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Nikon F6

2004 marks the arrival of the long-awaited Nikon F6 - a new flagship model embodying all of the qualities that photography enthusiasts could desire in the ultimate film SLR camera. Here is the inside story behind the development of the F6.

IKENO, Tomohisa
Development Division, Imaging Company
Nikon Corporation
PROFILE:
Joined Nikon Corporation in 1980, dreaming of designing precision instruments, and was assigned to the 2nd Design Section of the Camera Development Division.
"When I joined the Company," he recalls, "my first job was to help out on the Nikon EM, which was in development. After that, the first design plan I created was realized in the form of the Nikon FG." His career at Nikon since then has focused on the development of film-based SLR cameras including the FG20, F-401, F-601, F70, F5, F3H and F100. His favorite cameras are the F100 and F3. "I use the F100 for everyday shooting, and the F3 excites me from the moment I touch it."

More than a beautiful ending - here's a great new beginning.
Reach photography's peak with the ultimate film-based SLR camera.

At long last, the F6, Nikon's latest F Series SLR camera has arrived.
In the eight years since the F5 was launched, the rapid spread of digital photography has transformed the camera market. How has this digitalization influenced you, F6 development and the new camera's market positioning?

The F6: Nikon's new flagship model has all the qualities that enthusiasts desire in the ultimate film SLR camera.

IKENO, Tomohisa:

It has been a crucial factor in the development of the F6. Digital cameras had already been introduced in the professional market when we started work on the F6, and the market, led mainly by the press, has been experiencing a shift from film-based to digital cameras.
There are many Nikon devotees within the ranks of news photographers, among whom digital cameras have rapidly become popular, since speedy results are so crucial to photojournalism. So Nikon has been meeting this demand step by step, by fostering the D Series brand of digital SLR cameras for professional use.
Given current trends, we had to carefully consider what the market required of the F single-digit series of Nikon film-based flagship cameras.

What are the advantages of choosing a film-based camera over a digital camera? And what added value should the F6 embody?

Well, when the F6 was in its development stages, we thoroughly inspected many factors in trying to determine the advantages and disadvantages of film-based cameras relative to digital cameras. Finally, however, we found that there is little point in considering which of these two types of cameras is superior.
In studying basic concepts for F6 development, we recognized the problem of digital camera shutter lag. But since progress was being made to solve this problem, we concluded that we should not worry too much about so-called disadvantages which, in time, were becoming less relevant.
On the other hand, however much digital cameras have penetrated the market, there are people who continue to use film-based cameras. We know that this group includes photographers who are inclined to try more creative approaches. After considering these facts, we again thought about the attractions of film-based SLR cameras. Now, I think the essence of this appeal can be summed up as "the value of unique pictures."

The value of unique pictures?

Yes. To explain, allow me to exaggerate a bit. With a digital camera, the number of pictures you can take is infinite, in the sense that there is no limit in the number of shots to take, unlike shooting with film. You don't have to hesitate when taking pictures. Just release the shutter, although later, you may find that you don't want to keep the results.

Certainly, we experience this carefree ease when shooting with a digital camera.

Exactly. But, on the contrary, some photographers reject the prospect of such ease, as they desire a more careful, rigorous approach to taking pictures. They want to treasure each picture-taking opportunity by etching their vision on film.

I see.

So, with the F6, we made it our first priority to satisfy customers who want to apply a certain degree of respect to taking each great picture. To realize this, a camera that allows a user to take a good picture is not enough. There are many important factors involved, including comfort of use, functionality as a tool, shooting feel, etc. And we want to make the F6 the best camera in every aspect.

Isn't the ultimate goal to offer the best camera?

Definitely. We already had a high-speed, high-performance camera, the F5, in our lineup. In developing the F6, we intended to create a camera giving users even more of what they want than the F5 does.
The development concept for the F5 was "high speed and high performance." With the F6, we aimed to offer the functions of the F5, and also enhance the advantages of "finesse and practicality."

The development concept for the F6 is "finesse."
Our pursuit of absolute user comfort never ends, but always delivers.

Please specify what you mean by "finesse".

Among the five human senses, sight, touch and hearing relate to camera operation. These three senses can distinguish this camera's finesse.
As a simple example, sight takes in the appearance of the camera body, and perceives with ease and precision every scene that can be seen through the viewfinder.
As for the sense of touch, users feel the secure grip and surefire operability. Even the sounds of shutter-release and other operations provide a special sensation of quality. So what I mean by "finesse" is the comfortable, reassuring feel of flawless operation transmitted through these three senses.

Well, you took the tools of comfortable operation to the limit, didn't you?

The F6 is comprehensively designed to fit in hand.

Exactly. For example, even for the grip, we inspected all design elements, considering not only non-slip hand fit, but also minute aspects of design that might cause any kind of user fatigue.
We discovered many things that we could not have imagined finding if examined only from the perspective of design or data. We repeatedly performed trials, discussed issues exhaustively with designers and examined the grips of many prototypes. Finally, we were satisfied with the grip and operability of the final product.

When I take the F6 to shoot, it feels light. Is it meant to feel that way?

Yes, that's the essence of the F6.
Actually, the F6, with a battery, weighs almost the same as the F5. But it feels lighter, in the estimation of users.
I think this is because the F6 is designed in such a way that all fingers easily support the camera while it fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. Distribution of a camera's weight can tend to feel imbalanced in the hand, especially with a telephoto lens attached. But the F6 is designed to counteract this sense of imbalance, because it weighs evenly on the entire palm, not only on the thumb.

It was made with very careful consideration to detail, wasn't it?

We hope so. In developing the F6, we were very attentive to maximizing operating comfort, even when the camera is subjected to use under very tough conditions.
We also covered the dials and buttons with rubber, especially where users tend to touch them. For example, rubber evenly covers the entire area in contact with the palm, as well as the thumb.

In general, the F6 is miniaturized very much in comparison to the F5, isn't it?

Careful, precise planning was applied toward selection and integration of every material.

It is almost as if we took that challenge to the limit. Actually, the size of the camera was mainly fixed, according to the size of the motor and shutter. So to minimize the entire size, we just packed everything into the available space as efficiently as possible. The inside of the camera is fully packed.
I must say that we reexamined all materials, although they had been used successfully in our existing cameras. Every single part was inspected from every aspect. We were not simply content with the current state of the art. Our attitude was to look for something better in order to create the best camera.
I know that we achieved this because we were afforded a longer period than usual to develop the best camera that we could create.