Nikon MV-1 Data Reader

Last light on a GMC Flatbed in Rawlins, Wyoming (2011). Velvia 100F, Nikkor 105VR.
Nikon MV-1 Data Reader
Nikon MV-1 Data Reader

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 like a champ, just as it was supposed to.

Nikon Data Reader MV-1
It’s pretty simple really: Just hook the 10-pin connector to the camera and hit “START.” The camera does the rest.

There’s not much really to detail about this very simple process. Turn the camera off and make sure there’s no film in it. It will still work if there’s film in the camera – you’ll just not get that roll. 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 card is accomplished by turning the camera on. There’s a big, black button in the middle of the MV-1 with the word “START” printed in white above it. Push it, and everything seems to just magically know what to do. You’ll get a status bar in the rear LCD of the F6 showing percentage 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.

Here’s how the raw data comes in, as a .txt file:

Film speed,Film number,Camera ID
100,152,000 (The first number is the ISO the film was exposed at. The second number is the roll of film’s ID number. So this was roll 152. The third number is the camera ID number)
Frame number,Shutter speed,Aperture,Focal length,Lens maximum aperture,Metering system,Exposure mode,Flash sync mode,Exposure compensation value,EV difference in Manual,Flash exposure compensation value,Speedlight setting,Multiple exposure,Lock,Vibration Reduction,Date(yy/mm/dd),Time
01,10,F7.1,17(17-35),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,+0.3,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE lock,VR off,2011/09/24,19:29
02,13,F7.1,17(17-35),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,0.0,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE lock,VR off,2011/09/24,19:29
03,1.3,F16,26(17-35),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,0.0,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE Unlock,VR off,2011/09/24,19:43
04,3″,F22,25(17-35),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,0.0,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE Unlock,VR off,2011/09/24,19:45
05,3″,F22,26(17-35),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,0.0,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE Unlock,VR off,2011/09/24,19:45
06,4″,F22,26(17-35),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,+0.3,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE Unlock,VR off,2011/09/24,19:45
07,1.6,F22,17(17-35),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,0.0,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE lock,VR off,2011/09/25,07:49
08,13,F8,17(17-35),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,0.0,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE lock,VR off,2011/09/25,07:49
09,125,F8,116(70-200),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,-0.3,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE Unlock,VR on,2011/09/25,08:47
10,60,F8,19(17-35),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,+1.0,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE lock,VR off,2011/09/25,13:05
11,200,F8,20(17-35),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,0.0,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE lock,VR off,2011/09/25,17:58
12,250,F8,20(17-35),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,0.0,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE lock,VR off,2011/09/25,17:59
13,200,F8,155(70-200),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,0.0,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE Unlock,VR on,2011/09/25,18:09
14,200,F8,175(70-200),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,0.0,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE Unlock,VR on,2011/09/25,18:10
15,160,F8,175(70-200),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,0.0,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE Unlock,VR on,2011/09/25,18:10
16,200,F8,200(70-200),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,+0.3,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE Unlock,VR on,2011/09/25,18:10
17,160,F4,200(70-200),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,+0.3,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE Unlock,VR on,2011/09/25,18:11
18,200,F4,200(70-200),F2.8,Color matrix,A,Slow sync,0.0,0.0,0.0,non-TTL auto flash,None,AE Unlock,VR on,2011/09/25,18:11
(and so on…)

You can see its logical breakdowns: Frame number, Shutter speed, Aperture, Focal length, Lens maximum aperture, Metering system, Exposure mode, Flash sync mode, Exposure compensation value, EV difference in Manual, Flash exposure compensation value, Speedlight setting, Multiple exposure, Lock, Vibration Reduction, Date(yy/mm/dd), Time

Once the data file is downloaded onto the CF card, pull the CF card from the MV-1 and put it in a CF card reader connected to your computer. Transferring the tiny data file(s) to the computer is speedy – they’re about 5 Kb’s each.

Once the data file is on the computer as a .txt file, you can then import that .txt file into a program like Microsoft Excel. Below is an example of a spread sheet created with the .txt file:

Example of .txt file imported from the F6 using the MV-1, then imported into an Excel spread sheet.
Example of the .txt file imported into an Excel spread sheet.

Organization, Naming Conventions and Codes:

After much trial and error I’ve settled on a specific, unique code to store each image when scanned – and to be able to reconnect it with the appropriate data file. It goes something like this: F6-r0152-RVP100 as the directory’s name. Within the directory lives the file named F6-r0152-RVP100-f18 where:

a) F6 identifies the camera.

b) r0152 corresponds with the roll number in the camera-generated EXIF data. This is important when marrying up the data files with individual frame’s of film.

c) RVP100 is a 6-character ID capable of identifying virtually any emulsion of film.

d) Each image that goes into that directory then begins with this code, then adds an f18 for the frame number.

This naming convention allows me to search the entire computer’s 8TB+ of storage for a unique, specific image at any time and produce the PSD, the TIF or the JPEG. I can also easily locate any EXIF data file. It’s not rocket science – just good file management practices – and more importantly – doing it right the first time and not having to go back and reconstruct things later.

Nikon MV-1 Workflow Scenario
Using specific codes and naming structures originating with the F6-designated roll ID can help establish a organized workflow allowing easy location of all data pertaining to a given image.

Strips are cut into frames of 4, then inserted into a “Print File 35-7B” sleeve, placed in 3-ring binders then placed on the shelf and organized chronologically with roll numbers printed on the binder spines to easily identify which rolls are in which binders. This makes finding a specific frame of film easy, and makes finding any scans of that frame on the computer easy as well.

Conclusion:

Should you get an MV-1? I suppose if you’re going to shoot the most sophisticated 35mm film camera ever produced, you may as well pick one up. At first glance it may not seem necessary, but as the years, and rolls of film fly through your camera, it’s nice having a way of cross referencing dates and other information to help identify the images. Do it sooner rather than later: the data from every roll you shoot beyond about roll 70+ you’ll lose as the camera’s memory fills up and begins dumping early files to make room for new files. So it’s best to pick up the MV-1 early and start preserving the roll’s data before it’s lost forever. The bummer is the cost, but if you consider that cost over the lifespan of the camera it helps soften the blow considerably. One of the great things about working with the F6 is that it won’t become obsolete.

Otherwise put – it already has become obsolete – and like a new car getting its first door ding, you no longer worry about it and just enjoy it for the rest of your natural born life. Either way the MV-1 is a good, long-term investment I can feel good about recommending.