Modern Classic SLRs Series : Nikon F3 - Preface

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The Nikkor 50mm f/1.2s has the fastest lens speed among ALL manual focus lenses in the Nikkor lens family.It was the fastest standard MF lens among the FOUR 50mm Nikkor lenses, 50mm f/1.4s, 50mm f/1.8s and Series-E 50mm f/1.8s. It replaced the long serving Ai-Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 standard lens which was introduced way back in 1976.

It debuted in 1981 with a native AI-S coupling, allowing it to be used freely with all available exposure modes such as program AE and shutter priority AE found in many subsequent Nikon body offerings introduced over the years. This high speed standard Nikkor is famed for its exceptional definition and superior neutral colour rendition. Many features were revised to improve its handling and characteristics over it's predecessor, including more compact and lighter which garnered immediate acceptance. The transition from Ai to AI-S coupling was not entirely tuned for the Nikon F3, but as a core system camera during this period, it signified an important milestone in the evolution of the Nikon/Nikkor development process, where automation and MF optical excellence were simply at their very best.

Credit: Images of this Nikkor 50mm f/1.2s lens courtesy of Keith Weinman®, US <> Image copyright © 2004. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

The Nikon F3was the third generation of the professional class Nikon F-series 35mm SLR camera model. Introduced in 1980, it was the successor to the original  Nikon F of 1959, and the hugely successful Nikon F2 of the '70, where both the earlier models were commanding a distinctive supremacy in the professional users' market. When the F3 was first announced, the heavy automation in the camera sent cold shivers down the spine of most purist photographers. As one can still recall, the price of a discontinued fully mechanical Nikon F2AS had a retail price higher than that of a new automatic Nikon F3 during those early days of its introduction, which was Nikon's way of saying 'move on', to the photographic community !

Nikon F3HP Press SLR camera
Nikon F3 HP standard unit

With the creative mind of a famous Italian industrial designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro , the replacement model for the Nikon F2 has been given a fresh modern look and feel. The vertical red lining near the hand grip is now a distinctive hallmark of any modern Nikon camera, and over the years the "red line" has evolved into many forms and designs on the plethora of Nikon models that has followed.

One can now instantly recognize the unique "Nikon flavour" of all subsequent body offerings, originally adopted in the Nikon F3, making it the first camera body to depart from conventional oriental design.

<<<--- Nikon F3P Press Professional SLR Camera with MD-4 Motor Drive Unit and special DE-5 Prism Finder; due to the basic modular camera body design that enables many possibilities, it was one of the many variant Nikon F3 models produced over the years for speical applications.

One important aspect in the design of this classic Nikon is that it replicated the successful concept of mudularity, similar to the previous F and F2. With a modular body design, the F3 was enabled to accept a multitude of dedicated components and accessories to cater to individual requirements and specific photographic needs. The Nikon F3 had the most extensive collection of system accessories built around a body, which has made the F3 one of the most desirable system cameras in the market, by professional users, with many still employed as front line equipment to this day. The first auto focus Nikon SLR was born out of the basic design of the Nikon F3, when in 1983, a Nikon F3 AF, with two dedicated AF-Nikkor lenses, was introduced to showcase Nikon's first entry in the AF technology race to perfection. The F3AF was 3 years ahead of Nikon's first fully integrated AF body design, the Nikon F-501 of 1986, and 5 full years ahead of the professional class series Nikon F4 of 1988 ! One can now instantly recognize the unique "Nikon flavour" of all subsequent body offerings, originally adopted in the Nikon F3, making it the first camera body to depart from conventional oriental design.

Nikon F3 viewfinder information, photo at Traffic Junction, Bali Island, Indonesia Nikon F3AF viewfinder information with Malaysian Tropical Hibiscus Flower
<<<---The viewfinder of standard Nikon F3 Series models and alternate autofoccus Nikon F3 AF use a FIXED matte type screen type built directly underneath the DX-1 finder, with viewfinders other than DX-1, more than 20 other types of interchangeable screens are available.

Photos Insert:- Traffic Junction at Bali Island, Indonesia and Mlalaysian Tropical Hibiscus. Pictures was from my Copyright-
free© Images Collection, 2003. leofoo®

The Nikon F3AF, with its dedicated AF optics and removable AF-prism, that can also serve as an electronic range finder to provide visual focusing indication when fitted on any F3 camera (except F3P, F3H and F3 Limited where all came with a non standard DE-5 prism), moved the ball distinctively further down the evolutionary trail. The Nikon F3 series has the most variant models among all single digit professional F models. Strangely, unlike many other competing professional SLR cameras of the time, the feature that contributed to its popularity was its bare basic simple exposure mode of aperture priority AE while maintaining full manual exposure control. Most professionals never got around to turning the shutter speed dial to 'A' and used the F3 in manual mode 100% of the time. The F3 was never intended to be "the greatest thing since sliced bread", instead it was designed to shine in functionality - its strength being realized over time. Soon photographers started to appreciate the level of versatility and hence what a great camera it truly was. I think most of the credit has to be given to its creator, while I personally believe the Company had shown a lot of courage in deciding the specifications, by turning their top of the line reference professional SLR model toward full-automation (well, almost..because the F3 has a mechanical backup shutter even if the batteries failed and with a superior MD-4 Motor Drive that supports its power management). This was an important feature during the early '80, the market was still very much dominated by traditional mechanical battery free manual cameras and users. Competition was keen from rivalling brands where we saw the likes of the Canon New F-1 and Pentax LX that debuted after the Nikon F3 (and other great SLR bodies such as Contax RTS II or even the Olympuses). All of these benefited directly as well as indirectly by the decision of Nikon to stamp a mark of excellence, and thus confidence, on the electronic SLR camera for real life professional usage.

At a corner of morning scene in a small remote town in Anhui province, PR China. by leofoo / kakaman of
Regardless for professional applications such as news, reportage, sports, scientific research, journalism and/or simply for leisure, travel or personal photography, Nikon F3 has been serving a few generations of Nikon photographers faithfully and reliably.

<<<--- At a corner of morning scene in a small remote town in Anhui province, PR China.

leofoo® 1998

Strangely, despite most of the rivalling labels offering richer feature sets in comparison to the F3, the F3's status was never  truly challenged, even after 20 plus years of product cycle. The Nikon F3 was, and still is, very much in demand. It was the only Nikon professional F series (single digit) model that co-existed with, and survived beyond, the successor professional model  Nikon F4, which was intended to replace it.

In fact, many of its
variants have developed as collectors' favourites. Other than the bare basic camera body which has so much to offer in strength, and for users to explore its potential as a reliable imaging tool, it marks an important point on the development curve of both SLR camera design as well as modern photography. The Nikon F3 was the first professional SLR camera that has truly bridged between mechanical and electronic engineering in camera design, where it spearheaded popular adoption of automation in photographic usage. Its strength and reliability have influenced even the most hard-core users of mechanical SLRs in accepting the fact that automation was an inevitable route to modern photography, without the expense of sacrificing reliability. But most of all, the simplicity in its design and handling, along with an unsurpassed ruggedness, efficiency and great system compatibilities, has made this Nikon body widely acclaimed as a true classic camera of modern times ! This site, along with many other classic SLRs featured in this site, chronicles yet another photographic legend from Nikon.

History, Background / Other Issues (8 parts)
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My 20 years old Nikon F3 Titan with MD/4 Variants :- Prototypes 1974 | 1977 | Nikon F3HP | Nikon F3AF | Nikon F3 Press | Nikon F3/T (Titanium)Nikon F3 High Speed Motor Drive Camera |
Limited Edition Models:-
Index Page | Nikon F3 LimitedNikon F3/T ClassicNikon F3 Oxberry Pro 5Nikon/Kodak F3 Digital DSUNikon F3 US Navy ModelNikon NASA 250

Nikon Speedlights (flash) Models:
Index Page
Eyes of Nikon:- Rangefinder (RF) Nikkor lenses | Manual Focus (MF) Nikkor lenses | Autofocus (AF) Nikkor lenses
Index Page:-
Pictorial History of Nikon cameras

Message Board for your favourite Nikon F3 Series SLR models
Message Board for your Nikkor Optics in a shared environment
MessageBoard Specifically for Disposing or Acquiring Nikon/Nikkor Photographic Equipment

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