Wednesday, February 14, 2007


last portra example

Kodak Portra 160 VC film.
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Portra example

Another Portra photo.
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Portra 160 VC film

Taken with a Nikon F3 with 50/2 Nikkor lens.
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Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Review - 1980 era Nikon F3 SLR

I've had one of these for about a year, and after recently receiving some new Kodak Portra 160 film, I thought I would use this camera to try the film out. For an '80s SLR, this camera packs a lot of features and is well built. Some versions of it went on NASA space missions, and it was the top of the line product in the Nikon SLR family until the larger F4 came in 1988 or so.

The F3 I have has the original prism, called the DE-2, later they offered a larger one and called the camera the F3 HP for High Point, which actually reduced magnification from the .8X to .75X but made it easier for eyeglass wearers to use. I prefer the looks and lines of the original prism, and it is also shorter, thinner, and lighter than the HP versions.

There are about 6 different prisms available in total, as well as a 6 frames per second motor drive, and other accessories including 21 different focusing screens. My particular focusing screen is a type T for TV slide use, though it seems to work fine for fast focusing and framing. The prism comes off without any tools, and the focusing screen can be changed in seconds.

The basic metering system is AE when the dial is on A, or metered manual. You can also use the camera without batteries with a fixed shutter speed of 1/60th, otherwise in auto mode, the shutter is stepless electronic, and in manual mode, it is quartz controlled.

I used the F3 with a Nikkor 50/F2 non-AI lens. Because the lens I used was not AI, I had to use stop-down metering or metered manual. Basically it meant I had to press the silver button on the right (shutter side) in to stop the lens down, and then get an automatic shutter speed. The lever to the lower right is for AE lock, or to trigger the manual shutter mode.

I took about half of the photos in stopped down AE auto mode, and about half in metered manual mode. If I were using this full-time, I would definitely want an AI lens to eliminate the stop down step.

Focusing the Nikon is one of the easiest manual focus cameras I've used, but like most SLR's there is the mirror slap process, so I tried to hold steady, and keep my shutter speeds above 1/60th.

The left side controls are straightforward, a crank rewind with a safety knob release for opening the back, and around the rewind knob is an EV dial from -2 to +2, and ASA setting with a range from 12 to 6400. Other than setting the ASA for 160, I didn't use the EV adjustment, I just used the AE lock or manual to get the exposures needed.

The right side has a large shutter dial from 1/2000 to 8 seconds with B, T, X, and A. The T setting is interesting, it is like B for timed settings, but is mechanical, so it doesn't drain the batteries during extremely long exposures, and keeps the shutter open until rotated off of the T setting.

The shutter is in the center of the film advance lever. On the front right of the top deck there apparently is a lever for multiple exposures, mine may be broken off. Apparently the earliest units had longer knobs that caught and broke easily, and later these levers were shortened.

The front right contains the silver stop down button surrounded by a self-timer lever, and below it, the AE lock button, surrounded by the manual shutter control. A blinking LED light flashes when the self-timer is on, and speeds up just before exposure.

In the camera manual, and specs. sheets, they don't mention specific operating or storage temperatures, but mention that battery usage will be decreased at -20 deg. C, and that the viewfinder LED might not work at above 60 deg. C, so one can assume these were built for quite rugged use.

Since I've been using rangefinders a lot recently, this unit felt a bit heavy. I carried it around without a strap, but would recommend a nice padded shoulder strap for regular use. The 50/f2 lens seemed like a good fit and balanced well, but a nice zoom or wider angle would be a great addition to this classic.

One thing I haven't gotten used to yet is to power the meter on, you have to flip a switch on the top with your fingernail to uncover a red dot. One other feature is an LED illuminator light that is turned on by a tiny red plastic button on the prism base. This seems odd, but it does work.

I'm not sure if I'll be using this much, we'll see how the test roll comes out.


Saturday, February 10, 2007


ISO 3200 photo with Fuji F30

f2.8 / 1/45th, at ISO 3200. Posted by Picasa

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