Friday, February 25, 2011

The User’s Review: Nikon N5005 (F-401X) released in 1991

N5005, made in Japan and without individual SN on body (Well, later I found there is a 7-digit SN near the 'Made in Japan' label on the bottom. The SN seemed to print there, not clear to find), is the most advanced among the three models of Nikon F-401 family, which includes N4004 (F-401), N4004S (F-401S) and N5005 (F-401X). They all have a black plastic case and a date version to print date and time on film.

I received this N5005 in a lot of four Nikons for recycle. Since it looked good, I put on a lens (Nikon G-series lenses work on N5005), and inserted film and 4 rechargeable AA batteries. It works fine with some sort of noise during its operation, but I have no complaint given its age.   

Fig.1. Nikon N5005 front and top. 

It likes a piece of brick once in your hands, heavy (647g body) and big
(154 x 102 x 65mm) for my mid-size hands. However, it responses pretty well and is very easy to use (Fig. 1).

Film speed, ranging ISO 25 – 5000, is set automatically. Two windows on the camera back show film cartridge (Fig. 2, top image, left) and film advance (Fig. 2, top image, right), respectively (Fig. 2). The frame number window on the camera top is cloudy of some yellow color, not easy to read. The film rewind switch and its lock button are close to the speed dial on the camera top.

Fig. 2. Nikon N5005 back view

Power-on, shutter speed and aperture can be set using two dials. There is a silver button to release the dials from L (power on/off), A-P and S-P positions (Fig. 2, top image).

N5005 has 3 exposure modes including aperture-priority, shutter-priority and auto programmed (when the dials are set at A-P and S-P, and no aperture and speed values are given).

Fig. 3. Nikon N5005 bottom with open battery chamber.

It has manual and auto focus modes with a blue LED indicator at the bottom of viewfinder. Its auto focus can track a moving subject. In very dark, low contrast and no vertical line conditions, the blue focus LED blinks, indicating that the auto focus can not function well and manual focus is needed. While the LED is blinking, the shutter will not fire. If only horizontal lines in the viewfinder, turn the camera vertically to auto-focus (you can feel the differnece). Comparing with the previous model N4004, I can feel OBVIOUS improvement in auto focusing (especially in dim condition) in N5005. Neither of them can do depth-of-field preview.

N5005 equips two types of exposure metering systems, 5-segment matrix (in programmed, A and S exposure modes) and center-weighted (in manual mode or when AEL is pressed. AEL is the button locates below the speed dial) (Fig. 1, top image, under 'AF').   

In the programmed, A or S exposure modes, the flash indicator in the viewfinder may blink in a dark condition. In manual mode, the indicator will not blink even if the flash is needed. A flash charge takes 2 – 3s. Once the flash is ready, the indicator will stay on as long as the shutter is half-way pressed. During flash charging, the shutter is locked in all modes. Flash synchronizes at ≥ 1/125 second. To lift the flash, two release buttons on both sides of the flash need to be pressed simultaneously. This two-button system avoids powering on the flash accidently.

The self-timer on N5005 is unique. It has one- or two-shot options. Two shots will be chosen if the self-timer button is pressed for ≥ 3 seconds (Fig. 2, top image). You can not tell which is which among the three F-401 models from bottom (Fig. 3).

Fig. 4. Nikon N5005 and N4004. Differences are on their front faces and top covers. Click on the images to see details. 

N5005 updates (vs. N4004) (Fig. 4):
1)      5-segment light metering system (vs. 3 sensors in N4004)
2)      AF-tracking
3)      Auto TTL and matrix balanced flash covering 28mm lens
4)      Auto programmed exposure mode
5)      Shutter settings: T, 1 – 1/2000 (B, 1 – 1/2000 in N4004)
6)      A two-mode self timer (vs. one mode in N4004)
7)      A dial release button
8)      New versions of top cover and strap eyelets
9)      A bigger Nikon sign and more front location of ‘red line’ on the camera grip

Nikon also developted a pool of accessories for N5005 (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5. Nikon N5005 accessories

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