Durability of Nikon FM3A

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by drjoke, Sep 28, 2007.

  1. drjoke

    drjoke Member

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    Are film-based SLR's as durable as rangefinder cameras? I walked into a second-hand shop today and many of their Nikon SLR's have problems with its shutter or light meter of some sorts. If I were to invest in an FM3A today, would it be durable enough to last at least a decade without requiring repairs? Yet, if it starts to break down, will Nikon be able to fix it? Unfortunately, it's no longer in production.

    I would have considered a fully mechanical camera if that's more durable, but I have much easier time with aperture-priority.

    Worse yet, if I were to get something even older like Nikon EM, will I be able to fix it? I take about 5,000 to 10,000 photos per year. Is that a lot for an old SLR?

    My main camera is the current model Zeiss Ikon. But, sometime I fancy getting a Nikon manual focus camera so I can use Zeiss's ZF lenses.
     
  2. spiralcity

    spiralcity Member

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    I own many Nikons. The older models are built like tanks.
    If your Nikon breaks down there are hundreds if not thousands of repair shops who can fix them. Nikon is a member of the BIG 3.
     
  3. spiralcity

    spiralcity Member

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    I posted to quick, I wasnt finished so here it goes.

    In my opinion the EM lacks the maual functions many photographers like to use. The FE, FE2,FM2,F3 and other such as the F2 and 1's are all rugged great cameras. There are still plenty I didnt mention.
     
  4. Richard Kelham

    Richard Kelham Member

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    The EM is junk but the FM3A is a good solid camera (and not that old) that should last you for years. If you are a really heavy user get two and spread the load. :smile:




    Richard
     
  5. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    A rangefinder camera and an SLR have much the same parts, given an equal standard of construction, they should last equally well. The main difference of course is that an SLR has a mirror which is required to move very fast. This mechanism will inevitably wear over time and when it does, it will result in an increased vibration level which will ultimately spoil the sharpness of your pictures. A rangefinder almost never wears out, over time the silvering of the prisms will tarnish, making the rangefinder dim - if the camera is subjected to a heavy impact, the rangefinder might go out of alignment.

    There is no reason not to buy a camera with a meter - if it breaks, you can still use the camera with a separate meter.

    The reason dealers may have lots of Nikons with problems is that Nikons go back in an unbroken line to the Nikon F of 1959 and many older cameras have been subjected to very heavy professional use. There are not so many old Canons around, Canon only really became a true pro brand in the (?) mid-1980s with the EOS range.

    At a rough guess, a new FM3a should be good for 10 years' trouble-free operation at least, given reasonably careful handling and a work rate of 1 roll of pictures a day. It will hold up at least as well as, probably better than, anything else. As already mentioned, the EM was a lower-grade amateur camera.

    Will Nikon fix your FM3a in 10 years? What will probably happen is that Nikon will cease its repair service and sell its spares to 3rd party repairers who will simply keep going indefinitely until they run out of parts. So the answer is, no. Nikon won't, but somebody will!

    Regards,

    David
     
  6. ehparis

    ehparis Member

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    My 25 year old Nikon F3 just had a CLA. I anticipate it will still be working great another 25 years.

    The FM3A does not quite have the pro build quality of an F3. I suspect it may only be good for twenty years. :wink:
     
  7. dmr

    dmr Member

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    I know this isn't a Nikon, but my main camera is a Pentax K1000, over 20 years old. I've never used a case with it, and it's been well used, and it's still functioning as well as when it was new. I don't know of any major drops or impacts with it, however.
     
  8. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    You're asking how a random used camera will react over 10 years?

    Hmmm. It's either been babied it's whole life. Or it's been abused it. Nobody can tell you how the camera you buy will react. It might break the moment you touch it. Or it might last forever.

    The EM are so cheap fixing it can't make any sense. How much does a used one cost? I can't imagine anybody would even look at it for that much. Buy a bag full for the likely cost of a service on one.
     
  9. DBP

    DBP Member

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    The EM is a lightweight amateur camera. I would not expect it to be as durable as an F, FM, FE, or FA series, or a Nikkormat. And since used, but working ones sell for about the price of a CLA, no one pays to fix an EM. My FE2 looks like it was used daily for decades, and may have been. It works fine, even after the latest drop onto a sidewalk when the camera strap broke. My Nikkormat FtN saw almost thirty years of serious amateur use before being relegated to second string. It had one CLA at year 30, and still operates as if new. Others here will tell you better stories of how they have abused other Nikons. Bottom line - the cameras are famously durable. There are a lot of non-working Nikons around for the same reason that there are a lot of battered old Toyotas around - they sold a lot of new ones.

    Frankly I have seen very few non-working high end cameras over the years: One Leica M3, which had suffered from decades of non-use in high humidity; Some old folders with shutter or aperture problems developed over decades of disuse; and an Exakta VX with a jammed shutter. For as complex as they are, cameras are amazingly reliable.
     
  10. spiralcity

    spiralcity Member

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    The EM's are durable, they just dont have any features worth while in my opinion. I had a EM for many years and finally sold it on ebay. It functioned fully and was very clean.
    All the old Nikons are built to last. My FG has more use than any of my cameras and its still going STRONG.
     
  11. Richard Kelham

    Richard Kelham Member

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    You were luckier than I – my EM fell to bits after about 15 years of not particularly strenuous life, whereas my 40 year old F is still going strong.



    Richard
     
  12. bruiser

    bruiser Member

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    Hi, I have been runnng nearly every kind of pro Nikon for over 30 years doing hard press use: F, F2, F3, F4, FM, FE, FM2, FE2 and I kept them after the newspaper retired them. They are all motor driven and still purr like kittens! The only one that ever popped a shutter was the F4 and that was about 8 years ago. I still think the FM2 is the best camera ever made, fast flash sync and smooth but tough as nails. Remember too that these bodies had at least 10 rolls a day through them, every day of the week. The old mechanical Nikons thrive on use and probably the worst thing you could do is buy a mint one the has sat in a cupboard for 20 years getting fat. They love excercise! Cheers, Bruce
     
  13. Evgeny

    Evgeny Member

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    I bought my black FM3a in Nov 2005 just before they were discontinued.
    This camera is build of precise mechanical parts and some electronics, so it's not a simple device like old all-mechanical FM (the FE/FE2 is the most close to FM3a).

    I don't know if all that will work 20 years later, but I hope my FM3a will last as long as my F6. :smile:
     
  14. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    The EM's were known for having I believe shutter and/or meter issues. They were (relative to other Nikons) not as reliable. You might get a good one, you might not, and the shutter and/or meter could conk out on you. I remember from my days working at the camera store that our outside repair service I think flat-out refused to repair them because they were not economical to repair.
     
  15. k_jupiter

    k_jupiter Member

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    Scott has it right. The EM had a serious issue with the meter mechanism. And since the piece of junk worked only in auto mode (or 1/90 second manual), that turns into a serious shutter issue.

    My FM2 was bought new in 1985/86. Looks like hell. Been beaten around the bottom of a camera bag or shoulder bag or whatnot for 20 some years all over the world. Damn thing's meter stopped working a couple of weeks ago. I broke down and replaced the second set of batteries it has ever had in it. Now it meters like a champ again.

    I am trying to decide which of my ungrateful kids to will it to... and I am only 50.

    I have heard the FM3 is a better built camera than the FM2 but I surely have no idea how that could be.

    You can't go wrong.

    tim in san jose
     
  16. Removed Account

    Removed Account Member

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    I had an FM3a for a while before I moved to LF. The thing felt like you could club someone with it and they would be worse of than the camera. The battery only operates the light meter, and the aperture priority mode as far as I know. I am not sure how the aperture priority system works, I never used it, so I don't know how the aperture priority system is connected to the mechanical bits. I bought it because I was planning a now-delayed trip to Antarctica and I wanted something that would work even with the battery-eating cold.

    - Justin
     
  17. Matt5791

    Matt5791 Subscriber

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    I use a pair of FE2's a lot and recently travelled through India with them. I also use them to shoot weddings. They really are very tough cameras indeed - bearing in mind mine are already 20 years old. One of the real advantages over more modern AF cameras is the smaller size - this is whay I think they are so good for travel.