Fisher F5 Review
Okay...are you ready for this? I'm going to open this F5 review with a very bold statement. The new Fisher F5 has the BEST user interface of ANY metal detector I've ever used!...and I've used a bunch!
The Fisher F5 is yet another weapon in Fisher's ongoing "War on bad ergonomics and interfaces" that tends to plague the hobby industry. The absolute brilliance of the design makes me wonder "why in the world hasn't someone already done this?" Sure...hobby detectors have used knobs in the past to control functions (like Fisher's own venerable CZ series), but never before has there been this perfect storm of digital, software driven power combined with ease tactile knob control.
The F5 knob settings are instantly relayed to the user in a window in the bottom left of the display (Setting). When you give the gain a tweak, the window intelligently switches to the gain setting... adjust the ground balance, it shows you that too! The same goes for Threshold, Discrimination, Tones and more. When you're not adjusting something, the window displays the current ground "Phase" setting. It's a great concept... all adjustments can be made on the fly, and you're instantly informed of what you're changing (and by how much).
Each of the knobs on the F5 is strategically placed so you can "thumb" the controls. If I hear a deep target that is on the fringe of detection, I don't have to dig through layers of menus to adjust the gain or threshold...a quick reach with the thumb of my detecting hand and I can ease the controls up quickly and efficiently! When I'm done, it's a very simple task to "thumb" it right back to my starting point.
Speaking of gain and threshold, the F5 places these two control knobs side-byside for a reason. There is a very synergistic relationship that has to be seen to be believed! High gain or high threshold…which will be best for my current hunting site? The flexibility offered for adapting to all your various hunt sites and their challenges are incredible. There is a local farm that I hunt that is surrounded by an electric cattle fence. I have had to hunt this spot with ridiculously low settings on older detectors just to make it bearable. With the F5, I can adjust the Threshold control to around -1 or -2 and still get very impressive depths!...Without the noise and chatter this spot usually bombards me with. Since using the F5 in this pasture, I've recovered several old silver coins that I just could not hear with my older detectors!
The threshold control also does something else. Have you ever hunted a site that drove you nuts due to tiny bits of foil, rusted tin, etc.? By lowering the Threshold control, you can partially reduce the F5's sensitivity to 'em! As a precaution, I tested this in my coin garden to see if it would have a major impact on the depth I could get on coin sized targets. Although there was a very slight loss of depth, I was still able to hear coin sized stuff within about 1/4 of an inch of the "zero" setting on the threshold (this was adjusting the threshold to around -2 or - 3...plenty to get rid of the tiny stuff on most sites).
The audio on the F5 is amazingly descriptive. You have the option to choose single, two, three or four tones. However, there's a lot more to the F5 audio than just the number of tones! There are some amazing tonal qualities that change according to the cleanliness of the signal, proximity to other targets, tone mode selected, etc. I'm reminded of a few old analog detectors I've owned that, although a single tone gave me a lot of information about the target due to the "little things" you hear in the audio. In other words, there's much more going on here than just "BEEP!" on a target.
Another super-cool feature on the F5 is the "Phase Lock" button. I mentioned earlier that the F5 has a brilliant user interface. The F5 is also spectacular in another area... user information! The F5 feeds the hunter with important data in "real time". The "Phase Lock" button allows you to "grab" one of these real-time bits of information...the phase reading! Phase and ground balance are nearly synonymous (at least in practical use terms). While hunting, you can glance at the "Phase" reading on the right, and if it is several numbers off from the static ground balance reading in the "Setting" window, you have two options. One is to manually tweak the GND BAL knob to match the setting, or my favorite method, a quick press of the "Phase Lock" button, and it's set for you!
You have the usual TID (Target Identification) on the big, clear LCD screen (Visual ID is also in all-metals mode!), but you also have other key bits of intelligence streaming to you. One is the Fe3O4 bar on the GND DATA window on the right. This tells the user about the amount of "magnetite" in the soil, which can affect the accuracy of the target ID circuits in the F5. The other is the previously mentioned "Phase" reading, and lastly there's the "Confidence" bar. The bar tells me how "sure" the detector is that the target identified along the TID arc (Fe, Foil, Tab, 5ct, etc.) is indeed what it says it is. It is yet another piece of information for the user to add to his/her list of "evidence" when investigating a possible goody! Really deep targets, and targets partially "masked" by other junk items can fool even the best, so good practice is "when in doubt...DIG!"
Hunting with the F5 is sheer, ecstatic joy! The weight and balance are great...the controls intuitive and useful...the ground and target information...actually practical! Minutes can turn into hours while hunting without the usual fatigue setting in...a testimony to a metal detector that has both the physical stuff right (weight, balance and ergonomics), as well as the abstract stuff...(Can I call it "mental and emotional" fatigue?). I have hunted with detectors in the past that "wore me out!" both physically and mentally due to bad physical design, constant chatter and horrible menu systems that made you have to dig through layer after layer to change something. NOT so with the F5!
The new Fisher F5 is a metal detector that will set a benchmark for its incredibly well designed interface. I can see new metal detectorists and veterans having a blast with it, as well as anyone who just likes the feel of knobs better than button pushing their way through menus. All the control is there for the power user...but in a whole new way! "Intelligent simplicity" may sum up the F5 quite well! I find it very ironic that Fisher Labs, the "Oldest name in Metal Detecting" is on the cutting edge of the newest technology! I very vigorously tip my hat to Jorge Anton Saad who was Lead Engineer on the F5 project...and well supported by the legendary Dave Johnson, John Gardiner, Mark Krieger and Marvin Jones. A job well done on what is sure to become a favorite metal detector for a lot of people!
* - Reprinted with permission, 'Fisher World Treasure News' Volume 2 Number 1 - 2009