Canon EOES 5D with Carl Zeiss Jena Sonar 180mm f/2.8 (Pentacon Six mount)

Digital Classic, Canon EOS 5D

Digital cameras have been around for a while by now. In fact we have access to pixels so long ago that recently it became fashionable to dress digital cameras into retro looking shells so they resembles the look and feel of old film cameras. Up until now the more modern looking/more functional design was generally desired, but we reached the point when people started to look back to the golden age of the film era with strong nostalgia and today the retro look become interesting.

Naturally camera manufacturers were ready to satisfy this need and the market is literally flooded with retro styled cameras like the Nikon Df, which promises nothing less but the experience of pure photography. While the term of “pure photography” can be very much overloaded and interpreted in many ways, what they probably mean is that this camera handles and feels similarly than the now classic Nikon film cameras. Simplicity, mechanical like external controls, full frame sensor,  compatibility with vintage lenses, limited feature set (e.g. no video) to keep the focus on essence  of photography and of course that retro look are supposed to deliver this  promise.

But when we start to wrap modern digital cameras  into so called “classic” look and market them with the message that this is the closest you can get to film photography experience the question arises can we already talk about classic digital cameras as well.  If so how do they relate to the cutting edge technology inside modern retro shaped cameras. But most importantly, how can the true digital classics stand against the newly invented marketing ideas such as “pure photography”?

Importance of the 5D

Canon EOES 5D with Carl Zeiss Jena Sonar 180mm f/2.8 (Pentacon Six mount)

Canon EOES 5D with Carl Zeiss Jena Sonar 180mm f/2.8 (Pentacon Six mount)

This camera was introduced in 2005 which means it is pretty old with modern standards. But also, it was the very first somewhat affordable full frame digital SLR.  Technologically there was nothing revolutionary about the 5D at all. We have seen full frame DSLR cameras before, and many other parts of it was reused from other cameras like the focusing system which was borrowed from the 20D. But it was very small for a full frame camera and it was cheap enough to be accessible by normal mortals for the first time. Also it took damn good images on very respectable noise levels at the time.  In this respect it is hard to deny that this camera was indeed important and maybe it was the camera which started the era of consumer full frame SLRs and even it paved the way for full frame mirror-less cameras alike.

 5D pure photography

I am not sure that we can already talk about classic digital cameras. Also I think it should not be up to me to define what can be marked as classic and what cannot. But let’s be speculative for the time of this post and agree for a moment with those who already call the original Canon EOS 5D as 5D classic and consider it as a true classic digital camera. Let’s just see if the true digital classic can in any ways match up against something which supposed to make us remember what was it like to  shoot with a film classic. I borrowed the elements of the Nikon Df pure photography campaign to use them as a basis for my absolutely crazy comparison.

Sensor size/pixel pitch

Both the Canon 5D and the Nikon Df features standard 35mm film size sensors. This means that field of view of any lens is the same as on 35mm film camera. There is no crop factor to consider.

The Nikon Df has 16.2Mp while the Canon 5D only has 12.7 effective megapixels. The Nikon using a more modern sensor which adds micro-lenses to each individual photo diode and thus utilizing the surface of the sensor more effectively. The Canon on the other hand leaves gaps between the photo diodes but due to the smaller megapixel count the atomic pixel size is still higher ( 8.2µ vs 7.30µ) . In theory it would mean better low light performance to the Canon as bigger pixels could capture more light, but the processing pipeline of the Nikon is light years ahead, so the ancient Canon is no competition in low light.

But if we think about this with “pure photography” in mind. If you shoot in good light as our film photographer ancestors would certainly preferred to do so and you keep your ISO low as most film emulsions were/are available in a range of ISO 50-1600, than there are probably not much of a difference between the two cameras. The difference megapixel count is negligible for every day use and  noise levels should be pretty close at low ISOs.

Simplicity

One of the big selling point of the Nikon Df is that it lacks video even though the big brother Nikon D4 (using the same sensor and processor) has it. It indeed helps to focus on photography as you have no chance to accidentally switch to video and there are no useless menu items to confuse the photographer.

The good news is that the Canon 5D had no video on the first place, not even live view. Back then it was actually not sure that mirror reflex cameras suppose to do video ever.

The 5D is very minimalistic in terms of features. It only have the basics, and therefore the menus are very simple. There is literally nothing which could distract you from framing. In fact it is a bit too minimalistic. One of the features I really miss is the possibility to set Auto ISO. Well, you could not change your film speed either.

Body shape

Both cameras are quite beefy in my opinion. The Nikon Df supposed to look a bit like a classic Nikon like the FM. In reality it is still quite thick as a brick and looks like a classic camera only from a good distance. I still think it would have been possible to make the Df like an FM in terms of dimensions. We know it is possible, there are successful attempts hack the guts of a mirror-less camera into classic film bodies. The 5D is without a doubt not a beauty, it has a general Canon DSLR look.

Canon EOES 5D with Canon 40mm f/2.8 pancake

Canon EOES 5D with Canon 40mm f/2.8 pancake

External controls

In the “golden days”, we had many dials to control a camera settings like, aperture, shutter speed and focus. Nowadays we have many more things to control and we have electronic coupling for everything.

Canon EOES 5D, Canon 40mm f/2.8

Canon EOES 5D, Canon 40mm f/2.8

Understandably it can be very rewarding to use similar controls to the ones we used on mechanical cameras. Somehow it has sense, as everybody understood the mechanical connection between the aperture ring and the aperture blades. I think it has sense even today to expose these controls in an old fashion way. But only in the case of a camera which is built for the enthusiast photographer whose  goal is to enjoy photography rather than being the most effective picture maker machine. The Nikon Df does a good job in this respect, even though I heard that not all controls are nice to use or logical, but I could not try it myself until now. What I can tell for sure is that the 5D exposes the main settings in a modern, but very effective way. I usually switch the camera on  once a day and leave it that way.  I use aperture priority  mode with mainly manual lenses with aperture rings and I mainly adjusting ISO and exposure compensation only. Most of the time I  don’t touch any menus at all.

Legacy lens support

The Nikon Df is made to be usable with vintage Nikon glass which is great as many old Nikkors are gorgeous. But the Canon EOS system has a shorter distance between lens mount and the sensor. This way many other branded lenses can be used on a Canon EOS body with an adapter including Nikon lenses. To be fair you can have an adapter like M42 for Nikon as well, but you either lose the possibility to focus to the infinity or you need to pick an adapter which has additional lens element in it. The later means higher cost and possibly degradation in image quality.

All in all you can put way more kind of lenses to the 5D than you could attach to the Df. But be careful because some old lenses may mount but extract to deep into the camera body when focusing. This could damage the mirror. Always do some research on which lenses can be safely mounted.

Canon EOES 5D with Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8

Canon EOS 5D with Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8

The Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8 M42 thread mount lens for instance can be mounted safely to a cropped frame Canon body. But because the mirror in the 5D is bigger due to the bigger sensor, this lens should not be focused to the infinity because the rear lens element can touch the returning mirror. It can be fixed by sacrificing the possibility to focusing to the far distance. I use this lens mainly for close portraits and for this use it is not a problem.

Canon EOES 5D, Canon 40mm f/2.8, Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8 (M42), Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/1.4 (Olympus OM), Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8 (Exa)

Canon EOS 5D, Canon 40mm f/2.8, Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8 (M42), Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/1.4 (Olympus OM), Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8 (Exa)

Viewfinder experience

The Nikon Df viewfinder has 100% coverage while the 5D has only 96%.

But it is not possible to change the focusing screen on the Nikon which flaws the concept  of legacy lens support. Today focusing screens are made for auto focus lenses. They are very bright, but extremely hard to use for manual focus because the depth of field is not really visible and there is no optical focusing aid built in. On the other hand I think that using the back screen in live view is not an option if you are pursuing the classic photographic experience.

I would rather use a slightly smaller finder with a proper focusing screen.

Slow down

I think it is generally a good idea to slow down and take the time to compose frames instead of bursting in rapid fire mode. Trust in the law of big numbers in order to achieve the desired photo certainly works, but I would not call it as a classic approach. Let’s see what these cameras can do in order to force the photographer to slow down.

On the Nikon side dial based controls, manual lenses and a wrong type of focusing screen is certainly slow one down. On the Canon side we have no auto ISO and when using auto focus lenses a truly mediocre (painfully slow) auto focus system makes it impossible to act like a machine gun. Also the burst rate of the 5D is only 3 frames per second.

Finally the 5D has an awful back screen. It is small, dim, inaccurate in color (greenish cast) and generally useless. But of course it is a huge plus side in this comparison as the small worthless screen means that you will only face with the result of your photography when you download your images. It really reminds me to the feeling of waiting for the images to return from lab. You never knew what had you done until you get back the developed film, and in this case until you get to a computer with a proper screen. The good news is that the results look so much better on a proper display that I always positively surprised when I get my images downloaded from the camera.

Old Ladies, (Gyöngyössolymos 2014),Canon EOES 5D ,Ca

Old Ladies, (Gyöngyössolymos 2014),Canon EOS 5D ,Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8

Márk, (Gyöngyössolymos 2014),Canon EOS 5D ,Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8

Márk, (Gyöngyössolymos 2014),Canon EOS 5D ,Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8

 

Eszti (Budapest, Hungary), Canon EOS 5D, Canon 50mm f/1.8 II

Eszti (Budapest, Hungary), Canon EOS 5D, Canon 50mm f/1.8 II

 

 Gyöngyösi Zsinagóga

Gyöngyösi Zsinagóga (Gyöngyös), Canon EOS 5D with Canon 40mm f/2.8

Conclusion

What makes a classic camera and especially the question of can we at all speak about digital classics is still an open debate.

On the other hand it is quite easy for me to say that the 5D Mark I or 5 classic if you like can still fulfill many photographers needs. It certainly is able to deliver most of the recent marketing promise of “pure photography” (apart from the classic outfit). In fact with the interchangeable focusing screens, bigger variety of adaptable lenses and even slower operation it fits better this promise than the camera which for this  marketing campaign was created.

I think both the Canon 5D and the Nikon Df could be just the right camera for you. The Df is certainly stylish and has a lot more power under the hood. If the best possible low light performance to date is important, than no question that the Df is the clear winner.

But consider that 5D is now a really affordable (500-1000€) full frame camera with the capability to be used as a “pure photography” tool if you don’t mind the not so “classic” look. It is better suited for manual focus lenses, and it still takes stunning images. Last but not least the original 5D could be already a classic on it’s own right.

5D on Camerajunky (Graz, Austria), Sony Nex 6, Jupiter 8

5D on Camerajunky (Graz, Austria), Sony Nex 6, Jupiter 8

EsztiLevel2
Image

Welcome the Sun

Finally, the Sun has returned to us and days are once again long enough for me to have a chance to enjoy the light even after working hours.

To celebrate this blessing I have finished shooting the roll of Velvia which I have started last October and now sharing with you. A mixture of my two favorite seasons, autumn and spring on the same roll in vivid colors. Isn’t it wonderful? I am truly being energized by the spring, and I hope you too. Go grab a camera and have at least as much fun  taking photos as I do right now.

Hilmteich

Hilmteich See ( Graz, Marc 2014), Pentacon Six TL, CZJ Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fuji Velvia

 

Anna_Eszti

Eszter & Anna (Hilmteich, Graz, Marc 2014), Pentacon Six TL, CZJ Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fuji Velvia

Anna1

Anna (Graz, Marc 2014), Pentacon Six TL, CZJ Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fuji Velvia

Eszti levél

Eszter (Mariatrost , Graz, Oct 2013 ), Graz, Pentacon Six TL, CZJ Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fuji Velvia

EsztiLevel2

Eszter (Mariatrost, Graz, Oct 2013 ), Graz, Pentacon Six TL, CZJ Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fuji Velvia

Fa

(Hilmteich , Graz, Marc 2014), Pentacon Six TL, CZJ Biometar 80mm f/2.8, Fuji Velvia

Leaves(Graz 2013), Olympus OM4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm 1.4, Ilford HP5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Last roll from 2013

Yet another quick post with little written content but with a bunch of random snapshot images. This is what I end up with, when I carry the same roll of film over weeks and only occasionally have a chance to shoot.  I am basically on pilot light mode right now and really hope that the next year I can do something a bit more organized work. What I can book as an achievement though is that I could gather some courage and I asked a stranger for a portrait on a street again. It was a really nice experience and I am happy with the result, but you can judge yourself if you scroll down to the second photo.

This time I had my Olympus OM4 Ti  in my bag in the last few weeks loaded with the same Ilford HP5 I used in the Kiev before. As usual the film was developed and scanned by me.

Stadtpark (Graz 2013), Olympus OM4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm 1.4, Ilford HP5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Stadtpark (Graz 2013), Olympus OM4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm 1.4, Ilford HP5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Street portrait (Graz 2013), Olympus OM4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm 1.4, Ilford HP5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Street portrait (Graz 2013), Olympus OM4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm 1.4, Ilford HP5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Biker (Graz 2013), Olympus OM4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm 1.4, Ilford HP5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Biker (Graz 2013), Olympus OM4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm 1.4, Ilford HP5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Skulpturenpark (Unterpremstätten 2013) ), Olympus OM4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm 1.4, Ilford HP5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Skulpturenpark (Unterpremstätten 2013 ), Olympus OM4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm 1.4, Ilford HP5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Concrete (Unterpremstätten 2013) ), Olympus OM4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm 1.4, Ilford HP5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Concrete (Unterpremstätten 2013) , Olympus OM4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm 1.4, Ilford HP5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Train (Unterpremstätten 2013) ), Olympus OM4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm 1.4, Ilford HP5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Train (Unterpremstätten 2013), Olympus OM4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm 1.4, Ilford HP5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

 

Kiev 4 + Ilford HP5, Taken with Canon 450D, Canon 50mm 1.8II

Kiev 4 + Ilford HP5

Kiev 4 + Ilford HP5,  Taken with Canon 450D, Canon 50mm 1.8II

Kiev 4 + Ilford HP5, Taken with Canon 450D, Canon 50mm 1.8II

If you followed the Camerajunky Facebook page you may have already read about my planned reunion with my beloved Kiev 4 camera after a longer period in which it was hidden in a box.  I really felt that I needed to use it again, and my recent discovery about the beauty of Ilford HP5 film gave me the final push to do so.

I don’t know why, but from time to time, I feel serious urge to go back to the basics and pick up a fully mechanical camera such as the Kiev and leave the sophisticated OM4 on the shelf. In addition, I really do like the character of the little Jupiter 8 lens. Especially the quality of the background blur it produces is really appealing to me. I know that many finds it not so pleasing, but hey great things are usually dividing after all. It is not the sharpest nor the fastest lens I have ever touched, but an unmistakable character for sure.  I also learned that the grain structure and tonality of the Ilford HP5 ISO 400 film is also very unique and close to me, so I thought, I should combine the unique lens with the unique film.
I usually use lower sensitivity film, so it could be that other medium speed films have similar characters as well. I guess I will need to try more. Until that I leave you with some random, but to me very catchy shots.

Eszti, (Gyöngyös, Hungary), Kiev 4, Jupiter 8, Ilford Hp5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Eszti, (Gyöngyös, Hungary), Kiev 4, Jupiter 8, Ilford Hp5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Eszti, (Gyöngyös, Hungary), Kiev 4, Jupiter 8, Ilford Hp5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Eszti, (Gyöngyös, Hungary), Kiev 4, Jupiter 8, Ilford Hp5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Trumpeter

Trumpeter, (Graz, Austria 2013), Kiev 4, Jupiter 8, Ilford Hp5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Trumpeter, (Graz, Austria 2013), Kiev 4, Jupiter 8, Ilford Hp5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Trumpeter, (Graz, Austria 2013), Kiev 4, Jupiter 8, Ilford Hp5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

 

Jogi

Bring your giant medium format camera to work

A photographer is never really putting down his camera, no matter what crazy thing she or he is doing for living or filling the days with. Since we are not living in an ideal world, most of us has to face with limitation of time and availability of light in our every day life.

But limitations are not necessarily bad things! They teach us to utilize our possibilities more creatively by forcing us to see and think in ways we would normally not choose to. This of course influences our work as well as ourselves and vice-verse. Eventually this feedback loop can contribute our personal and photographic development similarly to the way the ever changing environment influences life forms and pushing them towards evolution.

Currently my job is to sit in an office and convince computers to obey to the needs of their human masters. Making their lives easier by sending them nice, well formed and most importantly correct invoices. As interesting as it sounds, but it is somewhat fulfilling to my geek side which likes to brain wrestler with abstract problems.

But it makes my photographer side starve  because the current situation has a very little room for photography. Especially now when the winter is coming. Days are shorter and shorter, so more and more frequently I end up to spend most of the hours filled with natural light in between walls  in my natural working environment.

To overcome of this obvious contradiction, I decided to make occasionally a “bring your giant medium format camera to work day“.  I started to bug my colleges and taking portraits of them during lunch brakes or when I need to wait to my computer to finish a long lasting blocking task.

The point is, you don’t need to stop being a photographer, just because the conditions are not ideal for the kind of photography you are normally up to. Try to get out the most of the situation and who knows this might drive you to completely unforeseen paths and discoveries.

Jogi

Jogi, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm, Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Jogi is a musician beside of being a software engineer and in my opinion they are making pretty cool music.  Their website http://www.theflamingdugongs.at/  is not complete yet, but worth to have a look at.

Barbara

Barbara, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm, Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Janez, Pentacon Six TL

Janez, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 120mm, Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Kyrylo

Kyrylo, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 120mm, Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Kyrylo was so pleased with his portrait that he visited me at my desk (2 floors below his place) to shake my hands right after I sent it to him.

Hannes

Hannes, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm, Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Marco

Marco, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm, Ilford HP5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Naturally, it is not my top priority to photograph at work, and I always make sure that this does not have any effect on my everyday responsibilities. It took me quite a while (about 2 months) to get these images. Though they are not perfect, I enjoyed taking them they are part of my journey.

repcsi2-2

Österreichischer Skulpturenpark

Airplain parts 1

Airplane Parts & Hills by Nancy Rubins

Sometimes the most amazing places are literally just a few steps from your backyard. Yet it is so easy to overlook or ignore them, just because you don’t expect anything extraordinary close to your regular living space. Or you miss to visit them because you think that since you live nearby, you could do it any time which moment never come.
At the end I tend to know the interesting places around other cities better than my own. But I fight, so last weekend, we visited an amazing sculpture park right next to the place I work. I passed by almost every single work day since last September because my bus stop is about 20 meters from the entrance. Despite the free entrance, I have never managed to take a look, until now.
To make the occasion special, I brought my old trusted Pentacon Six Tl loaded with some expired Velvia and my wide angle 50mm Flektagon and the standard 80mm Biometar.
Apart from the last picture, all posted photos were taken with the Flektagon. I scanned the film with my Canoscan 9900F.

Airplain parts 2

Airplane Parts & Hills by Nancy Rubins

handle of earth (as suitcase)

Die Erdkugel als Koffer by Peter Weibel

This piece of land-art (Die Erdkugel als Koffer) is one of our favorites, because it integrates so well into its environment and due to the size of it, it is hard to figure out what it supposed to be. Once you get closer and maybe read the attached documentation which is by the way the part of the sculpture, you can have a nice AHA experience. It interprets the planet Earth as a suitcase and the statue is the handle.

sun gizmo

Sole d’acciaio by Ilija Šoškić

concrete land ship

Betonboot by Michael Schuster

I have never had any seriously overlapping frames issue with the P6, but this time. Hopefully it only happened only because of my mistake during film loading.

Bruno Gironcoli, o.T

o.T by Bruno Gironcoli

My advise is to go out and explore your surroundings and don’t forget to take a camera with you.

If you were around Graz and had some spare time, this park is really worth to visit. Here is the layout and the list of all the sculptures.

Nikon F3

Nikon F3

Nikon F3

Nikon F3

Introduction

This classic camera was undoubtedly one of the biggest and most dividing celebrity of the 80′s. At least among professional 35mm SLR cameras of course. It  created quite significant waves in the world of professional photography because with it Nikon finally put the vote on automation and electronics as the new lead design principles.

Nikon and me
I am not dedicated to any brands, so there is no particular reason why I haven’t wrote about any Nikons until now. In fact my very first camera was a digital Nikon Coolpix 3500. It was hideous to use and broke horribly, but still it was my very first camera.Not much later I owned for a short time a Nikon F75 which was the first and until now the only camera which I’ve ever sold. It was a great tool, but it had a monstrous hunger for not so cheap CR2 batteries and it was way too modern for me anyway. The little Coolpix is still lying around somewhere in a box with serious electronic injuries. Who knows just like any other (now classic) camera, maybe one day it will get repaired too.

By the time it was very hard to accept  these changes by the majority of professionals who simply did not trust anything which was depending on batteries more than a powering of a light-meter. It is a bit hard to imagine today but at that time it had a perfect sense. But the change was already on the doorstep and it was inevitable. The previous F models were already masterpieces mechanically anyway, there was very little room for possible improvements in the purely mechanical realm.

The F3 was their first electronically controlled single digits F camera and despite of the early resistance by the community, it found the way to tremendous success and changed the face of the camera market once and for all.

In fact what Nikon did with this camera was nothing really revolutionary or unexpected as all the technology was already existed and tested by lower-end models of theirs or by the competitors. They simply selected the best components available and remixed them in a very attractive package.

I could write a lot more about the exciting history of this camera, but there are other more competent people who just did it very well before of me.  So instead of a week attempt of a complete and deep introduction of this camera, I simply try to give an overview filtered through my own experience.

I can faithfully recommend this site for the historical overview and for all possible technical details.

Nikon F3 HP official structural illustration

Nikon F3 HP official structural illustration

How did I get this camera

Nowadays my collector nature is being held a back because of the lack of time and dozens of higher priority projects. This is not necessarily a bad thing, sooner or later I need to settle and start to master the gear I already have. The negative side-effect is that I am running out of (new) old cameras to review.  But fortunately it turned out that  I can try out and write about a camera without actually owning it. I have a good friend who has a grandfather with a really good taste and since he moved to digital he gave his old Nikon gear to his grandchild. At first I just spot a box of T-max on the shelf at the place of Andrea’s and I asked her in which camera she intend to use it. Eventually she showed me a really nice bag full with vintage gear including the F3 with motor drive, many great lenses, matching flash unit and many more gems. Few weeks later (when I have recovered the shock, found my jaw and gathered enough courage) I asked her if I could try out the gear. She said yes, so the post you are reading now couldn’t be written without her kindness.

Data sheet

  • Type TTL auto-exposure 35 mm. Single Lens Reflex Camera.
  • Produced 1980-2001
  • Film type 24mm x 36mm
  • Weight 780g (body without lens, but with HP prism, batteries and film loaded)
  • Dimensions (HP version) 148.5 x mm height, 101.5 mm width, 69 mm depth
  • Lens mount Nikon F-mount
  • Shutter electronically controlled, horizontal-travel titanium focal-plane shutter
  • Shutter speeds 8s-1/2000s, B, Aperture priority,  1/60s can be used mechanically without batteries
  • Sync speed 1/80s
  • Viewfinder various interchangeable finders
  • Exposure meter full-aperture TTL centre-weighted exposure measurement at (80/20)
  • Batteries   Two 1.5V silver-oxide batteries SR44 (Eveready EPX-76) or alkaline manganese batteries LR44
  • Self-timer 10s delay electronic self-timer
  • Hot shoe special accessory shoe on the rewind knob supporting TTL flash units; PC synchro socket.
  • Motor drive optional MD4 motor drive up to 5.5  frames per second with mirror lock-up
  • Mirror lock-up
  • Depth of field preview
  • AE-lock
  • Multiple exposure lever
  • Exposure compensation

First and second impressions

When I first had a closer look, I was not exactly impressed. The camera was bit dusty and showed marks of very extensive use. Nothing serious, but I really had the impression that the camera may had some mechanical issues. Nevertheless I took my time, and cleaned the dust and smudges carefully.  During the process I had to realize two very important things. First of all never give up on an F3, these cameras are very hard to kill, no matter how they look like there probably nothing wrong inside. Second of all it has many buttons and switches which I had no idea what are they good for. I have seen many unusual designs like left handed Exactas and other marvels, but the F3 control layout gave us some rounds with Google and the user manual.

Nikon F3 with MD-4 motor drive, Nikkor 28mm f/3,5 and HP prism.

Nikon F3 with MD-4 motor drive, Nikkor 28mm f/3,5 and HP prism.

I also cleaned the lenses belonging to the F3 and since they were protected with  filters all of them were in an excellent condition. They feel a bit dry to me in terms of lubrication, but otherwise focusing very smoothly and precisely. Maybe they act completely normally, only I am not so familiar with Nikon AIS lenses.

After I finished the cleaning of the gear and finally powered up the camera, the moments I spent with trying out every part of it lead me to the conclusion. You can trust this camera. The more I use it, the more I trust. The sound of the shutter, the feel of the advance lever, the snappiness of the motor drive all ensure this feeling. After all this image what a professional camera should show about itself.

Things I love about the F3

As I said the Internet is loaded with much more established articles about the Nikon F3, therefore the very best I can do is to share my personal opinion about it. Let’s start with the things I most appreciate in this camera.

Look and feel

Nikon F3 in leather half case with Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 and HP prism.

Nikon F3 in leather half case with Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 and HP prism.

The F3 is an important milestone in the history of Nikon, but not only because of the technological aspects. This was the first Nikon which appearance was designed by the Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro.  He introduced the red mark on the grip, which is an unmistakable characteristics of every Nikon SLRs since then. Indeed, this camera looks different from every previous models and can be distinguished with ease from the competitors as well.

Personally, I like the previous F shapes better, but I have to admit that the F3 looks all right and it also handles great at the same time. The small grip contributes to the secure holding, and I find it very clever how it fits together with the motor-drive.

Butter smooth operation (excellent mechanics)

Every part of the camera carries the marks of mechanical excellence.  Even the smallest moving piece is doing its job with minimal resistance and completely free from any inappropriate noise.

There is virtually no difference in the operation of the film advance lever with and without film loaded into the camera. It is really that smooth that you can have a hard time to say that the camera loaded.

The mirror flips up quietly and gently as well, it produces very little camera shake compare to my other SLR cameras.

Viewfinder experience

For me one of the most important aspect in a camera is the viewfinder experience, and this is where the Nikon F3 really shines.

First and foremost this camera features a modular design, which allows you to choose from a huge variety of focusing screens and finders. This particular kit came with a HP prism and with my all times favorite waist level finder.

Nikon F3 in leather half case with Nikkor 50mm f/1,4 and HP prism. Waist level finder next to it.

Nikon F3 in leather half case with Nikkor 50mm f/1,4 and HP prism. Waist level finder next to it.

The HP abbreviation stands for High eye Point which provides a proper picture in the finder from the viewing distance up to 2,5 cm. This is especially beneficial for those who wear glasses, having larger than average nose or don’t want to squeeze their eyeball into the finder window. Although I don’t wear glasses, I still find convenient to use this finder too. The downside is that the image is slightly smaller than the one found in the usual prism. The finder window is round shaped, which looks very nice and professional in my opinion . The prism also features a window-blind to prevent light entering and thus altering metering results when shooting on a tripod.

I mentioned that waist level finders are very close to me, I have got used to the work with them with my Pentacon Six. Due to the lack of any additional optical elements (prism, mirrors), this finder gives the brightest and crispest image possible which indeed looks marvelous when using the F3.

Viewfinder mock

Viewfinder mock

But the best part of this camera is the way it indicates shooting parameters in within the finder.

A small LCD display shows the shutter speed settings, while the actual aperture marking (from the lens itself) is projected into the finder. In other words, you really see your lens marking in the viewfinder. I simply cannot imagine any cooler solution for this problem.

These information windows are built into the body, therefore all compatible finders benefit from them. The same information can be read in the HP prism and in the waist level finder.

Light metering

Nikon F3 metering with secondary mirror

Nikon F3 metering with secondary mirror

But how is the light metering done? Traditionally the metering cell/s are located in the prism.  Obviously it cannot be the case with the waist level finder, besides all readings are passed from the body to the finders.

In case of the  of the Nikon F3, the metering cell is located in the body to support the interchangeable viewfinder design. The cell is located at the bottom of the mirror box facing backwards to the direction of the film. There is a small secondary mirror underneath the main mirror in order to transfer the light for metering. The main mirror is semi transparent at the middle thus the secondary mirror can reflect part of the light to the metering cell. The secondary mirror moves synchronously with the main mirror.

This layout has another benefit of being capable to measure the light reflected back from the very surface of the film being exposed. This way real time exposure control is possible which is essential with TTL flash photography.

1/80s before the first frame

Have you ever tried to load a semi automatic camera with the lens cap on? I committed this mistake quite a few times with my Olymous OM 4. Normally, because the lens cap is on, the camera calculates a very long exposure time so you need to wait a lot before you could get to the next frame. This could be really annoying especially when you are in hurry. Of course, if you set your camera to manual mode during loading, this is not an issue at all, but somehow I walk into this trap quite often.

It seems that the engineers of Nikon knew my kind and built in a mechanism which sets the shutter speed to 1/80s until the frame counter reaches the 0 marking. This prevents me to fire a 30s exposure during film loading.

This can be a disadvantage to those who tries to get the maximum amount of frames out of every roll, but personally I think it is a really nice and clever feature.

Small touches everywhere

The Devil is in the details.  If you take a closer look on this camera, you can notice a numerous fine details which aren’t that necessary to operate the camera, but contribute to the overall feeling. They make you feel confident that the camera you are holding is a very special and fine tool.

Some of the little details are not unique to this particular model, but characteristics of the Nikons at this era.  For example I like the screw cap of the battery compartment. It has a small plastic holder, which positions the batteries and it has a clear graphical indication, how the batteries should be placed.

There is a lock on literally everything which can be accidentally moved such as shutter speed dial, film rewind, exposure compensation and mechanical shutter release. There is no way, you accidently change a setting or open the camera.

Ever-ready case is the best I have seen apart from 3rd party manufacturers.  It can be used as a half case, it lets you see the film notes at the back and it is very stylish.

The window blind on the prism, the mechanical shutter release, the way they implemented multiple exposure control are all very fine details.

Nikon F3 in my hands

Nikon F3 in my hands

Things I don’t like so much

Actually it is very hard to find anything  to not to like on this camera, but I have managed to put together a short list.

Weird switches

Nikon F3 weird switches (Can you spot the self-timer? it is actually around the shutter speed dial)

Nikon F3 weird switches (Can you spot the self-timer? it is actually around the shutter speed dial)

Probably because the F3 is a completely new breed of  industrial design among Nikon cameras, they had to make compromises here and there. Some switches such as self-timer and the on-off switch are a bit small and less intuitive to use. It took me some time to figure out what is the self-timer switch is doing. But the weirdest button of all is the little red rectangle just below the finder. This is used to illuminate the shutter speed information screen in the finder. It is hard to find and even harder to press during composing  a frame. You need to use one of your  fingernails to be able to push it.

Hot shoe

Because of the interchangeable viewfinder design, the hot-shoe could not be placed at the top of the prism, therefore and alternative solution was needed. The Nikon F3 has a very interesting non standard flash shoe combined with the film-rewind lever. This part of the camera gives home to the film speed settings and exposure compensation.  To use flash, you need a special flash or an adapter.

Test shoots and answer to the scanner crisis

I have asked specifically the guys at my favorite camera shop and photo lab to scan my negatives without over-compressing the resulting jpg files. But they managed to give me once again 50% compressed garbage, therefore I officially gave up on them and decided to give another shoot to my old scanner. This time however, I tried out SilverFast (again) instead of the factory software I used and finally I have found the common understanding with this software. It really gave a new life to the old scanner of mine. I love the possibility to reduce noise by multiple scanning. I still think that this is not the final solution for my scanning crisis, but for the time being it is an acceptable compromise.

Click on the photos for full resolution versions so you can really see the quality of the scans! If you feel like, I would be happy to read your opinion in the comments section about the quality of these shoots and of course about the photos themself. 

Barbara

Barbara (Graz, 2013) Nikon F3, Nikkor 50mm f/1,4, Kodal Portra 160 (Expired), Canoscan 9900F

Eszti

Eszti (Graz, 2013) Nikon F3, Nikkor 50mm f/1,4, Kodal Portra 160 (Expired), Canoscan 9900F

Michael

Michael (Graz, 2013) Nikon F3, Nikkor 50mm f/1,4, Kodal Portra 160 (Expired), Canoscan 9900F

Richard

Richard (Graz, 2013) Nikon F3, Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 @ f/2.5, Kodal Portra 160 (Expired), Canoscan 9900F

Olympus OM 4 Ti vs Nikon F3

I know that this is not a fair comparison since the OM4 was released a few years later, yet both cameras represents the top of the manual focus models in their respective brands. Both of them shares the formula of manual focus, electronically controlled horizontally travelling shutter with mechanical back-up, aperture priority auto exposure, somewhat similar light metering system with TTL flash control and separate motor drive. It would be better to compare the titanium versions, but at the moment  I have my hands only on the normal F3.

Obviously the OM4 Ti feels more solid despite its lighter weight. It is smaller and you really can feel that this is a weather sealed titanium body. The F3 feels also solid in my hands, but  not the same. I prefer my OM 4 Ti when it comes to build quality. Again the F3 titanium would probably compare differently.

The multi-spot light metering system of the OM 4 is also superior to the F3, although I had no issues so far with the Nikon even when using flash. On paper though the Olympus offers more in this aspect. It has to be said that the OM 4 is a newer camera, therefore this comparison is not entirely fair neither.

Olympus OM 4 Ti vs Nikon F3

Olympus OM 4 Ti vs Nikon F3

The viewfinder experience is better on the Nikon due to the fact that not only the shutter speed, but the aperture values are shown in the finder. However the OM4 warns you right in the in the viewfinder when exposure compensation is active while the Nikon shows nothing. Both cameras can benefit from a wide variety of focusing screens, but of course the Nikon has the possibility to change the whole finder.

In terms of electronics, I feel more confident with the Nikon, somehow it feels as a more bulletproof system to me. The clever solution of fix 1/80s for the first shoots before the 0 frame and the very long battery life all gives me a good feeling.  The Olympus has a very mature system, but I had some troubles with week batteries and the battery life is also less.

At the end both cameras are excellent choices and I think both can do the job equally well. The F3 offers more features such as mirror lock-up, multiple exposure, interchangeable finders,  high eye-point  prism, but the OM 4 is smaller, features a very unique and excellent light metering and flash system and has a rather classical look.

But no camera worth anything without compatible lenses. I think that the OM lineup is strong enough, but Nikon is definitely has a serious advantage here. So if you are about to choose between these 2 cameras or similar models, consider your lens needs first.

I own the OM4 and I will need to give back the F3 soon,  and while I really enjoyed the time with the Nikon, I still appreciate the Olympus look so my camera-bag remains intact.

Conclusion and recommendation

If you would like modern, but  manual focus camera which you can trust with no compromise in features and don’t mind the size, than this is the camera for you. I think the F3 is affordable today and you can use a really impressive set of affordable quality lenses as well. The motor drive is not my thing, but indeed it can make this camera a speed daemon (~5 fps) as long as you can handle the focus. TTL flash photography is also among the features, but keep in mind that you need a special adapter or a compatible unit.

I really like this camera, it is a pleasure to use, it does look stylish and it has the coolest aperture indication in viewfinder ever. So if you like it, grab one in good conditions and you will not need another camera for a long time because this oe will never let you down.

References

Fun

Nikon F3 in Area 88

Nikon F3 in Area 88