Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikon F3 - Interchangeable Viewfinders - Part III

There are five regular production viewfinders available in the Nikon F3 system for you to handle every conceivable photographic need a pro may encounter. And since the F3's SPD metering cell is locate in the camera body, automatic and manual exposure control with complete viewfinder displays are possible with every F3 finder. Each finder has its own miniature optical system that projects the display uninverted and outside the picture area for maximum legibility. All finders for F3 (with the single exception of the DX-1 Autofocus Finder which only shows 93%) offer virtually 100% viewfinder field coverage.

Special prisms such as the huge and irregularly looking autofocus finder DX-1, designed specifically for the F3AF camera, can also be used as a supplementary prism or viewing aid on any Nikon F3 body (Other than F3H & F3P), as it will act as an electronic rangefinder. i.e. it indicates in or out of focus arrows in the viewfinder, providing a visual aid to the photographer. Another viewfinder prism is a DE-4 - a titanium version of the DE-3 High Eyepoint finder that came as a standard finder when you purchased the F3T, it comes either in Champaign chrome finish during early days or the in black finish after 1984.

Finder F3AF.jpg
DX-1 Finder, the standard finder for F3 AF camera

Big, odd looking finder... BUT it is a detachable prism used on Nikon's first Autofocus SLR, the Nikon F3AF camera. You can still use this finder on the regular F3 body and it will serve as an electronic rangefinder to provide focusing aid as long as an AI lenses is used and has an aperture larger than f3.5.

With the F3AF, one needs to use the specially designed fixed focusing screen at the base of F3AF DX-1 finder, which is non-interchangeable type (There is no need to mount a screen on the camera body). Warning: The DX-1 Finder is not advisable to use on Nikon F3P, F3 LE (Japanese local version of the F3P) and F3H. Further, it shows only 93% of the picture frame instead of the usual 100% with other prisms for F3. The SPDs built-in DX-1 Finder operable with a minimum brightness range from approx. EV4 (fl.4 at 1/8 sec. with 50mm fl.4 at ASA/ISO 100 on autofocus/focus-aid).

dx1finder.jpg
The DX-1 is also referred to as the world's first interchangeable autofocus finder and may be used with any Nikon F3 camera (Other than F3H) for provide quick, in-focus verification (not autofocus) in manual focus operation (Nikon called it an "Electronic Rangefinder"). It is also the only finder among all the few options available for the Nikon F3 that require battery (2 x AAA cells) to function.

The most unusual viewfinder (Looks normal but 'odd' on a standard F3) is the DE-5 Finder, a High-Eyepoint design type that comes as standard finder with Nikon F3P ('P' for "press") - a special production F3 that was specially tailored, based on input from photojournalists, news and pixmen in the working field.

Finder for F3P.jpg
It is the one and only * F3 viewfinder prism that has a standard accessory shoe on top that allows the use of common non-dedicated flash units that have a standard ISO hot shoe flash foot.

* (Prior to a special edition of F3P camera in Japan that termed as F3 Limited version in 1994 and the Nikon F3 High speed Motor camera in 1996/1997)

As you can notice from news conference, not all journalists use Nikon dedicated flash(units) - even if it offers an absolute advantage of TTL flash exposure control. Well, with this prism - TTL flash exposure control is NOT POSSIBLE, you have to either use auto flash or manual flash mode on the finder's standard ISO-type accessory shoe (TTL is only possible via the 'normal' F3 accessory shoe with Nikon TTL flash). However, most of these non-regular production prisms were designed as a 'bundled' unit with camera models which served some specific function. Although in general, these 'special' prisms are compatible with a regular Nikon F3 body, before you attempt to use one on your camera body, please refer to the respective specification sheet for other compatibility issues.


Standard Eye-Level Finder
DE2.jpg DE-2 Optic.gif
The DE- 2 was the only eyelevel finder that came with the Nikon F3 during the early days before the High Eyepoint model DE-3 was introduced in 1982. It affords a slightly more compact camera profile. Projects a fairly large image view with 0.8X magnification with the 50mm lens set at infinity.

DE-2.jpg
It was silver-coated inside the pentaprism to provide an extraordinarily brilliant, clear image with good corner-to-corner visibility. The eyepiece is rubber-cushioned for comfortable viewing and prevents scratching of eyeglasses. A built-in eyepiece shutter prevents strong extraneous light from affecting meter accuracy when your eye is away from the finder (as in self-timer use or remote operation).

It uses DK-4 Rubber Eyecup for comfort viewing, but the eyecup was not very well designed and often dropped off, Nikon subsequently redesigned a locking system in the DK-2 for the High Eyepoint Finder and it was marvellous, I have not changed an eyecup for more than 12 years !

High-Eyepoint Finder DE-3 (DE-4 for Titanium version) The High-Eyepoint finder was made as a standard prism on Nikon F3 in later years, including variants such as Nikon F3T (Titan) which has a similar finder made of one of the best known industrial metals, titanium.

DE-3.jpg DE-3 Optic.gif
The finder with the tough metal is referred to as DE-4, but it is NOT available as an optional accessory for the regular F3. Some of the commercial photographic books stated HP finder was made available in 1983. However, contradictory they also mentioned the F3 Titan was introduced in 1982 - with a DE-4 finder which essentially is a DE-3 in titanium outfit. Well, I would love to believe it was in both in 1983, the year when I bought my F3T.

DE-3.jpg
Technical highlight of this prism is - the entire frame, including exposure information, is visible with the eye up to 25mm (approx. 1 inch) away from the eyepiece. 0.75X magnification with the 50mm lens focused at infinity. This provides certain degree of eye relief for extended shooting sessions. But on a more practical note, for those glass wearers, shooting behind a protective helmet or even wearing goggles or protective mask (In this case, the action finder should be more functional), this should come in very handy and useful.

It also has an Eyepiece Shutter built in. If you have already owned a DE-2 eyelevel finder, you don't have to rush out to buy a High Eyepoint Finder - other than if you think the High-Eyepoint feature will benefit you a lot, because other than that - the high eye point finder has no other significant purpose to justification the expense. Some would say, ahh... it looks better which I might agree but don't intend to argue too much if we are talking about justification for the amount you have to spend for the extra. No doubt the High Eyepoint finder Looks more like a perfect match in the exterior appearance with an F3, but inside the viewfinder, the reality of High Eyepoint also means you will have to live with a smaller magnification than the regular DE-2 finder's 0.8X magnification (This means smaller image will project inside the viewfinder). Other than these two elements which might be useful or don't depend on personal needs, there are no significant advantages over the standard eye level DE-2 finder. Personal suggestion: Consider fixing a DK-2 Rubber Eyecup onto your High Eyepoint finder, it should be a good companion for viewing and focusing, with or without wearing glasses.
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Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikon F3 - Interchangeable Viewfinders - Part III
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