There I was, happily making photographs with the Nikon F2 that John Smith generously donated to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras, when John e-mailed me asking: Would I like a Nikon F3 that he didn’t use anymore?
Does a wino want a case of Thunderbird?
I can’t add anything to the F3 story that the Internet hasn’t already catalogued. Camera-wiki tells the tale well enough. The sketch: introduced in 1980 to succeed the venerable F2, the F3 required a battery to operate, which initially alienated most photographers, who trusted all-manual cameras. Then Nikon went on to manufacture the F3 for a whopping 21 years. Clearly, photographers got over it.
The HP in this F3’s name stands for High Eyepoint, which is that big round viewfinder. Glasses-wearing photographers are supposed to have an easier time seeing into a High Eyepoint viewfinder. I wouldn’t know; I wear contacts. If you look on eBay, you’ll find more F3HPs than regular F3s.
The F3 finally brought aperture-priority autoexposure to Nikon’s flagship camera. (See the A on the shutter-speed dial?) I love aperture-priority shooting, but after shooting the F2 all year I’ve adapted surprisingly well to setting both aperture and shutter speed. I could happily keep shooting the F2 as my only camera forever. But I admit, I enjoyed setting aperture and letting the F3 figure out the shutter speed. It displays both in the viewfinder: the aperture directly off the lens barrel, and shutter speed in a little LED panel. The shutter operates steplessly from 8 sec to 1/2000 sec, although the display shows the nearest standard speed.
Otherwise, using the F3 feels mighty familiar after shooting the F2 all year. John threw a half-dozen rolls of film in the box just to be sure I’d have a great time with the F3. I knew one of the films well: Arista Premium 400. I loaded it directly into the F3, clipped my 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens on, and got shooting.
The F3 accompanied me on a trip to Columbus, Ohio. I stopped for coffee in the Short North neighborhood. I crouched low to photograph the counter.
If you like galleries and shops, you’ll like the Short North. One out-of-the-way gallery featured an artist who paints with egg tempera. You can lose yourself in the detail and color in her work. We got to meet the artist, but only after these well-behaved little dogs cleared the way.
When we stepped into the Big Fun store, we entered a world of 1970s and 1980s pop culture and kitsch. Old lunchboxes lined one wall of the store, but I couldn’t find a replacement for the Big Jim lunch box I had in first grade. Darnit.
We also walked along the Scioto River to look out over construction to narrow the river and build a greenway. This railing bordered an overlook.
Closer to home, I met a friend and colleague at a well-known local watering hole for whiskey and conversation. I took several photos of its iconic sign, but like only this one.
I finished the roll on a stroll through my neighborhood of 1950s and 1960s one-story homes, most of them faced in brick. The many mature trees in my neighborhood create heavy autumn cleanup.
Only one neighbor fences his front yard. You can’t go wrong with white picket — but I’d choose PVC over wood so I never had to paint it.
A low wood fence cordons off the southwest corner of my back yard. I’ve spent a lot of time this year clearing wildly overgrown brush from behind this fence.
My lot borders a golf course. These three frequent subjects stand beside the 14th fairway.
If you’d like to see more photos from this F3HP, check out my Nikon F3 Gallery.
I really enjoyed using the F3. As I move into 2015 and resume shooting the occasional new old camera, I will also keep film in my F2 and probably also this F3 for when I want to just shoot and fully enjoy it. The F3 is a great camera.