Camera Reviews

Nikon N65

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The Nikon N65 is a forgotten camera. A 35 mm film SLR for the masses, it was introduced in 2001. Two years before, Nikon issued the the first viable digital SLR, the D1; within a few years, the DSLR would reign. The N65 never had a chance.

Nikon N65

This SLR is point-and-shoot simple. Press the shutter button halfway and the camera sets both exposure and focus, zip-zap. If flash is needed, one pops up atop the camera and fires. Film winds and rewinds automatically.

A versatile 28-80 mm f/3.3-5.6 AF Nikkor zoom lens came with the N65, but you can attach a huge collection of good Nikon glass to this camera.

Nikon N65The N65 has all the modes you’d expect, and they work just like the ones on your digital camera. (Or is it more accurate to say that your digital camera’s modes work just like the ones on the later film SLRs?) Turn the dial atop the camera to A for aperture priority, S for shutter priority, P for program, and M for manual, plus several special modes. Of course, fiddling with those settings is so annoying that nobody ever used them.

Given that this was Nikon’s entry-level SLR, at about $300, it is made almost entirely of plastic. It weighs just 14 ounces! But Nikon didn’t skimp on features, giving this camera a shutter that fires from 1/2000 to 30 sec., and the ability to handle film of up to a whopping ISO 5,000. The N65 needs two pricey CR2 batteries to power everything.

My road-trip loving buddy Pat (check out his blog) placed this camera on permanent loan in the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras. I wouldn’t have one otherwise; it’s not vintage enough. But when a camera lands in my hands, I shoot with it. Why not? I keep lots of Fujicolor 200 in the fridge for just such an eventuality.

I don’t remember taking this photograph. But there it is, the one that pleased me most on my test roll.

Black-eyed Susan

A soccer-goal farm consumes a field near my home. This crop looks ready for harvest.


I wanted to see how the N65 did in available light, but I couldn’t keep the flash from firing. If I were controlling focus and exposure, I would have gotten the fake flower fully in focus.

Pencil cup

Annnnnnd it’s not a test roll unless I shoot the building in which I work.

Anonymous office building

Under routine circumstances, the N65 is a perfectly adequate SLR. There were times I wanted more control, but that is not the N65’s mission.

It’s just too easy to mindlessly frame and press the button when the camera does so much for you. I fell prey to this, which led to many poor compositions. Also, a few shots were ruined by a sensitive shutter button that fired before I was quite ready. Finally, a couple indoors photos were marred by a funny shadow cast by the flash. These are the reasons why my Nikon N65 gallery includes just 10 photos.

With practice, I’d get the hang of the camera’s quirks, I’m sure. But me being me, I’d rather shoot one of my heavy, all-metal, all-manual SLRs from the 1970s.

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14 thoughts on “Nikon N65

  1. Lone Primate says:

    I think you’re entirely—and specifically—right to phrase it to suggest that DSLRs adopted familiar SLR standards. The main thing that changed was that a series of mechanical processes was replaced by a single electronic one. I’ve just been reading about Mauchly and Eckert building ENIAC and the same parallels adopting concepts and terminology from mechanical calculation devices was used. People like the familiar, for one thing, as things change; and it’s a nice tip of the hat to give others their due.

    I’m surprised… well, maybe I’m not… that the N65 is composed chiefly of plastic. One of the things the camera industry’s caught on to is that people want cameras that are light, but not too light. For that kind of money, “sturdy” and “solid” trump “light”. If you boast a camera is too light, it’ll hurt sales because people think, “ah ha, they cheaped out and it’ll bust within the year”.

    One of the good things about the Canon S line I’ve favoured for years is that they kept a metal frame. They have some heft, and feel like they could take a lot, but they’re not so heavy you can’t carry them around… you know, because you have an S80 and an S95. I’ve been even more of a fan of “sturdy” since I got a used G9 in 2008. On one of my first excursions, I managed to drop it without noticing at the side of a busy road. By the time I noticed and scrambled back to get it, it had literally been hit by a car. But aside from the thumb dial being sticky and some extra “glow” at the bottom right of the LED, it worked fine and it was my workhorse for nearly two years. It’s still going strong and I just handed it off on semi-permanent loan to a buddy. Not to calumny the N65 site unseen, but I imagine “they don’t make ’em like that anymore”. :)


    • There are plenty of things that hang on because we’re used to them, but not because they’re best. The QWERTY keyboard, for one. It was designed specifically to slow down typing because early mechanical typewriters would bind up if you typed too fast!

      It is possible that the N65 has a metal internal structure. I don’t really know. The camera is light, but feels solid enough.


  2. ryoko861 says:

    “A soccer-goal farm consumes a field near my home. This crop looks ready for harvest.” LMAO!!!

    Timing just seemed wrong for it. Maybe if it came out a couple years sooner it would have had a decent chance at being a successful camera.


    • I’m glad to know somebody laughed at that!

      This had to be a weird time for camera makers, not knowing whether digital was going to take off or not, and still having to make film cameras in the breech.


  3. Jim,

    Now I’m feeling guilty…

    …because the Nikon N65 I purchased two years ago long distance from Goodwill still is untested. But in my defense I used its lens to test a Nikon N6006.

    I’ve stopped purchasing cameras for a while. It seems a bit compulsive to purchase more cameras when you haven’t tested a bunch of them you already own. But my untested cameras are ready and waiting for me to give them a test roll.


  4. Looks like the lens is pretty good. I haven’t gotten any SLRs from this period yet. I probably would bite if I saw one cheap at a garage sale. I think the odd batteries these cameras need turns me against them more than anything else. I have really gotten to appreciate that the old classics only need a battery for the exposure meter. It is not disabling if I forget to get or charge up some batteries before I use them.


    • It’s a fine all around lens. I dunno, I’m not a Nikkor expert but I’m under the impression the whole series is at least decent and some of it it brilliant.

      I was in minor shock over having to pay $17 for two batteries to power this camera!


  5. Bill Bussell says:

    I enjoyed using Nikon 6006 with a Metz 60 strobe to take party pictures at the Indiana Roof. I was lazy and used it for other things rather than an F3. I assume the N65 is similar. Cheers


  6. I have an N65 too. As far as I know it is fully compatible with AF-D lenses like the 50mm 1.8 D. However, after mounting my D lens, I found that it moved the focus a few times and then has simply stopped autofocussing at all with it.
    By the way, I sent you a message through your Facebook page with an unrelated question.


  7. Tom Miller says:

    I purchased a Nikon N65 used on a popular auction site. Pending my test film shots, this maybe my go to travel film camera thanks to its weight. Two Tamron lenses would travel with it. I am impressed with its features. Thanks for the article.


    • These are decent cameras for everyday photography. I did find mine to be challenging to use indoors as it tried to limit me too much in the available light, turning on the terrible flash or flat out preventing me from making some photos.


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