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Nikon MV-1 Data Reader: welcome to John Crane Photography's Nikon F6 Project
Well, my new Nikon MV-1 Data Reader arrived here last week. After dragging my feet for nearly 3 years since purchasing my new F6 I finally clicked "submit" at B&H Photo Video order and it arrived last week. My only regret is waiting so long. I lost data on my first 50 rolls of film shot with the F6 because the memory bank holds only so much data before it starts overwriting new data. Regardless, I finally figured I should get one while they're still available. Given the lifespan of this camera being so long, I imagine a time in the future when they'll be difficult to obtain. Also - given current prices of the F6 ($2,500 for a new body... seeming to fluctuate like the price of Gold), if they are available in the future I wonder what price they'll command?
The primary reason I held off purchasing it as long as I did was my mistaken impression it was little more than a CF card reader - one that you pay about $20 for at the office supply store. Hence, at $225 it felt significantly overprice for what it was. When the box arrived, in typical Nikon presentation I realized my suppositions weren't entirely correct. The unit is larger and more substantial than your typical CF card reader - though completely made of plastic, and it included a few other goodies that raised my eyebrow. One was a detailed instruction book outlining in detail how to efficiently work with shooting data from not only the F6 but also the F5 and F100. Also in the box a 128Mb SanDisk Compact Flash card so you don't need to rummage through your old CF cards for a compatible one. Then there was the convenient velour pouch provided to store and carry your MV-1, as well as the requisite Warranty cards. Everything was efficiently and safely-packed in a smallish, gold box and it took no time at all to hook it up and begin transferring data off my F6.
Once connected I wasted no time downloading the remaining rolls still stored in the camera. The MV-1 worked perfectly. I'd read reports of units arriving DOA and having to be sent back, but thankfully this didn't happen with mine. It worked like a champ, just as it was supposed to.
There's not much really to detail about the process. Turn the camera off and make sure there's no film in it, otherwise the roll your shooting won't be included in this download session. Remove the attached, rubberized flap from the 10-pin connector on the F6. Hooking the 10-pin connector to the port of the camera, I'm again pondering why Nikon engineers designed this port mounted upside down, sending the tail of the unit up and in over the lens barrel, across the front bonnet and snaking around the opposite side of the camera in a rather unusual way. To the impatient user this could result in bent pins, trying to force them into the port the wrong way if in a hurry - or worse, cold and in a hurry - which sometimes describes me. Same with the MC-30 or ML-3 when I mount it (though the ML-3 makes a little more sense as the receiver head mounts in the hot shoe, following the natural line of the small, coiled cable a bit more organically).Nice to see when they applied these ports to the digital cameras they mounted them properly, facilitating running the cord down the front, right edge of the camera as you're facing it. No matter... but I do wonder.
Once the MV-1 unit is connected to the camera and the CF card inserted, transfering the data from the camera to the cardis accomplished by turning the camera to the "on" position. Everything seems to just magically know what to do and you get a status bar in the rear LCD of the F6 showing percentages complete. When downloading the information from the camera to the CF card in the MV-1 is complete, the green light blinks then turns solid green.
Once the data is on the card, doing something useful with it is the next order of business. There may be fancier ways to use and display this data but for now I've elected to simply import the CSV (Comma Separated Values) into an Excel spread sheet, print out a table, three-hole punch it and place it in the same storage system I archive negatives and slide with. This alone is extremely useful when referencing frames from the contact sheet or sleeves of negatives. The data on the sheet is comprehensive, though compared to a full suite of EXIF data from my D3S, it may appear less so.
The sheet at left is a raw data import (please click to enlarge). It's simply a comma-separated text file broken in various lines. While it's possible to sift through this and gleen useful information, there is a far better and quite simple way to quickly format this into an Excel spreadsheet. Below are the steps I use with Mircrosoft Excel.
1) Open a new workbook in Excel. I'm using Excel 2011 for Mac.
2) With the Workbook page open, go to File/Import. The default on my screen is CSV file. This is what you want - but the data file from the camera actually comes in as a .TXT file...
3) Navigate to your directory where you've stored your imported data from the MV-1.
4) At the bottom of your import window there's a data field telling you it's searching for a CSV file. Change this to enable Text Files and your .txt imports will become available for you.
5) Select the .txt file you wish to work with. I'm selecting file n00100.txt, and click "Get Data" button.
6) The Text Import Wizard should come up next, allowing you to tell Excel how to configure this file you're about to import. The Text Wizard should automatically detect your data as being "Delimited," meaing that commas, tabs or other characters separate each field. Make sure the button next to Delimited is checked and click "next."
7) The next screen lets you set the delimiters, or separators, your data contains. There's a preview screen at the bottom that gives you a display when you check "comma." This separates all of the value separated by commas into their own spread sheet cells. Make sure Comma is selected as a delimiter and click finish. The result should look something like this:
Following good guidelines for the visual display of quantitative information, I'll typically then assign colors to the heads, and add a couple more data fields to make the information even more useful to me resulting in something like this:
I'll then page set-up to horizontal, define the print borders such that I generate 2 pages of reasonably sized text, and print. I'll hole-punch these pages and put them in my storage system along side the sheet of films. Presto.
The MV-1 is pricey, no doubt about it. But after a lot of foot-dragging and hemming and hawing (just being cheap, really), and wondering how badly I really NEEDED it, I finally decided to pull the trigger and as I started off above by saying, my only regret is that I waited so long to do so. So in one sense, "in for a penny, in for a pound" could apply here. If you're vested in the F6 and really want to get the most out of it, this accessory is an excellent way to leverage all that data the camera is already generating.
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