Fisher F5 Metal Detector Field Test
by Mark Ellington
"Hunting by ear" enables me to maximize my time in the field. On the Explorer or E-TRAC, I can assign a single tone, two tones, four tones or multiple tones as a response to either conductive or ferrous based targets. If I am hunting in Two Tone Ferrous (TTF) on my E-TRAC, targets with a ferrous value equal to or less than 17 will produce a high tone. A low tone will be produced on targets with a ferrous value greater than 17. These ferrous parameters (1-17, 18-35) are established within the software, with no option for the user to change them. Others who enjoy hunting in TTF may have discovered that some "good targets" can provide a ferrous reading larger than the "break point" of 17. To make sure you don\’t pass those targets up, you either have to stop and look at the display on all target responses.
I was given the wonderful opportunity to do some field testing with Fisher’s amazing new F5. The F5 is one of the most unique detectors I’ve put my hands on in a very long time! The perfect blend of cutting edge, software driven power meshed with the feel of good old fashioned knobs. I find it very interesting that the “oldest name in metal detecting” is utilizing the newest technology! The F5 is the result of Fisher’s self proclaimed “war on bad user interfaces”. The lead Engineer on the F5 was Jorge A. Saad.
Since Fisher Laboratories came under new management, the Company has not been resting on their laurels! First out of the gate came the incredible F75, followed by the mid-range F4. Next up was the affordable F2, then recently the incredibly deep F70. That leads us up to the innovative F5!
The F5 is situated in the familiar F2/F4 housing, but the electronics are entirely different. This platform was designed by Engineers Jorge Saad and Dave Johnson (with John Gardiner and Mark Krieger additionally lending their talents) to offer outstanding discrimination, depth and ID capabilities. You’ll find the F5 mounted on the familiar gold and black “S” rod which has proven its ergonomics and durability throughout the years.
TONES – The tones button allows the user to choose between 1 tone, 2 tones (Iron low tone, foil and above high tone), 3 tones and 4 tones. I also discovered while testing the F5 another cool “tones” feature. When hunting in all-metal mode, the button will change the pitch of the audio to suit the users’ preference.
PINPOINT – The F5 uses a nice VCO style pinpoint which varies the audio pitch and volume based on the strength of the target signal. The ID window also switches over to an “inches” of depth reading.
FREQ. – Frequency allows you to slightly alter the F5’s transmit/receive frequency when facing interference from various sources including other detectors, power lines, etc.
NOTCH – Notching works great on the F5! On quite a few detectors, I’ve found myself fumbling through layers of menus trying to find the segment I wanted to discriminate out (or in). With the F5, each press of the NOTCH button advances a line that strikes through the target designation in the top ID arc. When you get to the target you want removed (foil, for example) you simply quit pressing the button. After a brief pause, the target is “notched out”. That simple! Notching a target “in” is just as easy. Rotate the DISC knob the desired amount (through ZINC for example), then advance the strike through line to the 5 cent icon. Release the NOTCH button and VOILA! The target (nickels in this case…) will now be detected.
GND BAL – Although the F5 has the option to “GRAB” the phase reading for quick and efficient ground balancing, it still provides an very high resolution manual balancing feature. Another interesting aspect of the manual ground balance is a speed proportional piece of software (written by Mark Krieger) that will “accelerate” the numbers much more quickly depending upon how fast you turn the knob. Turn it slowly for very exact settings, spin it fast for jumping quickly up or down the scale!
GND BAL – The “GAIN” control is the front-end transmit power of the F5. It is also the ON/OFF control for the Detector.
THRESH – By making THRESHOLD an easily accessed control, you can fine tune and tweak all you want! There’s a synergetic relationship between the GAIN and THRESHOLD controls that has been made much, much more dynamic and accessible due to the knob controls being right there in front of you. The THRESHOLD control gave me the ability to hunt sites that normally were “huntable”, but offered a great deal of frustration. One of these is located in an area that is surrounded by an electric cattle fence. This particular spot has driven me crazy in the past with various detectors due to the “pulse” of electrical interference transmitted. The F5 was able to handle the spot incredibly by turning the THRESHOLD into the slight negative numbers. (-2 to -3 for this location).
If you’ve ever hunted places that are littered with tiny bits of metal (foil or rusty bits of tin roofs, for example) , then you know that it can be a challenge due to constant chatter on every swing. Quite often, these nuisances can be too small to dig and remove. The THRESHOLD control does a great job of “quieting” down sites like this by make the F5 less sensitive to smaller targets. I was initially concerned I would be losing a lot of depth by turning the threshold into the negative, but on coin sized conductors, I haven’t found a great deal of difference. Most of these sites are already limited due to these small surface targets creating a shield that masks the deeper goodies.
DISCRIM – By giving the F5 a knob dedicated to DISCRIMINATION, the user can easily change settings “on-the-fly” with instantaneous feedback from the detector as to where you have it set. The F5 operator has three methods to visually verify where they are situated in regard to discrimination.
- Target Identification Arc- The F5 offers a very nice visual quick reference along the top of the LCD screen. A clock-wise rotation will advance lines that strike out each target group you desire.
- Setting window- When any changes are being performed, the SETTING windows reflects that change in detail. When using DISCRIM, a fine tuning number as to the amount of discrimination dialed into the knob is shown. For example, if you want to eliminate the lower range of “FOIL”, yet keep the upper range, no problem! Discrimination resolution is down to the single digit of the “1” to “65” range scale.
- Physical knob- Like with most analog detectors, the physical location of the knob indicator is scaled to the DISCRIM range. I may be starting my hunt and getting set up. I know from using the F5, the “M” in DISCRIM is approximately just below the 5¢ (nickel) designation. I nice little quick reference!
LCD Screen information:
The F5 gives the user a wealth of valuable information that is always right there in front of you.
Target ID arc – The F5 gives you a quick visual reference on detected targets along the top. Each of the 8 segments has a common target designation (Fe, FOIL, 5¢, TAB, ZINC, DIME, QTR and 50+) as well as the top of each segments conductivity range (15 for Fe, 25 for FOIL, etc.)
STATUS – The left side on the F5 screen gives you the “status” of your batteries (2 nine volt “transistor” batteries) and the SETTINGS portion at the bottom keeps you informed on what changes you are making while adjusting knobs and buttons. For example, when I adjust “GAIN”, my adjustments are reflected in real-time here. The same goes for PHASE LOCK, GND BAL, TONES, THRESH, DISCRIM and FREQ! Whew! That’s a lot of useful information the F5 feeds the user!
TARGET ID – In the center of the screen is a nice, large, 2 digit target identification. Visibility has been excellent, regardless of whether hunting in bright sunlight or in overcast conditions. Along the bottom of the screen is a CONFIDENCE bar. The F5 has processing software that evaluates the target on each swing, determining how “sure” the detector is that the target indeed matches the designation in the ID arc. For example, while hunting, I hear and see a buried target that’s identified as a “dime”. I will subsequently continue swinging ,shoulder width, over the target and watch the CONFIDENCE bar. If the ID remains steady, and the bar is full on most swings, there’s a much higher probability that it will indeed be a dime! Nothing is perfect, and really deep targets may not always consistently hit as high “confidence”. When in doubt, DIG! The TARGET ID also switches over to a DEPTH reading when the pinpoint button is depressed.
GND DATA – On the right side of the screen, the F5 gives you great, “live” information about the site you are hunting! The Fe³O 4 graph informs you of the magnetic susceptibility of the ground you’re currently hunting. When the reading is high, accurate identification of deep targets can be altered a bit. In real life use, if you’re hunting a site that has the potential for deep, old coins and you notice the Fe meter is “high”, dig the questionable deep targets! The real attention grabber here is the “phase” reading. One aspect I love about all the new Fisher detectors is the implementation of “useful” features…PHASE is basically a real-time, live ground reading. In my area, I can watch the phase change itself…varying several numbers as I wander about a typical field or old Church Yard. When I see a drastic change, a quick press of the PHASE LOCK button, and rsquo;m accurately balanced for my spot! Pretty cool stuff!
Hunting with the F5:
As I mentioned earlier, I feel a connection when using the F5 I have not experienced with all my other detectors. The combination of real-time digital information and the tactile feedback of knobs work together beautifully while searching my favorite sites. Recently I was hunting an old school yard. This particular site, being located in the center of town, has been hunted for many years. Old coin finds are very rare these days, and are always deep. With the instant access to controls and information offered by the F5, I was up and hunting in seconds. The elliptical concentric coil seems to be the perfect size for getting great depth while still allowing for excellent target separation that the new F series Fishers are renowned for.
Another great feature common in the F series of Fisher’s is also in the F5. That is incredible processor speed! The detector resets itself so quickly that good targets buried beside of rejected targets still sing out loud and clear. One of the first targets I retrieved on this old school yard hunt was a silver dime less than an inch away from an old rusty chunk of iron. The target ID of the F5 was dead on the “money” and the confidence bar was high for “dime” although it was retrieved at more than 6 inches.
In my North Carolina soil, it’s not uncommon for older copper coins to deteriorate quite a bit. This generally means to get Wheat Pennies and Indian Head Cents you need to dig targets that ID in the “ZINC” and “TAB” range. On this hunt, I got a nice soft high tone while searching the middle of the yard. The target pinpointed small (a GREAT sign!) and deep. After quite a bit of digging, I retrieved a nice 1919 Wheat Cent at a measured 8 inches…and it ID’ed in “DIME” range (genuine copper pennies and dimes both ID at this icon, but with different TID’s)…very uncommon occurrence for this soil! The penny was as corroded as most I dig, and it was deep for this soil. I have found the F5 to regularly surprise me with its depth and accurate identification.
I ended the hunt this day with an apron full of coins and a very, very satisfied feeling that the F5 is an EXCELLENT detector! There is no doubt in my mind that there has been a lot very careful design work to get it “just right!”. This is a detector that perfectly blends the world of analog knobs and digital circuitry in such a way that you always feel in total control…and have confidence that you have the settings just right for the conditions!
I had such a BLAST testing the F5, I asked the lead Engineer Jorge Saad to autograph it for me...and he did! Thanks again Mr. Saad!
- 7.8 kHz frequency - good for coin shooting,
relic hunting, and casual gold prospecting.
- Frequency shift for eliminating electrical interference and crosstalk.
- Advanced software-based motion discrimination with notch for searching
- All metal autotune mode for deep-searching
in non-trashy areas.
- Visual target ID by category & 0-99 indication, both discrimination & autotune modes.
- Target ID confidence bargraph.
- High-resolution manual ground balance with continuous ground readout.
- Ground balance range goes all the way to salt.
- Continuous display of ground mineral concentration and phase.
- Push-button static pinpoint with variable audio pitch and visual depth reading.
- Independent gain and threshold knobs provide complete control over sensitivity.
- Standard 10" elliptical concentric open center search coil.
- Two 9-volt alkaline batteries last approximately 40 hours.