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Nikon F3HP and F3/T

by Paul Wilson, 1996

I got serious about photography about 3 years ago after a trip to Europe with a point and shoot camera. There were so many great things there to photograph, and the P&S did such a bad job capturing them, I decided to get a good camera.

I bought a Nikon N6006, which I still have, mostly because my father has about 10 Nikkor lenses that I can borrow. After about a year of photographing as much as possible and reading books by people like John Shaw, I decided I wanted another body. One with depth of field preview, mirror lock up, and batteries that didn't cost a fortune and die after 15 rolls, so an F3 it was. I also got a killer deal on a DA-2 Action finder at a used photo show, so I was forced to buy an F3 to stick under it.

My F3/T is actually my second F3. I found it in my local Want-Ads for $600 a couple of months ago and decided I had to have it.

Why a manual focus body?

One of the nicest things about the Nikon system is that one can use manual focus bodies with all the current lenses. The preferred MF bodies are the F3HP, FM2, FE2, or F2. All these bodies have mirror lock-up, depth-of-field preview and are very rugged. They are also great when it's cold and need no batteries for long exposures (the FM2 and F2 need no batteries at all). I think an N90s and one of these is an ideal combo.

It's Rugged

As mentioned, I have the titanium version of the F3. While the regular F3HP is very, very rugged, the F3/T is undentable as far as I can tell. The top and bottom plates, prism housing and back are all titanium. On most camera you can push the back in a bit with thumb pressure. On the newer poly-carb bodies, you could probably break the back if you grunted hard enough. If you push on the back of the F3/T there is no flex whatsoever. The camera feels like a solid block of metal, yet it is lighter than the regular F3.

If you need to shoot in extreme cold, get the FM2 or F2. Both are completely mechanical and legend has it that they will never give out in the cold. That said, I've used my F3 while skiing at Sunday River in Maine on a day when they closed the mountain early due to the cold. No problem despite the -20F temperature (without wind-chill). Whichever one you get, if you don't like it you can probably sell it for what you paid and get the other.

It's a Nikon F camera

Nikon F series cameras have a well-deserved reputation for quality. They are all extremely well made and have shutters that will last forever (150,000 cycle MTBF). All have DOF preview, MLU, 100% finders, and interchangeable prisms and screens. The F3HP also has the "high eyepoint" finder which, for eyeglass wearers, is indispensable.

Speaking of finders, I also own the DA-2 Action Finder. If you've never seen one, it's a huge prism with a 1.5" diagonal opening that gives about 1.5" of eye-relief. It's like watching one of those hand-held LCD tv's. The DA-2 is very helpful in certain situations like macro work where you don't want to disturb the camera. The one downside with it is side-lighting can make seeing into the finder difficult. It almost needs a focusing hood but overall the DA-2 is a lot of fun.

As for screens, I like one with a grid. If you decide you need a brighter screen, the F4 screens will fit but I find them harder to focus. The F4 and F3 screens are exactly the same size but the frames are somewhat different. The F4 screen's frame will fit in the F3, but it will be more solid if you put the F4's screen in an F3 frame.

They could have done better

The downsides to the F3 are few but the one that stands out is the slow flash sync shutter speed of 1/80 sec. This can made outdoor fill flash difficult. Speaking of flash, the oddball hotshoe means the F3 is incompatible for TTL flash with flashes designed for other Nikon cameras. (Note: the FE-2 and FM-2 sync at 1/250 sec; the highest of any mechanical focal plane shutter.)

Another inconvenience is the lack of exposure lock while the mirror is locked up. If you lock the mirror up in Aperture Priority mode, light will stop falling on the meter cell and therefore the camera sets an inappropriately long shutter speed (close to its maximum of 30 seconds).

I'd also like to see manually settable shutter speeds to 30 seconds in 1/2 or 1/3 stop increments (instead of 8 seconds in full stop increments), a spot meter, and low-light metering capabilities like the Pentax LX.

Buy it used

A new F3HP is about $1200 at B&H Photo while the F3/T is about $1600, but since it's a Nikon, the used market is huge. An F3HP in mint shape can be found on the used market for about $750 while one in used but decent shape can be had for about $550. F3/Ts are both rare and expensive but occasionally one turns up at a good price. Avoid ones with dents, huge amounts of brassing, finger nail marks in the shutter and general bad appearance. I'd also avoid any camera that may have been used by a photojounalist. You don't know where it's been.

I don't own one but the MD-4 motor drive sells for $200 to $250 used depending on condition. The MD-4 can also help handling while hand-holding lenses like an 80-200/2.8. You'll also start bulking up if you use this combo enough.


The F3T is quiet, rugged, light and compact (without the motor drive), and a serious professional tool.


  • Construction: Cast Aluminum with brass top, bottom and prism (Titanium for /T version)
  • Shutter: Titanium, speeds from 8sec. to 1/2000 + T and B, 1/80 flash sync
  • Meter: 80/20 center weighted, EV1-19, ISO 25-6400 (sort of like a big spot meter); metered-manual or aperture-priority autoexposure
  • Available finders: Action finder, Waist Level, 6x Magnifying and standard HP finder.
  • Motor Drive: MD-4 with speeds up to 6fps with Nicad battery pack.
  • Features: MLU, DOF preview, multi-exposure, many interchangeable screens
  • Batteries: two 1.55v silver oxide batteries. Shutter works at 1/60 and in T mode when battery is dead via mechanical backup release on camera front. With the MD-4, the camera gets all battery power from the drive.
  • Accessories: wireless remotes, 250-exposure backs, databacks and too many others to list. Get a full line Nikon brochure.
  • Physical: with DE-3 HP finder, camera is 148.5mm(W)x101.5mm(H)x69mm(D) and weight is 760g

Text and Pictures Copyright © 1995, 1996 Paul Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

About the Photos
Square flower Wellesley College greenhouse: F3, 75-300/4.5-5.6 AF Nikkor, Ektachrome Lumiere X, f/11, Nikon 6T closeup filter, tripod,
Elk, Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park: F3, 24/2 AIS Nikkor, f/11 and 1/60th, Fujichrome Velvia,
Mt. St. Helens: F3, 24/2 AIS Nikkor, Fujichrome Velvia

Article created 1996

Readers' Comments

Add a comment

Michael Ward , March 30, 1997; 05:44 P.M.

A friend managed to dent his F3/T viewfinder (he dropped it about 10 metres while travelling in Turkey - the camera still worked fine). He bought a new viewfinder (for show) but kept using the dented one (a conversation starter on trips). A great camera, which seems to have increased in price since the F5 was released.

Martin Ouimet , April 17, 1997; 05:12 P.M.

I have owned and used five complete and different camera systems over the years, and there is none that I love more than the F3.

My first F3 came into my hands after my Canon EOS A2 and lenses were stolen. I had intended to replace it in kind, with another EOS camera. But walking into a local camera store to peruse the shelves, I came across an F3 tucked deep into the recesses of the used counter, apparantly trying not to be noticed. Taking a rest, I'm sure, after having lived out it's usefullness in some rough and tumble photographic arena.

Just about every exposed corner on the camera showed serious brassing. There were dents on the top plate, prism, bottom plate, and maybe even the back. Opening the camera back revealed a pressure plate that looked like it had seen thousands of rolls of film.

I must have coughed and chuckled to myself as I was inspecting the camera. What a beat up piece of crap. But even as I thought that, I started playing with the buttons and knobs. Noticing how precise every little moving piece felt. Feeling the smoothness of the winding lever. Admiring the heft as I I weighed it in my hand. Like it was carved from one big chunk of steel. Then I started getting curious. The sales clerk bragged that you could probably use the thing to pound a sixteen penny nail through a 2X4. I started to believe him.

I borrowed a light meter from the sales clerk and quickly tested the meter's accuracy against a gray card. Spot on. Decided then and there that I wanted it. It just felt good in my hands. I bought it, along with a 50mm 1.8 lens. It was incredibly fun and refreshing. I had to rethink my entire photographic process. I wasted dozens of rolls of film by not setting the ASA, misloading the film, opening the back because I'd forgotten a roll was already loaded, forgetting to reset the exposure compensation, and so on and so forth. But having to stop *think* about what I was doing improved my photography immeasurably.

A little while later, I decided that I just had to have autofocus and all the other bells and whistles I'd grown accustomed to with my A2. I decided that I did my fair share of learning with the F3, so I sold it, and after much deliberation, bought a Minolta 600si. Nice camera though the Minolta may be, it just didn't feel right. And with the type and amount of shooting that I do, I could easily live without the 14 segment honeycomb matrix metering, predictive autofocus, wireless TTL flash and all the rest. The camera had no personality, and I didn't take much pleasure shooting with it. So I sold it all and found a great deal on a used Olympus OM4Ti. I thought it would be perfect, having wonderful metering but still being an all manual camera (made of Titanium, no less!) But then it broke. And I took it back to the shop and bought a Canon T90 and FD lenses. That system was sold when I was in Europe and found I didn't have enough money for a plane ticket back to the states (another story altogether.) When I got back, I started doing medium format, but found it all too fussy for my tastes. And I kept thinking back to that beat up junky looking F3 that functioned so beautifully. And that wonderfully sharp and contrasty little 50mm lens.

So it was back to the F3, and I've been happy ever since.

I never had a single problem with an F3. It functiones flawlessly. The HP prism is a joy to use. I swapped the standard K screen for an E screen with gridlines, which is something I recommend for anybody using this camera. From that point, I caught the Nikon bug and have since grown my system to include the MD-4 motordrive, SB-16a flash, MF14 databack, and an endless assortment of lenses that have come and gone.

Sure, a 1/80 flash sync speed sucks. And 1/2000 ain't so grand for a top shutter speed. And what's with that funky ISO hot shoe? Well, those are but small annoyances. The F3, taken as a whole, is a beautiful rugged camera that fits into a very comprehensive system of components. It seems like you'll never run out of stuff you can add on or exchange, and you'll probably never in your life use all the lenses Nikon has made for the F mount.

I still haven't had a chance to pound any sixteen penny nails with my F3, but if the need ever arose... well, I guess I'd go to the hardware store and buy a hammer. I love this camera too much to abuse it so.

Bjorn Soderbergh/Sweden , April 25, 1997; 01:24 P.M.

There are some facts about the that seems to be missing on is the long time modes, you say that is possible to take pictures with a shutter speed between 1/2000 and 8 sec, but this is not true. If you don't care about the 8- sign in the view finder the camera exposes longer, up to aabout 3 hours!!

Robert Ades , July 19, 1997; 12:30 P.M.

I use both an F3 and an FE, and there two things I dislike about the F3. First, in comparison to the FE, the F3 viewfinder magnification is reduced. For me, that makes focusing more difficult because the apparent image size is smaller. I find that the FE viewfinder is larger and brighter in this respect. The 2nd thing about the F3 is that the meter display is digital, and you therefore have a limited sense as to what the meter's doing. The FE by contrast has the old style analog needle that swings up and down as you point the camera into different lighting conditions. That said, the F3 is otherwise a great camera.

Geoffrey S. Kane , August 13, 1997; 04:13 P.M.

I finally paid off the used F3 (non-HP) that I've been making payments on since May. Some initial comments:

1) You can forget about trying to make any exposure compensation after you've mounted the flash.

2) The LCD light is a pain to operate.

3) I love the feel of the mechanics of the film advance / shutter-cocking system. It's so "fluid" compared to everything else that I've used. This is my first "pro" camera so I really don't think that comparisons to other SLRs that I've owned would be fair, but I know that I'm going to love having this camera.

Eric Hanchrow , December 02, 1997; 08:06 P.M.

- The shutter-speed display in the viewfinder was hard to read -- it's a *tiny* little liquid-crystal panel. There's a switch you can press that turns on a little light in the panel, but the light isn't very bright, and the switch is itself tiny, and is hard to press (and would probably be impossible to press if you were wearing gloves).

- The shutter isn't particularly fast -- the flash sync speed is 1/60th second, and the fastest speed is 1/2000th second (for comparison, my old FE2 has 1/250th second flash sync, and 1/4000th second as the fastest speed)

- It requires a non-standard flash (I forget the model numbers). So I don't think you can use a cheapo third-party flash with it (again as opposed to my FE2, with which I use a $75 Sunpak Auto 433D, which is great).

Matthew Weinstein , January 23, 1998; 04:03 P.M.

I agree with people's comments so far on the F3, but wanted to add a couple of other love notes for this camera. I started out with a Canon Elan, a camera most rant and rave about. I hated it (for the most part), my compositions never looked like what I saw through the viewfinder, something I never complain about with the F3 (I think the 100% view explains the FE/F3 difference that robert talks about.) No one has commented on battery usage on this wonder. I bought my camera 2 years ago, shoot every day, and am on my first set of batteries!!! Just wish it were a tad more ergodynamic...

Thierry Lebeaux , February 26, 1998; 12:33 P.M.

I own a F3 since August 85 (my previous camera was a Minolta XK) and i have greatly enjoyed, although not using it professionally. Compared to all other cameras which i tried (OM1, OM4, Cannon AE1 etc.), i found the grip on the body very conformtable and very 'ergonomic'. I added a MD4, which nearly doubled the weight, but paradoxally (may be not !) increased even further the confort. The metering option (80%/20%) is very good especially with the memory button on the side, which is very easy to find while keepingtne eye in the finder (I remember that i used my XK in semi automatic mode to be able to correct the exposure). Contrary to previous comments read above, i do not find the F3 shutter more noisy that the FM2 (my second camera) but i find the shutter release much softer compared to the metallic clic of the FM2. Also Nikon has an adaptor for cheapo flash units ! My best lenses are the 200/4 (great !) and the 28/2.8. Since 85, I never experienced any problem with the camera and even the LCD is still working perfectly, although the manual indicates that it would need to be replaced after 6-7 years. A really great camera !

Ron Shaw , March 04, 1998; 02:45 P.M.

I see that a number of people commented about the F3 having only 1/2000 top speed. I use an F and F2. The F has a top speed of 1/1000, and I have never found it to be a limitation. (What are you folks doing, shooting ISO1000 into the sun?). If my F or F2 would ever break, maybe I can move up to an F3. I too love the F series. Also, the 1/80 flash sync really was more of the limit of technology when this camera was designed. Someone asked if Nikon would ever make a more modern metering system for this camera, I would say, dont hold your breath. I dont see why Nikon would continue spending R&D dollars (yen) on a camera they discontinued years ago.

Rick Saunders , May 11, 1998; 09:38 P.M.

I've used F series cameras for years. Just recently I purchased a used F3HP. This camera FEELS like a camera. The newer AF Nikons may have more tricks up their sleeve, but the feel and 'ambience' of the F3 is gone. The day I fired my first roll of film through it the F2 was retired for good. I'll never retire my old F as it has become a dear friend of mine. I hope that it doesn't get jealous of the F3 as the 3 has become my 'main camera'. Thanks Nikon.... how about building a few more.

N. Hopper , October 05, 1998; 12:38 A.M.

I recently purchased a Nikon F3P with the MD-4 and I must say, it is a *real* camera. I was on the verge of getting an FM2 and MD-11 but now that I've sampled the goodness of the F3, it's a vast improvement.

I do like the 1/250th sync and mechanical nature of the FM2, as South Dakota winters are brutally cold, and using fill flash at 1/80th is a challenge, but the feel is what sold me.

Of the F3s I've seen, most have been to hell and back, yet still function flawlessly. I've never heard of any breaking as a result of poor construction.

The modular nature is wonderful. The prism, focusing screen, motor drive, and film back are nice options.

The press model is a solid machine. I love the titanium eyefinder with the hotshoe on the finder, so using the one over the rewind knob is avoided. Better seals and refinements for quicker operation are much appreciated. However, instead of the usual focusing screen, with the split image and pentaprism rings, the press model has a 'B' screen which is fresnel, matte ground one lacking any focusing aids. It's bright, and nice with teles, but I don't know if I'm sold on it yet.

The camera is quieter than an FM2n with an MD-11. It sounds much more refined as opposed to the banging click of the FM2s mirror and shutter.

The film back on the press model leaves the leader out, a nice feature, but even more, stops the rewinding of the drive -- something I often forgot to do on the normal F3 with a drive.

It's a nice camera.

Michael -- , October 05, 1998; 10:35 A.M.

2 tips to improve your F3!! 1. Buy a focusing screen for F4 instead of the original F3 screen. I bought a used F4's B-screen and it is much brighter and easier to focus with, than F3's K-screen. Fits like a charm. 2. Replace the original back with the MF-6B back. This back has a protrusion on the back that not only helps the film from not totally being rewinded when using the MD-4, it also offers a better grip for your right thumb, with or without the MD-4.

These two 'modifications' on my F3 has meant that I prefer to use it over my F4s - because it is smaller, more ergonomic and with equally good focusing.

Paul Wilson , October 16, 1998; 12:59 P.M.

I just thought I'd comment on what Michael says above.

An F4 screen will fit in the F3. I had an F4 screen in mine and discovered two problems.

The one time I tried to get a shot by taking the prism off and holding the camera over my head(maybe not a good idea but I had no choice), the screen came out. Luckily I caught it. This is because the F4 screen's frame is a little smaller. The actual screen can be mounted in the F3 frame and this will solve the problem.

The other problem I had with the F4 screen is that I found it harder to evaluate whether something was truly in focus or not. I ended up going back to an F3 grid screen with no focus aids.

Carlos Molina , October 28, 1998; 05:49 P.M.

I currently own the F3t/HP/MD-4. This camera is a godsend. Praise Nikon for creating a camera that is such a glutton for punishment. Lifting the damn thing is a workout in itself. Lets not even begin to discuss how great image quality can be attained easily I'm glad to find a site that praises the F3, and how it makes us better people. The F3's only faults are that it can't cure aids, cancer, or end world hunger.

Michael Meyer , November 29, 1998; 12:01 P.M.

as a photo-student and a (hopefully) bergeoning professional, i have begun to look at cameras to keep me going through for many years to come. i have shot with various cameras through the last seven or eight years, and am now settled into nikon with an fe-2 w/md12. i love my camera, however, i have begun to become interested in the versatility of the f series cameras. after reading all of the praise ffered on this site, and playing with an f3 at a local camera shop, i think i may have found my next camera. perhaps even my final camera. thanks for all of the info and praise, you have made another convert. mnm

Rick Hom , February 01, 1999; 02:19 P.M.

I purchased my F3HP in 1985. It is a camera that I frequently return to in "re-learning" photography after using AF systems. The magnificent sound of its shutter proves its lineage to the rest of the F series (i.e. quality above the rest of the Nikon bodies).

As much as I admire this camera, Nikon could have addressed the following. First, the LCD meter is difficult to read in low-light situations. I agree with a comment that has been made that this meter does not easily allow the interpretation of intermediate meter settings. Second, the button used to turn on the light in the finder (to address the first issue) is almost impossible to reliably find. You can try "pressing" this button multiple times before the light turns on (even with small hands). Also, the light should have a programmed "on" interval of perhaps 7-10 seconds before turning off. Third, the 1/80 TTL flash setting is just too slow for photographing children (birthdays, etc.).

All of this aside, still love this camera!

Mark Penny , February 06, 1999; 02:20 A.M.

In 1985 I splurged and bought a new itanium finish F3/T despite the almost prohibitive cost. I was visiting New york from Australia and was amazed at the relatively cheap prices. NOT bought grey market). I've never regretted the decision. The camera is a jewel. A delight to use, solid and reliable, and it has never failed despite heavy amateur use (I'm the person whose F3/T sustained the dented head as described by a friend elsewhere in this website although he never told me he submitted the story and it occurred at the Grand Canyon. The prisim was still in perfect alignment but my travel insurance paid for a new one). It only occurred to me that I've had it for over 13 years, and despite me being someone who wants the latest product I've never felt the need to upgrade (maybe a Leica rangefinder one day).

My system is quite compact: F3/T, MD-4 (rarely used), 35mm f1.4 Nikkor, 50mm f1.4 Nikkor, 105mm f2.5 micro Nikkor, although I would like a fast 24mm lens.

I would like to make a few points about what is overall an outstanding camera: 1. The pathetic little red display illumination button has been criticized for years. 2. An analog metering display would be vastly better than the small digital display. 3. The non-standard flash hot-shoe is very annoying, but third party adaptors for TTL flashes (ie: Metz) are available. 4. Trust the light meter for long exposures (minutes to hours). 5. The 1/80 flash sync is slow, but people are kidding themselves if they need a faster shutter speed than 1/2000 for most applications. You can't kill the shutter mechanism with an axe. My camera is serviced routinely every three years and the shutter speeds have always been dead accurate. 6. The shutter is quite noisy in discrete situations. 7. Although quite heavy with the MD-4 fitted, it is comfortable to hold and the weight helps stabilize the camera.

I don't think I'll ever sell the system. Something to pass on to the kids to teach photography.

Geoffrey S. Kane , March 29, 1999; 01:24 P.M.

I just got an MD-4 for my F3 and it only makes it a better camera.

For some reason the added weight doesn't bother me at all when I have it in my hands or around my neck. It improves the stability of the whole system, even when using "normal" lenses (i.e. 50 1.8 35 2, etc.). It also make it easier to hold and balance the camera when shooting in vertical format (and that's without the MK-1 firing adapter w/ a vertical shutter release which can only make things better).

The MD-4 also makes it much easier to reach (and use) the exposure memory lock button and the little red button used to light up the LCD (it does get somewhat in the way of releasing the mirror lock-up, but that's not much of an inconvenience).

Martin Taulu , April 08, 1999; 05:48 A.M.

Maybe I'm the last one in the world to notice this, so forgive me if I am wasting space, but...

With the MD-4 attached, my F3hp advances the film significantly faster when I use the manual shutter release on the lower right side of the camera's front. The camera functions identically (so far as I can tell) to shooting with the normal shutter release, regarding the metering, shutter speed selection, and automatic operation, EXCEPT this: You have to turn the meter on first by tapping the normal shutter release. If you don't, the motor drive will not function.

With eight (oldish) AA batteries in my MD-4, using the manual release will fire at least six fps, but it seems closer to seven. I was watching the second hand on my watch for the timing, so I wasn't able to get any more accurate than this. Perhaps someone else could do better. The mechanism's in both the camera and motor drive do not sound like they are undergoing any undue stress, but perhaps there is a reliability issue. For what it's worth, it doesn't seem to be a problem.

My questions are: How come nobody seems to talk about this, and why is it any different in the first place? Perhaps the manual release has a less complex electrical path, but that seems unlikely to the point of impossible. Maybe it's a trick that the Nikon engineers threw in to help photographers who need the extra speed. Then again, maybe it's mentioned in the owners manual, which I don't have.

Regardless, if one needs a faster motor than the MD-4 is by default, consider trying this with your camera. Remote firing in this manner, I assume, would not be possible.

I doubt it matters, but if it does, my F3 is SN#1682885, and the MD-4 is SN# 259071.

Geoffrey S. Kane , April 08, 1999; 04:39 P.M.

From the bottom of page 11 of the MD-4 manual:
Caution: Do not hold down the backup mechanical release lever while shooting on Continuous, as the shutter will not open properly.

Interestingly enough, on mine when I use the mechanical release lever with my F3/MD-4 combo it only advances one frame and doesn't cock the shutter. It does this in both S and C modes.

Nelson James , May 04, 1999; 10:45 A.M.

The mechanical release on the camera body releases the shutter at a set speed of 1/90 of a second. So, unless your metered exposure requires 1/90 of a second, using the mechanical release just to obtain a faster film advance is not going to give you the correct film exposure. The purpose of the mechanical shutter release is to allow you take pictures with the camera if the camera batteries should die. One situation is, with flash photography. The TTL flash function won't work with dead batteries, but you will be able to take manual or aperture preffered auto exposures with your flash by setting the aperture on your lens for the correct flash exposure. Or, with available light photography, if you have a hand held meter or second camera body to meter with, you can adust your aperture for proper exposure with a shutter speed of 1/90 of a second. (Owning a hand held meter is not only a good backup in case your camera meter dies, but it is also a good learning tool.) Another situation could be when taking pictures of fire works. You won't be able to use a cable release or the B setting, but you will still be able to take pictures with the mechanical shutter release and with the shutter speed set to T.

About the AE (auto exposure) lock button in the center of the mechanical release, I'd like to point out that bracketing exposures with the F3 in AE mode (shutter speed dial set to A) is easily done by holding in the AE lock button and turning the aperature ring. When you press the AE lock button, the camera holds the shutter speed. Then you can bracket your exposures by adjusting your aperature.

Matthew Holiday , May 04, 1999; 09:49 P.M.

I bought an F3 back when they were relatively new (1984), along with some lenses that are no longer made. I too am a "grid screen" fan. A few years ago I missed a very important shot because I allowed the subject to walk through the plane of focus while diddling with some other camera control. I convinced myself I had to have autofocus, so I sold my F3 equipment to buy a 600si, etc. Although the 600si with its automation does have some uses, I now miss my F3 enormously. What a mistake! I've used quite a few cameras; I even had a Leica M3 at one point. None have given me the same feel as the F3 and the old AiS lenses. I'm fixing to break the piggy bank and get another one, but now I'll have to track down some of the optics that Nikon no longer makes. And it'll sure cost me more than I got from selling the first one I had. As far as the meter goes, you can get a good digital spot meter; that and the F3 body will cost less than an F5 and not much more than an F100!

Anyone know of a good F3 user's group or online forum?

John Kuraoka , May 06, 1999; 12:53 A.M.

A few comments to those considering a used F3/x.

First, although the HP viewfinder is a treat for those of us who wear glasses, its lower magnification may be less appealing to those who don't. If you don't wear glasses, you may want to consider the standard, non-HP prism for its higher magnification. Second, one real weak spot on the F3 is the LCD illuminator light switch (the little red square button on the side of the prism). If your illuminator light fails, the next time you shoot in dim light, you may be left quite literally in the dark as to what the meter is trying to tell you. This light draws a lot of power, and if it seems dim a new battery might work wonders. Third, according the Nikon's F3 manual, the LCD has a finite lifespan. And, according to my local Nikon-authorized repair shop, replacing this component is a fairly expensive repair. So, it is well worth finding a used F3 with a crisp LCD and a working LCD illuminator light.

There is a modification that can be done to the LCD illuminator light. Basically, you short out the switch so the light is on whenever the meter is active. I had this done to my F3/T, and had it un-modified a few days later because I started getting about 2 rolls per fresh new 3V lithium battery. (Like I said, that little lamp draws a lot of current.) This modification can only be acceptable to someone who uses his or her F3 exclusively with the MD-4 motor drive, which will supply ample amounts of power.

I have not seen many comments here about the F3's exposure metering system, an 80/20 quasi-spot that deserves comment. This is a tremendously useful meter, but is best used as a quasi-spot meter: first setting exposure based on the main subject, then re-composing (either in manual mode or by using the exposure lock button). It is easier to handle than a spot meter, and easier to control than a 60/40 center-weighted or matrix set-up.

Paul Wilson , May 06, 1999; 02:00 P.M.

Just to correct Nelson, the shutter speed for the mechanical release is 1/60, not 1/90. The reason for this is that they want to give you a normal shutter speed so sunny f/16 calculations are easy. Also, they can't have a shutter speed faster than the sync otherwise flash would be impossible.

Guy Simpson , May 07, 1999; 07:28 P.M.

I have successfully performed an expensive, time consuming, and informative modification to a MD4 to get specified FPS using Nicads without the Nicads, however, it is cheaper than buying a MN2 and MH2 to power your drive. Simply put I altered the electrical connections to the MS3 (std AA battery module) to allow useage of 3.6VDC Lithium batteries which are the same size as std AA cells. The MD4 can be normally powered 3 ways: AA batteries providing 12VDC, MN2 Nicad pack providing 14VDC, and the MA4 auxilliary studio power supply providing 15VDC. I used 8 "Tadiran" AA Lithium cells rated at 2400mA hours and 3.6VDC. Radar Electronics in the Pacific Northwest or Newark Electronics have them in stock. I connected the batteries into 2 parallel groups of 4 each giving me 14.4VDC. You must remove the top horizontal shorting bar and install thin metal discs with a wire soldered to connect the top left row to the bottom left row and repeat for the right side using another separate wire. On the opposite end of the battery assy you must solder a wire between the 2 vertical shorting bars. The bottom rows of batteries lay in as indicated. The batteries in the top rows simply match the direction of its respective bottom row. A lathe is useful to make .050 thick brass discs. I epoxy glued the discs for the top rows, but the bottom row discs fit between the batteries and the contacts inside the motor drive so the're just held in there by spring pressure. Performance is a marked improvement over everyone elses AA cells, but there is a catch. The MD4 is spec'd at 5.5 FPS with mirror and 6 FPS with mirror locked using the Nicads and I recently learned this spec is only good for the first 1 second of continuous operation. Nikon never says you'll finish a 36 roll in 6.54 or 6 seconds, only that it's capeable of. No battery pack including my mod will finish a 36 exp roll in 6.54 or 6 seconds. It WILL squeeze off 5.5 or 6 frames in the first 1 second of operation but not after that. Why? The batteries don't get a chance to refresh and build their voltage back up due to the large current draw from the drive motor. The only way to get sustained fire at spec'd rates is to use the MA4 which provides a constant 15VDC and enough current to keep the voltage at 15VDC. I confirmed this by connecting a Tekronix TDS 420A digital storage scope while operating to measure the voltage ripple and comparing my lithium mod to the Nicad pack at 1 second and full roll bursts. My FULL 36 roll averaged FPS times are 5.1 with mirror and 5.65 locked. This mod isn't for everyone, only for those few who are incessant full auto tinkerers who enjoy knowing theirs is a step up from all the clones. For those of you who don't own a MD4, GET ONE!!! An F3 isn't much of a camera without it.

Alastair Reeves , July 18, 1999; 12:30 A.M.

Back in 1982 I was passing through Japan on business, so I bought an FE to complement my Nikkormat FTN. After using the FE for four weeks I decided I didn't like it at all, so on the way back through Japan I traded both cameras for a basic F3 with the DE-2 viewfinder. I now regret trading the Nikkormat (they were great cameras), but I've never regretted buying the F3. My F3 has been a marvel...solid, well made, incredibly smooth mechanicals, and utterly dependable. I've taken it with me on a lot of trips, and I've never worried about whether the camera would break or fail.

I've noticed that people regularly criticize the DE-2 viewfinder and K screen, but I haven't had any problems. I wear eyeglasses and find the DE-2 quite adequate. Besides, it's slightly more compact than the DE-3. I don't have problems with the K screen either, but maybe that's a personal taste thing.

I have to admit there's a few annoying things about the F3. The idiotic non-standard flash mount, for example. The lithium batteries have a habit of dying without warning. (I've used the manual shutter release on more than a few occasions.) And it's (relatively) heavy...especially with a zoom lens normally attached. I also wish I had the F3T version...I like to keep my equipment in good condition, but cameras that travel (at least the non-titanium types) inevitably pick some scratches and dents after 17 years.

Nevertheless, I plan to keep my F3 indefinitely. I wouldn't even mind getting another one, or an FM2. I have to admit that most of today's cameras just don't appeal to me. Auto-focusing multi-exposure mode automatic flash cameras take all the fun out of photography for me...I might as well just use a camcorder. And I don't like polycarb bodies...they feel flimsy and insubstantial. Even the F4 and F5 don't appeal...excellent cameras, but the built-in motor drive makes them too expensive and too heavy for my tastes. (Another personal taste: I'm just not interested in motor drives.)

I've heard the F3 is now out of production, which is too bad. I think there's a substantial demand in the marketplace for a camera like the F3. Nikon should consider bringing out a successor model.

Mo Ersher , August 02, 1999; 05:52 P.M.

I own two F100s and love them for their unselfconscious operation and handling, but I did possess a F3 and some prime lenses and to this day feel they gave me the best pictures I ever took . Maybe one day I will go back in time and get a good sample but to those in need of advice I say become a serious photographer, arm yourself with a F3HP and a collection of Ais prime lenses ( which must include at least two wide angle lenses) and the world will not seem the same again but will definitely be far more exciting, if you have not given up on that notion yet.

Robert Bryett , August 20, 1999; 06:08 A.M.

I know it's a bit pedantic and geeky, but as a very happy FM2 owner I notice that the article above mentions that the FM2 has mirror lockup, which is not exactly true. What you have to do is use the self-timer.

You make all the settings, then push the self-timer lever over to a suitable delay and finally press the shutter release. The mirror pops up immediately, then the shutter fires after the timer interval expires. This gets close to MLU for most long-exposure purposes, but it's not quite the same thing. For one thing, one never knows exactly when the shutter will fire.

I looked very closely at the F3 HP when I bought my first FM2 about six years ago. The high eye point finder on the F3 was super, and I found that the smaller apparent size of the viewfinder image made it easier to scan the edges to avoid those nasty little compositional surprises (tufts of grass, handrails etc.). In the end though, the mechanicalness and simplicity of the FM2 tipped the balance.

James Fogarty , August 23, 1999; 04:58 P.M.

I'm considering a new F3 and I would like someone with more experience than myself to make an in-depth comment on the limitations of the 1/80 flash sync. I can not deal with the inconsistancies of an AF R2D2 Camera, I'm thinking of selling my N8008. Too many times I've been at airshows and the LCD panel turns black from the heat of the sun, or I've have to go through all kinds of contortions with my reading glasses to set the camera up. Any comments would be welcome-thanks.

Robin Worgull , August 28, 1999; 03:07 A.M.

I've been shooting with a couple of different Pentax cameras on and off for about 20 years. I had been toying with the idea of switching to Nikon for awhile, but had no good reason to. Finally I just bit the bullet and bought myself an F3HP and MD-4 drive. By far the nicest camera I've ever held. A friend has an N90, and I think this F3 blows it out of the water for comfort. His N90 may have more features and have autofocus (I don't think I'll ever be an autofocus fan, too old school, I guess), but this F3 feels so solid and perfectly balanced. The MD-4 definitely makes it a perfect camera for me. It is noticibly heavier than either of the 2 Pentax camera I had, but I think it's so well balanced with the motor drive that I don't notice it. The little button for the LCD light is a pain in the backside, along with the weird attachment for my 283 flash, but since most of my stuff is either plenty of light and no flash, or flash with a tripod, so the button isn't toooo necessary, I can deal with it. It was a toss up between the FE-2 and this F3HP and I know I made the right decision. Anyone out there debating whether they want to spend the significant $$$ for an F3, just handle one with the motor drive and you'll be sold too

James Fogarty , September 01, 1999; 03:04 P.M.

My name is Jim and I'm the one in the comment preceeding Robin's. I've noticed that I see the words 'edit your comment" below my posting, I have no idea why this is like this? I went to B&H on sunday (29th) and bought a new F3HP, it's an awsome camera...I love it, I will keep my N8008 for some flash and point and shoot duty (the N8008 becomes the back up camera). It feels great to be in control... and to again become part of the photograhpic process. I called Nikon tech-service and asked about using my SB-23 on the F3...They said that by the end of Sept. the new AS-17 (similar to AS-7)attachment for the F3 will be in the stores...this Attachment will allow most if not all of the Nikon Speedlights to function in TTL mode on the F3! We need to put some consumer pressure on Nikon to make shure that this camera (F3 and Fm2n) are not discontinued. We need to tell them that they shoud NOT discontinue their manual focus lenses (AIS 28mm/2.8 etc.)and that they should make avaliable every single accessory that was developed for the F3 (DX-1 etc.). I don't think they are aware of money they are losing...not too mention that a good number of Nikon users do not want the F5 etc. This is not to say that the F5 does not have its place...it does, but so does cameras like the F3 and the Fm2n, along with manual focus lenses.

Gen Kanai , September 10, 1999; 07:57 P.M.

I'm a long time F3 owner and user and recently came upon a neat accessory. Vivitar makes an F3 to standard TTL ISO hotshoe adapter. There's no part number that I know of but I think I paid a little over $50 at my local camera store (Silvio's, Torrance, CA.) Before this little accessory, I was using a Metz 45CL-4 with the SCA344 (the F3 TTL adapter) with great success. Now I can use my SB-28 on my F3 and get great TTL shots in a much smaller package. Most folks are using the SB-16A, which is nice but big. With this little adapter, you can use whatever TTL flash you want to- which is pretty cool.

New news (9/9/99) Actually, the Vivitar F3 adapter only works with Manual and Automatic, not TTL. My mistake. Nikon has announced the AS-17 which should do TTL with more modern flashes.

Apologies to those who may have bought the Vivitar adapter on my misinformation.

Hansun Chan , September 16, 1999; 08:28 A.M.

Well... after reading all the reviews and stuffs concering the Nikon F3... I think i'm going to blow up by this camera when I got one. A new one is too expensive for me, so I decided to get a second hand body. Now... I finally got this camera, and I can say, it didn't impressed me a lot when I'm playing with it in the shop. But... I wonder why, I began to love this camera, in just a few days... it was so amazing. I've handled a Canon Eos-1, 50e, Nikon F90x and F50. Handling the Nikon F3 is so different from them... and some nice features make me love this camera even more... 100% viewfinder, mirror lock up etc... I just got my first roll of film... I can't say I'm happy with all the results( they don't have any technical problems, just the problem of me) however, some of the pictures impressed me so much, trust me... you won't be disappointed with it... those modern AF cameras just eat batteries...

Keith Wilson , September 21, 1999; 05:38 A.M.

I currently own two F3's with drives, an 801 as well as a Kodak DCS420 digital. The 801 is somewhere in a cupboard (I think) and has not been used in about five years. The digital gets used quite a lot.

The F3's however are my workhorses. They have both been to hell and back, and the one has just had a new shutter put in. They have got to be the most reliable cameras I have ever used.

Both bodies have had the screens replaced with Beattie screens which are great.

Ron Woods , October 03, 1999; 09:52 A.M.

I owned an F3HP, bought used for $650, and used it for about 3 years and moved "up" to an F4. Except for the quirky flash attachment, it is an unbeatable camera. Am looking for another as backup (or FM2)since, obviously, all my lenses will work with it. Back to a previous comment about 16d nails....works well on tent stakes too!

Sold it for more than I paid for it!

Ken Schwartz , October 04, 1999; 03:48 P.M.

This is a great site for people who, such as I, need an encounter group. Good job everyone.

I own three F3's. I bought my first one in 1980. I have since picked up an F3 HP and an F3/T HP. I have an extensive Nikon system with a various assortment of lenses, 2 motor drives and other equipment.

My first Nikon was in the late 1960's as I recall. It was an Ftn. Now you talk about a camera that is built like a tank. If you dropped it on your foot, you would be on crutches for a month. One day I needed money. So I broke my heart and sold it.

My second Nikon was in 1978 when I bought an FE. What a terrific camera. I gave it to my daughter in later years. She still uses it today and would never part with it.

Non of my cameras have ever been sent out for a cleaning or maintenance. The gaskets have held all these years with no problem. Also, the LCD has never been changed.

I do agree with most of you in that the flash sync. should be higher. I personally have not had much of a problem in that area. I would also like to have seen a second flash position for TTL. Perhaps on finder. I don't know what they were thinking when they put it on the winder.

Most of my pictures are scenics. I have built up an extensive inventory and plan to market them soon.

I do notice that my F3/T is an attention getter from Nikon advocates. I just tell them I told my wife, "When I die, bury me with my F3/T.

Eugene Chen , October 08, 1999; 04:55 A.M.

In my Pentax days(LX, ME super), I tried my friend's F3 several times and didn't like it just because it was big.

Years after, the LX was lost and the ME super was out of order, I started to miss the F3's superiority in smoothness and solidness so I bought an F3HP, a 50/1.8 and a PC35/2.8, that was 5 yeasr ago. Compare to todays AF SLRs, F3HP is compact.

I own an F4s too, the only things I prefer the F4s to the F3HP is brighter viewing and easier metering. I use F3HP more often.

The F3 is also nostalgic, it reminds me of the early days. And I know someday my son will shoot photographs using this same F3HP - just like my freinds who use F, F2 from their fathers.

Kaspar Pflugshaupt , November 01, 1999; 12:19 P.M.

I just bought a used F3 (non-HP) after my F801s and all lenses were stolen. I'm no anti-AF person, just discovered that I do not need it for 90% of my pictures. And I just did not use the AF lenses I had. Before the F801s, I owned an old Minolta XE (talk about using it to drive nails in - no problem at all), and the F3 feels just as stable as that old tank did. They just don't make them like they used to...

Comparing the F3 to the F801s, I miss the spot meter and the manual mode (yeah, I liked the 801 most for its manual mode :-). I was able to measure any spot in my picture and see how the current stop/shutter setting would expose it (from -2.5EV to +2.5EV). Really handy. The 80/20% centered meter of the F3 is some replacement, though. But the indicator is poor by comparison, showing just a +, - and +- symbol. Apart from this, I've no reason to complain. I didn't have one with the F801s, either - great camera. Still, with the F3 it feels more like I'm making photos instead of handling a camera.

I have two questions: 1. Does anybody know what the change from +- to + or - indicates? It seems to change when you get ca. 1/2EV off the camera's measurement, but has anybody tested this? 2. When I pull out the winder, the lever and the release button appear a bit loose (rattling when moved). Nothing seems to be broken, though, and everything works. Is this normal, then? or just a sign of the camera's age? Would you advise me to have it repaired (might cost a lot)?

Jim Kiricov , April 10, 2000; 11:28 P.M.

I would just like to add my experinces with Nikon camera's. I didn't like the auto focus, auto everthing camera's when they first came out, and I still don't like them. I feel auto focus was shoved down our throats, but that's a different subject. Actually I have a N90s, though I rarely use it, I will admit that it's a lot better for flash photography. For general photography I prefer my F3. I just recently started using the F3 HP, and it quickly became my favoreite over my previous favorite my FM2. I just enjoy the feel of the F3, it's the last "real" camera Nikon has made. I feel I am more creative with a manual or semi-auto camera. I find auto focus a total waste of time and next to useless. It's sad that the great F series had to end with the F3. The F4 was a (bad) joke, and I'm not impressed with any of the newer auto focus camera's. Just to show us that Nikon still has a sense of humor, they have amused us with yet another (bad) joke, the F100. The only thing these camera's are really good for is flash photography. I feel sorry for any one just getting in to photography, as they may never know the real joys of photography with a real camera. Best wishes to all.

Hoyin Lee , April 24, 2000; 11:26 A.M.

The F3HP would have been a perfect camera if not for two shortcomings--the oddball flashshoe and the lack of a proper handgrip.

In order to use the F3HP with my SB-28, I have to buy one of the three Nikon hot-shoe adapters specifically designed for the camera--the non-TTL-capbable AS4 and AS-7, and the TTL-capable AS-17. I got the relatively cheap AS-4 hotshoe adapter as an interim solution while waiting for my order of the AS-17. If the choice is between the AS-4 and AS-7, I'll say go for the more compact and much cheaper AS-4. The two adapters are functionally the same, but I find the AS-7 a rather clumsy piece of engineering solution to a problem, and I don't think it's worth the extra money to have that dubious convenience of allowing film rewind with the flashlight attached. Despite the lack of TTL with the AS-4, the result produced by the AS-4/SB-28 in auto-flash mode has been consistently good, which makes me wonder at times about the necessity of getting that expensive AS-17. However, the AS-4/SB-28 combo balances badly on the F3HP--the setup has a tendency to flip upside-down when slung. My preference is to use the dimunitive Metz 34 AF3 with the AS-17 on my F3HP.

The second problem with the F3HP is its lack of a full-size handgrip. The camera is not very "grippable" by modern camera-ergonomic standards. There's a solution to this problem: an accessory handgrip that can be attached to the camera via the tripod socket, and there's a choice between the expensive all-aluminium GMP F-Grip and the cheaper plastic-and-aluminium NF-Grip. I found the NF-Grip in Hong Kong quite by chance, for about USD 65. The NF-Grip does make the camera so much more pleasant to hold, which translates to reduce fatique on the wrist and fingers and probably helps to reduce camera-shake as a result.

As a relatively lightweight and easy-to-operate MF camera that's built to professional standards, the F3HP should be the choice camera for serious photography; it's also an ideal second body to complement any of the hi-tech AF heavies such as the F5, F4/F4s/F4e and F100.

oscar ling , July 10, 2000; 10:07 A.M.

I just got the photos back, taken with F3/T and 35mm F1.4. I am impressed by F3 metering system, it seems to handle back lit situation pretty well. Another amazement is 35mm F1.4 performs much beyong my expectation. It performs extremely well at f1.4, I can say it is tack sharp. it also also tack sharp to close distance, I have taken several tight head shots with it and am very impressed. I highly recommend it for portraiture as it throw background out of focus very well at F1.4 and tack sharp too.

Image Attachment: standing.JPG

oscar ling , July 10, 2000; 10:26 A.M.

I just got a F3/T with 8+ cond.(black T8507201)used two days ago. I paid $1140 for body and a 35mm F1.4 AIS and I think it is pretty good deal. The first feeling towards it is this is really classic and tough, its metering tested against my F5 is accurate enough. Now I love F3/T to do my casual photography as F5 is too power consuming compared to F3/T. Hope eveyone enjoy using their F3s.

Bruce Wilcox , July 28, 2000; 05:59 P.M.

I've owned and used a "Champaigne" F3/T since 1983. It's absolutely the best manual-focus body I've ever owned. (In no particular order, over the last 25 years I've owned two Nikon FTns, a Nikkormat FT2, a Nikon N2020, two Canon F1s, a Canon FTb, two Pentax Spotmatics, a Pentax MX, an Exakta VX and another body I'll mention in a moment.) With a 24mm F2 and (sometimes) an MD4, the F3/T has proven the best of the lot. I've never needed repairs, the LCD still works and the shutter speeds are still dead on after 17 years. A couple of comments:

Re the Champaigne finish: it seems never to dent, but scratches showed up almost immediately after I started using it when it was new. A Nikon rep told me "yes, and it'll keep getting worse", explaining that the surface was indeed easily scratched but the Titanium would take years of hard knocks and protect the innards. If you're looking at a Champaigne-colored F3/T, bear in mind that a scratched surface is apparently the norm, but the camera's insides are likely fine. Have other Champaigne owners out there found this to be the case?

Re the meter: I find the 80/20 to be a little awkward - not selective enough to work as a true spot, not wide enough to always include the range of light/dark parts of the scene I would like to take into consideration. I often have to move the center of the frame around while metering more than if I had a 60/40 meter, but the 20 degree area includes more than I'd like for checking a small area. Part of the problem is that I've rarely used only the F3 for any length of time - I'd usually be switching back and forth between that body and one with a 60/40 meter.

Now, for that other body I mentioned: For two years I've been using an F5. I love it. It feels great and works wonderfully. The AF and numerous metering options are excellent - I recently photographed a Shriner's parade at dusk and was amazed at the shots of those cars whizzing around. I simply could not have made these photos with the F3. In spite of what others have said on this board about AF cameras (admittedly more aimed at lower-end bodies), to me the F5 is absolutely a "real" camera, too.

All that said, I'll repeat that the F3/T is the best manual-focus camera I've ever used. If you don't want AF or other metering options, go for it. They're great.

gary gephart , August 03, 2000; 07:45 P.M.

I bought a used f3hp a couple of weeks ago and have had great succes with it.I also own an sb28 speed light and soon discovered I had a non ttl combination so I got on the phone and called each and every nikon dealer in the sf bay area Ca.I soon discovered and was told by all people at these stores that the adaptor I needed was the as4 so I found a store in north berkeley that had one in stock for about 49.00. I bought the adapter which was a mistake and that evening went online and did some research and discovered that the proper adapter for ttl use is the AS17 WHICH ALLOWS +-2EV AND ISO FILM SPEED SETTING WHILE MOUNTED ON THE F3.THIS HAS BEEN AVAILABLE SINCE SEPT 99.THE ONLY DRAWBACK WAS THE COST $168.00 OH WELL I TOOK BACK THE AS4 ADAPTER THE FOLLOWING DAY AND ORDERED THE AS17 FROM ANOTHER SHOP.ONE MOORE THING IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO DO REPEATING FLASH WITH THE SB 28 ANDAS17 NO MATTER WHAT THE AS17 INSTRUCTION SAYS!I verified this WITH A NIKON TECH GUY BY CALLING 1800 NIKONUS.

Bruce Wilcox , August 04, 2000; 11:29 A.M.

Folks seem to be struggling with TTL flash options for F3s. I've been doing TTL flash with my F3/T for years with a Sunpak 622 handle-mount and F3-dedicated cable, and I'm pretty certain Sunpak has made smaller, less expensive flash units with F3 TTL modules. Nikon flashes with TTL capability are indeed great (I use an SB-28 with my F5), but they're not the only game in town.

Charles Lee , August 15, 2000; 01:44 A.M.

Hello, I am one of those people you people mention who got the F3 from my mother. I am 15 years old, and this is my first true SLR camera that I've really used by myself, and I really love it!

The manual film advance that moves so fluidly, and the shutter that makes a sharp 'click' instead of a dull 'screech' are so much more appealing than modern SLR cameras with auto advance like the N90s, which my mom owns too. The heft and solidness of metal feels so much better than today's SLR cameras. True, matrix metering or spot metering built into the camera may prove useful, but it's not always necessary.

This truly is a great camera; Nikon is still making it after what, 20 years or so! What a great marvel of engineering! Now, if I can get a lighter and faster lens than the 28-200 zoom lens I have...

Graham Furlo , September 13, 2000; 10:20 A.M.

Following the above comments, I feel compelled also to add some lines abouth the F3. I own the std F3, which I find has a slightly larger magnification in the viewfinder than the HP versions. Although with slides, slight loss of border from the mounts is un-avoidable. I have been saved many times from intrusions of objects which I may not have seen with less than 100% viewfinder image. I think the main reason why I like the f3 is it's simplicity. It has all the important things that you need, mirror lock, D of F preview and changable focus screens, without all the bells and whistles that drain batteries. I too have tried the MD4 motor wind to aid handling, but found that the additional weight gave camera shake at 1/60 (when enlarged to 10" x 8") so I sold it! I also own and use an F5 which I bought after the F3 and in a lot of instances take the F3 instead. I mainly reserve the F5 for Action and wildlife shots, but it's not as convienint to carry around as the F3. I have just read a review of the F80 which looks reasonable, I'm told that the second hand prices of F3's are reducing because of peoples favouritism for Auto Focus, so my advice is:- if you are thinking of an F3, just go and do it before it's too late !!!

As a foot note, Nikon users have the ability to share lenses between F3 and F5, All my lenses are cross compatable. Which is the main reason I use Nikon over any other brands.

Simon Difazio , September 27, 2000; 04:38 P.M.

I have just read in the UK photographic press that the F3 is soon to be discontinued...Guess that this had to happen sooner or later as it must be costly to produce, still, a twenty year production run is a testomony to the popularity of this great camera - think I'll keep using and enjoying mine for a long while yet...I just wish I could justify buying a brand new one before they become unavailable...Maybe I will...!!

Paul Wilson , October 13, 2000; 10:53 P.M.

This is just a note to say that yes, F3's do break.

My F3T recently developed a problem where the meter wouldn't stop saying 1/80 until frame 5 or so. After that it would work ok. It's supposed to read 1/80 when winding up to frame 1 on a fresh roll of film.

This isn't really a big deal and was possibly caused from lack of use (though I doubt it). In any event, a local shop said they could fix it for a little more than the cost of a CLA(CLA included) which has never been done on the camera anyway.

Jimmy Rhyne , November 07, 2000; 06:43 P.M.

I own the F3HP and can say that it is a great camera! It is not perfect, but I use it when I need to shoot silent. My F100 and F90x are great but sound like a tank firing in certain quiet concert/choral venues. I bought the used F3HP for those times when I need quiet and it is a real charm. The flash is somewhat terrible as compared to the F100 and F90x, but I rarely use the flash. When I do use flash on the F3HP I use the SB-17 via a SC-14 for good results. This is one tough camera and it can fill a need as it did for me.

Dana Lee Murton , November 10, 2000; 04:12 P.M.

Nearly twenty years ago I was too confused or just in a hurry to spend my money, to find out the differences between the different Nikon lenses - AIS had just come out. Nikon lenses also seemed to be a lot more that Canon FD lenses. So I bought a late model [old] Canon F1 and found a winder for it, and later added an F1[N] and winder - thought they were brilliant. The weight of the old F1'S motor drive was never regretted after it swiftly despatched an aspiring mugger. Recently I finally had to say good by to F1[N] - it had in some ways become unreliable after a ham fisted appraisal by the manager of a large photoshop chain. I wanted mechanical, current, reliable. I had already replaced old F1 with FM2n/MD12. Just the feel of the HPF3 was enough to persuade me, Everything I wanted from the FIn but with TTL flash as well. What's more, there was something of the original security I felt from the F1 old, when the MD4 was added to the picture. As for optics, I had always lived in fear of this day and thought that I could avoid it by using SP adaptalls. Not so, it was a false economy - the Nikon lenses I have since used are simply extraordinary. As for that sync speed, what is the problem, get a decent flash like the 45CL4 - the F3 and the FM2n are both worth it and both will work perfectly well with the Metz. It is a good thing for us, that most high street dealers are ignorant of the amount of information available from the F3's serial number!

Mark Headrick , January 13, 2001; 03:08 A.M.

Omega Chronograph

I have an F2A, F3HP, FE and FM2: what really makes the F3 stand out above the others is its magnificent motordrive!!! It makes the camera so easy to use, especially in action-type situations. F3 with MD4 and Nikkor 180mm f2.8 ED make an terrific combination and razor-sharp images. The waist-level finder is very nice and easy to use.
For macro, the FE is the best: its manual mode is so easy to use (especially compared with F3), goes up to 8 secs, and is much less expensive to buy. The mirror lockup is automatically built into the self timer (also FM2), a feature that makes mirror lockup less tedious than with F3. FE with Nikkor 200mm IF f4 micro is a match made in macro heaven. Unfortunately, I do not care for the FE/FM winder MD12.
For those in doubt about FE, I have attempted repairs on both FE and F3 and got the impression that both are of similar quality. If you want better, F2A with MD2 is solid as a brick and much fun to use, very user friendly. The FM2 is also solid: mine has a dented prism and shows extensive use. I have never seen a more beat-up camera that still worked flawlessly.
The FE is my favourite camera.
I hope this info helps. Mark.
Visit my photo website: Collecting Timepieces.

Davide Rossetti , May 30, 2001; 07:17 A.M.

The F3 instruction manual actually says that you can only use the mechanical release at 1/90th of a second. I actually found out last night that that is not precisely true. In fact on my F3/T even when the meter is swithched off, I can still trigger the shutter at any of the shutter speeds by using the mechanical release - clearly provided the battery is not dead. I thought that was quite a discovery that would allow me saving batteries whenever I use a hand-held light meter. I hope this proves to be a useful hint for F3 users.

Walzi daSilva , July 22, 2001; 12:57 P.M.

Umbrella and Boats, Niteroi/Rio-Brazil

Greetings, all.

I have a personal belief, since long ago, that in photography the quality of final results is not altogether determined by equipment excellence. There seems to exist some imponderable factor that brings out awesome results when we reach the grace of producing a fine image. I have had many cameras; but for the last 14 years, I have maintained a Nikon system based on my FM2n cameras. The newest was bought brand new, as well as prime lenses covering 20mm to 200mm. I used to have some trouble with the FM2n metering system. For the best of my efforts, either the pictures came out too dark, or too bright. I was not sure that I could handle the 60-40 balance out there in field. Then I received, for testing, a F3HP body with an old 28mm f/2.8 lens. The body was MINT - what is rare here in Rio de Janeiro/BR - except for a little wound in its first shutter curtain - a tiny, would-be hole that perhaps had never consumed itself as a hole but someone filled it up with a black rubber-looking substance. The wide-angle lens also had a minor flaw: a fungus colony hanging on the first element surface near the edge, at the 8-hour position clockwise. I got a chill on my back for both flaws: I have been ever fond of the brand new state of my anterior equipment; I cared about making those parts shinning as new forever. Yet this F3HP body seemed to fit perfectly on my hands... adapting for some reason to myself in a way my FM2n never did. After a fast reading of an online manual (thanks to Leofoo) I went out to shoot and have shot four rolls over two days... and the results... were amazing. Then I moved to the next level: I bought a SB12 flash and after taming the clumsy shoe thing, I found it to be even more stable, and the overall set handy, than my anterior FM2n/Vivitar 280 combo. Shooting again... getting amazing results again. Then the shutter and lens flaws, specially the shutter flaw, became important to me, since I felt I would be falling in love with that camera. I entered a message board and got good advices for testing the shutter. I used a high ASA film to make sure that the shutter wound would not be leaking light from outside. It wasn't for sure. I submitted the camera to an expert technician, who told me to forget about that flaw; it was not to do any harm. Yet I discussed the camera price to give budget room to some future replacement of the shutter curtain - and fixed the body price on a US$320 mark. That was real bargain. Now that the deal is done, as I compare my old pictures taken with the FM2n with my newer pictures taken with the F3HP, I find something - that imponderable thing - whispering that the F3HP pictures show a distinctive soul more often than that which I got with my anterior equipment. I believe it should be given by three factors: (1) A more accurate metering system due to the 80-20 balance and some mm more in the central spot of the prism; (2) The release, of my perception from puttering buttons towards ideal exposure, to elements of fast, fortunate composition (this is the psychological concept of aperture priority!); (3) perhaps, just luck. Anyway, I testify the perfect performance of an old F3 – its serial # seems to trace its birthdate back to the beginnings of the 80 – after almost 20 years. It should have been handled blissfully or even carelessly by many people and came to me with flaws, but still remaining a superb piece of equipment. It’s going to be my first choice camera body.

Good luck for all. Thanks for reading.

Walzi daSilva

Robert Lai , August 02, 2001; 10:54 P.M.

Having read through the comments above, I just wanted to highlight a few points. If you want a camera that will last a LONG time, the F3 is hard to beat. I have an F3 with the standard prism, which has to be converging on 20 years old, and it still takes perfectly exposed slides. I have never had to replace the LCD panel - it still looks sharp after all these years. I've only today noticed that the foam rubber seal on the camera back is starting to deteriorate. (No surprise, as the foam rubber inserts in my camera bag, purchased at the same time, have completely deteriorated into uselessness). I guess I will have to get the camera serviced for the first time in its life to replace the foam! I was a poor student when I bought this camera, but I spent the money to get the best I could at the time, and I have not regretted it, and neither will you if you buy an F3.

As for the lenses, for 17 years I only had 3, all Nikkor AIS: a 35mm f/2.8 (OK, but my father in law's Leica M3's 35mm is noticably sharper and contrastier), 50mm f/1.8 (good) and 105 f/2.5 (my favorite). I just recently added 4 more. I buy them used from ebay - everybody seems to be dumping them now to get the AF ones. This is fortunate for me. I used to make 16X20 prints in the university darkrooms and marvel at the sharpness of the Nikon prime lenses. Now I project slides BIG with a Leica projector and still marvel at the sharpness. I am constantly surprised at how I can just put any Nikkor lens on this camera and get perfectly exposed, sharp pictures.

The little red button for LCD illumination that everyone complains about is indeed a pain. In order to illuminate the finder LCD, you must first press down the shutter button to activate the meter, then continuously hold down the red button to turn the light on. After 16 seconds, the light will go off with the meter shutting off. You must keep refeshing the meter by touching the shutter button to keep it alive. As compensation, the 80/20 meter is extremely accurate even in backlight and low light situations. Someone above asked at what level the +- sign in the LCD changes to + or -. I long ago discovered for my camera that this will happen at about 1/4 of an f/stop from proper exposure. As for low light photography, the F3 is phenomenal, although the instruction manual makes very conservative claims. I used to mount the camera on a tripod, and take moonlit pictures out of my dorm room of the university architecture. On Auto, I just let the camera do the timing - which could actually be several hours! I would just go to sleep, and wake up every one or two hours to see if the shutter had closed yet, so I could advance the film and take the next shot. Result: perfectly exposed slides!

The only drawback is the reliance of the shutter on the battery. Being in Canada, taking shots in winter could result in having to use the manual release because the battery got affected by the cold. There is a cable that you can purchase to allow the batteries to stay warm inside your pocket. I never bought it, but I may if I do a lot of cold shooting. Or, I could just buy the MD4 motor drive and get battery power from the motor drive. I carry a Gossen light meter around as well as extra camera batteries, just in case.

All in all, this is a beautiful, enduring camera which has been my only camera for the past 18 years, and taken many fantastic photographs. If that's what you want from your camera, then get an F3!

Mike Kovacs , December 14, 2001; 02:40 P.M.

Well, based on reviews such as this and my own research, I took the plunge and bought a Nikon F3 (not HP) + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 AI lens off E-Bay. I am not disappointed! The density of this camera is something to behold. I've held heavier cameras, but never one this compact. I am considering one of the aftermarket grips in liu of the MD-4 motor drive. It has the original Nikon strap which is akin to piano wire around the neck given the weight of this camera! (mental note: BUY A WIDE NEOPRENE STRAP!)

My camera was sold around 1983 and is in incredible condition. No brassing, no paint missing, just a tiny dent in the prism and a missing motor drive cover (now replaced). The LCD is fine, the little light works too. The viewfinder is somewhat dirty, 99% is just on the K screen. Since they are in town, I took it to the Nikon service center and guess what: the meter is DEAD ON, all shutter speeds are DEAD ON. The Nikon techs weren't surprised in the least. They rated the overall condition of the camera as excellent. If there was a motor drive on it, it apparently did not see much use. The Nikon check was first rate, and free too!

The camera does need the foam replaced in the film compartment and mirror, but I expected this anyway from an 18 year-old camera. $450 + CLA and I have one of the finest Nikons ever crafted. Can't wait to take her into the old growth forests of British Columbia where mushrooms, wildflowers and bugs await. (well after I get my hands on a Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 micro lens)

I hope that one day my 10 month-old daughter will have the chance to appreciate it as I do. Time will only tell if it lasts as long as the fully mechanical F and F2 cameras.

aaron taylor , January 23, 2002; 12:23 P.M.

The 1/80th flash sync is really only a problem with fill-flash or when ambient light is quite high.

Concerning the little viewfinder light switch, at least it is difficult to accidentally turn-on.

The F3 truly is a fantastic camera, even by today's standards.

AC Gordon , March 02, 2002; 03:10 P.M.

As a couple of others have pointed out (elsewhere in photo.net) the H series of screens are amazing. Really, simply amazing. For macro, I'm not sure they can be beat (if only the F3 had better flash), and they're great with telephotos with converters. I have an H4 screen that I recently started using with a 200 micro. As long as there's enough light for my naked eyes to see details with, the screen is bright enough to focus by. I shoot at up to 3x (200 + tc-301 converter + 4T + 3T closeup filters), and the finder is honestly never too dim, at least not yet.

Lex Jenkins , March 21, 2002; 04:15 A.M.

Botanic Gardens Conservatory, Fort Worth (Nikon F3HP and 28mm f/3.5 PC-Nikkor)

I got an F3 for one reason: I needed a body to accompany a 28mm f/3.5 PC-Nikkor I'm using for an architecture project. I'm not fanatically devoted to any brand tho' I'm partial to the Olympus OM-series for the diminutive bodies and lenses. But the Zuiko shift lenses are a poor mechanical design, relying solely on friction to hold the shift adjustment. I needed the more positive setting the PC-Nikkor offers.

I also use Canon FD gear but couldn't justify the expense of their tilt/shift lenses since I don't need the tilt feature. Might as well go with all the way to a large format system, or Graflex Super Graphic.

The F3 was pretty far down on my list of Nikon bodies while shopping. I'd intended to buy an FM2 or FM3a (I even considered an EM but couldn't find a reliable one), or possibly one of the newer AF bodies. Unfortunately none of the AF bodies combined all the features I wanted: grid screen like that built into the N80 and F80, mirror lockup and metering with the preset PC-Nikkor.

So while shopping recently I discovered the same $500 would buy either a nice used FM2N Titanium or a well-used F3HP with MD-4 motor drive. I went with the F3 knowing that it would have good resale value if I changed my mind, while the titanium on the FM2N seemed a bit of a needless frill that might not hold its value (consider the Olympus OM-4T, which is ridiculously overpriced new but quite affordable used).

While I'm not a freak over cosmetics I usually try to avoid cameras with significant dings, believing there might be misalignments in the mirror box or elsewhere that could affect performance. But the few dings on the F3HP prism and top plate near the advance lever appeared to be the sort of thing that happens inside a jumbled camera bag, not from mishandling or abuse. Knowing the camera's reputation for toughness I took a chance, after testing body and drive with fresh batteries. The mirror foam and light seals were good and the mirror was clean, so the previous owner(s) hadn't run it to death on gooey foam.

I used the cosmetic damage - which included some typical corner and edge brassing - to dicker the pawn shop price down from $899 to $525. Since the deal included a 50mm f/2 multicoated Nikkor and the MD-4 I felt pretty good.

And the camera takes good pictures so everything works as it should. But I can't say I'm crazy over the thing or even excited to have it. My Canon FTbn and Olympus OM-1 feel just as sturdy and probably *are* just as sturdy (other, perhaps, than the shutters). The metering is nothing special - my Canon T70 bodies have vastly better metering without being unnecessarily complicated. The F3 isn't averaging and isn't a "fat spot" so it's fairly easily fooled in common situations. And the metering display is crap, difficult to see under some conditions and the finder illumination button is, as most folks have noted, unhandy. The choice of supposedly more energy efficient LCDs over LEDs makes little sense considering that most folks will use the F3 with the MD-4, which provides plenty of juice from 8 AA cells. Meanwhile the T70 uses LEDs in the viewfinder - changing displays to suit aperture or shutter priority modes and even preset lenses - and an LCD display on the top plate, and runs - I kid you not - up to three years on a single pair of AA's. While the built-in winder will slow down the meter continues to operate accurately. Now *that's* the way all cameras should be.

Another metering gripe: the F3 is incapable of changing its mind along with changing lighting conditions. Unlike the OM-2 series and OM-4, which can adjust exposure times after the shutter has been released (invaluable for dim light photography), the F3 makes up its mind when the shutter is fired and by gosh ain't gonna change regardless of the light. That being the case, what the heck is the purpose of that gigantic off-the-film reading cell? My F3 is a 1986 vintage and perhaps later F3s incorporated more sophisticated metering, but I'm not aware of it.

Likewise the T70 has better ergonomics - the compartment for a pair of AA batteries forms a really nice grip. But the F3 ergonomics aren't bad - the finger grip is nice and all the essential controls are right where they should be. It's easy to check depth of field with the middle finger, tho' locking up and unlocking the mirror is a bit fussy compared with the FTbn or OM-1 (tho' some folks find the tiny button on the OM-1 fussy). I like to use my index finger to change shutter speeds without lowering the camera and the F3 cooperates with my preference, altho' two fingers are needed to unlock the dial when set to A or X.

The shutter release is very nice on both the body and MD-4 and with a bit of practice it's easy to depress halfway for metering without accidentally tripping the shutter. Other cameras are rather twitchy here. Having a manual shutter release lever also keeps the camera from becoming a paperweight if the electronics die - just figure out what you can do with a fixed 1//80th second speed and shoot around it.

Double exposures couldn't be easier, if you're into that kind of thing. Best design I've seen on a manual type SLR. Even works with the MD-4.

The exposure compensation feature is dumb. Who'd want to bother with having to lower the camera to press a release button with one finger while twisting the dial with another? Few manual focus SLRs that included exposure compensation ever got it right and the F3 is no exception. Dumb, dumb, dumb. At least the Canon T70 didn't bother cluttering the controls with exposure compensation - instead, you could accomplish the same thing by holding down the ISO button using a finger from the left hand while pressing the up/down buttons on the right side. Even that's not terribly handy. Only the OM-4 seems to have gotten this right.

I guess the flash mount is dumb too but I didn't buy this camera for its flash system. Heck, the OM-series flash mounts are almost as dumb, the early cameras relying on flimsy plasticky detachable shoes.

Likewise the detachable prism is of questionable value since metering is built into the body on the F3. Yeh, it's easier to change focus screens but changing 'em via the mirror box isn't all that unhandy. A fixed prism featuring the same bright design and 100% view would enable a proper hot shoe and keep out the dust and moisture.

On the plus side, I've never seen a brighter view. The microprism collar is so fine it almost looks like a fresnel screen, and never deteriorates into an unusable clump of dark diamonds. Absolutely incredible. Even with the lowly 50mm f/2 in dim light images snap into focus. It's wonderful for use with preset lenses like the PC-Nikkor.

While I didn't expect the high eyepoint finder to be a big plus - I don't wear eyeglasses except for reading - I'm quickly becoming a convert. I'm left-eye dominant and tend to rest my forehead against my right thumb, both for comfort and to minimize brushing my oily eyelashes against the finder window. Compared with my other cameras using the F3HP is almost like using the LCD screen on the back of a digital camera. Big wow. Also, it appears the finder window is multicoated, having the same greenish tinge characteristic of multicoated Nikkors. This may contribute to the bright view.

A final nit that applies to all Nikons: the lenses mount backward. Most of us are right-handed or, at least, have adjusted ourselves to controls designed for righties. So why do Nikons reverse the mounting direction most SLRs use? Just a minor nit. At least Nikon has maintained more lens compatibility than any other SLR maker.

Finally, for my purposes (architectural photography using the preset PC-Nikkor) the F3's built-in metering is inadequate. I have to double-check readings using my Minolta Autometer. That being the case I might as well have bought the F80s. It's a great value right now (as is the USA version N80), lighter, and the built-in gridscreen mode works regardless of which lens is mounted. The LCD gridlines are much finer and crisper than any etched screen. The finder isn't as bright as the F3, tho', and I'd have to guesstimate framing for my slides through the 92% (I think) finder.

Heck, maybe I'll just buy an F80s or N80 too. Another 10 years and I'll need autofocus anyway.

bill barry , February 06, 2003; 09:44 P.M.

The little F3 serves, but does not command.

David J F W , March 31, 2003; 10:00 A.M.

Dear Paul,

I noted that you said your DA-2 Action Finder had a problem with side lighting and could use a hood. My DA-2 came with a hood. I note that you bought yours used (as did I a couple of years ago); I hope you find a hood for yours. I love the DA-2 (and my F3HP, which I bought in 1984 or 1985).


Rob Helm , July 29, 2003; 11:35 P.M.

Just an example of the F3

As of this post the F3 has recently been retired. The FM3a is not a replacement for it. The F3 is like an old battle veteran who served many great photographers for yeaas and years. It's construction and wieght served notice to it's durability. Nikon, instead of using the 60/40 center weighted metering, choose instead to use the 80/20. A much more demanding metering requiring a more advanced photographer, with a better understanding of lighting.

The F3 series was the last of the great F cameras. The f, F2 and finally F3 were manual focus Pro grade cameras. Unlike the F, and F2 series, the F3 was no longer hand built, but it did offer a full range of accessories and Aperture Priority. It was the last of it's breed, that held on beyond the year 2002. It can still be found new, as of today, in a few camera stores, and used for bargain prices. In my camera Equipment list I own a F100, D100, DCE 660M, a Eos 1V, and always a F3.

It's the type of camera that brings fun back into photography. No longer are you just pushing a button, but you are thinking about lighting exposure and composition. For many of us, the day they retired the F3, was like an end of an era. Too bad, it was a good era too


Leroy Haring , August 23, 2003; 03:43 P.M.

Hello, I am new on photo.net And have some questions regarding the possible buy of a F3/T. I have some 10 years experience now with photography and have used nikon equipment throughout. I started with a F601 (n6006) upgraded to a F90x and currentley us a F100 which is just fantastic altough there are some points why I prefer another camera. First, it has disappointed me once on a very special occasion with a dead battery and second Although you really can focus on composition alone and let the camera do the rest I sometimes really miss the proces of doing everything myself. So I bought myself a FM2 and later a FM3a. Both also great cameras. But no really high eyepoint, And the different types of metering readout require two bodies for high and low light conditions....and are they rugged enough in comparisson with a F3/t? Will sealings on a F3/t be better than those on the fm series? In what way will the 80/20 metering different from the 60/40 metering?

Luke Howson , September 23, 2003; 08:36 A.M.

Hi Leroy. I too just joined photo.net. I am just a beginning photographer, but I bought a F3 as my second camera after realising the camera I had bought was utterly useless. With the F3, the single major defect is the flash. You want fill-flash? You'd better hope it's not moving. This camera has a flash-synch of 1/60. Hey -- for that matter, you want to buy a flash? You'd better hope it fits the F3 hot-shoe. The F3 is one of a kind in this respect. You can buy a cheap converter, but you do lose TTL. The 80/20 means you need to be a little more selective in how you choose exposure, but the F3 does have exposure lock, which makes this probably more of a plus, though it is unfortunate this camera is also missing matrix metering and spot metering. One of the big improvements over the other cameras you mentioned is WYSIWYG with the 100% viewfinder and a very rugged build. It is worth noting also that with the F3's motordrive, you are very unlikely to run out of batteries anyway, since they last virtually forever. However, if this is an issue for you, and you want a mechanical body, you should stick with the FM2 and FM3a, since you lose many of the shutter speeds when using the backup -- this is literally what it is for -- shutter release.

John Laughlin , June 25, 2004; 05:00 A.M.

Just picked up a rather beat F3P with MD-4 combo on Wednesday (6/23/04). Traded my FM and FM2n bodies, MD-11, and a somewhat worn 55f2.8 Micro-Nikkor for it. The only thing I miss is the 55 Micro. I much prefer the F3P to my previous bodies... I hardly ever used the FM2n at 1/2000th or 1/4000th, and, since I rarely use a flash, I didn't really need the 1/250th flash synch.

I've been shooting Nikon equipment since 1986, when my father sold his Nikomat FTn to me for $75.00, including the 50f2 Nikkor-H, the BC-7 flash, and Kenko Auto Teleplus 2X teleconverter. Then, in '90, I stepped up to the Nikkormat FT2 model, eventually getting the FM2n on the 25th of July '91.

Sold both Nikkormats in September '97 and picked up a well-worn black FM, which, then finally died about a month later. Replaced it with another black FM that had been CLA'ed (albeit poorly) by a shop in Issaquah, WA, USA. That body worked fine until about mid '98, when I discovered that my Sunpak 383S wouldn't fire at 1/125th a second. The shop had overlubed the shutter. Also caused underexposure issues, since when one curtain was opening, the other was closing. Didn't get it repaired until a couple months ago.

In the meantime, I picked up another Nikomat FTn for my father, which was sent to the same shop for repairs. Developed a similar problem. Recently replaced that one with a good FTn, but am debating repairing the old one for use as a backup and color print film body for the F3P.

I may also consider finding another F3 body to use as a backup for this one - one that I will probably leave the MD-4 permanently attached to, and use my F3P as the body that I'll use when travelling light. I did notice that someone had replaced the MF-6B back with one from a F3/T body. Makes it easier to use it without the MD-4. In any case, I think I found true love, in this well-worn F3P...

Thomas Nielsen , August 11, 2004; 03:46 A.M.

To add to the tales of ruggedness, let me tell my story. I used to be a enthusiastic music festival attendee in my younger days and at one such festival fifteen years ago, I was trying to capture B.B. King through a 135mm/1.8 on an F3 - a lot of weight. While I was holding the camera in some awkward position someone with a banner on a giant pole accidentally caught the camera strap and upon the pole's return to its upright position my camera went with it and landed what seemed to be miles from the scene. Once recovered I found the lens severely damaged but the camera itself completely unharmed not counting the loss of a (brand new) rubber eye hood. It was sheer luck that noone was hit.

mark chao , September 20, 2004; 11:54 A.M.

My father bought me a Nikon F3 with 50mm f1.2 from Japan in 1979(?). At the time I had been using a Cannon A-1, but fell in love with the Nikon F3 after I saw one in person. This is one solid camera and it has never failed me. Along with a MD-4 and SB-17a, it is a great performer. I later (1989?) purchased a used F3HP, which became the regular body mated to the MD-4.

I found that the MD-4 is the perfect "handle" for the camera, and even when I want to shoot manually, I will still use the MD-4 in single shot mode. So the MD-4 is almost permanently mounted.

The Cannon A-1 feels flimsy in comparison, and I have had to have the film advance lever repaired after owning it only 2 years (and it still seems loose and poorly designed b/c it is also the on/off switch for the metering). The Cannon F-1 I also own is a magnificent "manual" camera, but it is not as flexible as the F3, because it is fully manual, and the lens quality has not been quite as good as the Nikkors. I can't remember the last time I used these Cannon 35mms. Maybe time to sell them.

For a few years now, I have been using a point and shoot Cannon elf digital camera, just because of its small size. I have missed many good photos b/c of the limitations of this small camera. For important occasions I would still break out the F3HP + MD4. My family has always been impressed by the quality of the photos produced with the F3.

Recently I purchased a Nikon D100 and look forward to making some comparisons between the F3 and this next generation digital camera.

However, I will not be selling my F3s anytime soon.

Vincent Lau , October 20, 2004; 12:26 A.M.

Someone may have alreday mentioned it here, just for someone's information if they don't know. By pressing the exposure lock located in the maunal shutter release lever when the camera is on AE mode, you can lock the exposure, and then you can mirror lock it and the exposure is kept. You need to keep pressing the exposure lock as long as the it is mirror locked.

Vincent Lau

Michel Leclerc , November 30, 2004; 12:08 P.M.

Well here's my comment on this camera... First I've owned different systems over the years in search of my dream camera... I've had it all Canon old F1, A1, AE-1, AE-1 program, EF, FTB, Olympus OM-1, Leicaflex (original) Leica R-4, Leica M4-P, Contax RTS, Nikon FE,FM, FA, F2, Nikkormat FT3 and finally Nikon F3T... Wow what a list... Anayway Except for the original Leicaflex with it's limitation compare to the F3T the later (the Leicaflex had the nicest feel to film winding & shutter release) is the nicest camera I have ever owned, it is extremely rugged & reliable & Nikon's lenses are well... Nikon. Yes there are today camera with faster shutter speed (humm? when ws the last time I've shot at 1/2000 sec.) and better meter reading device (led) & yes the flash hot shoe is the most anoying pice of *?$# I ever came accross but the feel of the camera in my hand & the knowledge that thousands of pro photographers in the world have been relying on this puppy for over 25 years now is all I need to know... I was thinking recently of trading in the old analog system for the more portable Panasonic Digital camera (DMC-FZ20K) & saving the cost of processing printing & ending up putting it to cd to play with on the confuser... But after reading the previous comments it made me remember why I bought this camera in the first place ... What was I thinking ??? Replacing it ? Hell No!!!

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Tom Foeller , December 05, 2004; 01:03 P.M.

Recently pulled out my F3 and an old Questar to do some astrophotos with a precocious 8 year old grandaughter who asked, "grandpa, why do you always use that old camera to do star shots instead of your newer cameras?" Actually demonstrated how much easier, and how much better results came from working in that context with the "old" F3. In my inventory are: Original F (purchased in Japan, 1963), an F3, an F100, an F5, a D1x and a Leica M6 -- and a load of lenses to go with. With the Leica and the Noctilux F1 with split image, generally best of the bunch for low light. For astrophotos and much of anything else, the F3 is tops. Don't use any of the Fs' internal metering -- tried and proven Sekonic has always worked out better for me. At age 67, perhaps it's because I've learned patience.

Back to the F3. That instrument -- and my Leicas of various vintages -- have been the toughest and most reliable instruments I've ever had the pleasure to use, and one need not carry a bag of batteries, chargers and myriad other stuff around on trips. Also, life gets interesting when the head crashes in a 1GB mini drive carried aboard the D1x. Along with the F5, F100 and D1x goes other misery. For instance, just try and remember the set up stuff required to bracket. Oh, you say, "no problem, do the same with the 5, 100, or D1x, as you do with the older stuff, twist the ring, et al." Ya, then scratch your head until you remember to disable auto-focus or the shutter won't trip. It goes on and on. Then there's the little issue of high dynamic range. Doing a quick eyeball average with Fuji 800 Press generally takes care of that problem; multiple exposures with the D1x, and hours of messing about with photoshop might come close with the D1x.

Sorry this went this long -- blame it on my granddaughter's question. BTW, having learned to use the F3 with my Sekonic, she loves it -- and it gives her some bragging points. In summation, After long thought and many decades of experience, am selling the F5, F100 and D1x. That old F3 and the newer Leica will be around longer, functioning better, than I.


Terence C , December 25, 2005; 10:08 A.M.

Thanks to all the inspiring comments, i'm on the verge of getting the F3HP. 100% VF and smooth film advancer, with B&W film -- unbeatable. Watch this space...

Pierre lescault , January 17, 2006; 11:42 P.M.

F3 is a very nice camera. There's two facts that I beleive are not very known.

Metering it's not a real 80/20 infact lightly under the 12mm circle there's the same sensitivity (avout 2 milimeters because that an automatic camera the same difference between F2A/F2AS). The other one is the low-light measure it's not 1EV, it's goes to 8 secs at maximum aperture, it's just that you can't see it, they should have used led instead of the LCD. but you can still use it whith this trick, "put meter on, push memory button, keep it push push the ligth, vary the exposure to get the +- and presto 8 sec" unfortunately it's 3 hands procedure or use automatic.

The only thing missing is the in-between speed of the F2.

That's the best automatic camera ever done.

Nick Lightbody , October 01, 2006; 01:42 P.M.

Having had some good results and a few problems with a Nikon FG I reviewed the web and decided I needed an F3 body, and I was not disappointed. Having collected various Nikkor lenses, done a swop to get an HP Viewfinder, and then bought a second F3 body I am very happy with the whole system. The separate MD4 drive is a great since without it you have a small light camera when you need to travel light, an advantage not open to more modern professional bodies with built in winders.

I now have Nikkor 18mm, 24mm, 28mm, 50mm, 105mm, 135mm, 180mm, 500mm and a handy 35-105mm with a macro close focus ring. I love being able to go out with a couple of lenses and look at things from a different perspective.

I have once found myself with no MD4 and flat internal batteries - no problem, a little thought and I took several decent shots with the manual 1/80 sec shutter release.

I take alot of stuff using a tripod and shutter release cable. Easy and reliable. Not so easy with a modern camera with no release cable fitting.

In short, they always work, the metering is always spot on, you can generally guess the exposure compensation ok when required, they are small, and the view through the Finder is the best I have seen.

I transfer everything to digital and then edit in Photoshop knowing that at any time I can back to the original analogue negative or slide and rescan with improved technology in the future.

I enjoy using my F3s and I doubt I shall ever sell them.

Tom Rose , May 10, 2007; 10:12 A.M.

"At least Nikon has maintained more lens compatibility than any other SLR maker"

Afraid not. That distinction belongs to Pentax.

Dave Lee , December 17, 2008; 03:02 P.M.

The F3HP is the best electronic film SLR Nikon ever made. And no, Pentax changed from screw mount to K-mount in the 1970s. Nikon has had the F mount since 1959.

helmut kosky , January 08, 2009; 03:08 P.M.

Nikon F3HP is a fantastic camera. When the F3 first came out I bought one and upgraded to HP finder 1 year later when HP finder became available. Then after 10 years when I decided to upgrade to Medium format I sold my F3 and all my lenses.I really missed my F3, but had to sell it to purchase my medium format system.Now many years and many camera systems later, I bought a used, but like new F3 and 50mm f1.4 AIS lens. Have to renew foam seals etc., but that is not that expensive. Also buying some more prime lenses. It is still a really great camera system and I am very happy that I once again have an F3HP. I use Mamiya M6 with three lenses, and a Leica M6 with 4 lenses. However, there is nothing like an F3 for Thru the lens viewing. 100% view is very precise, and the camera is built like a brick like Leica's.

This is one very usefull camera system.


Doug Poole , December 29, 2009; 10:46 A.M.

I am a new owner of a F3 HP. I gave my F401 to my son for Christmas but wanted a proper old style quality 35mm to replace it. I still miss my old Canon Ftb with std and zoom telephoto lenses that was stolen about 15 years ago. But, I wanted a Nikon so I can share lenses with my son. Hence, found this site and others that extoll the virtues of the now discontinued F3. Thus I looked in Toronto's Kijiji site and found one in very nice condition. By the S/N, it appears to be mid 90's era, thus fairly new. Body only with original leather case. I liberated the 35mm-70mm AF lens of the F401 to try it out. So far so good! Now, I have picked up a 43mm-86mm AI zoom from a local ebay seller (one of the later versions with a high serial number) and an original owners manual. Can't wait until these arrive. The MD4 is a "maybe" but the more I read the more I think I may pick one up. They are quite cheap used and from all accounts, are as bulletproof as the camera. I had fun over the holidays reacquainting myself with manual photography. While I like the Auto feature of the F3, the fun for me is going manual. I do though, prefer the "matching needles" finder of my long gone Ftb. But the Nikon + - system is also quite simple. As I wear glasses, I appreciate the HP finder. Using this camera reminded me of my "camera club" days in school when we shot Plus X only and would develop and print our own pictures in the school darkroom. I won't bother with a flash attachment. I have digital cameras that I can use for family type pictures where it's handy to be able to email them. I want this camera for the out of doors. Nature shots, city scenes, that sort of thing. I read reviews on the 43mm-86mm lens and noted the early ones are not well regarded at all but the later AI versions are. I checked to make sure the one I bid on was the more modern one. That will do for most of my needs for the time being. I have a feeling I'll probably pick up a standard lens, maybe an E version (they are dirt cheap used) and a longer telephoto at some point. I just hope that 35mm film and processing services will be around for a good many years to come!

Larry Miller , January 26, 2010; 10:13 A.M.

I've got the F2 Titan, the F3/T and the FE2 and love them all. I've got a thing for titanium shutters! There's nothing like using these three cameras with AIS lenses (20 F2.8, the 28 F2 and oh yes, one 85 F1.8 AFD). Those three lenses (sharp as hell) and those three cameras are hard to beat. Takes care of most of what I need to shoot. If you like a pro camera to shoot both manual and AE, just get the F3. You'll never look back..

zlight B , February 07, 2010; 04:41 P.M.

ah, F3, a dream machine for sure!

Antonio Bassi , April 04, 2010; 09:50 P.M.

I own a F2AS and a F3HP and love them both as they were my children. I don't use flash and don't need the 1/250 sinc. The shutter sound of the F2AS makes me feel good every time I release it! It's quiet, smooth and determined at the same time and the meter is perfect. The viewfinder is probably one of the best ever made by Nikon, very easy to focus on and 100 percent accurate. Only downsides of the F2AS... it's a brick (can be used as a self defense weapon) and don't forget to leave the film rewind lever released or it will eat up your batteries in a few hours. The F3HP is a dream camera. The rewind lever is so smooth and easy, allowing very fast "recharges". I never had problems focusing on the viewfinder, as somebody said before me. I love the fact that every single control has a lock to prevent accidental changes of settings. I don't like the little meter indicator light switch because it's too small and hard to press. I would love to own a titanium one, which is lighter than the HP... maybe some day.

john consoli , June 24, 2010; 11:47 A.M.

I have d90 with manual lenses that don't meter, and a SB-600 flash. To meter I use a Gossen Luna Pro. The light meter will record Flash for manual settings instead of TTL. I will be buying a Nikon film body because the digital results are not the quality I'm looking for. To capture with film body and flash I believe I can trigger flash unit with cap on after setting light meter out at the distance of subject, using multiple exposure button I could reset shutter, compose and take a properly exposed image set manually. My question is. Will the SB600 work with the TTL adapter mentioned in previous comment on a F3HP? John.

Larry Miller , May 20, 2013; 10:41 A.M.

Recently just bought a couple of Voigtlander lenses (28 & 40mm) to go with the F3/T.  The F3/T looks pretty sharp with those two pancake lenses and Voigtlander produced a couple of great lenses. 

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