In 1980 I thought I was pretty happy with my Nikon setup -- a Nikon F2SB pro camera and a Nikon FE with the MD-11 motor drive. Someday I hoped to get the MD-2/MB-1 motor drive for the F2SB, but I could live with one motor.
Then I saw the new Nikon F3 at Jeron Camera in Evanston IL. I asked to see it and my regular guy there told me not to do it. He was right. The combination of the rugged F2 pro camera with the EL/FE style automation, with a brand new LCD panel in the finder? Perfect. And then I dry fired the F3... and discovered THE smoothest manual film advance ever. No effort at all, perfectly sculpted lever, perfect throw length for advance -- no thumb slipping off leaving the camera not fully cocked. Since I almost never use a motor drive on Continuous, who needed a motor drive? I mean SMOOTH advance -- and I've owned and worked with a LOT of cameras.
Against all reason, I traded both my cameras and the motor drive for one single brand new F3. A few months later, I bought a second one at Carolina Camera on credit. The MD-4 motor drive listed for $455, I think, and I had no money left. Up until 1980, when I owned two cameras they were different models. With two identical cameras, I got red and blue Avery ¼" signal dots, so I could mark the cameras AND the rolls of film. If I ever had a problem, I would know which camera it was. The icon above shows me with Nikon F3red, that first camera, in the fall of 1983. UPDATE 12/28/2014: Found a larger picture of F3red in 1983:
Not everyone was sold on the F3. A pro camera that HAD to have a battery? Unthinkable. And despite plenty of pros using the Nikkormat EL and Nikon EL2 and FE as second cameras, automatic exposure was still iffy. Considering many pros today use their electronic digital Nikons in Program mode, never setting either aperture or shutter speed, and Auto ISO, where they never even set the sensor effective speed, it's pretty ironic. Ken Rockwell, who has extensive Nikon and Canon equipment reviews, confessed to buying a used F2AS for more money rather than a new F3 in the early 80s, because it seemed the pro thing to be leery of the F3.
The F3 was in production for some twenty years, longer than any other model. You could buy them new even after the much more expensive autofocus F4 and F5 cameras came out, with their integral motor drives. And they are tough. That automated meter? With an 80% centerweighting versus 60% on the earlier Nikons, I ended up putting in a -2/3 f-stop correction on both bodies and forgot about it. Nearly flawless.
This fall I decided to pull F3blue out of the old camera bag and take it up to the U.P. Hadn't shot with an F3 in years. It worked great, especially as I'd picked up an oversized Nikon DA-2 Action Finder, after finding the DA-20 Action Finder a real asset with the Nikon F4s. But... I missed a number of shots, because unlike the F4s and N2020 and all the digital Nikons, there was no motor and I forgot to wind the film. Plus, I discovered why nearly all the DA-2 equipped cameras I'd ever seen had motor drives. That big prism housing makes it really hard to rewind the film.
So I've been looking for a clean used MD-4 motor drive for a while. Exceptional units on eBay with a box ran about $129. Decent ones were $89. Crappy scarred beat up veteran units could be had for $29. But a lot of the chewed ones had battery leak damage, despite the drive itself being almost indestructible. And my F3s are still pretty pristine -- I take care of my gear. They deserved better.
Found a clean one for $49 on eBay and was the sole bidder. It was scheduled to arrive on the 29th -- it showed up on Christmas Eve.
I hadn't even gone out yet to get an 8-pack of lithium AA batteries, in order to save weight. What? I only had SIX regular Eveready AAs left in my pack? Okay, here are two more from a 4-pack of Rayovacs Mrs. Dr. Phil bought a couple of years ago in Nicaragua. Tested it on F3red and then mounted it on F3blue, along with a Type "R" focusing screen to use with slower lenses I bought after the U.P. trip. Took a quick picture with the D100, forgetting I still had it on 1600 ISO:
My second Nikon F3 camera -- F3blue + DA-2 Action Finder + MD-4 Motor Drive + 35-70mm f3.3-4.5 AIs Zoom-NIKKOR. Also the silly looking, but very nice feeling tiny AR-9 Soft Shutter Release above where the camera says "F3". (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)
Remember, I bought these F3 cameras thirty-three years ago, and except for one brief test, they've never been used with a 5.5 frame per second motor drive, and they both worked perfectly. The F3 works with all the old Nikon lenses back to 1959 and with all the modern AF NIKKORS I have in manual focus mode, except for the G lenses which lack a manual aperture ring -- and two of the five G lenses I own are for DX not FX/35mm cameras anyway and the others I have both G and D versions, so I'm covered.
This is why you buy pro gear.
Two more pieces coming: an MR-3 Shutter Release so I have a vertical release on the motor drive -- the MD-11 I once owned had a similar MR-2 which was very handy -- and an MC-12A 10-foot remote release that I was the lone bidder at $0.01. I'm paying 595 times as much for shipping. (grin) The remote cord will also work with the F4s and the N2020 -- my other remote cord is for the 10-pin connectors on the digital Nikons. I'd like an MK-1 Firing Rate Converter, but that'd cost almost three times what the motor drive did! But... I have an AH-3 Tripod Adapter that I bought for Paul's old N2020 and I'll stick that on the MD-4.
Loaded a roll of Ilford XP-2 400 ISO black & white that can be processed with color film, like the Kodak BW400CN I tested last year. Insert play time... Merry Christmas to me!
And as for Christmas, here's a quick shot I did of our lights -- we've had no appreciable snow in December. So far. And talk of a white Christmas is rapidly evaporating.
Coming home two weeks ago at twilight, showing off this year's simple yellow-white LED lights and our big red bows. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)
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