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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Photography Notes: Nikon F4 Quick Review

Nikon F4
By JC Leahy

If you want a classic-looking professional SLR camera, consider using a 35mm film Nikon F4 and spending the $3,000-$5,000 savings on lenses, lighting, tripods, and other supporting peripherals.  You can go full-frame digital later and migrate all the lenses and most or all peripherals to the digital platform. 

The F4 was the "big Kahuna" among pro SLR's from its introduction in 1988 until the F5 was introduced in 1996.  It is built rugged like a tank and shouts to the world that you are a serious photographer with a serious camera. It feels like a work of art in your hands and the sound of the shutter is exquisite.  Why choose the F4 rather than an F5 or F6?  It's much cheaper on the used camera market.  It's lighter to carry.  With it's analog-looking dials and controls, it has that classic look that disappeared with the F5.  Very importantly, the F4 allows matrix metering with non-chip Nikon lenses; something (amazingly) not possible with the F5 or F6.  This gives the F4 the BEST OLD/NEW LENS COMPATIBILITY OF ANY NIKON F-SERIES CAMERA !!!!!!! 

Given this old/new lens compatibility, you can use the F4 with just about any Nikon lens manufactured since 1959. This provides you a big selection of the best lenses that money can buy. The F4 looks good and feels good in your hands. It runs on standard AA batteries. The F4 can be a full manual camera or you can employ different modes of automation. The camera can track a moving subject, continuously refocusing on it and taking pictures at a rate of up to 5.7 per second. Light metering can be set for traditional spot metering, center weighted, or an intelligent evaluative matrix metering. It's electronically controlled, vertical-travel focal plane shutter can sync with flash at a shutter speed of up to 1/250 of a second.  Shutter speed can be set as fast as 1/8000 of a second.  For exposure control, you can choose from shutter priority, aperture priority, programmable automatic, or full manual. There is, of course a shoe mount for attaching a flash.  Oddly missing, however, is automatic exposure bracketing unless you have an unusual, optional date back.

All in all, with lighter weight, extremely rugged construction, lower cost, and greater lens compatiblity, the Nikon F4 is a solid and satisfying choice for a professional film camera.

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