Nikon F3 First Impressions

Nikon F3 HP and MD-4 Motor Drive

Nikon F3 HP and MD-4 Motor Drive

The Nikon F3 has been high on my wish list for a long time. I finally pulled the trigger and am the happy owner of an excellent copy with motor drive and 50mm 1.4 Nikkor AI lens.

In production from 1980 until 2001, the F3 was a professional workhorse for more than 20 years. Can you imagine any consumer item being in production, relatively unchanged, for 20 years? Seems so weird now.

It’s a gorgeous camera. With the MD-4 Motor Drive attached it’s no less beautiful, but much heavier. Still, it handles so well I may keep the drive attached.

I put a roll through it immediately (dogs in yard, of course) and everything worked perfectly.

The viewfinder is wonderful; big, bright, and simple. I tried both the standard and High Eyepoint (DE-3) finders and both are fine. The DE-3 allows me to see the entire frame with my eye slighly away from the viewfinder, which is nice when wearing glasses. It also means that, being left-eyed, I don’t need to mash my nose against the back of the camera to see what I’m shooting. I didn’t find the standard finder to be a problem though. I do like the slightly higher magnification of the DE-2, so I’ll keep trying both and see where I land.

The camera handles exactly as a camera should. Everything is where I would expect it to be. It feels substantial, robust, and inspires confidence. While I love cameras that require no batteries, I’m not concerned about the F3’s reliance upon them. The motor drive uses 8 AA Alkaline batteries. When attached, the drive will power the camera’s meter and electronic shutter and wind/rewind somewhere approaching 150 rolls of film.  That’s over 5,000 exposures. Even with dead battery the camera will fire manually at 1/60th of a second. I don’t think I’ll need to worry about batteries.

It’s new, so of course I’m enamored with it, but my initial impressions of the Nikon F3 are that it could stick around for a long time.