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“First, this is quite an expensive camera when...”

Written on: 24/11/2002 by Garland. (1 review written)

Good Points
Structurally sound. Responsive and versatile. Quick autofocusing. Superb ergonomics for a modern AF appliance.

Bad Points
Extremely poor sealing of the film chamber. Bulkier than need be. Power Inefficient. No Mirror Lockup. Makes very unrefined sounds for a camera of its cost.

General Comments
First, this is quite an expensive camera when considered against the features you get. Both Canon and Minolta offer much less expensive models with vastly superior feature sets. Ostensibly, the greatest reason for any serious amateur to invest in any Nikon SLR body, all of which have serious shortcomings-particularly this pricey F100-is to gain access to the vast range of Nikkor lenses which have a superior reputation for fine optical performance. However, having experienced an array of Nikkors, I must conclude this reputation is based upon the performance and build quality of the earlier manual focus Nikkors, which indeed offer optical performance and construction on par with Zeiss of Germany, acknowledged leader in optical design and manufacture for the past century.
This presents, for me, a special problem in that I prefer manual focus Nikkor lenses for their precision and performance, but favor newer Nikon bodies for primarily for their ability to spot meter, a feature sadly lacking from manual focus Nikons with otherwise fine specs, such as the FM/FE series. Most other F100 features are of only limited appeal as they have little applicable value to practical photography: how often have you set a shutter speed in excess of 1/2000 sec much less synched flash at those speeds? Or when was the last time the ability to fire 4.5 frames per second (with fresh batteries) yielded an image you could not otherwise have achieved? Granted, autofocus is great to have when you need it, such as when following fast action, but in the case of Nikon it's ironic that autofocus' occasional advantages must be mitigated against an overall loss of image quality since AF Nikkors simply are inferior in most substantive respects to those older Nikkors and, indeed on MTF specification (, to the lenses of many competing brands. Adding to the conundrum that the high AF speed of AF Nikkors are achieved through the use of severely short focusing helicoids which, in turn, make accurate manual focusing painful at best. Perhaps the final blow to my confidence in the Nikon system was the matter of battery life which, while decent when using the F100 as a manual focus camera and avoiding powered fiddling with the controls, quickly turned abysmal during a session of follow focusing at my daughter's soccer game. At normal ambient temperatures (greater than 68 degrees F), the cameras batteries failed after only two 24 exposure rolls, with only seven rolls having been previously exposed with very minimal use of single-servo (single shot) autofocus mode. The next set of fresh batteries netted me a similar ten rolls of film, at which point I decided, on top of all the lens quality and camera features issues, that it made little sense for my style of shooting (portraiture, street shooting, still life and fine art) to continue using Nikon's system. For the past couple of months, I've been using a Contax Aria body along with a set of three Zeiss T* primes (28mm f/2, 50mm f/1.4, 135mm f/2.8), a Sigma 90mm f/2.8 macro, and a Yashica 80-200mm f/4 telezooom. Uniformly, this equipment is more satisfying and produces superior results to any other 35mm equipment I've ever used, which includes Canon and Minolta. In particular, the Yashica zoom gives notably better performance than any similar Nikon, Canon or Minolta offering. The Aria, while also lacking mirror lockup, is refreshingly compact while still comfortable to hold and use, and delivers a far higher number of rolls per set of batteries, even in less than ideal conditions.
I'd advise anyone seriously considering purchasing the F100 to explore your options. There are many alternatives that deliver higher function and versatility (Canon and Minolta) or superior image quality (Contax) for less if not very much more money. Don't rely solely on marketing and reputation, as results are what really count. Shoot a few rolls with the equipment you plan to purchase from a variety of brands and go with the one that gives the pictures you like best.

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