Nikon F90 (US = N90)

Discussion in 'Modern Film Cameras' started by JDMvW, Mar 30, 2017.

  1. Prologue
    I am posting this obviously "Modern Film Camera" here, but I detect a certain uneasiness about separating these from "Classic Manual" among my fellow mice. Although I can claim to be one of the people who got the Modern Film category established, I now believe that we might do better with a "Collectable Cameras" or such category.
  2. Nikon F90 (=USA N90)
    1992-2001 So far as I can determine, this was not related to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 26 December 1991.

    replaced F-801 (=US N8008)

    • 01-Nikon-f90-05ef.jpg
    • Author and Subject ​
  3. Early Nikon AF cameras - from film to digital

    As the old timers here (if any) know, I’ve been trying out early autofocus 35mm cameras for some time now ( ).

    Canon T80 1985
    Minolta Maxxum 7000 1985
    Nikon N2020 (F-501) 1986
    Canon EOS 650 1987
    Canon EOS 620 1987
    Yashica 230-AF 1987
    Pentax SF-1 (SFX) 1987
    Canon EOS 630 1989
    Nikon N8008s AF (F-801s) 1991
    Nikon N80QD (F80D) 2000

    & NOW Nikon N90 (F90) 1992-2001 replaced 8008 F801

    see also


    This discussion does not include the photographed ( but seldom seen and never produced) 1971 Nikon AF Nikkor 80mm f4,5 and the later 1983 Nikon F3AF and its 2 AF lenses ( ) which I see as a evolutionary dead end like the Canon T80.
    • AF Nikon 80mm f/4.5​
    • AF-Nikkor-80mm-f4,5-1971.jpg
  4. Mostly for budgetary (mine) reasons, I have also not included the F4 series (1988), choosing the more or less contemporary PRO-AM (Nikon calls them “High end” cameras:

    Nikon N2020 (F-501 outside North America) (
    Nikon N8008s AF (F-801s outside North America) (

    Nikon F80D (N80QD in USA) ( a later “fill-in,” “rationalized” model

    Nikon N90 (F90 outside North America) (this post).
    • Nikon-F90-06-e.jpg
  5. One of this series forms the body for the first Kodak sensor—- Nikon body hybrid digital cameras, so is a good place to bide a bit.

    I usually don’t give links to Ken Rockwell (aka, the “HYPNOKEN”) but his discussion of the F90, while no less enthusiastic than usual, is also a pretty good summary ( ).

    Similarly, the 1993 Hillebrand and Hauschild Nikon Compendium was published just as the F90 was released, and it says of the F90

    “this model marks the beginning of a completely new generation of cameras to come, capable of superior performance in automatic shooting situations.”


    “All in all the Nikon F90 represents
    a really big step towards the goal of the
    perfect - and perfectly simple - picture
    taking machine. It combines all
    the automatic functions resulting in a
    handling speed that can make the difference
    between a successful shot or
    no shot at all, state-of-the-art performance
    in all crucial technical areas,
    supportive and/or alternative modes,
    and the option to set almost everything
    as manually as desired or considered

    Because of competition from Canon in the automatic features, especially auto focus, and delays in getting the F5 out, the F90 was a kind of stop-gap. While they were at it, they crammed everything they had ready into the camera so that it has some features of a kludge. By the time the next models released — the F80 (yes like Canon, Nikon model numbers do not necessarily follow a chronological order) — the ergonomics of the camera had been much improved (see my report on the F80 at

    The F90 was not intended for pros; but, since it had faster AF than the F4, many professional Nikon-equipped photographers adopted the camera.
    The focus of the F90 was based on new mechanisms, resulting in an approximately 30% faster AF than earlier models, including the then current F4.

    And here is one reason I gathered in this camera into my collection: Its body was the basis for the digital Kodak DCS 410 and 420 ( (used by NASA on space flights) (
  6. The actual earliest Kodak digital patch up was done for the “gummint” on a Canon EOS body, but the Nikon-based Kodak DCS series were made for commercial sales.

    In 1995, the DCS 460 was the highest resolution digital camera available and its list price was US$35,600. Like a million-dollar monkey wrench, these were sold to government and few wealthy journalism customers, not the average home user. When the 460 model closed out in November 2000, the price had dropped to US$2,500, but by then Kodak — and most especially their competitors— were beginning to sniff a hint of a open market commodity affordable even by private purchasers. Although Kodak had pioneered the digital camera, it was NOT the first to succeed in the open market
    (Sound familiar? I strongly suspect that the main failing in American business practice was the existence of the closed military-industrial market. I mean, why would you sell at camera to Joe Blow for $3000, when the Gummint would pay $35,000? What would a mere consumer do with a video tape recorder, as another example?)


    Not compatible with pre-AI Nikkor lenses (which is one reason I now use Canon digital cameras). Full compatibility with on the AF/AFD(screw) and G lenses. (and of course it is “full frame” so DX lenses are not recommended.
    Unlike the earlier F-801/F-801s, the F90/F90x supports autofocus with the AF-I/AF-S series lenses with built-in motors.
    Nikon lens mount discussion:

    The camera is easily handled and set by any person with three hands or 15 fingers. (Even Ken comments on this). An frustrating example of this is the manipulation to set the “Continuous Servo AF Mode”.
    Here is the fingering necessary to do so:

    • 0T Nikon-f90-continuous servo set p42.jpg
  7. OTHER “SPECIAL” FEATURES at no extra charge

    The non-slip rubber coating on the back door of the F90 will turn sticky with age. This can be removed by detaching the door and rubbing the back with a cloth and a solvent. can be removed. However the Wiki F90 article claims that “The white printed ‘Vari Program’ icons will remain unaffected also. “ but the wikipedia article is not true of my copy, at any rate.
    • The original back as I received it​
    • 0V Nikon F90 Vari-Programs.jpg
  8. After attempting to clean off the gummy rubber with naphtha:
    • 0R-Rubber-coating-problems.jpg
  9. THE F90 IN USE
    I am still suffering from a mysterious condition that has caused me to suffer from sleep deprivation for the last 18 months or so [cries of “oh, so that’s whats going on!”].

    So my shooting time with the camera was a little intermittent, and, as I discovered, I mostly got out on days when we had yet another “last-of-the-season” light snow falls. In any case, aside from the special features implemented better in the F80 and later cameras, I was mostly interested in the AF system. Not so much in its speed, but in my case for its accuracy.
    • Clapboard - midrange focus​
    • 00-Nikon-f90-06.jpg
  10. If there’s “Indian Summer”, this must have been “Pilgrim Winter” in late March - daffodils had already bloomed.
    • 01-Nikon-f90-14.jpg
  11. More of same
    • 02-Nikon-f90-15.jpg
    • Close focus, low light​
    • 03-Nikon-f90-02.jpg
  12. That's all folks!

    I found there were some apparent limits on posting that made it difficult to post images, but I found a workaround. Hope this is a temporary problem for those of us who are naturally prolix.

    I perhaps could have posted all the text and images in one entry? I've seen some hints that suggest that the way I did it here (like the old Photo,com) may be the hard way
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2017
  13. Great treatise on the F90, JDM, a host of interesting facts and anecdotes, and an excellent read. Many thanks for the considerable time and effort involved. I hope you get that sleep deprivation under control... It's a shame we no longer have "slide evenings" featuring friends' recent world trips. That always worked for me...
  14. Silent Street

    Silent Street Silent Street Photography AUS

    For a time in the early 1990s I used a Nikon F-401. Experience with this plastic-y affair left a very sour taste; it was slow, tedious and unrefined. I then got hold of an F-801 (pre-loved by an internationally-famous rock climber), ditched that a year or so later and traded to the F90X, which in Australia was very popular in bicycle touring, rock climbing and bushwalking circles. As for the emphasis on automatic, a lot of photographers used it in manual.

    I think he images presented should be more about the lenswork, not the camera per se. Exposure was never a problem in my experience. But some of the Nikkor offerings were not all that stellar for the time. I still hold an early Olympus OM mini-zoom as one of the better and still enduring optical performers of the 1980s-early 1990s. Before Canon's L-series swept me up from 1995 forever putting Nikon and Olympus before it out of sight.
  15. That's most interesting, thanks. I've got an F90X which I prefer to the much vaunted F100, which seems over complicated for my needs, and I'm not keen on the rubber covering which is hard to reattach properly once it starts to peel off.
  16. By all means feel free to do whatever sort of pictures you want. In my case, of course, the only reason I got the camera was to test its new BODY features (including but not limited to the faster AF) as expressed on the path to digital, as I said. It was precisely the problems with older AF mechanisms that made this camera a necessity for Nikon.

    The lenses were my AF Nikon model standards -- the most used by users at the time- namely,the AF Nikkkor 50mm f/1.8 D and the Nikkor 35-80mm f/4-5,6 D
  17. Well done, JDM and very informative. Thanks.
  18. Ah!
    A dark room, the smell of a hot projector lamp, the click of the slide advance....
    The gentle snore of Uncle Henry in the corner.

    À la recherche du temps perdu

    Now that I've read all of Thomas Mann, can Proust be far behind?
  19. I sure do miss my uncle's slide shows...the sound of the projector fan running, potty breaks between carousels!

    Starting around 2003 I bought a few of Nikon's AF cameras when prices dropped significantly, though I still paid a lot considering you can hardly GIVE one away today.

    I enjoyed using an N90s but never really warmed up to it because of the grip (sans MB-10, which I did eventually purchase). I also have N70 and N8008s bodies and their similar shape but smaller profile felt better to me.

    I still have a bunch of slide film in the freezer...time to exercise those old motors!

    Eric Sande

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