There is an old saying that goes, “Buying a Nikon does not make you a photographer, it simply makes you a Nikon owner”. Well after all these years I have finally become a Nikon owner!

Having been a long time 35mm rangefinder camera user I suddenly found myself hankering after the flexibility of a more "modern" 35mm SLR which would allow me access to greater range of lenses (especially medium telephotos) and the ability to get closer when focusing. I also took the plunge to choose a camera with decent AF capability whilst I was at it. This led me on a merry dance on not only the range of acceptable models but also what was actually out there for sale in a decent condition.

Cutting a long story short, I ended up buying for the princely sum of £86 a Nikon F80 with lens in "excellent ++" condition (whatever that means). Now having been used to high end rangefinder cameras constructed of such materials as titanium, magnesium and duraluminium alloys, the F80 came as a bit of shock as it can best described as a piece of early 2000's drastic plastic. Whist it is a highly capable modern AF 35mm film SLR aimed at the "serious amateur" market, it still comes across as a bit of a placky toy really... but...

... as a machine for making real photographs on 35mm film it is a little gem. It has excellent "3D Matrix" metering, fast and snappy AF with five sensors with single and continuous focus, the usual PASM modes, ABC for auto bracketing, single and continuous film frame advance, plus AE and AF lock functions. Then there is a raft of 19 custom functions with control info displayed on an LCD panel on the top of the camera. Ah, and did I mention the built in pop up flash? This is a sophisticated, light weight little beast of a camera.


It takes the old AF D lenses that don't have focusing motors in them but rather their AF is driven off the motor built into the camera body, old tech by modern standards and a little (though not excessively) noisy as a consequence. The happy consequence of this is, however, these excellent lenses are available at a much lower cost on the used market as they won't provide AF on modern Nikon cameras because of said lack of lens integral AF motors.


My only caution regarding the F80 is that, being made of a mostly plastic, don't drop it onto a hard surface. Oh and also, as it isn't in any way weather sealed, don't take it out in adverse conditions. Apart from that it's an oldie but a goodie.

✧ Jokul Frosti ✧

A space containing the thoughts, experiences, photos and collected curiosities of a walkabout photographer with a snapshot style.