Why I think the Nikon F5 is the ONLY 35mm film camera you should buy


Film photography has seen a dramatic increase in recent years. The question of what is the best film camera (opens in a new tab) can be answered in so many different ways and it changes with each photographer you ask.

However, I make it easy for you. If you’ve never shot film before and want to try 35mm film, buy the Nikon F5…. end of the conversation!

(Image credit: Sebastian Oakley/Digital Camera World)

Why? Oh, if only it were that easy to explain, but what I’m going to try to explain is why this camera from the 90s is sometimes overlooked and undervalued in the world of analog photography, and why I think this is the best 35mm film camera you can buy.

The F5 was introduced in 1996 by Nikon to replace its older F4 system. Targeting the professional market at the time, it ran with the slogan “Imported from the future”, with the likes of Joe McNally showing you what this revolutionary new product could do for you as he sat in a flamboyant shirt on a speedboat pulling water skiers at 40 knots. Well, that was the 90s!

Either way, physically this camera is built like a tank and it’s been built to take a heck of a beating, but it’s not just toughness that the Nikon F5 has going for it. It was incredibly advanced for its time, equipped with automatic DX film speed playback that could play ASA 25 movies up to 5000 or 6400 if you entered it manually.

It featured focus modes such as AF-S, AF-C, and manual, and had a built-in TTL prism, which could be upgraded to a standby level if desired. This camera even offered 3D Matrix Metering, Center-Weighted Metering, Spot Metering and could take up to 8 amazing images in continuous shooting! Now, you might not want to shoot through frames as quickly today due to film costs, but it shows just how advanced this camera was in 1996.

(Image credit: Sebastian Oakley/Digital Camera World)

(Image credit: Sebastian Oakley/Digital Camera World)

The Nikon F5 could be considered the equivalent of the Nikon D6 by today’s standards, and that’s not a bad comparison to have on a 26-year-old camera. Another amazing factor with the Nikon F5 is that it is able to communicate with modern Nikon F-mount lenses that have electronic aperture control and autofocus, which means you can use a brand new Nikon 50mm AF-S f/1.4G. (opens in a new tab)200mm f/2, 600mm f/4 and everything in between, and the F5 will be able to control focus and aperture with ease.

But just because it can be used with Nikon’s fancy new lenses doesn’t mean you should use them. The F5 can be used with all of Nikon’s F-mount lenses, of which there are many, some offering incredible value for money compared to their modern counterparts.

That’s all well and good, but what about the electronics of such an old camera? As with many things over 20 years things can go wrong but I have used and abused mine for over 15 years and have friends who have had them since they were new and they are still so strong.

(Image credit: Sebastian Oakley/Digital Camera World)

Can the same be said of your first digital camera? I know my Nikon D70 is long dead. The best thing about powering this camera is that it comes with regular old AA batteries. 8 AA batteries equipped in your F5 will last you a very long time. Mine have been without dying for nearly a year and they power the auto film advance, light meter, exposure, auto focus, metering and when your movie is done, the auto film rewind .

The Nikon F5 is that perfect blend of modern technology (by film camera standards) with that wonderful era of film that everyone still craves, and that’s why I think the Nikon F5 is the best film camera . (opens in a new tab)and why I think this should be your next.

You can expect to find a used Nikon F5 body on eBay in good condition for around $300-350.

Find current Nikon F5 deals on eBay.com (opens in a new tab)

See prices on eBay.co.uk (opens in a new tab)

Read more:

Best film cameras (opens in a new tab)
The best Nikon telephoto lenses (opens in a new tab)
Best 35mm Film (opens in a new tab)
The best Nikon lenses


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