Modern Classic SLR Series
Nikon FM3a SLR Camera - Other Issues - Part I

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The Nikon FM3a serves many commercial objectives for Nikon other than creating just another upgrade to the evergreen Nikon FM2n. It was also being designed as an overdue commitment to upgrade popular discontinued Nikon MF models such as the FE class body as FM3a has a mix of the best features from the mechanical Nikon FM2n and electronic Nikon FE2. Rather than calling it an FM3 with automatic exposure control, you could also describe this camera as a FE3 with mechanical shutter, as Nikon has intelligently incorporated a special hybrid shutter design and mechanism that offers the advantages of a mechanical focal plane shutter for use during manual operation and an electronically controlled focal plane shutter for use during Aperture Priority operation. The main advantage is that even when the FM3a's batteries are fully exhausted, all shutter speeds remain functional in Manual mode, minus the metering.


Other basic technical specifications of FM3a that closely resemble the FM2n is the maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 sec. and a maximum flash sync of 1/250 sec. add to this the multiple exposure control, depth of field preview, interchangeable focusing screens, MD-12 Motor Drive for rapid sequence photography. The FM3a can also share a host of other Nikon system accessories. However, there are a few additional features that Nikon has also adopted that are found in the FE2 that have been implimented in the FM3a to enable higher chances of successful flash photography while expanding its working capabilities. The Nikon FM3a uses a similar flash system found on the FE2 that offers TTL/OTF flash exposure control which works both in Manual Exposure Mode as well as in the Aperture Priority Exposure Mode. A ± 2 EV exposure compensation scales and an additional AE-L (auto exposure lock) is also provided. The only TWO additional new features that are not replicated from the FE2 is an innovative flash compensation button that compensates for excessive flash output. The other is a DX-coding system for automatic film speed recognition being employed for the first time in a mechanical Nikon SLR camera.

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The FM3a technical specifications can be very appealing to a generation who has previous experience with the FM2n and FE2. Naturally, this also includes Nikon FA, FG, EM and FG20 (as these are the targeted users that the Nikon FM3a is largely aimed at). Previously if these users were looking for a replacement camera or upgrading their MF bodies, they could possibly have mixed feelings between buying a all mechanical Nikon FM2n or an electronic FE2 during those days prior to the popularity of AF cameras. Now if these user's elect to purchase a MF SLR camera just to upgrade their previous camera, the FM3a offers the best of both worlds in a single, solid and uncompromising option. Naturally, another potential group of target users are the existing owners of AF SLRs who may slowly find complexity of multi levels drop down operational sequences in a modern SLR is too uninspiring. This may create the desire to revert back to basic simplicity. Well, naturally, this batteryless-will-still-operate FM3a camera can serve as a reliable backup body for those hard working professionals who may still be depending on their current power-hungry but feature enriched Nikon AF bodies. But on the other hand they may love to have something reliable yet having ease of operation compared to using a match-diode-metering FM2n that requires entirely manual adjustment.

Personally, in all aspects - I think the FM3a is a worthy upgrade to the FM2n and I believe that it should sell quite well, but I don't feel that Nikon should believe this camera will sell in mass volume to lure in big profit. May be that is the reason they have been adjusting the selling price so that they are able to recover their investment in R&D Whatever it is, it is the best-spec Nikon FM model thus far and fills a vacuum in the market place where there are considerably a large group of faithful followers still longing to own bare basic SLRs just like the FM3a. It possess all the good elements and could well destined to be another evergreen classic of modern times.

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Major visual differences among Nikon FM3a with FM2n & FE2

Frankly, Nikon FM3a does not has an eye-catching appearance but it does have a pleasant look and an accustomed solid feel synonymous with any of those conventional MF Nikon SLR camera designs of yesteryear. The traditional controls of the camera are almost identical to previous FM/FE bodies and if seen from a distance at the top, without realizing the model name 'FM3a' inscribed at the front, you may even mistaken that it is a Nikon FE2 - much due to the green "A" setting located at the shutter speed ring. However, it does has some other visual differences that can help you to distinguish the camera from those previous Nikon model(s). One of the noticeable differences is the simple all-in-one shutter speed scales/ISO-setting has been redesigned with the ISO setting being moved on a large diameter dial under the rewind crank at the left hand side. It combines with a ±2-stop exposure compensation control and comes with a more prominent printed red index mark at its side.

The shutter speed ring has been improved slightly where it is now being positioned higher and has two levels of knurled lining that provides a more positive grip to change shutter speed settings.

Well, it is easier to distinguish the camera at the rear section. Just under the film advance lever and just in front of the camera's serial number, you will find a button that read 'AE-L' which signifies an Auto Exposure Lock . Nikon designers have moved the AE Lock previously found on the dual functions self timer lever (on both the FE and FE2) to this new location.

The AE-L function is much easier to operate at the new position when used singularly but it is even much better especially when the camera is mounted onto a Motor Drive Unit where the hand grip of the motor drive always make it so difficult to push the AE-L lever found on FE/FE2.

Next, the design of the FM3a standard film back has a delightful touch, Nikon has designed a very thoughtful film confirmation window which was well sealed and light tight for most standard film types (infra-red film may require more precaution when used). The film back may * also be used on other Nikon cameras as it shares similar physical dimension. * Please confirm this as I have forgotten to try it on my FM2n while during the testing. Update: Mark Pulford pointed me to this site relating to this issue.

When a film roll is inserted into the film roll compartment (and with the film stretched to take up by the film take up spool), you can visually check the data of the film in use as the opening is intelligently positioned to display the film data of the film roll.

When you attempt to open the camera back, you will find another difference. The familiar film back Lock design of previous FM/FE series models has been substituted by a direct pull-up-will-open type of mechanism. Now, all you need to do is to pull the film rewind crank upward, this will release the internal locking mechanism, the film back will spring-opened positively. I don't know how often people has mismanaged this where older system was designed to prevent accidental opening of the film back. But since most of the modern AF cameras have similar design I think it is a good move to facilitate swifter operation during camera setup.

With the back open, you will find something new in the FM3a - something that has never been incorporated in any of those popular manual focus Nikon SLRs before (Err.... may be minus the short-lived F-301/N2000 which that handles auto film loading, film winding/rewinding and DX coded contacts - incidentally, it was also the first Nikon body that has designed with a built-in winder) - inside film chamber of FM3a, there are an eye-catching array of six gold-plated DX contacts which are used for automatic DX-coded film recognition. It also has a metal film cartridge positioning spring and a protruding metal tab which I believe its use is to ensure positive physical contact of bar-code and positioning of the film roll.

Those differences in the FM3a are what you can visually distinguish while comparing with its predecessors. Wait till you peep through the viewfinder, there is another new experience for owners of previous Nikon FM2n series because the familiar match-diode-metering display so often associated with mechanical FM(2n) bodies has been replaced with a FE/FE2-liked colorful match-needle-system that positions at the left hand side of the viewfield.

Overall, when you peep through the finder, you will notice that FM3a's viewfinder is considerably brighter and more contrasty as to previous cameras, this is much attributed to a new standard K3-type Splitprism-image Rangefinder Microprism screen in the FM3a (you can select either an optional B3 type (Clear Matte IIa) and E3 type (Etched screen with horizontal and vertical lines) to suit your personal needs. When you turn on the meter, two contrasty red icons will keep flashing alternatively at the top menu along side with the aperture display to remind user that there is no film being installed inside the camera yet.

Lastly, the two pictures that I have taken side by side aim to highlight the slight difference of lens mount found on both bodies; the choice of materials used for the lens mount on both the cameras slightly varied. The FM2n has an old familiar tint, typical of a Nikon brass coated hardened stainless steel used for the lens mount, while the FM3a's new mount is brighter and looks more like stainless steel.

Well, to sum up the additional features in the FM3a. It has been designed to improve handling, while some basic of the basic functions are being retained from previous Nikon models. Nikon feels that these retained basic functions have proven to be effective to photographers. Other than those highlighted, there are no other major changes externally that visually I can detect from the FM3a as compared to FM2n. (However, I am not sure how about the internal structures and electronic components as I cannot afford to strip two cameras apart just to find out some facts but as time goes by and with more information that I can gather, I will keep updating the content of this site).

| NEXT | chapter(s) that followed will go through some key functions and features of the Nikon FM3a

Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 |

| Other Issues relate to Nikon FM3a |
| Instruction Manual for Nikon FM3a |
| Technical Specification | Main Reference Map |

Standard production Nikon FM Series models:- Nikon FM | Nikon FM2 | Nikon FM2n | Nikon FM10 | Nikon FM3a |
Known variants:- Nikon FM Gold | Nikon FM2/T | Nikon FM2N Tropical Set | Nikon FM2/T Limited Edition | Nikon FM2N LAPITA | Nion FM2n Millennium 2000

| Message Board | for your favourite Nikon FM Series SLR models
| Message Board | for your Nikon Optics in a shared environment
| Message Board | Specifically for Dispose or Looking for Nikon/Nikkor Photographic Equipment

| Back | Main Index Page of Nikon FM series Bodies

Shared Resources: MD-11 | MD-12 | Focusing Screens | Titanium Shutter | older dedicated Flash Units for FM series -SB-16 | SB-15 | SB-10 or other Options | Databack | Nikkor lens mount (related info)

Others:- Nikon AF-TTL Speedlights | SB-20 (1986) | SB-22 (1987) | SB-23 | SB-24 (1988) | SB-25 (1991/2) | SB-26 (1994) | SB-27(1997) | SB-28 (1997) | Nikon SB-29(s) (2000) | Nikon SB-30 (2003) | Nikon SB-600 (2004) | Nikon SB-800 (2003) Nikon AF-TTL Speedlight DX-Series: Nikon SB-28DX (1999) | SB-50DX (2001) | SB-80DX (2002) (updated)

Nikon BC-flash Series | Original Nikon Speedlight
SB-2 | SB-3 | SB-4 | SB-5 | SB-6 | SB-7E | SB-8E | SB-9 | SB-E | SB-10
| SB-12 | SB-14 | SB-140 UV-IR| SB-15 | SB16A | SB-17 | SB-18, SB-19 | SB-21A (SB-29) Macro flash | Flash Accesories | SF-1 Pilot Lamp

Instruction Manual: Nikon FM (HTML | PDF) | Nikon FM-10 (HTML) | Nikon FM2n's User's Manual available only in HTML format (6 parts) | Nikon FM3A (HTML)
Nikon FM, FM-10, FM2, FM2n and FM3A
Main Reference Map: (HTML)
Nikon FM, FM2, FM-10, FM2n (Applicable to FM2T, FM2 "Year of the Dog"; Millennium 2000") and FM3A

weblibrary.gif   Nikon F | Nikon F2 | Nikon F3 | Nikon F4 | Nikon F5 | Nikon F6 | Nikkormat / Nikomat | Nikon FM | Nikon FE/ FA | Nikon EM/FG/FG20 | Nikon Digital SLRs | Nikon - Other models

Nikon Auto Focus Nikkor lenses:- Main Index Page
Nikon Manual Focus Nikkor lenses:- Fisheye-Nikkor Lenses - Circular | Full Frame | Ultrawides Lenses - 13mm15mm18mm20mm | Wideangle Lenses - 24mm28mm35mm | Standard Lenses - 45mm 50mm 58mm | Telephoto Lenses - 85mm105mm135mm180mm & 200mm | Super-Telephoto Lenses - 300mm 400mm 500mm 600mm 800mm 1200mm |

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Index Page
  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: my friend, Rick Oleson by: Hansen, Lars Holst

W A R N I N G: The New G-SERIES Nikkor lenses have no aperture ring on the lens, they CANNOT ADJUST APERTURES with any of these manual focus Nikon FE series SLR camera models; please ignore some portion of the content contained herein this site where it relates.

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| Back | Main Index Page of Pictorial History of Nikon SLRs

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Credit: To all the good people who has contributed their own experience, resources or those who are kind enough granting us permission to use their images appeared in this site. Mr. MCLau®, who has helped to rewrite some of the content appeared this site. Chuck Hester® who has been helping me all along with the development of all these Nikon websites;LarsHolst Hansen, 'Hawkeye' who shares the same passion I have; Ms Rissa, Sales manager from Nikon Corporation Malaysia for granting permission to use some of the official content; TedWengelaar,Holland who has helped to provide many useful input relating to older Nikkor lenses; Some of the references on production serial numbers used in this site were extracted from Roland Vink's website; HiuraShinsaku from Nikomat Club Japan. t is also a site to remember a long lost friend on the Net. Note:certain content and images appeared in this site were either scanned from official marketing leaflets, brochures, sales manuals or publications published by Nikon over the years and/or contribution from surfers who claimed originality of their work for educational purposes. The creator of the site will not be responsible for may discrepancies arise from such dispute except rectifying them after verification."Nikon", "Nikkormat", "Nippon Kokagu KK" & "Nikkor" are registered tradename of Nikon Corporation Inc., Japan. Site made with an Apple IMac.