My stuff + experiences with the Nikon F5

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It's not the body that does it and it's not the gadgets. It's the eyes and the mind of the human observer behind the gear that can turn a scene into a decent image. Now, where's that mind?

The channel in Hüfingen. Click for 1024 x 768
The channel in the city of Hüfingen, Germany. May 1999.
Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 20mm/2,8D on Ilford XP2 Super.

Other photography pages on this site
Our Camera Obscura discussion forum | The complete F5 review
Fuji Velvia Film
| SB-24 review | The former F-401 (N4004)
Importing gear to Europe
| Leaves Portfolio | People | Power links

Page overview

Here you can read about my first experiences with the Nikon F5 camera and accessories, read about how I [mis]use the stuff and get some price information. Also check out the links to reviews and specs on Nikon gear. If the pictures on this page look too dark, try to correct the Gamma settings of your monitor or, write me an e-mail.

F5 comes to Daddy
May 19th 1999

My first impressions

The virgin roll

Summary of my first mistakes

May 20th 1999

May 24th 1999

May 28th 1999

June 1st 1999 - or a second summary of my "first" mistakes

July 8th 1999 - the 80-200 experience

August 1st 1999 - the MH-30 experience

My stuff (and product related links)
Nikon F5

SB-24 Flashlight

Nikkor AF 20mm/2.8D

Nikkor AF 50mm/1.4

Nikkor AF 80-200mm/2.8D
Nikon Coolscan III (LS-30)

Related links
Several external links to handpicked sites.

Bo's review on the Nikon F5 - Another page on this site.
Bo's review on the SB-24 flashlight
- Another page on this site.

I rather read about importing photo gear from the USA on the next page.

Get interactive - try out our Camera Obscura discussion forum!

F5 comes to Daddy

May 19th 1999. Well, at last I got the Nikon F5 from the other side of the puddle. After paying the additional import fees at the customs of Villingen (merely 600 Deutsche Marks - hey, you can get a somewhat decent 2nd body for that!), I had this little 1 kg box in my trembling hands. After opening the box, I loaded an old (August 98, though refrigerator cooled) Fujicolor HG 1600 in the camera - thought it might be smart to make the first mistakes on something which was doomed to fail anyway :-)

My first impressions

1. Nice camera; robust and fits those big hands of mine.

2. Wow, this one is fast: The AF works really quick and precise, even in low-light.

3. Yowza! I can even understand most of it; the arrangement of the controls is easy to grasp and you can lock (either by software or by hardware) any controls which might be easy to change by mistake.

The virgin roll

Going out into the darkness of this little village, bringing my Bilora Favorit 820 tripod with me. Quickly killing off the virgin Fuji roll. Back into the house. Fumbling with the rewind buttons. Rapidly blinking error LED. Thinking "Yeah, first roll of film By West...". Pressing the tiny push buttons again. A humming noise. Stops. "Can't be the whole roll, can it?" A sadistic grin plastered on my face as I lean over, putting the camera in the shades of the table while pulling the back open. Correct - it wasn't the whole film. Snapping the back shut. Next try. Buttons pressed firmly. ZzzZzzZZrrrrr..qqqqk. Silence. Ok, must've been the whole film. Opening the back again. Positive result - no silver to be seen.

Summary of my first mistakes and experiences with the F5

1. The error LED blinks rapidly to indicate that you have started to rewind a film but the operation is not completed. I couldn't find this rapid LED blink indication in the manual.

2. I kept the two film rewind buttons pressed for a while, maybe for two seconds and then let loose. This was the mistake: if you let loose, the rewinding stops. Hey, what's this? Even my tiny F-401 kept on rewinding even if I'd let go off the buttons. Now I know it: you got to keep the buttons pressed until the motor stops - or at least for a longer period of time (not sure for how long). Added June 10th: It looks like you must keep the rewind button #1 pressed for the whole time the film is rewinding (you can let go of button #2). If you let go of button #1 the rewinding stops, combined with an angrily blinking Error LED. Pressing the button again and the rewinding starts anew. Comment made later. As several readers have noted: You do not need to keep button #1 nor button #2 depressed the whole time to rewind the film: Both buttons holds by themself when depressed completely and the lever stays up by itself - let the F5 do the job for you.

3. The IR light on the SB-24 flashlight doesn't light up to help the AF if you're using the (C)ontinous AF servo function - at first I thought the IR light on the flashlight malfunctioned... This is sort of mentioned in the SB-24 booklet though.

4. The vertical shutter button is disabled if you have your flashlight turned on. This is a strangie... and I got to get this one confirmed for sure.

May 20th 1999. Brought the camera with me to the office. Was eager to try out the 20mm/2.8 on my fellow collegue photo victims. Packed two extra rolls of b/w Ilford XP2 400 Super while having one in the camera.

The 20/2.8D is a nice lense. I even think I got some good pictures too. Especially some colleagues will be pleased...

The pictures will be put online for everyone of living systems [e] to "enjoy" here later on.

May 24th 1999. I have now shot the following film with the F5:

2 (aged) rolls of Fujicolor HG 1600
1 roll of Fujichrome Sensia II 100
5 rolls of Ilford XP2 Super 400

Flowers at St. Märgen. Click for 1024 x 768
Flowers on a field. St.Märgen, the Black Forest, Germany, May 1999. Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 20mm/2,8D on Fujichrome Sensia II 100.

May 28th 1999. Plugged the first Velvia slide film into the F5. Hoping for the best - expecting the worst :-) Was a lovely evening here and I had some interesting-light-situations around the river Breg late evening. If they turned out more or less OK, I'll post them on the site.

June 1st 1999 - or the second summary of my "first" mistakes

The F5 starts to behave strange :-(((. Mainly the following strangies have happened throughout the last days:

1. When switching from (S)ingle film transport to timer and then back to (S), it has happened that ERR blinks in the LCD's and then the mirror locks wide open for some time after I've been trying to take a new picture. Turning off and on the camera forced the film to be transported one frame and the ERR indication vanished.

2. After inserting a roll and loading it, the film transport stops halway, ERR blinking in the LCDs. I rewind the film manually and redo the operation. It now works ok and the film counter indicates "1". The battery indicator is on half, indicating that there is still some power left in the batteries.

I slowly start to think that the camera needs to be repaired and feel a tad sad about it. After repeatingly trying to load a new roll of film, always ending up with ERR blinking, I of a sudden see that the battery power indicator blinks. Ohoh. Rapidly switching batteries and the "problem" is gone. I have now found out that:

1. Don't simply trust the battery indicator.
2. Switch batteries more or less directly when the "half good" indicator is displayed, don't wait for it to start blinking.

It looks like the coreless motors in the F5 have quite an extreme rush current, i.e. the initial current needed for the motors is very high (seems like it was the film transport motor that mainly was responsible for the voltage drop), causing the voltage to shortly - though rapidly - drop below a state where the camera doesn't function properly. This could very well be an odd behaviour of the alkaline batteries which came with the camera (not a brand that I know of, yellow colored, US made). I guess they reach a nasty, high inner resistance when worn down, causing this behaviour. Btw, I am into buying the rechargable NiMH accumulator pack (MN-30) together with the MH-30 charger.

Developers at living systems AG. Click for 1024 x 768

August 1999. Some of the folks at living systems AG [e]. If you want to see more of my current pictures, check out the people page. Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 80-200mm/2.8 D at close to 200mm.


July 8th 1999. The Nikkor AF 80-200/2.8D zoom arrived today from Würzburger Fotoversand (Germany) [e]. This is the new version with separate rings for focus and zoom plus integrated, rotating tripod collar. My first impressions:

1. Solidly built, not feeling plastic (eventhough some parts are made out of plastic). The metal parts are all painted with "shrink" paint, making the lens look good.

2. The manual focus ring doesn't have a very smooth touch to it. From this class of lens I think one might expect a bit more "smooth feeling" - eventhough it's an AF lens, targeting foremost people who don't like manual focus.

3. The 77mm opening is lovely, this piece of glas is really a turn on to look at :-)

4. The fixing screw for the 290 deg revolving tripod collar is precise, just some more than a quarter of a turn and the collar is locked in the desired position. The rotation of the collar has the feeling I would like to experience with the manual focus ring.

5. A slide switch at the front part of the lens limits the focus range (stops at 3,0m) - really a good feature if one is not into using the lens for macro, since it improves focus speed. With no limit, the macro range is on, capable of focusing objects at a distance of minimum 1,5 m. Oh yes, you can either use the limit slide switch for limiting the focus to stay beloiw 3,0m or to stay above 3,0m.

6. It is quite a large lens for 80-200. I once had a cheap Nikkor AF 70-210 (I think it was 210), and this one is way heavier (1300g) and bigger over all, though still is nice to hold. It balances good in the hands with the F5 attached.

7. The focus range limit slide switch, the manual focus ring, the selector ring for AF or manual and the zoom ring can all be operated with merely no movement of the hand.

8. AF is quite fast though the F5 must often make minor corrections after the rough focus has been achieved. The speed seems to be really OK for my endevours, but I guess it eats up the F5 batteries quite fast.

8. It came with a black, lens carrying "cylinder" (CL-43A) which seems quite well isolated. As I am intending to keep the lens on the F5 for a while, I'm not sure if I'll need it that much. I currently misuse the CL-43A for carrying around the 20mm (when I switch the two, I drop the 80-200 in the cylinder for a short while).

9. I feel it was a good buy. I first thought of the AF-S (Silent Wave) version, but its price tag of some 3.400 DM made me choose this one instead. The S version has a faster (and close to noiseless) AF since it comes with built-in ultrasonic-driven motors. With the normal AF version, the F5 must drive the glas. The S version is also said to have an edge of better optics (eventhough the optics of this legendary lens is really high quality), due to its five ED glas pieces compared to three ED's of this lens.

10. This is the first zoom lens that I own which doesn't change the length of the tube while you zoom - I think this is really a plus compared to outer zoom lenses: The weight balance of this lens doesn't traverse much of anything as you zoom and if you're not into letting photo objects (people) know if you are shooting them with 80 or 200, this feature is another plus. The front lens moves inside the tube as you zoom - in the AF-S version one of the inner pieces move, so I don't guess you really can call this an "inner zoom" lens, yet, I like it.

Side note: It's interesting to see that Pentax' comparable lens, also a 80-200/2,8, is listed at 3.200 DM - with comparable features. This is likely due to that Pentax are forced to manufacture smaller series than Nikon and Canon.

August 1st 1999. Got the Ni-Metal-Hydride accumulator pack (MN-30) plus the charger MH-30 from scandinavian photo [e] today. My first impressions:

1. Having a rough idea what's needed to produce a charger like this, I think the small, dual accumulator charger at some DM 580,- is well overpriced.

2. The power supply connector on the MN-30 pack is located "on the wrong side", i.e. on the short end of the pack which is inside the camera when you've inserted it. This means that you cannot charge the pack while it's in the camera, not speaking of "misusing" the charger as a powersupply. I think this is a minus, nevermind the some DM 200,- Nikon charges for each accumulator. Of course, the tiny cables of the charger wouldn't be much of any use for a real power supply anyway. Nikon sells a separate "dummy pack" with a power supply for this purpose...

All in all, if you have a F5, I guess you also really want to have the charger and some MN-30's, no matter the hefty price tag: Only in combination with the MN-30 you'll reach the top film speed and rewinding time - and you don't have to bother about having enough batteries in your pockets either.

Sunrise over the Baar. Click for 1024 x 768

May 1999 - caught the sun rising at 05:30. It had been raining heavily in the night, hence the interesting clouds. If you want to see more of my current pictures, check out the Velvia page. Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 20mm/2,8D.

My Stuff (and product related links)

Nikon F5

Most obviously this is one of the killer SLR 35mm bodies: 8 frames per second while autofocusing in-between, 5 CPU's (3x16bit, 1x8bit and 1x4 bit), 4 coreless motors, a memory (ROM) capacity beating any camera before it, a self-calibrating shutter made for at least 150.000 operations all coming in a alluminium-alloy housing with a detachable viewer housing in titanium. You can find more information on the F5 by clicking on the following links:

A comprehensive F5 review - on this site.

Moose Peterson's Nikon F5 site [e] (excellent!)
Moose's a great wildlife photographer and gives many hints on how to use the F5 - especially focused towards nature/wildlife of course.

A fun to read and informative review on the camera can be found in wildlife photographer John W. Herbst's article on his F5 [e].

Mason Resnick and his "Special report" on the F5 [e].

A short overview on the F5 can be found at Klaus Schroiff's WWW Photo Zone [e] and also at Sorgenfrey's pages [e].

Nikon USA's F5 product page [e].

There are more Nikon links at the bottom of this page.

A must have book on the F5 (in German) is Günter Richter's Nikon F5 (ISBN: 3-87467-680-3), Laterna magica, 2nd ed. 1998. You can order it from [e].

Price info on the F5

The official retail price is somewhere around DM 4.500,- in Germany.
You can get it for DM 4.100,- at the Würzburger Fotoversand (Germany) [e]. At the US eBay online auction [e] , most F5's are sold for 1.500-1.800 USD. I got mine for 1.625 USD.

You may want to have a look at my information pertaining buying in the USA if you're interested in buying new or used gear in the States and import it to Europe. Another related page is the comprehensive F5 review, also located on this site.

SB-24 Flashlight
The 24 is (sort of) the SB-28 "Predator" (the SB-26 was in between). The picture is of an SB-28. The SB-24 looks fairly similar.

The SB-24 does most of the magic that comes with the SB-28, incl. "Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash". The SB-28 can also do "3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill Flash", something the SB-24 isn't capable of. I will keep my 24 for a while, as I'm not sure if I need the SB-28 due to more or less only that function. I have a short review on the SB-24 including specifications on this site.

A sales oriented, but great FAQ on Nikon flash related issues can be found at Lumiquest's site [e].

Price info on the SB-24 / SB-28

The SB-24 is out of date and is no more available in the stores. It's normally in the range of 200 USD on eBay [e] , whereas the SB-28 normally goes for 250-300 USD there.
The new SB-28 is DM 680,- at the Würzburger Fotoversand (Germany) [e]. I bought my SB-24 back in 1991 for some DM 630,- in a local photo store.

Stilleben: Click for 1024 x 768
Stilleben. May 1999. Ok, granted, not a "classy shot", nevertheless I think it's nice, esp. the cigarette smoke coming up from the full ashtray :-)
Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 50mm/1.4 and SB-24 on Ilford XP2 Super at ISO 400

Nikkor AF 20mm/2.8D

A 20mm lens is interesting. With it you can go out taken landscape shots without getting fish-eyed, but getting more or less the whole view at 94 degrees. You can also use it for "environmental portraits", having a humble object somewhere in the middle of the frame and all of the interesting surroundings too. Due to the construction of this lens, you achieve a total field of depth (FoD) at F22 - from your feet to the horizon. Some say that this lens is a tad sensitive - I guess the complex construction in a small, physical package is the reason.

A great review on this lense, incl. do's and dont's with an ultra wide can be found on one of Ron Hashiro's pages [e]

Philip Greenspun also has a nice page about the 20mm [e] with some good shots taken with it (and one not so good taken with a broken 20mm lens).

Foo Leonard has a review on the Nikkor AF 20mm/2.8 in his lens report [e]. Speaks generally about the non AF version.

In a user driven lens rating, the 20mm/2.8 got a total of 71 points (scoring 3rd in its class) out of 100 possible points. Beaten by Leica Elmarit-R 2.8 19mm and barely beaten by the Canon EF 2.8 20mm USM. Check out Klaus Schroiff's WWW photo zone and his lens rating [e].

Nikon USA's product info on the 20mm/2,8 D [e]

Price info on the AF 20mm/2.8D

The AF 20mm/2.8 D is DM 1.150,- at the Würzburger Fotoversand (Germany) [e]. I got mine at the US e-bay online auction [e] for 425 USD.


Nikkor AF 50mm/1.4

The picture is of the D version. Mine is a non-D lens.

This is the traditional focal length. Due to the simplicity of 50mm lenses, they are cheap to manufacture and generally come with very high optical quality - due to the few pieces of glas needed. Another plus is that you see what you get, i.e. the scaling factor is approx. 1:1 with a 50mm lens on 35mm film.

The 50/1,4 is a sharp lens, only beaten in some tests by its way cheaper 1,8 cousin(!). The Nikon 50mm/1,4 received 72,2 points out of 100 possible (4th place in its class) at Klaus Schroiff's WWW photo zone lens rating [e]. It was beaten by two Leica's and one Zeiss'.

Several 50mm Nikkor's are tested on Nicke's Nikon Pages [e].

Nikon USA's product info on the 50mm/1.4 D [e]

Price info on the AF 50mm/1.4 D

The AF 50mm/1.4 D is DM 580,- at the Würzburger Fotoversand (Germany) [e].
I bought my non-D in 1994 for some DM 600 in a local photo store.


Nikkor AF 80-200mm/2.8D

This lens and its predecessor have become legends in the Nikkor series. These short tele zooms are all extremely sharp with great color rendering. Most people say this is a must have lens if you're into Nikon - I think they're right. Only problem with it is its weight: At 1,3kg it makes an F5 setup weigh short off 3,0kg. There are a couple of recent shots with this lens on the people's page on this site.

Nelson Tan's great review on the S version of this lens [e].
Most of it applies to the non-S as well. Many great photos on this page.

Phil Greenspuns great review on the 80-200 [e].
As always, Phil has included a whole bunch of great pictures - this time around taken with the original (one touch)
Nikkor 80-200.

Ara Anjargolians great review on the 80-200 [e]
A must see.

Jed's test results on the 80-200 [e]
Optical quality evaluation on the lens.

David Ruether's info on the 80-200 [e]
Incluides comparisons against other Nikon zooms.

Nikon USA's short product info on the 80-200 [e]
Not much, but it's from the manufacturer.

Price info on the AF 80-200/2.8D

The AF 20-200mm/2.8 D is DM 1.850,- at the Würzburger Fotoversand (Germany) [e].

Nikon Coolscan-III (LS-30)

This is the new, improved version of the older LS-20. It performs automatic removal of dust and scratches and delivers 10-bits of color info per color (30 bits in total). It's a nice dia/negative (and APS optional) scanner if you're not willing to pay the double for a LS-2000 Super Coolscan.

Nikon USA's product info on the Coolscan-III [e]

Price info on the Coolscan-III

The LS-30 is DM 1.900,- at the Würzburger Fotoversand (Germany) [e]. I bought mine there bundled with the Epson 700 Photo printer for a total of DM 2.100,-

Dort (nicht) hier. Click for 1024 x 768
"there (not) here". A (faked) sign outside a tourist information bureau in the city of Rottweil, southern Germany August 1999. Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 80-200/2.8D at some 100mm on Fuji Velvia.

More (or less) related links

Some links which may be of interest. You may want to have a look at the power links page on this site for more links.

Michael McLennan's Nikon Links Page [e]. This is a fairly huge link list.

Neal Vaughan's orderly and well compiled list of Nikon links [e]. This is a really nice site with links that are up-to-date.

Nicke's Nikon Page [e] (links to several Nikon related sites - most found on Michael's page too though).

Don's Nikon links [e]
Quite a number of them.

Andy Kim's Nikon 35mm System review [e] is also a nice place to visit. Most information are on lenses.

The German company Schneider (manufacturer of among others the B+W filters). This is the link to their B+W filters [e] (english).

Make a comment on contents of this page or read what others said about it.

All procuct images on this page Courtesy of Nikon Corporation.
Other pictures on this page Copyright (C) by Bo Stahlbrandt 1999, 2001.
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