What to do when an old friend quits on you

There was a time I was enthralled by the Nikon F3. I had learned on one and lusted after for years, but I was chronically impoverished and not able to buy one for a very long time.

I guess I was having flashbacks to my younger days when I finally found one I could afford. I left a couple days after it came in the mail to hike in Peru, and I still wish I had taken it with me. I took a D1X instead, and I am still pained that I can’t blow up those 6 MP images. Any film I could have shot down there would have been so much better.

A few years later, it got soaked. I did my best to shield it from a thunderstorm during a bike tour, but it was to no avail. It soldiered on for a while and then died. The first crack in the reputation of an ironclad, reliable camera. I salvaged the focus screen and the viewfinder, but nothing else could be saved.

Back of a Nikon F3

The replacement came, and the joy continued. This one had one of the famous HP DE-3 viewfinders, and I began rattling around back roads with it, expanding my horizons and improving my skills. I amassed a modest collection of Nikkor glass, and kept shooting the camera, enjoying it every time.

And then one day, it just didn’t turn on.

I suppose it was foreseeable since the electronics in it are almost forty years old. I babied this one much more than my first one, though. Didn’t seem to matter in the long run. The shutter only trips when the manual release is used, and only fires at 1/90th a second. The light meter, doesn’t.

Through the good graces of Craig, I now have a F2 to use my Nikkor glass on, and am in the market for finding one of those 105 f2.5 lenses for portraits. Using the onboard light meter was a little awkward at first, but it’s gotten easier. It’s accurate enough. I can see why this tank has such a loyal following. I hold it at the same level of esteem I hold my Leica in, an excellent tool that largely just gets out of my way and lets me work.

Bottom plate of a Nikon F3

But what to do with my dead F3?

It seems in much better shape than its predecessor, but looks can be deceiving. I wonder if it is fixable? I don’t think the local repair guy I used to use is still in business. I bet it would be cheaper to just buy another, but I don’t think I want to.

I think I’ll use it on my first foray in to camera repair. Who knows, I might be able to get it working again. Like an old friend who you find you’re not done having fun with, it would be good to get back out on the road some day with my F3.


  1. March 18, 2023

    Yeah, I would see if there’s a way to resuscitate it first. I’m not familiar with Nikon repairs/service, as I’ve stuck with just Olympus and Minolta. If worse comes to worse, maybe you can sell it as a parts camera, or use it as a donor for another F3.

    • Andrew
      March 25, 2023

      Watched some YouTube videos, read the shop manual, and dove in. The power switch contact points were corroded. A little cleanup, and it powered back on. Shutter fires at all speeds and I am going to go out and test it later. I also swapped the DE-3/HP prism for my old, battered DE-2.Swapped the K focus screen for a P which is easier to focus. Nikon was the king of modular SLR design. The beast is till probably living on borrowed time, but its nice to have it back. It will be nice to have a back up for my F2 out in the field.

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