Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age

Started Jun 19, 2014 | User reviews
iljitsch Senior Member • Posts: 1,095
Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age
2

Please note: I'm posting this to the Nikon DX forum because I'm reviewing the F65 from the perspective of a DX DSLR user.

Earlier this week I got myself a Nikon F65 camera. The F65 is a single lens reflex 35 mm film camera that Nikon sold from 2001 to around 2005. You can get these second hand for next to nothing these days; I even saw one at the not-very-cheap photo for € 35. Sure, you have to pay for batteries and film, so using one of these costs some money, but owning one is very cheap. The F65 was never a high end camera, though: the construction is all plastic, and the viewfinder is not great. The plastic construction is not a problem, though, this is what makes the F65 so much lighter than any Nikon DSLR at a hair over 400 grams.

This camera does everything you need and very little that you don't. Although the design is more than a decade old, it still has all the important features you'll find on modern cameras: matrix metering, an auto mode as well as the P/A/S/M modes and even five scene modes. It has a built-in pop-up flash. Just set the mode dial to auto or P (if you don't want any flash) and give it to anyone and they'll shoot great pictures with it. The F65 is much less intimidating than a hulking DSLR with three times the buttons.

The F65 lacks many of the complex settings found on a camera like the D7100, partly because many of them only apply to digital and partly because the F65 is a simpler camera. But that's fine, I'm not going to experiment with advanced techniques on film. That's what's digital shines, with its immediate feedback.

Even film loading is simple: just put in the film cartridge and pull the film towards the winding spool. Close the back, and the camera takes it from there. When the roll full, it rewinds automatically.

The F65 shares the above with its little sibling, the F55. However, the F65 is a much, much better deal. Unlike the F55, the F65 supports the ML-L3 infrared remote that also works with the D7100. More importantly, the F65 works with all of Nikon's autofocus lenses, so you can use your modern AF-S lenses on it. The VR (vibration reduction) even works! (Although I fear for the life of the two rather small and non-rechargeable CR2 batteries that power the F65.)

Now I hear you thinking "that's nice, but all my current lenses are DX lenses that aren't compatible with film". Turns out DX lenses, which are made for cameras like the D7100, which have an image sensor that is smaller than the 35 mm film frame, are not entirely unusable on film cameras. When I mounted my 35 mm f/1.8 DX lens on the F65, the viewfinder image didn't show any dark corners. However, the viewfinder only shows 89% of the image that ends up on film, and the result on film looks like this:

So not usable, I'd say. Next, I tried the 18-55 VR II lens. The image on the left is zoomed to 18 mm, the middle one 24 mm, where once again things looked good through the viewfinder, and the image on the left was taken zoomed to 35 mm.

The 24 mm image stil has dark corners, but at 35 mm everything's fine. So this lens is actually completely usable at 35 mm—probably even a bit wider, like 28 or 30 mm.

Next up, my Tamron 10-24 mm lens at 10, 13 and 14 mm, respectively:

This is a fantastic result: 14 mm on film is actually slightly wider than 10 mm on DX. So this lens is extremely useful on film!

I got my F65 with an AF 28-80 f/3.5-5.6D lens. This is dinkiest all-plastic Nikon lens I've ever seen. The thing I like is that it's an AF lens with an aperture ring, so it's compatible with even older Nikon cameras. If you don't care about that, get it with the AF 28-80 f/3.5-5.6G. which is also all-plastic, but much more solid and a bit smaller and lighter. Note that the F65 can't use its light meter with non-CPU lenses from the manual focus era.

Verdict: if you have a Nikon DSLR and some lenses, even if they're DX lenses, and you have any interest in shooting film, get an F65. It's a great camera and it can be found for next to nothing. And now you have second body for those times where you can't change lenses easily, or you can hand the F65 to someone you don't trust with your expensive DSLR.

 iljitsch's gear list:iljitsch's gear list
Nikon D7100 Nikon Z fc Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D +7 more
iljitsch's score
4.5
photoeng Senior Member • Posts: 1,153
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age
1

I bought one of these long ago for $30.

It works great.  You've inspired me to use it more.

Thanks for putting the review together.  I started out with DSLR, but love shooting film.

Don't think I'll *ever* upgrade to full frame digital, but I will splurge on film and development cost.

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David
http://photo.blogrlabs.com/
My gear list: D40 / D70s / D200
A bunch of lenses

 photoeng's gear list:photoeng's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 Nikon D70s Nikon D300 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G II +7 more
photoholiko Veteran Member • Posts: 3,433
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age

I shoot DX with my DSLRs and I have come to the conclusion based on my film photos I look at on my screen that digital render less noise and better color, I admit this may be caused by my own limitations however I still enjoy using my film cameras occasionally especially with WA lenses.

 photoholiko's gear list:photoholiko's gear list
Canon EOS 400D Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Epson PhotoPC 850 Zoom Minolta DiMAGE 7 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 +35 more
OP iljitsch Senior Member • Posts: 1,095
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age
1

Without further processing the colors are indeed a bit better on digital, but the saturation slider will take care of that if needed...

So far I've been shooting ISO 400 color film, which is the only type available in non-specialist stores these days. It's somewhat grainy, but with good exposures I get about 6 megapixels worth of image when scanning the negatives.

I'm now testing ISO 400 black-and-white and chromogenic films, can't wait to see how those hold up against digital. I'm sure the regular B&W film will show some grain, but film grain is much nicer than digital noise.

 iljitsch's gear list:iljitsch's gear list
Nikon D7100 Nikon Z fc Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D +7 more
qunamax
qunamax Contributing Member • Posts: 983
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age

I'd really like to see how a high resolution scan looks like. You have any to post?

 qunamax's gear list:qunamax's gear list
Nikon D40 Nikon D610 Nikon AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Samyang 85mm F1.4 Aspherical IF +1 more
OP iljitsch Senior Member • Posts: 1,095
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age
3

Ok, here's a bunch of scans. Note that I didn't always bother to get rid of all of the dust, which is a big annoyance when using a scanner. My scanner is an Epson V370.

Busses and tram (streetcar/trolley) at the The Hague Central Station:

Nikon FE with HEMA store brand ISO 400 film, probably 50 mm series E f/1.8 lens

Nikon FE with HEMA store brand ISO 400 film, probably 50 mm series E f/1.8 lens

Flowers and cargo trains with matching colors:

Nikon F55 with HEMA store brand ISO 400 film, AF 28-80 G lens

Nikon F55 with HEMA store brand ISO 400 film, AF 28-80 G lens

Scheveningen pier (around 8 PM):

Nikon F65 with Fuji ISO 400 film, AF-S 70-300 VR lens

Tram station (around 10 PM):

Nikon F65 with Fuji ISO 400 film, AF-S 70-300 VR lens

I think the last photo is the sharpest. I was at or close to 70 mm and focus was on the back of the tram. Have a look at 100% and go all the way into the bottom right corner and you'll see what I mean.

 iljitsch's gear list:iljitsch's gear list
Nikon D7100 Nikon Z fc Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D +7 more
samfan Senior Member • Posts: 1,066
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age

I got mine for about 20 € about 6 years ago but I really don't like it. Should have gone with at least F75 or better F80. However, with the exception of F6, neither Nikon film body has AF approaching the modern standards (i.e. more of smaller AF point. I think Minolta 7 had some interesting AF.

Regardless, next time I'll be buying a film SLR it will be something metal and fully manual.

Regarding lenses, if you want to try something cheap, try Tamron 55-200. The one I had around 2006-7 worked completely fine on F65 with no vignetting, despite being a DX (or Di II or whatever) lens.

qunamax
qunamax Contributing Member • Posts: 983
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age

Thanks! Great tones and dynamic range, looks just like an indie movie but without any pp. I see what you mean about the last one, excellent sharpness. 
I'm wondering would the simple central contact flash triggers work on it?

 qunamax's gear list:qunamax's gear list
Nikon D40 Nikon D610 Nikon AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Samyang 85mm F1.4 Aspherical IF +1 more
OP iljitsch Senior Member • Posts: 1,095
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age

Probably... I don't have the equipment to test, though.

 iljitsch's gear list:iljitsch's gear list
Nikon D7100 Nikon Z fc Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D +7 more
qunamax
qunamax Contributing Member • Posts: 983
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age

I just saw it in local ads for 70 euros in mint condition with 35-105, i'm so tempted it's just a bad timing, i'm about to go on vacation and every euro counts :/

 qunamax's gear list:qunamax's gear list
Nikon D40 Nikon D610 Nikon AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Samyang 85mm F1.4 Aspherical IF +1 more
DigitalPhilosopher
DigitalPhilosopher Contributing Member • Posts: 999
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age

Personally, I think film will eventually die - and that's a good thing. Digital sensors have surpassed film on many aspects (dynamic range and highlight response) is the only thing still somewhat comparable/depending. Considering how amazingly more easy digital is, it's not even close: Digital is the future.

I've shot film for decades before going to digital, and even then I still wanted to experiment with it. But I've now reached the stage that film is not even worth it as a "curiosity". Some newcomers to digital might wanna try it - the same way many of us still play retro video games.

But that's about it.

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qunamax
qunamax Contributing Member • Posts: 983
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age
2

For me it's more of a finally being able to have decent film camera after growing up in film age but mostly around idiot cameras. I learned stuff on digital and I have a desire to put them to use in film, now i know what all those scary orange digits on the lens mean.

I think digital (and all the things that came with it) has greatly devalued photography. Not just photography and digital, many other things are ruined by overproducing, consumerism, devaluation, market saturation, making it all too easy and fast etc, the only positive things being availability and price. Yeah I kind of a hate where all this capitalism thing is going but that's a big stray off this topic.

Of course the film is dead, it's been for a decade, no question there.

 qunamax's gear list:qunamax's gear list
Nikon D40 Nikon D610 Nikon AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Samyang 85mm F1.4 Aspherical IF +1 more
OP iljitsch Senior Member • Posts: 1,095
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age
1

Well, if people were able to take photos on glass plates they had to cover with chemicals themselves on location, I'm sure some form of film will be around indefinitely. I'm even pretty sure 35 mm film as we know it today will be around for decades to come. It's probably going to get more expensive and harder to get as time goes on, and the available options will be fewer, though.

In 99% of all cases the most efficient way to take a photo is digitally, but who cares? It's a hobby, and a large part of a hobby is the process, not the result.

Still, there are a few cases where film is the right tool for the job. For instance, I recently discovered that Fuji has a disposable underwater camera. Sure, the photos are worse than those taken with a low end cell phone (but still not bad at all!), but who wants to risk taking expensive digital equipment into the pool or ocean?

Final thought: we're now living in the golden years of film: it's still widely available and very good cameras from the film era can now be had for really cheap and are still young enough to work well and compatible with modern lenses in the case of the F65. In 10 or 20 years shooting film will be much harder, so try it now to see if you like it if you think there's any chance you might.

 iljitsch's gear list:iljitsch's gear list
Nikon D7100 Nikon Z fc Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D +7 more
samfan Senior Member • Posts: 1,066
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age
1

DigitalPhilosopher wrote:

Personally, I think film will eventually die - and that's a good thing.

I'm not sorry to say that only people who can't see beyond their own little world can say something idiotic like that.

Don't like film? Don't use it. Nobody is forcing you.

Oh right, I get it. You're trolling - that 'DigitalPhilosopher' nickname is supposed to be ironic. Ha ha, very funny.

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LouCioccio
LouCioccio Senior Member • Posts: 2,266
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age
1

Reply to sampan and iljitsch,

You know I shoot film every so often but I point out to people I can still retrieve my images the old fashioned way.  I can get them developed or I can scan them.  If some one would ask me for an image I took in 1967 or 1976 I could retrieve it but will I (if I am still alive) in 2030 for a digital image that I took in 2014 I am not totally sure.  I would have to keep updating my hardware and copying the files to new media and new backup procedures. Again will I be able to retrieve them? in the digital age.

Remember the dead sea scrolls, Egyptian cuneiform still somewhat exists will digital be the same?

Lou Cioccio

 LouCioccio's gear list:LouCioccio's gear list
Nikon D500 Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D Tokina AT-X Pro 12-24mm f/4 (IF) DX Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD +1 more
DigitalPhilosopher
DigitalPhilosopher Contributing Member • Posts: 999
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age

samfan wrote:

DigitalPhilosopher wrote:

Personally, I think film will eventually die - and that's a good thing.

I'm not sorry to say that only people who can't see beyond their own little world can say something idiotic like that.

Don't like film? Don't use it. Nobody is forcing you.

Oh right, I get it. You're trolling - that 'DigitalPhilosopher' nickname is supposed to be ironic. Ha ha, very funny.

I don't know you personally, I did not make any comments regarding your intelligence, and I did not forbid anyone doing anything. I simply made a comment regarding a form of technology that has come and is going. Technology getting better is a good thing. I will not respond to your immature form of expression, the forum can draw its own conclusions regarding my contributions to these boards.

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samfan Senior Member • Posts: 1,066
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age
1

Then you should learn to think before you type. You would see that people actually enjoy using film despite having all the digital technology at disposal. All you need to see that is the very thread you responded to.

Does it do you personal harm when people use film for their own use? No? Does it harm ANYONE? No? Then why should it ever be a good thing when something goes away that people enjoy?

If you think that whatever is best for you is best for anyone, then you are blind. Again, not sorry.

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jay bbe Regular Member • Posts: 116
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age

Hi iljtsch, thanks for this review.

Though I mostly shoot digital I continue to enjoy using film in both 35mm and 120 formats. My Nikon 35mm film cameras include a FM2n, F100, and a F75; I believe the latter is Nikon's smallest AF SLR. The F75 has a lens motor so I can use older AF lenses but like the F65 it does not meter with non CPU lenses.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 Olympus XZ-2 iHS Nikon D90 Nikon D750 Nikon D7200 +1 more
OP iljitsch Senior Member • Posts: 1,095
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age

The F65 also has the in-body motor, I think all cameras from back then have it. Curiously, the F55, which is actually a year or two newer than the F65, can use AF lenses but unlike the F65, not AF-S ones.

 iljitsch's gear list:iljitsch's gear list
Nikon D7100 Nikon Z fc Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D +7 more
qunamax
qunamax Contributing Member • Posts: 983
Re: Review: Nikon F65 camera, shooting film in the digital age
2

Everything about digital is good no doubt, that's the present and the future, but in all it's wonders it's missing a special feelings of trying very hard to get it right in a single shot, anticipating results (lcd on digital takes away much of that feeling) and finally having a materialization of you work in your hands (many digital users never print).

Of course if it's a job that pays the bills, like wedding photography where consistent and fast results are important there is no room for film these days. But if it's a hoby or art projects film can be so much fun.

 qunamax's gear list:qunamax's gear list
Nikon D40 Nikon D610 Nikon AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Samyang 85mm F1.4 Aspherical IF +1 more
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