Modern Classic SLRs Series :
MD-4 Motor Drive for Nikon F3 Series models- Part II

The motor's anatomical grip provides its own electromagnetic shutter release, with the same battery saving automatic shutoff as the camera release (It will turn off automatically 16 sec after inactivity). Not only excels in its performance, the MD-4 looks like a natural extension to the Nikon F3 camera, nobody doubts it looks great as well as a piece when combined. Both convert into a superbly balanced instrument as impressive in its handling ease as in its truly incomparable efficiency.

MD-4 Nikon F3.jpg (18k)
I like this combination. After using it for the last 15 years and never experiencing a breakdown with the drive, and only down twice for maintenance service. It was only very recent that I have detached the MD-4 and decided to travel light with only the camera body again. I thought I should share some of my experience with all of you here as well because even if you are not a heavy shooting pro, the MD-4 still presents some very logical reasons for you to consider getting one for your Nikon F3. I don't suggest buying a new unit, a used one will serve the budget, as the MD-4 is an extremely well made motor drive and seldom gets you into trouble.

As the MD-4 requires removal of the motor drive coupling cover before you can attach the MD-4 to the camera body, Nikon engineers designed a considerate way to store the detached motor drive coupling cover to avoid misplacing it, so it should always be available if you decide to shoot or travel light without the MD-4.

HideCell.jpg (8k)
To store the Motor Drive Coupling Cover, just slip the cover inside the hidden compartment (2), to release the cover, first invert the motor drive, slide the lever (3) of the locker (1), the cover should drop out from the compartment. The MN-2 Ni-Cd Battery provides the same convenience.

When you intend to buy a F3 camera body, make sure the Motor Drive Coupling Cover is in place, if not request the shop or owner to check the MD-4 to retrieve the cover.
Remember earlier we mentioned the MD-4 will power the camera once attached without even having to remove the battery cells inside the camera body ? Yes, you should install the battery(ies) inside the camera body. With this, you don't even need to locate any battery(ies) should you decided to go without the MD-4. These are all very considerate and well designed features for F3 users.

Shutter release.jpg
In actual camera/motor drive operation, the MD-4 offers either 'S' (Single) or 'C' (Continuous) operation. At "S" the film advances to the next frame as soon as the picture is taken. At "C, "it will be advanced at 4 frames per second with penlight batteries or at 6 fps when using the optional MN-2 Ni-Cd Battery Unit.

In continuous mode, the firing rate is automatically the fastest permitted by the selected shutter speed, whether in auto or manual mode. At all shutter speeds, except "B" and "T," the motor drive trips the shutter and winds the film in a single sequential step. At the same time, one LED (at the back) lights up to indicate film advance. At the "B" setting, when the trigger button is pushed, the shutter fires and remains open until you take your finger off the button. Then the film advances automatically to the next frame. At "T," the shutter remains open until the shutter speed dial is rotated off the "T" setting. As long as you hold the trigger button down, shots will be taken rapidly in succession. Any shutter speed setting, except "B" and "T," can be used. At shutter speeds slower than 1/125 sec., the firing rate automatically slows down to match the shutter speed in use. At 'L' (Lock) position. The trigger button is locked and the motor drive will not operate. However, by turning on the camera's power switch, you can use the shutter release button to trip the shutter and advance the film manually just as if the MD-4 were not attached.

Note: When SC mode selector is turned to 'L', neither LCD should turn on nor shutter should be released. When SC mode selector is turned to 'S', LCD turns on by depressing Trigger button halfway. On the same condition, when the button depressed further down, the MD should stop with film-advance completion.

When SC mode selector is set to 'C', LCD should turn on by depressing Trigger button halfway. On the same condition, when the button remains depressed further down, the MD should continue to operate and when the finger is lifted off the button, the MD should stop with film-advance completion.

Shutter Release Button / Trigger Button

Standard stroke
Height 0.75 +- 0.2mm  
Half -way stroke 0.5 +- 0.15mm LCD-ON
Full stroke 1.2 +- 0.3mm Motor -ON

Note: Beyond the full stroke of Motor-ON, Trigger button can be depressed a little more.

Trigger button stroke





70 +- 10g

0.75 +- 0.2mm


100 +- 20g

0.5 +- 0.15mm


300 +- 30g

1.2 +- 0.3mm

There is a provision for multiple exposure with very precise registration. It is activated by holding the multiple exposure lever in position while firing off a short burst. After you're finished, make a blank shot by covering the lens with a lens cap. This will advance the film to the next unexposed frame without adding another shot to the multiple exposure just completed.

Caution: Nikon has Warned against holding down the backup mechanical release lever while shooting on 'C' (Continuous) mode, "...the shutter will not open properly..". But it can be very tempting as the MD-4 will fire at very high speed. Actually, I have tried and images produced do not exhibit such disastrous results as claimed. Anyway, this is an official warning from the manufacturer and I do not suggest any unwarranted attempt without considering any undesirable consequences that may arise.

Even if the MD-4 was designed as a highly power efficient motor drive, especially in the case of using it with alkaline batteries (easily will sail through 120 rolls of 36 exposures film rolls); the biggest advantage of using alkaline cells is the characteristic of alkaline batteries not to exhibit common 'sudden death phenomenon' like the Ni-Cd batteries.

If High speed or cold weather resistant photography is not a priority, I would suggest the Alkaline be the power source. However, the MD-4 has dual function battery check as well as advancing/stopper LEDs.

To check battery power, depress the battery check button. If both LED's light up, the power is sufficient to provide the fastest firing rates. If only one LED comes on, you can still use the MD-4, but at slower rates. If neither LED lights up, the batteries should be changed for a fresh set. The LED's also indicate other camera functions. One LED will light up: 1) each time the film is wound after a shot is taken; 2) when the film reaches the end of the roll and needs rewinding; 3) when the frame counter reaches "0"; or 4) when auto-rewinding is stopped with the optional MF-6(B) camera back, MF-18 Databack, or either one of the bulk film backs, MF-4 or MF-17 data back is used, the LED's signal the end of the power rewind.

Power Source (Also Check the Battery Issues section.) There are a few alternatives to consider, depending on your requirement. You can use easy accessible penlight batteries, high power pack for high speed photography or working in extreme cold weather or even use a Nikon Designed AC/DC converter (MT-1/MT-2) to shoot indoor. The standard MD-4 houses its batteries in a built-in battery chamber. The standard MS-3 Battery Clip accepts 8 AA-type penlight batteries to power the motor drive up to 4 frames per second. Note: A little extra info relating to the standard LED voltage used in the MD-4

Battery Clip.jpg (8k)
Once the motor drive is attached, the camera gets all its power from the batteries in the motor drive. In this way, the camera is able to run on high capacity batteries.

MH2 MN2.jpg

Older version, but should be cheap.

The MH-2 Quick Charger was replaced with a Quick Charger MH-2a. The new charger boosted recharging time to only one hour. A used MH-2 should cost less than a MH-2a.

Buying new MN-2 Ni-Cd packs is no longer possible, but usually you'll get some life out of a used MN-2. Be prepared to
rebuild any used MN-2 at some point, and remember that the MH-2 and MH-2a are not suitable for charging NiMH cells if you are contemplating changing to NiMH. -Allan M Purtle -

As a separate accessory, the MD-4 accepts the MN-2 NiCd Battery Unit for extremely high-speed shooting up to 6* fps. Since NiCd batteries are better able to maintain their peak performance in cold temperatures, the camera/motor drive combination will still operate down to -20°C. The following table lists the firing rates according to power source (Table 1), while the bar graph gives you the expected life of various battery types under ordinary temperatures (Table 2).

* Possible when the shutter speed is at 1/125 sec and above and the mirror is at the lock up position.

Table 1: Frames per Second (fps)
Shutter Speed Range (Sec.)

Power Source

AA pen light batteries (Zinc Carbon)

AA pen light batteries (Alkaline-Manganese)

MN-2 Battery

MA-4 (AC/DC Converter)

1/125 sec - 1/2000





1/125 sec - 1/2000 with mirror up





Relative: MN-2 NiCd (Nickel-Cadmium) Battery Unit .

Table 2  
PowerChart.jpg (7k)

Contact.jpg (4k)

Contactinside.jpg (4k)
Since the battery(ies) may exhibit different performance and 'behaviour' (Other than the main reason - battery is weak or dead, then - replacing them with a fresh new set should solve the problem). But if you have left them for an extended period of time, battery leakage could be the possible culprit. There are two essential contacts, first check the battery clips contact point, next is a little difficult to access for user maintenance, it is inside the MD-4 battery compartment. If corrosive contacts are the cause, try use a pencil eraser to rub them off, if it is still not improving, send for servicing then.
This is the only visual examination you OUGHT to check if you are buying a MD-4 in used condition.

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Modern Classic SLRs Series :
MD-4 Motor Drive for Nikon F3 Series models- Part II
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