Nikonos V Review

Today I am taking a look at the Nikonos V in a sort of mini-review.  The reason this isn't my comprehensive review (yet) is due to the fact that only roll I've pout through so far I pretty well botched (see note below on putting camera into rewind mode). I took it out on May 6th for the 5th annual New England Walk (NEWLK) on Nantucket Island. It was the obvious choice for me because the weekend was expected to be downpours - and what better camera for this than a camera designed for underwater photography. Equipped with the Nikonos 2.5/35 and a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus, I put the camera to work. 

Nikonos V + Ilford HP5 Plus + Epson V700 Scanner

As for the botching, I forgot to put the shutter dial into "rewind" mode (R) and the teeth on the spool ripped through the film when I tried to spin it back into the roll. When I thought it was rewound, I popped open the back door, exposing about 15% of my reel and causing light leaks on about 25%. The one and only image I was hoping to save was luckily one of the very first images I had taken with the camera (seen to the right) and survived my blunder.

The image here was taken by slipping off my shoes, stepping into the icy water and submerging 1/2 the lens underwater. I set the lens to f/5.6 giving a range of 30' - infinity for the focus. Really glad this one was saved.

Tech Specs

Here's a down and dirty rundown on dimensions and so on for this camera. It's a much heftier camera than I expected. If you get one, be sure to pick up a replacement set of rubber seals / gaskets to ensure water-tight operation.

  • Format: 35mm
  • Depth: Waterproof to 50 meters with all lenses
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 146 x 99 x 58mm (5.7 x 3.9 x 2.3 in.)
  • Weight (body only without batteries): 700g (24.7 oz.)
  • Power: One 3V CR1/3N lithium battery, or two 1.55V SR44 silver-oxide batteries, or two 1.5V LR44 alkaline batteries (these are the ones I used)
  • Exposure metering: Center-Weighted, TTL stopped-down metering; EV8 to 19 at ISO 100 with f/2.8 lens
  • Shutter speed: Stepless from 1/1,000 to 1/30 second (1/90 on M90)
  • Exposure Control: Aperture-Priority Auto [A] and Manual [M]
  • Flash: Automatic TTL with optional Nikon SB-104 / SB-105 Speedlight
  • Cost: About $100 on eBay right now for a good one with lens.


The water-tight lenses feature Nikon Super Integrated Coating (SC) for reduced ghost images and flare the provide improved contrast.

  • UW-Nikkor 20mm f/2.8 (Underwater only)
  • UW-Nikkor 28mm f/3.5 (Underwater only)
  • W-Nikkor 35mm f/2.5
  • Nikkor 80mm f/4

Note that the 20 and 28mm lenses are underwater only. The most versatile lens in my book is the 35mm which provides great performance in and out of the water.

Shutter Modes (M90 + Rewind)

The shutter offers a range of 1/30 - 1/1000, aperture priority (A), mechanical 90 (M90), and bulb (B). Most of these are self explanatory but I'll go into some detail on the M90. Though this camera is electronic, putting it into M90 when the battery dies gives you the ability to use a mechanical shutter that fires at 1/90 second. You can also gamble with exposure times in bulb mode (also mechanical) but I like the M90 option.

And let's talk about the "R" mode on the dial.  I forgot about that when I was using it.  This sets the take-up spool into REWIND mode so you don't rip through the film with the teeth on the spool - like I did. When you've exposed all your frames, simply set the dial to "R" and you can easily (and without damage) rewind your film. Ugh, how quickly I forget the simple things.

Using the Nikonos V

This is a fun camera to use. It's heavy like a brick, but balances nice in the water.  The shutter release is smooth and quiet and the crank is actually buttery smooth, which surprised me. The body has a good thickness and rubberized covering making it really easy to grip in the water and in the rain.

The finder is there to display your metering and gives you a good idea (though not accurate) of the frame of your shot. Half-press the shutter release to activate. I found that to see the metering readout, I needed to tip the camera a bit forward - readout along the bottom of the finder.  Otherwise, looking straight in, I couldn't always see the metering well. 

The Nikonos V is strictly a range focusing camera, so you need to look at the lens to see how wide your zone is at each f-stop. For my use, I kept it at f/5.6 (many suggest f/8. but it was dark and gloomy) which gives some pretty wide zones to play in. 

Tip: Mount the lens upside down. That way, to look at your range of focus you only need tip the camera back and you can read the scale. Otherwise, it's a kind of awkward rotation sideways to read the front of the camera.

All in all, I really enjoyed the short time I used this on Nantucket. I plan to put some color through it this summer, hopefully jumping off the squidding boat off Cape Cod and getting some proper underwater images with it.


All images (B&W) taken with Nikonos V and 2.5/35 lens with Ilford HP5+. Sink developed in Ifosol 3 and scanned with Epson v700 scanner.