35mm and the Nikon F3

By Ted Forbes Back to

The Art of Photography Podcast, Episode 147: 35 mm and the Nikon F3

In this show we’ll cover 35mm again as I’d like to share my favorite 35mm camera, the Nikon F3.

I’ve always had a soft spot for 35mm. It was introduced as an amateur format compared to 120 or 4×5 – the negative size is much smaller than other formats thus the resolution is lower. But what 35mm did was allow for a much more efficient and portable camera design. Photographers were suddenly able to take images that were previously impossible to make because of the size and speed that 35mm cameras allowed photographers to work.

Today you can find 35mm for a song – largely because they are no longer produced and the use market is so plentiful. Some of these cameras can be had at a mere fraction of what they cost when they were new years ago.

The Nikon F3

The Nikon F3 is one of my favorite cameras ever made. To me it is the perfect camera. There are no computer screens to deal with, no hidden parameters. Every function is either a dial or a button on the actual camera body. It feels like a camera – not a computer. The main attraction of the Nikon F3 was the aperture priority / center weighted metering design. It couldn’t me easier to use. Set the shutter speed dial to auto and then exposure is then controlled my turning the aperture ring on the lens. That’s it! You can also shoot in full manual mode by simply setting the shutter speed to an actual speed (take it out of auto mode).

The Nikon F3 is built like a tank, is extremely comfortable to shoot with, has a huge bright viewfinder so you can actually focus with it. Its ergonomic and easy to use. Its inexpensive and you can find a sea of accessories that were made for the camera over its 20 year production run. Oh and the batteries last years, not hours.

There are a ton of cameras similar to this in the 35mm world still available today. Also highly recommended:
Nikon FE2
Canon A1
Canon AE
Pentax K1000

The above 4 models are similar to the F3 in terms of design and handling. There’s been literally hundreds of other models produced by various manufacturers over the years. This is just a good starting point. Explore and have fun – that’s the important thing!