Nikon F3HP: been thinking long and hard..
I've thought (often) about getting a Nikon F3HP. I am ready to make the plunge; the only thing holding me back is money, right now. I am curious about parts availability if it should need it. Are parts still relatively easy to find? Although I don't think that it would need any spare parts for a while, if I got one in very good condition and babied it (I tend to baby all of my cameras).
Which brings me to another question: if I buy from KEH, should I have it CLA'd or do they routinely do that at the shop? How about cameras in Excellent condition and above?
Thanks to all who reply.
With best regards,
Stephen S. Mack
(Like I really NEED another camera!)
Well, if you don't need it and you don't have the cash...
But if you are really jonesing... they are solid cameras and there are tons out there so parts aren't really anything to worry about. Take your time and you'll find a good one on the bay, probably won't really need a CLA. KEH does not routinely do one. I wouldn't bother unless the camera really isn't working right.
Tough camera, but not immune to wear or breakdowns. A properly working example in good cosmetic shape should certainly not need a CLA (if it ain't broke...). If money is an object, consider a more cosmetically used version, I have a few F3's that are in rough shape outside but internally are perfect. One was a daily camera when I was a news PJ, and as far as I know I was the 4th or even 5th news shooter to own it and use it every day (with motor drive I might add). That one had a 13xxxx serial number, which is somewhat in the early part of the production, and on one of the CLA's to NPS they put on a new right hand side body casting, giving me a serial number in the 19's, which would seem like it was a later production. So you can't always trust the serial number. That body I think has had the most work done on it, but considering how many miles of film its seen thru its gate, it still power up and shoots perfectly. Astonishingly tough.
I had an f3 HP that literally looked like someone smashed the prism with a hammer...I got it for a song. It worked perfectly. The only risk you might have with malfunctions is ironically if the thing has been sitting around unused for a substantial time. I'd say you would be safe with KEH...they are fairly conservative with their grading policy. It's a great camera, only bad if you want to use fill flash outdoors. It syncs at something like a 50th of a second.
KEH have a fairly large service facility - it might pay to communicate with them directly in respect of having a CLA done before they ship it to you.
I would definitely raise with them before-hand what the effect of doing so would be on their return policy.
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You can get decent F3HPs for well under $200, so to be honest, parts availability is ceasing to matter. If your camera implodes, buy another one.
I bought mine (KEH BGN-graded) a couple of years ago and I'm very happy with it. It's a good, reliable shooter.
Jim MacKenzie - Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
A bunch of Nikons; Feds, Zorkis and a Kiev; Pentax 67-II (inherited from my deceased father-in-law); Bronica SQ-A; and a nice Shen Hao 4x5 field camera with 3 decent lenses that needs to be taken outside more. Oh, and as of mid-2012, one of those bodies we don't talk about here.
Favourite film: do I need to pick only one?
If you don't intend to use the camera with a motor or to buy additional finders then you might consider a less expensive camera. An FE has interchangeable focusing screens, a sensitive meter and can be used with an MD-11 or MD-12. An N2020 might be an even better buy. It's not much of an AF camera but works nicely as a manual focus camera. A winder is built in, it has interchangeable focusing screens, the top shutter speed is 1/2000, the meter is sensitive and it even has TTL flash capability. I bought one earlier this year for $10 and it works perfectly. My only Nikon with interchangeable finders is an F2 and the only finder I have for it is a DP-1. For my Canon F-1s I have the standard finder, a waist level finder and two Speed Finders. What feature of the F3 do you think you need?
The F3HP is my all time favorite film camera (next to the F of course). The metering accuracy is extremely accurate and the battery life is absolutely incredible. The interesting this about the F3HP is that it feels like a totally different camera when the MD4 is attached to it. With the MD4 it balances perfectly well. I have yet to hold a camera with such perfect balance (much better than my F100 with battery grip, FM2N with MD12, even my D200 with battery grip and my D1X). Without the MD4 it feels ok, but I find the front finger grip to be a bit uncomfortable.
In terms of durability, I will echo what others have mentioned; the F3HP is extremely tough. I still own my first F3 which I purchased used from a PJ friend of mine back in 1983 (serial # 12xxxx)! It was beat up back then and I put several hundred rolls through it throughout the years. I stopped using it and forgot where it was for many years. When I found it recently it didn't start up. I gave it a slap with the palm of my hand and it started up again! I shot a few rolls with it and they came out perfect!
I wouldn't worry about the parts issue with this camera either. It was the pro camera with the longest production run in the history of Nikon, so there are still many bodies out there that can be stripped for parts (if you really need to).
I've been using the F3 since 1981. I now have three bodies. One standard F3 with DE-3 viewfinder, the other one with HP viewfinder, the third one is a F3/T.
The first two have gone through bad times and show strong signs of hard, daily use but still work fine. I had to change the shutter on my 1981 F3. Minor parts were replaced on the second body. The F3/T is in much better condition because I use it less than the other two. Each has its own dedicated lens. A 35, a 50 and a 105mm.
I find the F3 a perfect camera, its successors have less appea
(sorry I continue here)
... have less appeal to me. The F4 is too heavy, I do not need the motor drive of the F5. Never used the F6.
I keep using MF lenses, my subjects do not require AF.
Buying and using a F3 seems an excellent idea to me. So, forget about the price, it's worth it anyway.