1980's Nikon

Nikon F3

Nikon F3

The Nikon F3 was Nikon’s third professional camera after the F and F2. First introduced in 1980, the F3 was a fully electronic 35mm SLR camera.

Now here’s a camera that has stood the test of time.

Despite an initial backlash due to the fully electronic system, the F3 became one of the most successful cameras in the Nikon line, with production lasting for 21 years. It even outlasted the Nikon F4 and F5.

But what made this camera so popular?

Keep reading to find out.

Features of the Camera

The F3 didn’t feature any new technological advancements. It didn’t have any new features. Instead, Nikon consolidated all the best features of the best cameras at the time to create one of the greatest cameras of all time. 

One of these features was the use of modular parts that could be easily interchanged. The F3 came with a choice of five interchangeable viewfinders, namely:

  • DE-2 Standard
  • DE-3 High Eye-Point (HP)
  • DA-2 Action Finder
  • DW-3 Waist-Level
  • DW-4 6x Magnifying

If you wear glasses, this is the camera for you. The High Eye Point (HP) eyepiece is a slightly larger eyepiece with a slightly reduced magnification, making it perfect to use if you wear glasses. 

All the viewfinders are bright and are a pleasure to look through. The F3 also featured a digital LCD meter that was visible when looking through the viewfinder.

Talking about metering, how was the F3 metering?

The F3 used the center-weighted metering system. Unlike the F2, which had the metering system in the eyepiece, the F3 metering is located in the body. This feature brought back the ability for Through the Lens (TTL) metering.

Other Features

Another feature that makes the F3 one of the most excellent SLR cameras of all time is its ease of use. The Nikon F3 is an aperture priority camera, which is superb.

With this camera, you only have to think about the depth of field and how creative you want the shot to be. The camera sets the shutter speed for you.

And that’s not all…

The F3 comes with a high range of shutter speeds, which makes it perfect for shooting at different speeds. You can set the shutter speed manually using the shutter speed dial on the top plate. You get a range of 1/2000 sec to 8 sec.

The shutter sound is also quite distinctive. Not silent or noisy, but very unique. Some even claim that the F3 shutter noise was the go-to camera sound for mid-1980s commercials and films.

What about lenses?

The F3 accommodates a large chunk of the Nikon lens lineup. With this camera, you can use all manual Nikon lens produced since 1959., as well as all autofocus lens including the AI-P, AF, AF-I, AF-D and AF-S lenses

Design and Physical Appearance

A universal agreement is that the F3 is a beautiful camera with an innovative design.

Designed by legendary car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, the F3 features several cutting-edge design features.

First off, all the edges are perfectly rounded, making the camera feel natural to the hand. The F3 was also the first Nikon camera to feature the iconic red stripe that is present on all other Nikon cameras.

All controls are ergonomically placed to ensure ease of the camera.

When holding the camera, you can advance the film with your right thumb. Next to the film advance crank, you have the electromagnetic shutter release button and the shutter speed dial.

On the left top plate, you have the film rewind crank, and the exposure compensation and ISO dial.

The F3 does not have a hot or cold shoe.

Shortcomings of the Camera

One of the most common complaints about this camera comes from people who want to use a flash system with it.

This camera relies on a peripheral adapter that’s located near the film rewind. To rewind the film, you’ll need to remove the flash system.

Another shortcoming is that the LCD is hard to read in low light. Long time users have also reported LCD failure with some cameras.

Final Thoughts

The F3 is an incredible camera.

It’s easy to use, feels comfortable on the hand, and is not as heavy as the F2. Despite it being a professional camera, the F3 is also great for everyday use.

The shutter system is excellent, metering is spot on, and the viewfinder is a pleasure to look through. Not forgetting the wide range of accessories you can use with this camera.

What more could a photographer ask for?

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