Not many cameras had the kind of features you’d want in the 1980s, except for the Nikon F4. These included:
- Tough, durable, and reliable
- Has diverse metering modes,
- Came with a wide array of creative controls, and
- Featured Automatic Focusing.
Released in September 1988, the F4 was the camera that brought SLR into the modern world—a real game-changer.
Here are some of the features that made the F4 such a game-changer.
Features of the Camera
Previous cameras in the Nikon F series were mainly improvements of what existed at the time.
- The Nikon F improved on what Leica and Contax already had in the market.
- The F2 was an improved and reworked version of the F
- The F3 was an evolution of the F2. It was an electronic version of the F2.
The Nikon F4 was different. It was built from scratch. Unlike its predecessors who didn’t come with any new technological innovations, the F4 featured several first.
It was the world’s first professional autofocus camera.
Automatic focus cameras had just started gaining popularity, and many professional photographers were looking for a good AF camera. Being the first pro AF camera made the F4 the top sports and News camera from 1989-1990.
The Nikon F4 was also the world’s first professional camera to feature the modern multi-pattern metering system. Although Nikon had earlier introduced a matrix metering system in the FA, the F4 had a more improved and accurate version.
With the F4, a photographer could choose between three metering modes.
- Spot metering
It was also the first camera with an electronically controlled vertically traveling focal plane shutter, and a shutter release on the vertical and horizontal grip.
The electronic shutter speed allowed the camera to achieve shutter speeds of between 30 sec-1/8000 sec—faster than any camera at the time.
The Nikon F4 was also the first camera to feature an in-built motor drive. Previous cameras relied on an external motor.
Other than being a first, the F4 also had several extraordinary features.
One of these features was the large and bright viewfinder. The F4 came with a removable multi-meter finder DP-20 pentaprism. If you thought the F3 had an excellent viewfinder, the F4 had a better one.
And it wasn’t just one viewfinder,
The F4 came with a choice of ten easily interchangeable finders.
Nikon wasn’t done.
The F4 also featured a record five exposure modes. You had the choice of
- Manual mode
- Shutter priority
- Aperture priority
- Program mode
- High-speed program mode.
What about lenses?
The F4 could accommodate all Nikon lenses produced since 1959.
Design and Physical Appearance
Legendary car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro designed the Nikon F4. The camera followed Giorgetto’s philosophy of Form follows Function.
Every part of the camera had to have a useful function.
And the result? An ergonomic masterpiece.
The F4 was the last professional camera with knobs and levers. Professional cameras after the F4 made use of menus and dials.
Thanks to the use of an in-built motor drive, the F4 didn’t come with a film advance lever.
Shortcomings of the Camera
One of the most significant complaints among F4 users is its weight. The F4 was a beast of a camera with a weight of 1280g without batteries.
It’s not the camera for a daily shooter.
The F4 autofocus was also not the best. It was slow and performed poorly in low light—the main reason the F4 didn’t experience much success.
Compared to the F5, the F4 matrix metering system was not the best.
The Nikon F4 was a revolutionary camera. It sits at the epicenter of the modern camera revolution.
Is the Nikon F a good camera for 2020?
Short answer, yes.
Not only is the F4 compatible with all manual and autofocus lenses manufactured since 1959, but it’s also still a great camera to carry and shoot with.