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Nikon F with Digital Back? or Nikkor F lenses with Dgital Body

David DelMonte , Apr 08, 2006; 08:28 a.m.

Forgive the probably naive question but I'm a newbie. I have a Nikon F Photomic. I love the lens quality and have found the quality of picture superior to most anything available today.However, I want to enter the digital world.

I'd like to either use a digital back with the camera, or be able to use the lenses with a digital SLR.

What equipment do people recomend?




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Michael Ging , Apr 08, 2006; 08:51 a.m.

I WISH, there was a digital back for my F's, But that is just a wish. The New D200 will take your lenses if they are AI lenses. Pre-AI you (and I ) are out of luck.

Steve Levine , Apr 08, 2006; 09:07 a.m.

Buy a NIKON high end film scanner, and use your "F" all you want.

Matthew Currie , Apr 08, 2006; 09:51 a.m.

I agree with Steve. Especially if you're satisfied with the quality of what you get, why not just stick with what works? Once you get the hang of scanning, you'll enjoy the quality and the control, and you'll certainly spend enough time at the computer to feel you've entered the digital world. I expect to use my F until either film is unavailable or I'm too old and weak to pick it up.

I have a Nikon Coolscan IV-ED, now obsolete. But check out the V-ED.

Douglas Green , Apr 08, 2006; 10:11 a.m.

"I love the lens quality and have found the quality of picture superior to most anything available today."

This happens to not be true. Nikon's own top end DSLRs, such as the D2x, and D200 are capable of using all of your same lenses, and delivering results that outresolve anything 35mm film can deliver. This is also true with the top end Canon pro-caliber gear. Not to mention professional digital backs on Medium format cameras.

Whether you will get the same sense of mechanical precision and build quality that your F Photomic provides is entirely another story. But as for the quality of the photos that the newer top-end gear is capable of (in terms of actual, measured information content and detail), it's better than what 35mm film can deliver.

And I happen to own an F, an F2, an F3, Leicas, and various Rolleiflex, Mamiya, and Pentax Medium format gear. Don't confuse the mechanical precision and build quality and substance of the older gear with the objective metric of the dynamic range and information content of the image. Pro caliber Digital has passed 35mm by on that score.

Todd Peach , Apr 08, 2006; 10:15 a.m.

I have a broad range of 'ages' of Nikon equipment, from an F to a D2H. As Michael said, the upper end of Nikon's digital range (D200, D2x, D2Hs) is engineered to accept AI lenses. You can of course have your 'F era' lenses AI modified if you wish.

Personally, I find I don't use my AI lenses all that much on my D2H. The 24/2.0 gets used, as I don't have anything else quite that wide/fast. My 105/4 gets used, as it's just a damn handy lens to have for working distance, and I haven't coughed up big bucks to 'replace it' with something from the AF era. I would probably use more of my AI lenses if Nikon had a Full Frame sensor body (then my 35/1.4 would probably rock, and the 105/1.8 would come out to play as well).

What I find is that the focal lengths that really work well for you gradually get 'upgraded' to new AF lenses. My 85/1.4 AIS still has a home in my F2 bag, but my 85/1.4 AFD is what I use on my D2H.

Vivek . , Apr 08, 2006; 10:34 a.m.

Dave, Check out Sinar M @ www.sinar.ch

Shun Cheung , Apr 08, 2006; 10:59 a.m.

Unfortunately, film scanning is very time consuming. If you merely scan a few selected images, it is not so bad. If you scan in large batches, you are better off with an auto loader. Moreover, you won't get digital's instant feedback and still need to pay for film and processing. This option might work for you, but is in way it is the "worse of both worlds."

If you want digital, the simpliest solution is to get a Nikon DSLR. They can vary from a $500 D50 to a $1700 D200 and up. But the chance is that you will eventually replace your lenses with more modern ones to work with digital. Pre-AI lenses must be AI'ed, and the D50 and D70s won't meter with them.

Adam Maas , Apr 08, 2006; 01:38 p.m.

You can get your lenses AI-modified and then use them on a D200 or D2x, or you can acquire a Canon EOS digital body and an F mount adaptor, which will mount any F mount lens that doesn't require mirror lockup, and meter in stop-down mode, this doesn't require AI modification..

David H. Hartman , Apr 08, 2006; 04:02 p.m.


I mix and match my AI & AIS lenses and AF lenses on my D2H. If I want to manual focus then I prefer the AI & AIS lenses. With flash I mostly want an AF zoom.

My 25~50/4.0 AIS Nikkor works very well on the D2H as do most manual focus lenses that are 50mm and longer. My 300/4.5 ED-IF AI is an exception and really needs software correction for CA for every shot. I pretty much don’t use it on the D2H. My 15/5.6 AI is the only really wide lens I have for the D2H. It’s ridiculously big in this role and suffers purple color fringing against an over case sky. It is also is quite flare and ghost prone due to the bulbous front element unless the sun is mostly to my back. My 28/2.0 AIS is very good but CA can be a problem from time to time. Anyway I do find AI and AIS Nikkors quite useful on my D2H.

The lenses I use most with my D2H are the 28/2.0 AIS, 35~70/2.8D AF, 50/1.8 AI, 50/1.8 AF, 55/3.5 Micro-Nikkor (compensating aperture) with M tube,105/4.0 AI Micro w/ or w/o PN-11, 70~180/4.5~5.6D ED AF Micro, 80~200/2.8D ED AF and 400/5.6 ED AI. The 35~70/2.8D AF is my standard zoom and the 28/2.0 AIS is my normal lens for non-flash, low ambient light.

If I’m turning towards the sun my 105/2.5 AIS and 135/2.8 AIS are very free of flare compared to the 80~200/2.8D ED and CA is never a problem. All three of these lenses are excellent on the D2H. The 55/3.5 Micro (CAV) and 105/4.0 AI give beautifully mellow unfocused background rendition.

A digital back to fit a Nikon F? I very much doubt that it will ever happen, about zero chance. I think the Nikon D200 is probably the camera for you. You might want to have some of your lenses AI(ed) if they are pre-AI lenses.


Dave Hartman.

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