What do you think of the Nikon F3?
It’s probably Nikon’s most popular and certainly longest running professional grade camera body. They built these things from 1980 all the way to 2001, even while Nikon were simultaneously selling F4’s and F5’s. Apparently they made so many, that they lost count after nearly 800,000!
Unlike previous F’s, the F3’s electronically timed shutter features aperture priority. The F3 straddles two worlds because it is also Nikon’s last professional manual focus camera. Its dense body sits so firmly in the hands with smooth, rounded edges and a sense of authority and gestalt with which no other Nikon camera has ever been bestowed. Install the MD-4 motordrive and every shot may as well have been fired from an Armalite.
Then there’s that simple yet dashing red line….
But I can’t fucking stand the F3.
I bought an F3hp and MD-4 nearly a decade ago, purely on its reputation. I didn’t realise how stupid a camera this thing is. And I still have no clue why it sold and was as popular for as long as it was. What a dumb camera. Probably the stupidest camera I’ve ever used. At least a Kodak Brownie is just a Kodak Brownie. An Agfa Click is just something to sit beside an Agfa Clack. But the F3 is a woefully useless camera disguised as the savior of photography.
And here it is, the one problem that kills the whole, otherwise fine piece of machinery;
The light meter display.
It’s goddamn abysmal.
Sure the light meter itself can measure up to 6400 ISO. And it’s probably quite precise. But good luck actually SEEING the meter display in situations darker than 800 ISO.
In an effort to conserve battery power and be futuristic nincompoops, Nikon slapped a shitty little, and I’m not exaggerating with use of either of those adjectives, LCD meter display in the finder of the F3. Gone was the simple, bright LED display or stepless swing needle that MADE SENSE, and hey, they didn’t really take THAT MUCH power. Replaced with a squinty, diminutive, ugly, grey-on-olive digital Liquid Crystal Display of shutter speeds and microscopic + and – symbols on a panel that’s about a sixteenth of the size of my anus.
Nikon, what the fuck were you thinking?
Do you want me to look at the scene I’m photographing or to stare in agitation at this piece of shit display until my eyeball bleeds out?
If you’re one of those shooters who can’t stand the porthole viewfinders of early Barnack Leica’s, treat yourself to an even sillier form of optical torture.
And how does Nikon show mercy for their ridiculous mistake? They add another mistake.
If you would like to see your little light meter, all you have to do is crush a blunt red Lego button into the side of the finder to summon a dusty old attic light bulb that is dimmer than a broken headlight in an old 6 volt Volkswagen Beetle. This. THIS! This under-powered, piss-yellow light bulb will give your straining eye a false glimmer of hope at reading those diminutive digits so that you have a slight chance of getting the exposure set correctly on your, oh-so-professional Nikon camera.
Fuck that noise. You’re telling me that if I want to use the built-in meter instead of a handheld, I need to pause to turn on a light? WHY NOT JUST HAVE AN LED METER DISPLAY OPTION FOR THOSE OF US WHO LOVE OUR KODAK TMAX P3200 AND DON’T TAKE ALL OF OUR PHOTOS IN BRIGHT SUN WITH OUR SHUTTERS SET TO LAZY?! Afterall, with this long a production run, you’d think they could have released a better viewfinder head at some point. The F and F2 had more head options, for Chrissake!
Needless to say, I sold the F3hp, bought an F2sb and never looked back. Except to scratch my head in complete and total confusion which still lingers to this day.
Who uses this STUPID camera?! And HOW?! I get irritated even THINKING about how STUPID and DISAPPOINTING the F3 was. Jesus!
Before I sold it, I managed to fire off a few decent shots though. Here they stand as a dirge of my interest in working with this stupid fucking camera.
Thanks for reading!
Good Riddance, F3! But thanks for the fun while it lasted 😉
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