Nikon F90X, N90s 35mm AF SLR Camera

Nikon F90X, N90s 35mm AF SLR Camera

Overview

Nikon F90X (N90s), Front
The Nikon F90X (N90s in the US), an advanced autofocus 35mm SLR camera, was released in 1994 as a replacement to the F90 (N90 in the US), which was released in 1992. The F90, in itself, was the replacement to the F-801 (N8008 in the U.S.) model, which was introduced in 1991.

The F90X, a high point in Nikon's film SLR production, was then the newest, best and most expensive amateur 35mm SLRs of all time. The model was, however, superseded by the F100 in 1999.

A review of the Nikon N90s. Get your Nik-on!

Model Development

Nikon F90X (N90s), Top Though being almost identical to its predecessor (F90), the F90X has better weather sealing, 1/3 stop changes in shutter speed instead of 1/2 on the F90, faster continuous frame rate (4.5FPS), and faster autofocus performance with the cross-type AF sensor and upgrading of the bodies autofocus motor.

Though liberal with the use of plastic, the F90's are built on a tough stainless-steel lens mount and rugged internals.

Production of the F90X, which was then already replaced by the F100, ended in 2001, shortly after the release of the D1 digitals, whose line includes the D100, D200, D300(s) and D700. The F90X was also the last consumer/semi-pro camera to be made in Japan, after which, manufacturing was moved to Thailand, where production started off with the F100.

Build Quality and Handling

Nikon F90X (N90s), Angle View

Except for the rubberized film back, which is the bane of the F90's, the build quality of the F90X is exceptional. The F90X comes with a number of seals that protects the camera from dust and moisture, which is good enough for a spatter of light rain.

Nikon F90X, Af Nikkor 50mm 1: 1.8 D 01

The film door is secured with two squeeze tabs (see image above) which must be pressed at the same time to deactivate the door lock mechanism. Opening the door accidentally seems rather impossible.

Nikon F90X (N90s), Film Box

Another bonus point for the camera is in its use of AA batteries. Once the camera is loaded with the four it requires, you are all set to go. Weight wise, the F90X is probably on par with current enthusiast model DSLRs which comes with a battery pack.

While it may take a while for you to get used to all the buttons on the top plate, they all point to a functional and logical layout.

Control Buttons and Lever Switches

Nikon F90X (N90s), Side View
The front and back of the camera are fitted with a total of 7 control buttons and lever switches:
  • the AF-L (Auto Focus Lock) button and the DoF (Depth of Field) Preview button on the right side of the front panel, 
  • a switch setting for Manual, AF-Single and AF-Continuous focus selection, the lens release lock,
  • and on the back, the AE-L (Automatic Exposure Lock), the shutter blind lever switch, and one for turning on the backlight for the top LCD, which emits a distinct hum when activated.
The top of the camera has a 4 button control pad on the left for Mode (Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual), ISO (When DX-coded film is loaded the camera automatically sets the ISO rating), Flash mode (there is no built-in flash), and the Drive mode (continuous or single frame) selection.

Nikon F90X (N90s), Top Panel

The button on the top left side controls the program modes, and the button with the green dot is used in combination with the green button on the right to set the camera back to default settings.
Nikon F90X (N90s), Back of top panel

On the right is a control dial, the ON/OFF switch, exposure compensation (+/-) toggle, one of the film rewind buttons), the AF zone (Wide or circle) button, and last but not least, the shutter release.

Nikon F90X, Af Nikkor 50mm 1: 1.8 D 02

Film rewind is activated by pressing both the ISO and the film rewind button (on the right side of the top plate) simultaneously.

LCD Panel Info

Nikon F90X (N90s), LCD Panel Info

The LCD panel on the right side of the body is the command control, telling you all your shooting information, such as how many shots you have taken (taken, not number remaining), shutter speed, aperture, metering mode, and flash settings.

Viewfinder Info

Nikon F90X (N90s), Viewfinder Info

A large, clear and bright viewfinder (92% coverage with a 50mm lens) provides for focusing and metering aids while shooting information, much like what the LCD panel display, is on a horizontal data panel located just below the view frame.

Nikon F90X, AF Nikkor

Using The Camera

The camera is rock solid, the grip is comfortable, the shutter is smooth, and with the AF Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8 D fitted (the only AF lens I have at the moment), which does not add much more to the overall weight, the camera was a delight to use.

Had a couple of instances where the AF fails to focus on closeup low contrast situations. Switching the autofocus mode from Wide Area to Spot AF helps alleviate the problem.

Nikon F90X, Af Nikkor 50mm 1: 1.8 D 03

Other than that, the F90X is fast, the autofocus accurate, and the AF motor, squeaky. Film advance whirr, which is common on other automatic AF's, is so fast that it is hardly noticeable on this camera.

Nikon F90X, Ai-S Nikkor

Manual Focus Lenses

Using the F90X with manual focus lenses, with the electronic rangefinder focusing aid, needs a bit of getting used to. I had the Nikkor 85mm 1:2 fitted for the test.

With the huge and bright viewfinder, but with the focus indicator located on the lower left corner of the display, you do have to move your eyes around a bit to take in both the framing of your subject and the focus indicator status.

Nikon F90X, Af Nikkor 50mm 1: 1.8 D 04

The camera weighs slightly heavier with the lens attached. It is still manageable though as you rest the camera in the cup of your left hand with the thumb and index finger on the focus ring.

Instructions and Guides

There are lots more to the camera than what is covered here. Being closer to older generation SLRs where auto exposure through PASM modes is the best that you will get, the F90X is more complex in what you can do with it.

Nikon F90X, Af Nikkor 50mm 1: 1.8 D 05

This requires me to go through the instruction manual (pdf from Buktus.org) at least once over, and also a lookup on the Internet for online guides. One worth referring to is the N90s Concise Instructions, from Filmbodies.com.

Recommendation

If you are looking for a camera to go into film, or to get back into film, and looking for a quality build body, autofocus speed, ease of use, and one which seems to last forever, the F90X (N90s), is one you should look at.

Nikon F90X, MF-25 Back

I ended up with the F90X that comes with the MF-25 Back. I did not realize until much later that the back is not of the plain rubberized type (the one which will end up sticky and gooey soon enough), and one which I assume will last me a while longer.

With prices that are fairly low (you're in for a surprise here) on the auction sites, picking one up is probably a steal. Compare that to, say, a Nikon F100 (the elated choice) which lists for three to four times as much!



Resource Links:
Nikon N90s, N90, F90 and F90x
Nikon Approaches its High Water Mark with the N90s - Camera Review

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