Nikon F3 Review by Jake Horn

The Nikon F3 has been a reliable, manual focus workhorse since it's debut in 1980. This rig was manufactured for 20 years and continued to be produced concurrently with the F4 and the F5. Since so many were made, it's an extremely affordable and accessible entry into modern day 35mm film photography.

  Standard Viewfinder Prism

Standard Viewfinder Prism

If you wear glasses, you're in luck, cause there are a ton of high eye point finders in the wild. You'll see a small HP marked below the 'n' on the front logo. I had to search a bit harder to find my standard prism F3 in mint condition. There are also action and magnifying finders, but expect to pay a premium for the action type. Unlike the original F and F2, Nikon placed the metering system into the body, so the finders no longer play a role in your exposure.

FINDER TYPES:

  • DE-2   Standard
  • DE-3   High Eye-Point (HP)
  • DA-2   Action Finder
  • DW-3  Waist-Level
  • DW-4  6x Magnifing
  Tab Up...Ready to Take on Non-Ai

Tab Up...Ready to Take on Non-Ai

As expected, this final manual only pro-SLR performs flawlessly with non-Ai, Ai, Ai-S and D type lenses. The focusing screen selection is very nice (a couple dozen), but the standard K screen (Fresnel Field/Split Image) is all you should ever need.

  Family Portrait

Family Portrait

The Nikon F3 retains the design aesthetic from the previous two models. But you can now see the beginning of the iconic red stripe. Just the second camera designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the first being the Nikon EM. I guess Nikon wanted a test outing for the new design direction before unleashing Giorgetto on their flagship. This styling was so well received, Nikon's today sport red accents.

  One of the Best Advance Levers

One of the Best Advance Levers

The camera handles like a dream. The subtle bump out in the front aids your grip and the film advance fits your thumb like a glove. Gone are the rough, sharp features of yesteryear. For the first time, ergonomics was coming to the forefront of control design.

  Late to the Hot Shoe

Late to the Hot Shoe

If you use flash, you'll probably be annoyed by the peripheral hot shoe adapter. I never use a flash so this doesn't affect me. In fact, I feel this as a positive since it keeps the viewfinder looking clean and minimal.

I think that dollar for dollar, this is the best performing, most bang for your buck film camera that's on the used market. If you are looking for one SLR to shoot film with, the Nikon F3 should be on the top of your list. This camera was a favorite of Galen Rowell for good reason. It's bulletproof, light, and accommodates a large chunk of Nikon's brilliant lens lineup...what more could a photographer ask for.