The Best Value Modern Film Camera: A Long-Term Review of the Nikon F100

The Best Value Modern Film Camera: A Long-Term Review of the Nikon F100

If you’d like to get into film and you already have modern glass for a Nikon camera, the F100 is for you. Even if you don’t, the F100 is still for you. The value of this Nikon is almost impossible to beat.  

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. 

Build Quality

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. 

Accessories

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. 

Lens Offerings

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

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

What I Don’t Like

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.

Conclusion

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? 

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30 Comments

Jon The Baptist's picture

I would agree with this. I've had two F100's, Also have an F6. The F6 is far and away the best 35mm camera ever made.

The F100 though is an extremely close second.

James Madison's picture

I could see that. I've never used an F6 myself but I've been told it's basically a slightly improved F100. Dollar for dollar though, I don't think the F6 can compete with the value of the F100.

Jon The Baptist's picture

For sure. At the end of the day it's all about what film stock you're using, and that's agnostic to whatever camera it's in. The F6 though, instead of being a slightly upgraded F100, is more of a FF D2X with an incredible viewfinder and no vertical grip, that happens to swing open to reveal its insides.

James Madison's picture

I hear that 100%. At the end of the day, the body is just a light-tight box that holds the film and lens. The nice, fancy ones like the F100 and F6 are nice for the convenient functions but it's all about the film.

Albert Genato's picture

I owned an F100 in the early 2000s. It replaced my Nikon n60 and it was such a step up. I probably would still have the camera if it wasn’t stolen from me. But I’ve switched over to canon and sport and eos3 these days. I don’t shoot 35mm that much any more because I much prefer the medium format negative

James Madison's picture

Oh man. For a second there I thought you said the N60 was a step up and I was truly shocked. Haha. Yes, I could imagine the F100 was a big step up from the N60. What MF camera are you using?

Albert Genato's picture

I am using a Mamiya 7/7ii and a Hasselblad 500c/m

James Madison's picture

Those are some awesome cameras! I've never shot with a Mamiya 7 but it's been on my list

Karl *'s picture

The sticky back is a well known problem with the F100. It's caused by degradation of the coating. I used Zeiss lens cleaning liquid to rub off the sticky surface on my F100. Spray it generously on a microfiber cloth and rub in circular motion until your arm start to hurt 😊 Always make sure that the cloth is wet, it's also advisable to remove the film door from the camera so you don't get any fluids inside of the camera. Let the film door sit in a open space (on a table etc.) over night to cure.

James Madison's picture

That's awesome to know! Thanks for sharing!

Spy Black's picture

Are you referring to a rubberized coating? It was popular in the 90s and 2000s and lot of products used it. I imagine Zeiss lens cleaning fluid is probably rather pricey, but plain old alcohol used with a COTTON rag will remove the stickiness. It takes quite a few passes at it to get it off (use fresh areas of the cotton rag with fresh alcohol or a new cotton rag with fresh alcohol). I went through that with my Sigma 400mm APO macro, as well as my TC-Helicon VoiceLive 2. A real pain to get off, but once done it will appears to remain off for an indefinite period of time. I've had both units for quite a few years now and the stickiness has not returned.

Tom Pinches's picture

For a while I was looking at this camera as I wanted a film camera with autofocus that I could use with my modern Nikon lenses. I ended up going for the F80 instead as there was no additional features of the F100 I was interested in, and it was lighter and MUCH cheaper (I got mine for £40, including a lens which I sold for £30 and 5 rolls of film! - basically I got it free). I love the F80 but there is some illogical part of my brain that yearns for the F100...

James Madison's picture

The F80 is a solid camera! For most intents and purposes, they're the same. The F100 does have a lot of appeal but the F80 is a great substitute.

Bryce Milton's picture

Same here - F80 plus battery grip in minty condition for $20 from a thrift store. Looks like it'd barely been unboxed.

Bill Patterson's picture

Nice article. Curious why fall waterfall picture was in your article on the F2

James Madison's picture

Ha! I had to go back and look at that article to see what you were talking about. The short and sweet answer to that question is that I know that photo was taken on 35mm Portra 400 with a Red Intensifier filter from Hoya but at the time I took that, I used both cameras equally and at that time did not denote which camera took which photos like I do now (see photo below for reference). That is to say, I honestly have no idea which camera took that picture. hahaha

Good eye! I'll change it out for one I know was taken with the F100.

James Madison's picture

Man... That was way too difficult. Hahaha. Almost everything I could find were personal photos of family and friends, B&W, or from before I kept track of which camera took which photos so I couldn't be absolutely sure. haha. Thanks again for catching that!

Jeff Boring's picture

I bought an F100 8 months ago and love it. But the focus points are now flaky, meaning that I can't move to them all. Sometimes many work, other times only one. I understand this is a common issue with the F100. Oh, it's not dust/dirt anywhere. I checked that.

James Madison's picture

That sounds really odd... I only use the center focus point anyhow so I wouldn't know if mine is having that issue. I'm sorry to hear about that. Have you looked into swapping out the back for a different one? Just in case the problem is with the back*

D Chon's picture

This review unbelievably left out the biggest drawback of the F100 -- the plastic back and door latches that get more brittle over time and then crack, rendering the camera useless unless one can source a donor back. Unbelievable that Nikon made this out of plastic, as opposed to metal as Nikon did on virtually every other camera -- including cheaper, lower level models such as the Nikon EM which has metal latches. One should look up this problem on the internet -- like the Flickr Nikon F100 users group -- and one will see a lot of complaints about this. The latches can spontaneously break and cause your camera to open, ruining your film. For these reasons, I cannot recommend this camera.

Also, the F100 is not close to an F6. Much noisier, much more vibration, inferior viewfinder, no compatibility with modern Nikon flashes, sticky rubber, less AF coverage, cheaper construction, inferior ergonomics. The F100 is, at best, a cheaper, downgraded version of an F5 as opposed to an F6.

James Madison's picture

Hmmm... I hear you. And I believe that's a serious issue. I would be quite out of sorts if that happened to me. I can't say that I think it's a widespread problem as I've never heard of this happening to anyone and everyone I know that's ever owned an F100 speaks high praises of it.

It's true, I cannot directly compare the F100 with the F6 on the basis of personal experience. I can, however, remark on the difference between the F100 and the F5. I hate the F5. There are few Nikon cameras I really have a distaste for but the F5 hits that mark for me. As such, I cannot agree that the F100 is a downgraded version of the F5.

brian snider's picture

I’ve had my F100 for almost two years, I was going back and forth on an F3 or F100, the 100 won me over with the feel and autofocus. The only thing I’ve never liked about it is so snobby and superficial... I just don’t like that it looks so much like the digital offerings. I eventually bought an F3 to look dumb and stylish, but when I’m doing shoots or taking pictures of my kids it’s the F100 all the way. I completely agree that it’s easily the best value for one of the most capable 35mm cameras ever built.

James Madison's picture

Sure. It does look like a modern SLR because it is a modern SLR. The F3, I would argue, is more snobby than the F100. That said, I don't think either can is snobby or superficial. haha. But if I had to choose one camera between those two to take the titles, I'd give it to the F3.

What lens are you using on your F100?

Gil Aegerter's picture

I've owned two F100s over the years. The thing that failed in both of them was the battery cage, which can suffer from similar plastic melt to the back. Fortunately, replacements are readily available. Fine camera but i shoot film to use my old lenses, so I preferred my old F2.

James Madison's picture

Is that right? Much like the other comments above talking about issues with the camera breaking down, I've never heard of this happening. Glad to hear you have an F2! I love mine.

Graham Evans's picture

Love the F100 too. A Nikon tech gave me the tip on sticky grip. Eucalyptus oil! Rub it on lightly... wipe it off... done. Very quick & easy. The best thing is that it lasts for ages. I think I’ve only had to do it twice over the years. Cheers

James Madison's picture

Eucalyptus oil, really? I would have never guessed that would do the trick. Another commenter left advice for the sticky back. When it gets to a point where I need to deal with it on my camera, I will be in a good place it sounds like.

Graham Evans's picture

I know, I thought it was odd too. But it worked like a charm! 😊

Stacy Baird's picture

Any reflections on the F90s vs. the F100. I recall having the 90, then the 100 then went to an F2, which I loved, but I recall the F100 was an amazing camera in the hand. Did more travel with that camera, it never failed to feel good, and of course do it’s part of the image capture quite capably.

James Madison's picture

Unfortunately I don't. I've personally never used the F/N90. Glad to hear you had such positive experiences with the F100!