the first roll, Lomo 800 CN, Brian the dachshund and I went to the beach at New Brighton during the evening, light levels were reasonable but I was glad I had EI 800 to play with as the light would fade. Having said that, with an f1.4 lens I was frequently pushing that 1/8,000th of a second shutter speed. It’s quite easy to forget when in aperture priority and shooting wide open that you might need an even faster speed than 1/8,000th ! Seems like a first world problem, I know.

Anyhow, without any further ado, here’s a few shots from my first roll, all was simple and enjoyable to shoot, the only thing to mention was as I said before, I frequently chose to select the focus spot via the rear selector wheel, just to make sure my exact point of focus was selected.

Second Roll. So fully automatic cameras, you can go through a roll pretty quick right ? I was therefore ready the next day to shoot another roll, weather was still not the brightest, so I selected a 400 ISO film, Kodak Ultra Max. Now, a funny decision about the lens to shoot, I bought this camera for autofocus, but not all my Nikon lenses are autofocus, and you can shoot just about any of the F range of lenses with the F6 (barring the F3 AF lenses plus take care with pre-AI – requires a factory mod.) so I decided to see what manual focus was like and mounted my 50mm f2 AI lens taking care to switch focus to M before using. This photo trip was to Liverpool city centre, and here’s a few of my results.

Initial Thoughts Well I feel I got on with the F6 pretty well, the usual Nikon layout so pretty intuitive from the start, and feels great in the hand and I didn’t seem to notice any weight when carrying, although I do tend to use smaller primes rather than the big zooms. Even the manual focus method seemed to suit me, set the focus point in the viewfinder, and then focus until the green circle lights up and Bob’s your uncle.

That is of course using the camera in a very simple way, and there’s still an awful lot to learn about this camera, will all the advanced features be of use to me ? well only time will tell, but that’s not why I bought the camera in anycase. Also I still need to master smooth film cartridge loading without any fiddling, a small point but there nonetheless.

One last thought, will I now move completely away from manual cameras ? Somehow I don’t think so, all that Rokkor glass isn’t going to shoot itself . Thanks so much for reading if you got this far, I hope to go on to a more detailed article as I get to know the camera better.