Film Gear Review: Nikon F3
Recently, I made a ridiculous statement for a person perennially smitten with film cameras.
“I’m pretty well set for cameras.”
Hilarious. But, I honestly did believe this. Had recently had a film camera purge where only cameras on my cold dead hands list and great bargains remained. One camera that fell into both categories was the Nikon FE. I wrote a glowing review of it for my blog even. Then on one of my regular local camera store visits I came across not one, but two perfectly pristine Nikon F3s.
- They are at once built like tanks and quite beautiful. Like many 35mm cameras they are also work horses with familiar control layouts.
- Many wonderful lenses. My personal favorite is the Nikkor 50mm Ais f/1.4. You can spend quite a bit on Nikon lenses, but I found great value in the 105mm and Series E 28mm lenses.
- Accurate and effective exposure with aperture priority and full manual.
- Both are great tools to capture great images with.
- Both also share the same ding. Both rely on batteries to operate. Yes, one shutter speed is technically available via a manual switch on the F3, but that does not really count. Other F cameras in the range work just fine as manual cameras without a battery.
My first argument was, “Why do I need this?”. In theory the FE would latch on to a lens, keep it the proper distance from the film plane, meter, all just like the F3 would. But then I could not stop thinking about those pristine F3s. Fought it for exactly one day, but I quickly caved and the trade/upgrade was on. Why did I eventually make the change?
- As good looking as the FE is the F3 looks better. Giorgetto Giugiaro (named Car Designer of the Century and inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame) did his work well here. This is a great looking camera. And yes, that does matter.
- F3s 1/2000 shutter speed tests the FEs 1/1000. This is a great upgrade actually. Means being able to shoot higher speed films during the day without an ND filter.
- Needle vs. LCD. All down to personal preference, but I like the LCD shutter speed readout over match needle since I prefer using aperture priority. If I used manual shooting more I would likely prefer the FEs match needle over the F3s small +/- indicators.
- Excellent condition. While I cosmetically rehabilitated my FE the F3 here was in near new condition.
- Now for the part that put it over the top for me. Interchangeable viewfinders including a waist level viewfinder I purchased with the camera. Had thought that the waist level viewfinder might be a gimmick, but it really helped with low angle perspective shots.
- Bonus: A shutter in the viewfinder to block light for long exposures. Will likely never use this, but it is appreciated just the same.
I have put two rolls through this camera using the three lenses mentioned and it did not disappoint. This camera is not just a pretty face its, one of the best cameras I have used regardless of format or price. I would put this camera in the same league as a much more expensive cameras.
Below are some sample shots and here is a link to an ongoing gallery.