By: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Created by Nikon firm with the clear aim of trying to retrieve ground with regard to the terrific Canon EOS-1, Canon EOS 1-N and Canon EOS-1 RS, the Nikon F5 broke into the world photographic trade pleasing most of the brought about expectation, with a fairly strong manufacturing quality, a huge range of functions, very high autofocus speed and certain technological breakthroughs (far better than the previous models Nikon F4, Nikon F4s, Nikon F90 and Nikon F90X) which made it fill a niche amid the cream of high end professional 35 mm SLR cameras all over the world.
Spectacular front view of the Nikon F5 with the Nikkor AF 50 mm f/1.4 D standard lens. You can watch the superb finish of the pentaprism on the mid top area.

We can also observe on the left the Sub Command Dial with the shape of a knurled wheel, the depth of field preview button and the vertical shutter release button.

On the right, we have got the sync terminal, the red colour LED little luminous indicator of the self-timer, the lens release button and the focus mode selector.


The Nikon F5 is a very spectacular camera in terms of its appearance, causing a remarkable effect on those which handle it for the first time.

It is a very beautiful and up-to-date design by the great Italian artist Giorgietto Giugiaro, who achieved a fairly handleable, convenient and light model, in spite of the big size of the camera, whose very ergonomic shapes endow the photographer with a good grab and stability.

The camera is made with a special die-cast aluminum alloy covered with titanium and some areas with magnesium, which added to the coating of rubber with special antiscratches and antisliding formula spread on the whole camera body, confers the Nikon F5 a very high ability for professional use under all kinds of circumstances and climates, however harsh they can be.

On the other hand, the viewfinder housing is titanium made, which assures its good undamaged condition for many years.

The seals for protection against rain, dust, sand, snow and so forth, have been very improved.

Furthermore, the F5 features an excellent and very reliable metallic double bladed shutter (with a very good resistance against parasite lights), boasting the ultramodern ´Self-Diagnostic Shutter Monitor´for auto checking of accurate precision. An inner circuit verifies continuously the shutter exactness and an alarm sounds in the event of an error. This special device takes charge of correcting the possible accuracy deviations that can occur in the shutter because of different circumstances, warning the photographer if the fitting by a specialized technician is required.

On the other hand, the electromagnetically controlled vertical travel focal plane shutter of the Nikon F5 has showed during the tests to be able to endure 150,000 cycles without any problem, which proves its great resistance and durability.

And if it wasn´t enough, the Nikon F5 boasts a mirror lock, a function traditionally built-in on the elite cameras and utterly important to fully extent avoid the possible vibrations, taking maximum advantage of the modern top-notch quality chemical films, specially the ones with ISO 25, 50, 64 and 100, using the camera firmly installed on a robust tripod.

        Back view of the Nikon F5.
On top zone, we can see from left to right: the selector to choose between film advance or self-timer, the alert LED, the finder release button (beside the lower left part of the eyepiece), the eyepiece shutter lever (by the top left part of the eyepiece ring), the viewfinder eyepiece (located inside the ring), the Auto Exposure / Autofocus Lock AE-L / AF-L button, the AF-ON Start Button and the Main Command Dial.

On the middle zone, we can see from left to right the little film cartridge confirmation window, and on the right the selector of focusing area.

And on the lower zone, we have got from left to right: the rear control panel cover, the rear LCD panel, the AF start button for vertical shooting, the ten pins remote terminal and the film rewind button.

New view of the Nikon F5 from behind, this time with the back cover open and the product box in the background. Just watch the lavishness of gold-plated high quality electronic contacts, as well as the excellent film guides, since great importance is put on both its flatness and the accuracy of the focal plane.

And regarding the back cover of the body camera, the quality of materials and the finish of the metallic plate for film pressure is also top-notch.


The Nikon F5 is an ultramodern camera with a myriad of very high level inner microelectronics and as it usually happens in these cases, the lavishness of dials and pressing buttons in different sizes is much more extensive than in the formidable classical 35 mm manual focusing cameras.

The drives of F5 can be divided into three groups:

1) The left top area of the body has got the rewind knob, the R2 switch (rewind interlock) and around the rewind knob we have the knurled dial to choose the different settings of film advance speeds: S (Single, frame by frame), CL (Continuous Low, at three frames per second) and CH (Continuous High, up to eight frames per second).

2) The right top area of the body, in which we find the two control dials (one for the diaphragms and another one for the shutter speeds), the buttons to make multiple exposures, the exposure mode (Program, Diaphragm Priority, Shutter Speed Priority and Manual), the exposure compensation and the main on/off illumination switch, together with the typical knurled wheel for data entering, located just in front of the shutter realease button.

All of these pressing buttons are complemented by the ones being protected under a cover in the low area of the back part of the camera.

3)The camera back, on whose central area there is a selector wheel with four small arrow points, whose aim is to manually choose one of the five available active focusing points.

The low part of this back zone of F5 includes a little rectangular and horizontal LCD, in which you can read the data with respect to the little pressing buttons located on its left (under a cover) for manual film sensitiviness ISO setting, bracketing, lock of functions, first or second curtain flash synchronization and custom settings.

On the other hand, on top right area of this back part of the Nikon F5, we come across two pressing buttons: one for the focus lock and automatic exposure and the other one for the starting of the autofocus without pressing the shutter release.

And just on the right of these two pressing buttons we find the main wheel for data entering.

        Nikon F5 in lying position. 

You can clearly realize the huge toughness of both body camera and Nikon F mount.

On the right area, we have got from bottom to top: the film plane indicator, the top LCD panel, the excellent camera strap eyelet, the little multiple exposure button (located on the top left corner of the LCD panel), the AF area mode button (+), el pulsador de modo de exposición (MODE), el botón de compensación de exposición (+/-), the shutter release button, the power/LCD panel illumination switch (it´s the concentric ring surrounding the shutter release button), the power switch lock release and the great knurled Sub Command Dial.

Another image of the Nikon F5 in lying position. 

Just watch on the left the shutter release button for vertical shots and in the central area the thread for tripod and monopod.


The DP-30 standard viewfinder has got three metering choices: central weighted average, spot and matrix.

Its image quality is very good, among the best on hand in the market in this respect.

The Nikon F5 is a camera standing out among a lot of other factors because of the huge easiness with which you can read the many different data appearing on the finder, with laudable luminosity and visibility (complemented by the excellent options for the dioptric adjustment of the eyepiece), since Nikon - in the same way as Canon did with the Canon F1 New- has made a strenuous effort in order that such an optimum data legibility is available with a very wide array of interchangeable viewfinders, albeit it unavoidably contributes to raise the price of the product, for besides, the different interchangeable prisms are of prime quality and they match the body of Canon F5 with an extraordinary adjustment accuracy.

Lateral view of the Nikon F5 with the battery container for eight alkaline AA drawn from its receptacle, which also works as emplacement for the rechargeable optional Ni-MH Battery Unit MN-30.

Close-up of the lower area of Nikon F5 back. On the left of the rear LCD control panel we can watch: the film speed button for manual choice of ISO, the Auto Exposure / Flash Exposure Bracketing Button (BKT), the Shutter Speed / Aperture/ Focus Area Lock Button (L), the Custom Setting Menu Button (CSM), and the Flash Sync Mode Button.

On the other hand, on the right of the rectangular horizontal panel, you can see the 10-pin remote terminal, and on it we find the AF Start Button for vertical shooting.


The Nikon F5 has one of the best autofocus in the world, though inside the scope of the excellent, it is slightly beaten in this side (specially in the AI Servo focus for sports photography) by the Canon EOS-1, Canon EOS 1-N, Canon EOS-1 N RS, Canon EOS-1V and the ultramodern analogic Nikon F6.

The very up-to-date exclusive system Multi-CAM1300 presented in the F5 sports a five zones autofocus covering a bigger area than any former system, both in horizontal and verticals shots, with the option of Single Servo AF with focus priority and Continuous Servo AF with shutter priority.

A newly designed CPU brings a superior speed and exactness in the detection of the correct focus, with two basic modes of AF zones:

a) Single Area AF for static subjects.

b) Dynamic AF for moving subjects, with high speed automatic focusing tracking up to 8 frames per second, very suitable for sports and nature photography. Once chosen this dynamic focus, you must select one of the five autofocus sensors available and the Nikon F5 will be changing automatically the area of focusing detection, trying to adapt it all the better for the moving subject, irrespective of the direction in which the action takes place.

There´s also the choice of activating independent AF buttons so as to make horizontal or vertical shots.

Each one of the five autofocus sensors is chosen by means of a button located on the back part of the camera.

Besides, there is the option of using the manual focusing with electronic rangefinder, by previously deactivating the AF multi-CAM 1300 module.

It was a job throughout some years, since 30,000 different real scenes were photographed, with subjects designed to test the limitations of the matrix metering in monochrome.

A lot of members of the Nikon technological samurai team under Tetsuro Goto´s command went out with prototypes of the F5 and made photographs under all type of situations, timetables and lighting, during every season and climate of the year, till they gathered a mammoth archive of photos, from which they chose the best ones, transferring the information about brightness and colour to number values, in such a way that the best image of each type had an only description code. And these codes were incorporated into the main algorithm of a calculus program that ´learnt them´.

Therefore, on pressing the shutter release of the Nikon F5, if the 3D Color Metering Matrix is used, the camera reads the data of brightness and contrast, together with the information about colour, in every one of the 1005 pixels of the exclusive RGB sensor.

On the other hand, the built-in microchips separate instantly the information about the colour from the info about brightness and they calculate the colour average of the subject to photograph.

The data on brightness are grouped in superposed areas and the medium values of brightness and contrast are calculated.

Together with a segmentation signal (of the selected area), the values of colour, brightness and contrast are compared to the camera database containing the information about the mentioned 30,000 images.

Finally, the distance data of the Nikkor D type used to further refine the exposure calculus are added, and the outcome obtained in milliseconds is a tremendously exact estimate of the exposure value, under any circumstance, which greatly enhances the percentage of perfect snapshots, to the extent that the system is so sensitive that it can even compensate the exposition depending on whether tungsten or fluorescent light is used.

Diagonal view from top of the Nikon F5. Both the superb and original camera design and its remarkable ergonomics highlight.

On the right of the pentaprism, we can see the dioptre adjustment knob and the metering system selector.

Close-up of the inner area of the back cover of the Nikon F5, where you can observe five gold-plated contacts on the left, and an excellent metallic plate for film pressure assuring a correct film flatness during the exposure.


The Nikon F5 has four high torque coreless motors: one for film advance, another one for the rewinding, a third for the focusing of the lens and a last one taking charge of the cocking of shutter.

It allows to shoot a complete 36 exposition spool in only 4.5 sec and to rewind it in 4 sec - a very silent operation-, and there´s also the option of manual rewinding through the classic crank.

In another direction, the largest number of functions of the Nikon F5 work with a great accuracy thanks to a powerful inner net of microcomputers joining the sensors and the motors with elite microchips (three 16 bit chips, one 8 bit chip and one 4 bit chip), controlling at the same time 24 areas with custom settings adjustable by the photographer.

This inner net of microcomputers can even be connected to a computer with Windows or Macintosh operative system to program further choices.

Metallic carcass of the Nikon F5, in which a profusion of very high quality die-cast aluminium alloy -and titanium in some specific areas- is used, above all in the sheath of the viewfinder pentaprism.

Another back view of the Nikon F5 camera body. Once more, the gorgeous gold-plated contacts stand out.


One relative innovation included in the Nikon F5. It allows an optimum exposure with flash in any scene, with the Nikon SB-26 and Nikon SB-27 flashes, getting excellent results with regard to balance between ambient light and artificial flash light.

On the other hand, the F5 allows the TTL flash synchronization at speeds up to 1/250 sec (and even at 1/300 sec by means of an alternative function) with flashes of any brand and the possibility of High Speed Flash Synchronization between 1/250 and 1/4000 sec with the flash Nikon SB-26, as well as letting the slow synch of flash, the flash synchronization to the second curtain of the shutter, the sequential over and sub exposure with flash, the option of stroboscopic flash, etc.

In Automatic Program Mode or in Automatic Diaphragm Priority Mode, the shutter works between 1/250 and 1/60 sec with normal synch and between 1/250 sec and 30 sec with slow synch; and in Automatic Shutter Speed priority or in Manual Exposure Mode, the shutter works at the speed set by the photographer or at 1/250 if the camera is adjusted at a shutter speed between 1/250 and 1/8000.

With the Nikkor AF lenses and the flashes Nikon Speedlight SB-27, SB-26, SB-22, etc, it is possible to use the 5 segment TTL Multisensor of the Nikon F5 to obtain an automatic control of TTL flash along with automatic balanced fill-in flash with the quoted TTL Multi Sensor.

On the other hand, the flashes Nikon Speedlight SB-26 and SB-27 emit a preflash of confirmation of correct exposure for the TTL Multisensor when a Nikkor AF lens is used.

Besides, when a flash Nikon Speedlight connected to the camera is ready to fire, a red colour illumination appears, while it blinkers if the flash light insn´t enough due to a dim ambient light.

AF Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8D with 6 elements in 5 groups, a fairly high quality standard lens, that was brought up-to-date in the year 2002 within the D series, providing information about distance as a part of the normal exposures and flash exposures.
Another image of the superb AF Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8D standard lens.
Lateral view of the AF Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4D, another excellent standard lens by Nikon, with 7 elements in 5 groups and a weight of 225 g.

Professional zoom AF Nikkor 80-200 mm f/2.8 D, with 11 elements in 16 groups, one of the elite lenses by the Japanese firm, able to achieve results comparable to the ones obtained with the vast majority of fixed focal lengths through its zoom range. It has a weight of 1, 300 g and a minimal focusing distance of 1, 5 m. Watch the magnificent anodizing of the lens front part.

Another image of the fabulous professional zoom AF Nikkor 80-200 mm f/2.8D, which has a built-in turning coupling ring for tripod and monopod.

One of the top references of the Nikon image quality. Here is the extraordinary AF Nikkor 200 mm f/2G featuring a VR system of vibration reduction and a Silent Wave Motor.

It´s an authentic optical Rolls-Royce with 13 elements in 9 groups, three elements UD and one Super UD. It has got a weight of 2´9 kg, a minimal focusing distance of 1´9 m and it yields a marvellous bokeh.
Coupled to the TC-17EII 1.7X teleconverter it becomes into a 340 mm f/3.3 lens, almost without quality loss.

Another image of the marvellous AF Nikkor 200 mm f/2G. You can see the wondrous finish of each one of the components and the gorgeous mechanizing of the Nikon F mount.

Objetivo AF-S Nikkor 300 mm f/2.8G IF-ED with VR system, also sporting a turning coupling ring for tripod or monopod.

With 11 elements in 8 groups, this is one of the biggest flagships of the Nikon professional range of lenses.

It has a special technology of nano-crystal coating in some selected internal optical elements, which reduces ghosting and flare.

Likewise, it features a protective meniscus front element glass avoiding the internal reflections sometimes happening in the digital image sensors.

AF Nikkor 400 mm f/2.8D IF-EDII, featuring a Silent Wave motor. This is a full-fledged classic of the sports photography in XXI Century.

Put on stage in 2001, it has a weight of 4, 4 kg, three UD Extra Low Dispersion elements and a minimal focusing distance of 3, 5 m.

It excels for featuring a big coupling support for tripod and monopod, which also works as a transport handle.

The legendary Nippon Kogaku 600 mm f/5.6, an extraordinary long tele lens with 5 elements in 5 groups which was launched to market in August 1964 to be coupled to the first Nikon reflex in Nikon F mount. It features an excellent multilayer coating and has a minimal focusing distance of 11 meters. It can also be used with the Nikon F5 in manual mode after a previous modification.

Extraordinary the anodizing of the lens front part, resembling the one present on the mythical Tele-Ennalyt long teles for Exakta mount.

AF Micro-Nikkor 60 mm f/2.8D, one of the most charismatic jewels of the Nikon professional range of lenses, linking up to the legendary saga of Micro-Nikkors made by the Japanese firm.

It sports a special system for correction at short distances, guaranteeing a very high resolution from infinity to close-ups in macro photography, with a 1:1 reproduction ratio.


Camera: Nikon F5
Weight: 1210 g without batteries.
Size: 158 x 149 x 79.
Shutter Type: Focal plane and metallic double bladed, vertical travel and electronic control.
Exposure Modes: Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority and Assisted Manual.
Range of Speeds: From 1/8000 to 30 sec + B, though there is a custom setting allowing times up to 30 minutes.
Flash Synchronization: Up to 1/250 sec with all the flashes and 1/300 with the specific flashes Nikon SB-26 and Nikon SB-27, although the reaching power is reduced.
Type of flash synchronization: To the first curtain with different flashes and to the first and second curtain with Nikon SB-26 and SB-27 flashes.
Metering System: TTL through 1005 matrix, analysing the colour and working on about 330 zones.
Metering Modes: Central weighted average -whose percentage can be modified by the photographer-, spot and 3D matrix.
Metering Range: 0-20 EV in central weighted average and matrix modes and 2-20 EV in spot mode.
Visual checking of depth of field: Yes, electronic type.
Points of focusing: Five, cross ranged, being possible to manually choose one of them or let the camera select automatically one or several points of focus.
Mount: Nikon AF.
Selftimer: Electronic, with 10 seconds delay and the possibility of programming it between 2 and 60 seconds through a custom setting available for such purpose.
Flash Control: Five zone matrix TTL with specific Nikon flashes.
Rewind: High speed motorized or by means of the traditional crank.
Mirror Lock: Yes, through the suitable lever.
ISO Range: 6-6400 ISO, with DX options between 25 and 5000 ISO.
Threaded Shutter Release: Yes, electronic type.
Interchangeable Backs: MF-27 and MF-28.
Autofocusing Choices: Focus Lock and Very High Speed Continuous Tracking AI Servo with up to 8 frames per second.
Time of rewinding with motor: Between 4 and 6 seconds, depending on the type of battery used.
Hot shoe: Yes, with specific central contact for flash.
Dioptric Adjustment: Yes, according to the viewfinder model, between -3 and +1.
Viewfinder Coverage: 100%.
Manual Focusing: Optional, by means of a lever located on the camera body and a correct focusing indicator in the viewfinder.
Exposure Compensation: +- 5 stops, in increases of 1/3 stop.
Magnification: 0´75 X
Exposure Lock: Yes, pressing one of the AE/L/AF-L buttons.
Interchangeable Viewfinders: Four different models.
Power Source: Special Ni-MH Battery Unit MN-30 or eight AA-type batteries.
PC Socket: Yes, with 10 pins.
Multiple exposures: Yes, through a pressing button allowing to make two of them automatically, though there´s also the option of making them in an unlimited way.
Viewfinder Information: Fairly complete, by means of a superb LCD display.
Outer information displays: Two LCD displays that can be illuminated by the photographer.
AEB: Two or three consecutive frames, with adjustable increases between 1/3 and 2/3 or an f stop, with the photographer being able to simultaneously use it with the exposure compensation and the specific Nikon flashes.
Format: 24 x 36 in 35 mm film.

© Copyright José Manuel Serrano Esparza