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Old Mar 1, 2004, 8:35 AM   #1
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Default Manual Operation -- Going digital from an old Nikon F

I have a Nikon F that I have used for 30 years, but the built-in light meter finally went bad, and it had become very difficult to find the mercury batteries it requires. I would like to switch to a digital SLR, and since my old Nikkor lenses can no longer be used with any new Nikon body, I can consider any digital SLR.

My question is this: Can any (or all) of the current digital SLRs offer the *non-automatic* focus/shutter speed/aperture photography of an old camera? The Nikon F was, by today's standards, ridiculously simple: You set either the aperture or the speed (manually) and then adjust the other until a needle visible in the viewfinder indicates proper exposure. Focus was, of course, also manual.

After 30 years of this I am pretty good at it. I prefer to do that work myself rather than let the camera do it, but I also want the convenience of digital.

Could anyone tell me to what extent which digital SLRs make it easy for the user to reproduce this kind of control?

Finally, how good are the manual focusing screens in these cameras? The Nikon F had interchangeable focusing screens, and I used a split-image screen that made focusing a snap, even with low light. I see that the Canon EOS 10D has "laser matte" focusing screen that is *not* interchangeable. Is it usable with low light? Do any of the SLRs offer a split screen?

I would be very grateful for help on any of these questions.
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Old Mar 1, 2004, 9:04 AM   #2
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Without showing my age :P I too loved the Nikon F and carried one all through my high school days. I even had the motor drive and the big 35mm film spooler for action stuff. I think a modern shoulder-launched missle device weighs less

I know what you mean about true focusing screens with a nice split fresnel circle in the center but it seems that most of today's screens are designed for those that use AF 95% of the time. You have to go to the high end of the digital SLRs to get interchangeable fousing screens. All of the "under $3000" dSLR cameras have fixed screens as part of their cost-cutting measures.

It took me a while when I first got into digital to let go of my old ways ... I never owned a film camera that had auto focus and I used to shoot pictures for a living. Now I happily shoot with modern Nikon and Canon dSLRs and have come to rely on their incredibly accurate auto focus as well as auto exposure systems. Rarely do I manually focus or use full manual exposure mode and I can't remember the last time that I missed it.

Going digital was the best thing that I ever did and I don't regret it for a second. And I certainly don't miss those wonderful hours spent in the dark breathing in the toxic fumes coming off of my hypo trays either! Give me my computer, Photoshop and my trusty wide-carriage printer any day.

Keep your eye on the new Nikon D70, it will be available very soon for about $1300 with an AF-S DX Nikkor 18-70mm zoom. I am also anxious to see the new Minolta Maxxum 7 and of course the Canon 10D is also a winner. 8)

-Steve
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Old Mar 1, 2004, 7:13 PM   #3
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Quote:
. . . .had become very difficult to find the mercury batteries it requires

You can get PX625a batteries pretty readily-- this is an alkaline equivalent the the PX626/ PX13 mercury batteries (slightly higher voltage). These cells work fine in my old Gossen Luna Pro light meter, and I'm pretty sure they would work in the Photomic finder as well [I retired my two Nikon Fs when I went digital so I haven't actually tried the alkaline cells there].
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Old Mar 1, 2004, 8:26 PM   #4
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Ahh, Nikon F. I just started using it with a 650mm telephoto and a 2x teleconverter for those long range shots that my trusty F717 can't reach .
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Old Mar 2, 2004, 10:05 AM   #5
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Steve,

Let me 1st say, I love your reviews ... and this forum is awesome as well. It is much appreciated. In fact, I like your reviews so much, I can hardly wait for your nikon d70 review to come out . Not to be a bother, but do you by chance have an estimate of when to expect one?

Thanks a bunch!
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Old Mar 2, 2004, 11:53 AM   #6
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Default Re: Manual Operation -- Going digital from an old Nikon F

My question is this: Can any (or all) of the current digital SLRs offer the *non-automatic* focus/shutter speed/aperture photography of an old camera? The Nikon F was, by today's standards, ridiculously simple: You set either the aperture or the speed (manually) and then adjust the other until a needle visible in the viewfinder indicates proper exposure. Focus was, of course, also manual.

After 30 years of this I am pretty good at it. I prefer to do that work myself rather than let the camera do it, but I also want the convenience of digital.

Could anyone tell me to what extent which digital SLRs make it easy for the user to reproduce this kind of control?

Hi I use a Nikon D1x. When I started off I put the camera into shutter priority and let it do the rest of the work for me. However, when one shoots wildlife photography, auto focus can be a problem. Either something gets in the way (a branch of a tree) or the distance might be to great (a flying bird might go in and out of the viewfinder and by the time the camera autofocu's on it, it's gone).

So I now shoot completely in manual mode. manual everything - And I'm happy - You'll love digital...


Finally, how good are the manual focusing screens in these cameras? The Nikon F had interchangeable focusing screens, and I used a split-image screen that made focusing a snap, even with low light. I see that the Canon EOS 10D has "laser matte" focusing screen that is *not* interchangeable. Is it usable with low light? Do any of the SLRs offer a split screen?

The D1x DOES allow you to change the screen.

Dave
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