Nikon F4 Review (+ Nikon F4 vs Leica M3)

A mini Nikon F4 film camera review comparing it in particular to a 35mm Leica M3 film camera + Nikon F4 sample photos (portraits and landscapes)

Nikon F4 Camera Review

Today I purchased a used Nikon F4 SLR 35mm film camera which was first released back in 1988 when I was only 10yr!  I already own an older Nikon FM SLR film camera and have experience with digital Nikon cameras before moving to Leicas.  I have owned a Nikon D90, Nikon D700 and still own and sometimes use my Nikon D800.  My Leica M9 is my main workhorse camera now and has been for a while but the Nikon D800 is still a very capable camera.

Kodak TMax 100 B&W

Nikon F4 Lenses

I have a range of Nikon mount lenses, including Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AI-s, 24f2.8D, 50f1.4D, 85f1.4D, 135f2.8, 35-70AF and the mighty Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-S. I also have Samyang lenses in Nikon mount including the amazing Samyang 85mm f1.4 and some M42 Zeiss lenses which I love to use via an adapter, Zeiss Planar 50mm f1.8 and Zeiss Pancolar 80mm f1.8.

Kodak Portra 160 B&W

35mm Nikon Film Cameras

As I now enjoy mostly film photography for personal work and thought it would be nice to get another Nikon SLR film body to make use of these lenses.  I looked at a range of options including Nikon F2, Nikon F5 and Nikon F100 but I settled on a Nikon F4.  I wanted to try a 35mm film camera with autofocus so that ruled out the older F2.  I like the idea of potentially buying a waist level finder so originally I had planned to get an F2 but then more recently I thought that if I start doing film only weddings a camera with autofocus might be nice for moving subjects.  I then looked at the F100 and F5 but they both looked quite big and heavy.  I preferred the Nikon F4 to the Nikon F4s or Nikon F4e as it is smaller without the extra battery grip.

M42 Zeiss Pancolar 80mm f1.8

Nikon vs Leica Film Cameras

I plan to use the Nikon F4 to compliment my Leica cameras.  If I do a quick Nikon F4 review comparison with my current favourite camera the Leica M3 you can see some of the ‘advantages’ of the more modern Nikon F4 film camera body.

Nikon F4!

Here are a few points that are important to me rather than a complete list:

8 Reasons why I bought a Nikon F4 –

Nikon F4 vs Leica M3

  • #1. Flash sync speed:
  • Nikon F4 flash sync = 1/250, The F4 is great for strobist work
  • Leica M3 = 1/50, not ideal for strobist work so I often use Bessa R3a (sync 1/125)
  • #2. Maximum shutter speed:
  • Nikon F4 shutter speed = 1/8000, removes need for ND filters
  • Leica M3  = 1/1000, M3 requires ND filters on fast lenses in bright sunlight
  • #3. Autofocus option?:
  • Nikon F4 autofocus = Yes, AF useful for moving subjects/ action.
  • Leica M3  = No, can pre-focus focus or retain a set hyperfocal distance
  • #4. Long lenses:
  • Nikon F4 telephoto = SLR works great with any lens, wide to telephoto like my Nikkor 200mm f2 lens
  • Leica M3  = 50mm rangefinder. External finder for 50mm harder to focus
  • #5. Batteries:
  • Nikon F4 battery = Requires 4x AA batteries. Adds weight. Can add battery grip to take 8x AA
  • Leica M3  = No battery needed. I do prefer cameras without batteries.
  • #6. Light Meter:
  • Nikon F4 light meter = Yes, Matrix, Centre-Weighted or Spot meter
  • Leica M3  = No light meter.  Use external hand held light meter
  • #7. Film advance:
  • Nikon F4 film advance = Auto film advance. No manual film advance lever. Can work more quickly
  • Leica M3  = Manual film advance lever (Single stroke or Double stroke models)
  • #8. Film rewind:
  • Nikon F4 rewind = Auto film rewind. Great in a time pressure environment like a wedding
  • Leica M3  = Manual film rewind.  Not ideal if needs to change film quickly

As you can see if you list the two cameras side by side the Nikon F4 should really compliment my two Leica M3 cameras.  I look forward to reporting back soon once it arrives and I get chance to use it. For a full specification Nikon F4 review check out Ken Rockwell’s site linked below.

UPDATE: Since the Nikon F4 camera arrived I have used it a huge amount.  Here are more Nikon blog posts using the Nikon F4 –

Nikon F4 Portraits

As a people photographer I have lots of Nikon F4 portraits as example images using this camera.  The Nikon F4 even lead to me buying multiple new Nikon mount lenses including those listed below and the Tamron 45mm f1.8 lens + more.  Great camera!

Female Beauty

Nikon F4 Manual Focus + Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 lens

Dusty Film Scan

Nikon F4 Autofocus + Tokina 100mm f2.8 Macro lens

Tokina 100mm Portrait

Nikon F4 Landscapes

I enjoyed using F4 in San Francisco to for a few Nikon F4 landscapes (blog still to follow)

35mm Kodak T-Max 400

Nikon F4 vs Nikon F5

I have not had chance to write a full Nikon F4 vs Nikon F5 camera comparison yet but you can view my Nikon F5 review to get a good idea.

Wait! Do you have film?

After reading this article hopefully you are now ready to get out and start shooting!  Have you got film ready to load?  Here are some of my favourite / the best films that I use in the Nikon F4 camera for portraits.

Colour film
Black and white film

More Nikon Camera Reviews!

Nikon SLR vs Leica SLR!

Nikon mount lens reviews
You may also like… What Gear I Use for Portraits!
  • See full details of my portrait photography lighting kit HERE
  • See full details of my portrait photography equipment kit – HERE

13 thoughts on “Nikon F4 Review”

      1. You’ll be alright in general, just a reminder incase you didn’t know. A sekonic will be ok, i am sure you can get used to it using the spotmeter too. And I am jealous of your smaller MB20 battery holder :), I have the bigger MB21 and it’s hard to find the MB20 without spending a lot of money.

  1. I was somewhat surprised by this post Matthew. It comes across as a pot boiler. Better to put something out rather than waiting for something with substance to come along.

    Don’t get me wrong, the F4 is a fine camera. However it is bigger and heavier than the F100 which you dismissed for looking big and heavy. The F5 is effectively an F4 but more rounded. Why would you want a WLF on a 35mm camera? That is bonkers, just for landscape format, no good for weddings.

    Then the comparison with the Leica M3. That to me comes across as obtuse. They are totally different cameras for different modes of operation. I can’t think of any situation in which one would have to choose between the two.

    The reason it leapt out at me is that usually your approach is methodical, not random like this one. Not long ago you got rid of a Contax 645 because it was too easy to use. Now you opt for an equivalent with inferior lenses and format.

    Have I completely missed the point of your post?

  2. Hi Jezza, thanks for your thoughts. My post had no ‘point’ as such. I just like to detail my thoughts on latest purchases and gear tried. The Leica M3 is perhaps my favourite camera so to me any new comer camera needs to be compared to the M3. Yes they are very different tools but both with their advantages. The dated ability of the M3 sometimes makes life difficult for me when I wish to use strobes so a newer film body like this ticks all my boxes. Yes many Nikon lenses wont match the best Leica lenses but there are a few nice ones out there. In a way I am almost excited by the challange to make hopefully as nice photos with cheap equipment as it shows to those not able to buy a Leica that you don’t actually need expensive gear to make nice photos. Common sense I realise. Yes I sold my Contax as too DSLR like but as I start to bring film more and more into my paid work I have found sometimes some of the ‘mod cons’ of newer film bodies are very useful. I apologise for the f100 mis-description. I got mixed up in my reading and haven’t changed it since. I’m sorry it looks like a pot boiler. It really isn’t. I have a huge backlog of posts to write and share longer than both my arms but I currently don’t have that much time to write with wedding editing and the like. That takes priority and I try to squeeze out a few posts when I get chance inbetween. I hope that makes a little sense and don’t feel you need to find a point to all my posts. It was not a comparison of which camera was better. More a brain dump of the pros and cons of both. The M3 would win hands down every day! 😉 Matt

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  8. I use the F100 and I am very happy. When I receive the camera there was a problem with the autofocus (the camera was focusing back) but I could adjust (there is a screw for that and I was lucky because the first trial was successful).
    I have a Nikkor 90 f1.4 and a Nikkor 35 f2, both very good lenses and reasonable prices.

    1. matthewosbornephotography

      Thanks Pedro! I’m glad you fixed it. You are much smarter than me for sure! Nice lenses too!

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