My Nikon F3 is back from repair and CLA


I was mighty bummed when I picked up my Nikon F3 a few months ago and found its meter dead and its winder locked up. If I could own only one camera, it would be this one. I reach for my Pentax ME and Olympus OM-2n more often because they’re smaller and lighter. But as a pro camera, the F3’s robustness outclasses them. With proper care, it might well outlast me.

I sent it to James Holman at International Camera Technicians. $275 and a couple weeks later, it was back in my hands, good as new.

I put a couple rolls of color negative film through it to test it, with my 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor lens mounted. I enjoy moving in close to things, which the Micro-Nikkor lets me do. For other subjects in good light, leaving it focused at infinity delivers enough depth of field that I don’t have to do any fine focusing.

The price of gas I

As expected, the F3 performed beautifully. All of the controls were smooth and sure. They were all pretty smooth and pretty sure before the winder locked up — my F3 was in good condition in the first place. The only trouble I’ve had with it before this is failed light seals; last year I replaced them myself.

Triple ATMs

James charges $50 to diagnose a camera, but applies that fee to the final bill if you go ahead with the repair. After I paid the fee, James let me know within a day what work my F3 needed and what the work would cost. After I authorized the work, James completed it in a few days. My camera spent more time with the USPS than it did in James’s shop.


James services 35mm, medium format, and large format film cameras, as well as lenses. When I’ve sent some of my other cameras out for repair and CLA, I’ve always looked for the One True Expert for that kind of camera: Eric Hendrickson for my Pentax SLRs, Sover Wong for my Nikon F2, John Hermanson for my Olympus OM-series SLRs. There doesn’t appear to be One True F3 Expert, and my buddy John has always sung James’s praises, so I gave James a whirl. Verdict: Recommended. I’m sure I’ll send more cameras his way, as more of my old gear needs work.


For my test roll I did what I like to call “la-de-da photography” — walking around photographing anything that even remotely catches my fancy. It was early spring, so I moved in close on a lot of flowers.


These photos are on Agfa Agfacolor Vista 400. I was gifted two rolls of this stuff; I shared images from the other roll here. This film hasn’t been made in some time, and my rolls are expired. Last time I shot this film at box speed and got grainy, color-shifted results. This time I shot it at EI 200 and got much better performance.

Stained glass

I’m relieved to have my F3 back and working again!

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18 responses to “My Nikon F3 is back from repair and CLA”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Always good to get another camera repair recommendation!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar


      1. Cynthia DiVeto Avatar
        Cynthia DiVeto

        I sent my F3 and lenses to be cleaned etc. to Camera Clinic in Lauderdale by the Sea, paid $440.00 for repairs. I got it back and operation not smooth. I had not used the camera for twenty years, so I know what I did wrong, but now it should be working well, and it is not. For example, when I open the back it does not pop open. I have to pry it loose. I am very upset… should I send it to Jim?

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          If it were me, I’d contact Camera Clinic and explain how the camera is behaving. If they are good and honest, they should take the camera back and fix it right. If they can’t or won’t, then try Jim.

  2. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    Those of us who enjoy making photographs with old film cameras are fortunate to have great techs like Jim Holman around to keep our gear functioning as designed.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      He was very fast! That’s always a plus.

  3. marcusterrypeddle Avatar

    Beautiful, bright colours from the film. A shame it isn’t produced anymore. I always liked Agfa’s slide film. Half the price of Fujifilm 100F and nice warm colours!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m pleased I figured out how best to expose this film on this last roll I had. Now I really know what this film looks like. I’d never shot this film before.

  4. Kodachromeguy Avatar

    That is a useful recommendation for a camera technician. Thanks. That kind of knowledge is always valuable.

    I used a Nikon F3 for 20 years and had great results from mine. On one trip, I took it to Costa Rica, and everything got so wet, I sent it to Nikon USA for a complete checkup and overhaul. Around 2006 or 07, I stupidly sold it when the digital tsunami overcame us and we thought we would all become digital photographers. Dumb move, as usual.

    1. Andy Umbo Avatar
      Andy Umbo

      Ditto for my Nikon F’s with prisms, and Nikkormats…all about the same time as you, for the same reason…wish I had them all back…all “mint” including the lenses, all went for nothing, about a fraction of what they’d go for today, and all dumped in a Nikon “pro” digital that was a boat anchor withing 5 years of buying it…

      1. Kodachromeguy Avatar

        I agree. My gorgeous F3 with 2 prisms, 2 or 3 focus screens, and the motor sold for nothing. What was I not thinking?

        I still have the oddball 200mm f/3.5 ED that was specifically made for the F3AF, Nikon’s early vintage autofocus body. It works well as a manual focus lens. I wonder if a collector would like it?

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s not too late to pick up a good used F3 from eBay or KEH…

  5. tbm3fan Avatar

    3.69 for regular? When was this because it can’t have been this past month. It was 5.89 yesterday for me.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Early May I think? It usually takes longer for gas price spikes to reach Indiana for some reason. Not much longer, but longer.

  6. arhphotographic Avatar

    F3 working again- tranquillity restored

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s all about the tranquility!

  7. CD Avatar

    Update: I took the camera to Delray Camera for a very helpful second opinion. It turns out that they send their repairs to Camera Clinic, with excellent reports, and the problems I was having were not from faulty work, just from lack of use AND the most shocking thing was that I had bought brand new 1.5v silver oxide batteries and they tested BAD.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar


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