There are camera’s for just about everything and everyone.  Some cameras are meant to be basic and easy to use such as the Pentax K1000, Nikon FM10, and even the Canon Rebel series.  These cameras take great photos and can take a decent beating.  They were not however, designed for non-stop shooting like a photojournalist, sports shooter, or wedding photographer would need.

Then there are cameras that are designed for the professional full time shooter, like the Canon 1 Series, the Minolta Maxxum 9, and the Nikon F series.  I have shot with the Canon 1N, the Canon 1V, and I currently use a Nikon F5.  They are all insanely awesome cameras and each has its own features that separate if from the others and make it a true workhorse. 

Today I want to discuss the F5 though and why I use it.  The F5 was designed on what the working press photographer needed- fast, weather sealed, easy to use, and with a deadly accurate color matrix meter. 

shot with the Nikon F5

Lets start with the auto-focus on the camera... There are five focus points that are all  instantly switchable from the cameras back thumb dial.  You can easily go from one to the other without having to hit a select focus-point button first.  They are always active and ready to go.  They are also all linked to the spot metering system, so if you're in spot-meter mode, you are not stuck with just a spot-meter in the center of the camera, but one linked directly to your focus point. 

There are two AF modes, single and continues tracking.  The tracking is dead on and when I have a bride coming down the isle of a long dark church, I have no need to worry.  If I was still shooting sports, I would never leave the continuous mode, but with weddings most people are standing still so I use the single mode and just let it lock on to where I want and shoot.  In single mode, it also syncs with the flash inferred system so in a dark room, the AF is still perfect.

The motor drive is very fast also, with a number of modes from single shot to continuous shooting up to 8FPS.  I keep mine on CL with is continuous low speed shooting, about 3 frames a second if you keep your finger on the trigger.  The CH, continuous high will just rip through frames at 6 to 8 frames a second, but I don’t need that for weddings.  I like to make my 36 frames last!  The single shot mode is also there and I use that when I am shooting in my studio connected to strobes so that I don’t blow my bulbs by clicking too fast.

shot with the Nikon F5

On to metering... This camera has a 1,005 segment color matrix meter.  So unlike traditional meters that just look for reflectivity and 18% gray, this meter reads color and takes that into consideration when generating an exposure.  It has over 30,000 scenes that have been recorded on the F5’s computer system that it will compare your scene to. It also syncs with the data sent from your focus point with any D or G type lenses. This means it also takes into consideration what you're focused on and how far it is from the camera.  So it knows when you're shooting a sunset and you don’t want the camera to expose for the sun and make the image all dark because it has a database of knowledge to base your image on.

I like to be more in control then let the computer think for me, so I prefer spot and center-weighted metering modes most.  The spot metering is linked to the 5 focus points, so you can spot meter off of whatever you are focused on.  I use this mode a lot when  I am in tricky lighting situations where I want to expose for a face and not for a whole scene.  There is also the traditional center-weighted metering that focuses 75% of the reading from the 12mm center circle.  I use this about 50% of the time for my general shooting.

Another thing I love about this camera is that it is built like a tank.  I was out in NYC during a rain storm a few weeks ago and was getting out of a cab when the F5 rolled off my lap, out of the cab, and into the street and into a stream of water.  Water was rushing over it and it had a good 2 foot drop from my lap.  I jumped out of the car and picked it up and started to dry the camera with my shirt and some napkins.  I thought, “great I killed it”.  Then, I turned it on and to my surprise it was fine.  I finished shooting the roll of film in it and brought the roll to a lab to see if it was actually working right.  The roll came out fine and except for a little braising on the camera, nothing was wrong with it.  The weather seals on it kept the water from getting inside and its well built body protected the shutter and computer from the drop.  Try dropping another camera a few feet and into a stream of water and see what happens.  The F5 is a tank!

So who would like this camera?  The film shooter who shoots a lot of images and needs a camera that can take a beating over and over again without breaking.  This camera is a workhorse- strong, fast, and  accurate.  This is not a camera for a weekend away with the kids or family, because it is quite heavy and big. But for photojournalism, weddings, and sports, it's perfect.  The camera also eats up (AA) batteries pretty fast, as I find I have to change them every two weddings.  I would say about every 20-30 rolls is when I change them out.

Contributor Bio:  Joseph Prezioso is a professional photographer who has been shooting for over twelve years and went from shooting film, to 100% digital, and then back to film again. He says, "By trade I am a wedding photographer, I shoot over 30 weddings a year and this year they were all on film. My career started as a newspaper photographer though. I was 16 and like Jimmy Olsen. I learned on the streets shooting next to veteran photographers for the AP and Boston Globe (I worked for some weeklies but I got to cover a lot of cool events that the big news guys covered too!). Film is something I have fallen in love with, its the medium I learned on. Film will always be something special to me. It feels more versatile and creative in my hands then when I am using digital."