Nikon F4 Photographer's review

Photographer's review of Nikon's Professional F4 35mm SLR camera.


These cameras are remarkable – a work of art really.  Not simple or light weight. It is an instrument where several readings of the manual are mandatory but once you have the hang of it, it is flawless.


If you are a photographer who takes a keen technical interest in image creation then the F4 may answer a lot of your desires. Coming to market in 1988 the F4 designed by Italy’s celebrated Guigiaro who has achieved a design masterpiece of form and function. Production continued until the mid 1990s. Nice to hold – the 1.2kg weight feels good and it is a solid aluminium alloy body with weather sealing.  If you have the F4 body  which has the standard MB-20 side grip battery pack this takes 4 x AA alkaline batteries which last a long time and are easily and cheaply available.


A very big plus is lens compatibility – every lens ever made by Nikon – some AF limitations on cheaper lenses . Not many camera bodies can make that claim. Not an uncomplicated camera with many well placed controls sprouting from the aluminium alloy body. A thorough reading of the manual will provide a  good overview of where and what these various knobs and switches do. Importantly, none of them are easy to inadvertently activate. If you are a manual shooter, like me, then the F4 is a dream, especially when fitted with the data back MF-23. This clearly displays aperture, shutter speed and frame count. Excellent for those with any difficulty accurately reading the viewfinder display. 2 LR44 button batteries are required for the data back. They last 'forever' and are available everywhere. The viewfinder itself is large and bright with the centre auto focus bracket not cluttering the view. The maximum shutter speed is an extraordinary, 1/8000th. The ultra durable shutter curtain is a combination of carbon fibre epoxy and aluminium alloy. Reliability rating is well into the 100,000s. I can't imagine ever needing 1/8000th speed but it is good to know the scope is there as many lesser SLRs max out at 1/2000th, then possibly requiring a filter for exposure correction. It is always best to minimise the barriers between the frame subject and the film plane. The F4 gives the photographer this extreme latitude.


Auto focus with the F4 was in its infancy and while it works fine for me, as mentioned in some other reviews, it is slow and somewhat noisy. But, flick the focus mode selector to manual and your stable of legacy Nikon manual focus lens is at your fingertips. With the green focus indicator dot clearly visible in the viewfinder it is an easy job to nail focus.


Using DX coded film the F4 automatically selects the appropriate ISO  (25 – 5000) or this can be selected manually (6 – 6400). When loading film the film leader is pulled across to the index mark, then check there is no slack in the film, close the film door and fully press the  shutter release which advances the film to the first frame.


Being interested with the technical aspects of camera design development makes the F4 an important camera for me and combined with some of Nikon’s best glass the F4 is an outstanding image maker as well.

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