Photos © 2004, Stan Trzoniec, All Rights Reserved
a world of increasing digital dominance, Nikon has again taken a bold step and
introduced a camera that should keep film-based photographers happy for some
time to come. Call it a move up for those who never had the privilege of owning
a premium camera or a huge upgrade for photographers who now feel they've
taken the F5 to its limits, the F6 is certainly a milestone for both the company
and the passion of photography.
For the former, taking it through its paces within the pages of its impressive
191-page instruction manual will be quite a feat. For those established with
the F5 and who want to trade up, we'll start right there and highlight
all the new--and most important--features of this handsome Nikon F6.
For serious photographers using the previous F-series of cameras, right out
of the box the feeling among all will be that something is missing. They would
be right of course, as Nikon has "cut" the battery box from the
base (like the F100) of the camera and now has it powered by twin 3v lithium
batteries that are inserted into the left side of the camera base. As I like
a little more bulk to my cameras, especially when shooting all day, I had Nikon
ship the optional MB-40 "Multi Power Battery Pack" that increases
the frames per second (fps) ratio (from 5.5 to 8 fps depending on the shutter
speed), adds more comfort when shooting vertically with additional controls,
and all with only a modest 18 percent gain in the overall height of the camera.
A rechargeable pack is also included in the option package for those who prefer
This farmer obviously takes pride in his country and had the flag
painted on one of his barns. Taken with the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G
Nikkor lens, the roof has a natural bow in it. This is not from
any distortion within the mechanics of the lens.
The F6 has an aluminum-alloy die-cast chassis with a magnesium-alloy front
body and related covers for durability. It is sealed in the right places to
resist the rigors of nasty weather and has the ergonomics to make the camera
feel right at home in your hands from the moment you pick it up. The right side
of the body has the usual grip for easy holding no matter the lens attached,
controls are placed in the right places (almost a carbon copy of the F5), and
I found the camera very intuitive to use--this should also be the experience
even if you've never had a Nikon SLR in your hands before.
Out walking around, I caught this tranquil scene of an elderly
man reading the newspaper on a lazy Sunday morning. I positioned
the bottom center sensor even before lifting the camera up as
not to disturb the man and fired away. Matrix metering took care
of the rest as did the handy controls on the MB-40 battery pack.
A very difficult lighting situation and the F6 does it again.
With a white church and a deep sky, this is an impressive photograph
of a contemporary church in Concord, Massachusetts.
This new F6 is loaded with features. For instance, they've taken the
11-area sensor design from the new generation of D-series of digital cameras
and incorporated it in the F6. Part of the package is the Nikon Multi-CAM 2000
autofocus sensor, which delivers fast response to challenging conditions while
ensuring sharp focus over a wider area of the fast-moving scene unfolding in
front of you. This is further enhanced by the inclusion of Dynamic autofocus
that shifts the point of focus from one sensor to the other, allowing the photographer
to concentrate on the action and not the mechanics of the camera. Teamed up
with my Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 AF-S lens and the brand-new TC-17E II Teleconverter
(see sidebar), I could find nothing wrong as the system worked perfectly every
time while shooting drag freight trains just east of the Berkshires in Western
With backlighting to emphasis the volume of exhaust, this freight
train was captured with focus tracking and Matrix metering with
a Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 AF-S lens just east of Palmer, Massachusetts.
Additionally, you have other options when it comes to focus within the sensors.
For example, in Dynamic AF mode, you can choose the primary sensor and, if the
subject moves, transfer of the action is seamlessly made to the next sensor
and the next as the subject moves across the screen. In Group Dynamic AF mode,
you can pick a selected group of sensors (right five, center five, or left five)
and Dynamic AF mode with Closest-Subject Priority wherein the camera picks the
closest subject and holds the focus as it moves into another sensor area.
Just under the manual rewind knob and aside from the film advance
options is the mirror up button. Turn it to this position, press
the shutter release once and the mirror goes up. Press it again,
the shutter fires and the mirror returns to its normal position.
Additional buttons control bracketing control and shutter speed
In all honesty, I think the biggest advance is within the Custom Settings
menu on the camera. At first take, and looking at the back of the camera, you
might just think that Nikon slipped a digital camera into your box. Along with
the top LCD that gives the operator basic information like shutter speed, f/stop,
exposure compensation, battery power, and other related information, the rear
panel is a whole new ball game.