Camera Reviews

I own cameras I like more, but if I had to keep just one camera it would be this one, the Nikon F3. I enjoy using it, and it’s so robustly built it should outlast me. I’ve refreshed my review of it; read it here.

Nikon F3HP *EXPLORED*
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Updated review: Nikon F3

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Film Photography

Expired Kodak Max 400 in the Nikon F3

Iron fence

Checking for a suspected shutter fault in my Nikon F3 I put two rolls of film through it late last year: one Kodak High-Definition 400 (see some of those photos here) and the other Kodak Max 400, photos from which I’m sharing here. Both rolls expired in 2007. I’m not a fan of expired film’s unpredictable results. So to me, the stuff is best used for a job like this.

Old house

The F3 went along on our day-after-Christmas road trip up the Michigan Road. All of these photographs are from the road, in and near Rochester. As I shared in this post, Rochester has a long row of lovely old houses on the road as you approach downtown from the south.

Fence

Even though it was midafternoon, given the time of year the sun rode fairly low in the sky and delivered some delicious light. The film’s colors all shifted a little, which is a hazard of being expired. But the Auto Tone tool in Photoshop fixed that right up in a second.

Catholic Church in Rochester

At full scan size you’ll see considerable grain in all of these photos. But at blog size the grain is managed well enough. I’m pleased that I was able to get a little blurred background at EI 400 with the 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens I was shooting.

Tree

On Rochester’s square, apparently Santa comes to visit in this little house. On the day after Christmas it had not yet been removed.

Santa's house

I also aimed the F3 at the abandoned bridge abutment north of Rochester, which I wrote about more extensively here.

Old bridge abutment

This is the Tippecanoe River, placidly flowing past the bridge on which I stood.

Tippecanoe River

That bridge, a simple modern steel stringer, features this plaque commemorating its 1982 completion. I love the typeface they used for the plaque.

New bridge marker

Standing by that plaque I focused on the memorials on the old approach, enjoying the ever-fading afternoon light.

On the old bridge abutment

The F3 performed flawlessly, by the way. My worries about the shutter were unfounded.

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Film Photography

Shooting Kodak High Definition 400 (expired)

Thorntown Marathon

When I moved in with my wife, she had a bunch of film she never got around to shooting before she bought her DSLR. Most of it was Kodak Max 400, but one roll was Kodak High Definition 400, a film I’d never heard of.

Looking it up on the Internet, people agree that this was Kodak’s Royal Gold 400 film rebranded. That film was known for smooth grain, saturated colors, and punchy contrast.

I found this film in a drawer with an expiration date in 2007, so I knew it wasn’t going to perform like new. The rule of thumb is to increase exposure by one stop for every decade of expiration, but I rated it at EI 400 anyway and loaded it into my Nikon F3. On my previous outing with the F3 the shutter misbehaved, leaving vertical light streaks on several shots. I thought maybe the camera was misbehaving thanks to having not been used in over a year. The best way to find out was to shoot a couple more rolls. My cache of expired film was perfect for the job.

B&S

The film performed all right, yielding well-saturated but slightly shifted color. A quick hit of Auto Tone in Photoshop un-shifted the color lickety split. Grain was pronounced at full scan size, though it’s hard to tell that at blog sizes.

Wrecks

The F3 and the HD 400 came along on our post-Christmas road trip up the Michigan Road. Here’s a block of downtown Plymouth.

Downtwn Plymouth

The F3’s shutter performed flawlessly, thank goodness. Still, it’s time to put this wonderful camera in the queue to send out for CLA.

The Corbin House

I gather that Kodak introduced this film as its Gold 100/200 and Max 400 films had grain that could show up on enlargements. Remember when a standard print was 3.5″x5″? Through the 90s and early 2000s the standard size became 4″x6″, and some labs let you order 5″x7″ prints at nominal extra cost.

Post

I’ve never had trouble with grain on my prints of Kodak’s regular 200 and 400 color films. Maybe they’ve improved those films since HD 400’s days.

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Window in our room at Hotel Allegro

Morning light, hotel window
Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor
Kodak T-Max P3200
2018

Just one more shot from the F3 on that remarkable T-Max P3200. It did a wonderful job rendering both the light and dark areas of this scene. As I shot this, through my viewfinder I could clearly see a television on top of the cabinet at right. The P3200 does have its limits.

Film Photography

single frame: Morning light, hotel window

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Camera Reviews

If I could own only one camera it would be the Nikon F3

It’s a bold statement, I know: if I could own only one camera, it would be the Nikon F3.

Nikon F3HP *EXPLORED*

My camera collecting has been, in part, a journey toward finding the cameras that work best for me. I think I’ve tried enough cameras now to make this judgment. 

I’d miss my other SLRs, especially my Pentaxes ME and KM. Once in a while I’d pine for my autofocus, autoexposure Nikon N90s. There would be times I wished I could slip my Olympus XA into my pocket, or enjoy a Kodak Retina.

But if I owned only my Nikon F3, I’d make wonderful images for the rest of my life, and be perfectly happy doing it.

The rugged Nikon F3 can withstand any conditions I might subject it to, including my own considerable klutziness. After I send it out for a CLA, it should work beautifully for me for the rest of my life. I own a good range of capable Nikkor lenses. I’m ready for pretty much anything I might want to shoot.

The F3 offers aperture-priority exposure, my favorite way to shoot. It also offers full manual exposure.

The F3 is heavy. One could argue that I might enjoy one of Nikon’s lighter semi-pro bodies more. I own one, an FA, and it’s a good camera — and less fatiguing at the end of a long day slung over the shoulder.

But it took me no time to adapt to the F3’s ways, and now whenever I shoot it I feel one with it. That kind of bonding has happened for me with only a few cameras, my FA not included.

This was going to be my Operation Thin the Herd writeup on the F3. But it is silly to keep you in suspense through a long post when I’ve always known there was no way I would get rid of this camera. So here now, the photos that would have graced that Operation Thin the Herd post. The lens is the 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor, and the film is Kodak T-Max P3200.

Chicago River at night

These are from our December trip to Chicago. I really enjoyed being able to capture the city at night on that fast, fast film.

Chicago River at night

I just can’t get over how good these night photos are. That P3200 really performs.

State Street at night

Heavy cloud cover made for poor light during the day. The P3200 let me shoot at comfortable apertures for plenty of depth of field.

Hotel Allegro

The F3 hung off my shoulder nonstop for three days. By the third day I was beginning to wish for relief. That’s my only beef with the camera.

State and Lake

I love Chicago as a photographic destination. I haven’t even begun to exhaust the obvious subjects yet.

Chicago

The F3 is quiet for an SLR perfect for shooting inside a museum like the Chicago Art Institute.

Inside the Art Institute

I managed one photo inside the Merchandise Mart before security sternly warned us that photography was prohibited.

Elevators in the Merchandise Mart

I made a portrait of Margaret at our Sunday lunch, at a restaurant called The Dearborn. We shared a bottle of delicious Spanish wine.

Margaret

All was not perfect with the F3 on this outing. I didn’t know it until the images came back from the processor, but the shutter was acting up a little. On my first roll it affected about a dozen shots, but did not occur at all on the second roll. It’s possible that the shutter was just a little crabby from disuse. I had been using my F3 regularly until about a year ago, when Operation Thin the Herd began. It’s kept me busy with my other cameras!

I’m going to shoot a few more rolls through my F3 to see if the problem recurs. This is a good reason to use up some ten-year-expired Kodak Max 400 I have in the fridge. If I see more of this, I’ll move the camera up in the CLA queue and include a repair to the shutter.

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View from a 15th-floor hotel window

View from the hotel window
Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor
Kodak T-Max P3200
2018

I just love how much definition the T-Max P3200 delivered at night through our Chicago hotel window. Just look at the cars in the glowing parking garage! They’re so clear you can almost tell what make and model some of them are.

If you’re looking at this on a computer monitor rather than on your phone or tablet, you can see how even at this larger size the considerable grain doesn’t detract at all from the image.

Film Photography

single frame: View from the hotel window

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