Nikon F3

The Nikon F3 is a legend! It was first released in 1980, following the F and F2. It was then followed by the F4, F5 and F6 but it was so popular that Nikon kept producing it even while releasing newer models. Production of the F3 didn’t come to an end until 2000! It is probably the most loved and most used work horse of the Nikon SLR lineup. Over thirty years since it was first released and this camera still commands a very good price on the used market.

This camera was unique because of its extensive use of electronics. Of course this is still before the auto-focus revolution, but shutter, metering and viewfinder were all controlled by rather advanced electronics. The purists insisted that a professional camera needed to be mechanical because batteries and electronics aren’t reliable. Nikon set out to prove them wrong and this camera was the result. The amazing thing is that even though it was an early adopter in the shift to electronics, they obviously got it right with this model. Typically first generation gadgets with new technology tend to have a lot of bugs. But Nikon clearly did their homework on this one because thirty years later there are still countless F3s out there cranking out beautiful photos.

So imagine my pleasure when  a good friend told me he had an unused F3 he wanted to give me! He is an elderly gentleman who spent most of his life running a small, extremely cluttered and messy camera shop in Tokyo. My father frequently got film developed there so I have vivid memories of going to this store as a kid, with my dad. It was already unbelievably messy back then! I rekindled my friendship with the owner and his wife several years ago and enjoy visiting them once in a while.

He quit his business a few years ago but still hangs out in his store every day, where the shelves are stacked with lots and lots of unsold merchandise. But he’s old, he’s tired and if the rumors are true, rather wealthy so he isn’t in a hurry to get rid of the stuff on his shelves. A couple years ago he gave me a brand new, still in the box, but close to thirty year old Bronica ETRs and several lenses! It’s a beautiful camera that takes fantastic photos.

A little over a year ago he told me about this Nikon F3 that he wanted to give me. It had been a display model and he said it might not work. Then he sort of forgot about it as he dealt with some health problems. I never mentioned it when I visited him but kept wondering about it. Then this spring I found him in particularly good spirits one day so I brought it up and he said, “Oh sure, I’m feeling better now so I’ll have it ready for you in a month or so.” And so a bit over a month later I dropped in again and sure enough, there it was. It came with the 35mm f/2.8 lens and a brand new and very attractive brown leather case. Once again he mentioned that it probably would need to be fixed.

I took it to another local camera shop, popped a couple batteries and found that it worked like a charm! So I bought a lens cap and shoulder strap and now I’m ready to go! The serial number and production code indicate that this particular body was manufactured in August of 1980, the first year it was introduced!

I already had a few Nikon lenses that I had accumulated over the years, as shown below. I might be tempted into an 85mm is I find one that’s cheap.

This camera worked perfectly and was in beautiful condition but I ended up selling it to help finance the purchase of a New Mamiya 6. Here are a few frames from the only roll I put thru this camera before selling it.

4 Responses to Nikon F3

  1. Cesar says:

    What about F2 camera? I´ve got them, new… Only mechanical!

  2. Toby Madrigal says:

    A very nice camera, not many in this unused condition. My pair are amazingly shabby, lots of brassing and worn away body coverings. However, both work spot-on. I’ve taken them abroad, several times a year since I bought them 6 years ago. Given their condition, I was fortunate to buy one for £49 and the other for £79. The lenses I bought to use with them were carefully selected to blend in. Also got them at rock bottom price but optics fine. I use 28/35/50/85mm all F2. To keep weight down one body is fitted with eyelevel finder DE2, other one has a WLF.

  3. Pingback: Acros on Nikon F3 | Chemical Cameras

  4. Rick Jack says:

    Very nice web page. The F3 is my favorite MF Nikon body. It’s built like a tank yet very smooth and quick to handle. I still use it for fun now and then with my 28mm f2 and 85mm f1.4 lenses. It’s only flaw was its slow flash synch speed which forced me to use my FA body in situations that required outdoor fill flash. I’m not a fan of the HP finder, I prefer the original finder like the one you have pictured.

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