1980's Nikon

Nikon F3AF

Nikon F3AF

The Nikon F3AF was born. A special and unique version of the highly famous F3. However, unlike other models in the F3 line, the F3AF came with some unique features.

The year is 1983.

Camera manufacturers are experimenting with prototype autofocus SLR cameras. Pentax, Olympus, and Canon already have experimental AF SLR models in the market.

Nikon, on the other hand, chooses a more radical approach. Rather than launching AF in a new flagship model, they choose their top of the line Nikon F3 as the template for their first autofocus camera.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the features of the Nikon F3AF

Features of the Camera

We’ll start with the most obvious.

The Nikon F3AF was an autofocus (AF)35mm SLR camera.

And not just any other AF 35mm SLR camera. It was among the first if not the first SLR to have an AF system based on Through The Lens (TTL) detection. Previous AF cameras from companies such as Canon used active infrared sensors for their AF system.

Another unique feature of the Nikon F3AF was the unique pentaprism.

The camera came with an AF finder DX, which featured a bright viewfinder with a 92% coverage—unlike other F3 models that had a 100% coverage on the viewfinder.

And that’s not all

The F3AF featured a superb 80/20 center-weighted metering system. It also came with a 150,000 cycle shutter reliability rating.

Talk about a camera built to last.

And there’s more

The F3AF was launched together with two AF lenses. These were:

  • AF Nikkor 80mm f/2.8
  • AF Nikorr 200mm f 3.6 EDIF

Despite having its lenses, Nikon maintained the F-mount, which meant that the F3AF could use all other Nikon lenses since 1959. The two lenses could also be used in manual Nikon SLRs.

As if that’s not enough…

The lenses also came with a revolutionary design. A feature that wouldn’t catch on until 15 years later.

Both lenses came with an in-lens motor that drew power from the camera. Cameras at the time and many cameras until the early 2000s had the motor inside the body and not the lens. 

The autofocus feature of the lens, as well as the increased zoom capability, made the lenses and the camera quite popular among sport and action photographers.

Design and Physical Appearance

The Nikon F3AF had the same design as the F3.

The F3AF was easy to handle and comfortable on the hand. It featured a subtle bump at the face of the camera to aid with your grip.

Most of the controls were located at the top.

On the top plate, you had:

  • The frame advance crank on the right
  • The shutter speed dial on the right
  • The shutter release button on the right.
  • The top left plate housed the Exposure compensation and ISO dial.

Shortcomings of the Camera

One of the most significant shortcomings with the F3AF was the weight of the AF lens. The AF lenses were heavier than other Nikon manual lenses.

Like the F3, the F3AF also has problems with the LCD, which seems to lose functionality in time. You may have to replace it after prolonged use.

The autofocus system was also not perfect as compared to other later cameras. However, the F3AF also featured a manual focus mode. 

Final Thoughts

The F3AF was the most unique of the F3 series. Although it didn’t experience as much success as other F3 cameras, it is still an incredible camera.

A trendsetter for the Nikon AF family and a worthy addition to your vintage camera collection.

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