Those of you who read this Blog on a regular basis will know that I have a passion (some would say “obsession”) for collecting old 35mm Nikon cameras. Well, from time time, if you search long and hard, certain little gems materialise.

Apart from scouring second hand shops, charity shops and car boot sales I still need my daily eBay fix too, which is where I found this gorgeous beauty!

Nikon F3P

It was quite obvious from the listing that the previous owner didn’t have a clue to the significance of this camera! Maybe to him it was just another ordinary F3, but if you know your Nikon’s you couldn’t fail to notice the hot shoe on the HP prism (DE-5). Only one camera is equipped with a DE-5 – the legendary Nikon F3P (Press or Professional).

F3P

Originally the F3P was available just to professionals through Nikon Professional Services, but later available to the general public. The camera featured a non-TTL hot-shoe above the viewfinder, which had a titanium cover, a B type focusing screen, no cable release socket, no self-timer and no eyepiece blind. It did however have special weather sealing and a larger, easier to grasp shutter speed dial. It also came with a stock MF-6/6B film back that left the film leader sticking out when the MD-4 was used to rewind the film back in the canister.

F3P HP

The other tell tail sign of the F3P is the serial number, it starts out as “P 90xxxxx”.

At £45 (no i haven’t missed a nought off) I think I got the bargain of a life time!

Well! I did it, it may have taken me 25 years, but I’ve finally got myself a Nikon F3.

Since I took up photography back in 1986 I had my sights set on owning an F3. Back then it was Nikon’s flagship model, state of the art – top of the range and way out of my price range. Besides, what was a poor novice photographer like me going to do with professional SLR? I needed to keep things in perspective and so I purchased a Nikon EM instead!

A bit of a come down maybe, but at least it was a start! And we all had to start somewhere.

The F3 was Nikons third generation of the professional classic. Introduced in 1980 it was the successor to the original F (1959) and the hugely popular; some might say, “Best Ever Mechanical Camera”, Nikon F2 (1973). Despite some early misgivings from the pro’s regarding the F3’s dependence on batteries it went on to sell 750,000 units over the 21 years it remained in production.

I purchased my F3 (two in fact) from my local camera fair. Well, more of a punt than a purchase! The first one I picked up was missing a few parts, but I was told it did work. I paid £30 for the body, DE-3 (standard finder), MF-6b back (quite rare) and a 43-86mm Nikkor lens. The main missing item was a simple battery cover.

My second purchase was for a dead F3, with AS-4 (flash coupler) and an MD-4 motor drive. I paid just £20! I figured the flash coupler was worth that.

Back at base I proceeded to dissect the dead F3, carefully removing all its body parts after which an autopsy was performed on the MD-4. Although the MD-4 appeared to be dead it was only pretending! I made a make-shift repair to a broken terminal pin and cleaned the battery contacts, the MD-4 was back in business. With two new LR44’s in the rejuvenated body, just like the man said it would, that too came to life. Over the next couple of days I replaced the light seals along with the wind-on and re-wind levers and the MD-4 received a new lick of paint. Job well done!

Here we see 3 out of the 6 “F” models produced. Missing (at the moment) is an F2, F5 and F6, all of which I hope to add to my collection in the future.