To start, the Nikon F100 is all around the most utilitarian camera that I own. Being that it is 35mm, it doesn’t always make it out of the house if I’d rather be shooting medium format. However, there are far fewer of those instances than times when I want to shoot around the house or on walks with the dog or whatever else may be nice to keep a camera by my side. As such, I put more rolls through the F100 than any other camera that I own. In addition, and this is probably the best benefit to me, it is so easy to use that someone with no film experience and little to no digital camera experience can competently use it and produce some wonderful work. This benefit was more obvious than ever on my most recent (pre-COVID-19) big trip. For short walks through the village where my friends live and in the evenings, I was keeping the F100 in hand. On bigger ventures out where I was using one of my medium format cameras, a buddy of mine was armed with the F100, and though he had little experience with photography and no experience with film photography, he took some of my favorite photos of the trip.
The Nikon F100 was released in 1999 and produced until 2006. When released, it was part of their prosumer line and is arguably the second-best modern film camera they ever made, second only to the F6, which is far and away more expensive. Not just that, the only shortcomings of the camera that the F6 corrects for is the ability to use the excellent metering system with older manual focus lenses and to use mirror lockup. With that said, those “shortcomings” have never bothered me, as I prefer using modern autofocus lenses (it’s the main reason I bought the camera), and I don’t ever foresee the day in which I would want to do long exposures on 35mm. So, for me, there was no added benefit to the F6 despite it being hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars more, even used.
It is nearly entirely made of a magnesium alloy, which lends to the very sturdy feeling you get when holding it. It’s actually difficult to express just how nice this camera is to hold. When you pick up another camera from the ’90s, be it prosumer or not, you will notice a big difference in quality. At the risk of bashing the Canon Elan 7, there is no comparison to the way the camera feels in your hand.
Other than a data back and vertical grip that were available for the camera, there aren’t many other accessories. You can change out the focusing screen, but the one that comes standard is quite clean and bright, so I’m not sure why someone would want to. Though this list is short, there aren’t any things I could see wanting to be changed.
This is perhaps the best part of this camera. The lens offerings include all new lenses for any DSLR that Nikon makes. The first lens that I bought for the camera was the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 D, and it served me quite well for over a year (it still works, and I still use it occasionally). A few months ago, however, I bought a Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD, which has been amazing. Prior to the Tamron, I tried not to ever shoot wide open, as it always just felt so soft. I never shot below 1/60 s, or else I’d get some camera shake. With the Tamron, I have no qualms with shooting wide open, and I can easily shoot at 1/15 s, essentially two stops more than I was able to do with the 50mm f/1.8. That may not seem like much, but that makes a big difference when it starts to get close to dusk or it’s dark out.
What I Like and don’t Like
I should note that this list could easily be “What I Love” about this camera. These benefits are, in large part, what makes this camera the best valued modern SLR camera you can get.
- Advanced metering that seems almost impossible to trick
- Ability to use newer, more modern glass
- Very high-quality construction
- 22 programmed custom settings
- Capable of bracketing
- Minimum shutter speed is 1/8,000, which is just crazy for a film camera
- Value, value, value: coming in at $200-$250, in my opinion, it is the best value 35mm on the market
There is next to nothing that I don’t love about this camera. But I’ll try and come up with something for the sake of it.
- For whatever reason, the grip on the camera can start to get a bit tacky over time. I have no idea why; my camera was not like this when I bought it, but it has started to get that way over time. If you know how to fix it, please leave some advice in the comments!
- I have a tough time trusting autofocus when it’s really dark.
If you haven’t gathered from the review, I absolutely love this camera. To reiterate, it is my most used camera. Because it is 35mm, I don’t use it for the photos I care about most, but because it’s so easy to use and such a pleasure to operate, I take more pictures with it, and as such, the photos I tend to care about most are often from this camera. If you’re someone who likes their DSLR and has considered getting into film, I highly suggest the Nikon F100.
Have you ever shot with a Nikon F100? What were your experiences? For you, how does it measure up to other 35mm SLRs? Do you prefer an all-manual 35mm (like the F2), or do you like the ability to use aperture priority and autofocus?
Madison is a mathematician turned statistician based out of Columbus, OH. He fell back in love with film years ago while living in Charleston, SC and hasn’t looked back since. In early 2019 he started a website about film photography.