Getting a Nikon F3 (again…only to sell it…again)

Panos Voudouris
5 min readDec 14, 2022

The Nikon F3. Nikon’s top end film SLR camera of the 80s. I had one (a few years ago, not in the 80s!), the F3HP to be precise. A wonderfully smooth SLR which I very much enjoyed using for 5 years up to 2018, only to get rid of it when I decided to raise some cash and go into Leica rangefinders.

Nikon F3HP, great if you wear glasses

Fast forward to late 2020 and I just couldn’t stay away from it. Why? Something about the lenses and that 80s retro styling. To begin with, the body is actually very nice to hold, the controls are all well laid out and everything is just solid and smooth to operate. The film advance crank is super smooth, the electronic shutter button nicely weighted.

Getting ready for a trip. I’d say the F3 is a medium size SLR, not too big, not too small. Just right.

The viewfinder is simply magnificent. I’ve had both the HP and normal version. I wear glasses and the HP is marginally better but both are actually some of the best viewfinders you’ll ever set eyes on. I wouldn’t go out of my way and pay a lot more for the HP version.

50/1.2 AIS, Portra 400

There is also a very practical issue that the F3 solves, namely doing things like macro or telephotos which Leica just doesn’t do.

Raindrops on the window, with the 55/3.5 AI and a PK-13 tube, Portra 400
Getting closer with the 55/3.5 AI. Portra 400.

The only niggle is the viewfinder illuminator button which must have been done as a joke in the original designs…and somebody forgot to remove it. It is a tiny little button on the side of the viewfinder, impossible to push. Eventually, if you keep trying hard, you can make a pathetic little LED to flicker on. And flicker it does, like an old headlamp on a bicycle, illuminating weakly the shutter speed inside the viewfinder. You still can’t see the aperture though as that is a little window looking down at the actual lens aperture ring.