Having been seriously bitten by the bug last year with classic Nikon film cameras, I wanted to introduce film into our professional work. First with top quality 35mm equipment and then soon to be followed with a medium format system.
In order for the 35mm gear to integrate seamlessly with our pro digital system, there was really only one route to take – the awesome Nikon F5 and hot on it’s heels the F100. The F5 was introduced in 1996 and was really ground breaking. Built like a tank (and weighing nearly as much!) it was a sport pro’s dream with 8fps – yes a 36 exposure roll shot in 4.5 seconds, superfast AF and just about every piece of technology available at the time on board as well. Whilst there are many claims for the ‘greatest 35mm film camera’ few would argue that the F5 is one of the top contenders!
The F100 was launched 2 years later, aimed mainly at the advanced amateur or semi pro, the F100 incorporates much of what the F5 had to offer. It has the option of adding a battery back or keeping it a lighter option without. Many F5 owners immediately purchased one as a suitable back up / second body.
Many F5’s are well used, pro workhorses. I wanted to find one with light amateur use and managed to find a good one quite quickly. The F5 is a joy to hold (despite it’s weight), it feels so similar to our D700’s and I felt at home with it in no time. The only handling issue I have is getting used to the 2 fingered operation needed to switch it on – you need to depress a lock button at the same time. Because it feels so similar to the D700, I keep forgetting this and even have to glace down occasionally to find the lock button. One feature that I love and don’t know why this isn’t on every pro DSLR is the ability to ‘lock’ the aperture, shutter speed or both to avoid changing these accidentally. This is particularly useful in full manual mode as a change to one or the other would affect exposure.
All our fast, pro lenses work perfectly with the F5, including VR.
The F100 with battery pack, again feels just like a D700, it is considerably lighter than the F5 even with the MB15 battery pack attached.
All that was left now was to add film and a model. I had read such good reports about Kodak Portra that I just had to try it. during my film years I almost exclusively used Fuji films – NPS160 for our medium format weddings and portraits and Velvia for landscape and pictorial work. If we wanted decent black and white images at our weddings then I would have a film back loaded with Ilford FP4. Kodak Portra wasn’t available then, which was another reason to try it to see how it compared.
Tasha was happy to shoot for just an hour so I could try the film cameras with one of our ‘standard’ beauty lighting set ups. I used the D700 to double check lighting levels / positioning – the modern day equivalent of polaroid! Both the F5 and F100 were each loaded with a roll of film. The F5 was paired with the 85mm and the F100 with the 50mm.
As usual Tasha was brilliant, she is able to change her look and pose with every click of the shutter and needs very little direction. We have shot together enough now to know how each other works.
I was eager to see the results, Jonathan at Snaps Photo Services processed and scanned the films to his usual high quality and they were ready for collection. Just a glance at the contact sheet, and I knew they were something special!
I was amazed at the colour reproduction and smooth tones. Hardly any grain at all, and all perfectly exposed. All that was needed was a bit of cropping here and there and they are ‘good to go’! I did indulge myself with one b/w conversion. A few of the results below.