Nikon F3HP or FM3a?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by mfratt, Aug 18, 2013.

  1. mfratt

    mfratt Member

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    Yea, I know these articles are all over the interwebs, but I wanted to ask some specific questions between the two that I was having a hard time finding. Maybe those of you who own / have used both can chime in.

    I am replacing my FM. The shutter is firing when I advance the film and I can't seem to fix it (and the cost of repair would likely be the value of the camera).

    I pondered an F5 for a while, but I think I like the simplicity of older manual focus cameras and (less/no) dependence on batteries. I'm down to the F3HP or FM3a.

    My specific concerns are:
    -Battery life on the F3, how many rolls can you get out of it?
    -Viewfinder, the FM's finder position always felt a little crunched to me, so the HP will definitely be better, but what of the subjective experience of actually looking through the prism? I also prefer the LEDs (shoot with dark backgrounds a lot), but I'm not married to it.
    -Cost - why is the FM3a twice as much as an F3? With an F3, I'd be able to get a 50/1.2, with the FM3, I'd need to settle for a 1.4.
    -Mirror slap, my FM has a pretty noisy and ugly slap. How do these stack up?
    -Does one feel like a more solid camera than the other? Ergonomic concerns?

    If anyone else has any subjective comparisons you'd like to share, I'm all ears. It will be used as an all-around camera, including something to stick by my side on my long bicycle tours and hiking trips.
     
  2. BMbikerider

    BMbikerider Member

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    As far as battery life for the F3 I can only say - A lot.

    All the battery has to do is to fire the shutter and do the metering. The FM3a is a much newer camera than the F3 hence the price. I suspect Nikon are running out of spares for the F3 by now (electronic ones) and the FM3a will be a better proposition spares wise. Having said that there are a mountain of little used F3's out there which have only had light amateur use and I would go for the F3 HP every time were I in the market for a manual body. The only drawback that I can think of with the F3 and the Fm3a is the choice of flash unit. I don't know of any independent flash units that fit onto the F3's shoe, except possibly Metz so you are limited to a couple or possibly 3 Nikon ones if you want TTL flash.

    The sound of the mirror on the last F3 I used was not bad. Not as quiet as say the shutter on my F100 but quieter than the early FM and Nikkormats.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 18, 2013
  3. Paul Goutiere

    Paul Goutiere Subscriber

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    The F3HP is really inexpensive, now, and a very fine camera. I think if you look around carefully you can get one very reasonably.

    So reasonable that one could supplement the F3HP with a nice FM3a.........maybe.
     
  4. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    FM3a will drop in price in the coming years. F3HP us a fantastic camera especially bang for buck right now.
     
  5. Oren Grad

    Oren Grad Subscriber

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    The FM3a had a much shorter production run, which means there are far fewer of them on the second-hand market. It also has a hybrid shutter not found in any other camera, which provides both aperture-priority, electronically-controlled AE and a full range of mechanically-governed speeds for manual use.
     
  6. mfratt

    mfratt Member

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    Thanks everyone. Flash isn't really a concern for me; I work with natural lighting 99% of the time. The dependence on electronics kind of scares me... I don't intend to be using either camera in a monsoon, but it is bound to get a little wet from time to time. I'd definitely get a nice one, probably not used by a pro (EX+ on KEH is about $250 for the F3).

    Having both would be really nice, but I doubt the cost would be justified. Once I'm able to afford the equipment I need to get, I would be packing either an F3 and an FM or a D700 and an F3/FM3a. In either case, I do like having a mechanical camera to fall back on. The only electronic manual focus SLR I've used was a Canon AE-1, with which I was thoroughly unimpressed. Perhaps my experience was just tainted?

    Overall, I am inclined towards the F3, if for nothing other than cost (and my real lust for the 50/1.2, which the cost difference of the bodies would enable me to afford). But I just can't peel my heart away from mechanical cameras. Hence my dilemma.
     
  7. MDR

    MDR Member

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    If you want a mechanical Camera get a Nikon F2 which is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Nikon's mechanical cameras and can be found for 250$ on Keh. I personaly prefer the pure F thoug.

    The only advantage the F3 has over the FM3 is the viewfinder other than that the FM3a beats the F3 in most things it's lighter, has a faster synch speed, works at all speed without battery and the electronics are newer. Electronics age especially LCD screens.
     
  8. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    I was going to recommend an F2 as well. Ever since I got my F2 my F3HP has mostly sat around...the me the F2 is the Leica of the classic Nikon manual focus line.
     
  9. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    I've been using the same F-3 since it was new in 1981 or 82, and it has never let me down except for the one time I didn't have a spare battery with me... and the times I fail to bring enough film. Like someone else said, the battery life is quite long.
     
  10. Pumalite

    Pumalite Subscriber

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    I have 3 F3HP and a couple of FM3a's; but for absolute reliability I prefer the Nikon F and F2
     
  11. Gerry M

    Gerry M Subscriber

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    I have FM2N, F3HP, F2A & F2AS. Had FE2 and sold it. No experience with FM3A, but, unless it's build quality differs greatly from FE2/FM2N, there is no contest in build quality compared to the pro bodies. Just my opinion. If I could have only one, it would be one of the F2's.
     
  12. LJSLATER

    LJSLATER Member

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    Based on your criteria, I think I'd recommend an FM2n over an FM3a.
     
  13. Les Sarile

    Les Sarile Member

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    One of the many accessories for the F3 includes the AS-17. This adapter gives the F3 a standard show with TTL.

    [​IMG]
     
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  15. jochen

    jochen Member

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    Hello,
    if you are a fan of the "zone system" as far as it is feasible in 35 mm, the FE, FE-2 or FM-3a are in my opinion the better choice. You should shoot in manual mode and you see the time the camera would choice in automatic mode by the pointer and the time you have set manually by the green bar. You can easily shift the aperture and see the difference towards over- or under-exposure in the viewfinder. The over/under correction of the F-3 is locked, takes time and you don't see in the viewfinder that you have set a correction.
     
  16. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Alright, given the choices and what I expect the OP to be using it for, I recommend the F3HP. 100% viewfinder, aperture-priority, pro level camera without any nonsense.
     
  17. GarageBoy

    GarageBoy Member

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    I just got an F3 that's been through hell and back and it runs beautifully
    Soft shutter release, the non HP is not bad with glasses, but the HP is even better
    Smooooooooth film wind
    Electronics on it should not be a concern

    EDIT: I know someone above mentioned the Zone system and the FE2 and FM3A. Note that the meter on the F3 is 80/20 center weight over the traditional 60/40. This makes it a quasi spot meter
     
  18. MDR

    MDR Member

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    80/20 doesn't even make it remotely a spot meter a spot meter is 1° max 3° and doesn't take in account 20% outside information. If someone wants to do the Zone System he/she should invest in a good spot meter even in camera spot meters are not real spot meters.
    The glass thing is a good point though if the OP wears glasses the F3HP would be the best choice even better than the F and F2.
     
  19. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    A true zone system procedure and 35mm rolls of film makes no sense since the development of each frame of exposure of film is a huge part of the zone system process.
     
  20. clayne

    clayne Member

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    The OP mentioned they simply wanted to replace their FM. I highly doubt they're interested in getting all Ansel Adams with a Nikon F of any variation. Therefore I don't even know why we're even talking about the zone system.
     
  21. JimCee

    JimCee Member

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    I've owned a Nikon F3HP since 1983. Since I don't own, nor expect to own a Nikon FM3a I can't really provide a comparison. In regard to some of your other questions, as others have done, I think you should lay any concerns about the battery life of a F3 to rest. That was, way back in 1980, a real concern that was expressed by photographers who had cut their teeth with the original Nikon F or F2 cameras. As Shutterbug magazine said some time ago in a classic camera review of the F3 that concern seems quaint in the current era ( link: http://www.shutterbug.com/content/s...tible-and-vintage-cameras-nikon-35mm-slr-saga ).

    The batteries for the camera body only of a Nikon F3 (if you're not using the MD-4 motordrive) are dinky watch type batteries that last for a long time. It's very, very easy to carry a few spare batteries in a kit for insurance. Many users consider the F3 to be the best manual focus SLR ever made. That's just a statement of fact, it's not an argument. The camera was the result of 30 years experience that Nikon had in making 35mm cameras and the experience shows. The camera was proven time and again as a reliable and rugged professional tool, well worthy of the mantle from prior Nikon F series cameras.

    On an aside, if you really want a compact package to carry on a bike ride try to obtain one of the 50mm f/1.8 lens that were made from 1980-82 and originally sold only in the Japanese market. This lens is referred to as the "AI Nikkor 50mm f/1.8S" lens in most sources (link: http://imaging.nikon.com/history/nikkor/2/index.htm ). It's only 36.5mm from the lens flange and is a very nice lens (link: http://www.destoutz.ch/lens_50mm_f1.8_2257006.html ) These lens show up on eBay with some frequency, although the lens was produced for only a short period.

    Finally, IMHO, the Nikon F3HP is the best looking 35mm SLR ever made.

    Jim:D
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 19, 2013
  22. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Yes, battery concern is such an insignificant issue with the F3HP that I regularly just leave it in the on position all the time.

    Something of more concern though would be what you're used to metering wise. The FM3A (and I believe all FMs), like the FE-series, uses a match-stick indicator (needle style). The F3HP uses a backlit LCD (with a very lame backlit button that you'll never use). If you regularly use it in manual mode and rely on the meter indicator as a form of feedback loop, the meter display in the F3HP will just piss you off as it's an absolute measurement without a reference point. I mostly use it in a-prio mode when I can't be concerned with doing manual metering.
     
  23. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    Nikon F3HP! I have an F5 but I use the F3 much more often.
     
  24. Les Sarile

    Les Sarile Member

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    If the battery is a concern - such as in cold weather, you could always use one 3V Lithium battery CR1/3N instead of the two 1.5V cels as it has a much wider temperature tolerance as well as much longer shelf life.

    The FM3A inherited the match needle metering system from the FE2 as the FM2 and FM both use LEDs for it's meter.

    I agree that the F3's backlit button does leave something to be desired.
     
  25. lensworker

    lensworker Member

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    You can't go wrong with an F3hp.

    The meter batteries will last 9-12+ months, depending on use. I have never had the batteries in my F3hp crap out in any less than 12 months. If battery failure is a concern, carry an extra pair of SR44 batts, or change batts every 9 months or so. Problem solved.

    The only drawback to the F3 is its weight - it is not a light camera like the FM2n is. Yet it the tank-like build that makes the F3 so relentlessly durable and reliable. It is damn near indestructible. It is a system camera, with interchangeable focusing screens, viewfinder assemblies, etc. It has a motor drive unit as an optional add-on that will give you 4 fps with AA alkaline batts or 6 fps with the MN-2
    Ni-Cd Battery Unit. The F3 also has mirror lock up and depth of field preview. It also has an eyepiece shutter for blocking out stray light during long exposures; it is a workhorse pro camera that is loaded with features.
     
  26. clayne

    clayne Member

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    I've stopped worrying about the weight of basically any 35mm camera. None are heavy enough to really fret about (although that Canon F1 is a brick). It's the medium format cameras that start adding significant weight to the bag.