Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I still use and collect film cameras.

My spare F3 finally came back to me, March 10, 2010.

(Four years ago, I loaned it to a friend's son so that he could use it for a photography course in college. (Nov. 15, 2005)
Last fall when I WORE OUT my first-line F3, I finally asked my pal to return the loaner. (Oct. 9, 2009.)

My "dead" first-line F3 had developed unreliably short long exposures - anything longer than 1/60 was now iffy, rendering slides inaccurately dark.

I have enough cameras that I have absolutely no need to use a wonky camera. But I'm committed enough to the F3 - I have a drawer full of its goofy accessories - that I really should have a first-line F3, and my F3/T lacks good flash capabilities.
Therefore, I called in my loaner.

So my first-line F3 is retired awaiting a CLA, and it became the parts hulk that I used to revive the loaner.

First off, swap the chrome replacement shutter-button-collar on the loaner camera for the stock black shutter collar from the hulk.

First hurdle: the AA batteries in the motor drive had leaked. Throw them out, clean up the battery holder with vinegar and Q-tips, install new set of batteries.... and then decide that the battery holder in my parts hulk was cleaner, and swap it out.

Power it up, and discover that the meter head (what is that? a DP-3?) is dead.

Take two seconds to swap it out with the HP head from the parts hulk.

Take it out for a test drive, everything's nominal. Switch the drive to "Continuous", let loose a burst - and the motor drive DIES. Just dies.
(Oops. That's a new one, too: I have now worn out an F3 AND killed an MD-4. Wow.)

Grimace, shrug, and swap out the MD-4 motor drive from the parts hulk.

While I'm at it, the door on the hulk looks nicer - swap that out, too.

Voila: I now have a nominal F3 created largely from the accessories and parts from my dead F3.

The loaner is happily restored to working order, and my F3 parts hulk now has
- a wonky shutter,
- a dead metering head,
- a dead motor drive,
- a dirty battery holder,
- a brassed film door,
- a replacement shutter collar (in unpainted aluminum, rather than black).
The hulk is in pretty sad shape now.

But wow, is it fun to tinker with an "F" series Nikon. Just tinkering with the thing fulfills most of my photojournalist fantasies.

The hulk was about $300 in late 2004, and was my first-line camera up through our 2009 vacation.
The spare (loaner) wasn't much over $200, in early 2005.
Then - because I had always lusted after one -
I picked up an F3/T, which was also about $300, later in 2005. (Which sounds like a lot, until you realize that the D3 is five thousand bucks or so. I can buy a LOT of film for the $4000 difference....)

When I found myself with THREE F3s, I happily loaned one out in November 2005. (That went out the door in a rush, as it was needed by my pal's son for a college course.)

When the hulk died last September, I finally called in the loaner. (When the loaner didn't come back right away, I was desperate for a fully-working F3, so I spent all of $140 last November to replace the loaner with a non-HP F3 - which temporarily became my new first-line camera. Now, with the return of the loaner, I seem to be back to THREE working F3s.)

Which, admittedly, is probably in excess of requirements.

(...And then, while I was looking at Nikon SLRs on eBay, I also picked up TWO N90s for under $80 for the pair. THESE might just be my first-line cameras now. My eyes might need AF by now. The N90s are not quite pro grade, but they're awesome cameras, and they give me AF and matrix metering.)

Anyway - now that I have a parts hulk, I'm considering harvesting the flash contacts off of it to replace the corroded contacts on my F3/T. And, if I'm successful, its death will have revived TWO other F3s.

UPDATE: And a look at the F3 repair manual shows that harvesting the flash connector requires some very finicky soldering. That might be too much effort for too little reward. (I keep the F3/T loaded for outdoor photography. Come to think of it, I rarely use a flash on any of the F3s....)

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