Modern Classic SLRs Series :
MD-4 Motor Drive for Nikon F3 Series models- Index Page

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As I quoted earlier, it is hard to imagine the F3 without associating it with its dedicated companion motor drive, the MD-4. Nikon has designed some very good motor drives for their professional camera bodies since the days for their rangefinder model in 1957 and I don't doubt they can produce first class motor drives with the three decades of experience behind them. But the MD-4 was a marvel and deserves my respect to all those brilliant brains behind the design and development team of the Nikon F3/MD-4. With a well-engineered camera body, a high quality optic, and coupled with today's excellent film technology, it is difficult not to take good photographs.

Credit: Images courtesy of Adorama® Inc. "Ebay - Mathew Duren" <ebay@adorama> Webisite URL: Adorama.com, who also operates a popular Ebay Store. All images appeared herein are Copyright © 2005. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

However, accessories such as a motor drive can help make picture-taking easier and more rewarding. It can be an indispensable accessory for many photographers who actively involve themselves in action or in and around sport or news and reportage scenes. It's primary function is to advance the film automatically without the hassle of manually winding the film advance lever for another shot. But you shouldn't think the motor drive is a special accessory. Just think of it as an extension to your camera that provides a more enjoyable and responsive experience. Other than the slight drawback of additional weight added on to your camera body, it presents some very strong reasons to consider such an added on.

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In order to mount the MD-4 motor drive onto an F3, you have to remove the motor drive coupling cover (Store it at the side of the battery holder).

Note
: When you purchase a used F3, always check if the cover for the motor drive coupling is in place to avoid inconveniences later, because without the cover, film inside the camera will fog !  If you have purchased the F3/MD-4 outfit, also check if the cover is stored inside the battery compartment. Although It is a small accessory, most retail outlets will not have any, but new ones are available on eBay from "genuine.nikon.parts" eBay store.

There are a few contacts that have their respective functions when in contact with the MD-4's contacting pins. Other than the MD-15 motor drive designed specifically for the Nikon FA, the MD-4 was the only motor drive that will power the camera's electronic circuits. The most important reason for attaching a motor drive on your camera is responsiveness. Where it always ensures you are ready for the next shot without worrying about advancing the film. In situations where lighting is tricky, bracketing exposures with variable apertures can't be swifter. Good balance and comfortable hold is another, especially when working with long telephoto or zoom lenses. You can even mix with some basic camera features in the camera to experiment different photographic effects, like rapid multiple exposures etc. But designed in such a way where it offers more than just a film advance accessory. The MD-4 has its own system built around the main drive to extend the Nikon F3's capabilities. The few electrical terminals in front of the motor drive open up plenty of photographic opportunities Remote, time lag shooting, simultaneous/multiple-bodies setup or bulk film attachment/shooting and even alternative power supply sources like AC/DC power supply for shooting extended indoor studio sessions.

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The MD-4 was the only commercial production motor drive available in the eighties that could offer high speed automatic film advance up to 6* frames per second (fps) with reflex mirror locked upward, 5.5 fps (Shutter speed of 1/125 sec and above) with full reflex viewing and automatic exposure control, faster than with any previous standard motor. Power rewind  takes a mere 4.5 sec for a full 36 exposure film roll. Constructed with the best of human engineering, fits perfectly when mated to the Nikon F3 camera body. Other than the speed performance, it is built to withstand the toughest punishment with careful selection of high quality industrial grade materials. The hand grip, top and bottom sections are all made of aluminium die cast metal, coated with a heavy duty anti corrosive industrial paint beneath the familiar Nikon very industrial looking coating.

Note: If you don't need a MD-4 but require powering your camera in cold weather conditions, you can consider a cheaper means by using an anti cold Battery Pack DB-2

* Note: 6 fps with mirror lockup, 5.5 fps film advance at 1/125 sec or above and 4.5 sec film rewind speed is achievable based on Ni-Cd power pack MN-2.

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Differing from the design of MD-2 and the MD-3, the MD-4 releases the shutter, advances the film, and stops when holding Trigger button on S-mode depressed. Also after the shutter is released Release timing circuit remains on, being ready for the next shot.

WARNING: There is another version of MD-4 called MD-4H. It was primarily designed for the Nikon F3 High Speed Motor camera, it SHOULD NOT be used with other Nikon F3 bodies other than the F3H. TECHNICAL ISSUES (CLICK HERE)

"But the most useful and practical feature of the MD-4 is its ability to power all the electronics in the Nikon F3 body itself. The result is a single unit relying on a single power source, relieving the photographer from mundane power monitoring of the F3's own batteries or the annoyance of removing the MD-4 to change those batteries. Personally, I have only ever changed the batteries in my F3 once, and that was when I attached the MD-4 to it. Now, 25 years later, I finally removed the MD-4 to test the F3 batteries only to find they still test good and probably have another 25 years, assuming they don't leak. I probably shouldn't have mentioned that, Leonard will have kittens ;)" -Allan M Purtle.-

Nikon F3 with MD-4.jpg (17k)
To have a new top-of-the-line camera model that depends solely on battery power to function, is a hard sell to hard core enthusiasts. The MD-4 has its purpose to provide such comfort - it was also designed to over ride and supply the camera's power when mounted with a F3 regardless if the camera is fitted with button cell(s) or not ! It also incorporated a power-saving transistorized circuitry, combined with the camera's specially designed low-friction film transport system fires up to 140 36-exposure rolls (equivalent to 5000 exposures) with just one set of 8 AA alkaline batteries. Both power sources fit into the motor's integral battery compartment. And, both can also power all camera functions, conserving the camera batteries life. And with fewer batteries than any competitive model.

One needs to use some comparative figures before you realize how efficiently the F3/MD-4 combination is: Canon New F-1's Motor Drive FN which uses Battery Pack FN accepts 12 penlight batteries. One set of batteries can only drive fifty (50) 36-exposure rolls of film. The NiCd Pack FN, around 30 rolls and the high power Ni-Cd Pack, also around 50 rolls.

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Even the power source was given some special attention, the MD-4 can use Carbon Zinc, Alkaline-manganese and a rechargeable high performance Ni-Cd power pack. It was designed to ensure all-weather reliability. for instance, using the Nikon NiCd pack, Nikon claimed you can shoot at temperatures down to - 20°C (- 4°F) with all F3 automatic functions operating (* I can't comment and confirmed these published figures, I am living in an all-year-round hot and sunny tropical region). It also has a built-in, subtractive frame counter automatically shuts the motor off at '0' for extra protection against film tearing in frigid weather. You can also preset the counter at the back and shoot bursts of any desired length.

Credit: Images courtesy of Adorama® Inc. "Ebay - Mathew Duren" <ebay@adorama> Webisite URL: Adorama.com, who also operates a popular Ebay Store. All images appeared herein are Copyright © 2005. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

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