Nikon F5 Review - Girl with Nikon

Nikon F5 Review (Best Nikon Film Camera?)

Qu. Nikon F5: The Best Nikon Film camera? + YouTube Video
>>  In this review I explain why I bought the Nikon F5 & why it is the Best Nikon Film Camera for me
Nikon F5 Photographer

Nikon F5 SLR Camera

I bought the Nikon F5 35mm film camera last (2017) year but I didn’t get a chance to write about it. I won’t write a detailed Nikon F5 review here as I will only be duplicting the work of others before me.  (Check Ken Rockwell’s website if you want camera specifications).  Instead I will focus on a few key facts, some of my thoughts so far and finish off with a few of my Nikon F5 Flickr photos to show what the Nikon F5 can do.

1996 Nikon F5 – Brief History

The Nikon F5 SLR (“Single lens reflex”) camera was released in 1996 and replaced my Nikon F4 that was first released 8 years earlier.  The Nikon F5 was one of the last professional spec Nikon film bodies (the last was the Nikon F6 I believe) before they switched to digital. When I look at the Nikon F5 it always reminds me of a Nikon D4 or something of a similar pro level today.

Nikon F5 Pro Level SLR

The Nikon F5 oozes quality and is a fine-looking camera I think, even coming from the Leica camp (where people think we can only appreciate other Leica cameras)(Not me). The Nikon F5 is very different to a Leica but still built well build.  I would say a Leica is more of a precision tool, which is built to last but needs more care.  I think the Nikon F5 could survive a drop down a flight of stairs and still work (my Nikon F4 survived this and it is less rugged than the F5).

Nikon before Leica (My history with Nikon)

I used digital Nikon cameras before I discovered Leica cameras and owned first a crop sensor Nikon D90, then a full frame Nikon D700 camera and finally a Nikon D800 that I bought on pre-release. It was not until a few years later that I bought my  first Leica, a Leica M9.  Having come from having digital Nikon cameras I still own some very nice Nikon F mount lenses.  I can now use all of these lenses on the Nikon F5 so I’m glad I kept them. I also own two other Nikon film bodies, a Nikon FM and the aforementioned Nikon F4.  I will compare my three Nikon film cameras in a separate article.


Nikon F5 Camera Review

Nikon F5 Review – Top 3 features (for me)

1. Nikon F5 – Well built

As mentioned above it feels like the Nikon F5 is built to last and feels less fragile than a Leica.  (By this I mean the Leica  rangefinder calibration can be knocked out of alignment if easily if the camera is knocked). The Nikon F5 is not a light camera with the camera body alone weighing 1.2kg (without the 8 AA batteries) A Leica M3 bodies weighs less than half that of the F5 at 580g (and it still feels quiet weighty for it’s compact size). The added weight of the Nikon F5 gives a good solid sturdy feel but doesn’t suit packing light for overseas trips and model shoots!

2. Nikon F5 – Fast autofocus

I bought the Nikon F5 specifically as the Nikon F4 auto focus is unusable for moving subjects (for me). The F4 is so slow I missed almost every photo. I can focus a manual focus Leica much faster than the F4 autofocus. In addition to this, I wanted to enjoy using telephoto autofocus lenses on the F5.  One example lens is the Nikkor 180mm f2.8 AFD which I bought in my Leica ‘era’.  Using an SLR camera and long lenses is a different photography experience to using a Leica camera. With a Leica I tend to use shorter focal length lenses, often 21mm-90mm.  My eyesight is not good enough to use a long lens without AF at a distance on an SLR camera so I appreciate the fast auto focusing of the Nikon F5.

3. Nikon F5 – Bright viewfinder

Lastly I enjoy the modern looking big bright viewfinder with focus confirmation. I use manual focus lenses on the Nikon F5 too so it is great to confirm if I have a subject in focus and can see accurately enough with just my eyesight.

So.. Is the Nikon F5 the Best Nikon Film Camera?

The answer is it depends on what camera features are most important to you when you think of the best Nikon film camera.  If for you the smallest lightest Nikon SLR is best then you would prefer the Nikon FM (from the cameras I use).  Perhaps you want your Nikon SLR camera to have autofocus and you mostly photograph static subjects then the Nikon F4 SLR offers autofocus in a smaller lighter camera body (vs the F5). 

If however you need a film camera to photograph fast action photography such as motorsport then the Nikon F5 could well be the best Nikon film camera for you.   It is not small nor lightwight but it the Nikon F5 shoots 8fps vs only 4fps for my Nikon F4.  Not only that the Nikon F5 focus seems much advanced that the Nikon F4, focusing faster, hunting less and seems to nail focus regularly.  So for me yes the Nikon F5 is the best Nikon film camera when size is not an issue (even though I shoot portraits, fashion and weddings and not motorsport!).

Nikon vs Leica

I wrote a lot more for this review (over double the length) but it was going off topic comparing Nikon to Leica rather than the F5.  Instead I have cut this post here and will share the less Nikon F5 specific part another time. On to the Nikon F5 photos!

Nikon F5 Flickr photos

*(Click any photo to see the lens/ film used)

B&W Portraits
B&W Film Developing
Nikon F5 Studio Shoot
Nikon F5 Portrait
Voigtlander Ultron 40mm F2 SL II
Kodak Eastman 5222 Double-X
Nikon F5 Camera Review
Tenerife Photoshoot
Nikon F5 B&W Fashion
End of the film
Nikon F5 Colour film
Nikon F5 Camera
Kodak Portra 400 Portrait

Nikon F5 Camera Review – Note

I appreciate you probably didn’t learn anything new from this mini Nikon F5 camera review and I only cover perhaps 1% of the Nikon F5 features. Hopefully the sample images will give a taster of what the Nikon F5 can do using the most basic F5 camera setting.  For me the final image is the reason I buy a camera.

The 2 comparison posts to follow will help cover more of the specifics and will help when deciding between buying a Leica or a Nikon and a Nikon F4 vs Nikon F5 (for example).

Nikon F4 vs Nikon F5

If you want some of the modern benefits the Nikon F5 brings but in a smaller package you might like the Nikon F4 camera. As mentioned above it offers autofocus and other features yet only takes 4x AA batteries vs 8x AA batteries in the Nikon F5. If you prefer knobs and dials you might prefer the Nikon F4 vs F5 and like the F5 it is very well built. (Mine surived a drop down concrete stairs!)

Nikon F100 vs Nikon F5

If you like the more modern almost Nikon DSLR design but want to shoot film then the Nikon F100 might be for you. Smaller and lighter than the Nikon F5 but giving the same photos in most conditions.

Want something cheaper? Try the Nikon F80

The Nikon F80 is a Nikon F100 cheap alternative but again it gives the same photos.

Something more manual? Nikon FE2 &..

If like me you prefer something smaller and more manual definitely check out the Nikon FM, FE, FM2, FE2 cameras. I love them!

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 F5 camera for portraits.

Colour film
Black and white film

More Nikon Blog Posts!

Nikon mount lens reviews

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11 thoughts on “Nikon F5 Review (Best Nikon Film Camera?)”

  1. Pingback: - BLOG - - Matthew Osborne Photography

  2. Outstanding, Matt. Love my F100. Such a nice camera and so durable and seemingly effortless to work with. From the appearances of your work, that Tokina 100 macro seems to be a heck of a lens. I saw it pop up a few times this weekend in various searches. I’ve been struggling with what to add to the arsenal for 100mm+ for my F100 (versus my Sony A7Rs). Ideally something that could work well w the F100 and my Sony bodies (adapted) is the goal. A local boutique shop offered a nice copy of the Nikon 105 2.5 but I honestly couldn’t get excited for some reason. (Perhaps Zeiss has spoiled me.) Anyway, that image of the girl with the hat is stellar. The Nikon 50 1.4D is an inexpensive and fantastic lens, btw.

    (P.S. the girl w/ leopard spots is a Leica image.)

    1. matthewosbornephotography

      Thank you Scott! Thanks for spotting the ‘eake’ Nikon shot too! Corrected 🙂 Yes I am a big fan of the Tokina 100mm lens. I will have to do a mini review on just that soon to pool together some of the images. If you near to 100mm but a lot smaller the Leica 90mm fantastic and would pair well with the Sony (a friend uses Leica glass on his Sony).. but it depends on need and budget. Leica stuff tends to cost more than Tokina!.. but I like the fact it is just glass and metal. It can be my pension fund too 🙂

      Lastly I have the 50mm f1.4D. Maybe I have a bad copy but I don’t rate mine at all. The Voigtlander 40mm f2 or 65mm Micro are so much better. The Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH is the best do every 50 I use. Thanks again for the support Scott. Matt

  3. Excellent work man. I love my f5 because of the reasons you mentioned…mostly because it is rock solid and looks the real deal. I have an f100 as well that I use for black and white film only. Both in awesome condition. Nice pics too man.👌

    1. matthewosbornephotography

      Thanks Ralph, yes a great camera. I used the F5 a lot in 2018 so I should probably use some of my other cameras a bit more this year ha! I just had 2 Hasselblads back from repair so maybe it’s time to shoot more 6×6! 🙂 Happy shooting!

    1. matthewosbornephotography

      Hi Hector, thanks! Yes nice models always help I think 🙂 If you are a Nikon guy I have quite a few Nikon mount lens reviews half written so will be coming soonish. Feel free to sign up if not already and you’ll get an email when I release them. Cheers Matt

  4. Thank you for the article sir. I love the F5. It focuses instantly the weight is just right for me. Feels like I have a well-built high quality camera (which it is). I have many Nikon and many other cameras. One day I will do a comparison between the F5 and the Leica R8. Love that camera too. You keep up the good work and take lots of photos. Thank you sir.

  5. Lots of people complain about the F5 size and weight. I guess if you are a GIRLY MAN this might be a big issue. Should we mention my Hasselblad 500CM with the PM-90 and a loaded A12 back? I began using Nikon cameras in 1973 (I am 63 now) and have every single F-series camera from the FTN through the F5 (no need for an F6, why?), all with motor drives/battery packs, so I am used to heavy cameras. Although I love my FE2/MD12, it almost feels toy like in my hands compared to the F series. The same goes with my digital ones. My D850 with the MB-D18 and the single EN-EL-18a battery is roughly 1 inch taller and a full 30g heavier than the F5 with 8 NiMH AA’s and a 36 exposure roll of film. I really don’t hear many people complaining about the size and weight of the D850 with the battery grip.

    1. matthewosbornephotography

      Great point Scott haha, yes I used to use a D800 + 200 f2 on one hip and D700 with wide on other hip for weddings. My Hassy + prism is still lighter than my RZ and all of these dont even come close to the 4×5 Speed Graphic + Aero Ektar lens. I have big cameras but my goto are smaller ones, Leica Barnacks etc.

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