Reader Question: Moving from Film to Digital

Nikon F65

Pretty often these days I receive questions in regards to cameras, photography, tech etc. Earlier today I received a Facebook message from a college friend who wanted and needed Nikon advice. Here’s what he had to say:

I always see your status updates about cameras, so maybe you’re the right person to ask about this….I have a Nikon N55, and something is wrong with it, I ended up buying up to a used N75 just so that I can keep using film, until I decide to spend some serious money on a digital camera…But, should I look into fixing the N55, or should I bury it, and say my prayers?

hope all is well man.

I’d be grateful for any help you could provide.



Truthfully Camilo, you’re much better off replacing it with something along the lines of a D90, D300 or even a D700 depending on your photography habits. There are chances that Nikon may not support those cameras anymore as they try to focus mostly on their digital photography and replacing units like that is hard to do as pieces and specific parts aren’t made anymore. I had a similar problem while trying to fix/replace my mom’s Olympus OM77.

If you go with a digital Nikon DSLR then you’ll be able to pick and choose your shots much better on top be being able to use your current investment of lenses that you may have. That will mean that when you go to purchase the new body you may not even need to buy a kit lens of some sort unless you really wanted to. Of course, there can be more to worry about with digital vs. film. It can be argued that film cameras are sturdier in construction vs. digital: even the film cameras with electronics in them. However, digital will allow you to quickly snap photos and share them amongst friends on Facebook. Further, you won’t have to take your film in for development all the time either.

You also don’t necessarily need to spend, “serious money” on a Nikon DSLR. Nikon D40 cameras still sell as do D60 cameras if you really want something cheap. If you want something mid-level but a bit more complicated, you might want to check out the D90.

If you want a camera even more advanced than that then your best options are the D700 or D300. If you shoot more things that require telephoto shooting, then the D300 is your best bet. Otherwise, the D700 will not magnify the zoom on your lenses and you will be able to shoot as you did when you used your film cameras.

If you really want to be Rockwellian and stay with film cameras then Nikon’s higher grade film cameras may be an option for you. The Nikon F6 rivals the D700 in price value very closely. With an F6 you’ll be able to continue to shoot with your film (if you really want to stay with it.) Otherwise a D700 can still give you very beautiful prints at 12MP and you will most likely not find a reason to upgrade for a while unless you shoot professionally (even then I find it hard to convince current Canon 5D users to upgrade to the Mk II.)

What’s Your Advice?

Do you have any additional or different advice for Camilo?

Do you think he should bury the N55 and step into the Nikon DSLR world?  If so, which camera do you recommend?



  1. Wally says

    Nikon can provide authorized repair shops. If the still do repair on your specific camera is another matter. Film is very much alive specially black and white! When I shoot Digital I use a D80 and may one day trade up to a d300 or equivalent. My other cameras are 2 4×5 large format for Black and White. The 4X5 equivalent to Digital is 120 MB and provides much better resolution than any digital camera on the market!

  2. JimmyDee says

    Bury N55 and buy a cheap but very good Nikon D40 or the new Nikon D3000 with an excellent VR kit lens. If he has many film era autofocus Nikon lenses, then he has no choice but to buy a more expensive camera body with built-in autofocus motor, like Nikon D90.

  3. says

    If he wants AF to work on his currently AF film lenses, then he needs to go the way of a D80/90 (a used D80 might be just what the doctor ordered). If he like MF, then the D40(x)/60/3000/5000 series might be a good start into digital.

    Before deciding on any of them, however, he should go down to the store and hold them. There’s a different range of sizes and styles. After owning my D300 and D700, I can’t go back to the Dxx style anymore (I had a D80 previously). I’ve tried to shoot w/ friends’ D40s and D60s, but it’s an exercise in frustration (for me since I’m used to the Dxxx series’s ergonomic layout). Something to keep in mind.

    Also, if he wants to use his old lenses and keep them in that aspect, then going D700/D3/D3x will be his only options for the time being. He might move to a D40(x)/60/3000/5000/80/90/300, but the problem is that they are cropped sensors. He might not be comfortable with that. Something to keep in mind.

    If he’s active on Flickr, then going to a local meetup and getting to know local members could be helpful as he might then be able to hear first-hand stories on certain bodies and maybe use them for awhile

    If he’s serious about studying for an upgrade, perhaps renting a couple different bodies over a weekend might be something to consider (I’m assuming he’s covered for glass for the time being).

    As for the original question, can/should he fix it, I’m not so sure it would be worth the trouble. I’m certainly not an expert on this, but was told by an older gentleman in a Tokyo camera shop that the plastic film bodies were pretty much throw-away cameras. Was told this when I was looking to pick up an oder F-style body (Did p/u a Nikon F that day). The guy didn’t have anything positive to say about the upkeep of the plastic types. Once could always contact Nikon and see, but before that, might want to check eBay/Yahoo/Craigslist to see what similar bodies are running for used. Might be cheaper to go w/ a used film body for a film replacement (either that or check out the older metal bodies- they run a pretty penny, but they’re bulletproof).

  4. says

    I picked up a used n80 in cherry condition from a local shop (Portland, OR, USA) for $49 a couple days ago. That has to be cheaper than any repair. If you just want a drop in replacement, the n80 is a step up.

    All the digital cameras have the same or better compatability with lenses than the n55/65/75. Yes, anything under a d700 will have crop factor and that’s a consideration. Buy a memory card, take some shots with some cameras and print them out. See what you think. That’s the best measure.

    Good luck,


  5. pacorramos says

    From my own experience, I think the D90 is a very good option to go digital for someone that has been already using a film SLR. The cropped sensor can be an inconvenient for old glass, but also give you more telephoto length. Besides that, for me the only question to take into account is greater weight and size as compared with a film SLR.

  6. fransvh says

    Well, I would bury it, the cost of repair is simply to high for the value of the camera. You can buy a desent (as you already did) second hand for a couple of dollars.

  7. says

    Thank you everyone for the comments and the suggestions. I’ll def. take some into consideration. I think I will play around for film for a bit, but renting out some digital equipment to check it out and see how I feel with it sounds like a great idea!

    Thanks again!