Alistair Maclean's Web Site
Nikon F801/N8008
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Autofocus!

Nikon's are posey cameras. They have an excellent name born of a great reputation for quality and robustness. The F801/N8008 series of cameras were one of Nikon's first efforts in the new technology of Autofocus cameras.

My old Nikon

I had just been laid-off and a huge severance package was burning a hole in my pocket (You can call me stupid!) I was in Nottingham for something or other, and happened to wander into a camera shop there. It was almost 13 years since I had bought my Olympus OM-1 so I suppose it was about time I got something else (let's ignore the OM-10); 1990 was an odd time in my life. So there I was and this Nikon F801 was dragged out and put in front of me. It was not the smallest camera, nor the most advanced, but it was a Nikon. And a seemingly good one, at that. I don't remember how much this camera was, by this time in my life I had bought several motorcycles and a house, so a few hundred quid here or there didn't seem to matter. I left the shop with the camera body. No lens, but a camera body! I took another risk and got a zoom lens (I can almost hear the purist photographers rolling in their graves at the very thought of zoom lenses). I got a Tokina 28-80mm zoom. It was a nice combination.

I then moved to the USA. I had been in the US just 2 weeks when someone stole the camera. It was to say the least a bit of a shock, but an insurance company paid up and once more I had money burning my pocket bottoms out. I looked around, and decided that I would get the same thing again, only in the USA the camera is called an N8008. I got a similar zoom lens, too.

Autofocus is so easy to get used to - until you use really long focal length lenses. At short focal lengths the time taken to come into focus is very short, there is some hunting, but not too much. The longer lenses cause the system more trouble though as the lenses have longer throws on the focus gear and so it takes much longer to spin the lens to the required place. If the autofocus misses, then it hits the stops at both ends hunting for the correct place. The F801/N8008 had a relatively slow motor on its autofocus unit so it could take sometime for it to wind the 300mm telephoto from min to max focal points. Why is this a problem? Point the camera at a plane in the sky and if its not in the exact middle of the screen its always going to be a blur!

The camera was also fitted with an integral autowinder. The combination of autofocus and autowinder makes the SLR into a new and incredibly expensive point and shoot. Drat! I have been found out.

The F801 was appreciably heavier than the Olympus, though it was well balanced. It fit in my hands well and the controls fell to hand easily. I could even use the focus lock buttons without taking my eye from the view finder.

While the camera has several operating modes, my particular preference was for shutter priority. This allowed me to set the shutter speed and let the lens find an aperture that allowed a shot. In the gloom of the UK this was risky, but with the bright Carolina skies it was a bigger problem finding slow enough film to allow the lenses to stop down enough.

The camera uses 4 AA batteries, and is remarkably frugal with power. The shutter is quiet, and the autowind is somewhat obtrusive when it winds the film, so its hard to shoot in quiet surrounds.

In general the camera has been quite reliable, however there has been one nagging issue, that is that it will occasionally fire twice when the shutter release is pressed. This occurs even in single shot mode. Its quite irritating when you get near the end of a roll for it to do this, and most rolls have a double shot on them. In the end the autofocus speed, the shutter issue, and the endless press of technology had me lusting after another camera.

Type Autofocusing 35mm Single Lens Reflex with Automatic exposure
Lens mount Nikon Bayonet mount
Standard Lens N/A
Shutter Electronic release, metal blinds, speeds from about 30s to 1/8000th, B sync @ 1/125th. Film speed could be set between 6 and 6400 ASA.
Meter Metering off mirror, electronic read out in viewfinder. Auto modes set exposure parameters.

Recently this page has been pounded by folks coming from a series of eBay links. I have to stress that I don't know who has created these links and I do not endorse the cameras being sold. This page describes my own observations on the F801/N8008 Camera I own. (Jan 9th 2002)


© Copyright A. Maclean 2001 -
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