Troubles with Nikon F4

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by kobe_wagstaff, Apr 16, 2017.

  1. I am having some troubles with my Nikon F4. I am having problems with my images being underexposed. When shooting manual I set my aperture ring to where I want it and then I adjust my settings (shutter speed and exposure) according to the exposure meter that you see in the camera. Somehow my images area coming out underexposed and quite grainy. I tried using the autoexposure setting which I believe to get the camera to adjust your settings according to the aperture set is "A" but my images were coming out underexposed as well. If someone could give me a more thorough explanation of how to get a correct exposure and how to use the autoexposure settings and manual settings that would be great. I have tried looking at the manual but I am so confused and getting nowhere. I am pairing my camera with an ai lens so it is not an autofocus lens and that could possibly contributing to the issue.
  2. First of all, for the two program settings to work(P and Ph) the lens must be set to its smallest aperture. I think the shutter speed dial can be anywhere, but I don't use the program modes so don't recall on those. You may need to have the shutter speed dial at "A". For manual, you need to adjust the shutter and aperture ring until you get the null indication in the viewfinder. I'm a bit confused about your comment on "setting the shutter speed and exposure." If you've selected an aperture, the ONLY things you can do to get the exposure correct are to change the shutter speed and aperture. Also, if you've not used film cameras before, you might be best to stick to the P, S, and A modes.

    Just to check all the other things...

    1. Is your film speed set correctly? MOST film(I can think of a few exceptions) is DX-coded, which means the camera sets it correctly based on electrical codes on the side of the film canister. On the F4, the film speed dial(under the rewind crank) has a setting for DX coding or and can be over-ridden by setting a film speed on this dial. Be sure it matches the film you're using, and ideally leave it at "DX" unless you're using non-coded film or intentionally want to push/pull the film(don't do this until you know your way around film).

    2. Make sure the exposure compensation dial hasn't been disloged from the "0" setting.

    3. I like center weighted averaging, but for most uses you'll probably get the best results if you use matrix metering. The metering mode is set by a dial on the side of the prism above the shutter speed dial. Push the lever all the way forward for matrix metering.

    4. This is very unlikely, but there is exposure compensation built into the prism to account for different focusing screens. This is a setting you normally wouldn't touch, but it's possible that someone has messed with it in the past. For the standard "B" screen(matte screen with a pair of brackets in the center to indicate the AF area) you should have this set to zero. If's viewable from a small window on the underside of the prism, and adjusted by removing the prism and turning a certain spot with a screwdriver. Check the manual for this.

    Those are the things that come immediately to mind. Also, what type of film are you using and is it expired? I use expired film all the time, but you have to know its limitations. Consumer color negative film that has an unknown history and may have been stored poorly can show reduced sensitivity and color shifts. This may explain the problem you're having.

    Also, I get the impression that you may not have a lot of experience with film. I LOVE my F4-in fact for a Canon guy it's the only Nikon body that I've truly fallen in love with and it may be my favorite film SLR just for general use. With that said, I come from using film cameras that entirely knob and dial based. I feel right at home using it(aside from the fact that everything is backwards relative to Canons :) ) but the camera has a LOT of different switches, knobs, and dials. It's easy to change something you don't intend to.

    BTW, there are zero issues using an F4 with an AI lens. The camera will do everything correctly in every exposure mode except focus(which of course you have to do yourself). The only lenses that require extra steps are non-AI lenses.
  3. By the way, here my typical "grab and go" settings on my camera. Sorry for the low quality-I just picked mine up and took some iPhone photos of it. The only thing I changed for this was setting the ISO dial to DX since it's currently loaded with one of the few films on the market that is NOT DX coded.


  4. Ben! Thank you so much for the response. Let me give you some examples of my experience with the nikon f4. I have shot film for a while but have never used the Nikon systems before. I have always shot on my canon ae-1 so I feel a little out of touch with this camera. It is all new to me! The film I typically shoot on is fujfilm professional/superia and Kodak portra. when I load my film into the camera I will adjust the iso on the camera to the iso labeled on the film. Are you suggesting that I just place the iso setting on DX and that will automatically read the iso of my film loaded into the camera? And as far as shutter speed and exposure go do I just place the dial on "s" and I will be good to go? Then it will automatically adjust the shutter speed and exposure to the aperture that i have placed it on! Sorry if I am being confusing. Let me know if you need more clarity. I will provide sample images below to show you the issues I am having with on my camera.
  5. Here is one of the images I had an issue with. I shot it in manual mode and adjusted my shutter speed and exposure according to the meter that is within the prism and it came out very grainy and underpexosed. IMG_9144.JPG
  6. My first camera was an A-1(although I now mostly use F-1s and T90s) so you and I have similar backgrounds.

    For the fewest headaches, just set the dial to DX and go from there. Only change it if you have a solid reason to do otherwise, or if like me and shooting Scala 160 or some other film that's not coded.

    I'm still not following what you mean by setting the "shutter speed and exposure." If you are in manual mode, you'll generally set the shutter speed or aperture, then adjust the aperture until you get the "correct" indication in the viewfinder.

    Coming from a Canon background, I tend to use mine in shutter priority(S) mode. With the mode dial set to S, the aperture ring gets set to the smallest aperture(many newer lenses have a lock to keep it there) then you pick a shutter speed and the camera will pick the correct aperture. This is no different from how your AE-1 worked, except that there's not a dedicated auto exposure position on the aperture ring.
  7. The last image I posted was shot on portra 160 and was shot in manual mode.

    That is what I mean when I am speaking about the "shutter speed and exposure" I adjust the aperture first and adjust the shutter speed and exposure according to the correct indication that is in the viewfinder.

    Can you explain the "A" mode to me and how that works? I like to have control of my aperture because I am very picky about my DOF so I don't think shutter priority would be the setting I am looking for.

    what I am looking to do is to be able to control my aperture and to be able to rely on the camera's auto settings to adjust my shutter speed and exposure so that i am getting less grain and not have my images be underexposed.
  8. To do that, set the dial on top to the green "A." Then, you can pick the aperture on the shutter ring(provided that you have any sort of AI lens) and the exposure will be correct. If you see "HI" in the viewfinder, you need to close the aperture down more, while if you see "Lo" you need to open it up.

    Try using it like, with the ASA set to DX(and the other settings I suggested-metering to matrix, of of course exposure compensation to zero) and see how things look.

    BTW, any chance you could post a photo of your negatives? Just holding a strip against a white background on your monitor and snapping it with any kind of digital P&S(including a cell camera) is fine.
  9. Grain has nothing to do with shutter speed or aperture for that matter. The higher the ISO, the more grain you will get in the image. I've always been a manual mode shooter and the F4 makes it simple. Set the shutter where you want it, say 1/500 for ISO 400 film and then use the meter to set aperture. Sunny 16 rule will tell you to set shutter speed the same as ISO or very close to that and then use f/16 for bright sun, f/11 for bright cloudy conditions and so on. The F4 meter is pretty good and will tell you if you need to adjust one or the other for light conditions. If depth of field is an issue you can change one f/stop for one change in shutter speed, so if you go from f/16 at 1/500 then change to f/22, go to 1/250 shutter speed. Unlike Ben I never recommend using the A setting but that's because I don't want to let the camera do all the thinking and depending on conditions you may get a poor exposure. Learn to use it manually first and then decide which if any of the auto settings you like.

    Rick H.
  10. At least in this particular instance, I have to disagree with that. Even the old Fuji Superia 1600 didn't have grain anywhere near that bad.

    When color negative film is underexposed and processed normally, the resulting "thin" negatives will tend to amplify grain as you simply have fewer grains(or more appropriate dye clouds) in the negatives with which to work.

    The above example looks to me like it is definitely a couple of stops under its rated ISO.
  11. I agree, that's terrible grain. It occurs to me that one thing you ought to do if possible is to shoot in fully manual mode using something like the "sunny 16" rule for exposure, ignoring the meter, and see how that comes out. Color negative film is pretty forgiving, and even fairly close should not look that bad.

    Another thing to check is to make sure the little flip up tab on the AI follower is flipped down for AI lenses.
  12. The sample image looks more like 3 or 4 stops underexposed to get that sort of grain IME. Either that or the film was stored in an oven for several years!

    The exposure modes are simple:
    S = Shutter priority; you set the shutter speed and the camera adjusts the aperture.
    A = Aperture priority; you set the aperture and leave the camera to adjust the shutter speed
    P = Program; the camera controls both the aperture and shutter
    M = Manual; you control both the aperture and shutter speed; following or ignoring the meter as you choose.

    You can also make adjustments to the exposure using the [+/-] dial. You might want to check that this is set at zero.

    This is all explained in the F4 manual.

    "shutter speed and exposure" - The two are not separate. Exposure is controlled by both the aperture and the shutter speed. Aperture changes the intensity I of the light falling on the film, and the shutter controls the time T that the film is exposed to light. Exposure E is a combination of the two; linked by the formula E = I x T. Change one or the other and you change the exposure.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2017
  13. Too late to edit, but I seriously suggest that you get a cheap or used digital camera with PASM control. The immediate feedback you get from the digital review enables you to see and understand exactly how the shutter, aperture and ISO affect the exposure and look of the picture. No delay or variables (or expense!) of processing are involved.

    Digital is a far superior learning medium to film. I just wish it had been around 55 years ago when I first got interested in photography.

    With the basics understood, then you can move on to film.
  14. This is probably a debate that will never end, but I learned the basics of exposure on film and I'm glad I did. It's true that you don't get instant gratification(although around 2005 when I first took an interest in photography there were a half dozen one-hour C-41 labs within a half mile of me if I wanted results fast) but it also made sure that you took your time to get it right.

    In any case, I agree that the above is 3 or 4 under, which is why I requested a photo of the negative.

    When I'm playing with older cameras, I often compare their meters to other cameras, but also do a sunny 16 "spot check." It's worth it as a film photographer to know this trick, and at least get a snap shot of whether or not your meter is accurate in bright light. I had an F2/DP-1, for example, that with ASA 400 film would indicate a correct exposure of 1/2000 and f/16 in a sunny 16 situation. That was my first indication, but it also read 3-4 stops high in every other situation so I knew that meter was off by a whole lot.

    BTW, I don't suggest this for a variety of reasons, but I put a few drops of carbon tetrachloride down in the metering mechanism and worked everything together well. That brought it to reading correctly. I don't suggest using carbon tet at all(I have the correct facilities to handle it), and I don't suggest attempting DIY repairs on meters unless you're comfortable with precision mechanisms(I'm a watchmaker). A bad F4 will probably need a trip to Nikon(if they still service them) or an independent tech to make it work correctly.
  15. It's not about "gratification". There's a well-proven experiential learning theory called "Kolb's learning cycle".

    Basically it breaks down the practical learning process into four stages.
    Experience > Reflection/analysis > Conceptualisation > Experimentation/testing.

    Any unnecessary delay between these stages interferes with the process and makes learning far more difficult.

    Imagine you're trying to learn to juggle and the balls come down at random and different times, and that someone else needs to process the balls in some way while they're up in the air, and that you never know if a dropped ball is your fault or that of the processor. Would anyone ever learn to juggle?

    No; digital photography with its instant feedback (not gratification, because the pictures might still be far less than perfect) is a far superior learning medium for composition and exposure skills. Those are the skills that are important. Film has no intrinsic moral superiority in its use. And you can take as much time over a digital image as you can over a film one - maybe more, because you can work the subject without a limitation of 36 frames and counting the cost of each and every one.

    Digital doesn't consume silver and other resources, or use polluting chemicals to create unnecessary waste either, if we're taking a moral highground.

    All that aside, the real point is that trying to run before you can walk is never a good idea. The basics need to be learned, and digital makes learning those basics far quicker and easier.

    Also the "sunny 16" rule is nonsense outside of the tropics. Average noon sunlight varies by more than a stop between winter and summer at a latitude of 50 degrees.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2017
  16. I don't want to sidetrack this into a disagreement, but here at 37ยบ I find it pretty darn well consistent year round, and my Minolta incident meter says so also.

    These days, I don't even use cameras with built in meters all that often, and I'm often calculating filter factor and sometimes even bellow factors in my head on Velvia 50(one of the most unforgiving films around these days). I use a meter whenever I can(and I find it a practical necessity near dusk) but none the less in mid-day sun I can get a well-exposed transparency with nothing but sunny 16.

    Also, as I said, I use it as a quick calibration standard for built in meters, although I'm careful to use a gray card or in a pinch some foliage.

    Most modern negative films have enough latitude that the difference between "perfect" sunny 16 and whatever influence you might see can be easily absorbed. The above is well outside any error that might come from using "rule of thumb" exposures.
  17. I would agree that "sunny 16" will not always get you a perfect exposure. I've used it as a starting point for non-metered shooting in digital and film, and even if the exposure is less than ideal, it's usually far closer than those negatives show. Print film is pretty forgiving. The point is not to get a perfect exposure, but to determine whether the camera or its meter is broken.

    I would also reiterate that if the original poster here is using an F4 for the first time, make sure that the AI follower on the camera body is actually engaged. Here's a quick little illustration showing the AI tab in its up and down positions. Make sure it's down unless you're using a pre-AI lens that will collide with it.

    AI tab.jpg
  18. If you are expecting the camera to read the ISO from the film canister, make certain that a manual setting is not being used. You're shooting Portra 160, if the camera has the ISO set to 400, everything will come out underexposed.

    Ask me how I learned this lesson . . .
  19. Definitely. I touched on this above, but unless you have a good reason to do otherwise this is where I'd suggest leaving the ASA dial on the F4 parked


    Of course, there are non-DX coded films on the market. Mine has Scala 160 in it now, which isn't. Efke films also weren't, but unless you have old stock you won't run into those.
  20. In semi-retirement I was anal enough to keep a "sun diary" for a period of about 18 months. I used a luxmeter to take brightness readings as close to noon as possible on every day the sun shone.

    The results were interesting, in that the lux readings varied between 60,000 and >140,000. The lower readings during winter obviously. The highest readings came, not when the sun was in a clear sky, but when the sun just skimmed a cloud. The cloud lit up through trans-illumination and boosted the readings from maybe 120k lux to over 140k. Conversely a slight haze or pollution in the air could drop the summer "sunny" readings to around 80,000 lux.

    Conclusion: A "sunny" day can easily vary from 14.5 to 16 EV at a latitude of 50 degrees. And those readings were all taken close to when the sun was at its highest point in the sky. Away from noon those readings would vary even more.

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