3rd Generation Professional System Camera from Nikon
The Nikon F3 was the third generation of the professional class
Nikon F-series 35mm SLR camera model. Introduced in 1980, it was
the followed up model of the original Nikon F of 1959 and the
hugely successful Nikon F2 of the '70 where both the earlier models
were commanding such a distinctive supremacy in the professional
users' market. When the F3 was first announced, the heavy automation
in the camera was like sending cold shivers down the spine to
many purist photographers. As one can still recalled, the price
of a discontinued fully mechanical Nikon F2AS has a retailed price
higher than a new automatic Nikon F3 during those early days of
its inception to the photographic community !
Automatic [A] exposure control
# Viewfinder with 100% picture coverage
# TTL flash control with Nikon Speedlights
# Accepts the MD-4 Motor Drive which fires at up to 6 frames per
# Complete interchangeability of five finders, 22 focusing screens
and camera backs including the MF-14 Data Back, MF-18 Data Back
and the MF-6B Camera Back
# F3 high-eyepoint features DE-3 high-eyepoint Viewfinder
# Successors of this camera are Nikon F4 (1988) and Nikon F5 (1996).
important aspect in the design of this classic Nikon is, it has
replicated a successful concept similar to the previous F &
F2 with a modular body design that enables it to accept an array
of dedicated accessories to cater for individual requirements
or setting up the camera for specific photographic needs. The
Nikon F3 has one of most extensive collection of system accessories
that built around body which has made the F3 one of the most desirable
system camera in the market by professional users.
The Nikon F3AF,
with its two dedicated AF optic and a removable AF-prism that
can also serve as a electronic rangefinder to provide visual focusing
indication when fitted on any F3 camera (except F3P, F3H and F3
Limited where all came with a non standard DE-5 prism). The Nikon
F3 series have the most of variant models among all single digit
F-models. Strangely, unlike many other comparing professional
SLR cameras at the time, one aspect that has contributed to its
popularity was actually its bare basic simple exposure mode of
an aperture priority AE and manual exposure control. It was never
intended in designing to shine in specifications or features but
rather - its strength was realized over the time, soon photographers
were starting to appreciate what a great camera it was. Well,
I think much credit has to be given to its creator where I personally
think the Company has shown a lot of courage in deciding its specification
by turning their top of the line reference professional SLR model
to rely on full-automation (well, almost..because the F3 has a
mechanical backup shutter even if the batteries failed and with
a superior MD-4 Motor Drive that supports its power management).
This was an important feature as during the early '80, the market
was still very much pre-dominant by traditional mechanical-battery-free
market/users. Further, competitions were keen from rivaling brands
where we saw the likes of Canon New F-1 & Pentax LX that debuted
after the Nikon F3 (and other great SLR bodies such as Contax
RTS II or even the Olympuses) - where all of which have benefited
INDIRECTLY from the earlier success of Nikon by stamping a mark
of confidence towards electronic SLR camera for real life professional
In fact, many
of its variants have developed as collectors' favorites. Other
than the bare basic camera body which has so much to offer in
strength and for users to explore its potential as a reliable
imaging tool, it marks an important development curve on the course
of both SLR camera design as well as for modern photography. The
Nikon F3 was the the first professional SLR camera that has truly
bridged between mechanical and electronic engineering in camera
design where it has spearheaded popularity of adoption of automation
in photographic usage. Its strength and reliability has influenced
even the most hard-core users of mechanical SLRs in accepting
the fact where automation as an inevitable route to modern photography
without at the expense of reliability. But most of all, the simplicity
in its design and handling along with an unsurpassed ruggedness,
efficiency and great system compatibilities - which has made this
Nikon body widely acclaimed as a true classic camera of modern
times ! This site, along with many other classic SLRs featured
in this site, chronicles another photographic legendary tool.
|Nikon F3 Specifications
Type of camera:
35mm single-lens reflex
24mm x 36mm standard 35mm film format.
Nikon bayonet type.
Lenses with Nikon F mount (with some limitations); AF lenses.
Electromagnetically controlled, horizontal-travel, titanium
foil focal-plane shutter.
Shutter release button:
Switch meter on when depressed halfway (after shutter release
lock is released), meter then remains on for 16 sec, after finger
is taken off button; threaded in the center to accept standard
Automatic exposure control:
Aperture-priority automatic exposure control; stepless shutter
speeds from 8 sec to 1/2000 sec.
Manual exposure control:
Quartz digital control for 16 shutter speeds from 8sec to 1/2000
sec, including X (1/80 sec); B and T also provided.
Backup mechanical release lever:
Trips shutter at approx 1/60 sec, regardless of shutter speed
dial setting (except T); used when batteries become weak or
exhausted, or none are installed in the camera.
TTL center-weighted (80/20) full-aperture metering; aperture
stop-down metering possible; silicone photodiode (SPD) and metering
circuits incorporated into camera body; meter works with all
EV 1 to 18 (ie f/1.4 at 1 sec to f/11 at 1/2000 sec with 50
mm f/1.4 lens and ISO 100 fil).
Film speed setting:
ISO 12 to 6400.
Exposure memory lock:
Via dial; +2 to -2 EV in 1/3 increments.
Film advance lever:
Single stroke type; 30 degrees stand-off angle and 140 degrees
winding angle; automatic film advance possible when motor drive
MD-4 is used.
Quartz-controlled approx 10 sec delayed exposure; LED blinks
at 2 Hz for first 8 sec, then at 8 Hz for last 2 sec; setting
Nikon F3; Eyelevel finder DE-2 as standard;
Nikon F3 High-Eyepoint;
eyelevel High-Eyepoint finder DE-3 as standard; both equipped
with eyepice shutter; each interchangeable with 4 other types.
Liquid crystal display (LCD) shows shutter speed; on Auto, +2000
indicates overexposure, -8- underexposure; on Manual, M appears
with + indicating overexpousre, - underexposure, and -+ correct
exposure; LED ready-light glows when Speedlight SB-16A and SB-17,
plus SB-11 and SB-14 with TTL Sencor cord SC-12, is completely
recycled; apertyre in use also show through aperturedirect-readout
Split-image microprism Type K provided as standard; interchangeable
with 21 other types.
Nikon F3: 0.8x
0.75x (both with 500 mm lens set at infinity).
Via button; illuminates both LCD and ADR f/number.
Multiple exposure control:
Automatic instant-return type with lockup facility; incorporates
air damper and brake mechanism for reduced vibration and noise.
Additive type; frame numbers from 0 to 40; automatically resets
to S when camera back is opened.
By crank provided after film rewind button is pressed.
Possible at all speeds up to 1/80 sec with electronic flash;
with SB-16A and SB-17, plus SB-11 and SB-14 with TTL sensor
cord SC-12, sync speed is automatically set to 1/80 sec with
dial at A or 1/125 sec an above; at 1/60 sec or slower, flash
synchronizes with speed setting as set; threaded sync terminal
provided for off camera or multiple-flash photography.
Provided; special Nikon F3 type located at base of rewind knob;
accepts Speedlight SB-16A, SB-17 or TTL sensor cord SC-12 from
SB-11 or SB-14 for TTL direct flash control; two types of flash
couplers available for mounting ISO-type or F2-type direct mounting
Choice of one 3V lithium battery CR-1/3N type, two 1.55V silver-oxide
batteries SR-44 type, or two 1.5V alkaline batteries LR-44 type;
optional Anti-Cold Battery Holder DB-2 accepts two AA alkaline,
Ni-Cd or manganese batteries. Note: for Nikon products using
AA batteries, do not use lithiums unless specifically stated.
Motor drive coupling:
Electrical contacts and mechanical couplers provided for operation
with motor drive MD-4.
Hinged; opened by pushing safety lock while pulling up rewind
knob; memo holder provided; interchangeable with camera back
MF-6, data back MF-14, or 250 exposure magazine back MF-4.
(W x H x D) Nikon F3: approx 148.5 x 96.5 x 65.5 mm
Approx 148.5 x 101.5 x 69 mm.
Nikon F3: 715g approx
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