Nikon N4004/F401

Dan Knight

October 2001, updated

I bought a used N4004 "on the cheap" in October 2001. I knew next to nothing about the camera, only that it was an autofocus Nikon SLR and probably worth every penny I was paying for it. (As I said, I picked it up cheap.) I've created this page to share my research on the camera, one I quickly learned is reviled for slow autofocus, among other things. For instance, one Web page states "it's AF is pretty close to worthless."

Having used my N4004, I have to agree with those who say it has slow autofocus. It's not intolerable, but my N6006 is much better. The N6006 also lets you choose between continuous autofocus and "focus-and-lock" (Single Servo AF). The N4004 will only focus once and then lock on the subject. If you want to refocus, you must let go of the shutter button, then activate it again.

The entry-level N4004 offers no meter coupling to older lenses, AI or not. Only AF lenses will couple to the metering system. Worse yet, once you switch from automatic exposure, the N4004 provides no metering information at all. (And even with auto exposure, it only provides a "too dark, use flash" indicator.)

The N4004 has its pros and cons - and sometimes the same feature makes both lists. For instance, it was created as an alternative to point-and-shoot cameras, so the viewfinder is particularly sparse with information. It doesn't display the shutter speed or lens opening. For the 35mm tyro, that makes for a less confusing camera; for the seasoned user, it's a frustrating lack of information.

The viewfinder will let you know when you should use flash. The built-in flash covers a 28mm lens and is good to about 10' with ISO 100 film and common zooms in the 28-70 or 35-105 range. With ISO 400 film you can double that. Range also increases with faster lenses, and flash exposure is measured through the lens (TTL) with either the built-in flash or any dedicated flash with a TTL contact.

Matrix metering: Yes, but only 3 segments.

The N6006 cannot autofocus any lens slower than f/5.6. It cannot meter at all with non-AF lenses or in manual mode.

Now that I've had the opportunity to run some film through the camera, I'm less impressed than ever. The wind mechanism is noisy, and I've been unable to make it function in any mode except for program mode when my Vivitar 19-35 zoom is attached. While okay for a tyro or as an emergency backup body, I'm glad this isn't my primary camera.


Online Resources

Go to Nikon AF SLR home page.

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