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Film Camera Review, Nikon F65 (N65, U) 35mm AF SLR Film Camera

Nikon F65 35mm AF SLR Film Camera Review

One of the final iterations of Nikon's 35mm SLR film cameras, launched before the introduction of Nikon's DSLR series cameras.

The choice for a beginner camera for a new user, say one from the Millenials or Generation Z group is quite a bewildering one. While seasoned 35mm SLR stalwarts and diehards are often steadfast with the virtues of the manual focus mechanical autoexposure SLR film cameras from the 80s or even earlier genres of fully manual mechanical contraptions, younger users have the choice of opting for a more technologically advanced programmed autofocus 35mm SLR camera of the late 90s.

These make and model 35mm SLRs are close siblings of early DSLR models as most share similar mechanical components and functionalities aside from the image capture bit which has evolved from exposure to a movable film plane to a fixed electronic sensor. The film forward wind, for example, is one of the mechanical components that is obviously missing from the design of a DSLR, but then, the same is also with the auto-everything film cameras.

Nikon F65, AF Nikkor Ai-S 50mm F1.4

You will also find that these late models 35mm SLR film cameras come with autofocus tracking, programmed shooting modes, auto-forward and autorewind film handling, autoflash, and paraphernalia of functions similar to those found on early models DSLR cameras. Learning film photography on these cameras does not mean that you negate the basic education of the exposure triangle education back to the backburner but rather you will also be using these factors in a more creative and conducive environment.

The Nikon F65

Taking all these facts to mind, one interesting 35mm SLR camera that could be one of the better options to choose from is the lightweight polycarbonate-bodied Nikon F65 (Nikon N65 in the US, and Nikon U in Japan). This model is available easily on auction sites, some at unbelievably low prices, and there is no surprise that you will be getting the best of a bargain to start you off with the new career interest.

Introduced by Nikon in 2001, often overlooked by enthusiasts and reviewers who were already gearing themselves towards the digital age, the Nikon F65 has a lot more going than its basic designation as a starter SLR camera. Although aimed at the lower end of the amateur autofocus SLR market, the F65 shares a lot of similarities with its more advanced Nikon sibling, the F75, which uses the same 5 focal points CAM900 AF Module, as found on the F80, and later on the D100 (2002) and D70 (2004) DSLRs.

Point-and-Shoot Simplicity

Out of the box, with the Exposure Mode Dial set to AUTO, or one of the Vari-Program modes, ala Portrait, Landscape, Close-Up, Sports Continuous, or Night Scene, the Nikon F65 is a straightforth point-and-shoot camera. Be the savvy user, add a bit of challenge to your experience, and you are on the way to a user-controlled PSAM (Auto Multi-Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual) exposure environment, and beyond that, walla, whatever you want to do with it...

By itself, the Nikon F65's paraphernalia of features is worthy enough for it to be an esteemed SLR camera. Features include TTL (Through The lens) with a 3D-six-zone-matrix or center-weighted metering, a combination of four exposure modes (Programmed, Aperture, Shutter, Manual), five vari-program modes (Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports Continuous, Night Scene), automatic motorized advance, and a couple of new features not available on the previous F60 model, depth-of-field preview and remote shutter release.

The camera is fitted with a CPU-controlled focal plane shutter with speeds from 30 to  1/2000 second, a DX-coded film speed sensor that accepts film speeds from 25 to 5000 ASA, a cross-ranged, five-area autofocus system, a built-in miniature (GN 40) flash unit, a top panel LCD display, and a viewfinder with diopter adjustment, features which are more common among higher-end SLR film cameras.

Nikon F65, AF Nikkor Ai-S 50mm F1.4

For the icing on top of the cake, the F65 supports the ML-L3 infrared remote that also works with the D7100, and more importantly, the camera works with all of Nikon's autofocus lenses, i.e. with all your modern AF-S and VR lenses.

Basic Camera Features

The Nikon F65 was also sold alongside a later entry-level model Nikon F55, introduced in 2001, a model that does not support autofocus on Nikon lenses with "AF-S" silent wave motor focusing, or with the "VR" optical stabilization features found on some lenses.

Nikon F65, Front

A simple front, with the almost too familiar, red-trimmed hand grip/battery compartment, with the Remote Control sensor located just below the Power dial/shutter button switches. A Depth-of-field preview button and the Self-Timer/AF Assist Illuminator/Red-Eye Reduction lamp nestled back on the body panel.

To the right of the lens mount are the Focus Mode selector and lens release button. The Focus Area/AF Assist Illuminator cancel button, and further up, the Flash lock-release/Flash sync mode button are located on the right vertical of the lens mount.

Nikon F65, Top

On the left end of the top plane is the Exposure mode dial, with the Self-Timer/Remote Control button and the Auto Exposure Bracketing/Multiple Exposure/Film Rewind activation button alongside it. Located on top of the pentaprism hump are the built-in miniature flash unit and hot shoe.

To the right of the top panel is the LCD panel, with the Aperture/Exposure Compensation button/Film Rewind activation button in its top right corner. The combination power On/Off switch and shutter release button are located on top of the hand grip/battery compartment extrusion.

Nikon F65, Back

A plain back, with only the dioptre adjustable viewfinder eyepiece, the command dial, and the film back with a film confirmation window. The film back is opened by a slide latch lock located on the left of the camera.

Nikon F65, Bottom

On the bottom plane, just the battery chamber cover, and tripod socket.

Nikon F65, Film box

The film back, with the auto forward and autorewind film load system as used by Nikon for their 35nn SLR film camera systems.

Film Loading and Rewind

To load film into the camera, first, turn the power switch of the camera to on, open the film back, drop in the film canister into the chamber (located on the left of the film box), and pull the film tab across over the shutter window area to the location of the index mark on the film pick up spool side.

Ensure that the film is firmly aligned (with no slack) from one end to the other, close the film back, and the film will automatically advance to Frame 1, as indicated by the number displayed on the LCD panel. If the load is in error, the LCD panel will display a blinking Err message...

Film speed is set automatically by the camera, which will accept DX-coded film with ISO ratings from 25 to 2500. Film rolls that are not DX-coded are automatically set at ISO speed 100.

Film rewind is automatic at the end of the roll.

Viewfinder Readout

Nikon F65, Viewfinder readout

The viewfinder of the F65 is a fixed eye-level pentaprism with a Clear Matte Screen engraved with five sets of focus bracket points and a 12mm reference circle for Center-Weighted metering. Viewfinder coverage is approximately 98% of the image area.

An LCD bar across the lower part of the screen provides information on Focus indication, Focus Area deployment, Shutter Speed, Aperture setting, Electronic Analog Exposure/Exposure Compensation Value display, Exposure Compensation indicator, and Flash Ready/Recommended diode.

LCD Panel Display

Nikon F65, LCD Panel display

The LCD panel is an information platform that details the functions and setting you have set for the camera. Information display includes Remote Control indicator, Self-Timer activation, Shutter Speed and Aperture settings, Exposure Compensation and Multiple Exposure indicators, Battery Power status, Flash Sync mode, Frame Counter / Exposure Compensation values, Focus Area indicator, and Auto Exposure Bracketing indicators.

As stated in the instruction manual, the display will intend to turn darker in high-temperature conditions and will respond slower in cold weather. The panel should function normally in fair weather.

Image Capture

Nikon F65, Exposure Mode Dial

Using the camera to start your interest in film photography is straightforward. The Nikon F65 has all the important features you'll find on modern cameras, like matrix metering, auto shooting mode as well as PSAM exposure modes, as well as an additional five scene modes. Exposure mode selection is convenient, and you case your selection based on the selection below:

  • Auto mode (AUTO) - Exposure is automatically controlled by the camera, the simplest shooting mode.
  • Auto-Multi Program (P) - Exposure is controlled by the camera, with advanced usage via Flexible Program mode, Exposure Compensation setting, or Exposure Compensation mode.
  • Shutter-Priority Auto (S) - Shutter speed is set manually while the camera the lens aperture to achieve correct exposure of the image.
  • Aperture-Priority Auto (A) - Lens aperture is set manually while the camera adjusts the shutter speed for correct action exposure.
  • Manual (M) - Both the shutter speed and the lens aperture are set manually.

On a more creative side, you can also set your camera to the following Vari-Program modes;

  • Portrait - A good guide to capturing people actuated against a blurred background.
  • Landscape - Scenes of the vista with both near and far objects in sharp focus.
  • Close-Up - Best for images of flowers and/or insects and the like, captured with a blurred background. 
  • Sports Continuous - The camera is set to Continuous Servo AF for continuous tracking of the subject, and images are frozen at the fastest shutter speed possible.
  • Night Scene - Capturing the essence of lighting and images of subjects with an evening or night background, recommended for higher speed film.

Managing Functional Controls

Nikon F65, LCD Panel

In the case of Exposure Modes, functional control of exposure setting is done by first setting the Exposure Mode Dial to the mode you want to shoot in, and where appropriate, by adjusting the setting via the Control Dial.

  • Auto mode (AUTO) - No functional control required.
  • Auto-Multi Program (P) - No functional control required.
  • Shutter-Priority Auto (S) - Use the Control Dial to adjust the shutter speed setting.
  • Aperture-Priority Auto (A) - Use the Control Dial to adjust the lens aperture opening.
  • Manual (M) - Use the Control Dial then adjust the shutter speed of the camera, press the Aperture Compensation button, and use the Control Dial simultaneously to adjust the lens aperture opening.

Another functional control requires you to press the appropriate button and use the Control Dial simultaneously for setting adjustment includes:

  • Exposure Compensation - Press the Exposure Compensation button and use the Control Dial simultaneously to adjust the exposure compensation from -2EV to + 2EV in 1/2 steps.
  • Auto Exposure Bracketing - Press the Auto Exposure Bracketing button and use the Control Dial simultaneously to adjust the exposure bracketing to +2EV.
  • Multiple Exposure - Press the Auto Exposure Bracketing button and turn the Control Dial simultaneously until you reach the multiple exposure icon. Set and shoot the number of frames you want. The function self-cancels after the shoot.
  • Self-Timer - Set the camera up properly, preferably on a tripod with the viewfinder eyepiece covered, press the Self-Timer button to activate the system, and the Self-Timer icon will display on the LCD panel. To take the shoot, press the shutter release halfway to bring the subject into focus, and fully activate. The time delay is about 10 seconds and the AF-Assist light will blink for the duration.

Focus Lock

Focus lock on the Nikon F65 is easily executed by focusing and half-pressing the shutter release button on the subject, before reframing the scene and pressing the shutter button fully.

Focus Mode

The Focus Mode control, on the front of the camera, provides for the two focus modes that are available on the camera, mainly Auto-Servo AF (Single Servo AF and Continuous Servo AF), which the F65 will choose automatically based on subject status, and Manual focus.

  • Single Servo AF mode is automatically activated when the subject is stationary and focus is confirmed by the Focus Indicator on the Viewfinder LCD display.
  • Continuous Servo AF is automatically activated when the subject is moving. The shutter can be released when the subject is within the Focus indicator range. Focus, though, is not locked and the camera will continue with its focus-tracking function.
  • In Manual Focus mode, the shutter can be released freely regardless of Focus Indicator information.

Battery and Camera Body Weight

The Nikon F65 requires the use of a pair of CR2 Lithium cells to power its operations.

When used with flash and AF-Assist Illuminator for half of the shots, the capacity of the battery will be enough to power up to 10 rolls of 36-exposure 135 film rolls. When used without flash and AF-Assist Illuminator, the number of 36-exposure film rolls may go up to 50.

The camera's body weight is approximately 395 grams without batteries.

Lens Compatibility

All functions of the Nikon F65 are available when the camera is used with a CPU Nikkor lens (except for IX-Nikkor lenses), and D- or G-type Nikkor lenses.

Nikon F65, AF Nikkor Ai-S 50mm F1.4

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