Read: New Camera

39 Comments

Milnor_Nikon_F3_003

It’s interesting to think about being the ONLY person on planet Earth to do something at a specific point in time. Like buy an Nikon F3…last week. There is a reason why I might have been the only person doing this, perhaps even more than one reason, but yet here it sits, in my possession. Why would I do such a thing? Well, keep your pants on. I’m about to explain.

I picked up my first real camera in about 1988, a screw-mount Nikkormat with a 35mm lens. I was given a few newspaper assignments, with no training mind you, and within a few weeks I knew that photojournalism was what I wanted to do. After making this fateful decision I was told “You need to go buy a Nikon FM2.” So I did. I used this camera for years, eventually branching out and buying an F3, which at the time was the top-of-the-line model. The F3 was actually the longest selling camera in the history of Nikon. Brace yourself for this one young photographers…this camera was manufactured and sold from 1980 to 2000. TWENTY YEARS. A slight difference from the eighteen month average of modern…..”cameras.” The F3 was actually manufactured long after the replacement model, the F4, was released.(Yes, I had one and it sucked.)
Milnor_Kody_Milnor_002
The F3 was designed by an Italian designer and is simply a beautiful chunk of sculpted metal, or BRASS I should say. It’s so solid. In fact the only other camera I have that feels remotely like the F3 is my Leica M4, which is also made of brass. When the F3 fires it’s all metal on metal, just as things should be. As you will also notice, what sits on the front end is not made by Nikon but rather by Zeiss. The 50mm 1.4. I’d heard about these lenses for a long while, so thought I would give one a go. Not disappointed. Very solidly made, smooth, relatively smallish, great hood. Sharp. Fast.

As you will also see, I have a backup camera in case my F3 is run over by an Earthmover or Australian Road Train. I had this FM2T for years but wasn’t using it. Until now. Another great camera. Indestructible, small, light, etc. Both of these cameras are about the size of my Leica. Also, the F3 is the HP model, which stands for “high-eyepoint,’ which is best finder ever placed in an SLR, and removable, which gives one waist level shooting as an option. Imagine a 35mm Hasselblad.

But Dan…why? Well, I’m crazy. Yes, that’s true. Using these cameras has reminded me of how I felt in 1988 when I first started this mess. For the first time in five years I’m actually thinking about making pictures again. Like real images, with at least a bit of thought behind them. No real urge to do anything with the images, outside of just making them. Included are a few images from the first roll of F3 magic. Now, I know what some of you are wondering….did he sell his others cameras. Yes and no. Sold a bunch of gear I don’t use, and kept the key elements of my past. Canon 5D III, Hasselblad 503CW, Leica M4, kept them. The rest, gone.

Full disclosure, there is one thing I’m still looking for which is a ground glass focusing screen. I’m not a split image guy, so I want to replace the original screen, which in a camera like this takes all of about two seconds. Just need to find one. When you enter a camera shop ask about this they gaze over the vast expanse of new digital widgets, gadgets and wonder what planet you landed from.

By the way, this final image is of “Kman” my nephew. For those of you who followed Smogranch for any length of time you will know who this is. He’s 16 now and WAY larger than when I last photographed him.
Milnor_Kody_Milnor_011
Milnor_Kody_Milnor_008

Comments 39

  1. Black and white is beautiful my first Nikon was a Nikon FM2 had medium formats Mamiya 330 and the RB then went to Contaz 35mm and the 645. Have Nikon digital now. But like film much more. Recently decided to go back to the black and white image.

    1. Post
      Author
  2. I must be triple crazy. I just picked up an FTb and a mint, clean K 1000. Last month I found a Lynx14 rangefinder. All are in working order and I love shooting with them. Fast, old glass rocks!

    1. Post
      Author
  3. I’ve had the pleasure of owning two of the great Nikons, first was the F2A, which was also a beautiful camera, and a F3/T. I wish it was still feasible to shoot with the classic film cameras. They are such a joy to hold and operate.

    One small item. I don’t think there was ever a screw mount Nikkormat.

    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author

      Eric,
      I heard about Bill but don’t know anything about him. I was going after a Beattie Intenscreen but they are SO expensive now.

    2. Post
      Author

      Hey Eric,
      I’ll look him up. I’ve got a NIkon B screen on the way, someone had and wasn’t using.

  4. The F3 is the camera I lusted after in the early, early nineties. I just loved the way it looked. But, it was too expensive at the time. The one you picked up looks CLEAN! And one hellva “rock of Gibraltar” camera. Congratulations!

    Well Dan, our kits are complete, now let’s go out make some images goddamit!!!

    1. Post
      Author
  5. Ha! … I knew you were going to come back!
    Sorry for the excitement. Once not to long ago I told you that you are a photographer no matter what you do (even the way you write is like your photographs). Anyway, I don’t wanna be a smarty-pants, just want to say that I’m happy to hear that.
    Follow your own rhythm, share them everyday or share them once in a while, or don’t share them (I’d prefer you do) … this is all your choice. But I’m happy knowing you still at it.

    1. Post
      Author

      Erlantz,
      Yes, I just need a bit more time than I have now. I can’t imagine ever having the time I used to have, when I could leave for three weeks and do nothing but shoot, but I’m looking at making a different kind of photograph now, one I can make from anywhere.

  6. I’d love a new F3. When it was new I could only afford the FM2. All the used examples of the F3 I have seen are wrecks. Film photography will die not because film is no-longer available, but because film cameras are no-longer serviceable. Hopefully someone will see a growing niche market.

    Mike.

    1. Post
      Author

      Mike,
      I think the Asian market will have repairs for a long while yet. The Asian analog scene is so strong and so committed. Here in the US we have departed and won’t ever return.

    2. A couple places I know of.

      Camera Clinic, Shoreline, WA – 206-367-2440.
      Northwest Camera Repair, Everett, WA – 425-252-0932 (Haven’t used in a while. May have gone total Digital)
      Vermont Camera Repair
      Midwest Camera
      Japan Camera Hunter – In a pinch you can email Bellamy Hunt and ask who are the trusted repair shops in Japan.

    1. Post
      Author
  7. Small world but you weren’t alone, last week I bought a mint F3 with 50 mil one four currently tracking it’s way Down Under!

    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author

      PC,

      Way to go. I had F4’s for many years. Yes, I’ll be back in Oz…looks like, May of 2016. Not sure about any sooner..sob, sob.

  8. Dan, lovely machine. Make them black and white photo’s my friend. What you posted is magic. No computer matrix metering, just plain center weight, a whole other story. I’m on Nikon F100/F90x for autofocus. Jumped on Pentax 67 and on 35mm Program A for manual focus. That’s two separate worlds.
    The old Pentax manual focus lenses are a joy, solid metal and very nice.
    Keep strong.

    1. Post
      Author
  9. I had an fm2 and also a f3 once. I loved the f3, wish I had never sold it. I sold my Nikon digital yesterday and sit here holding only a Fuji xe2 and 23 f1.4. It’s the only camera I own right now. I was thinking today that I want a camera to grow old with, one I can shoot forever , one I can know every square inch of. One I can adjust without looking at it. Digital has way to many buttons. Digital cameras like so many things in this world today are just temporary. I’m constantly upgrading every few years. It seems absurd now . I not sure what I’ll do now.

    1. Post
      Author

      Mike,
      The digital cameras are good for certain things, but in terms of lasting for any length of time…not really.

  10. Anything (camera included) that invigorates you to go out and shoot is a good thing. I can feel your enthusiasm in your writing!

    …And Kman…wow! You could have easily told us that was you at that age and I would have believed it. Huge family resemblance.

    All the best.

    1. Post
      Author
  11. Ok so now I am quad crazy- just picked up a YashicaMat TLR. Also going to blow the dust off my FM2 !

    1. Post
      Author
    2. Post
      Author
  12. I have been messing and F3…Love the viewfinder, but I realize how much I missed the simplicity of focusing with my Leica. I was trying to focus in the dark, with the split level, and I kept looking for the two red triangles at the bottom. There is something about that camera, even with the backward focusing.

    1. Post
      Author

      Tom,
      Change out the split to a B screen. Ground glass. Solves that little issue. I don’t like splits either. I’m digging the F3. Just need time to actually go use it.

  13. The only photographer I enjoy reading as much as viewing! It’s great to find you again in this place now.
    I’m a few years ahead of you and yes, it’s a strong pull for many of us to now get the cameras we had in our early days, or more often lusted after but couldn’t afford! The F3 is in the latter category and the F2 is what I shot from age 19 until I stupidly decided it was too big. I’m sorely tempted to go back.

    Writing from Hong Kong I can second your comment about film in Asia; it is busting out all over. The main distributor for film here just cannot keep up with demand and there are rentable darkrooms all over the town. Japan is even more nuts but the film prices have gone crazy there. Amazingly even in Phnom Penh I can buy 35mm and have it developed for $1 a roll.

    I hope you make it back to Hong Kong one day soon.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hey Jon,
      Thanks for saying that. I was just hanging with a guy from Hong Kong. Glad to hear film is doing well. I write this as I just came back from walking at 5:30AM with my new x100T. I also loaned my Polaroid to someone else at the event I’m attending, so I’m all digi for the first time in a long, long time. Feels odd, but I also have a plan so it’s working. I’m still learning the camera, and Lightroom, which is the bigger challenge at the moment. It’s been so long since I used LR I don’t remember anything about it.

    2. 100s is my have-to-use-at-workshops-camera; it’s great but I was counting on you to keep flying the flag for Tri-x and Portra! Honestly your blogs were a big part of my return to film and I don’t regret it. I even came close to getting a GF670 after your Peru adventures but settled on a dirt-cheap Rollei TLR. Nothing in digital comes close to those 6×6 negatives. I hear Fuji, Sony and Hasselblad are soon bringing out mirrorless MF cameras but it still won’t be the same.

      Happy shooting

    3. Post
      Author

      Hey Jon,
      I’m using TRIX all time, just not much during work trips. I’m also recording audio, so part of my bag is now filled with sound gear, hence my need to downsize a bit. All my domestic projects, which are few and far between, are film based. The Fuji is a sketch and snapshot camera for me, which I think it will be great for. Oh, and photo walks.

Leave a comment