Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikon F3 - Preface

Nikon F3.jpg (13k)
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  Special Application lenses:
Micro-Nikkor Lenses - 50mm~55mm -60mm 85mm -105mm 200mm Micro-Zoom 70-180mm
Perspective Control (PC) - 28mm 35mm PC-Micro 85mm
Dedicated Lenses for Nikon F3AF: AF 80mm f/2.8 | AF 200mm f/3.5 EDIF
Depth of Field Control (DC): 105mm 135mm
Medical Nikkor: 120mm 200mm
Reflex-Nikkor Lenses - 500mm 1000mm 2000mm
Others: Noct Nikkor | OP-Nikkor | UV Nikkor 55mm 105mm | Focusing Units | Bellows-Nikkor 105mm 135mm
Nikon Series E Lenses: 28mm35mm50mm100mm135mm | E-Series Zoom lenses: 36~72mm75~150mm70~210mm

MF Zoom-Nikkor Lenses: 25~50mm | 28~45mm | 28~50mm | 28~85mm | 35~70mm | 36~72mm E | 35~85mm | 35~105mm | 35~135mm | 35~200mm | 43~86mm | 50~135mm | 50~300mm | 70~210mm E | 75~150mm E | 80~200mm | 85~250mm | 100~300mm | 180~600mm | 200~400mm | 200~600mm | 360~1200mm | 1200~1700mm

Tele-Converters: TC-1 | TC-2 | TC-200 | TC-201 | TC-300 | TC-301 | TC-14 | TC-14A | TC-14B | TC-14C | TC-14E | TC-16 | TC-16A | TC-20E

Recommended links to understand more technical details related to the Nikkor F-mount and production Serial Number: by: Hansen, Lars Holst

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About this photographic site.

The Nikon F3

Officially launched in 1980. Nikon F3 fully deserves its status as a modern classic camera. Not because it is the 3rd generation flagship model of Nikon during the eighties, replacing its earlier highly successful predecessor models of the Nikon F in 1959 and Nikon F2 during the '70 - the model that has a decade long supremacy in the professional arenas. It is because of its role to make serious users to accept automation as an inevitable route to modern photography. I was most "active" in my personal photographic journal when the F3 was launched. And I saw and experiencing the reaction of photographers during that period of how defensive they were to automation in the earlier stage and on gradual note, turned to full acceptance of the F3. The role the F3 has its mark in the development of camera and photography. Its successful emergence into the world of photography has started the rapid sequences that leads to eventual total automation in camera designs regardless of brands made.

In short, it has helped to bridge the gap on acceptance between manual and automation by users of 35mm SLR.

Power Switch.jpg
The main Power Switch (2) You need not to turn on this when used in conjunction with the MD-4 which will power the F3 - and the self timer Switch (1)

It took a lot of courage to bring out your top notch model with a totally different approach in camera design - not to mentioned swimming against the current by incorporating certain unknown territories like automatic camera functions from the huge pool of traditional hard core mechanical-battery-free users. Its competitions from Canon (New F-1) and Pentax (LX) benefited from the earlier successful attempts by Nikon, but despite features richer in comparison, F3 status has never been shaken and after 18 long years since its birth, F3 still are much source after in new or used condition.

Major features of the Nikon F3 can be summarized as follows:

There are combination of factors attributed to its popularity.

The retained concept of modular design is of most important. Which allow users to custom attached different accessories to fit one's style or type of photography - with the aid of the huge Nikon system behind. F3 can be "stripped": First, take off its finder, the lens, ducked out the focusing screen, detached the camera back or the motor drive - mirror locked up the main reflex mirror (Or set the speed to "T" setting and fired once). You have a basic bare-bone and see-it-through camera body and you can custom attach any compatible system accessories you think best suit your kind of assignment - all these "operations" doesn't even require you to have a longer finger nail to do it !

Die Cast.jpg
But being a transitional models from the all mechanical F2, it would be disastrous not to convince users on its ruggedness, thus embedding beneath its cover consists of a two-piece body casting of copper silumin aluminum alloy (which has an exceptional high tensile strength.

Next perhaps they have to tackle the reliability issue.

These circuits may made someone very uncomfortable but this is what all auto camera will look like after taking off the shell. But since the Nikon F3 has only a mechanical lever and others are mostly for shutter and reflex mirror, maintenance is minimal. An Ex-Nikon service man told me, it is one of the most reliable camera around. Throughout his career with Nikon, he has
NEVER encounter any mechanical problem with the users as far as F3 is concerned, other than accidental dings and knocks on the viewfinder. "The only more fragile part in the F3", he claimed. Note the openings on the two piece die cast aluminum casings, these are designed for easy access for the servicemen or technician without dismantle the whole camera.
f3frontcircuit.jpg  f3basecircuit.jpg

The main "brain" - Six ICs and LSIs are protected in the battle tank-liked all metal structure (Copper Silumin Aluminum Alloy - which has a properties of very high tensile strength approx. 33.5 kg/m¤ (475.5 Ib/in¤) and further, corrosive resistant - this has been the Nikon's choice of material since the F series started, but I remember those days, it wasn't mentioned as aluminum alloy but just Copper Silumin...). Thickness of body walls is minimum 1.4 mm and portion near the lens mount is a generous 2mm thick! - as a flagship model, you have to imagine the famed but heavy long teles or tele-zooms Nikon produces. Major seals and dials have moisture resistant gaskets to prevent possible leakage in high humidity environment - the finder has an additional improved rubber sealing in the HP finder that launched later than the standard eye level finder. Further, a thin insulation epoxy material was coated on major circuits board on later models. Extensive drop/shock test driven in the lab to test its stability and resistant to such harsh treatments.

Next, they designed the new shutter. A horizontal traveled titanium shutter that has a lab-tested enduring min.150,000 exposure cycles (Divided by 36 exposures = 4000+ rolls, If you take that kind of volume, I am sure your entry cost has long been recovered in your investment in the hardware). Incidentally, the F3 is the last remaining F body that uses horizontal traveled curtain. The subsequent F4 & the latest F5 uses vertical traveled shutter curtain (Epoxy metal blades).

Significant differences are its higher usable flash sync speeds and higher range of shutter speeds (The latter models all have 1/8000 sec as opposed to F3's 1/2000 and a poor 1/80 sec flash Sync). The Canon F1n is 1/90 sec and LX is 1/100 sec for your quick reference - ALL these three models mentioned are adopting horizontal traveled shutter curtain. This can made outdoor fill flash difficult and have less options for creative depth of field controls.

Winder Stroke.jpg
Further, Nikon has built the most smooth of winding mechanism of any camera that were available that time (Strangely, only the EM, FG, FG20 have such "feel" and not even the FA and later models have incorporated such winding mechanism).

Winding torque were reduced to an impressive level which you really need to compared with the F1n & LX (And even some Nikon own models) to appreciate the difference. May be Mitsubishi's industrial arm has to do with this - which is famed with ball bearing technology (Later refer to MD4 and you will understand how was this affecting the camera operations in other areas).

Shutter construction.jpg
During the early eighties, the biggest debate and fear for photographers when mentioned automation is battery power. It is not a very comforting experience when you realize the fact that two tiny silver oxide batteries control possible life & death photographic situations.

Somehow the earlier automatic middle of the range models like the early Nikkormat EL series and the Nikon FE has laid a good foundation for setting a path on users' confidence with the issue of power efficiency of the Nikon automatic bodies. For those who has used those models might agree a pair of those tiny button cells could last you a year on a not-heavy-duty personal photography.

F3 is not a all automated camera, it has a back up battery-free mechanical back up speed of 1/60 sec - just in case. BUT the best of Nikon F3 is when it goes along with the dedicated Motor Drive MD-4. When coupled with the F3, it will draw all the battery supply from the MD-4 for all its camera functions. MD-4 is powered by either 8 AA type alkaline or rechargeable Ni-Cd The latter combination can take the F3 downed to subzero (Officially, Nikon claimed -20 degree C). Moreover, power efficiency is most impressive when compared, one set of 8 alkalizes can turbo-charge your F3 MD-4 to handle 140 rolls of 36 exposures, how about that ? As a comparison, Canon's F1n can only perform half of that figure with its motor drive FN attached.

The "T" setting in the shutter speed dial can substitute the "B" setting during extra-lengthy exposure time - which never drains any power from the button cells residing at the base of the camera body. You can use the normal shutter button to trigger to use the "T" setting. Just in case your camera battery is totally drained out, you can use the same mechanical back up lever (In front and next to the lens mount (below the mirror Lock up lever), same position with the exposure lock (AE Lock) to activate and turn the shutter speed dial to close the shutter.

* GO TO the newly revised Nikon F3 website

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The next page could help you to pick up some knowledge how those metering works and how an image through the lens with optical path transmitting image to your viewfinder and location of the metering cell.

Preface | Exposure Control | Important Accessories | Flash | * Conclusion | Message Board/GuestBook

Specifications of Nikon F3
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