Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikon F5 Series SLR models - Manual / Auto Focusing - Part I

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Focusing Control with the Nikon F5

Like any modern SLR camera, focusing with Nikon F5 can either be handle manually or autofocusing. Naturally, autofocus has been the mainstream of choice for the last 20 years in camera development. Looking back to all the events and happenings around the photo community for the last 1-1/2 decade, the second half of the Nikon F4 era can considered to be quite "disastrous " with Nikon's main competitors, Canon kept eating up professional user's market shares with their fully electronic mount Canon EOS-1(n) Series Models along with a series of high performance EF-USM optics. For quite a long spell, Nikon seemingly has no answer to such aggression, primarily due to the architecture of EOS/EF framework was far superior than the aged Nikon due to the adoption of a conservative principle of camera-driven AF system. So, except for the Nikon F90(x) Series models which has introduced with a few exciting features that still enabled Nikon to continue defending its traditional stronghold in this territory while waiting for a fruitful development of new capable professional class SLR to take on the competitions.

So, the birth of the Nikon F5 was not entirely coincidental and was well schemed, designed aim in answering or even excel what the current market players can offer in performance and reliability. So, one of its main technical highlight was actually emphasized around its autofocusing. Naturally, the improvement done was not entirely confined to the segment of autofocusing alone as the Nikkor optics have also been "synchronized and/ revised" which resulted in a series of new Nikkor lenses that embodied with improved technical specifications in order to enable F5 to fully optimize its potential. So, in this section we will leave the manual focusing at the last for discussion while the main emphasis is still centered around the F5's autofocusing.

Happy Valentine Photo Data: Nikon F5 / MF-28 This red arrow of love is for all of you, but especially for all the wonderful girls overhere on PN, performed by the great pilots of the Royal Air force Aerobatics Team "The Red Arrows" with their squadron leader Carl 'Spike' Jepson.....Happy Valentine!!!!..... Kindest regards, Harry

: Image courtesy of Mr. Harry Eggens®. Harry is a professional photographer and has an excellent on-line portfolio at Image copyright © 2005. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

To begin with, at the time of its introduction & prior to Canon's reply with their Canon EOS-1v in 2001, the peak burst rate of 8 frames per second focus tracking provided in the Nikon F5 was ranked as the fastest focus tracking rate among all available prevailing options in the market. Although one camera is rarely very much better than others at the professional models, the differences may be just confined to some specific areas that one label may be having some advantage over the other, so, I would not like to compare the F5 in this aspect with any other equivalents and centered what the Nikon F5 capable of delivering to a photographer who may require such class of performance. But autofocusing can easily be regarded as main strength of the Nikon F5 where in certain ways when the few comparing models are measured, it did excel in some areas and deserve to highlight how such performance has been made possible by Nikon.

Basically, other than manually focus with the camera, there are two basic AF modes in the Nikon F5: a. Single (S) servo AF; b. Continuous (C) servo AF. One of the main difference between the Nikon F5 as compared with the previous Nikon F4 was around the focusing areas and how autofocusing is achieved, especially in the areas of focus tracking with its dynamic AF. The F4 has a far simpler AF system with its single area focusing bracket at the dead center with the traditional 12mm Centre-Weighted Metering reference circle that surrounds a smaller 5mm reference circle for Spot Metering. The wide areas autofocusing was evolved as second generation AF method which was presented in semi-pro models such as the Nikon F/N90(x) Series. So, the distribution of multi-AF sensors in an anticipating Nikon F5 back in 1996 was not surprising, the only thing is, how such sensors being arranged.

<<< --- Each manufactures interprets differently what can be the best solution, see how Nikon F5 marked against the competitions such as Minolta X-9 and Canon EOS-1n with the arrangement of its Focusing Sensors.

viewinfoEOS3.gif viewnfoX9.gif viewnfoEOS1n.gif


During this period, one of the breakthrough for autofocusing was the eye-control focus, a technology pioneered by Canon, first used in the ever popular Canon EOS-5/EOSA2(E) for a moment, the futuristic concept had everyone in the photo community think the eye-control will be the mainstream technology. When the amazing 45 AF-points Canon EOS-3 was introduced in 1988, the trend-setting, but seemingly much hyped eye-control feature was strangely being omitted in the camera, probably Canon has decided the prevailing reliability of the eye-control should remains as an amateur feature for the semipro consumer grade bodies, if not, this certainly will made the Nikon F5's 5-points sensors looks primitive in comparison.

However, 3 years later after debut of the massive 45 AF-ponits EOS-3 (option to cut down to 11 points), the rivaling model of Canon EOS-1v has also not included the eye-control function as a standard feature, which leads us to think it may still takes sometime to perfect the technology to fulfill requirement of the highly demanding professional users. Anyway, the EOS-3 has greatly improved the 1994's Canon EOS-1n focusing speed to 7 frames per second, which is quite close to the Nikon F5's performance. The 3rd generation EOS1v, replicating the EOS-3 multi-AF points sensors, boosts the speed to an even more amazing 10 fps with focusing tracking slightly better than F5 at 9 fps. It is also equally interesting to note the 2005's 11 AF-points Nikon F6 was not quite interested in responding to the aggression of Canon in the speed of AF...

Motor GP, Sepang F-1 circuit by Philip Chong
<<< -- One of the best test bed for Autofocus performance of a top class AF-SLR is via races at Formula 1 or an event in the World Motorcycle Grand Prix where these speed demos may travel at 300 + km /h. Photo Credit: Copyright © images 2004. Philip Chong

Whatever it is, if your type of photography is mainly confined to AF-priority and thinks the extra a frame or two would make a great deal in your photographic results, you can considered all the current available options (say if you often shoot more than 2-3X weekly in quick burst of 8 a new F6, okay ? if not, for the not-so-confident pros, take a good look again at the Canon's EOS-1v to see if a camera can improve drastically in your photography or not ! ). The Nikon F5's AF overall performance is not just confined to AF areas, more importantly, it can be a truly nightmare for your financial if you wishes to change system as a whole. As photography as a whole is not entirely AF-speed dominated (personally, I would think the logical LEFT | creative RIGHT side of your brains plays a BIG deal in this respect) the Nikon F5 - may have be aged in some areas if a modern yardstick is used to judge its AF speed, but it is still an extremely high performance imaging tool for the many creative minds in their photographic applications if you wishes to invest or upgrade your current Nikon as it can still be very rewarding with all it has to offer within its rugged, M1 Abrams--liked body shell.





Technical highlights on the Nikon F5's Five-area autofocus

a) Five sensors create large wide-cross array focus coverage
b) Covers a wide area in the horizontal and vertical ranges inside the finder
c) Dynamic AF automatically shifts from one focus area to another to keep track of moving subject

Fast, precise autofocusing:

a) AF even detects with subjects that appear small in the viewfinder
b) Detects fast moving subjects at closer distances compared to any other system
c) Optimum focusing accuracy and speed with all AF-S Nikkor lenses
d) Cross-type sensors (left, centre, right) assure focus accuracy in both horizontal & vertical shooting

NOTE: The body-integrated AF-sensor(s) in the Nikon F5 also handles
SPOT Metering - it permist ALL interchange Prisms to use the SPOT.

In addition to the above:

a) Unique EC-B type screen with an Electrochromic (EC) device shows focus area selected (approx. 16 x 7.1mm coverage); b) Wide EV range; c) AF start buttons; d) Manual focus with Electronic Rangefinder; e) Freeze Focus available with Nikon MF-28 Multi-Control Back.

selector.jpg basic17g.gif
One of the main difference of the Nikon F5 as compared to to any of its predecessors is how to adjust apertures, shutter speeds as well as selecting a preferred focus area out of the five sensors locations where many of these are via an electronically interface. On the other hand, the film advance transport system has been greatly improved from the already silky smooth, efficient Nikon designs all these years. Next, control the focusing is different as well, as it has five AF sensors in the picture frame. The control is via the focusing area selectors locate at the rear section of the camera .

There are four (4) automatic film advance modes in the Nikon F5. To choose a mode, rotate the film advance mode/self-time( selector while pressing the film advance mode selector lock release. Set S for Single-frame shooting, CL for Continuous low-speed shooting, CH for Continuous high-speed shooting or Cs for Continuous silent-low-speed shooting,

Single-Frame Shooting With the film advance mode at S, fully depressing the shutter release button takes one picture and automatically advances the film by one frame. Film advances immediately after the shutter closes whether you remove your finger from the shutter release button or keep the button depressed.

Continuous Shooting Shoots are taken continuously as long as you keep the shutter release button fully depressed. You have a choice of shooting speeds up to approx.7.4* fps (frames per second) (8 fps* with optional battery pack installed). in CH mode,up to approx. 3 fps in CL mode and approx. 1 fps in Cs mode with fresh AA-type alkaline or lithium batteries at normal temperature 20 degrees C or 68 degrees F) and a shutter speed of 1/250 sec. or higher In Manual exposure and Continuous Servo AF modes. With shutter speeds slower than 1/250 sec., the framing rate becomes progressively slower in proportion to the shutter speed(s) In use. Unlike the Nikon F3/MD-4 the sound of speed burst of multiple frames is lovely, and very positive without the negative thought of worrying the reflex mirror will fall apart.. the film transport mechanism in any Nikon has always been first class, but the film advance speed is simply awesome and you may finish a 36 exp film roll in approx. few seconds. So, be careful of what you shoot, burning frames is not always the best method. Anticipating of the flow of action is very helpful in this sense.

Actually, I am not sure if anyone of you notice this, during the official debut of the F5, Nikon also has "quietly" unvealed a limited batch of another high-speed demon model, Nikon F3H*, it can deliver an even more amazing blisterinng speed of 13.5 frames per second (fps). Along with the 8 fps AF focusing tracking capability in the Nikon F5, both camera ensured Nikon stood as one fo the premier SLR class manufacturer which offers such kind of performance for professionals.

Note: In CH and CL modes, the shooting speeds can be changed using Custom Setting #9. ** Manual focus model, requires companion Motor Drive MD-4H>

RELATIVE: | Nikon F3 High Speed Motor Camera, 1996/7 |

basic16e.jpg basic16f.jpg basic16g.jpg Note: Film advance speed using fully charged optional rechargeable Ni-MH Battery Unit MN-30 is up to approx. 8 fps in CH mode, up to approx. 3 fps in CL mode and approx. 1 fps in Cs mode.

Formula One... James North

James North Email link Credit: Image courtesy of Mr. James North® from The original image can be accessed via his site. Image copyright © 2005. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer. Use of image does not suggest direct association of actual equipment but rather for purpose of visual illustration only.

Focus Area(s): Next, in autofocus operations, there are five (5) focus areas that you can choose from one of the selection. To select your desired focus area, press top, button, left or right on the focus area selector. Corresponding focus areas appear in the viewfinder and top LCD panel. Arrows or top () and to the right () of the viewfinder also indicate the selected focus area. The handling is not entirely very sensitive and you may need to get used to in how to get the thumb press correctly with the right force.The selector "may" turn easier "as time goes by". If you try to be a little picky, the only thing you can complain with the otherwise excellent system is the lack of a brightly-lit ACTIVE sensor. The early days, Nikon argued the logical aspect of having such a need, but ate their words in the recently Nikon F6, where they finally acknowledges the advantage in alerting photographers on the active focus area and thus, has included a bright active sensor inside the viewfinder. Sometimes. I just could not understand who the hell Nikon has sent their prototypes for evaluations... and each time, we have to wait for a generation to rectify a stupid mistake they ve made in the design. It certainly doesn't require a genius but simply to use a little logical thinking or for such a decision, huh ?



Note: When Spot Metering is selected, shifting the focus area also shifts the Spot Metering area accordingly.


<<<--- Credit: Image sequence of this monkey jumping from the tree courtesy of my friend, Mr. Michael Patrick Wong® London based, photo/videographer who shoots for Discovery Channel.

icon-lockbig.gif Focus area can be locked using the lock function. To lock the focus area, select desired focus area, then press the focus area selector to any position while pressing the button.

appears above the focus area indication in top LCID panel. To release the lock, press the focus area selector while pressing the button again so above the focus area Indication disappears from top LCD panel.

Selecting AF Area Mode While pressing AF area mode () button, rotate the Main-Command Dial to select Single Area AF or Dynamic AF mode. Dynamic AF is useful when shooting moving subjects without changing the composition, or when it is difficult to predict the position of subjects at the moment of exposure.

| previous | NEXT | 1/2 Technical Aspect and various related issues

| 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
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Index Page - 3 parts
System Accessories: |
Power Sources | Cases | Remote Control | Miscellaneous

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Macro Photography - Related info on Micro-Nikkor lenses
Specification for Nikon F5
Main Reference Map / Nomenclature

White Tailed Buck in mating motion. Doesn't the backgroud like an approaching Fire storm ?

: Image courtesy of Mr. Nick Kalathas® from Pennsylvania. Nick portfolio is at Nature Moment which contains many excellent nature/wildlife images. Image copyright © 2005. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

Resource Centre: Instruction Manuals
Nikon F5 Camera Body - 18 parts
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PC Links - Photo Secretary - 2 parts
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Variants: F5 50th Anniversary Model | Nikon/Kodak DCS-620 | DCS-720 Digital Still SLR camera | NASA-modified Nikon F5

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Nikon Auto Focus Nikkor lenses:- Main Index Page
Nikon Manual Focus Nikkor lenses:- Fisheye-Nikkor Lenses - Circular | Full Frame | Ultrawides Lenses - 13mm15mm18mm20mm | Wideangle Lenses - 24mm28mm35mm | Standard Lenses - 45mm 50mm 58mm | Telephoto Lenses - 85mm105mm135mm180mm & 200mm | Super-Telephoto Lenses - 300mm 400mm 500mm 600mm 800mm 1200mm |

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Index Page
  Special Application lenses:
Micro-Nikkor Lenses - 50mm~55mm -60mm 85mm -105mm 200mm Micro-Zoom 70-180mm
Perspective Control (PC) - 28mm 35mm PC-Micro 85mm
Dedicated Lenses for Nikon F3AF: AF 80mm f/2.8 | AF 200mm f/3.5 EDIF
Depth of Field Control (DC): 105mm 135mm
Medical Nikkor: 120mm 200mm
Reflex-Nikkor Lenses - 500mm 1000mm 2000mm
Others: Noct Nikkor | OP-Nikkor | UV Nikkor 55mm 105mm | Focusing Units | Bellows-Nikkor 105mm 135mm
Nikon Series E Lenses: 28mm35mm50mm100mm135mm | E-Series Zoom lenses: 36~72mm75~150mm70~210mm

MF Zoom-Nikkor Lenses: 25~50mm | 28~45mm | 28~50mm | 28~85mm | 35~70mm | 36~72mm E | 35~85mm | 35~105mm | 35~135mm | 35~200mm | 43~86mm | 50~135mm | 50~300mm | 70~210mm E | 75~150mm E | 80~200mm | 85~250mm | 100~300mm | 180~600mm | 200~400mm | 200~600mm | 360~1200mm | 1200~1700mm

Tele-Converters: TC-1 | TC-2 | TC-200 | TC-201 | TC-300 | TC-301 | TC-14 | TC-14A | TC-14B | TC-14C | TC-14E | TC-16 | TC-16A | TC-20E

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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| Message Board | for Nikon F5 Series SLR model(s) |

Message Board | for your Nikon Optics in a shared environment
| Message Board | Specifically for Dispose or Looking for Nikon/Nikkor Photographic Equipment

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.