The Nikon F5, released in 1996, is the ultimate professional 35mm SLR for sports and action. This camera does not mess around. It has a shooting speed of 7.4 frames per second, and weighs in at 3 pounds, 11 ounces with batteries, film, and a 50mm lens. The size and weight kept me away from the F5 for a long time, but I picked one up a few weeks ago to see how it fared shooting baseball.
I've owned my Nikon F, F2, and F4 cameras for many years now, and absolutely adore them. I enjoy their robust-yet-compact builds, and simplistic mechanical controls. The F5 is a departure from these previous F models, trading mechanical knobs for an electronic display and command dials. It's a very modern setup, one that digital SLR users will immediately be right at home with. Though the hipster in me misses physical controls, the electronic display does nicely streamline the shooting experience.The size and weight also differentiates the F5 from previous F models, which were relatively small and light. While the features of the F5 are certainly an upgrade over previous cameras in every way, its hulking frame limits how and where the camera can be used effectively, and it's not exactly discreet. Call me a wimp, but I don't want to lug it around with me for much longer than an hour. Whip this beast out the street, and you're sure to raise some eyebrows. I sure wouldn't recommend it as a travel camera. Though its massive girth can be considered a detriment in many situations, the F5 is also the most solid camera I've ever held in my hands. The grip is incredibly comfortable, and the additional vertical release makes portrait oriented shots a breeze. Overall, handling on the F5 is top notch, as long as you don't plan to walk with it for extended periods of time. Essentially, the F5 was built for one thing: SPEED. A blazing fast 7.4 fps fire rate, combined with quick and accurate autofocus, makes the F5 a must-have for sports shooters. This thing just goes. If you're not careful, you can eat through an entire roll of film in mere seconds. There are five autofocus points to choose from, which can be cycled between through via a directional pad on the rear of the camera. Most of my shots came out in sharp focus, and the ones that didn't were probably due to user error. Here is a sequence I made shooting at the max frame rate:
As a guy who enjoys multiple exposures, I appreciate that the F5 has a dedicated multiple exposure button. You just hold down the button and rotate the main command dial to turn the mode on. When you're done with your current frame, hold the button and rotate the command dial again to automatically advance the film. I had fun combining the F5's multiple exposure function with the 7.4 fps:
Overall I love the F5. While not a camera I see myself using a lot due to its size, I think I will keep it around for situations that call for its high frame rate and dependable autofocus. Below are a few more photographs I made with my F5 and 80-200mm f2.8 D lens, on Kodak Tmax 400 film.