Everyone has a dream camera. I have…well, a dream team: a set of cameras designed to meet specific needs and moods, from the small to large formats. This approach satisfies my obsessive need to compartmentalise things but also means I don’t get trapped in the mental spiral that is singling out just one as “the best”. After all, with all the varied photographic styles, approaches, mindsets, moods and preferences, saying one thing is “the best” is a little absurd, don’t you think?

In short, there’s no such thing as a “Swiss army knife” of a camera. Thank god.

Wenger 16999 Giant Swiss Army Knife

When it came to the task of adding a Nikon F6 to my dream team, I wanted to let someone else do all the legwork for a change. Armed with my research and kit list, I engaged the services of one Bellamy Hunt (Mr Japan Camera Hunter). Since there’s not a hell of a lot out there on the web about using procurement services like JCH, I thought I’d add a few of my own about the experience. Before that, please indulge me in a little disclosure and backstory.

I’ve known Bellamy for several years now. He was one of the first people I bugged for an interview all the way back in June 2015 and is a regular “guest” on an occasional podcast I record with 35mmc’s Hamish “no MC” Gill. Prior to contacting Bellamy about the F6, I had not previously expressed an interest in using his services to buy gear. Additionally, based on my conversations with others who have used JCH before, I can’t see anything in the service I received that would single me out as being “special”. In fact, until this article goes live, he doesn’t even know I’m writing anything about it.

On to the backstory of that dream team. My film camera dream team spans formats and types, from large format field cameras to 110, medium format, 35mm rangefinders and SLRs…and that’s where this story begins. In amongst the variations I’m trying to cross off the list are two slots set aside for 35mm SLR cameras. The first has already been filled by the Nikon FM3A (on two separate occasions but that’s another story).

The second was set aside for a Nikon F6.

Some years ago I found myself thinking about autofocus Nikon cameras and after a fair bit of research, I landed on the Nikon F100. It’s a highly capable camera that, in my opinion, has the best of both pro and consumer worlds: it’s compact, light, extendable and has a killer metering and autofocus system. It will also work with pretty much every vintage Nikon lens I own.

Perfect? Almost.

I bought the F100 but what I really wanted was the F6. Over the years, I have continued to convince myself that the F100 is all the camera I need. It worked until now. There’s always been this little voice in the back of my head chewing at me about the F6.

The camera has a few small but important functional enhancements over the F100 that ticked boxes for me but functionality aside for a moment, there’s one big reason for the Nikon F6 over nearly every single other Nikon autofocus film camera body: it represents the final effort by Nikon to put everything they knew into making their last, greatest autofocus film camera.

I’ve been keeping an eye out on Nikon F6 prices for a few years now. They haven’t inflated nearly as much as other film cameras – hello Hasselblad XPan – but they have been steadily rising. Where a boxed F6 in near-mint condition could be had for as little as ~$600 in 2016, that price today hits an average of ~$1,200 and over twice that for new, in box. Prices seem to bear no relation to the age of the cameras on sale. A mint condition mid 4-digit serial number camera can go for several hundred USD more than once in excellent condition with a serial number in the 20,000-30,000 range.

Battling through the options is where Bellamy came in. I dropped him a line on Facebook Messenger, then called him up to tell him what I wanted:

  • Nikon F6, high serial number (>20k), boxed.
  • Nikon MB-40 battery pack, boxed.
  • Nikon Nikkor 20-35mm f/2.8 AF-D, boxed or…
  • Nikon Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-D, boxed.

I explained my budget was in the ballpark of $1,200 (USD) plus whatever a reasonable cost would be for the battery grip and each of the lenses. Bellamy gave me his take on the camera/lens combinations I’d mentioned. I told him I’d email him and signed off.

The next couple of weeks were busy for me and the request totally slipped my mind. When the F6 edged back into my thoughts, I tried to remind myself to drop him a line via email to formalise the request (which I didn’t).

I eventually called him again.

About a week, maybe ten days had passed by that point. Bellamy told me he’d had the chance to check out a few cameras in my ballpark, that a boxed 20-35mm lens would be challenging due to their scarcity and that price would be a premium. We chatted for a few minutes and I promised to send him an email, which I did a few hours later.

I cannot stress this enough: if you are asking for or engaging a service, formalise it. Things get busy and I totally went the wrong way round to engage Bellamy’s services. Don’t be like me.

I received an email back from Bellamy within 24 hours. He provided details on what he was able to find for me – all excellent options. He laid out his pricing structure (engaging Japan Camera Hunter is not free and rightly so) and gave some context around the details he’d sent.

You might be interested in...

After checking out his recommendations, I changed my mind somewhat. I was wavering on getting the battery grip and thinking twice about getting a lens at the same time. I’ll be honest, I felt a little guilty at potentially stripping the bottom out of the deal and for the third time, I picked up the phone to bother him.

Paraphrasing: “I’m not 100% sure about the grip. It looks cool but I don’t think there are any other reasons beyond that to get one. I also think I’m going to hold back on the lens until I can figure out how I’ll be using the camera.”

That was the gist of it. Bellamy’s response (paraphrasing again), “Take your time on the lens. I’ve spent some time with an F6 and MB-40. It’s a good combo and works very well but with that lens (17-35), it’s heavy and you’ll start feeling it after a few hours walking around.”

Hang on, was he telling me to not spend money?

I went on to explain that there was a similar condition grip locally for not much less money (about $50 less) than the ones he’d sent over and that I might consider that in the future. He told me to spend some time to think about what I wanted to do and just start with the camera first.

Integrity. I loved that response. We finalised the details, Bellamy sent over a Paypal invoice (which included his very reasonable percentage-based fee) and I paid it. All I needed to do was wait until the thing arrived.

I got the camera.

My expectations were surpassed. The camera was even better than it looked in the pictures. The seller’s description was edging on cautious and I have yet to find a single mark on the body. Were it not for a bit of scuffing on the box and the lack of a paper guard on the shutter, you could have convinced me it was new in box never having been used.

Bellamy threw in some film (JCH Streetpan 400, naturally), a KASSHA single-use camera, Japanese plum candy and dried squid (think beef jerky but squid). I was sad to learn that my request for an Instax of him wearing Disney Princess apparel was not included.

Understandably with new gear, I’ve been using the camera pretty much every single day since receiving it (which incidentally took less than 48 hours after being shipped). It’s perfect and so far, everything I had anticipated plus a few pleasant surprises. You’ll likely want to stay tuned for an upcoming “VS” article where I pit it against the F100.

All that’s left to say is a big thanks to Bellamy for the excellent service and fantastic camera.

Japanese camera sellers on eBay have rightly so taken a lot of flack in recent years for their occasionally absurd descriptions and fantastical grasp of “quality”. Reading “EXC ++++++++” sends shivers down my spine. It’s not a problem that affects all of them and there are a number I still regularly do business with and trust implicitly.

That said, if you want to buy the absolute best quality gear from Japan, I would highly recommend using Japan Camera Hunter. The attention to detail and supporting advice is excellent.

When it comes comparing the price of JCH’s services (which I won’t discuss here), it’s considerably less than using other, much larger, generic “Japanese procurement services” and much more rewarding knowing you’re helping to support someone at the heart of our community.

Thanks for reading,

~ EM

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  1. hi! just wondering why you requested a sub 20xxx serial? Does the camera’s serial offer any insight into the build/quality/origin? thanks~

    1. I requested a greater-than-20k serial number, not sub-20k 🙂 This was purely to get a newer body built after the rise of digital to try and get my hands on a more lightly used copy.

      1. I realized this after I hit send, ha. Thanks. Is it true that a japanese (gray market) serial can’t be serviced here in the US? Would you consider this an issue, or is the build quality so good you’re not worried?

  2. F100 prices have suddenly gone through the roof on eBay, wonder why. I bought one, but the film door latch came broken, a design problem that plagues this model apart from the sticky rubber issue. For the peace of mind, I’m considering getting a F6 now.
    Would you mind telling how much you paid for your F100 and F6? If not exact figures, ballpark would do (like < 150 USD for F100).

    1. I got my F100 for around $200. F6 prices vary wildly depending on serial number and condition. You can pick one up for less than $600 is you’re patient. Hope that helps.

  3. Hello! I have a question: did you have to pay a lot of customs fees, import duties o taxes when what you bought in Japan Camera Hunter arrived in your countries?
    Thanks and best regards!

  4. F6 and F100 are my go-to work cameras. Glad you were finally able to join the club with the help of JCH!

  5. I cannot tell you how bad I wanted the F6 when it came out. My dad gave me my first camera, his Nikon F3 he bought in the 70’s, which I still use to this day. I love how you call your camera’s your “team”, I so get that! I’ve never had what I needed to contact Bellamy outside the casual “Hello”, but I can’t wait for the day I can make that call. I love this article and now you got me thinking about the F6 again!

  6. Thanks for the post. I take it that your find was gray market? I am dealing with a quandary at this time. I purchased a near mint f6 recently with mb-40 for a good price from Japan. At the time I was not aware of the whole gray market deal. Upon getting the camera I was generally happy with it, but then found that main command dial has a slight issue of not advancing from time to time. I thought ok, no big deal, I’ll send it off to Nikon and have them service it and check it over for anything else that might pop up. I come to find out about gray market cameras and how Nikon will not service them. Now I am left with the decision of returning it and looking for something else. Non gray market, New, used, refurbished? Or look for an authorized repair shop in another state that will repair? Not quite sure what to do just yet. Any thoughts?

    1. Sorry to hear this happened to you, Ted. I’m guessing you’re in the US? If so, Nikon (and likely others) have some rather strict approaches to even paid repair, as you’ve sadly discovered. I’d suggest you purchase from an authorised reseller in your neck of the woods and if second hand, contact your local Nikon office with the serial number to confirm access to service. Good luck.

  7. The last Nikon film SLR I bought for pro work was an F5. Years later a friend offered me his almost mint F6 at a ridiculously low price. He sent it to me and told me to take it for a spin. Quite frankly I was underwhelmed. So much so that I sent it back and I still have my F5 which is still doing fine service in my retirement. I kept hearing about how F5’s eat batteries, well I have never had this problem with mine. Maybe people just need to use better batteries.

    Don’t get me wrong the F6 is a great camera. Just not gee-whiz enough to get me to part with my F5. Another Nikon SLR I love is the N90s. I used a bunch of them for underwater photography.

  8. I would have liked to have read more in your article why you liked the F6 as your new favourite SLR.

    1. It’s coming, Geoffrey. You probably missed it on social media but I made a call for questions – things people want to read me talk about, as well as contrast and compare with the F100. Happy to have your thoughts on that here!

      1. Is it still coming? Would be quite interesting to read. I own F100 and contemplate whether I need an F6 so would be interesting to hear your opinion

  9. Buy an N75 or an N80. I got a nearly new N75for $10 shipped. It’s 90% of an F6, takes modern G lenses, and is lighter. Get past plastiphobia. It’s fine.

    1. The devil’s there in that final 10%. Also, considering I stepped up from the F100, wouldn’t an older body be a step back? 🙃

  10. Just purchased a Fuji GSW690III from Bellamy and impressed with the experience. The camera arrived in much better condition than described, and much faster than I expected, well worth the small premium over an eBay purchase. Can’t wait to get out and shoot with it. Will definitely buy from him again.

  11. Good choice of camera ! I would also give a strong recommendation for Bellamy/Japan Camera Hunter.

  12. having the best is so tempting esp something that will burn the film so fast 🙂 I wanted to have that Minolta but I wasn’t lucky maybe a nikon is the way to go. But, I just told myself I’m out! That 20-35 is one special lens. Bought a number already with Bellamy always good experience.

  13. Well done Em! So glad we share the same dream camera I have the MB-40 and the R1C1 kit and a pile of the new ED lenses. It is a heavy kit combined with a 17-35 or 24-70 f2.8, some food for thought if you don’t need a super fast aperture consider the 24-120 f4 as good all rounder lens. Would love to get together if you ever cross the pond and I know the rest of the CCR Gang would be chuffed if you paid us a visit here in the great white north! Thanks for all you do for our community!

    Cheers Mate,

    1. One day, mate!

      Right now I’m torn between the 70-180mm f/4.5-5.6 and latest 70-200mm f/2.8. I’m keen on the 85-105mm focal length for day to day photography on the F6 and really want to incorporate macro or a decent close focus capability into that. There’s no such thing as the perfect lens but one of those two might come close to it for me.

  14. Congratulations on your F6 EM. You’re gonna love it. I’m going at 10 years with mine and of all the Nikons I own it remains my favorite. Welcome to the family! 😉

    1. Thanks, John! Loving it so far and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Best AF camera I’ve ever used, hands down.

  15. Where are you located? If you are in the USA and you buy a used Japan F6 Nikon, with Japan serial number, USA Nikon will not fix it. To make matters worse, Nikon will not sell parts or equipment for the F6 to the great USA independent repair shops.I bought two F6 used but made sure they were USA serial numbers. That was a few years ago. Maybe Nikon USA has changed.

    1. I’m not in the US, so thankfully don’t have the same problem. Unfortunately Nikon USA is still the same as ever.

  16. Dear EM,
    I asked Bellemy to locate a 40mm M-Rokkor for me about four years ago. Over here in the US, the copies I found were ‘beaters’ and commanded a high price. He located a near-mint copy, and even with the associated costs of shipping and the fee for using his service, the price was reasonable. So much so, I got a second one from him just about a year ago. He treats you like you are the only person he’s dealing with. He is honest, prompt with his responses and, as you stated, a person with integrity. I’m glad he’s out there. He also publishes a cool feature on his site peeking into the contents of people’s camera bags. My posting is #1290.