Nikon F3 First Impressions


Nikon F3

Hi everyone, Azriel Knight here and welcome to another episode of Days of Knight. In this episode I take a look at the Nikon F3, but before I start I want to tell you about a contest I’m running as well as a collaboration with another YouTuber, to skip these, go to this time index.

Last month I did a giveaway for one of my 2020 Darkroom box sets. Be sure and check my May 2021 newsletter to see if your name was drawn.

This month I am giving away two stay classic edition 35mm film holders from Cameradactyl, along with a sticker pack. So two chances to win this month and all you need to do is be signed up to my newsletter, then check for your name at the beginning of each month to see if you won. Link to the newsletter in the description.

Second announcement is a collaboration involving a bunch of photographers, it’s a print exchange, and all this was orchestrated by The Naked Photographer, an incredibly knowledgeable guy and if you don’t know about him already I highly recommend checking him out.

So a bunch of us will be mailing out prints to one another, and here’s the print I sent out, a 4x5 I recently made, and I sent out a copy of this to Borut of ….I don’t want to get demonetized if I say his channel name….TopSHOOT photography. It’ll likely take some time to get to him, but I hope he enjoys it. I’ve seen his channel before and he’s incredibly talented, be sure and check him out as well.

The print that is being mailed to me is being sent by Matt Marrash, you may know him from large format Fridays, and he’s made me a platinum/palladium print, he really went all out and if you want to see him make it, check out his video. Again, all the links to everything I mentioned here, in the description.

Okay, onto the main stuff for today. I am giving you my first impressions of the Nikon F3. Recently I did reviews on the Nikon F1, and the F2, and if you’re curious about those I’ll leave links in the description. While I enjoyed them, in retrospect they weren’t anything that floored me. I like that you can swap out viewfinders but I wasn’t a huge fan of the photomic light meter I used on the F2, and though I enjoyed the simplicity of the F1, and I thought it was a beautiful looking camera, I personally wouldn’t own one.

The Nikon F3 has a very long production line, from 1980 to 2001, and it also has a huge fan base, so I was a little nervous in case I didn’t like it. Did I like it? Let’s find out.

You can see right off the bat here that the Nikon F3 has the more modern classic stylings. One thing it does share with the Nikon F1 and F2 though, is a lack of hot shoe. This is due to the interchangeable viewfinders, also a feature on the Nikon F1 and 2.

The F3 backloads by pushing this safety lock and pulling up on the rewind knob.

Gone is the super ugly photomic viewfinder available for the previous models as well, replaced with a much smaller finder. The electronics for metering your photos are in the camera this time, though, as seen here.

You can set you shutter to auto, which I did for the majority of my test, and there’s easy access to exposure compensation on the left.

Unlike my main 35mm camera, the Nikon FE, which would have been sold in the same line of cameras as the F3, the advance lever doesn’t need to be popped out to fire the shutter.

Other features include a self timer which can be activated here, a multiple exposure lever you can flip here, and an exposure lock on the front.

As with most Nikon cameras the lens compatibility is next level. For my field test I used my 28-105mm D lens, and even though there’s no auto focus, everything else works great, let’s take a look.

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I hope you enjoyed those highlights. It was a beautiful evening in Inglewood, a neighborhood I spent a lot of time at in last year but not so much this year.  I’m always happy to find new angles and try and make better compositions of old ones. If you’d like to see the high resolution images and my contact sheet, link in the description.

I don’t know why I was worried that I wouldn’t like the Nikon F3, because in hindsight there’s no surprises here. It’s very compatible with how I work with cameras. The Nikon F3 is a huge departure from Nikons F1 and F2 and I’m sure that ticked some people off, but nowadays people really love this model and I can see why. It’s Nikon’s pinnacle in manual focus SLR cameras. The F4, which came in the early 1990s was the introduction to autofocus but the F3 would still be in production for almost another decade. If you want a Nikon manual focus SLR this is about as good as it gets in terms of build quality. Do I like it more than the FE? No, I still prefer the slightly smaller form factor and even though the F3 has a max shutter speed of 1/2000 rather than 1/1000 like the FE, it’s not often, if at all, I shoot that high.

One thing you may find it the viewfinder a little hard to ready, the numbers are small and at least in my case the readout is light, but I did like how it told me when I was on manual shutter and when a photo would be overexposed.

The other thing you may not like it the price. It’s a few hundred Canadian, and unless you plan on swapping viewfinders, there isn’t much of an advantage over other manual focus Nikon SLRs.

My two main 35mm cameras are the Nikon FE and the F100. A compact late 70s beauty, and a fully loaded autofocus late 90s beast. The F3 would be a close second for me in terms of manual SLR Nikon cameras. I could easily recommend it.

Well, that’s all for now, I really hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. Don’t forget to check out all the links in the description I mentioned today.

And if you like what I do around here please consider supporting me on Patreon. When you become my patron, you get stuff like early access, your name in the credit, free prints and more. Go to to subscribe. You can also follow me on Instagram and twitter, and until next time, stay classic.