Nikon F3

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Nikon F3

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100% positive

4 reviews from the community

Review of "Nikon F3"

published 30/03/2005 | peterkinxl5
Member since : 25/07/2004
Reviews : 64
Members who trust : 6
About me :
Pro Fantastic build quality, superb handling, access to Nikon's legendary range of lenses, capable of virtually any assignment, total "systems"camera
Cons Slow 1/80 sec flash sync, idiosyncratic position of hot-shoe,dull (by modern standards anyway) viewfinder, metering pattern takes getting used to, this is NOT a point-and-shoot camera.
very helpful
Picture Quality
Range & Quality of Features
Ease of Use

"End of an era..."

I first experienced the Nikon F3 back in 1984 when I asked to see it back in a (now sadly closed down) profession camera dealer and I would have purchased on the spot if I'd have had the £600 asking price. But being a poor student, I was just dreaming then...
Well, things change and i ended up being employed by Jessops for thirteen years as a Sales Assistant (then right up to Manager) so I eventually had the chance to use an F3 and consider it the best camera of all time.

There were four versions of the Nikon F3 released in the UK

Standard F3

F3 High Eyepoint-as per F3 with a viewfinder included which is a lot easier to look through especially if you are wearing glasses etc

F3/T-as above with Titanium baseplate,top plate and pentaprism housing. Tougher and marginally lighter than the F3 HP

F3/P like the F3/T-A special press edition originally made for the Japanese press market. It placed the hot-shoe on the pentaprism housing, improved sealing against rain/dirt etc a shutter release easier to use when using gloves and did away with the TTL (through the lens flash metering)

But why? No Digital, no autofocus, no multi zone metering, DX film coding,built-in flash,film winder, multi-mode exposure-Its very easy to list what the F3 HASN'T got in comparison to modern day cameras.

So what makes it so good?

Well the first thing you notice is on opening the box is the faint but pleasant smell of lubricant. and the substantial weight of the body.
This camera exudes quality from every pore-made of Aluminium alloy and brass (except for the F3/T and the F3/P which have a titanium baseplate,top plate and pentaprism housing) Mounting a lens is a doddle-just line up the lens mount to the camera lens mount and turn anti-clockwise.Though like every other camera brand you have to use a Nikon AI mount lens. leneses with such a mount (Nikon and independent are universally available though).

From the simple move of winding the film on to holding the camera up to the eye topressing the shutter relase is an almost sunsual experience something you wont easily obtain with another rival brand.

The F3 had two basic means of operation,

APERTURE PRIOITY-you set the apertute and the camea set the shutter speed All the way from 1/2000 sec-revolutionary back in 1980 at the time of it's release to 8 secs

MANUAL EXPOSURE- you set both the Aperture and the shutter speed. the Viewfinder diplays both with a guide as to whether the camera meter "thinks" you are under or over exposing.

Other facillities include Interchangable viewfinders (useful say if you are into specialised areas of photography eg Macrophotgraphy) , TTL flash metering when a dedicated compatible flash is attached the camera flash sync speed is set automatically and the output is controlled via the camea in "Real time" again near revolutionary in 1980 when only very few cameras had it, interchangable screens,the otion to add the M
D-4 Motordrive ( a compulsory accessory IMO giving up to 6 frames per second film advance, rewind, even better handling, sideways shutter release etc), mechanical shutter speed of 1/60 sec (useful if your batteries fail) mirror lock-up (very useful if the camera is mounted on a tripod and you want to keep potentail shake to an absolute minimum) a 80/20split centre weighted average metering (which takes practice to get used to get it wrong and you can make some horrible mistakes but it is deadly accurate in experienced hands -the F3's target market) and weather resistant seals which improved durability.

I produced a set of brilliantly sharp well exposed pics when I used an F3 HP with an MD-4 drive using Reala 100 film.

So outstanding in many respects.

The drawbacks?

Slow sync flash speed at 1/80 sec makes fill-flash more difficult,
dull viewfinder in comparison to it's closest then competitor (Canon New F-1), An idiosynchratic positioning of the flash hot-shoe-over the film rewind crank. This is meant to improve handling with a flash and reduce red-eye by getting the flash "off-axis" but the improvements were in my mind debatable, no choice of meter patterns and it took time to master in comparison to todays digital wonders.

These in my opinion were minor setbacks and I can only regrat never purchasing the best camera ever when it was available new.

It was last available new in the UK new for about £1500 which was exhorbitent-at least in terms of spec regarding other cameras.

The GOOD news is that there are plenty of excellent to mint condition examples around in camera shops such as Jessops, Grays of Westminster etc and retail for anything from £200-600.
Ex pro examples are best avoided unless there is evidence of a recent Nikon/authorised Nikon Service centre repair and service.

I would highly recommend this camera.

The majority of the Worlds press used the F3 back in the Eighties and if it was good enough for them...

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Comments on this review

  • lazza123 published 31/03/2005
    Great review, I always wanted a Nikon, but ended up with a Canon A1 and EOS300. Larry
  • trevorbrock published 30/03/2005
    I love the ease of the digitals - but Ah! those wonderful SLR pieces of engineering excellence ! - Trevor
  • mrsatchmo published 30/03/2005
    I find Nikon very hard to beat.
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Product Information : Nikon F3

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