New Arrival

A review of the Nikon F60

After retiring the F301 it was time to replace it, and that replacement arrived the other day. That replacement came in the form of a new old stock F60 in champagne silver. At the end of the day, I just wanted an auto focus camera that was simple and cheap and this fit the bill. It even came with a gold box. (I do have a thing for those gold boxes 😉 ) I really liked the look of it, and at the end of the day, Ken Rockwell said not to buy one, so that sealed the deal.

When compared to practically every camera that followed it, the F60 lags behind. It has a single auto focus point and the auto focus is slow and loud. The film wind is slow. The matrix metering switches to centre weighted whenever you press the AE lock button and there’s no depth of field preview. Let’s face it, the F65, F75 and f55 are probably all better cameras in the light of the F60’s many flaws, and though the F75 and F65 are selling for a bit of a premium really, the F55 sells for about the same price.

Nikon F60

So why did I buy it?

Well, let me make some remarks in defense of the little beastie. Firstly, it has a metal chassis and a metal lens mount, so the build quality is better than the other camera’s I’ve mentioned. I liked the F75, but if I was going to spend that much, I would have bought an F90X or an F80, and though I like the look of the F55, I liked the F60 even more. I also wanted simplicity. I wanted a single focus point and since I was only going to partner it with a 35-70 AF lens, I figured the auto focus wasn’t going to struggle too much. Lastly, I realised no one was buying these fellas. Even the F401’s which, by all accounts, are truly awful cameras, were selling. The F60 was like the scrawny dog in the pet shop that nobody gives a second look at. even scrawny dogs deserve happy endings, right?

I have my favourite cameras. Canon’s EOS 50E, which was a delight to use. Nikon’s F100, which was a superb, bullet proof camera. My favourite though, was a noisy, simple, Pentax MZ-5N; in my opinion, probably the finest camera I’ve ever used. However, None of those cameras have made me smile as much as the F60. None of them beg to be picked up as much as the F60. It really is a nice, simple, camera.

For all the criticism leveled at the poor auto focus. It isn’t bad. It’s certainly not the loudest auto focus around; Pentax cameras made a lot more noise. Yes, the film wind is slow and loud, but the noise is musical and it’s as if the camera isn’t winding the film, but winding the world around the itself. I like it, and since I’m not planning on using it for sports, the motor speed is just fine.

Nikon F60 from the top

The camera is quite easy to use, even in manual. The command dial adjusts the shutter and a combination of a button by the shutter and command dial adjusts the aperture. Not that difficult, despite what some people would have you believe. There’s not many buttons on the camera and to be honest, I didn’t want too many. The main dial is simple and pretty much what you’ll find on most Nikon consumer DSLRs. It has the picture modes as well as PASM. Nothing complicated.

It isn’t without it’s faults. Some will see it as too simple a camera, which it is, and was addressed by the F65, F75 and even the F55. Yes there’s no depth of Field button, and though I don’t use it often, it is nice to have it sometimes. There are two flaws that do present problems though.

First, the Auto-exposure lock button sends the metering from Matrix into centre weighted when pressed. I really don’t understand the thinking behind that – perhaps the Nikon engineers were having a really bad day! You really do have to think about your metering if you use it, or take a reading and switch to manual, which is how I got around it. It slows you down, and that has been fine so far, but I’d hate to miss a shot because of that.

Second, there is no auto-focus lock. AF lock isn’t something I need usually. With focus points scattered all over the viewfinder these days, you just pick your spot and take the shot. With only one focus point though, I found I really needed to lock the focus and then re-compose. Only trouble is, when you recompose, the focus locks onto something else and you have to start over. I found that getting the focus and then switching to manual was the best way round it. Again, it slows me down, which is fine sometimes, but not always.

So it’s not a perfect camera. What is? What is important though is having a camera you enjoy using. One you want to have in your hands. One that makes photography a joy and not a chore. The F60 has certainly been all those things for me. Can’t ask for more than that. (Well, I can, but I won’t get it!)

The first roll of film has gone through it and been sent for processing. I can’t wait to see what the wee beastie has managed to do. By this time next week, I should know.

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