The Camera Site

Nippon Kogaku K.K.


Nikon F3

1917 Nippon Kogaku K.K. (forerunner of Nikon) was established in Tokyo as a munitions optical instrument shop to meet the needs of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The company was a consolidation of three companies: Tokyo Keiki Seisaku-sho's optical division, Iwaki Glass Seizo-sho, and Fujii Lens Seizo-sho.

One of the basic aims of my web site is to forge a visitor some nostalgic feelings like "Look, that is the camera my grandma used ! ". Nikon F3 may not be the best object in that purpose. Definitely Nikon F3 is not an ordinary camera in a grandma´s hands. Unless she is a professional photographer.

In some earlier occasion I have mentioned that I have a close to worrisome addiction on fine mechanics and optics and electronics. F3 is an well balanced combination of an electronic, mechanical and optical device. If a gadget could be God the Nikon F3 would be a good candidate.

"It has been around nearly for a quarter of a decade, so it has remained in production longer than any other professional 35mm camera body. Perhaps it is the finest 35mm manual SLR ever built. It is a manual focus camera whose only concession to modernity is aperture preferred automatic exposure. To compensate for this austerity, it has a build quality which is simply unsurpassed. It is strong and very solid without feeling too heavy".

I feel a bit sad about the extinction of such characteristics in the contemporary product generation. You may still find something alike if you choose Magilite instead of "Super Turbo CryptoniteTorch" or Patek-Philippe instead of Swatch. Naturally you must be ready to pay more. I admit that´s obviously one point. The other is that to day development takes so huge and fast steps that there is no use for products which lasts forever. Nikon f3 is old fashioned and it is manufactured in old way and that is a "clue" in it. I am a damned conservative if you haven´t noticed ;-)


"Nikon F3´s moulded handgrip allows it to sit very comfortably in the hands, minimizing the possibility of slippage. The winding mechanism has ball bearings and works like a dream.There is a "clack" when the wind-on is complete which can be felt as well as heard. The shutter release is excellent too, with no danger of accidental tripping through activating the meter with a light press. The viewfinder is bright and clear with an LCD at the top left and the aperture reading at the top center. The F3 has its own type of flashgun shoe (WHO KNOWS WHY?) which is different to the standard ISO shoe. It is on the left side with the film rewind and film speed setting dial."

F3 was released in 1980 and it was the 3rd generation flagship model of Nikon during the eighties. It replaced its successful predecessor models, Nikon F in 1959 and Nikon F2. Camera body is designed by a famous Italian designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro. This is not a camera which is loaded with features and obviously because of that it has helped to bridge the gap on acceptance between manual and automation by users of 35mm SLR and it has also been one aspect that has contributed to its popularity. Still after years since its birth, F3 is broadly sought after in new or used condition. My F3 is not used and I got it as a present (I hope) from my dearest ;-) son Petteri.

The beginning of Nikkor lenses by Hans Braakhuis, the author of Nikon Catalogus, an excellent site to get information about the history Japanese Optical Industry as a whole.

Nikon Catalogus
The Nikon Catalogus site contains a collection of information of products of Nikon and Nippon Kogaku. Nikon Catalogus is also the title of various publications.
"In 1932 Nippon Kogaku Kogyo K.K. manufactures its first Nikkor photographic lens. This was later mounted on the Hansa Canon camera in 1936. All lenses from Nippon Kogaku were labelled "Nikkor" from this year on. And all pre-World War II Canon cameras were fitted with Nikkor lenses..
1932 Tokyo Optical (Tokyo Kogaku Kikai Kabushiki Kaisha) began in 1932, under the direction of the Imperial Japanese Army. The optical division of the Seikosha factory of Hattori Tokei, a clock and watch manufacturer, was merged with Katsuma Kogaku Kikai Seisaku Sho. The new company was formed to manufacture photographic lenses and precision optical and mechanical instruments. There is an similarity with the founding of Nippon Kogaku. By 1934. it had produced two triplet photographic lenses, the State and the Toko, in f/6.3 and f/4.5 apertures. The designer, Ryoii Tomita, made an 0.5 centimeter f/0.7 design in 1944, which was later sold to the US Occupation forces. After the WWII they made Topcon single lens reflexes and Topcor lenses."

    Type of camera : 35mm single-lens reflex

    Picture format : 24mm x 36mm standard 35mm film format.

    Lens mount : Nikon bayonet type.

    Lenses : Lenses with Nikon F mount (with some limitations); AF lenses.

    Shutter: Electro magnetically controlled, horizontal-travel, titanium foil focal-plane shutter.

    Shutter release button : Switch meter on when depressed halfway (after shutter release lock is released), meter then remains on for 16 sec, after finger is taken off button; threaded in the center to accept standard cable release Nikondial

    Automatic exposure control : Aperture-priority automatic exposure control; step less shutter speeds from 8 sec to 1/2000 sec.

    Manual exposure control : Quartz digital control for 16 shutter speeds from 8sec to 1/2000 sec, including X (1/80 sec); B and T also provided.

    Backup mechanical release lever : Trips shutter at approx 1/60 sec, regardless of shutter speed dial setting (except T); used when batteries become weak or exhausted, or none are installed in the camera.

    Exposure metering : TTL center-weighted (80/20) full-aperture metering; aperture stop-down metering possible; silicone photodiode (SPD) and metering circuits incorporated into camera body; meter works with all interchangeable viewfinders.

    Metering range : EV 1 to 18 (ie f/1.4 at 1 sec to f/11 at 1/2000 sec with 50 mm f/1.4 lens and ISO 100 fil).

    Film speed setting : ISO 12 to 6400.

    Exposure memory lock: Yes,via button.

    Exposure compensation : +2 to -2 EV in 1/3 increments.

    Film advance lever : Single stroke type; 30 degrees stand-off angle and 140 degrees winding angle; automatic film advance possible when motor drive MD-4 is used.

    Self-timer: Quartz-controlled approx 10 sec delayed exposure; LED blinks at 2 Hz for first 8 sec, then at 8 Hz for last 2 sec; setting cancellable.

    Viewfinder display : Liquid crystal display (LCD) shows shutter speed; on Auto, +2000 indicates overexposure, -8- underexposure; on Manual, M appears with + indicating overexposure, - underexposure, and -+ correct exposure; LED ready-light glows when Speedlight SB-16A and SB-17 , plus SB-11 and SB-14 with TTL Sensor cord SC-12 , is completely recycled; aperture in use also show through aperture direct-readout (ADR) window.


    If you want to make a camera, first thing you need is a box impervious to light, a lens and a shutter. That's it...

    Pictures from Nikon F3 brochure.

    Focusing screen : Split-image microprism Type K provided as standard; interchangeable with 21 other types.

    Finder coverage : Virtually 100%.

    Finder magnification : Nikon F3 : 0.8x Nikon F3HP : 0.75x (both with 500 mm lens set at infinity).

    Viewfinder illuminator : Provided via button; illuminates both LCD and ADR f/number.

    Multiple exposure control : Provided via lever.

    Reflex mirror : Automatic instant-return type with lockup facility; incorporates air damper and brake mechanism for reduced vibration and noise.

    Depth-of-field preview : Via lever.

    Frame counter : Additive type; frame numbers from 0 to 40; automatically resets to S when camera back is opened.

    Film rewind : By crank, after film rewind button is pressed.

    Flash synchronization: Possible at all speeds up to 1/80 sec with electronic flash; with SB-16A and SB-17 , plus SB-11 and SB-14 with TTL sensor cord SC-12 , sync speed is automatically set to 1/80 sec with dial at A or 1/125 sec an above; at 1/60 sec or slower, flash synchronizes with speed setting as set; threaded sync terminal provided for off camera or multiple-flash photography.

    Battery: Choice of one 3V lithium battery CR-1/3N type, two 1.55V silver-oxide batteries SR-44 type, or two 1.5V alkaline batteries LR-44 type; optional Anti-Cold Battery Holder DB-2 accepts two AA alkaline, Ni-Cd or manganese batteries.

    Motor drive coupling : Electrical contacts and mechanical couplers provided for operation with motor drive MD-4.

    Camera back : Hinged, opened by pushing safety lock while pulling up rewind knob, memo holder provided; interchangeable with camera back MF-6, data back MF-14, or 250 exposure magazine back MF-4.

    Body dimensions : (W x H x D) Nikon F3 : 148.5 x 96.5 x 65.5 mm Nikon F3HP : 148.5 x 101.5 x 69 mm.

    Body weight : Nikon F3 : 715g Nikon F3HP : 760g






































































©2005 Reijo Lauro