Nikon Photo Secretary II for F100 AC-2WE

I want to share my experiences with Nikon Photo Secretary II for F100 AC-2WE. That's because I've seen no tests or reviews about it in the web. My experiences are based on using version 1.00 of the software to manage shooting data of 300+ films shot on Nikon F100.

Photo Secretary has functions to

The software is useful for me in learning photography because it downloads exposure information from Nikon F100 cameras and allows viewing and archiving that information. I have not used picture archive properties, so I do not have an opinion of them. Other features of the software (setting custom functions, help files) are not really very interesting to me.

For each film, there are fields for

For each picture you expose, you get

*) data item is stored also in simple mode.

There is no focus distance information. There are fields for date and time, too. They can be manually filled, but I've never had the enthusiasm to do that for each picture. Note that a MF-29 on a F100 does not store date and time although it can print them on film! I must admit that I was a bit disappointed after I bought one as I had higher hopes.

I find it sometimes difficult to match each film to its data (e.g. when I've shot 20+ rolls on a vacation). With date or day and clock time printing in frame 0, A MF-29 makes this easier. It is a pity that a MF-29 does not print the roll number, too. I find it very easy to forget data printing on after having loaded a film. I've forgotten it about two times out of a few dozen rolls with the data back. Data back MF-28 on a F5 stores also date and time.

Note that the camera can record exposure data in either "detailed mode" or in "simple mode". In the list above, data marked with an asterisk (*) is recorded in simple mode. Because exposure compensation is not recorded in simple mode, I always keep my camera in detailed mode. In detailed mode, shooting data of about 30 36 exposure films can be stored in the camera's memory. If you shoot really a lot and do not want to lose any unsaved shooting data, a laptop may be necessary on the go. And one should not forget to download shooting data before photographing a lot, otherwise some old data may be lost as the camera's memory gets full. It is annoying that one cannot switch between simple and detailed mode mid-roll. The frame counter must show "E" to do it. It is possible to download shooting data mid-roll, though.

Exposure data can be seen in different kinds of views: lists (simple, normal and detailed lists), "film", "text" and two different thumbnail views are provided. Thumbnail views are useful , if you scan pictures and use the software to archive your pictures. Without a scanner, the most useful format is the detailed list (picture below). I've found little use to other views. The default view is selectable, but from the list views only the basic list view is selectable, i.e. I cannot set the detailed list view as a default.

The software itself is reliable, it has never failed. However, it is relatively awkward to use and there is lots of room for improvement in features. Some deficiencies include: the software does not have a database, rather it stores picture information in separate files, one file per roll. It names files with plain numbers. E.g. 0001.psh, 0002.psh, ..., etc. The software does not provide a catalog of shot film rolls and their titles. This means that you must rename the files or paste film title information to a separate spreadsheet or something like that to keep track of which data belongs to which film. Amazingly, there is no field to store film number (Ok, it is in the file name). I always start film title with roll number. And I've made keyboard scripts to paste information from titles and comments to Excel.

It annoys me that film start frame number selection does not allow you to set the first frame to anything below 1. Often the real first frame is 0 or even 00 in real life. Now the frame number shown by the software seldom matches that at the film edge. There is no support for half-frame numbers (0A, 1A, 2A, ...), either.

I find printouts from the Nikon software take really too much space on paper. Data printed from 250-300 rolls now completely fills a 7cm folder, mostly printed 2-sided.

If there is an update available, please inform me! I tried to find one in late 2000 or early 2001, but did not find any.

To sum up, the software is a great learning tool and really useful for persons who want to publish technical information along with their pictures. As a piece of software it is not convenient to use but it gets the job done.

Before buying, check also the Holymoose Camera Companion and the NiCOMM SoftTALK-2000. I have no comments on the NiComm Software. The Camera Companion is relatively young as a software (the first public release in December 2001) and it's version history shows relatively important bugs as fixed as late as May 2002. However, I've been told that the software has only minor bugs now (August 2002). The Holymoose guys update the software unlike Nikon. In addition there is a possibility to try the software before buying (a downloadable trial version). Camera Companion is also open so that shooting data is available for advanced reports, labels, etc (the software uses a MS Access database). The software also has a "nice integrated reportwriter". So the too sparse printouts from Nikon Photo Secretary could be avoided. I do not have a clear opinion on which program to choose: I know that the Nikon software works but has it's limitations. The Camera Companion seems very promising. However, due to my lack of first hand experience of the Camera Companion, I cannot recommend it over Nikon Photo Secretary or to say in which cases it would be a better choice. I'm glad to receive any comments on this, too!