F2 F3 F4 Viewfinders

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by christian_fox, Jun 13, 2013.

  1. I am soliciting a recommendation for selecting one of the above cameras for viewfinder selection for whatever purpose you may have had when selecting and using viewfinders. I own and use all three models. I am curious to know if one of these models offer any advantage in viewfinder options. The F2 is somewhat different due to the uniqueness of a meter-less VF, as well as a switch between Non-AI and AI/AIS capabilities. I am currently not very pleased with the F3's meter readout in its viewfinder, but many F3 users have nevertheless enjoyed this camera. I only use the F4 for manual focusing with an AI lens, and I don't know how much I will use this model, as I favor small cameras. My interest has developed as a result of all of these dream cameras becoming available after the digital revolution has rendered film cameras more affordable.
  2. The F3HP and F4 viewfinders are similar. The VFs on the N90, N8008, and F100 are also similar in viewing experience, with of course, different amounts of information in the viewfinder. The F4 is a monster camera compared to an F3HP. However, the F3 (and F2) requires a special adapter for the flash, and lacks the flash flexibility of a more modern camera. If that's important to you, then the N90s or N8008 could be a better choice. While there are others that will complain about these cameras not suited for discussion in this forum, this is a good question. The F3 (and maybe the F4) can use non-ai lenses if you have them. The F2's utility really depends on which prism you have. I would want an F2S (which is what I have) or F2AS, and not anything earlier. While the F2 VF is generally very good, it's not as comfortable to me as the F3HP. It comes down to expectations and ergonomics. All of these cameras can use the same lenses (except non-AI), so the factors you need to consider are how the camera feels in your hand, your viewing satisfaction, and what/how you shoot.
  3. Well, all three have a waist level finder. All three have a 6X high magnification "chimney" finder. The F2 will be meterless with the accessory finders, while the F3 (center-weighted) and F4 (spot meter) can meter with both. The F3 accessory finders are probably more common and readily available. I would imagine the F2 finders are a bit scarce.
    Both the F3 and F4 have essentially the same AI/non-AI compatibility as the F2 except for a couple of exotic non-AI lenses, so no real difference there.
    Beyond that, since you already own and use all three bodies, I'm not sure what you feel others can tell you about their differences that you don't already know.
  4. I've been using F, F3 and F4 (no F2 yet), and at least for the standard eye level viewfinders, I am coming to prefer the F4 because it is basically an HP finder with a built in diopter.
    I'm not sure what the problem is with the F3 meter readout, if one option is a meterless F2 finder. One can, after all, just ignore the readout.
    Just to clarify, the F4 can use non-AI lenses as the F3 does, and can meter in all modes with them (the only F I think which will matrix meter with manual lenses), but meter patterns differ for different finders. The F4 uses two metering sensors, and only spot is available for all finders. The AE action finder will give you center weighting but not matrix. For non AF shooting, the plain focusing screen is not the best, but this can be changed, and the readout does confirm focus with any lens. If you do use the readout, the F4 has a better lighting arrangement than the F3. But the F3 remains the champion for compactness. It also has a unique center-weighted ratio of 80/20, which was dropped in the F4 back to the usual 60/40.
    For screw-in viewfinder accessories such as the magnifier and right angle adapter, the F, F2, original F3 and Nikkormats all use the same thread. The F3HP and F4 (and other later models) use a larger thread. You can make or find a little adapter to fit the old style to the new, but not readily the other way around unless the device is specifically made to fit both.
  5. Of those three, my least favorite model is the F3. Both the F3 and F2 have the weird flash mount, but the F3 takes it one step further in there being a ceramic plate within the rewind dial area related to the metering system that is easily cracked/broken if you happen to bang a mounted flash against something. I did it twice with an F3HP during the 90's. Ambient light metering is rendered useless until you have that plate replaced and I'm not sure if Nikon still makes the replacement part.
    I often thought about buying several of them to sell on ebay when the day came Nikon stopped making it as it was only around $25. Amazing they'd make such an important part out of glass and put it in the very spot where they did. I wouldn't be surprised at all if down the road a lot of F3's with broken metering systems due to that one possibly irreplaceable part being the culprit.
    On the basis of just finders, the plain F4 (without the "S' grip) was my favorite.
  6. For me, in order of preference:
    Viewfinder: F3HP > F4S > F2 Photomic (There's not much in it, but I find the F3HP VF slightly better with glasses)
    Viewfinder display: F4S > F3HP > F2 Photomic (the only downside with the otherwise very informative F4 VF display is that the readouts are dotted around the frame, some on top, some below, unlike the F3HP, where the Aperture readout and LCD are adjacent above the frame. And don't get me started on the F3 "illuminator")
    Portability: F3 = F2 >> F4 (none of these are small, but the F2 and F3 are reasonably compact when no motor is attached)
    "Brick Outhouse" toughness index: F2 > F3 > F4 (The all-mechanical F2 is unequaled, IMO. The F3's (only) weak spot, noted by Greg Chappell, pushes this otherwise bulletproof camera into 2nd place. The F4 is a beast by any standard, but the plastic finder housing? Ugh)
    NAI/AI/AI-s usability: F2>F3=F4 (the F2 Photomic provides fully functional open aperture metering with just about any Nikkor with a metering prong.The F3 and F4 can physically use NAI lenses, but only with stopdown metering.
    Favorite: F3 > F2 > F4 - The F3's combination of VF, physical toughness, great metering, the MD4 motor, combine to make it my all time favorite SLR. However, I believe the F2 will still be ticking long after the F3 is felled by some glitch in its electronics. The F4 is an impressive and competent monster, I just never really warmed to it.
  7. What am I trying to accomplish? To be specific, I am using the F2AS, F3HP, and F4s (no unique meter designation for the F4). Not that I know what I am doing, I wish to explore the tools photographers have used to improve their view, either with screens, viewfinders, or attachments. Except for close-ups, I really don't have a specific photographic goal. For example, other than meter restrictions, I'd be curious to know why the sports finder does not stay on the camera for regular use. I am surprised to read in this thread that special application F2 viewfinders (i.e. close-up) do not offer metering.

    For manual focus lenses, I am very interested in screen clarity and focus snap. I spend time researching classic cameras designed for these things. Of course, personal opinions usually scramble the issue (as it does with most subjects), but it appears that the Leicaflex series is the winner in this regards, and a nod to Contax.
    I did ask in another thread about using the FM3A in lieu of several cameras when I shoot long AE in very low light at infinity (do not need to read the viewfinder), and still use it for metered handheld in good light. Since the F4 practically makes my lunch on a tripod (diopter, clear matte screen, bright, focus assist, illuminator), I may use it for special projects like close-ups. While most will disagree with me, I find the F4 AF screen liberating compared to split image prisms, and the focus assist activates nearly the same moment I visually think I am in focus.
  8. If you like light and small, the FG cameras have very bright screens. The lack of AE lock finally got to me though and I bought an FE2. Much more of a professional camera and still pretty small. They have a great viewfinder, 1/4000 top shutter speed, excellent metering, user replaceable screens, and are just wonderful cameras. I'm with you on the F4. If I'm going to shoot a camera that big and heavy, I may as well shoot medium format.
    The F2 also has a great viewfinder, as you know, but small and light it ain't.
  9. I don't own an F4 and don't want to because I don't need AF and the F4 is pretty heavy (and I'm not fond of it aesthetically). It is certainly a fine camera, though.
    The difference between the F2 and F3, for me, basically comes down to the F3's HP finder. I'm not crazy about the in-finder LCD display, but being able to see everything easily while wearing glasses is very nice for those of us who need full-time vision correction and don't care for contact lenses (and don't care to use a viewfinder diopter and be constantly taking off and putting on our glasses, which is another option). Because of the HP finder, I shoot my F3 more than my F2 or F, but that one rather important aspect aside, in some ways I prefer the older cameras that used a battery, if at all, only for metering.
    The F2's ability to shoot either AI or non-AI lenses with open metering is also useful if you happen to own both non-AI and AI viewfinders (and both AI and non-AI lenses). The F3 can use non-AI lenses, but only in stop-down metering mode.
  10. There's no metering with accessory finders on the F2 because it is really an unmetered camera, like the original F. If you want a meter, you must buy a metered finder, and only the Photomic finder is that. The only operational difference in metering between this and the original F is where the batteries are. Both the F3 and the F4 (in spot mode only) function fully with no finder attached, though the meter display is very small and hard to read.
    By the way, it is not entirely true that the F3 and F4 can only use stop down metering with non AI lenses. They require stop down metering if you're working manually or if you want to read the meter, and you always have to remember to flip up the AI tab, but they behave the same as AI lenses in aperture priority mode.
    If you want metering and magnification, how about the flip up eyepiece magnifier?
  11. but they behave the same as AI lenses in aperture priority mode.That is not true.
    If you were to use a pre AI lens on the F3 and has the AI tab out of the way the camera only give you correct exposure if you shoot wide open. The F3 would not know if you had stop the lens down a few stops and it doesn't measure light after the lens is stopped down.​
  12. In term of viewing options (or any options), it's hard to beat the F3. It the standard and HP eye-level finders, action finder, standard and 6X magnifying waist-level finders. In addition, since all the metering is performed in the body, all finders are "dumb" (no electronics) and allow full metering capability (I believe that this makes them cheaper and more robust, but that's just my opinion - certainly it circumvents any issues with poor finder-body connections, that can be a problem). The F4 finders offer variable metering modes, depending on the individual finder, which can be a bit of a pain - maybe they needed to do this to support spot metering, but it seems like a retrograde step to me, considering the simplicity and competence of the F3 metering.
    On the subject of "why not use the action finder all the time?" - well, for a start, they're huge, and the perception that they offer this huge panoramic view is a little off the mark. What they do provide is a massive eyepoint (~60 mm, IIRC), so the entire frame can be seen wearing goggles or using a blimp or dive housing. However, the price you pay for this is loss of magnification - the VF image is actually pretty small, and if you stick a wide angle lens on there, focusing can become as issue. The action finder comes into its own with telephotos or zooms, or AF (or the F4 focus confirmation).
  13. The situation with non-AI lenses on the F2 depends on the finder chosen. The original Photomic finder, I believe, only does non-AI TTL.
    It was the 1977 DP-11 head and DP-12 head that made it possible to use AI lenses, and all thereafter. At some point, I don't remember exactly when, the fold-up tab allowed non-AI lenses to be used.
    Just as there are former Canon FD people today using Nikons, I was a non-AI lens person, and stuck with the F2 and earlier until I went to Canon digital (to still use my non-AI Nikkors, partly).
  14. Reading the other thread about the FM3a it seemed that you already determined that the F2AS, F3 and F4 really don't have any advantages compared to the FM3a. I wonder why you post this thread because you said you do have the cameras in your hand, if that don't convince your nobody will.

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