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Film Camera Review, Nikon F, F2, and F3 35mm MF SLR Film Cameras

Nikon F, F2, and F3 35mm MF SLR Film Cameras
A quick look review of the early development of manual focus Nikon's F series professional 35mm SLR film camera system.

This article introduces the development of the early mechanical Nikon F series 35mm SLR cameras, one of the major contributions to the development of the 35mm SLR camera industry. It fringes only on the introduction of the various models in the series.

Established in July 1917, Nippon Kogaku was an optical company manufacturing optical lenses and equipment used in cameras, binoculars, microscopes, and inspection equipment, and later, consumer-level Nikkorex and Nikkormat cameras. The name Nikon was chosen for the camera line targeted at the professional market.

The line's first branded camera was the Nikon 1, a rangefinder introduced in 1948.

(The Nikon 1 name was revived in 2011 when Nikon introduced their high-speed mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras that were capable of doing 60 frames per second (fps) continuous shooting speed.)

Nikon's rangefinder series continued with the Nikon M (1949), Nikon S (1951), S2 (1955), SP (1957), and S3 (1958). The SP bodies were the basis for the development of the Nikon F and F2 system cameras introduced from 1959 onward.

The SP was the basis for the development of the Nikon F and F2 system cameras introduced from 1959 onward.

Nikon F

Nikon F: Nikon F, F2, and F3 SLR Cameras
The Nikon F (1959), is a cumulation of various concepts and implementation of a system that includes interchangeable prisms, interchangeable focusing screens, depth-of-field preview button, mirror lock-up capability, easy access lens release button, single-stroke ratcheted film advance lever, titanium-foil focal-plane shutter, rapid rewind lever, and fully removable backs.

Metering prisms or the Photomic head for the Nikon F began to appear in 1960. Throughout the Nikon F production, three variations of the TTL Photomic heads were produced, the Photomic F, Photomic FT, and the Photomic FTn (1968). Metering on the FTn is 60% center-weighted, later to become the standard pattern for Nikon's SLR cameras.

The Nikon F was a success. It was the first SLR system to be adopted and used seriously by professional photographers, especially those who were covering the Vietnam War of the '60s and '70s. Motor-driven Nikon Fs with 250-exposure backs are also the mainstay for recording launches of the space capsules in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs.
These cameras were well-made, durable, and adhered closely to the successful design scheme of previous Nikon rangefinder cameras. The Nikon F was in production until October 1973 when it was replaced by the Nikon F2.

Nikon F2

Nikon F2: Nikon F, F2, and F3 SLR Cameras

The Nikon F2, recognized as the world's top professional 35mm SLRs from 1971 through 1980, is fitted with a horizontal-travel focal plane shutter with titanium shutter curtains with a speed range of 1 to 1/2000 second (up to 10 seconds using the self-timer) plus Bulb and Time, and flash X-sync of 1/80th second.

The Nikon F2 is also unique in having manual shutter speeds out to 10 full seconds, which are also continuously variable from 2 to 10 seconds. You use them by setting the shutter dial to B, rotating the shutter button collar to "T" (Time), and turning the self-timer lever to the desired exposure time in seconds. Press the shutter button, and it opens immediately and makes the desired long exposure.

Five developments of the Photomic heads were made available for the F2, designating the variants of this model as the F2 Photomic, F2 Photomic S, F2 Photomic SB, F2 Photomic A, and F2 Photomic AS, currently the most sought-after collectors model in the F2 series.
The F2AS was the current model of the F2 series when the F3 was introduced in 1980. For a while, both were sold concurrently. As the earlier Nikon F's and F2 have won the reputation for being extremely rugged and durable, many professionals and owners were initially reluctant to change over to the new F3. Persistence prevailed, the F3s were accepted, and they remained in production through 2001. The Nikon F3 was to be the longest-running professional grade Nikon SLR in production, with over 751,000 being produced through September 1992.

Nikon F3

Nikon F3: Nikon F, F2, and F3 SLR Cameras

With the F3, Nikon replaced the mechanically operated shutter of the F2 with a modern, electronically controlled, horizontally traveled metal curtain design. The new shutter proved to be equally reliable and less maintenance-intensive than its predecessors. The horizontal-travel design (of the shutter) however, significantly limited its top flash sync speed to 1/80 sec.

The Nikon F3 series cameras had the most model variations of any Nikon F camera, this includes the F3HP, F3/T, F3P, F3H, and F3AF. It was also the first of numerous Nikon F-series cameras to be styled by Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro and to include a red stripe on the handgrip – a feature that is to become a signature feature of many Nikon cameras.

The F3 was produced for 21 years until it was discontinued in 2001.
The Nikon F3, considered by many to be the finest manual-focus camera ever made, was the last in the Nikon series of manual-focus, professional-level 35mm SLR cameras.

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