In 1994, when the Nikon F50 was new, we didn’t know whether digital photography would ever be good enough to replace film. Maybe companies like Nikon could see the day coming, but they had cameras to sell in the meantime. Nikon in particular kept evolving its lines of 35mm SLRs, including those at the entry level like this F50, which was called the N50 in North America.

Nikon F50D

Nikon’s SLRs moved slowly toward what we now consider the standard idiom, with an on/off switch around the shutter button, a mode dial, and an LCD display of settings. The F50 added the LCD display, but not the rest. A series of buttons around the LCD display let you choose most of the camera’s settings — not as simple as a mode dial, but not hard to figure out.

First, set the Simple/Advanced switch to Advanced. Then press the leftmost button to enter selection mode. The LCD panel lights up with P S A M; press the button above the mode you want. In P mode, press a button for the sub-mode you want; there are a bunch of them including a macro mode and a sports mode. I just used Auto, which is the first option on the left. For the S, A, and M modes, select aperture, shutter speed, or both using the buttons. If you need a little help figuring it out, here’s a manual at the wonderful Butkus site. Or set the Simple/Advanced switch to Simple and just use the F50 like a big point and shoot.

Nikon F50D

My F50 is technically an F50D because it has the date back. Not that I’m ever going to use it. The camera is a good size, noticeably smaller than the semi-pro N90s which was made around the same time. I recently got to shoot a Minolta Maxxum HTsi, which is smaller than this F50. The Minolta handled easily enough, but the F50’s slightly larger size made it even easier to handle.

Nikon F50D

The F50 is surprisingly heavy, though! Nikon’s next two entry-level 35mm SLRs, the N60 and N65, weigh next to nothing in comparison. The F50 isn’t as heavy as my all-metal Nikon F2, but it’s got noticeable heft.

The F50 offers a self timer, but it doesn’t offer mirror lockup, depth-of-field preview, or cable release. It reads the DX coding on your film to set ISO from 25 to 5000, but you can override ISO manually down to 6 and up to 6400. It uses Nikon’s famous matrix metering except in manual exposure mode, when it switches to center-weighted metering. Its shutter operates from 1/2000 to 30 sec. You can use most AF Nikkor lenses with it, and many AI Nikkor lenses in manual exposure mode. The F50 automatically loads, winds, and rewinds your film. A typical Nikon-style LCD inside the viewfinder shows exposure settings. A 2CR5 battery powers everything.

Speaking of winding, mine is a little on the loud side, and sounds weak and wobbly. There’s an odd, slight disconnect between pressing the shutter button and the shutter firing. It doesn’t inspire confidence, but you do get used to it. In contrast, when you press the button on the N60 or N65, it fires immediately and the winder is crisp and quiet.

If you like auto-everything SLRs, especially check out my reviews of these Nikons: the N90s, the N60, the N65, and the N8008. I’ve also reviewed the Canon EOS 650, EOS 630, EOS Rebel, EOS Rebel S, and EOS A2E. If you fancy Minolta, see my reviews of the Maxxum 7000, Maxxum 7000i, Maxxum 9xi, and Maxxum HTsi.

I mounted my 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor lens and loaded a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus, which I developed it in Adox HR-DEV 1+30. This was my first go with this film/developer combination. I wasn’t wowed. The scans needed heavy post-processing and some of them could not be made to look good. I later learned that this developer, once opened, should be used within six months — and this bottle had been open at least that long. Perhaps that contributed to the meh results. I let the rest of the bottle go.

1 Thess 5:16-17

It was far below freezing outside, so I shot this roll around the house. This Sears box camera is missing the red plastic bit over the exposure-counter window around back. I need to repair that before I can shoot and review it. But it made a fine subject for my F50. I shot a handful of other cameras with it, but they all suffered from shake as I shot them handheld. In Program mode, the F50 chose apertures of f/3.3 and f/4.5 with shutter speeds of 1/15, 1/20, and 1/30 sec. I normally have a very steady hand and can get away with shutter speeds down to 1/15, but not on this roll.

Tower 120

I was at a bit of a loss for subjects, so I reached for anything that I thought would work, like this orange. The tablecloth on the dining table had an interesting texture so that’s where I placed the orange.


This is where I write this blog and process my photographs. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s also where I work. I spend a lot of time in that chair staring at that screen. As you can see, I have a lot of wires running about, which I don’t enjoy. Someday I’ll figure out a good wire management solution.

At my desk

I did make a few photos outside, but only by sticking my head and the camera out the door. One day during the cold snap we got about a foot of snow. My wife grabbed our youngest son (who’s 20 and hardly a child!) and a couple plastic snowboards and sledded down the back-yard hill. A zoom lens would have let me move in closer without having to step outside! The F50 did a reasonable job of setting exposure in the snow.


I wanted to see how this Nikon F50 handled with the kinds of subjects I normally shoot. So I loaded some Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 and mounted my 28-80mm f/3.3-4.5G AF Nikkor lens. I first used it to chase our granddaughter around to make a couple candid photos of her. She’s hard to capture perfectly still!

Playing with blocks

I love this 28-80mm zoom and turn to it often. It handles easily, has good sharpness, and resolves subjects well with little distortion, except at 28mm. I generally zoom it out no more than 35mm.

Little bus

I finished the roll on a couple walks outside in near-freezing weather, the F50 in my hand unprotected in the cold. It just kept on working.

Sidewalk closed

The snow from the day I photographed my wife on her sled was beginning to melt. It made for a soggy walk through downtown Zionsville.

the flower shop

I was very happy with these images. They required next to no tweaking in Photoshop — little more than applying the “Auto Tone” command to brighten everything up.

Black Dog Books

See more photos from this camera in my Nikon F50 gallery.

I really enjoyed using the Nikon F50. It’s a terrific auto-everything 35mm SLR. This one was a gift from a reader to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras, but a quick look at eBay shows these selling for between $10 and $30, often with a zoom lens attached. The main concern with electronic auto-everything cameras is how robust they are, and whether they can be repaired when they fail. I’ve personally had much better experience with Nikon autoexposure and autofocus cameras working for the long haul than the other brands I’ve tried, namely Canon and Minolta. It’s why I recommend cameras like this F50 to people curious about film photography.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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17 responses to “Nikon F50”

  1. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    I had a Nikon N50 and a Nikon N70 when they were new. By the time these cameras came out, Nikon had really perfected the 35mm SLR. I traded in both on a N90s, which was an amazing camera and pretty expensive. Today, you can buy any of these amazing late 1990s Nikons for a song!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s crazy how inexpensive these are now! Buy ’em, hoard ’em, wait until prices inevitably go up and sell ’em. Meanwhile, enjoy ’em, because they’re fine cameras to use.

  2. marcusterrypeddle Avatar

    A good review of an interesting camera. I wonder how many people just set it to Simple and used it as a point-and-shoot.
    My first SLR was the F55, which looks more or less like the cameras the company still produces. It was a fine camera and the 28-80 zoom was good. I eventually wanted a camera with a spot meter so I gave the F55 away to a student.
    I love the 50mm 1.8D and it’s what’s on my D850 even now. It’s small, light, sharp, has a minimum aperture of f22, and the front element is set so far into the lens that you don’t need a hood.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Most people probably did – and that’s fine, as the camera worked great that way!

      I have a 28-80 AF Nikkor and it’s terrific. My 50/1.8 is the non-D model and it’s fine. My Df came with a 50/1.8 G Special Edition lens and it’s great.

  3. Peter Paar Avatar

    I have found that mechanical parts of cameras, whether film or digital, are more apt to need repair than the electronic elements. Admittedly, mechanical repairs are cheaper to fix and people capable of doing the work are easier to find then electronic repairs. On the whole, to my mind, the advantages that electronics (auto focus, auto exposure, etc.) far outweigh the minor risk of electronic failure.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You’re certainly right. It’s just that when the electronic components fail, it’s likely game over for the camera.

  4. Victor Villaseñor Avatar
    Victor Villaseñor

    I have to up my desk / home office game, mug of coffee and screen, check and check! Cable spaghetti monster underneath? SUPER check! glass of wine? Oops! Jim certainly has more panache.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Usually, it’s whiskey!

  5. […] Jim Grey has just reviewed this on his blog. […]

  6. Peggy Avatar

    I have just been given one of these, your blog helped me manage the menu as it isn’t a familiar one is it? I only have one lens that works, but so far I am liking it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s a highly competent machine.

  7. […] be sourced from Nikon. Alternatively Butkus also carries it. The camera has been reviewed by on Down the road,, ACP and […]

  8. Jim Avatar

    I got the N50 when it first came out. I bought a few lenses (20mm, 60mm Macro, and 70-210 tele) to go with the 35-80mm that came with the camera. I used the camera for 5-6 solid years for Underwater (in a custom housing) and topside work. I always shot in manual mode so I could control my exposures. It never failed to deliver good images. I was rivaling people shooting with N90s’ for Underwater work. They’d always get pissed off that my N50 could take such good pictures.
    I still have it, but haven’t shot anything for years because of various reasons. This is inspiring me to get it out and take some pictures.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s a good and capable camera for sure. What’s strange right now is that they are worth very little. They sell on eBay for about 10 bucks right now!

  9. Tim N. Avatar
    Tim N.

    Jim, I found your blog some months ago and I enjoy very much reading it. I am from Nothern Germany, born 1976, and, I am only a hobby photographer.
    My grandfather‘s hobby for decades was photography, starting in the 50s with home-developped black-and-white films. I still have my first own camera, a Ricoh Kr-10x, which I got at age of 14 from him, after playing around for two years with grandfather’s compact Voigtlander from the 50s and father’s heavy Canon Ftb. To me, the Ricoh is a vastly underrated piece of Japanese precision manufacturing. I made some great photographs with it in day and night until I was a student, and it will likely last longer than me.
    Now, more than 30 years later, I started collecting some cameras that I couldn’t afford as a student, mostly advanced amateur cameras from the 90s.
    For my niche and nephew, I am looking after a Nikon F50. It has a wonderful “simple” mode, a dedicated on-off switch, it seems very robust (unlike the later *5-series) and well built and can be combined with light Nikkor plastic zooms which don’t ruin me when they break. In fact, this camera has everything that I would have liked during my study times and, due to its robustness, it is probably still a good choice for any hiking tour. As an alternative, I could have chosen Canon Eos 500 or Minolta 500si but, I thought, they might be more complicated to use for kids. Anyway, film photography has become an slightly expensive hobby again, like before the mass effect started in the 70s. So, if they won‘t follow it, they may keep the camera for their own children — if the classic 135 film might still exist, then.
    Would be nice to receive some thoughts from you.
    Best regards from Germany, Tim

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I hope you’re able to find an F50! Here in the US, eBay has them all the time for very little money.

      1. Tim N. Avatar
        Tim N.

        Well, let‘s say, I have already gotten one, together with the 35-80 kit zoom in the later plastic version, without distance ring. Now, I am looking through ebay for the exactly identical model — for the second kid, so that there‘s no reason for envy… The price here in good condition is about 30…50 € (the higher limit with lens or accessories) which is really not much given the capability and robustness of the camera. Ok, the autofocus is from the 8008 (only one horizontal line sensor), and, like the 8008, it cannot do 3D multisensor fill-flash (only matrix-controlled fill flash). But, so what, they won‘t go for sports racing with an analogue film camera. Should be capable enough for the zoo, even.
        Anyway, I am happy now that reading many of your reviews and changing my perspective to one of a beginner have led me to choose that specific model. So: Thank you!

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