Classic Cameras: My First SLR-The Nikon N6006 (F-601)

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The Nikon N6006 is not a legendary camera. If a famous photo was taken with it, I do not know about it. But, the Nikon N6006 was my first “real” camera (sincere apologies to the Kodak 110 Instamatic 30 camera handed down from my Grandma).

Photographs ©Todd Vorenkamp

As high-school graduation approached, I was accepted to the US Merchant Marine Academy. Knowing I would be travelling the world while in college, I determined that I needed an SLR to document my voyages on the oceans while working on merchant ships. I headed to the library to research cameras because the Internet was not yet fully in existence. Can you imagine pouring over a handful of old-school photography magazines to read camera reviews instead of browsing the dozens and dozens that populate the Internet these days?

I narrowed down my choice to the Nikon N6006 and the latest Andre Agassi-promoted Canon Rebel. After looking at both at a local camera store, I chose the Nikon over the Canon because it had a metal lens mount and felt better to my hand. I also preferred the looks of the N6006.

The first roll

Gifted to me for graduation, my father, a fantastic photographer, took me to one of our local parks, Cotton Hollow Preserve, to show me the basics of how a camera worked—shutter speed, aperture, focus, depth of field, and film ISO.

Until I began my Master’s degree program, this short tutorial was the only photographic education I had.

The Nikon N6006 / F-601

The Nikon N6006 (known outside of the US as the F-601) was a 35mm film camera, launched in 1990. At the time, it lived in between the Nikon N4004 and Nikon N8008 in the family of Nikon SLRs. At the top of the mountain was the professional, heavy, gorgeous Nikon F4. The N8008 was the “prosumer” camera for pros and enthusiasts alike. The N6006 was targeted at advanced amateurs and the 4004 was for beginners.

The N4004 was released in 1987, and was the second consumer Nikon autofocus camera following the Nikon N2020 (F-501) from the previous year. In the design of the Nikon N2020 and N4004, you can see the beginnings of modern camera ergonomics with the progressively thicker grip, built-in electronic film advance and, with the N4004, a non-classic pentaprism housing. Also, the Nikon N4004 introduced a command dial that allowed multiple functions and adjustments without turning the dedicated dials.

Enter the Nikon N8008, in 1988, and here we have the first “push-button” Nikon camera featuring a four-button cluster on the left side of the top of the camera and the command dial on the right. This was the genesis of the Nikon control layout that exists to this day. A modern Nikon DSLR shooter can pick up a nearly 30-year-old 8008 and be very familiar with the control layout. The button interface introduced us to the PASM shooting modes that are ubiquitous today. The N8008 also included a new “matrix” metering system that evaluated and averaged exposure data, electronically, from five segments of the frame.

Two years later, the Nikon N6006 arrived and featured the same control configuration as the Nikon N8008. The N6006 included a built-in flash (the F-601M/N6000 skipped the flash and autofocus), had a slightly slower shooting speed (2 fps versus the N8008’s 3.3 fps), a slower shutter (1/2000 versus the N8008’s 1/8000), and several other changes. Even though it was marketed in a lower position than the N8008, the N6006 had an improved matrix metering system and predictive autofocus that could track moving objects. The Nikon N6006 was in production from 1990 through 1994.

The last roll

24 years later, I brought my Nikon N6006 back to Cotton Hollow Preserve to shoot a second roll of film.

Cotton Hollow is a favorite swimming hole for local kids and a great place to hike. I wasn’t a regular there as a kid, but I went a handful of times and, after 24 years, returning there was familiar. There was one other car in the parking lot when I arrived and, walking into the park, I passed that person as he was headed out. A few minutes after arriving, the entire park belonged to my Nikon N6006 and me.

Shooting the camera was like hanging out with an old friend. The camera still felt good in my hands. The camera is purely electronic, so there are no levers to crank and the motor drive for the film makes a once familiar/now foreign noise when you depress the shutter release. The Nikon N6006 has a bit of a hair trigger; I fired off a few frames before I was really ready to take a photo—not a big deal in the world of digital, but when you shoot film, an oops. Also, for some reason, I couldn’t adjust aperture (using the aperture ring on the lens—old school style) in manual or aperture priority mode, so I was forced to use Program Shift mode to adjust aperture electronically.

I had a roll of Porta 400 inside, and the digital counter on the top LCD display faithfully started counting to 36 as I looked for photos around the park.

At 36, I asked the Nikon N6006 to take one more shot to see if there was a bonus frame in this roll of film. I aimed the camera at my subject, released the shutter, and the back film door popped open. My hands were on the camera, so I shut the door as fast as I could and rewound the film immediately. The plastic latch that keeps the rear door closed had broken.

24 years of service. Hundreds and hundreds of rolls of film. Merchant ships. Sailing ships. Naval ships. Airplanes. Helicopters. Dozens of countries. Dozens of vacations. My Nikon N6006 retired itself in the very place where I first used it. Thanks for the memories, Nikon N6006.

The last frame.

34 Comments

I am about ready to sell a couple of these on eBay...with lenses. The nostalgia is hitting me! Film is unique and digital, well, it's like an ebook. You can't smell the pages. Gotta love film.

Keep on shooting film, Deborah!

Awesome post. Was wondering if you had a advice on camera settings for long exposure pictures of the stars. I figured out how to adjust ISO settings but i can't figure out the shutter setting to keep it from closing right away. Thanks a million!

Hi Alexander,

What kind of camera are you using for the star photos?

I do have a series of articles on backyard astrophotography coming out soon, but I am happy to help you in the meantime!

We also have this article: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/epic-battle-between-choosing-star-trails-over-star-points

Cheers!

Enjoyed the post.   This is a nice revisiting.  Although not my first camera (a Minolta X700 was my first real camera), two summers in Eastern Europe and many, many trips throughout the Western US left many fine prints, slides, and memories with my old trusty friend. It was my first autofocus camera.  I may have to shoot a roll of film for old time's sake. 

I highly encourage you to spend some time with your first camera. You might fall in love with photography again!

Thanks for writing in, Glen!

Is there any way to fix the latch I just got mine out of storage and the door won’t lock I’m sure it’s the latch. 

Hey John,

I would guess that there is a way to fix the latch, but I haven't really looked into it. My guess is that it would be cost-prohibitive to make the repair. You would probably be better off buying another used N6006...or putting it on the bookshelf and using an older mechanical camera if you want to burn through some rolls of film.

If you find out a cheap way to make the fix, let me know!

Cheers!

A number of years ago (2004ish?), I made the same unfortunate discovery after not using it for awhile.  At the time there was a kit from Nikon with detailed instructions and parts to replace the broken latch. It involved creating a hole in the existing latch and adding a tab and screw.  I did it. It seemed to work. 

My impression was this was a known problem.  My first Nikon Point-and-Shoot also had a battery door that broke.  

At least last time I pulled it out (about 3 years ago?) it still was shut.  I eventually replaced it with a D50 in 2007 or so.   It is probably worth asking Nikon, although I wouldn't get my hopes up. 

Hope this helps.  I have fond memories of many rolls of film through that camera. 

Thanks, Glen!

I suppose a true repair is better than gaffer tape!

Thanks for the info!

  The 6006 was my first work camera while working in Vegas.

Hooked to a Sunpack 555 it looked like the real deal, which got me pinned to several walls by bodyguards as there employer passed by.

Hey Ben,

The N6006 is the real deal. :)

I hope the walls were padded!

Thanks for reading!

I loved my Nikon 6006.  I am an amature photographer who loves to take pictures.  I now have a Nikon D 3100.  I like this camera; however, I appreciate the way you honored the Nikon 6006.  Nancy

Thank you for the kind words, Nancy!

That is a fabulous story and the last frames tells it all!

We all have a last shot on earth; some sooner, others later.

When my times comes, I hope to see a rainbow in the light spectrum with boulders and living water; simular to your photographs.

Your last photo is no co-incidence.

I believe people who understand photography, know on a spiritual level they capture time that never gets repeated.

Thanks for sharing  your well written story with this slice of photo journalism heaven.

God bless your journey.

Thank you, Elizabeth!

Thank you!

Hi,

I was rummaging around this little thrift shop ,and I bought this Nikon N6006 camera for just over 10 euros! It seems in good condition, well I googled and saw this post by Todd, the only problem is it did not come with any book , and I'm finding it hard to find a place that can help me to learn how to use it. (I live in Amsterdam).Also there is a roll still inside ( sorry not sure if that is the right word) I'm thinking from the previous owners. 

I was wondering if anyone would guide me to the right way of finding this book?as you all have knowledge, I have looked , but not getting anywhere .

Hello Loretta!

Congratulations on your N6006 purchase!

Today is your lucky day... http://cdn-10.nikon-cdn.com/pdf/manuals/archive/N6000.pdf

That is the N6000 manual...same camera minus the flash. There are some N6006 manuals on other websites, just Google "Nikon N6006 manual PDF" and you can find some.

You can also develop the roll of film that was left inside. You'll never know what you will find!

Enjoy the camera and good luck!

My first camera was an F3.  I had a few lenses a potato masher flash complete with over the shoulder battery packs.  And a bellows.  When digital first came out and the pros were laughing and claiming that digital would never replace film, I sold the whole kit to someone in Chicago for thousands of dollars.  Not long after that you couldn't give that stuff away.  I don't miss film at all.  The chemicals, the darkroom, the paper, the film, the cost.  

Hey Steve,

I do miss the organic look of film photos. There is something tangible about the prints (and even the scans) that digital just cannot replicate.

But, the rest, especially the cost, is a deterrent.

Thanks for reading!

I have an N6006 body that I am using to brush up on how to operate it and other old SLRs.  (I plan to use them to test used lenses.  (I think I also have a broken N6006, with that famous film door latch glitch, which I will to try to salvage, for the same purpose.)

The N6006, with a suitable lens, seems to be a fine camera, for reasons described by Todd.  But as a retired person, I don't think Nikon did as good a job with their camera as Todd did, with his story, when he started this thread.

- Dave in Kansas, USA.

Hey David,

Thanks for the nice comment! Good luck keeping your N6006 in service! It is a really nice camera that was likely overlooked by a lot of photographers. I cut my teeth on it, and haven't ever looked back!

Thanks for reading!

bought this camera because of this post 

Awesome! I can't wait to get my commission check! 

I hope you enjoy your N6006 as much as I enjoyed mine!

I love my 6006! It was a great camera. I exposed many rolls of film with that camera. I still use it from time to time. I also chose the 6006 for its metal body. I am very hard on equipment! The Canon's at the time felt very plasticy and cheap. The 6006 just feels good in your hand. 

Hi Roy,

Thanks for writing in! We are definitely in agreement on the feel and quality of the N6006 over its rivals at that time. Ergonomically, it is a wonderful camera. Too bad the latch for the rear door wasn't metal!

Keep shooting your N6006!

Congrads on your attending and Graduating from a Great Academy-from one graduate to another, "63".  Glad you chose a very good camera and it sounds like you used it well Cand it served you well.  Best.

Acta Non Verba / Kappa Pi Sigma, Mr. Glenn! Thanks for reading!  

I still have my 6006 and a few rolls of film.  I will now plan a trip back in time and give my D800e and D750 a break while waiting patiently for my DL 24-500 to arrive.

Hey Patrick,

Sounds like a good plan! Enjoy shooting your old friend! (That sounds wrong...)

Enjoy shooting with your old friend! 

24 years of service. The Nikon has served you well. I'll regret the day my film cameras die. Live long and shoot film.

Thanks, Ralph!

I'll admit, it had a lot of the past 14 years off after I switched over to digital in 2002! I have an FM3a and F4 (both purchased used) on the shelf ready to shoot film whenever the mood strikes! 

I have a 6006 I'd be willing to sell.

Hi Roy,

Thanks, but I think I will keep mine preserved on my bookshelf! Shoot with it, don't sell it! Or, sell it to B&H!

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