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The Nikon F100 is the second-best 35mm camera ever made.
Surprise! In 2004 Nikon introduced the F6, which is a little better but a lot more expensive. Get an F6 if money is no object, get a used F100 if you want the buy of the century. I wrote all these pages back around 2003, so read them in that context.
I've been shooting with Nikon for over 20 years. Since new development efforts are in digital and since 35mm film has been obsolete since about 1999 for news it is unlikely any better 35mm film camera will ever be developed. The F100 is as good as it gets. (HAH! I was skunked, happily!)
My 35mm work requires fast response and easy handling. I am not doing careful landscape photography in 35mm. Most of the photos in my galleries are shot on larger format cameras having nothing to do with the F100 or any 35mm camera. 35mm is for news and sports, not weddings, architecture or landscapes. For fast action the F100 is superb.
Don't get too worked up about the flaws I'm going to point out. Most products have flaws (except the Mamiya 6 system), and the F100 has them too. Just remember that this is the world's best 35mm SLR for creating photographs. Nikon's literature will point out all the good things, I'd like to point out the annoying things that you'll probably only discover after you buy one.
It handles better than an F5. The F5 has very poor selected focus area indicators. The F100 is faster handling for me and a little better thought out ergonomically. For instance, the F100 eliminates the annoying two-hands-required power switch interlock of the F5 and adds an easy focus-spot selector switch lockout that the F5 lacks. This is simply two additional years of research of which the F100 takes advantage. Of course the N80 is newer still and improves a little from the F100.
The F100 is a little plasticy compared to professional cameras. If you are a whiner like me for solid cameras then just go buy an F5, which seems hewn from a solid block of metal. If you want SOLID then just go get an F5 which costs only a little more and is twice as solid and heavy.
I'll admit it: The F100's autofocus system, coupled with Nikon's long lenses, have allowed me to create images of animals and people in motion that I could never have created with other Nikon cameras, or anything in larger formats.
If your interest is making great photos, you already have Nikon equipment and 35mm is OK for you, then definitely get an F100 if you want to afford it. Just watch out, it's an amateur camera and has some potentially fatal weaknesses that can strand you if you have no back up.
You can get the same image quality in the cheaper N80, N65 or any camera, honestly. In fact, if you are doing careful landscape work, (for which you really ought to be using a larger format camera anyway) you can get better image quality with an FM, FE or FA due to their lower levels of mirror slap and virtual mirror lockups the F100 lacks.
Today the cheaper cameras have most of the same important features and you can use them to create the same quality photographs, albeit in a toy store grade plastic package for a fraction of the price.
If you are just starting, don't forget to look at Canon. Even the cheapest Canon cameras like the Rebel 2000 have superb AF systems. I prefer the Nikon metering system and for that reason alone I'd still prefer Nikon, but I could be tempted anyway.
As I said to start, despite my complaining below the F100 is still the best 35mm SLR camera made for my purposes.
I have had three F100s. I bought my first one in September 1999. It had the common problem of the viewfinder LCD blanking out and sucked a lot of batteries. My dealer insisted I take another one, and it also had the same problems. That's just the way the camera was.
As you will read towards the bottom, Nikon fixed the LCD issue under warranty, and then gave me a free brand new F100 in May of 2001 also under warranty. This new one is free from the LCD issue and seems as if it is free from the AF errors I saw, especially with my 28mm f/1.4D AF lens. The New F100 retains the flash underexposure issue.
Like most products, the F100 you can buy today is a little better that what you could buy 2 years ago, and costs less. My F100 cost me $1,299 in 1999 and today they sell for less and are slightly better cameras.
The F100 rewinds film all the way in. Supposedly the service people can modify it only to rewind leader out (caution: you have to remember to wind the leaders in by hand 99% of the time now!) Personally I just try to listen to the rewind motor and pop the back at just the right instant if I ever want to remove a half-shot roll. Set the drive to Cs (continuous slow) to slow the rewind speed to make this easier and good luck!
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