Ode to the Nikon F5 – Mental Time Travel


In early 2005 I was ruminating the purchase of a Nikon D2X. At the time, the camera cost US$5000. That's a hunk of money for anyone to part with! I wrote an article called Ode to the Nikon F5 because I was wondering if I should forget digital and stay with film. I was shooting with a Nikon D100 (6 megapixel) and was unsure if I should get the Nikon D2X pro digital or buy a Nikon F6 and stick with film. I already had a Nikon F5 film camera and was really torn between two worlds. Digital was bright and shiny, but not yet fully developed. Film was proven and faithful, yet on the way out as the mainstream way to shoot for most photographers. As you read this article I wrote seven years ago, see if you can identify with my feelings. Did you ever feel this way?


(Entering 2005)

Ode to the Nikon F5

Here I sit contemplating in East Tennessee, on a cold January night. To my right is my 35mm bag, with my trusty F5 and N80. To my left is my digital bag with my D100 and D70. At my feet is my medium format bag with my RB67 and Agfa Isolette folder. I am surrounded by my camera buddies who've gone so many places with me over the last few years.

I've been reading exciting new ads and reviews for the last several days. The D2X is almost here, the F6 has arrived, and medium format is dying. I want a D2X with its 12+ megapixel image and I want an F6 with its tough smaller body—and I can have both soon for merely $8000 USD! (Gaack!)  I reach down and pick up my F5 and with my other hand grab my D100. These are my familiar friends. Can a hunk of complicated metal parts be a friend? My mind says no, but my heart says yes.

Should I sell my D100, after all I need a lot of money to buy the new cameras coming down the market. Should I let go of my F5 for a few bucks to offset the cost of a new F6? I consider it! First, I check eBay to see what a nice, well cared for D100 is going for...$$800.00 USD. (Sigh!) I remember like it was yesterday how I called 200 camera stores and gladly plunked down $2,500.00 USD on August 12, 2002 for my D100. What happened?

I also remember the way my Nikon F5 film camera looked up at me in June 2002 as I opened its box and picked up the 35mm wonder camera. I remember how that 8-frames-per-second clickity clickity clickity sound was so enthralling. On eBay, I might get $750.00 USD for it now! (Sigh!)

What am I going to do? Do I need to spend another $8,000.00 just to satisfy my Nikon Acquisition Syndrome (NAS) cravings? What will happen to my photography if I don't upgrade this winter? Spring is coming, after all! Will my photographic skills shrivel up and die if I do not upgrade in 2005? (What a thought!) The bottom line is...do I need to buy more cameras? My NAS screams, "of course, you fool!" My wife says, "why, are your cameras broken?"

My wife...what a sweetheart! Is she the lone voice of reason in a wilderness of magazine ads, D70 slinging rhino shooters, and drooling camera reviewers? Maybe! Me thinks I should listen to her! (I trust her judgement, for you see...she married me.) Therefore, if I listen to my sweetie, where will I be? Where I am now. No change, same cameras. Is that bad? Maybe not! For you see, my D100 still makes a great 11x14, and my F5 still can burn a roll of 36 in 4 seconds. I hear that the F6 is up to three milliseconds faster on autofocus. Uh, wow! That moose sure was moving fast. He almost outran my F5's piddly slow focus...NOT!

Hey, I own an F5, and here before all my friends I proclaim my bond to it. I'm not selling it. It is mine until my kids inherit it in about 30 years. (Film will still be available then, by the way, just a bit more expensive!) I don't need an F6. If I want a small tough body, I'll just use my N80. I want the F5's imposing bulk and balanced shutter to make really sharp pictures. I'd be willing to bet that my F5 will take just as good a picture as the new F6. And...I already own it!

Now, I realize that this flies directly in the face of capitalism and the American way. I am supposed to trade in my car every two years and my camera every three. Well, I won't do it! I come from the "old school" of photography. I made great pictures with a plastic Diana F in 1967. It's not the camera, it's the photographer. When I bought my first Nikon (an FM) back in 1980, it was with the understanding that I could keep right on using it until I was too old to press the shutter release. What changed? Have Nikon cameras suddenly become cheap plastic junk, like other brands? Nope! Not so! My F5 is prepared to take me into my 70's (I'm merely 46 now). The question is, am I prepared to let it? I am inclined!

I'm not saying that you shouldn't go out and buy that nice new F6. Were I starting now, I'd probably want to smell that shiny new baby coming out of its box. But, I already have an F5—why buy an F6? What will I really gain? Not a lot!

I truly think that my NAS will overpower me when I see the D2X in the flesh and I will fall to my knees with slack drooling lips and ask my wife to write the check. (She does have a D70, so she won't complain too much). But, my F5 is mine. I will keep it. I decline to buy an F6. Nikon may not be happy with me over that; however, they'll be okay since I did buy several other Nikons in the last 10 years. And, I think a few more are coming. However, unless my F5 explodes into dust, I'll use it till I do!

Nikon F5.....The Perfect 35mm camera!

(Leaving 2005)

Flash forward...

Not long after this article was written, I sold my F5 and bought the Nikon D2X for US$5800. I had to have one of the first ones in the USA and got # 1500. I had to pay dearly to be one of the first, an additional US$800 above retail. My fickle heart demanded the latest thing out. Well, I still have that D2X and I'll never sell it.  Would you, after spending US$5800? Buying that camera opened up a new world of photography for me. I became a writer for Nikon cameras not soon afterward so I guess it was a good choice for me. I started shooting a lot of stock pictures and today make part of my living from images I shot back then.

Time changes things and technology marches on. It doesn't pay to be too attached to any form of tech since change happens quickly. However, we can look back and remember the days of our younger lives. The tools we used to capture time, years ago. Does your heart yearn for the good old days? Sometimes mine does, until Nikon releases a new DSLR and digital NAS kicks in yet again.

It will be a few months until we see a new DSLR. I think I'll go check eBay. I bet I can get another Nikon F5 for a really good price now. Film is still available. I miss my old friend, the F5. Maybe his cousin is for sale at a good price? An older form of NAS is presenting itself—film camera NAS. I haven't felt you in a while, old friend. Welcome back!

Keep on capturing time...

Darrell Young

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