How to Use a Nikon F3 35mm Film Camera


Hey, Jon here with Prime Studios Photography and in this video I’m going to show you how to use the Nikon F3 SLR film camera. Now to start off this camera uses either one or two batteries. The battery compartment’s under here which you can open up with a quarter, and then on the underside here, you’ll also see the quarter inch attachment for tripods and this is where the electrical contacts are if you put a motor drive on it. Now this camera will use either two 76 PX batteries, or One CR 1/3 N battery. Now I’m going to have links to both of these in the description below as well as a link to the camera itself. Now this time I’m just using one battery instead of two. Positive side goes in the camera, negative side goes down. Now this camera cannot really be operated without the batteries. The batteries run the light meter and they also run the shutter button. The shutter button itself is electronic. Now there is a way using this lever here to activate the shutter and the winder will still work. So technically, you can use it without a battery but it’s very limiting. Alright, for this camera it actually does have an on switch, which is right here. So you move this switch to the side and a little red dot appears. So that’s the on switch for the camera. Now when this is in the off position it also acts as a shutter lock. So it’s not going to fire the camera, so if you’re done shooting, you want to go ahead and turn it off so it turns off the the light meter and everything, and also it’s not going to activate the shutter by accident. Now on this camera, like pretty much all Nikon cameras, the lens release button is right here. So you hold that down and you turn the lens clockwise and the lens will come off. Now on this particular series of lenses, to put it back on you line up this black dot here with this white dot on the body, and then you turn counterclockwise until it clicks. Now in order to load the camera with film, like most cameras like these, you’ll be pulling up the rewind knob to open up the back. But it does have a lock, which is right here. So you’re going to move this sideways and then pull up the rewind knob and then you can pop open the back of the camera to load the film. Now if you don’t know how to load film yet, then you can go ahead and watch my video which I’ll put a link up here on specifically how to load film. Then you can come on back to this video. Now on the back of the camera here you will see what’s called a memo holder, which is this thing here. What you can do is tear off a piece of the box of the film you got and you can slide that in there to remind you what film you’re using. So that way if you put your camera down for a few months or whatever you can say, ‘Oh, I was using 400 ISO Kodak Tri-X film’. And that way you won’t forget. Now your film will also have a specific ISO and you set that actually up here, and it’s kind of difficult. There’s this dial right here that you actually have to lift up and you can turn it. And it is somewhat difficult to use. You want to make sure to get it… Let’s say if you’re using 400, get it right at 400. But that’s where you set the ISO to let the camera know what speed film is in there. Now if you’re not familiar with the basics of how an SLR camera works you definitely want to check out my other video which I’ll link up here and that way you can have a basic idea of how it works because I’m about to start talking about shutter speed and aperture. So this right here is the shutter dial on this particular camera. Right now it’s on “A” which is it’s automatic setting. Now on this camera Automatic actually means that it’s aperture priority. So it’s not a full program/full automatic mode. Basically what it means is that in this “A” mode you will choose the aperture by turning this on the lens here and then the camera will choose the shutter speed. All right, so to get it off the “A” mode, you actually push down the lock button in the middle here and go to the next one. The next one is “X” which on most cameras means it’s the flash sync speed. So that’s the shutter speed t’s going to use if you have a flash in the photo. So either on the camera or off the camera. And on this camera it equates to about one sixtieth of a second. Now you also have to push the button down to unlock it to get off “X” but then I’m gonna go to “B” here on this camera. “B” stands for bulb. That means as long as you hold down the shutter button, the shutter will stay open. Now as I said before, this shutter button right here is electronically controlled. Now this camera also has a mechanical shutter control, which is actually this lever right here. So you can just move that open like that and then when you push it down it will activate the shutter mechanically. Now it’s important for the “T” setting. The “T” setting is like the bulb setting in that you would use it for longer exposures, to keep the the shutter open for long periods of time. But the “T” setting won’t use any battery, whereas holding down this button does. So if I cock the camera here, and I activate the shutter by pushing down on this lever… So right now the shutter door is open and it’s going to stay open until I move the dial. Once I move the dial it will close. So that’s how you would do a very long exposure, or a series of long exposures to keep your battery from dying. And one other thing if you’re doing long exposures is that it also has a viewfinder door which is this lever right here. You can flip that and it’s going to block any light from coming in the viewfinder during long exposures, which might cause like to hit your film, that you don’t want to. And as for all the other shutter speeds on here, these ones right here are full seconds. So you have 1, 2, 4, and 8 seconds and then fraction of a second. So these are all fractions. So imagine a 1 and then a slash, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8. The 60 is red because that’s the flash sync speed at 1/60th of a second. And it goes all the way to 1/2000th of a second at its fastest shutter speed. And then you can put it back to “A”. Now on this camera in order to turn on the light meter, which is inside the viewfinder, you’re actually going to just tap the shutter button and the light meter will stay on for about 15 or 20 seconds. You’ll know that the light meter is on and if the batteries are good because there’s an LCD at the top left of the viewfinder and that will turn on and show you what the current shutter speed is set at. And most of the time when you’re using the camera you’re going to be pushing this button all the way down in order to take a photograph, like this. And like I said earlier it does have this mechanical release lever right here. Which is pretty interesting. Now let’s say that your battery’s totally dead. You can still wind your film. This will still advance the film forward and and recock the shutter. But this button won’t work if the battery is dead. This however will, because this is a mechanical connection to the shutter. The trade-off is that no matter where this dial is set, if you use this one to take the picture it’s always going to be at 1/60th of a second. Alright, now one thing you can do when you’re on this sort of automatic mode, this aperture priority mode, is this camera does have exposure compensation. Which you’ll also find in modern cameras. But basically what it means, and it’s right over here, is you’re telling the camera I want the light meter to read a little bit brighter, so like +1, +2, or a little bit darker -1, -2. The numbers represent full stops of light. So what you do is you push down this lock button here, and you can turn this dial to whatever you want. So basically you’re telling it I want the pictures a little brighter or I want the pictures a little darker. Now this is really only appropriate to be used on the “A” mode on this camera. And you want to definitely make sure to remember that you made this change because it won’t change back on its own. You’re the one who has to change it back. If it’s on Manual, you’re shooting on Manual, then it’s really just going to mess up your metering, and if you don’t remember that you put it there, it can be very confusing and frustrating, and you may not even realize until you’ve shot quite a few photos. Now this camera also has a 10 second timer. Now that switch is actually right here and it also is back here. So it’s one whole switch. You can go ahead and turn that… there we go…until you can see another red dot there. Now that means that the timer is on and you would hit the shutter button and when you do that this red LED will start blinking. And it will go faster once it’s about to take a picture. And there you go. Alright, now before I show you the the aperture ring, I’m actually going to talk about the viewfinder and prism up here. Because on this camera they’re actually removable and replaceable with different kinds of viewfinders and to get an easier look at the aperture ring I’m going to remove this one first. But there’s a switch on either side and you can push those both down at the same time and you can take the whole viewfinder off. Now what’s cool about this is you can theoretically use this as a waist level finder. So you can kind of see my my hand up there, and you’ll actually see a couple things. So if you look here, that right there is the viewfinder. So you can see that little light come on, because this button right here illuminates the LCD. Now what it also does is it shines light out onto the aperture ring. And that’s important because the way this works is that it uses a set of prisms to actually look at the actual aperture number on the lens and then show it in the viewfinder. So when you look through the viewfinder on the top, you’ll see the shutter speed on the left, which is actually this LCD screen here, and then you’ll also see the aperture, which is basically just a periscope view of these numbers that are on the aperture ring. Here you can also see the focusing screen which is also removable and replaceable. So you can carefully take that out and you can use a different one. And there are multiple versions that you can choose from. Now on this camera, on this particular lens, there is no automatic setting for the aperture ring. It is always going to be you choosing the aperture whether you’re using the “A” setting or not. So the only automatic for this camera is the Aperture Priority mode. So you would choose a specific aperture, which like I said you can see through this little…there’s a little prism here, a little window down there that actually looks at that number and shows it to you in the viewfinder. Or you can just look at it on your lens itself. This camera does have what’s called a depth of field preview button, which is actually this button right here. If you hold this button down, it’s going to close down the aperture, which you can kind of see there as I push down the button. It’ll hold the aperture down and it will also make the viewfinder a lot darker and kind of harder to see. But the purpose of this is to get an idea of exactly what’s going to be in focus when you take the picture. Now another way to tell what’s going to be in focus is these markings on the lens here. So this right here is actually the focusing ring, and it has in yellow, feet, and in white, meters. And then it has these colored markings here. Now if you look, the aperture numbers, so f/2.8, f/4, f/8, they’re colored and so are the markings here. So let’s say I focus at something at 2 feet, right, and I’m at f/8. So that if you look, if 8 is sort of a pink color, and there’s a pink marking here and then there’s another pink marking here. That means that distance from the camera about 1.75 feet away is when things are going to start to come into focus, and everything between that distance and about 2.7…no…2.5 feet… Between those two distances are actually what’s going to be in focus. That’s your depth of field. Now you can do that with these other ones: So f/11 is yellow, f/16 is blue, f/22 is sort of brown, f/4 is green, etc. Now you can reattach the viewfinder fairly easily. You just put it on and snap it down. So now we’re going to talk about how to use the viewfinder itself. Now first we going to talk about focusing, which is this ring on the lens right here. And it can vary depending on which lens you’re using. But it’s usually fairly obvious. Now in the very center of the frame you’re going to find a small circle that sort of split in the middle. Now you’re going to manipulate the focusing ring on the lens until the two images line up in the very center of the frame. Now the way this camera reads light is that it actually looks at this center circle mainly for taking a light reading. Other cameras will use the entire frame, but the Nikon F3 uses this marked circle here and takes a most of its light reading from here. That’s what’s called center-weighted light metering. Now if I’m shooting manually with the shutter dial off “A” at a specific shutter speed, I turn my light meter on here… You’ll see an “M” and then a plus (+) or a minus (-). Now as I move my aperture here, you can see it’s going to be minus (-), or it’s going to be plus (+), or it’s going to be both. Now when it’s both that means it’s the correct exposure. When it’s minus (-) that means there’s not enough light, and when it’s plus (+) it means there’s too much light, and you have to adjust the shutter speed and/or the aperture to get both the plus (+) and the minus (-) symbol to show up. And that means you’re going to get a correct exposure. Now this button right here, that you push down, not the lever, but the button. This is the exposure lock button. So you would use this if say you are shooting a picture of something and there’s a certain part of the photograph that’s either very bright or very dark. You can center your camera over that, hold down the exposure lock button and then reframe the photo so that it’s using the light reading from the object you want it to rather than what’s currently in the center of the frame. And then you can take the picture. So up here on the top of the camera is your winding lever, which is right here. So you can keep it in this position while shooting so that you can very easily cock the shutter. When you do this it will recock the shutter and it will also pull the film forward allowing you to take a picture. And it will also advance the number dial here showing you which photograph you’re on in this current roll. Now one thing you can do that’s cool about this camera, is it has this extra little lever right here. This is the double exposure lever. So what you can do, if you want to take, basically two photographs on the same piece of film, you can move this lever like this and the next time you cock it, it will only recock the shutter and it’s not going to pull the film forward. So that way you can basically shoot two photos into one photo. You can see it resets, but it’s only recocking the shutter and it doesn’t advance the number of photos taken here. And then you can take your picture, and then it’ll operate as normal. Now sometimes on cameras you want to do what’s called a mirror lock-up. A mirror lock-up is where this mirror right here that normally lifts up during a photograph, and gets out of the way… You would lift that up, in order to do photographs that maybe are very long exposure and sort of sensitive to vibrations. Because that mirror moving up and down can cause some vibrations in the camera. There are also certain lenses, like certain sort of extreme fisheye lenses that have a very long piece of the lens that goes into here and require that this mirror be lifted up at all times. So, but you can actually lock it up. So what you do is you’re going to push down the depth of field preview button and then move this lever right here to lock it down. And as you can see, now the The mirror is now locked up and now I can take photos with the mirror out of the way. Now the trade-off is that you can’t use the viewfinder because that’s what the mirror is for, is to let you see through the lens. Now if you want to put the mirror back down, you just move the lever back and then the mirror is back down. Okay, so here I have two different kinds of lenses. This lens and and this body, specifically, that was first made in 1980. This lens however, it’s a Nikon lens, but this lens is made in 1964. This is what Nikon refers to as a non-AI lens. Now there’s a reason for that. If you look on the aperture ring here, you can see that there’s sort of this edge, this raised edge, right here. Whereas on this lens, on the aperture ring, it’s completely smooth all the way around. There’s no raised area at all. Now the reason why this raised area is here is basically to help tell the camera what aperture the lens is currently at, so it can it can have automatic settings. And the way it does that, and this is true for higher-end Nikon DSLR’s as well, digital cameras, they have this switch right here. Which is a circular switch, so this little lip on the aperture ring actually hits this right here and goes in a circle. You can see it move. Now the different position of this switch tells the camera what aperture this lens is at. Now the problem with that is if I wanted to use an older nikon lens like this, that is a non-AI lens, it’s not going to let me do that. First of all, if I try to put it on there, the way it is now, it’s going to run into this this little notch thing that’s sticking up, and it’s not really going to let me put the lens on. And plus, it’s not going to know what aperture it’s at, so it can’t really meter. Now in order to use this lens on this camera, what they did is you can push down this little button right here. And when you do that, pull that down, it allows you to push up that little notch. So that little notch is now pushed up instead of down. I’ll show you again here. Just like that. So now it’s sort of out of the way. Now I can take my lens here Then I can go ahead and and put it on just fine without any problem. Now if you want to meter with this lens, basically what you have to do is you have to set whatever your aperture is, then you have to hold down The Depth of Field preview button and in the viewfinder you’re going to see that when you do this the shutter speed is going to change if you’re on the “A” mode, and then you can go ahead and while still holding down the Depth of Field preview button, go ahead and take the picture. Now right up here is the PC sync port. Now on this particular camera The cap is sort of screwed on tightly, and I don’t want to try to force it right now. But this is where you would plug in a PC sync cord, which is what you can use to sync the camera with an off-camera flash by sticking one part of the cord here and the other part of the long cord to some kind of off-camera flash on a mono-light or a speed-light or whatever. Now on the top of the camera here it has a very sort of non-traditional hot shoe, which is actually a part of the rewind knob here, which is kind of strange. Now it’s supposed to use a SB-12 Nikon flash, which is very strange looking and I don’t know really how easy it is to get. I would probably maybe write off using any kind of on camera speed light flash with this particular camera. Now once you’re all done with your film, you can go ahead and rewind the film. First you’re going to push the rewind release button right here, push that down, and then you can go ahead and flip open the rewind knob winder here, and then you can wind the film back into the canister. And you’ll be able to feel it go in and detach from this side and then wind all the way back in. And then when you’re done doing that, of course you push the lock sideways here, raise up the rewind knob, and you can open the camera up and get the film out. So I hope this has been helpful, and if you have any questions, let me know in the comments down below.

100 Replies to “How to Use a Nikon F3 35mm Film Camera”

  1. Great video! I have a question: My F3 is always showing a metered shutter speed of 80 when in Aperture Priority mode. Can you help me with that, please?

  2. One question. Is it possible to change film without ending it and then go back to it. for example, I want to use Ektar for landscape, but then I want to change to portra or maybe tri-x. so, I'm at exposure number 12 on my ektar, I wind the film just before the tip of it is in the canister. change to portra. do the same, and then go back to ektar so in order to continue with exposure number 13 I would place the canister as I would usually do and start clicking and winding with the lens cap on until I hit 13…… is it ok or this practice would ruin the film?
     thank you.

  3. I just got this camera. I am thinking about buying a negative scanner to bring my images into photoshop. Is there one that you recommend? What is your workflow?

  4. i have problem with focus. i am физду to align the shape, but it's still blurry, not sharp… even if i move closer/further , it still remains blurry….. please help! 🙁

  5. Thanks so much for doing this video! I have my F3 for years, but I got it second hand with no manual and I learned so much!

  6. Actually you can use a standard flash on them,you just need to purchase an AS-4 flash unit coupler…it slips over the the rewind knob and lets you use more modern flash units on it.

  7. when you shoot camera on manual and choose a specific shutter speed. so how exactly do we on the light meter reading?

  8. just a note…if anyone is having issues with rapid battery drain do the following. it's very rare and they usually last for months or years but I've heard it's been an issue for some. simply take battery out and thoroughly clean battery and compartment with deionised water…even if it looks spotless and reapply battery holding just the sides or with gloves on. even a slight layer of oils can effect performance. as soon as I did this issue resolved and battery currently going strong after 6 months. apart from this the camera is a real tank and lovely to shoot with. enjoy everyone

  9. Hi.. i hope you still reading my comments here. I have a question, whenever i dial my shutter speed above 1/60, the light meter is keep saying 80. It doesnt change to 125,250 and so on. Its just stop at 80. And there is no -/+ sign above the M. I hope you can elighten me. Thank you..

  10. You do NOT hold down the preview button to take pic. This aka stop-down method is for METERING only. – used in setting the aperture when operating in A mode, or M mode.

  11. Help! I bought some 357 batteries which are supposedly a replacements for 67s and LR44 but they didn’t work. Anyone have battery suggestions and where to buy?

  12. With my f3, when i'm in A-mode, the shutterspeed is different (3 stops faster) from when I am in manual mode. Do you maybe know why, and how to fix it? Google forums didnt really help.

  13. Thank you very much for the explanations. I wear glasses and I am struggling to see inside the HP viewfinder. Any ideas or comments how to correct this, if at all possible?

  14. Thank you for the video, informative, practical ,simple . Cheers

    A few questions if you don't mind since I just got my f3
    1) when you highlight that shutter speed in my case it completely blinds out the values. I know it's not too bad but it does bother me . And idea why can it be this way?
    2) is out only me or it is actually quite difficult to see the aperture and just focus through the viewfinder at night?
    3) any chance you finally used that SB12? Cause I read a few posts are there are people saying it's not usper handy to be frank
    4) also, it's not camera wise but lenses wise
    There is this Nikki's 135 1,4 and it is a proper condition, except that to me the focusing ring is quite stiff. It is smooth, doesn't feel tighter in different places, just feels tighter, that's it. I was wondering if that is a bad sign?

    Thank you !
    Roman
    Cheers!

  15. Just got an F3 and a couple of great prime lenses! After watching your video, I think the little red button that turns on my LCD display might be jammed. Is this a common issue? Also, my prism is completely different. I have a cross-hair when I look through the viewfinder and no split-circle. If I replace the prism, would I be able to find one with this functionality? If so, what is it called? Thanks for this awesome walkthrough!

  16. I would love if Nikon made a 35mm slr with today's technology , useing the best features of their most successful SLR's all in one .

  17. The winder on my F3 is stuck, it won’t go past the halfway point. How do I fix this without damaging the role that’s being used?

  18. Fantastic video! When shooting a double exposure, is it best to leave shutter speed to Auto? If not, do you do roughly half the metered shutter speed for each of the 2 exposures?

  19. This is a very informative video that I keep coming back to. So nice to have such a clear & thorough tutorial in a sea of half-baked Nikon F3 YouTube videos. Much appreciated!