Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikon F5 Series SLR models - Interchangeable Film Backs

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For a long time, the Interchangeable Film Back has been (and still is) one of the unique features in 35mm SLR photography. One of the main features is its ability to permit the photographer to record information of the image capturing process. The Nikon F5 is one of the RARE labels that still offers this distinctive feature for photographers. The development history for Nikon SLRs with this feature can traced back to its first model, the Nikon F of 1959 (and to a certain extent, the Nikon Rangefinder Models as well).

However, during the early Nikon F era, the basic design of these early cameras required the removal of the base plate in order to change film rolls. This design also has resulted in the early Nikon F models having the Motor Drive integrated into the film back as a complete, one-piece automatic unit. The 250 exp. Bulk Film Back designed for the Nikon F also carries the same operational principle. Other third party accessories such as the Large Format Film Back (Speed Magny) also can be mounted in the same manner. Unfortunately the early Nikon F models do not have the ability to record data onto film.

The control panel at the rear section only has adjustments for shooting speed control and a frame rest/countdown counter. (You can take a look at the sample image of the rear section of a NIKON F/F36 cordless TRIBUNE High Speed Motor Drive Camera to get an idea how it looks). When we entered into the seventies with the Nikon F2. The feature of interchangeable film backs became a little more imaginative. The standard back can be replaced with either a MF-1 250 exp. Bulk Film Back or the GIGANTIC 750 exp. Bulk Film Back MF-2. But with a specially modified Nikon F2 body called the Nikon F2 DATA was the addition of two very special film backs. The standard 36 exp. MF-10 as well as a 250 exp. Bulk Film Back MF-11. Both on these film backs truly have enhanced capability of the Nikon F2 Series. This was the first Nikon SLR, that you can imprint a group of data (with the aid of an integrated flash in the unit) such as Year/Month/Day onto exposed film (Year:1976-1986; Month 1-12 digits; Day from 00-99 via analogue control). Later versions of this model switched to a quartz clock control. More amazingly, handwritten notes could also be exposed onto the memo plates for exposure. Early designs of the Large Format Film Back as well as Speed Magny 100 & 45 first seen on the Nikon F have also been replicated on the Nikon F2 models where film interchangeability was more simply designed than on the early Nikon F . The Nikon F2 Data forms the basis of being the first data recording device for a 35mm Nikon SLR camera. The Nikon MF-12 for the Nikon FE was the first Nikon body that used LCD as the medium, but it only provides simple data recording such as dates, time or frame number.

With the introduction of the Nikon F3 in 1980, Nikon had designed a few options in film backs for the F3 Series. First was the MF-14 basic unit which prints only dates and frame numbers. Then there is the MF-18 which other than its capabilities of printing dates, time and numbers (2-2000) it also served as a film stop leader. The bulk film options are also more sophisticated, with a 250 exp. Bulk Film Data Back MF-17 which imprints basic data and frame numbers only. Along with the MF-17 was the standard 250 exp. MF-4 version which is similar to the Nikon F2 DATA in that can also provide hand written notes onto film.

The first truly sophisticated multifunction Data Back designed for a Nikon was the MF-19 for the Nikon F301 (N2000). The MF-19 can imprint either the year/month/day, month/day/ year, day/month/year, or day/hour/ minute in orange-colored numbers on the slide or print. Numbers from 000001 to 999999 can also be printed. Another feature is it doubles as an intervalometer, which releases the shutter at preselected intervals and allows for time-lapse photography. Lastly, the data back also has a 24-hour clock that can serve as an alarm clock.

The MF-21 designed for the pre-F4 period was for the F801(s) and the N8008(s) series in 1988. It was even more amazing as it was officially termed the "MF-21 Multi-Control Data Back." Interchangeable film backs were no longer used as a simple device for recording the date and time. The MF-21 offers the basic functions of a standard quartz clock unit. The MF-20 is for date, time and serial numbering functions. In conjunction with the basic features it can also imprint shutter speed / aperture settings and double as an intervalometer for programmed controlled exposures (ranging from one second to 99 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds). It was also the first time, automatic exposure bracketing was made available (up to 19 successive pictures with different exposures) as a built-in feature for a Nikon. But the most appealing feature was the FREEZE FOCUS function in which camera's shutter will only release if there's any movement in a pre focused distance (as long as the freeze-focus mode is set).

Comic Chaser.jpg
Various features in the MF-28 may come in handy for a star buster works at night. Other features such as Mirror Lock up, and Self Timer is helpful too.
<<<--- Credit: Image courtesy of Mr. Martial Figenwald® Where I spotted his works at his Portfolio. Image copyright © 2005. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

Many features of the MF-21 were replicated on the MF-23 Multi-Control Function Back for the Nikon professional class F4. The MF-23 provides 7-segments, 8-digit LEDs (between frames), 7-segments, 6-digit LEDs (in frame) Imprint data: Year/Month/Day, Month/Day/ Year, Day/Month/Year, Day/Hour/Minute, Hour/Minute/Second, frame count, sequence number, fixed number, shutter speed/aperture, exposure compensation value. The date and time are automatically programmed and adjusted for leap years. Other functions are the Interval-timer, exposure delay, auto bracketing, long time exposure, freeze focus, daily alarm, film alarm and auto film stop.

f4backviewMF23.jpg (26k) Loading ... betweenframe.jpg
A new feature which adds to its impressive feature list is the Imprint location. It can be either In frame, between frames,or both.

Data Back MF-27 & Multi-Control Function Data Back MF-28 for Nikon F5

The development history outlined above may give you a quick overview on interchangeable film backs and how they have progressed for the various Nikon F series models. One may think that the MF-21 has pushed the imagination and design of the Multi-control Function Data Back to its limits, but with the Nikon F5 it provides some pleasant surprises for F5 owners. Some would think it is kinda hard to resist the temptation of not getting a Multi-Control Function Data Back MF-28 for the F5. Why ? Simply because the optional Multi-Control Back MF-28 enables many of the features found in the early MF-21 for the Nikon F4 plus a little more to offer ....

But before that, Nikon does provide a few alternatives for those who wish to have basic data imprinted onto film. For those who only want a simple date, time and serial number encoding, Nikon offers a simple solution with the MF-27. While for those who wish to enhance further the capabilities of the Nikon F5 beyond that, you have the MF-28. But strangely, Nikon has not designed a dedicated 250 exp. Bulk Film Data Back for the Nikon F5 and for those who require such a feature, you will need to fall back to the Nikon F4. In fact with the introduction of the Nikon F6 in 2004, the Single-Digit Nikon F models have completely eliminated the interchangeable Film Back option. The Multi-Function Control Film Back is now an integrated unit on the Nikon F6.

<<<--- Nikon F6's with its Multi-Function film back as standard back has removed the removable pins as there are no alternative options for interchangeable film back available anymore.

The basic Interchangeable Film Back for Nikon F5 is straight forward as well as very economical. The Data Back MF-27 which imprints selected date and time information within a frame, gives you the choice of Year/Month/Day, Month/Day/Year, Day/Hour/Minute-or No Imprint of data.


Rear view of a Standard Film Back
of Nikon F5 with Focus Area Selector


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The far sophisticated MF-28 can imprint combinations of data in-frame segments, 6 digits; year/month/day, month/day/year, day/month/year, day/hour/minute, hour/minutes/second, film number, serial upcount number or fixed number) or between-frames (alphanumeric, 22 digits; yea Month/day/hour/minute/second, year/month/day/hour/up to 8 characters, month/day/hour/minute/up to 8 characters, day/hour/minute/second/up to 8 characters, up to 22 characters, film number ' shutter speed/aperture, compensation value in Auto Bracketing, or caption up to 18 characters/year).

In addition, the MF-28 enables the F5 to function in more advanced ways. It also acts as an Interval Timer that handles commencement time, interval time, number of shots taken and number of intervals can also be input onto film.

Long Time Exposure
: You can choose any duration from one second up to 999 seconds, 999 minutes or 999 hours. Auto Bracketing: You can shoot up to 9 continuous frames, each with a different exposure. Freeze Focus: Shutter is automatically released the moment the subject enters in-focus position.

Further to the hard working professional who wishes to add a little personal flavor to their images, the MF-28 between frame function can imprint copyright indication information instead of normal data. The feature provides identification for film immediately upon processing and supplements copyright protocol. To those who prize their images and wish to put a digital signature on their work, this feature is indeed a very appealing new addition (as well as a marketing gimmick)..

As with any Nikon body that capable of using the interchangeable film back function, replacing the film back with Nikon F5 is a simple, one handed process. I have noticed the pin and accepting slot for mounting the film back have been designed thicker and more rigid than ever. All the available film back options have a film confirmation window and three solid stainless steel film guide rollers. The larger film pressure plate occupies the center of the optional Data Backs. They also have a rectangular window for exposing data onto film. Below is the main reference map for the MF-28 - the simple MF-27 has a less complex design. Overall I think the all metal construction of the (except the LCD section) MF-28 is an extremely well made Data Back and could well take plenty of hard punishment from most hard working professionals. Every control and even the thumb rest have been well thought out for photographers. However the content in the generously large rear LCD panel is not entirely considered very user friendly to navigate. This may require some experience in handling digital devices before use. The early birds who may have invested into the MF-28 may require standby reference in order to achieve any desired function this sophisticated Nikon Data Back can provide. Anyway I have prepared a replica of the Original Instruction Manual of the MF-28 Multi-Control Function Back for anyone of you who may require this for online reference while you are engaged in assignment on foreign soils or remote locations but still have Internet access.



Front & Rear Views of
Nikon MF-28 for Nikon F5 Series models.

Should you get a MF-28 for your F5 ? Errr ... yah. Why not ? Nikon has smartly diverted many of the additional capabilities into the MF-28. So the basic F5 is less complex electronically in design and the MF-28 is more like an extension of the mighty F5. So I guess it depends on your type of photography and what kind of difficulties that you are anticipating on assignments that may require such features or not. You could say that some of the appealing features such as Auto Bracketing, Freeze Focus or copyright info are very essential to some while those who may think they can live without one can omit and revert back to either a basic model or just settle with a simple device that can imprint dates, time and number sequences such as with the MF-27. Anyway even if you have a F5 for collecting purposes and not for shooting pictures, the MF-28 is an important component of the Nikon F5. This has made me wonder why hasn't the Limited Edition Nikon F5 Anniversary Model been made available with this top-class device as a standard component.

Nikon MF-28 LCD Data Display (not all info will be shown)

NOTE: After five to six years of normal use, however, LCD's contrast may deteriorate and display information may begin to fade. Should this occur, contact an authorized Nikon dealer or service facility to have the display replaced at a nominal charge.

Since the Nikon F5 is a professional Class SLR camera, some companies have also designed devices to market as alternative accessories. One of the main players that specializes in producing Instant Film Backs, NPC Pro Back (Foscher) has also produced a film back for Nikon F5. It is not cheap but for those who do not have much confidence in the exposure accuracy of the Nikon F5 and what the complex 3D Matrix Metering can deliver OR for those who just cannot live without the assurance of optimum exposure results, you may probably want to take a look at it.

<<<--- he current version of Nikon F6's fixed Film Back is a very sophisticated data back - it is a combination of standard film back with Multi-Function control. It has an independent LCD on its own to outline various controls and integrates many frequently used functions within. This eliminates the necessity of purchasing additional specialized- functions data back for users. Perhaps, all future Nikon F(s) may have this design as a standard feature.

Third Party Interchangeable Film Back Options:

The NPC Proback II Instant Film Backs produced by NPC consists of a light seal mechanism which is composed of stainless steel and beryllium copper. All other interface components are black anodized aluminum and stainless steel. The film back uses a free-floating fiber optic lens to transfer the image from the camera film plane to the Polaroid film plane without any degradation of the image. Because the fiber optic bundle is in complete contact with the Polaroid film. Proback II lets you make two independent contact size images on each sheet of Polaroid film simply by pulling the white film tab to a predetermined position before taking the second picture. Instantly, you can do a side-by-side comparison to evaluate varying composition, subtle lighting changes, or results produced by lenses of different focal lengths.

Supported 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 Film Types

Film Type:


PRO 100 Polacolor
Brighter, richer colors and whiter whites
PRO 100 Polapan
Medium contrast, Panachromatic Black and white
Daylight 100 Tungsten 64
Polapan 400
Full gray scale, black and white
Black and white print, low to medium contrast
Black and white, positive, negative
Black and white, high speed
Color print, balanced for daylight and electronic flash
Color print, extended range, daylight and electronic flash

Suggested Retail Price: Nikon F-5 (No focus control) USD $840.00; Nikon F-5FC (with focus control) USD $970.00 More information can be accessed from NPC's website.

NPCprobackNikonF5aSML.JPG NPCprobackNikonF5bSML.JPG NPCprobackNikonF5cSML.JPG Credit: Images courtesy of Adorama® Inc. "Ebay - Mathew Duren" <ebay@adorama> Webisite URL:, who also operates a popular Ebay Store. All images appeared herein are Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved.

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| NEXT | 1/2 INSTRUCTION MANUAL (8 parts) for Nikon Multi-Control Function Data Back MF-28

| Back | Main Index Page - Nikon F5 Professional SLR camera

The Camera - Background, Issues & Summary
Basic Features | Focusing | Metering Systems | Exposure Control | Reliability Issues | Nikkor lens Compatibility
/Finders -
Index page - 2 parts
Film Backs:
Index Page - 1 parts
Focusing Screens -
Index Page - 1 part
Flash System -
Index Page - 3 parts
System Accessories: |
Power Sources | Cases | Remote Control | Miscellaneous

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<<<--- Credit: Image courtesy of Mr. Mike Long®. The image is part of a series extracted from his "Beautiful France Series" showcased in his on-line portfolio at Pbase where you can access his other creative works. Image copyright © 2005. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

Macro Photography - Related info on Micro-Nikkor lenses

Specification for Nikon F5
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Index Page
  Special Application lenses:
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Dedicated Lenses for Nikon F3AF: AF 80mm f/2.8 | AF 200mm f/3.5 EDIF
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Others: Noct Nikkor | OP-Nikkor | UV Nikkor 55mm 105mm | Focusing Units | Bellows-Nikkor 105mm 135mm
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Recommended links to understand more technical details related to the Nikkor F-mount and production Serial Number: by: my friend, Rick Oleson by: Hansen, Lars Holst

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W A R N I N G: The new G-SERIES Nikkor lenses have removed the conventional aperture ring on the lense barrel, they CANNOT adjust aperture(s) when operating in manual exposure control even with certain earlier MF/AF Nikon SLR camera models. But they are FULLY COMPATIBLE with the Nikon F5 featured here in all usable metering systems and/or exposure modes. Please refer to your local distributor for compatibility issue(s).

About this photographic site.

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A resource dedicated to my kids, Alvin Foo & Esther Foo- one day, BOTH might need to use all these information for his/her Nikon F5A camera.

Volunteered Maintainer(s) for the Nikon F5 Message Board: Tony Davies-Patrick, UK; Rick Oleson, US; Koh Kho King, Malaysia.

Credit: Mr. Chuck Hester, US for his text re-editing skill for this site; Our staff, HowKiat® who created the 3D-Nikon F5 logo. Mr. Lew Chee Wai of YL camera for lending his F5 for me to take some shots appeared in this site. All those nice folks who have contributed their images, in particular Mr. Mike Long, Edwin leong, Palmi Einarsson, Sergio Pessolano, Fred Kamphues, Harry Eggens, Curtis Forrester, Nick (Natures Moments), Sandra Bartocha; fellow countrymen, Vincent Thian, Koh Kho King, Philip Chong, CY Leow etc. and contributions from a few nice folks from Photo Malaysia Forum. Disclaimers & acknowledgments: Certain content and images appeared in this site were either scanned from official marketing leaflets, brochures published by Nikon and/or contribution from surfers who claimed originality of their own work for public publishing in this website, where majority of the extracted information are used basing on educational merits. The creator of this site will not be responsible for any discrepancies that may arise from any possible dispute except rectifying them after verification from respective source. Neither Nikon or its associates has granted any permission(s) in using their public information nor has any interest in the creation of this site. "Nikon", "Nikkormat", "Nippon Kokagu KK" "Silent Wave", "Focus Tracking Lock-on", "Nikkor" & other applicable technical/business terms are registered trade name(s) of Nikon Corporation Inc., Japan. Site made with an Apple G5 IMac.