Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Spotlight: Nikon F3

The Nikon F3 was released in 1980, and is the successor to the immensely popular F2.

The F3 is Nikon's first professional camera to feature a battery-operated shutter, complete with aperture-priority mode! Unfortunately, it's also Nikon's first pro camera not to support a traditional pyramid-shaped interchangeable prism (such as the F2's DE-1 finder). I'm stuck with an ugly High-Eyepoint (HP) finder on my F3.

The entire design of the F3 is a drastic design departure from the F and F2 cameras. Gone is the manly brick-like body, in favor of a smoother, rounder, more feminine form. The F3 has a small non-removable grip that's shallow, yet comfortable. I never felt like the camera was ever in any danger of falling out of my hands. Overall, the ergonomics are much improved over previous F cameras.

Top View, sans prism

As already stated, the F3 has a battery operated shutter, with manual speeds selectable in full stops between 8 seconds and 1/2000th of a second. A single mechanical speed of 1/90th is available, should you lose battery power. What's odd is this speed cannot be fired with the normal shutter button; you have to use a secondary switch on the front of the camera, below the aperture preview button. It took me a while to figure this out! Multiple exposures are easily performed by flicking a tiny switch next to the shutter button each time you want to take an additional exposure.

I have to say I don't much like the metering readout on the F3. You view your current shutter speed on a small LCD screen in the top left-hand side of the finder. A tiny "+" and "-" appear next to your speed when you are overexposed or underexposed, respectively. These "+" and "-" signs are very miniscule, and you have to take your eye away from the middle of the finder in order to read them. I much prefer a simple match needle, or a dot-light system as found in the superior Pentax LX.

The F3's full-information viewfinder

Around a month ago, I bought a Nikon F3 from a dude on Craigslist. It's a bit "sweaty", as I like to say; the rewind knob handle and motor drive cap are absent, and there's a dent on the prism, but the camera still works all right.

I took my F3 with me when my wife and I went with my brother-in-law to get his latest tattoo. I used my Nikkor 50mm F/1.8 and 20mm F/2.8 lenses, with Ilford Delta 400. I pushed the Delta 400 to 3200, so the photos are pretty grainy.

Thanks for looking!