Chris's Metal Detecting Page
Fisher F2: Worth Getting?
A metal detector review!
This is the entry-level metal detector from Fisher Research Labs. It costs slightly over $200 new.
I had been eyeing this machine for a while, wondering if it was even worth getting.
We're going to find out.
Taking the machine out of the box, you'll find that the parts are very lightweight. The control housing has an almost Bounty Hunter-ish feel (if you've ever used their metal detectors), but there is still something about the F2 that feels better overall.
The control panel is pretty nice, with buttons that are simple, big, and easy to find. Somehow Fisher pulled off this interesting sort of post-modern / retro-Victorian futuristic / airship-control-panel look. I'm not sure if they even tried for that combination or not. Or maybe they did, because that look carries on through the whole F-series from Fisher Research Labs. Whoever designed this deserves some credit.
The F2 comes standard with an 8-inch concentric round coil.
It takes one 9-volt battery.
The Fisher F2 right out of the box will air-test about 8 to 8 1/2 inches on a quarter, which is about right for a modern VLF metal detector with an 8" coil. The stock setting is four bars of sensitivity, but you can increase that to five to get a little more depth. At five bars, my F2 test unit was able to get 8" on a US silver dime... quite a good showing.
There is no ground balance (it's pre-set), so there will be conditions where you'll lose some depth. That said, I was expecting the F2 to have meager depth. It's actually very good, unless (like I said) you use it in bad ground. If you live in an area with mild soil (limestone) and the coins have been there for a while, I don't expect you'll lose any depth compared to the air tests. You may even get more.
The F2 has numeric target ID from 0 to 99. This gives it the advantage over both the Garrett Ace 150 / 250 and the Teknetics Alpha 2000, both of which are in the same price range. Those machines have target-ID blocks, but that doesn't provide as much useful info as the F2's numeric ID. Really, a two-digit numeric ID is the single most useful thing you can get on any VDI screen. You will learn what numbers mean what kind of target (usually), and after a while that's all you need.
If you have been reading around on this website, you might have already guessed that I'm a huge fan of beep-dig style metal detectors. Fisher 1266-X, Tesoro Tejon, etc., etc. Detecting with them is a challenge (or is it?) but can yield better performance once you build up the skillset.
It's hard to make a direct comparison between the two different types of detectors, but the Fisher F2 stands up well as an all-around machine for two hundred bucks or so. Against its highly-computerized peers, especially its rival the Garrett Ace 250, the Fisher F2 really shines.
Let's get the negatives out of the way first. Here are the only ones I can think of:
- Hmm, this is tough.... OK, it's not as deep as an F5 or a Tesoro that's set properly.
- Control box doesn't feel as robust as a Tesoro or some of the more expensive machines from other brands.
- Round, open concentric coil "sees" more ground minerals than a DD coil, but whatever... most units come with a round coil anyway.
Here are the major strengths of the Fisher F2
- Low cost compared to the F4, F5, etc.
- Good discrimination
- Very fast signal recovery (much better than the Garrett)
- Four audio tones instead of the usual three for this price bracket
- Numeric target ID
- Light weight, good balance
- Depth indicator graph
- Round, open concentric coil makes pinpointing easy
Overall the detection seems very crisp. Maybe it's the fast signal recovery, which leads to better target separation. The F2 hits solidly on coins and other high-conductivity targets. Put it all together, and you have a machine that will find stuff that more expensive detectors can miss. I found a copper or brass relic in an area where I was sure I'd cleaned out all the "high tones" with better detectors. Including a Minelab Explorer....!
The F2 has pretty surprising performance, considering its low cost. I was thinking it was going to be a backup unit, but it's nice enough to be the go-to machine, even if you have the budget for a $400-$600 detector.
In the entry-level category, the Tesoro Compadre is still my favorite for very trashy areas, but in my opinion the F2 is the way to go if you prefer VDI / LCD-based metal detectors. The multi-tone audio and numeric target ID may not actually make it any easier to find coins (that's a debatable subject), but if that's your hunting style, this detector has nearly everything you need and almost nothing that you don't.
I originally thought the F2 was going to be a beginner-only machine that would sort of fall by the wayside, but after I tried it I was pleasantly surprised. Not only is it one of the top choices in my Beginner's Metal Detector Roundup, but I can also see having many years of enjoyment out of this detector. The F2 won't yield the depth of a $1,500 machine, and it may not quite reach the depth of a $600 machine, but it's not bad, either. You will find many situations where the little F2 will be nipping closely at the heels of more expensive units, much to the chagrin of their owners. Thanks to its awesome target separation, you may find more stuff with the F2 than they will.....
Ever heard of Frankie the Bundler? (It's a History Channel thing...) Well this metal detector has a bundle deal, too. The thing is, though, don't just go and buy any bundle. A lot of the throw-in accessories such as scoops and pouches are not worth having. The bundled package to get is the one that simply includes a pinpointer and 4" coil, along with the detector and its 8" coil. Best price is about $215 here. I'd get this bundle without even hesitating, because you're going to need a pinpointer eventually anyway. The first time you run a shovel blade across a silver coin and leave a big gouge, you will wish you had the pinpointer. (And don't be like those guys who rub the dirt off their coins... that will leave scratches in 'em.) Yes, the pinpointer is kind of a cheap one, and eventually you'll get something better, but let's also don't forget about that 4-inch coil. This is just what you'll need for ultra-trashy areas where the coins are otherwise hidden among pulltabs, foil, and bottlecaps.
Don't forget a good digging tool (Lesche about $44 here; Wilcox about $25 here) and a pair of headphones (typical price about $29, here). This is a major plus for low-priced detectors: they leave more room for the accessories you'll need. Invest in good digging tools, and the Fisher F2 should keep you busy finding good stuff for them. (And as always, fill all holes that you dig. Get permission before you detect, and be a good ambassador for the hobby.)
The F2 is a pretty sweet machine for the money. Pick up yours here, or buy any of your other stuff through these links, and it really helps keep this website on-line.
I hope you've enjoyed this article. Thanks for reading!!