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FAQ - Nikon Topics - Updated, 02/04/2007

Discussion in 'Nikon Chat' started by huwevans, Dec 4, 2006.

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  1. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    Perhaps before anything else it may be appropriate to point out that user manuals for all current Nikon cameras and many of the more recent but discontinued ones can be downloaded from the US Nikon site - www.nikonusa.com - without the need for any registration (unlike the UK site). The manuals obviously give full instructions about the use of Nikon cameras, but also full specifications, so they should be the first port of call for many of the more basic questions.




    Nikon Topics:

    1. Using Flash with Nikon Cameras
    2. Nikon Manual Focus Lenses
    3. Nikon Autofocus Lenses
    4. Useful Nikon-Related Web Links
    5. Nikon F-series Professional SLRs (NEW - 02/04/07)
    6. Nikon D-series Professional DSLRs(Coming soon)
    7. Nikon 'DX' format, and 'Equivalent Focal Length' (Coming soon)




    1. Using Flash with Nikon Cameras

    Nikon cameras have used three different types of TTL flash metering:

    1) TTL Flash: this system uses the light reflected from the surface of the film during exposure to determine when sufficient light had been received for correct exposure. The system works only with Film SLRs. The last flash gun produced for TTL Flash only was the SB29. When a TTL flash gun is attached to a Digital SLR only so called 'Normal' Auto flash is possible where a sensor on the flash gun responds to flash output reflected from the subject.

    2) D-TTL Flash: this was introduced with the D1 series of cameras and uses a series of pre flashes to determine the duration required for the main flash. Compatible flash guns have a DX suffix such as the SB80 DX. DX series flash guns are fully compatible with earlier cameras so they will permit TTL flash with film SLRs. When used with later DSLRs only Normal Auto flash is possible.

    3) i-TTL Flash: introduced with the D2 series of DSLRs this is the latest flash system from Nikon and is a development of the D-TTL system. i-TTL flash guns are fully compatible with earlier DSLRs and all film SLRs.


    Non-Nikon Equipment
    There are many flash guns made by other camera manufacturers and independent companies. The most common question is, will flash X work with my Nikon? The answer is yes, it will work but it may not provide all the functions that the camera supports.

    (i) Any recent flash, irrespective of make will provide Manual flash and, as long as the gun supports it, Normal Auto flash with any Nikon SLR.
    (ii) With Film SLRs, from the F3 to the F5 and anything in-between, any Nikon dedicated flash should give TTL flash.
    (iii) With Digital SLRs in the D1 series and the D100 any flash gun with Nikon DX dedication should give D-TTL.
    (iv) With the F6, D2 series, D40, D50, D70, D80 and D200 only flash guns dedicated to Nikon i-TTL will give any form of TTL flash.
    (v) Fuji S1, S2 and S3 are based on Nikon film bodies so any Nikon flash, TTL, D-TTL or i-TTL will provide TTL flash metering.

    Exceptions and General Comments
    Users of the F-series of cameras up to and including the F3 will be aware that a flash coupler is required to attach a hot shoe flash; all the foregoing assumes that you will be using such a coupler.

    Earlier flash guns - and it is impossible to state a date or model when things changed - may have a high trigger voltage. This can be as high as 300 volts and it may cause damage to the flash triggering circuits in Nikon cameras designed to work with low trigger voltage flash guns. It is possible to measure the trigger voltage of a flash gun using a high impedance multimeter but unless you are confident of what you are doing this is best avoided. It is entirely possible to obtain a reading less than half the voltage that would actually be seen by the camera.

    In terms of buying a flash to work with a Nikon DSLR, if possible buy new and confirm that the gun you are looking at is fully i-TTL compatible. Currently only Nikon, Metz and Sigma are known to produce such guns.

    Secondhand flash guns are more problematic, if you cannot confirm that the gun you are considering has a low trigger voltage, leave it alone. Any flash gun that is not listed as fully i-TTL compatible will, at best, only allow manual and auto flash with current Nikon DSLRs, if this is acceptable for your purposes go ahead and buy it. Should you own a D1 or D100, remember that the D-TTL system was current for a relatively short time and i-TTL flash guns should be backward compatible. Unless you have some major objection to buying an i-TTL flash it is probably best to avoid D-TTL guns because any purchase of a later DSLR will necessitate buying another flash to retain TTL capability.

    Finally, the instruction manuals for most Nikon SLRs can be downloaded as PDF files from the Nikon web site. They all give extensive information on flash modes available with flash guns manufactured contemporaneously with the camera and any earlier flash guns. Later flash guns generally offer full backwards compatibility so if, for instance, you wish to use an SB800 with a D1x the instruction manual should be read as if you were using an SB28DX. On an F4 the same gun should be considered to be an SB24 when reading the instruction manual.

    (I am indebted to GeoffR for covering this topic.)



    2. Nikon Manual Focus Lenses

    Nikon SLR lenses have come in many varieties since the 'F' mount first appeared on the 1959 Nikon F. The mount itself has continued unchanged, but the way that the aperture ring (if there is one) couples with the camera has certainly changed in that time, and that can affect the compatibility of particular lens/body combinations.

    Manual focus lenses fall into the following types:

    (i) Original 'non-AI' lenses: There is no formal designation for these lenses - they are recognized only by the characteristics which were changed on subsequent types. They coupled to the camera's meter (if it had one) by means of the 'rabbit ears' - a chromed metal claw-like structure mounted in line with the f/5.6 stop on the aperture ring. For the most part they cannot be used without modification on post-1979 Nikon bodies. Nikon offered modification kits for a time, so that owners of these lenses could continue to use them, and they are sometimes found 'AI-modified' in this way. A few bodies allowed them to be used unmodified, though with restricted exposure modes.

    (ii) AI Lenses: In the late 70s Nikon changed the way the aperture ring coupled to the body. The prong on the body that engaged with the rabbit ears was replaced by a small tab next to the lens mount which coupled with a similar tab on the aperture ring. A small aperture scale was engraved in parallel to the main scale, close to the camera body, which could be read by the little window under the pentaprism on those bodies that gave a direct aperture readout in the viewfinder. In order to let a little more light through onto this scale, rabbit ears from this point onwards were no longer solid, but had little windows in them. They may be removed, if the lens isn't required to couple with earlier bodies. AI lenses are entirely compatible with pre-1979 Nikon SLR bodies. Furthermore, AI lenses can safely be mounted on all AF Nikon bodies. Not all AF bodies have the necessary coupling to enable the camera to read the set aperture and perform metering functions. The capablity of the AF bodies produced over the years varies widely, but AI lenses can always be used with a Nikon autofocus SLR in manual mode.

    (iii) AI-S Lenses: A few years later, as electronics enabled things like programmed auto-exposure, a further change was made. AI-S lenses are completely interchangeable with AI lenses, but they had a modification which enabled some bodies to offer programmed and shutter priority auto-exposure. These lenses look virtually identical to AI lenses, but have a small scoop taken out of the lens mount as you look at the lens from behind. AI-S lenses are fully compatible with all manual focus Nikon SLR bodies, from the first F model in 1959 to the last FM3A, which ceased production in 2005. Compatibility with AF bodies is similar to that for AI lenses.

    (iv) E and A Lenses: A few of these lenses were offered as less expensive alternatives to Nikon's premiere range. They were of AI-S type, but were not normally fitted with rabbit ears. This only affects compatibility with the earliest pre-AI Nikon bodies with TTL metering. They can still meter with these bodies in stop-down mode though.

    (v) AI-P Lenses: There are very few of these. They are manual focus lenses of AI-S type which also incorporate a chip and contacts to supply information to AF camera bodies. This enables these cameras to give full metering options with the manual lens - something that is otherwise not possible for many of the modern AF bodies.


    3. Nikon Autofocus Lenses

    Firstly, following on from Huw's FAQ on MF lenses, all AF Lenses meet AI-S criteria, so this designation is dropped from the specifications.

    There have been a number of additional designations that will not be touched upon here; we are only concerned with Auto Focus designations. If you were hoping to find out about AF DC or AF VR you will have to wait for another FAQ. It would be as well to start by stating that AF lens designations are confusing and if this answer serves to make things a little clearer it will have achieved its purpose.

    The original AF lenses were produced for the F3 AF and are compatible only with that camera, so it is probably best not to concern ourselves with these lenses for the moment.

    The mainstream AF lenses start with the simple designation 'AF'. Basically they are the manual focus equivalent re-engineered into an AF shell with a Central Processing Unit. Later came the AF-D series, which added focused distance information to the data transmitted to the camera body. These came along with the F90 body and enabled 3D Matrix Metering.

    Around the same time Nikon realised that to speed up the AF performance of their cameras with longer lenses they needed to put the focusing motor in the lens so along came the AF-I lenses, these, and all later AF lenses transmit focused distance and will provide 3D metering. Later still came the Silent Wave motors, now finding their way into lenses across the range they carry the AF-S designation.

    Finally came the realisation that the aperture ring was redundant on the latest bodies and this was dropped creating another designation, AF-G. Now it gets confusing, Some AF-S lenses lack the aperture ring and are thus also G series lenses.

    DX Lenses
    These are G lenses designed to cover only the area of a Nikon DX Digital sensor, like other G lenses they may be AF-S or just AF. They will all, in general, give dark corners on film, though some may cover the whole of the 35mm frame under some exceptional circumstances - for example, the 12-24mm lens covers from about 18mm focal length upwards.


    Compatibility
    Excluding the D40 for the moment, All Nikon AF bodies will work with AF and AF-D lenses, there is little difference optically and no discernable difference in exposure accuracy between the two so if you want a 50mm f1.8 don't be concerned whether it is a 'D' or not.

    The F4, F5 and F6 are all compatible with AF-I lenses as are most cameras later than the F90, notably the F50. The F60, F65, F70 and F75 are beyond my experience so they may not be compatible, the F80 most definitely is.

    All cameras compatible with AF-I lenses are compatible with AF-S lenses. Only cameras with a command dial capable of setting the aperture are fully compatible with G lenses but any AF camera capable of Shutter Priority can be used with them, in P or S mode. To test compatibility with G series lenses, simply check whether you must have the aperture ring set to minimum aperture for the metering to work, if so you have full compatibility with G Lenses. Note here that you may still not have autofocus compatibility with AF-S G lenses.

    Only AF-S and AF-I lenses are compatible with the D40's autofocus system, but other AF lenses can be used in manual focus mode.


    Notes
    For the purposes of this answer, compatible means, unless otherwise stated, offers Auto Focus with Nikon AF camera bodies. Not all metering options will be available with all combinations of AF body and lens - consult the user manual or published specifications for the precise details of metering options for different lens types for any given camera. Nevertheless, with the exception of G lenses on earlier AF bodies, all AF lenses can at least be used with manual exposure and manual focus on all AF Nikon bodies.

    Likewise, except for G type, all AF lenses can be used to the full on older manual focus Nikon bodies. Rabbit ears are not fitted as standard, but they can be retro-fitted if needs be. The drilling points in the aperture ring are marked by indentations, but work like this should only be carried out by a competent technician.

    (Thanks again to GeoffR for the AF lens answer. I have added some minor clarifications and additional points, so any errors in the piece may safely be attributed to me - Huw Evans.)


    4. Useful Nikon-Related Web Links

    There are obviously many, many sites on the web that have more or less useful information about Nikon products. Here, I'm listing only a few which I have found worthwhile over the years.


    1) Nikon UK - obviously the starting point for any definitive queries about Nikon products in the UK.

    2) The History of Nikon Cameras - part of the main Nikon corporate site. This link will take you to a lot of interesting historical stuff about Nikon cameras and lenses.

    3) Nærfoto Bjørn Rørslett - this is Bjørn Rørslett's site. Amongst other things he has a lot of useful summary assessments of Nikon lenses, both new and old. A good site to check if you want to get an informed opinion on whether the modern AF version of a lens out-performs the 20 year-old manual version, or if the f/2 variety is better up close than the f/2.8, etc.

    4) A Pictorial History of Nikon Cameras - MIR - the famous MIR Nikon site.

    A bit more explanation is needed about this. It is a huge, sprawling, almost labyrinthine site, which has just about everything you could ever wish to know about just about every photographic product Nikon have ever made. But it is confusingly structured, and there is no single 'Home' page that I have ever found that would always enable simple and systematic navigation to any given part of the site. There are many useful entrances to the various different sections, and sometimes there are ways of finding your way from one part to another, and sometimes there aren't. It is based in Malasia, but uses English throughout. If you can't find an instruction manual for that 30 year-old classic Nikon body or the specifications of that obscure early Nikon Speedlight this is the place to look - though you may have to look hard.

    The link above is one of the best entry points I have found. Here are a couple more that might be of use. Beyond that, you're on your own! :)

    Special Lenses - a page of selected Nikon lens links (also some other makes).

    Michael C Liu's Nikon & Nikkors Resources - Michael C Liu's Classics site on MIR.

    5) Nikon Lens Serial Numbers - a pretty comprehensive listing of serial numbers for different lenses, with basic specifications, years of production, and so on. Also listings of Nikon accessories.

    6) The R&L Nikkor Tables - some more subjective Nikon lens assessments, this time from David Ruether and Grover Larkins. I have found DR's assessments particularly useful, but both are worth considering if you're wondering if a certain lens is for you or not.

    7) Ken Rockwell - Ah, Ken, Ken, Ken! What do we make of Ken Rockwell? Why am I even including this link? Well, love him or loathe him, he has a lot of interesting stuff on his site - some useful, some maybe not so useful. All I can suggest is that if you decide to peruse it, don't take him too seriously all of the time.

    8) Moose Peterson - Moose Peterson's site. A staunch Nikon professional, some people question the impartiality of his user reviews, so make what you will of them. I won't go into detail, but I have found some aspects of his site absolutely invaluable.

    9) DIY Nikon AI modification - an illustrated walk through one user's DIY modification of a non-AI lens to AI fitting. Attempt it at your own risk!


    Well, that will do for now. I have deliberately left out some admittedly good and useful links. Some of them are commercial sites, or more in-depth review sites than the ones listed above, which makes them just too close to being direct competitors of the hosts of this site, so you'll have to find your own way there. :) The links are correct and 'live' at the time of posting. Obviously I cannot guarantee that they will continue to be so. However if you find at some point that any of them have changed or the sites have been removed do please let me know by pm and I will amend the FAQ accordingly.

    In addition to the usual disclaimer, please recall the following, from paragraph 8.5 of the site Terms and Conditions:

    'IPC is not responsible for any contents of any linked site or any link contained in a linked site. The inclusion of any link on the Web Site [i.e. this web site] does not imply endorsement by IPC of the linked site. If you decide to access linked third party web sites, you do so at your own risk.'


    5. Nikon F-series Professional SLRs

    Now why do we need an FAQ on the Nikon pro series of SLR camera bodies? Simply, because what looks at first glance to be a progression of six bodies actually covers 15 plus variants and a massive advance in technology. If the 1959 Nikon F looks basic consider that the specification is in some areas actually ahead of the Olympus OM1 launched in 1972. The OM1 didn't feature a motordrive until 1974, 15 years after the Nikon F and the meter was a match needle type, this is not to denigrate the OM1 but to illustrate how advanced the F was in 1959.

    It all began in with the Nikon F, a very basic camera by modern standards; It featured a mechanically timed with shutter speeds from 1-1/1000 sec with flash sync at 1/60 sec. What made it special was the interchangeable viewfinder and focusing screens offering 100% coverage. It was also capable of accepting a motordrive for speeds of up to 4fps with the F36. This speed did require the mirror to be locked up but as this was the first motordrive for a 35mm SLR nobody was complaining.

    The Nikon F lacked a light meter so there was no automation of any sort. Nikon soon produced a clip on meter - well actually three of them - using selenium sensors with no coupling to any camera functions. In 1962 the value of that interchangeable finder was demonstrated with the launch of the Nikon F Photomic, this was a new prism with a light meter attached; it used Cadmium Sulphide sensors but still wasn't a TTL meter. In 1965 this was rectified with the Nikon F Photomic T. It was also this camera that saw the disappearance of the Nippon Kogaku logo from Nikon camera bodies.

    The next model in the F series was the F Photomic TN which was the first Nikon to use centre weighted metering. The final iteration of the F was the Nikon F Photomic FTN in 1968.

    Although the Nikon F remained in production until 1974 the Nikon F2 Photomic was introduced in 1971, this camera had a hinged back (released by turning a flip-up key in the base-plate and pulling up the rewind crank), flash sync at 1/80 sec and a flash ready light in the viewfinder. Shutter speeds, still mechanically timed, ran from 1 to 1/2000 sec. Speeds from 1/80 to 1/2000 were continuously variable, with no mechanical detents, something not achieved by any other mechanical camera before or since. There was also a new motordrive, the MD1 offering 5 FPS and motor rewind. There was a version of the F2 without the Photomic head, simply known as the F2 - this had no light meter.

    One of the accessory finders, that on the F2 Photomic S of 1973, offered LED indication of exposure. Also available for this, and subsequent F2 models was the DS-1EE which, when attached to a lens with meter coupling 'ears', turned the F2 into a Shutter Priority Auto Exposure camera.

    In 1976 came the F2SB, note that Nikon still refer to the Photomic designation but it appears to have been dropped from general usage, this introduced Silicon Photo Diodes as the light sensors in the metering system. The following year saw another variant, the F2A, this momentous event heralded the introduction of the AI (Auto Indexing) series of lenses, until researching this article I had always thought that honour went to the F2AS although the only difference is that the F2A uses a match needle metering system and the F2AS used LEDs. Shutter Priority automation with the new AI lenses required the DS-12EE accessory.

    There was another F2, the F2 High Speed, capable of 10 FPS, with a fixed pellicle mirror (part silvered). Shutter speeds were limited to 1/1000 with T and B settings. A later F2 High Speed dispenses with the latter settings too, they do seem rather pointless on a 10 FPS camera so this is perhaps understandable. Information is scarce but I gather that this beast with MD100 and MB100 battery packs was over 2 Kg without a lens

    The next new Nikon professional camera didn't come around, until 1980. Unsurprisingly this was the F3. The F3 still had the interchangeable view finders and focusing screens but no non-metering version was offered - all F3s had meters. The F3 was also the first of the pro series to feature an electronic shutter and Aperture Priority Auto Exposure.

    The first variant on the F3 was the F3HP, this had a different viewfinder with a High Eye Point of 25mm. 1983 saw the next version of the F3 and this one accompanied by two special lenses. The F3AF had an overgrown finder containing all the electronics to drive the focus motor in either the 80 f2.8 or the 200 f3.5 AF lenses. The F3AF was followed by the F3T which had Titanium top and bottom plates but was otherwise the same as the F3HP. Next, and probably the most 'normal' of the F3 series was the F3P, basically an F3 without the eye piece blind, multiple exposure lever and cable release socket, what it gained to make it 'normal' was a conventional hot shoe. The final F3, sold only in Japan and released after the F4, was the F3 Limited it had an extended shutter speed dial and was closer to the F3P than the normal F3.

    The F4 followed in 1988, two years early if you believe the story that Nikon planned a new Pro body every 10 years. The F4 was the first 'true' AF Pro series SLR from Nikon in that the AF was an integral part of the body; on the F3, AF had been an after thought. The F4 was a massive step up in specification, flash sync increased from 1/80 to 1/250 top shutter speed was 1/8000; the film sensitivity could be set manually between ISO 6 and ISO 6400 or by DX code from 25 to 5000. The viewfinder offered Matrix and centre weighted Metering with Spot metering built into the body, flash metering was, naturally full TTL with the SB24. Finally there was a built in motordrive capable of up to 5.7 FPS. Also added were two Program Modes and continuous silent film advance mode. Perhaps it is not surprising that all this weighed in at 1.4 Kg, twice the weight of a basic F3.

    With hindsight the F4 was not the fastest AF camera but it was probably the most capable of all the Pro series bodies, each function had its own control and it worked as well with pre-AI lenses as it did with AF, it handled well and was rugged enough to accept much abuse. At launch there were two versions the F4 which required 4 AA cells and had a 4 FPS capability and the F4S which needed 6 AA cells but gained a second shutter release and a two pin remote terminal. The F4s was probably the best combination for the F4. Some time later came the F4E with a different battery pack capable of accepting a rechargeable battery, the MN20. Both the F4S and the F4E offer 5.7 FPS motordrive. The F4 was the last Nikon body to accept a bulk film back, such a back having not been produced for later cameras.

    1996 saw the introduction of the F5, in bald specification terms it doesn't appear much of an advance, flash sync remains at 1/250, but with 1/300 available in Shutter Priority or Manual modes. Top shutter speed is still 1/8000 but gone are the individual control dials and in come buttons, control wheels and LCD displays. On the metering front in comes 3D Colour Matrix metering - it isn't perfect but it is not far off and it is the best available. AF is so different as to make the F4 look pedestrian, even if it didn't feel that way at the time. There were five focus points in the view finder, a new 10 pin remote terminal, introduced with the F90 a few of years earlier in 1992, and an 8 FPS motor drive, as long as the MN30 rechargeable battery is used. Depth of field preview is electronic for the first time, meaning that it works in Shutter Priority and Program modes, plus the Aperture can be set on the front control wheel. The weight is down too to a mere 1.2 Kg! For the first time there is only one variant of the camera although a special edition, the anniversary was produced with a retro Nikon logo on the viewfinder. The F5 has short comings, front and rear control wheels aren't replicated for the vertical shutter release for instance and it is perfectly capable of eating a set of 8 AA batteries in a single session.

    Finally, for now, we come to the F6. Launched in 2004 the F6 is essentially a film version of the D2 cameras and shares most of their specification. For the first time a Data Back is standard with its large LCD on the back. The F6 also reverts to the practice of earlier Pro series cameras in that the battery grip is an accessory, this allows the EN-EL4 batteries of the D2 to be used with the F6 and overcomes the above gripe about the F5 by providing front and rear command wheels for the vertical shutter release. The Viewfinder is, for the first time in a pro series body, fixed, focusing screens remain interchangeable. The omission of the F6 specification is deliberate; if you are reading this you can go to Nikon.co.uk and download the user manual just as I did.

    Having covered the F through to the F6 I am unsure as to whether I have finished, where to the FM, FM2, F90 and F100 fall? Are these professional cameras or are the consumer models? Do I leave them for Huw to write about or do I mention them? I have probably missed somebody's favourite body too, some would put the FE above the FM and consider it a pro body others would name the FA. I am inclined to think this article is plenty long enough already so these worth cameras can wait for another day.

    So, in these terms, the full list of Nikon pro-bodies for film is:

    Nikon F 1959
    Nikon F Photomic 1962
    Nikon F Photomic T 1965
    Nikon F Photomic TN 1967
    Nikon F Photomic FTN 1969
    Nikon F2 Photomic 1971
    Nikon F2 SB 1976
    Nikon F2 A 1977
    Nikon F2 AS 1977
    Nikon F3 1980
    Nikon F3HP 1982
    Nikon F3T 1982
    Nikon F3AF 1983
    Nikon F3P
    Nikon F3 Limited
    Nikon F4/F4S 1988
    Nikon F4E 1992
    Nikon F5 1996
    Nikon F6 2004

    If you want a Nikon film body to use with manual focus lenses you could do worse than buy an F4, it does everything you require, just select MF and forget that it has the capability. However, if you can find one, a Nikon F2A or F2AS would be equally usable and probably more fun to use. Fancy that super fast F2HS? Dig deep - the only price I could find for one, and that third hand, was $19,000!

    - GeoffR


    6. Nikon D-series Professional DSLRs(Coming soon)

    7. Nikon 'DX' format, and 'Equivalent Focal Length' (Coming soon)




    Disclaimer: Please note that any information or advice contained in this FAQ has no formal status. It is provided in good faith, and is correct to the best of our knowledge. However, it may still contain factual errors and/or omissions. Readers are therefore advised to check details with the manufacturer's published specifications for any particular piece of equipment for definitive information.
     
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