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  1. #1

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    Durability of Nikon FM3A

    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. #2
    spiralcity's Avatar
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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. #3
    spiralcity's Avatar
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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. #4

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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.




    Richard

  5. #5
    David H. Bebbington's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by drjoke View Post
    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.
    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. #6

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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.

  7. #7
    dmr
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    Quote Originally Posted by drjoke View Post
    Are film-based SLR's as durable as rangefinder cameras?
    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.

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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. #9
    DBP
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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. #10
    spiralcity's Avatar
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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.

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