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Nick's Classic Corner - No 48 - Nikon F90X

Discussion in 'Classic Models & Marques' started by Benchista, Nov 19, 2013.

  1. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    In 1992, Nikon were taking a mauling in the marketplace. Canon's EOS system was far in advance of it in terms of autofocus speed and accuracy, and that was particularly hurting in the pro and enthusiast areas. The F4 was a very serious pro camera (if one of the ugliest cameras ever made), but AF was a joke in comparison to the EOS 1. Next level down was as bad - the F801 was actually a nice camera, but AF prformance could most politely be described as sluggish. And people were voting with their wallets, pros buying into the EOS system like it was going out of fashion - or rather, like Nikon was going out of fashion. Against that backdrop, they launched the F90, which with the upgraded F90X went on to be their longest-running AF SLR*, and second only to the EOS 5 for longevity.

    The X version was released in 1994, and has improved AF and several other upgrades - 1/3 stop increments on shutter speed, weather sealing, faster frame rate (4.3 fps) and so on - and access to the MB10 grip. It's plastic-bodied, but very solid indeed, and fits nicely and feels nice in my hand. Controls - well, they're a bit of a nightmare. Nikon put buttons everywhere - I'm just surprised there are no buttons on the buttons. Most require additional input from the thumb wheel. The buttons aren't particularly difficult to work out, but they're not the best and most rapid way to access camera controls - and weren't even then.

    Spec was excellent, and had everything you might want, apart from mirror lock-up. It only had one AF sensor, but it actually worked, and still feels reasonably sprightly today. It also has both wide and spot modes, which is nice. It supported AF-S, which considering the racket some AF Nikkors make, is no bad thing. However, VR lenses don't give VR on it, something I still can't get my head around, given Canon's IS works on all EOS models. But then compatability is always a little problematic with Nikons... in terms of lenses, pre-AI lenses can't be used, and AI lenses can't be used with the excellent Matrix metering. G series lenses can only be used in shutter priority or program modes, because the camera body has no manual input for the aperture, and relies on the, er, aperture ring on the lens.

    Power is from 4 AA cells in a rather fiddly compartment - or at least the screw is fiddly.

    Viewfinder info is lovely and clear, as is the screen.

    Shooting with the camera is generally a nice experience once the input methods are remembered. It's a serious tool that made a huge difference to Nikon's fortunes at the time and was deservedly popular. It's certainly more solid than it's main foe, the EOS 5, but the EOS outperforms it in pretty much every other area - however, the F90X was critically not embarassing in AF terms.

    As with many cameras of the era, this model can suffer from degradation of the body covering, particularly the rubber on the back, which can go gooey and horrible - some of mine has rubbed off, but that's it.

    As to the MB-10, I don't like it. You have to remove the existing battery case and keep it somewhere safe. The MB-10 is slippy plastic, so doesn't give that good a grip - and only uses 4 AA batteries anyway, so there's no power advantage to it. Unless you have very large hands or are using very big, heavy lenses, best avoided IMHO.

    Is it worth buying now? Yes, if you have lenses that will work with it, and can get one substantially cheaper than an F100 - it's a very decent camera. Is it worth buying if you're not a Nikon user? Tougher question - because of the compatability issues, I think there are easier choices.

    * Yes, arguably the F6 has been on sale longer, but not in real terms - I doubt if anyone has actually bought a new one for quite some years.
  2. surf_digby

    surf_digby Well-Known Member

    I'm forever kicking myself for not buying an F90 or F90x back 3/4 years ago when they were cheap as chips. Nowadays the ones on Ebay attract too many bidders and will often go for (what I'd consider) silly money.

    I ended up settling for an F401, which is not a great camera by any means.
  3. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    The F401 in all its guises is a bit of a dog, for sure. When I was first looking at buying an AF camera, it took me seconds to rule it out - although to be honest, magazine reviews had pretty much done that already. I might've bought an F801s, but could only afford it with a 50mm lens, and the AF really wasn't good. The F601 came closest, but it really couldn't compete with the speed and silence of the EOS 100 at the time.
  4. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    I had an F70 at one point as well as a later F65. The F65 was tolerable although a bit plasticky but at least the controls were relatively straightforward. The F70 on the other hand was better built but I never did really get the hang of allthe buttons and weird modes...:rolleyes:

    The little D50 I have now is probably the best AF Nikon body I've had.
  5. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    I've got an F65 - it was cheaper to get the lens with a body than separately, bizarrely enough. Can't say I like it all that much - it manages to be fairly solid and heavy yet plasticky - the mode dial feels very cheap. Seems to work OK, but I've never put a film through it and can't imagine I ever will - would sell it if it had any worth at all, and it's not even that good at keeping doors open ;) It makes a reasonable paperweight, though.

    The F70 seems to me to be the high point (if that's the right way of putting it) of Nikon's vision of a multiplicity of buttons to confuse the user. Now I wouldn't mind an F80, which I think was an entirely sensible and decent camera, but the F70 is IMHO an ergonomic nightmare.
  6. IvorCamera

    IvorCamera In the Stop Bath

    I had two Nikon F90Xs, I mainly shot mono but I also shot trannies and colour neg too, hence two camera bodies! I will swear these were the best film cameras that Nikon ever made! These were my last film cameras that I used then I went all digital round about the year 2000.....
  7. Skyehammer

    Skyehammer Well-Known Member

    I've got a Nikon F90 , but not the F90X .

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