Nikonos V


Text and Photos by Bob Warkentin

"I don't have to think about nothin' with the automatic Nikonos V"
"But I change batteries all the time!"
"So, how often do I change camera batteries?"
"But, why? That's too expensive!"
"What kind of battery should I use?"
"But which type is the best?"
"Can I store the batteries up-side-down in the camera so the batteries won't drain?"
"Do I really have to change batteries every 3 days, even if they are "Photo" or 357 type silver-oxide?"
"Now that I've got the right batteries for the camera, how do I test the electronic operations?"
Nikonos V Operations and Evaluation - Mechanical Check: | Electronic Check:

"I don't have to think about nothin' with the automatic Nikonos V"

Riiiiight! If you believe this, then you probably are the one who believes there are such things as light bulbs guaranteed for a "life time" or "maintenance-free" batteries that last forever.

The fact is something makes the automatic Nikonos V work. If you are not the one doing the thinking and controlling for the camera, then who is? It's the electronics who are doing the thinking, but only when powered by the CAMERA BATTERIES - not the STROBE BATTERIES!

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"But I change batteries all the time!"

Of course, you carry an abundance of batteries - STROBE BATTERIES - on every dive trip. After every two or three rolls of film, you change batteries - STROBE BATTERIES. And even better, the strobe itself gives you all these indicators telling you when to change batteries: (1) low pitch humming sound of the strobe charging; (2) longer and longer recycle time. So, the buying and changing of batteries - STROBE BATTERIES - becomes a paramount issue in the preparation of the upcoming photo/'dive trip. Unfortunately, divers do not realize that the strobe batteries do not control the "Thinking" of the camera system. It's the camera batteries which control the strobe (TTL), ASA, A (auto), LED's and so on and all at the same time.

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"So, how often do I change camera batteries?"

Generally, the smartest thing is to change the camera batteries every 3 days of diving. That's right, every 3 days. Especially if you shoot two rolls of film each day.

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"But, why? That's too expensive!"

Simple: batteries which control the camera's electronics and the camera's TTL monitoring for the Strobe cost around $4.00 (if you are a wise shopper). However, each roll of 36 exposure slide film cost about $7.00, and about $6.00 developing ($10.00 on an island), not to mention the cost of the trip. All this cost just to find out that $4.00 worth of batteries were not any good.

Next, most people expect the battery supplied with the camera to be good for many years. However, as explained on page 77 of your instruction manual, "the battery packed with this camera . . . . . . is for test purposes only so its life span may be shorter than usual."

Last and most important is the fact that a Nikonos V will only operate properly if the camera battery power is above 2.65V Below 2.65V, the LED's still work, but the shutter speeds (when camera is in "A" mode) no longer maintain a 1/90 Sec. electronically when coupled to a SB model strobe. In this case, the shutter speeds will vary from 1 / 10 to 1 / 15 Sec. giving a nearly 2 f-stop overexposure. If the power drops to 2.55V or lower, the LED's may just come on and go off immediately, but the shutter speeds will be operating up to 1/1000 Sec., causing the pictures to be black. (photo 1)

In short, the camera isn't thinking right due to its $4.00 battery headache.

Black pictures
Photo 1

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"What kind of battery should I use?"

For a Nikonos V, as explained on page 79 of your manual, there are only 3 types available: one lithium 3V (CR 1/3 type), two alkaline-manganese 1.5V (LR-44 type), or two silver-oxide 1.5 (SR-44 type). (photo 2)

Photo 2

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"But which type is the best?"

Certainly not the type of 3V battery supplied with the camera. This battery is a lithium 3V (CR 1/3 type) which may have a 3-year shelf life but a very short "work" life. Remember, it is intended for "test purposes" of the camera. Also, its voltage discharge curve is a sloping curve and doesn't hold a voltage level for very long above the 2.65V required for the camera "to think" correctly.

As for the 1.5V alkaline-manganese (LR-44 type), it is designed to provide only an economical (cheap) source of power. It has also a sloping discharge curve which means that just like the lithium battery, it won't last long. Even when it's working, or at least you think it is, you can experience results like the 3V lithium.

Now, to the 1.5V silver-oxide (SR-44 type) batteries. Finally this is the one for you. But which one. There is a D-76, MS76, PX76, 357 and others: all silver-oxide, all 1.5V, and all the same size. (photo 3)

Photo 3

First and foremost, silver-oxide far outlast lithium or alkaline-manganese batteries, and their voltage discharge curves are flat at 1.5V over their long useful life. However, of the silver-oxide, the best are the "Photo Use" 76's and 357. By, the way, anytime you see the letter "P" on a battery, it always denotes photographic use intended.

Although the type 357 is labeled "Watch /Calculator Battery," both the "Photo '76" and the 357 have identical flat voltage discharge curves at 1.5V each and which should last 5-10 times longer than lithium or alkaline-manganese batteries in a Nikonos Camera. Remember, the camera's voltage requirements must always he maintained above 2.65V for correct electronic camera operations. Thus, the 357 is in my opinion the only suitable replacement battery if you can not get "Photo '76"ers.

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"Can I store the batteries up-side-down in
the camera so the batteries won't drain?"

This is a frequently asked question. (However. in terms of multiple choice answers, the answer is either: (1) A dumb question (2) No (3) Yes, if you want to destroy the expensive electronics (4) Don't ask me to be your dive buddy.) This is like asking if mounting the battery backwards on your car will cause damage. The answer is don't do it. You run the risk of damage to expensive electronics when you forgot they were put in backwards 6 months ago and begin operating the camera today.

Don't store batteries in the camera. Wrap them in paper or plastic to keep them from touching and use an empty film canister labeled "batteries" for a storage compartment.

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"Do I really have to change batteries every 3 days,
even if they are "Photo" or 357 type silver-oxide?"

No, if the cost of an unsuccessful photo/dive trip is of any importance to you. Even though these batteries are the best of the best, change them.

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"Now that I've got the right batteries for the camera,
how do I test the electronic operations?"

Believe it or not, all the equipment you need for checking the electronic operations of the strobe and camera is the equipment itself and a little knowledge.

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Nikonos V Operations and Evaluation

Mechanical Check:

The camera has 3 mechanical speeds when no electronic functions (no battery or weak battery) are in operation. These are: (1) B (time exposure) where the shutter is held open for as long as you like. (2) M90 (1/90 Sec.), and (3) all remaining speed settings which function at 1/1000 Sec. with no or very weak electronic current. Procedures:

  1. Put proper fresh batteries in the SB 101 / 102/ 103 style strobe and mount the strobe diffuser.
  2. Connect the strobe to camera. Do not mount the lens.
  3. Turn strobe on to 1 / 16 power.
  4. All tests should be conducted with the rear door of the camera open and the film plate lifted so you can observe the operations.
  5. Point the camera toward the strobe, and at an angle so the light won't blind you.
  6. Turn shutter speed to "B," and fire (trigger) the camera. Shutter should stay open until you release the trigger, and the strobe should flash. You will see the complete film framer.
  7. Turn the shutter speed to M90. Trigger the shutter and observe full light passing through the opening of the shutter before it closes.
  8. Turn the shutter speed to A (or any other remaining speed on the dial). Fire the strobe and observe that no light (or a very small band of light at the bottom of the framer) gets through the shutter.
  9. If the shutter will not stay open on "B" then most likely the entire shutter assembly is frozen at 1/1000 Sec., including M90. The above test procedure will verify each mechanical shutter speed as operational or not operational.

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Electronic Check:
  1. Install camera batteries and flash batteries.
  2. Connect the flash cable to both the strobe and the camera.
  3. All tests will be conducted with the rear door of the camera CLOSED, and the counter greater than frame #1, and no lens mounted.
  4. Depress the shutter button, observe the LED's stay on for 12-16 seconds (timed).
  5. Set shutter speed to "A", ASA to 400 or less, and point camera toward any source of light. If indoors, move close enough to the light so that the left arrow is lit. Place your hand closer and closer over the lens mount area, the LED's should light and progressively change from the left arrow through each shutter speed number to the right arrow.
  6. Change shutter speeds from "A" through each shutter speed and observe LED's corresponding to the shutter speed dial. Also the "correct" shutter speed for the level of light will blink if it is other than the selected speed.
  7. Set shutter speed to "A" and ASA to 25. Completely cover the lens mount area with your hand, or mount the lens to the camera and put on the lens cap. With the strobe off trigger the shutter. You will observe that the shutter is stuck open, and that you can not advance the film advance lever. Turn the shutter speed dial to "M90" to clear (close) the shutter assembly. (Problem: the first shutter curtain always opens mechanically, however, in the "A" mode, the second curtain closes based upon the amount of light seen by the camera. If no light is seen, then it will never know when to close. Result: shutter will be stuck open and all other operations are frozen until cleared).
  8. Set shutter speed to "A", ASA to 25 as shove. Turn ON the strobe to 1/16 power. Cover the lens mount area as above. Trigger the shutter. You will not only hear it open and close (at 1/90 Sec. electronically), but no jam occurs. All shutter speeds from A, 1/1000, 1/500, 1/250 and 1/125 are electronically overridden (if camera batteries are good) to an electronic 1/90 Sec. only when a proper strobe is attached and turned on. Shutter speeds of 1/60 and 1/30 are the true speeds and will function at these speeds regardless of whether or not a strobe is attached and "on". ( If a jam occurs in "A" mode, camera batteries are too weak, or there is electronic damage somewhere.)
  9. TTL evaluation #1: turn the strobe on to the "TTL" setting. Set the camera to "A", ASA at any setting "less than 400" (set to 100), and point the camera toward the strobe and hold at about 6 to 8 inches away. Press the trigger, and note that the red strobe light comes on again in less than 1.5 seconds after the strobe fires, indicating the strobe is recharged. Turn the shutter speed dial to 1/30 Sec. and repeat the procedure. If the strobe completely dumps its power (the red light blinks, goes out and the battery hums until the light comes on again-about 6 to 8 seconds), then there is one of the following faults in the TTL system: a) Flash contacts to camera are dim ( greasy)-need to be cleaned with a cotton swab: most common problem. b) Battery in camera no good - replace with new battery. c) Broken flash cable wires, or faulty camera electronics.
  10. TTL evaluation #2: settings are the same as above TTL/Strobe, camera on "A" and ASA 100). This time, completely cover the lens mount area with your hand, (or mount the lens and cover with a lens cap) and turn the strobe away from the camera. Trigger the shutter. Note that the strobe will fully dump its power (full output, and the red light on the strobe will blink 8 times, go out, and will not come on again until the strobe is recharged - about 6 to 8 seconds).
  11. With strobe on TTL and red "ready" light on, shutter speed on "A", slightly depress the trigger to turn on the LED's. Observe that the lighting bolt on the far right side of the LED blinks at an ASA setting above "400" (warning signal) and does not blink on ASA settings below "400" (proper range for TTL operations). TTL will not work properly above "400" ASA. If the lighting bolt blinks continuously or stays on continuously while moving the ASA through its full range (25-1600) of settings, the TTL is not working properly. Use manual settings on strobe or have it repaired.

The above checks will verify both the mechanical and electrical operations of both camera and strobe as being in good condition before diving.

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  1. The camera has only 3 mechanical (non-electrical) shutter speeds.
  2. All other shutter speeds and functions are based upon the electrical output of the camera batteries.
  3. The battery supplied with the camera is a lithium 3V and is supplied for "testing" use only.
  4. Use only silver-oxide 1.5V camera batteries of either Photo '76 or 357 type.
  5. Change camera batteries every 3 days of diving use.
  6. TTL settings only work with ASA settings less than 400.
  7. Shutter and film advance will jam in "A" mode if light level or battery power is low.
  8. TTL operation typically fails if grease is on the flash contacts or batteries are too weak.
  9. Test manual and electrical operations before photographic use.
  10. LED's are not by themselves a true "Battery Testing" device.

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Reprinted with permission from Bob Warkentin's Southern Nikonos Service Center, Inc.
9459 Kempwood, Houston, TX 77080 • 713/462-5436