My first Nikon camera was a gift, a Nikon F4, together with its massive winder and battery pack. A couple of lenses were part of the gifted package, none a prime lens unfortunately. But the 35-70 is very easy to work with and it got the results I liked, so for the best part of its life, the camera was fitted with this lens only.
Last year, alas, the F4 stopped working. Properly working, that is: the P+, P and A settings became unusable (when used, the shutter stuck and could only be released by turning the shutter button a notch), the battery pack ( the MB20) developed some bad contacts (at times, the power cut off) and the lower part of the viewfinder screen lost its display of aperture and shutter speed.
All of these made me want to look for a Nikon that would let me shoot manually, with a choice of exposure meter. And I chose Nikon FM3A, which seems to me the best of both worlds. Manual as much as you like, with exposure meter thrown in for ease of operation. And of course, an automatic setting for aperture priority program, for those moment when one needs it.
What took me by surprise was how easy is to work with this camera; none of the multitude of switches, buttons of the F4, none of the care and cautions of press this release that kind of thing, just compose and shoot. Pretty relaxing and intuitive, if you ask me. Using the experience of shooting meterless cameras, the handling of this FM3A camera is pure joy. And of course, if you choose to give the meter a try, you’ll find that is one of the best there are, and it challenges the OM1 meter which is not an easy thing to do. Not a spot meter, it nonetheless deliver in an abundant exactness and clarity of reading. I am impressed, really.
Shooting a lot of 400 film, the 1/2000th and 1/4000th shutter speeds are incredible useful, and I am very pleased to have access to such shutter settings. This opens a new world for me, when shooting high speed film. Although many complain about the fact that the advance lever has to be left half-opened in order to activate the camera, I am very ok about this. If anything, it helps me advance the film with speed, if need be. Exposure compensation setting is very helpful too, and although I am not usually calling on this function, I do see the benefits.
The FM3A is not the only SLR I own, and I am more or less accustomed to shooting with this type of camera. My first one was the iconic Olympus OM1, back in the 90’s, and I am sorry to say I sold it not long after. And while I was busy with Minox photography and shooting miles of that film format, delving in 16mm too, I never forgot how well these SLR cameras felt in my hands. LE – I am happy to report that I just acquired an almost mint OM1 recently, and so this wonderful camera is back in my hands. Brilliant piece of technology, this old timer.
Right, so anyways, why would I choose this Nikon FM3A over say, my OM10 with a manual adapter? I mean, besides the obvious access to higher speeds and higher film settings, and the obvious iconic (that word again) status of Nikon SLR cameras?
Well, it is mainly because of the above, clearly. There is no doubt that the FM3A is above the OM10, and above to almost all my SLR’s. Not with much, mind you, but the above reasons are the margins by which this Nikon wins.