Ah, the Nikon F3. It is arguably the most successful camera from Nikon. When this camera was launched, I had just purchased my first SLR camera, the popular Pentax ME-Super, a high tech 35mm SLR, with touch controls to adjust shutter, and a very compact body. It was a great camera, and I was very happy to own it. Then along came the Nikon F3. Designed by an Italian most notably known for designing sports cars, he added what would become the iconic symbol of Nikon, the highlighted red strip near the grip, found on all Nikon DSLRs today.
It was pure. It was rugged. It was pro. Way pro. I wanted it. I purchased my first Nikon F3 in 1984, shortly after landing my first ‘real’ job as a hydrographic surveyor, working the Gulf of Mexico. I was young and carefree. And making good money. Enough to buy a Nikon F3. I purchased it with a 50mm f1.4 lens. The f1.2 was within reach, but I had heard that it needed at least two stops to be reasonably sharp, whereas the f1.4 was pretty sharp within a stop of fully open. I think I paid around $600 USD. 1984.
When the oil market crashed, kind of like today, I was laid off. Heck, the company filed chapter 11 creditor protection and so I returned home to Vancouver. I spent the summer hanging out and in the fall I enrolled in sciences at UBC. To pay for the roughly $1200 in tuition for the season, I sold my Nikon camera equipment. Everything sold within a few days on consignment at Lens & Shutter on Broadway in the west side of Van. I was without my awesome SLR.
To avoid being totally without a camera, I kept my Cosina CX-2 point and shoot that I purchased on a whim in 1985. It was a sharp little fixed focal length snapshot 35mm camera that I hear today has quite the following.
This F3 came to be mine shortly after I purchased my DSLR, a Nikon D600 full frame digital camera. Kerrisdale Cameras had it sitting in their shop collection of used equipment. A mix of nostalgia and renewed interest in film compelled me to buy it.
The great thing about Nikon is their F-Mount. A thirty-plus year old lens works just fine on new Nikon DSLR cameras. This means I am easily able to share lenses across my manual focus film camera, this F3, and my new D600. In fact, these photos were taken with a 31 year old Nikon f3.5-4.5 35-105mm macro lens on my D600, a lens I used to own in the 1980s and picked up online uber cheaply.
I’ll let you read all about the virtues of the F3 elsewhere. I love it. Absolutely love it. Holding it has meaning. It feels like your long lost favourite pair of jeans or your favourite pair of shoes. It just works and becomes part of you. As it should.