Sunday, 6 December 2009

What the Nikon F6 should have been

How many of Nikon F series cameras have been made? My estimates are given below:

CameraProduction datesEstimated production
Nikon F1959-1974862,600
Nikon F21971-1980816,000 
Nikon F31980-2001751,000
Nikon F41988-1996500,000 (close to 600,000 as per Nikon F4 FAQ website)
Nikon F51996-2005235,000 (estimated from serial numbers)
Nikon F62004-Present30,000 (estimated from serial numbers)

Clearly the advent of the D1 in 2001 affected the sales of F5, but Nikon had also lost ground to Canon during the F4 era, which must have impacted F5 sales. F6 sales are very low, understandably, as everyone has moved to Digital.

This poses the question about what kind of camera F6 should have been? As the Nikon Behind the Scenes interview on F6 indicates, there was no point in trying to compete with digital. Therefore the camera had to have some unique qualities. Did Nikon succeed in making F6 unique?

I think that Nikon ultimately failed. If you pick up an F6, you immediately see the similarity with the latest digital cameras, the D300, for instance. The F6 feels like a clone of its digital cousins. Of course, anyone who has only used film cameras, will see the F6 as unique, and as bringing in some of the more advanced features available in digital cameras.

My view is that the F6 should have been an all mechanical camera, with perhaps advanced metering, data back, etc. A mechanical camera offers something that no digital camera can; the ability to shoot in extreme temperatures, as well as the ability to survive over long periods of time. Electronics evolve rapidly and in a few years time, parts become scarce. But mechanical parts can be produced over a long period of time.

If I could design the F7, I would make it a modern F2. Fully mechanical with a data back and modern  metering (colour matrix, spot etc.).  Separate motor drive as in the older cameras. The idea would be to create a camera that could provide unique features that digital cameras cannot provide, plus a longevity that digital cameras cannot match.

Given the production numbers of film cameras, I do not think that there is any chance of an F7 seeing the light of day. F6 is probably the last film SLR made by Nikon.


  1. Hi there. Interesting view about the F6. I'm a Canon user and I just wish Canon had come up with something similar.

    The "F7" does actually exist, but as it turned out people didn't like the idea of "fully mechanical" very much. May be you've forgotten the Leica R9?

  2. The Leica R9 has an electronic shutter so its not really mechanical - I meant a camera that has a mechanical shutter such as the Leica R6 or Nikon F2 - so that the camera could be used without batteries if necessary.

  3. The F2 was the last hand-assembled and fully mechanical Nikon SLR. I would imagine that the same assembly today would make the cost of the camera somewhere over $4000.

    1. Not sure - Nikon did make FM3A and that did not cost so much. All they would have needed to do is stick a better viewfinder and metering system.