Sanity check: lightweight universal Nikon body

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by fluppeteer, Apr 17, 2010.

  1. Hi all. I'm the happy owner of an F5 and a D700, with a selection of lenses from AI to G.

    I'd quite like to pick up a more lightweight body to use as a walkaround device, when I want to trade the performance of the F5 and D700 for less weight, preserving as much compatibility as possible. Especially, some form of metering with AI lenses, autofocus with both AF and AF-S lenses, aperture control on G lenses. I lean towards film, but I'm not ruling out a digital solution.

    Nikon doesn't appear to have made anything light that will do this. The F6 and F100 work everything, but are still quite hefty. Likewise the D200/D300/D300x (and, I suspect, Fuji DSLRs), but obviously with a cropped FoV. These aren't enough lighter than my F5 (at least with lithiium batteries) or D700 to justify buying one; I'm looking for something in the weight category of the F75 or Eos 500 (or, upper limit, D40).

    My options seem to be:
    F75 + an external meter for AI lenses.
    F70, but lose VR and aperture control on G lenses.
    D70 + an external meter for AI lenses. (Heavier than I'd like, cropped sensor, although the 1/500 flash sync and IR sensitivity appeal to me).
    Put a novoflex adaptor on the Eos 500 I already own, and give up on autofocus.

    My understanding is that third-party F-mount bodies like the Phenix probably won't allow G aperture control - but I've not heard anything recent about third party bodies for a while.

    I think I fall into a hole in Nikon's historical product line-up; it seems to have been assumed that a premium feature such a wide lens compatibility must be paired with a body you can use as a hammer.

    Is there an option that I'm missing?
  2. N8008 and N90, N90s are options. Smaller and lighter then the F100. I use the N80 which is very light but no manual focus lens option. With the power winder on it you have a nice ergonomic lightweight camera and it only takes AA rechargeables. Sometimes when you talking about spending a very small amount of money you could consider that maybe every possible feature may be negotiable. For instance a Nikon FG is very light and uses AIS lenses. Inexpensive and has ttl flash available. It's a perfect little camera for a hundred bucks. You can even have it serviced at Garrys camera for $40.00+$8.00 shipping. Good luck. I went with the N80 because I wanted a light camera for hiking and cycling and I wanted a low replacement value.
  3. You might also consider the F80/N80 and the D80. I was just reading through Simon Stafford's Nikon Compendium and sadly, none of the small, lightweight Nikon AF cameras support metering with all lenses, so you are still stuck with an external meter. The lightest all-around solution is an F100, which you have ruled out. A shame, really, as I thought the N80 was an otherwise perfect camera for this niche.
  4. I think some compromises have to be made with a thing like this. Assuming you have a few good walk-around lenses, my top picks would be an FM-2n, FE-2, or D5000. Each has its limitations, but with the right lens(es) would make excellent walk-around cameras.
  5. How about an FE?
    Isn't that compatible with most every Nikon lens?
  6. I agree with Luis G the N80/F80 is a great camera and is very light. I don't think it will meter with the AI lenses but you can carry a light meter around with you.
  7. I'm waiting for the n80 version of the d700.
    f100 >>> n80
    d700 >>> d700SS ( A FF d40 body??? )
  8. Thanks, everyone. The F90 seems to be roughly the same weight as the F100, not much shy of the D700. I'd not really registered that the F80 and N8080/F-801 are as light as they are, but they're still significantly over the weight of the F75. The F80, sadly, gives more features but no more comptaibility for the weight (if I'm wanting more flexibility I'll take the hit and carry one of the bigger bodies); the N8080 works with my old lenses but cripples the new ones. Sadly, I think - for me - the F75 still looks like the best I can do. Unfortunately the FE and FM series, I believe, don't work at all with G lenses (or at least, always use the smallest aperture).<br>
    Ross - as you say, when spending a small amount of money, I expect features to be negotiable. Unfortunately, Nikon don't seem to have made any premium lightweight cameras! (Not that I'm intending to spend a fortune, but these days all Nikon film SLRs, with the exceptions of collectables and the F6, are cheap.) If only there was a carbon fibre version of the F100...<br>
    It looks as though the consensus is that I've not missed an obvious camera that will work with all the historical lens options. In which case, I'll go forth and pick a compromise. So far I've been using my Eos 500 as a walkaround (or a Bessa if I value thinness over weight), but since I'm now a Nikon devotee it seemed wasteful to try to maintain a useful lens collection on three systems in parallel. A shame that Nikon's long lens mount history doesn't seem to help me in this case, but I'll resist the temptation to switch to Leica.<br>
    Thanks again for your assistance.
  9. "I'll resist my temptation to switch to Leica"
  10. You may resist but the ultimate in portability might be a micro four third body and adapter for your existing lenses!
  11. Hi Andrew,
    I shoot mostly with D700 and I met the same problem like you - I found not at hand to take my main camera in vacations, trips and for street photography, because it is intimidating others.
    From this reason last year I decided to buy a Nikon D5000 and I am very happy with it by now. It's performance is very good if you can accept the lack of a focusing motor and of some external dedicated controls.
    One thing you have to know, on D5000 you can mount probably every lens Nikon ever produced, even the pre-AIs... without any damage and they will work. (Thom Hogan says that all of them... others are saying that most of them... I'm not an expert in very old Nikkors so I can't say who's right. Maybe Bjorn R. could help with this...) Of course they will not meter if are not modified with a CPU... but for me that's OK.
    Another BIG advantage of D5000 for someone doing manual focus is the positionable display. While doing AF on Live View is a big pain, the manual focus on Live View is a pleasure on this wonderful little camera. I have the three chipped lenses from Voigtlander (Cosina) 20mm, 40mm and 58mm and I am delighted to use them on D5000.
    My advice for you is to rent a D5000 for a couple of days and start to play with it... You may find that it is enough small, enough performant and enough inexpensive to go for it. I dream too that Nikon will bring a little camera on the market compatible with all lenses, at a reduced size, but until then I'm happy with D5000.
  12. Starvy,
    Could you elaborate more, please? A link for such as adapter... more details... will AF work? What's the IQ of this combination between a 4/3 body and a Nikkor lens? Thanks in advance!
  13. F/N80; D70s, D200
  14. The F80/N80 film bodies should be around the same size as a D70/D80/D90 but won't meter with manual lens. The F801/N8008 and F/N90s bodies are wider bodies with a fatter hand grip than the D70/D80/D90 but will meter with older manual lenses and have some kind of compatibilty with G lenses. I think Program and Shutter priority mode works with G lenses. My F801 body is not that heavy to be honest.
  15. Lumix LX3 or GF1 is my lightweight plan B. A second full-sized DSLR body and your same save weight?? IMHO, you're saving a few ounces swapping from full-sized body to full-sized body.
  16. Starvy: Don't think I'm not tempted by a GF-1, but they're still a bit expensive at the moment. My other half will kill me if I switch systems again, having jumped from Canon when I got my D700. Perhaps in a couple of years. It'd be a bit of a waste of all my autofocus lenses (and 3/4 of the image circle), though. It's an appealing option for Leica lenses, though.

    Mihai - google "micro 4:3 adaptor". Voigtlander and Novoflex both make them; the Novoflex ones allow aperture control of G lenses. The adaptors contain no optics, so the image quality will be determined entirely by the resolution of the lens and the ability of the sensor to accept light at the angle it leaves the lens (unlikely to be a problem if it's okay on a Nikon DSLR). I suspect that lenses that are okay on a D300 would work well; the change of resolution is only roughly 1.5x. The adaptors don't autofocus - although I imagine that someone could make something in the style of the TC-16A autofocussing teleconverter if there was enough demand.

    As for the D5000, it's a potential alternative to the D40, although the faster flash sync of the D40 and the slightly lighter weight mean a used D40 might tempt me more. Your point about live view is a good one, though. Unfortunately, no meter and no autofocus makes it a bit of a desparate option, especially since my lens collection was chosen on the basis of full frame use.

    For clarification on the all/some AI lens issue, no digital Nikon will take the very old-style Nikkor fish-eyes which stick into the mirror chamber (physically, because they don't have permanent mirror lock-up; optically, because the light would be hitting the sensor obliquely). Should I ever get my hands on a 6mm f/5.6, I'll live with using the F5. My lens collection isn't that obscure.
  17. Josh and Ramon - since portability is my main interest, I'm still of the opinion that the N80 isn't worth an extra 150g over the N75, that supports all the same lenses. It's interesting to see it suggested so often, though.

    Stuart: The F801 is an interesting alternative, but I think the lack of AF-S autofocus in addition to losing aperture priority on G lenses would make me think carefully. I'm not sure there's a compelling reason to pick up an F90 over an F100, and both are a bit heavy for me. Good to have the options compared, though.

    Mark: Finances permitting, I might agree - although at least an Nikon DSLRs would autofocus some of the lenses. The argument against a film SLR is less convincing: the F75 weighs roughly the same as a GF-1, and I'd not need to buy more wide-angle lenses. Both my existing cameras are very heavy - the D700 is around 1kg, the F5 more - so even a D40 would halve the weight. The size benefit of the GF-1 is less significant once I've stuck a Nikkor on the front, although I admit I kind of wish the 45mm f/2.8 pancake was a bit cheaper.

    Thanks for your feedback, everyone.
  18. The N75/F75 is the lightest thing with its feature set. Kind of amazing when you think about it - a D40 weight more and they can't get one motor in there, an F75 weighs less and has two motors.It does support everything except metering with manual lenses (and no pre-AI lenses) so it's probably your best bet.
    The FE was a good guess but it doesn't support aperture on G lenses.
    The F100 is nearly a pound less than the F5, for what it's worth, it does meter with everything and it's better than the F75 for manual focusing because the F75 has a pretty small finder and it's not the good prism type.
  19. Thanks, Andrew. I might see if I can compare an F100 and F75 in person - I suspect that most of the time I'd be prepared to lug an F100, I'd take one of my existing bodies, but I guess I won't know until I try. Lenses aren't weightless either, of course, so even my best option will depend on what I'm carrying around. You make a good point about manual focus and the viewfinder difference - less the pentaprism (my SLR experience started with a Canon 300D, so I'm not spoilt), especially since the prism is a significant part of the weight, but I also notice that the F75 has the consumer style focus confirmation, whereas the F100's is the pro style from the F5 and D700. That may or may not bother me...
    Thanks again, everyone.
  20. The other "goodness" to consider is how similar are the user interfaces to the F5 and D700 you already own? The N80 and F100 (I have one of each) are virtually identical to my D200 (and I suspect to your cameras.)
    The FE2 and its brethren are obviously different from the modern cameras, but they're so simple that it won't matter. I'm able to use them with no confusion. The N70's user interface is a bit unique and I found it just gets in the way. Switching back and forth between your F5 and D700 and the N70 would be awkward. I don't know about the N75...never even held one.
    For what it's worth, my arsenal includes a D200, F100, N80, FM2, FM, FE2, and FA. I've stopped buying G or DX lenses because they're too limiting...I want to be able to use all lenses on all cameras.
    My advice is the N80 and give up on metering with AI lenses. That's how I use mine...when I want AF but don't feel like lugging a lot of weight. Another reason to carry it is that with a cheap 50 mm f/1.8 AF lens, it's almost expendable. If I drop it in the surf or get sand in it or it gets banged up, it's easy to replace. My D200 and 18-200 mm zoo...not so much.
  21. I have both an N80 and an N75. The N75 is lighter but the N80 is better built. If you are considering a D40 you should also consider a D40x and D60. They all weigh around the same, but the D60 has some nice features the D40 and D40x lack. My walkaround kit is a D90 and 18-200 VR or a D60 and Tamron 18-200. The later combination is 10 oz. lighter than the former.
  22. I bought an N75 a few months ago and really enjoy using it when traveling light is the priority. One bonus of the N75 is that the accessory grip can be found much cheaper and has a vertical release; the one for the N80 does not.
  23. Why not the the D3000 or the D5000?
  24. Sorry, I didn't pick up on your auto focus requirements, in recommending the D3000 and D5000. (I hate auto focus, auto anything.) But in terms of the incredible lightness of being, these cameras are superb.
  25. The N80 with a AF 35 or 50 is the best lightweight, walk around, automated film SLR on the planet. Sure the F100 is a bit quicker but you pay for that in size and weight. The N80 is very quiet and can be had in like new condition for $100 or less. I wouldn't go with a lesser model. Those two control wheels on the N80 come in handy.
  26. Does anyone use the Novoflex Nikon lens to micro 4/3 adaptor?
  27. Does anyone use the Novoflex Nikon lens to micro 4/3 adaptor?​
    If you go to a m4/3 forum and do a search and will know that this has been discussed a million times. There are many much much cheaper adapters on e Bay that can control the G lenses for as little as $50.
  28. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    To me, the F75/N75 has a fatal flaw that I have mentioned a few times: no manual file speed setting. If DX decoding is wrong or you need to push process a roll by a couple of stops, it will be a major pain. You can set exposure compensation, but you'll need to set that back when you process your next roll normally. The chance is that you will forget and mess up some day.
    The N8008 cannot AF with AF-S lenses and the N90 has no sub-command dial and is not compatible with VR.
    Personally, I think the F100, D300, and D700 are light enough for me. If those are too heavy for you, you'll have to make some fairly major compromises and give up some features.
  29. Now that I've read a bit about the N75, I still feel that the N80 is a better lightweight alternative to your bigger Nikons, just because of the two-knob user interface. Yes, it's a few ounces more, but having your fingers accustomed to just one way of controlling aperture and shutter speed may make a difference between getting the shot or not.
  30. The FE/FE2 are nice. Their main disadvantage IMO is that viewfinder information (aperture, shutter spead) isn't as easy to read as with modern film and digital SLRs, same goes for the industrial grade knobs... as indestructible as they may be, they are also difficult to read in dim light.
    If you're only planning to shoot (only) in daylight, the FE2 is fine, for any dim lighting scenarios, modern SLRs are far easier to use.
    What's left? I guess N80 (an inexpensive and compact full frame), or D5000 (smaller image circule, but has all the digital adventages).
  31. D40! fab camera, since I got it for a family trip and did not want to carry my heavier "D's," use it more then the other cameras
  32. Another vote for the F80/N80. I have this body and a D700 and love them both. Just took the F80 out, with 50mm prime, and after hefting the D700 with a telephoto zoom it seemed light as a feather!
    As it happens, I came to Nikon a few years ago and have never got into AI or AIS lenses, so I don't have the metering problem, but you now have a good excuse to get a decent external lightmeter (if you don't have one already).
  33. Thanks again, everyone. The N80/F80 has such resounding support that I'll definitely try to have a play with one before shopping. If anything, the most interesting thing to me about this thread is that I'd no idea the N80/F80 was so popular.

    Shun: I spotted your concerns about film speed in another thread; I have to say that I've never needed to push film, and rarely needed to set the film speed explicitly (I think I may have had to for HIE, but since I couldn't get any more if I wanted to and it would fog on the F80 even if I could...) - but that might be a limitation of my photographic ability. The second command dial on the F80 is obviously an advantage, but I'm used to the press-and-roll shuffle from my Canons (although Martin's comments about the interface of the N70/F70 confirm my suspicions about what would otherwise be a good low-end universal option; I'm only happy for the interface to be compromised so much). The F80 is obviously a higher-end camera than the F75, though - I'll look into it. It's just a shame that it's a bit chubby compared with the Eos 500 that I'm used to. Don't get me wrong: the F5 and D700 aren't "too heavy" most of the time, but they're a little much to carry when I'm not sure I'm actually going to do any photography...

    It's a pity that there's no more universal solution. Maybe I'm unduly scared of external light meters; a fair bit of manual interaction I can live with, but even my Bessa R has a TTL meter. Maybe someone will take the financial risk and license the F mount to fill the gap in the market - I'd have thought Nikon might cut a discounted deal if there was a "no digital" clause.

    Thanks for the opinions, all.

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