Most everything you're saying tells me 'FM3a'. Trying to read the terrible F3 v'finder display in low-light is frustrating as heck...if you can routinely find that tiny button. One of the worst oversights in Nikon pro-line of SLR's...ever. 3a has a nice Exposure Lock feature (use it) for contrasty light so meter-reading may not be as critical in low-light. Not much light in the 3a finder for low-light reading, as in none, but no frustration either. Match/needle is much more precise than -0+, esp important if burning much transparency. Forget cost - in a year or two from now, it won't matter. I like the smaller and lighter 3a for carrying, however much or far. When logging miles on the bike or hoof, I'm sporting one of the smaller bodies; FE2, FM, 2n or 3a. The FM family has habitually held-up very well.
3a is a much newer camera. Buy an old F3...hiccup...and you have a repair bill or replacement decision. Some people 'oooh' and 'ahhh' the F3 film advance. As smooth as it is, I'm more practical. That AS-17 flash adapter for TTL (upthread photo) costs half as much as the camera. Not into super-expensive accessories when the same feature is integral to the body a la 3a. You get 2 shttr spds if the F3 batt dies; 1/60th and whatever you can manage with turning the speed dial while not vibrating the camera from the 'T' setting. F3 is dead w/out a batttery. But don't fret about battery life unless you're philosophically oppposed to carrying a spare, in which case...? The Ap Priority and all-manual-without-a-battery 3a fits me to a 'T'.
I own a couple F3 and several 3a's...and other Nikons out my ears. F3 has somewhat fallen out of favor. Still honeymooning with the 3a after many years. Spend a couple years with a 3a and then grab an F2SB or F2AS...let me tell you about those for a beefy, manual camera!
Last edited by Aja B; 08-20-2013 at 11:02 AM. Click to view previous post history.