The Nikon F3 Film Camera: A Legendary Choice for Photographers

Jan 4, 2023
8 min read

The Nikon F3 is a classic film camera that has been loved by professional photographers for over 40 years. Released in 1980, the F3 has stood the test of time with its durable build and innovative features. Whether you’re a seasoned film photographer or new to the medium, the F3 is a camera that’s worth considering.

But what makes the F3 such a special camera? In this review, we’ll take a deep dive into the pros and cons of the F3, as well as common issues that photographers have encountered with the camera. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear understanding of what the F3 is all about, and whether it’s the right choice for you. So, let’s get started!

Here’s a comprehensive review of the Nikon F3, including its pros, cons, and common issues.

Nikon F3 History

The Nikon F3 is a 35mm single-lens reflex (SLR) camera produced by Nikon between 1980 and 2000. It was designed to be a professional-grade camera that could withstand heavy use and still deliver excellent image quality.

The Nikon F3 was the first camera in Nikon’s F series to feature a titanium shutter, which made it both more durable and quieter than previous models. It also introduced a number of other innovations, including a five-segment metering system, a built-in flash, and a viewfinder with interchangeable screens.

One of the key features of the Nikon F3 was its modular design, which allowed photographers to easily swap out components such as the film back and viewfinder. This made it a popular choice for professional photographers who needed a camera that could be customized to their specific needs.

The Nikon F3 was initially released with a number of different viewfinder options, including a standard pentaprism viewfinder, a high-eyepoint viewfinder for eyeglass wearers, and a waist-level finder for shooting from low angles. In later years, Nikon released several other viewfinder options, including a data back and a motor drive viewfinder.

Over the course of its 20-year production run, the Nikon F3 was updated with several improvements and new features. For example, the Nikon F3/T introduced a built-in titanium shutter release button, and the Nikon F3AF added autofocus capabilities.

Despite the advent of newer, more advanced camera models, the Nikon F3 remains a popular choice for photographers today due to its durability, versatility, and high image quality. It is considered a classic camera and has a loyal following among photography enthusiasts.

Nikon F3 Specs

Here are some of the main technical specifications of the Nikon F3:

  • 35mm single-lens reflex (SLR) camera
  • Film format: 35mm
  • Image size: 24mm x 36mm
  • Shutter: titanium, vertically traveling focal plane type; speeds of 1/2000 to 1 second, plus Bulb; X-sync at 1/80 second
  • Metering: five-segmented, center-weighted metering or spot metering
  • Viewfinder: standard pentaprism viewfinder or a variety of interchangeable screens, including a high-eyepoint viewfinder and a waist-level finder
  • Autofocus: available in later models (F3AF)
  • Flash: built-in flash and hot shoe for external flash
  • Film advance: lever advance or motor drive
  • Dimensions: 5.8 inches (147mm) wide, 3.9 inches (99mm) tall, and 2.4 inches (61mm) deep
  • Weight: 31.7 ounces (900g)

These are just some of the main specifications of the Nikon F3. It was a highly advanced camera for its time and had many other features and capabilities as well.

Nikon F3 Pros & Cons


  • Durable build: The Nikon F3 is built to last, with a rugged metal chassis that can withstand the rigors of professional use.
  • Wide range of lenses: The F3 is compatible with a wide range of Nikon F-mount lenses, giving you plenty of creative options.
  • Highly customizable: The F3 has a number of customizable controls, including the ability to program custom functions into the camera’s exposure mode dial.
  • Excellent metering system: The F3’s metering system is highly accurate and reliable, making it easy to get the perfect exposure every time.
  • Beautiful images: The F3 produces stunning, high-quality images that are rich in detail and tonality.


  • No autofocus: The F3 is a fully manual camera, so it doesn’t have autofocus. This can be a challenge for some photographers, especially those who are used to shooting with modern cameras that have autofocus.
  • Expensive: The F3 is a high-end camera, so it can be expensive to purchase and maintain.

Nikon F3 Film Camera Review

Nikon F3 Common questions

  • What lenses can be used with the F3? The F3 is compatible with any Nikon F-mount lens. This includes both autofocus and manual focus lenses.
  • Does the F3 have autofocus? No, the F3 is a fully manual camera, so it does not have autofocus.
  • Is the F3 a good camera for a beginner? The F3 is a fully manual camera, so it may not be the best choice for a beginner photographer. It can be a bit challenging to use if you’re not familiar with manual controls. However, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to learn how to use it, the F3 can be a great camera for anyone.

Nikon F3 Common Issues

  • Light leaks: Some F3s have been known to develop light leaks, which can ruin your film and create streaks in your images. This can be resolved by changing the light seals to ensure proper light proof sealing.
  • Mirror lock-up problems: Some F3s have experienced issues with the mirror lock-up feature, which can cause problems with exposure and focus.
  • Battery problems: The F3 uses a battery to power the metering system, and some photographers have reported issues with the battery not lasting as long as it should.

Nikon F3 Special Editons

In addition to its standard version, the Nikon F3 has also been released in several special editions over the years. Here is a rundown of some of the most notable special editions of the F3:

  • Nikon F3/T: The F3/T is a variant of the standard F3 that was released in 1981. It features a titanium chassis, which makes it even more durable than the standard F3. The F3/T is highly sought after by collectors and can command a high price on the used market.
  • Nikon F3P: The F3P is a variant of the F3 that was released in 1983. It was designed specifically for press photographers and features a number of upgrades, including a faster film advance, a higher frame rate, and a redesigned grip.
  • Nikon F3H: The F3H is a variant of the F3 that was released in 1986. It was designed for use with the High Eyepoint Finder, which makes it easier to use the camera with glasses or when wearing a hat. The F3H also has a faster frame rate than the standard F3.
  • Nikon F3 Limited: The F3 Limited is a variant of the F3 that was released in 1988. It was produced in a limited run of only 1,000 units and features a black finish and a unique serial number. The F3 Limited is highly collectible and can fetch a high price on the used market.
  • Nikon F3 AF: The F3 AF is a variant of the F3 that was released in 1991. It’s notable for being the first Nikon F-mount camera to feature autofocus, which was a major departure from the fully manual design of the standard F3. The F3 AF is a rare camera and is highly prized by collectors.


Overall, the Nikon F3 is a reliable and durable camera that produces beautiful images. It’s a great choice for photographers who are looking for a fully manual film camera that can handle a wide range of lenses. However, it’s not for everyone, as it lacks autofocus, and it can be expensive to purchase and maintain.

The Nikon F3 is a classic film camera that has stood the test of time. With a durable build and innovative features, it’s no surprise that the F3 is still sought after today by professional photographers and collectors alike.

While the F3 has its share of pros and cons, it’s clear that it’s a camera that has a lot to offer. Its wide range of lens compatibility, customizable controls, and reliable metering system make it a versatile tool for photographers. And the beautiful, high-quality images it produces are a testament to its enduring legacy.

Of course, the F3 isn’t for everyone. Its fully manual design can be a challenge for some photographers. And its high price tag may not be accessible to everyone. But for photographers who are willing to put in the time and effort to learn how to use it, the F3 is a camera that can deliver stunning results.

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