Rewind ’99: The Nikon F100 Review 1999-2019

Hello there you hardcore camera lovers! Now even though my postings all have a twinge of nostalgia in them, every now and then I like doing a post like this where I look back on the gear that I used at a specific point in time.

As 2019 is rapidly drawing to a close, I thought I’d go back in time and look at a some of cameras I used twenty years ago in 1999! There’s going to be about two or three of them and we’ll go through them one by one until the year is done.

PHOTOGRAPHY IN 1999

1999 can be seen as a pivotal year in photography. Film was holding strong, but digital was rising fast. As in really fast!

In 1999 the vast majority of the world were still shooting film. That’s right folks! Even though the digital photography market was making inroads in a big way, the cameras sold to the general public were 1 to 3 megapixel cameras and they were expensive so for most of the world, film was still ruler of the day. But its days were numbered.

Now it might be hard for you youngsters and hipsters who find shooting film cool and different to realize that at one time, not that long ago, film was a format that was used by their “unhip” fathers, mothers, uncles, aunties, grandparents, and heck everyone! If everyone were using it, how unhip is that? 😎👍🏻

Now if you were born in 1999, you may feel “old” but really you’re not! You’re still a baby in many ways, and I say that in the best of terms. Be happy about it! I wish I were twenty years younger! 🙂

That’s why I say 1999 was not that long ago even though sometimes it feels like it! And yet sometimes it doesn’t.

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YOUTUBE VIDEO

For those of you who are YouTube fanatics, and admittedly there are millions out there, here’s our video companion video. I’m trying to get these videos out sooner for you guys!

MY GEAR BAG IN 1999

Not that anyone would or should care what I was using in 1999, but I use my gear only as a reference point. I’d love to know what YOU were using back then? 😎👍🏻

Now believe it or not, in 1999 I did not even get my first digital camera yet! That would happen a year later in 2000. That means all photography I did up to the year 2000 was only done on film. That’s even hard for me today imagine living in the digital world of 2019!

And while I’m sure I had other cameras, today I am talking about what I considered to be my main camera in 1999 and that camera is the Nikon F100. There will be more to come!

THE NIKON F100

The Nikon F100 is an autofocus 35mm film SLR that was introduced in 1999 by Nikon. It was born of the legendary Nikon F5 of 1996 and indeed has the same Multi-Cam 1300 AF system.

The Nikon F100 has a shutter speed range of 30 secs to 1/8000th of a second. It has the standard P/S/A/M modes. It relies on four AA batteries.

F100 vs F5

The F5 was introduced in 1996 and in 1999, it was still the top camera in the Nikon family. The F5 and F100 both share the Nikon Multi-Cam 1300 AF module and five AF points so their AF should be similar except that the F5 can track up to 8 frames per second while the F100 can go up to 4.5fps by itself or up to 5fps with battery pack MB-15.

What it does better than the F5 is the inclusion of the familiar red AF points that the F5 did not have. Correct me if I’m wrong but I remember reading back then that this was due to patent issues.

The F5, as the pro model, offers interchangeable viewfinder prisms, and can offer up to 100% viewfinder coverage depending on the prism. The F100 offers a 96 percent coverage and the prism is not removable.

The F5 has a mirror lock-up option, the F100 does not. In 1999, this mattered more to people than it might today. Check the video for a better explanation of this.

The F5 employs 1005 pixel RGB sensor for its 3D Color Matrix Metering. The F100 uses Nikon’s “exclusive” 10 segment 3D Matrix Metering.

Now I’ve never mentioned this, but (surprise!) yes I have used an F5 as well! And in all honesty, I never saw a difference. Both cameras produced near perfect exposures in all but the most extreme lighting situations. In fact the only Nikon that I felt I had exposure issues with was the N90s. But I used only one body so I feel that could’ve just been my copy of the camera.

The F100 came in at a much lower price ($1400) than the F5 ($3000 original price!) which made it an instant hit among the photography crowd. I remember reading forums like Photo.net where folks couldn’t wait to get their hands on the camera.

In some ways, it was like a pre Nikon D3 vs D700 magic! Two cameras. One pro model, one enthusiast model. Same AF system. One much more expensive, one much less.

Note: By the way, the Nikon F100 has 22 Custom Functions and if you’re interested in them, look it up! I only ever used one function which is to leave the film leader out 🙂

F100 vs F6

I can’t comment on this because (surprise!) I have NOT used an F6. I have no doubt the F6 is the more technically capable camera but as far as results, I’m going to take an educated guess and say that, with the same lenses, same film, results will look identical 🙂

F100 AS A MAIN SHOOTER IN 1999 VS 2019 PERSPECTIVE

In 1999, even though I had other cameras, the F100 was my main shooter. In a 2019 perspective, that’s the equivalent of someone using say a Nikon D750 or D850 for example. But unlike today where you’d use a D750 and maybe have an F100 as a secondary camera for film, the F100 was my main camera in 1999.

I’m not sure who this guy is, but he looks like a little bit of a nut 🙂

That means that I used it for almost everything! I go to a party, I bring my F100. I go to restaurant, I bring the F100. I go to the beach, I bring my F100. I go to church, I bring my F100. Ok, well sometimes I brought my Pentax IQ Zoom point and shoot but you get the idea. I used the F100 the same way I use my iPhone today. That means even my lamest pictures were taken with the F100 🙂

Any of you remember the cool and handy Magic Lantern guides? I didn’t buy too many of them but I did for the F100. I thought I might need it to learn all of the cameras advanced functions. As it turns out, I never really needed the book because for basic shooting the F100 is easy to figure out!

We are so spoiled for choices today and unless you lived in a pre digital world you might not fully understand the profound effect digital photography has made on our lives, for better or worse.

I had another film body as a backup but in 1999 there were no digital backups for me! Simply because there weren’t any real digital cameras at the time capable to even delivering close to what film cameras can and even the 1 to 3 megapixel digicams were expensive!

Today, I carry a digital camera and still carry a film camera no matter where I go. Old habits die hard. Living in a world where I carry digital cameras more than capable of replacing film, it’s an amazing thought that the roles are reversed and that I’m only carrying a film camera because I love film and because it’s going to give me results that are different, maybe more artistic, moody, etc but certainly not technically better than my best digital camera bodies.

PICS

I have a lot of personally memorable images with the Nikon F100 but the majority of them are in the old school photo albums that need to be scanned.

And unless I’m showing a photo that demonstrates its autofocus in action I really don’t think it matters much because, for the most part, for example, a Nikon F100 or N80 with the same lens, same film would take the same pictures. But here are a few pictures for the sake of this article and for nostalgia 😘

“Legends” Circa 1999. Nikon F100, 50mm f/1.8 AF-D Nikkor. In 1999, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were still standing.

“Ho Hum Day” 2011. Nikon F100, 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX lens, Kodak Tri-X in HC-110. The F100 is capable of working with a modern Nikon lens, even digital lenses such as the 35mm f/1.8G DX lens used for this shot!

Here’s a shot I’ve never posted anywhere. How much did I love the F100? So much that I used it at my Dad’s funeral in 2011. RIP Dad, God Bless.

HOW I CAME ACROSS THE F100

I’m not usually an early adopter but I was able to get one only because a photo forum member had bought one and sold it at a pretty steep discount. I had the money and I jumped on it. As I said in one of my videos, just like that Steve Winwood song says “While you see a chance, take it!”

Back in 1999 there weren’t as many photo forums so I’m thinking it was on photo.net but I could be wrong.

Anyway, I loved the camera  then and I still do today! The build was and is superb. It’s not as bulky as the F5 yet not small in any way, especially when compared to today’s mirrorless cameras.

F100 IMPRESSIONS

The camera feels perfect in the hands. The build quality is superb. The magnesium alloy body keeps it strong yet light. Even though it is second tier to the Nikon F5, the F100 is weather sealed like a pro oriented body should be.

All the controls are where you would expect them to be, but if there’s anything that confuses you, read the manual! It is an electronic camera after all with all the complications that might go with that.

The 5 point AF is speedy and accurate. It can run on 4 AA batteries that last a long time. The shutter speed range is 30 secs up to 1/8000th of a second which is always a sign of a top camera. Even though its position was secondary to the F5 which makes it the “prosumer” or “enthusiast” model, it was also marketed to and loved by professionals.

I remember the lenses I used most with the F100 were my ever trusty Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AF-D and the 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D Zoom. That’s a very good general purpose zoom for film and full frame cameras.

I sold the F100 maybe two years later because I either needed the money or wanted to upgrade. Can’t remember now, but that’s usually my reasons for selling!

I must’ve gone through about three of these and my current one was bought in 2011. I still hang on to it, despite not using it as much as I should.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Special Edition Lens available for PRE-ORDER NOW

ISSUES

As much as I’ve been enthusiastic about the F100, it doesn’t mean the camera is flawless. No camera is. More attention should be paid to potential problems when the cameras are electronic in nature.

One area to keep an eye on is the rear Focus Area Selector. It’s that thing that looks like a pad from a video game controller. The controls may malfunction or not be as responsive over time. The possible culprit could be that the electrical contacts underneath may be effected by oxidation or wear out from use, just like a video game joystick. Some people try electrical spray or resetting the camera. Since I have not faced the problem, I do not have the solution. I’m just giving you leads to help you to find your own answers.

The rear focus area selector is a potential problem area.

Another thing to watch for is “ERR” or error messages from the camera. Many times it’s just the batteries or the electrical contacts may need cleaning but other times, you don’t know! Try changing the batteries first. Clean the electrical contacts on the lens mount. Try a reset. If nothing works, get a repair estimate. You might find it cheaper just picking up another F100!

The last thing I found on two of the three F100 cameras that I have used is that the rubber grip becomes sticky with time. This is due to the sweat, moisture, humidity, water, etc that wear it down over the years. This doesn’t happen with all cameras so that means whatever material Nikon used for the F100 (and F5) grips do not wear well over time. The digital Nikon D70 has become infamous for this problem!

Though she looks beautiful right here, keep an eye for sticky grip surfaces on the Nikon F100. Or “Surface Sticky” as a famous used camera dealer calls it!

If you ever looked at used camera dealer descriptions, this is what they call “Surface Sticky” as I often see at KEH Camera.

For usability, it’s a non issue, but you might want to keep an eye on it. Some possible remedies are to use an isopropyl alcohol rub, hand sanitizer, or even baby wipes! It’s really a process of experimentation and these remedies do not work for every camera.

I’ve never tried to fix the sticky surface on my F100 because it’s not that bad yet, but I have used a combination of 70 percent isopropyl alcohol and baby powder to cure the sticky surface of my other cameras.

Keep in mind you may end up doing more damage so if it’s not that bad leave it alone!

BOTTOM LINE

The Nikon F100 is a modern classic and a true Camera Legend. It took the legend of the Nikon F5 to the masses. It’s a perfect Nikon camera in my opinion!

Many people consider it Nikon’s second or third best AF film camera, behind the F5 and F6 respectively. Technically, I may agree with that but in the context of being the best choice for “the people” which is 95 percent of the world, I’d say the Nikon F100 is the BEST! And not just “for your money” but because it is a very capable camera!

CONCLUSION

I hope you enjoyed this ride back in time. What’s next? Find out in my YouTube video!

But more importantly, I’d love to know: What camera/lenses were YOU using in 1999? And if you weren’t around in 1999, then what gear has been most endearing to you on your photographic journey?

I’d love to know so leave a comment! Thank you 🙂

PRICE & AVAILIBILITY

The Nikon F100 is plentiful on the used market. Because it runs second to the F5 in the Nikon hierarchy, it’s prices have been stable over the years. And today, maybe more so because big SLR cameras in general are seen as almost passe, I hate to say it!

Prices for the F100 are trending at $150-300 USD which makes it a bargain. And indeed, when we talk about cameras like the Contax T2 (which I’ve talked about a lot) and the inflated prices for that camera, $150-300 to me is a STEAL for a camera like the F100!

If you have one or get one, I’d love to hear from you!

Get Your Nikom F100 Here!

Monday Mystery Camera: The Minolta X-600

MinX600CC

Just when I thought that, as Bob Seger might say, I had nothing left to burn and nothing left to prove, I have another camera to profile for you 🙂

THE MYSTERIOUS MINOLTA X-600

In 1994 there was an article in Popular Photography magazine regarding the “mysterious” Minolta X-600. In fact the title of the article was “The Mysterious Minolta X-600.”

In that article, I remember the late, great Herbert Keppler wrote of how in 1983 he received an express package from Minolta Research and Development headquarters in Osaka, Japan. He went on to say that in the box contained a camera he had never seen or heard of before: the Minolta X-600.

Now before I continue, let me just say that I really loved Mr. Keppler’s articles and his candid and sometimes brash way of writing. I’m can’t remember if he was Pop Photo’s editor or associate editor, but if you read the magazine long enough, you can tell that he was “The Boss” or “The Man” at that publication.

He was a legend in the photography business and to me, his articles were the main reason I was reading Popular Photography. I was somewhat awestruck actually when he sent me a hand written response to a question I sent in, back in the 90s.

I also have to say, I’ve read over the years, so many people bashing that magazine. To me though, it was better than a lot of other photography magazines out there, but that’s a topic for another day.

Now back to the X-600. After reading the Pop Photo article on it, I got the impression that this was not a production camera and I never thought about it again until I came across one, quite unexpectedly, from a local seller’s collection.

WHAT MAKES THE X-600 SO MYSTERIOUS?

Ok, there’s not a lot of information about this camera on the web, but there is some. So I will try to break down what I have read and what I know of the camera, now that I have one.

The camera was produced as far back as 1983. Contrary to what I deciphered from the Pop Photo article, which gave me the impression that the camera was never released to the public, the X-600 was actually sold/given/leaked to the public, perhaps up to 10,000 units (according the the great Rokkor Files website), and sold in Japan only. Obviously, some have made it around the world 🙂

Now what makes the X-600 special? Now you might have a little chuckle when you read this because we’re so used to it by now…

The X-600 was a manual focus camera that had focus confirmation via a green led dot in the viewfinder that appeared once you have achieved focus. That’s it!

So what’s the big deal you say, all my Nikons have done that for years. In fact, nearly all serious cameras, and even non serious cameras have some kind of focus confirmation. It’s a prerequisite. But back in 1983, this was a BIG deal. In fact, if I recall correctly, they made a big deal about focus confirmation in the Contax RX, a manual focus SLR, and that was in 1994, more than ten years later.

No one knows for sure why Minolta abandoned the X-600 project. If you search around the web you may come across something about patent infringement, but I could not confirm this in any way so I can’t state that as truth.

Anyway, the X-600 was apparently a “pre-autofocus” experiment by Minolta, an experiment that may have led to the creation of the very successful Minolta Maxxum 7000 of 1985, the runaway first hit of the autofocus era of SLR cameras.

The success of the Maxxum 7000 ushered in the era of autofocus to the masses, with Canon and Nikon following shortly thereafter.

HANDS ON

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“The X-Man” aka the “Ghetto-Blaster” hands on with the X-600. Not a narcissistic selfie, only trying to show that the X-600 is out there in the hands of the public 🙂

I’ve only had this one for a short time, a few months, still have film in it. Based on my limited experience, and allow me to say that this may change with time, here are my impressions:

The initial impression upon seeing and handling one is that the camera looks and feels like the X-700. But after you hold it for a short time, you realize that this is NOT the X-700.

The X-700 was my first “real” camera which Mom bought for me in 1985 as a geeky teen with a thirst for photography. I used it for almost ten years straight before I got into all this G.A.S. stuff, and I still have it 31 years later so the X-700 is a camera I know a little about 🙂

The good news for most folks? The X-700 is a much better camera. Not only in looks, but in ergonomics and operations. The X-700 is cheaper and easy to find. The bad news about the X-700? It’s not an X-600 🙂

The X-600 is a much more basic camera, which can be a good thing, but it doesn’t have some of the things that made the X-700 so nice. For example, it doesn’t have a shutter speed dial on top as in the X-700. Instead, the shutter speeds appear in a counter on the top right plate of the camera and appears much like a film counter, which under certain conditions can be hard to see and hard to read.

There is no exposure compensation dial. No ASA/ISO indicator. Shutter speeds range from 1s to 1/1000 plus B. There is an Aperture Priority mode which can be engaged via the AUTO settting in the shutter speed selection dial.

The camera uses two AAA batteries, which I actually like better than the usually hearing aid type batteries seen in the X-700 and other cameras.

One great thing I noticed is that the X-600 does not drain the batteries the way my X-700 did. I have accidentally left the X-600 in the “On” position for days and it still doesn’t show battery drain.

The viewfinder shows shutter speeds with red line indicators. The focus “window” is a long slit right in the center of the viewfinder. There are right and left red arrow focus indicators and a green spot in the middle which will light up once you have achieved focus. Anyone who has used the focus confirmation feature on Nikon cameras will be familiar with this method of manual focusing.

The “special” focus confirmation feature works, but it needs good light to work well. According to info I have read on the web, the camera needs later MD lenses with an extra pin or post on the rear lens mount which was apparently needed by the X-600, which has two focus aid sensors in the body.

But wait…I am using the X-600 with three lenses, one which has the pin and two which do not have that extra pin, yet the camera is giving me a focus confirmation signal on all three lenses when I achieve sharp focus! Whether this is reality or not, I will have to report back when I am finished with the film. Only then will I know if the focus confirmation system actually worked with these lenses.

BOTTOM LINE

In today’s world, I must say that there is nothing outstanding about the X-600 as a camera, other than its rarity and its history which I have tried to relay to you here.

I’m not trying to take anything away from the X-600. It’s a very basic camera that uses batteries. Usually a no-no in my book. And focus confirmation is something so basic now that we just take it for granted.

But we must, in respect to Minolta, remember that this was new stuff back in 1983 and they should be given credit for doing something that moved the camera (as a species, not just the X-600) further up the ladder of evolution.

The X-600 is the missing link, the “Lost Testament” of Minolta’s development and refinement of autofocus. The Maxxum 7000 autofocus SLR of 1985 changed the world forever, but to get to the 7000, Minolta had to create the X-600.

Just as the Apollo astronauts who did the test runs never got the glory of the astronauts who landed on the moon, the X-600 is a rare and largely unknown camera, but just like those forgotten astronauts, without the X-600, it’s safe to say there would be no Maxxum 7000.

The Minolta X-600 is most certainly a Camera Legend. It is a camera pioneer. To appreciate that, you must take into account its history. Once you do that, you can then realize that this is indeed a very special camera.

WHERE TO BUY?

The X-600 is a rare camera, based on the low production numbers and the limited information that there is on this camera.

The good news is that they show up every now and then on eBay and I have seen it once at KEH camera. And even better news is that when they do show up, they do not cost a lot. The bad news? You never know when they show up. It could be tomorrow, it could be six months from now. That’s the nature of rare collectibles.

I’m not sure how to say this. You may think I’m just a guy with no life who does nothing, but seek out these odd cameras, and you might have well been justified in your thinking, but honestly, and I’ve said this before…I don’t seek out these cameras, they come to me! 🙂

Seriously! As with so many other cameras and lenses I’ve come across, I found the X-600 when I wasn’t even looking for it. This is a camera that no one hears or talks about simply because not many know about it. When you don’t know about it, you’re not looking for it.

Based on the fact that this is a rare camera, if and when you do find one, you’ll probably come across it the same way I did…when you’re not looking for it.

But assuming you do find one, based on my research, prices are trending at $90-135 on eBay, but you might do a little better if you find one locally. I got mine for $60 with a little haggling 🙂

If you have one of these Camera Legends, I’d sure love to hear about it!

Note: As this is already a late posting, you can safely assume that there won’t be a “Tuesday Titans” tonight 🙂

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