What am I missing with the FM3A

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by david carver, Jul 7, 2009.

  1. I have always heard and read great reviews on the FM3A. Recently I purchased an FM3A and have used it for the past 2 weeks. I am at a loss in understanding all of the praise that this camera receives. To me it is OK but nothing special. The viewfinder is a pain to use with glasses and is shamed by the finder on the F3. I do like the two needle system. The camera just does not feel as good in my hands as the F3.
    Am I missing something? Is the following and high prices based completely on the lower number of cameras that were produced or because it was Nikon's last manual camera? It can't be that it runs without batteries or in freezing temperatures. How many people really need that option?
  2. I don't think you're missing anything. It's the most desirable of the FM/FE series cameras and combines their best features. But it's still part of a mid-range line, rather than a flagship pro body like the F3. The battery independence could be useful in a camera at least partly intended as a rugged pro backup body. Today, this might (rightly or wrongly) be seen as an indicator of longevity (anything that depends entirely on electronics to operate may be harder to repair in years to come). Personally, when I was in the market for this sort of camera, I was a bit put off by a design that seems actively hostile to left-eyed use (pull out the lever to turn on the meter, and poke yourself in the right eye!).
  3. The FM3a was kind of a "classic" release by Nikon, it came out about the same time the commemorative edition of the Nikon S3 rangefinder came out. It baffled me too. It was on the cusp of digital and everyone knew it. It was expensive when it was released (I think the body retailed for $499), when everyone already had an FM2n or FE2, or better yet, and F3 or F100. I think Nikon lost money on the FM3a, it was discontinued just a few years after it was introduced. A niche camera for sure. I'd take a F3HP over the FM3a any day of the week as well. Just bizarre really, the FM3a. Maybe it was released for collectors?
  4. The FM3A tends to be overrated because it was born to be a cult classic. Coming at the end of Nikon's production of film SLRs, while they were well into their production of dSLRs, the timing practically guaranteed legendary status that wasn't entirely earned in the same way the genuine classics like the F, F2, F3 and others earned that status in actual practice.
    Good camera, had only recently been introduced when I switched from Canon FD to Nikon around 2002. But after handling one at a local shop I realized it didn't offer much more for my purposes than a good used FM2N or FE2 at a third the price of the new FM3A.
    OTOH, it does offer certain distinct advantages that might be worthwhile to the enthusiast: the needle meter readout for folks who dislike the red LEDs of the FM2; TTL flash, a fairly unusual feature in a manual focus camera; auto-exposure with full manual override. Many of the advantages of the F3 (other than the viewfinder) with better implementation in a smaller, lighter package. And practically guaranteed resale value. In a sense, it's Nikon's equivalent to the Olympus OM-3, another enthusiast's camera that seems overvalued when the actual features are considered.
    Re-reading my first three paragraphs, I think I just provided all the justification any enthusiast needs to buy and enjoy the FM3A. The very factors that make it seem overrated to some will endear it to others.
  5. Collectibility often turns a relatively uncommon but competent item into an overpriced relic. Kinda like the 28mm f1.4. Is it really worth 4 grand?
  6. I don't think anybody here thinks the 28mm 1.4 is worth what it is selling for online. Even when it was available for $1800, I thought it was too expensive. It's a 28mm lens folks, it won't do your laundry.
    Collectors are weird people. I've dealt with quite a few, and most of them are crackers as far as I am concerned. But they have money and they can spend it where they wish, I suppose.
    The FM3a is also fascinating, as it is the hybrid FM/FE camera. You get the all mechanical shutter, with an electronic timer attached for Auto control. Neat and weird at the same time. I'm sure tons of collectors or Nikon gearheads went right down to their local camera store and plunked down the cash for a pre-order. I never saw the need for it, but by then I was shooting medium format film and digital. Even now, I'd not pay more than a couple hundred for an FM3a, but they seem to command much higher prices than that in mint condition.
    I've never seen anyone actually using one in real life either.
  7. I have a FM3a - to me it is a wonderful camera for travel, days out, careful compositions of flowers and scenery and the like. The metering is very accurate, the mechanisms are a joy to use and when used with the bottom half of the case (which has a grip inbuilt) it handles well.
    What about the other models? Truth be told with the FM3a it was camera happiness at first use - and I really enjoy using mine even two years on.
    FM2, FE2 and the like are cheaper but with photography I feel that low cost of an item is not an important factor in purchacing it - perhaps if I already had an FM2... well that would be another story, but I am fresh to Nikon and when a clean used example showed up I had it.
    Keep using it - it will grow on you!
    PS. I speak as someone who has only used film up to this point - perhaps if I had grown up with digital my enthusiasm and passion for manual Nikons would be somewhat diluted.
  8. I was one who was on the wait list in Japan. I use mine regularly. I have one here with me and one in Japan now although I usually haul mine with me when I go back. It is far and away my favorite manual camera. I have most of the manual Nikons which I bought serially, not to collect but to use. I only have one that is a 'collector camera.' I wouldn't trade my FM3a with the 45 mm p lens it came out with for all my other manual Nikons, and yes, I have an F3HP. In addition to the capabilities already mentioned, I like its neat compact well-made size.
    And for the record, I have seen quite a number of people using them. Many write on this forum about their FM3as when the topic comes up. In truth, I don't know anyone who has one as a collector's item.
  9. David:
    I completely agree with your assessment. I too fell for the hyperbole. I went through two FM3a's at the time, but after a few months simply gave up on it and went back to F3HP/F100 combo. I sold them some time ago in disappointment.
    The FM3a is a well made little camera, but nothing special. It has too little viewfinder eye relief for me, very hard to see the meter in low light, and I found some of the controls, like the exposure lock and flash comp, very awkward in use.
  10. I had been looking at a second manual focus body for my F3HP, and took an earnest look at the FM2 and FM3a. I came dangerously close to buying one online after reading all the positive comments about them, but thankfully thought the better of it and waited to handle one in person. That quickly put the debate to rest, for I'm a left eye shooter and as Richard Williams greatly put it:
    Personally, when I was in the market for this sort of camera, I was a bit put off by a design that seems actively hostile to left-eyed use (pull out the lever to turn on the meter, and poke yourself in the right eye!).​
    As much as I rely on my left eye, I'd like to keep my right eye intact too! Ultimately it's a situation of 'different strokes for different folks'. I don't understand why someone would pay more for the FM3a's with the price of the F3's in the gutter, but if you like it, then you like it. And if you don't... well there's always that great resale value everyone talks about.
  11. I also have a black FM3A with a black 45AiP attachment and it really is as others indicated a joy to use. The shutter speed can be ratcheted all the way down to 1/4000s with or without batteries. I use mine 99% of the time with various B&W films. The DSLRs are exclusively used for color.
  12. I'm also a left eye shooter, and before I had glasses I used an FE2 and an FM2n, and neither camera bothered me and I never got poked in the eye. You just have to turn your head a little more to avoid that.
  13. I sense the frustration but am also baffled as to why you would purchase if there was any doubt about critical specs (eye-relief and viewfinder coverage) that are readily available. Perhaps you were unfamiliar with the body-size and finders of the FM/FE family, on which the 3a is premised? What, specifically, was it that you read and heard in the great reviews that prompted your purchase?
    I enjoy the FM3a primarily due to TTL flash metering, hybrid shutter and size. The match/needle makes flash-comp dead easy (depressing the dedicated button is awkward). I'm in the minority but do call on all shutter speeds in frigid temps. It has limitations (e.g. low-light meter reading) but also a nice feature-set that suits me well. I, too, am a fan of the F3 (and especially F2) but when size, weight and/or TTL flash are critical, I'll reach for the FM3A.
  14. While not an ideal solution, the partly-out position of the film advance lever for metering with the FM-types can be avoided by using the MD-12 motor drive. Otherwise, as Dave Lee described, I just turn my head a bit since I'm a left-eyed shooter. But I have a squishy nose and that solution may not work for someone gifted with a proper nose.
    Another slight advantage to the F3, since you don't have to mash your face against the camera to see the entire frame through the finder, and neither the meter nor the shutter release are locked by having the advance lever flush.
  15. I think a person had to enjoy the FM or FE series to really appreciate the refinements in the FM3A. It is not a revolutionary camera though the hybrid shutter is fairly unique (I think the Pentax LX also had a hybrid shutter). It's a 3rd generation of a 20+ year old design. I bought my FM3A used ~7 years ago and have dragged it on several adventures without issue. I've used it at -20F in Prudhoe Bay Alaska on a few occassions and it has performed well. My camera is definitely a 'user' and I would probably replace it if disaster struck and it was broken beyond repair, lost or stolen. It is kinda like and old friend who isn't perfect but is dependable and doesn't need alot of special attention and is just fun to be with.
  16. The bottom line: The FE and the FM are each 80% of the camera that the FM3a is for 10% of the cost. The FE2 and the FM2n are each 90% of the camera that the FM3a is for 20% of the cost.
    The FM3a was designed and marketed to be a collectible. For everything except use with flash and use without any batteries, the F3 is a better camera. I'd rather use an F2 or an FM without batteries anyways.
    For $700, you can buy an FM3a. For $250, you can buy BOTH an F3HP and an FM as a dead battery, light weight backup and have far more capability.
  17. Apparently, the 'hybrid' shutter of the FM3a wasn't unique at all.
    Canon F1n:
    "If the battery suddenly fails and is removed from the camera, the New F-1 will still function at all speeds covered by mechanical control....Pentax LX works both ways just like the New F-1, from 1/2000 sec to X 1/75 sec and "B" setting."

    And the Pentax LX had TTL flash metering in addition to a 'hybrid' shutter:
    Pentax LX
  18. I love my FM3A. It is the perfect compliment to my FM2N and my F3 along with my 28mm, 35mm, 50mm
    and extra 135mm. I keep the FM2 loaded with black and white, the FM3A with color print and the F3
    with slide. All three cameras have just enough similarities and differences that make manual shooting so
    enjoyable. I have never found the perfect camera but with all three there's not much more I could ask
  19. Most has been said already, I'd just like to add that I love my FE/FM series cameras (I've got more than most people). The FE2 was my first "real" camera, bought brand new just after it was released in 1983.

    I'm a left eye shooter, too. Never had any problems with the film advance lever.

    From the original post: "To me it is OK but nothing special" - my exact feeling for the F3! Never really liked it (but I love the F4, my other favourite film camera).

    These days, of course, I shoot mostly digital. Too much hassle with film.

  20. It's small, light, reliable and has good ergonomics in the viewfinder - all the information is there that you need to concentrate on the composition. The TTL flash is excellent, it's compatible with all but 'G' lenses and has interchangable focussing screens. I have an F3HP, F100, F4 and FM2n but I still like taking out my FM3a with a 35mm F2 when I want just a small light walkabout camera that can give me manual control and aperture priority. It lets me just get on with taking pictures without the technology getting in the way.
  21. Until I discovered ebay 10 years ago and upgraded to FA and F4 and eventually F5, I owned an FM, FM2, FM2N, and F3 (and an utterly forgettable EM for a short period of time) - only the F3 is still around (the F5 too). I was fairly content with the FM series but still remember the day I realized that time had moved on - when my wife got her F100. Aside from more features and better ergonomics, the F100 sounded better too - the FM/MD-12 combo was outright noisy in comparison. I only noticed in passing the introduction of the FM3A in 2001 - had sold all the FM series cameras by then and no intention or desire to acquire one again. Between the FM/FE/FA cameras, I vastly preferred the FA; the F3 was a different beast altogether - and they came together in what I consider the best manual focus camera with conventional controls (knobs instead of LCDs) - the F4.
  22. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The bottom line: The FE and the FM are each 80% of the camera that the FM3a is for 10% of the cost. The FE2 and the FM2n are each 90% of the camera that the FM3a is for 20% of the cost.
    The FM3a was designed and marketed to be a collectible.​
    I cannot say it any better than Dave Green. I still own the FE I bought in 1978, the year it was introduced, and I had an FE2 for 15 years. Therefore I am very familiar with those cameras. The fact of the matter is that the entire FM/FE series cameras are very similar; there are only relatively minor improvements from the 1977 FM to the 2001 FM3a in the span of a quarter century.
    Over the years, the improvements such as 1/250 sec flash sync and TTL flash on the FE2 are nice but not critical. Therefore, if you expect the FM3a to be drastically different from the FM2/FE2 that cost a fraction of the price in the used market, you'll certainly be disappointed.
    It is almost amusing to hear people's excuses to justify their purchase of the FM3a, such as it can work without any battery. I have been using AF and DSLR for two decades now, and I have never run out of battery even once. And I ask those same people what happens if they run out of film, and they have no answer. For the record, when I shot film, I have never run out of film either.
    If you like small, mechanical/semi-mechanical manual-focus film SLRs, the FM/FE series are excellent. I spent 12 years shooting nothing but an FT3, FE and FE2. But if you are a photographer rather than collector, the FM2 and FE2 are far more cost-effective cameras. Why compete against collectors for the ridiculous prices for the FM3a?
  23. "It can't be that it runs without batteries or in freezing temperatures."
    You could try the test of taking the battery out of any digital SLR and see how many images you can snap. That would make the "working sans the battery" a bit easier to understand, maybe?
  24. So for arguments sake, the difference in price between a used FM2 and FE2 both... and an FM3a... will buy... how many sets of backup batteries?
    The battery argument is, imho, just plain silly. I also have never run out of batteries where I didn't have a battery ready to go... ever... in over 25 years of shooting.
    And since I started shooting digital, I've never even gotten down past half battery power! I just recharge at night.
  25. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    You could try the test of taking the battery out of any digital SLR and see how many images you can snap. That would make the "working sans the battery" a bit easier to understand, maybe?​
    I afraid not. Lots and lots of people have used DSLRs in the Arctic and Antarctic without any problems, certainly not with the battery. If anything, film becoming brittle in extreme cold is the bigger problem.
    For those who want an FM3a, just becaue you want one is as good a reason as any, and there is nothing wrong with it, but coming up with bad excuses to justify the purchase is both silly and amusing.
  26. I am very rational with my purchaces and they need to be good value or they get short shrift with me. The FM3a was never purchaced by me to be a collectable - and that word smacks of stuffy men with equally stuffy glass cabinets.
    Firstly the FM3a is the first manual Nikon I ever saw and tried. The 'better value' FE/FM models were not seen nor able to be tried. I don't ever buy blind.
    Then there is the shutter action - it felt sharp and vibration free. That was a plus in my book.
    Next is metering - and this is my favourite bit of the FM3a - it is so easy to meter a scene and even with Kodachrome it gets it right nearly every time.
    Then parts availability. Nikon are still supporting it and will do for a while.
    45P - mine came with the lovely 45mm lens and together they looked just right.
    So, whilst now perhaps the FM3a is classed as 'collectors' - that should not for one moment deflect thoughts from what it was when introduced - a first rate picture taking machine with few corners cut. It remains that even through the fusty doors of the collectors cupboard.
  27. If the FM3a was selling for $200 right now, I suspect there would be far less demand ;) Same could be said for the Leica M6. People and economics are funny animals, and I certainly include myself in that statement ;)
    For me the size and simplicity of the FM3a is what makes it valuable, but as others have said you can get that with the FM2n for far less. I prefer the LEDs for low-light shooting myself.
  28. I purchased the FM3a when it came out in 2001; I was looking to get back into photography and wanted something traditional : a camera without auto focus, something that could run without a battery if necessary and maybe aperture priority automation. Digital photography was in its infancy in 2001; the top selling Nikon SLRs at the time were not digital, but auto focus film (i.e. N80, etc.). The FM3a was released to compete with the Leica M6, which it never could. Nikon made an error by releasing the FM3a 10-12 years too late. But it is an excellent camera: I've found it to be a solid, light-weight, quiet, flexible, reliable camera. I currently use it as a backup; it's frequently in my camera bag with my F4, F100 or Mamiya 645P.
  29. I bought mine when it was first came out and I had no idea it would become collectable. I liked my FM2N but was drawn to the FM3a because of Aperture Priority exposure and the little flash compensation button for fill flash. I think it's a nice improvement over the FM2 family. A better mousetrap.
  30. Hi
    My FM3a was bought new in 2002 - it was the first Nikon SLR I ever bought from Grays of Westminster in London. I bought it to use it and I still use it alongside my later purchased FE/FM2n and F3 - all bought second hand on Ebay. FE2 prices were very high at the time but here was a camera (FM3a) that might have plentiful spare parts for a good many years to come.
    I love my FM3a - the viewfinder, although not 100% like the F3 is extremely bright - brighter than the FE and - yes folks - brighter IMHO than the F3 too - 100% or on 100% coverage. I use the later type focussing screen in my black FM2N too. I've used Pentax and Olympus gear in the past but I just love the Nikon manual focus stuff. I use one of those metal handgrips on my FM3a to make it even nicer to handle - they were made by an American company I think.
    The FM3a is a very fast camera to use - as is the FE and the F3 - but it has an edge. Exposure lock on the F3 is a pain however, but easy on the FM3a and FE. The meter is very good on the FM3a. As some have noticed, it is very vibration free - more so than the FE, FM2n and F3. The FM2n is slower to use and you have to be more careful with metering from my experience - a delightful mechanical camera though - even more satisfying to use than the OM-1 or MX.
    These Nikons of my mine are all well built and will probably outlast me. I've never regretted buying the FM3a - it was a fantastic introduction to the marque. Reviews of the FM3a at its launch did not focus on it as a 'classic camera' - they welcomed the replacement for the long lamented FE2 and recently discontinued FM2n and treated it as a serious camera. And it is.
    If the market is pushing up prices, then what does it tell you about markets? That they are rational? I think not!! All markets seem to behave the same - when something is wanted and scarce, up go the prices and it is up to the individual to decide if they are willing to part with the cash. Keep you FM3a and get used it; look after it, and if you have to part company with it, you'll get a good price when you let it go.
  31. I can't say I've broken film in cold weather.
    Here are two frames from the same roll, taken in 1986, with a Nikon FM2N body and Tri-X black-and-white film. [I was stationed in central Alaska, 1984-1987....so I cannot compare how well a digital camera now would compare with what was used back then. I do know that extreme cold makes a battery drop voltage, and less voltage usually means a camera may, repeat may, cease to operate. Old Nikons, if you did not mount a motor drive, managed to wind film (and rewind) without breaking the film inside the camera.]
  32. My electronic Nikon 35mm cameras include two FEs and two N2020s. I also have an F2, many mechanical Nikkormats and two Pronea APS SLRs, an S and a 6000i. The main advantage of the FM3A is that you have the aperture priority automation of the FE series with all of the mechanical shutter speeds of the FM series. The N2020s, which I use as manual focus cameras, have a top shutter speed of 1/2000. That's fast enough for most purposes. The FE still has 1/90 as a manual speed. The FM cameras are not very exciting or me. If I don't need a motor and I can't change the focusing screen I'd rather use a Nikkormat FT2 or FT3. With an FE I can always flip up the AI tab and use a pre-AI lens. I can't do this with an N2020. If I use a camera like an FE or a Minolta X-700 I will always carry spare batteries or a spare mechanical body. The X-700 is one of my favorites and if I could find one which would also work at all speeds without batteries I would be tempted to get one. The FM3A is supposed to be very well made. Whether it's worth the current asking price is something each person has to decide for himself.
  33. Can someone please enlighten me? As far as I know, all FM/FE/FM2/FM2N/FE2 and also FM3A use the same 60:40 center-weighted metering - so how can it be that the one in the FM3A is supposedly superior? Did Nikon make some adjustments to it in the FM3A that weren't in the previous models?
    The FM3a was released to compete with the Leica M6​
    Than it came about 16 years to late, given that the M6 production started in 1984 and ended in 1998, followed by the M6TTL until 2002 - just about the time the FM3A was introduced (2001).
    Nikon made an error by releasing the FM3a 10-12 years too late​
    On that I totally agree.
  34. Nikon made an error by releasing the FM3a 10-12 years too late.​
    The same could be said of the Olympus OM-3. But like the FM3A it remains a cult classic.
    Personally, even tho' I decided to get a good used FM2N instead after handling the FM3A and FM2 Titanium (similarly priced), I can fully understand the appeal of pricier cameras that offer only a few features that some of us would consider of marginal advantage.
    Nobody should feel compelled to justify their enjoyment of an instrument over the din of anti-elitism, which itself is just another form of elitism. I mention that because Ian Rance's enthusiasm for the Nikon APS SLRs has contributed some interesting conversations here this year. I've followed some of those threads with interest even tho' it's not something I'd buy. In fact, it prompted me to dig out a 1996 annual camera roundup issue of Modern Photography. Interesting, to look back and see how much has changed since that year, which was, in retrospect, the cusp, the point at which APS seemed to be peaking and digital was still only a marginal player among a few bleeding edge pros and well heeled enthusiasts. And a camera like the FM3A seemed an unlikely proposition even in 1996. Remarkable how it achieved such a level of popularity. It's a significant marker in Nikon's history.
  35. What's the big fuss. The FM3a is a good, easy to use, rugged and simple film camera. It combines the best aspects of the old FE2 and the FMN2. Good if you need a easy to use film camera that can work at all its speeds if the battery fails. But it still a basically retro good film camera as is the F3's or the various F2's. If you like shooting film, it's a very good tool. The F3 is a "pro" model with all the flexibility and configurability of the Nikon Pro film bodies of that era. Really comparing apples and oranges. Actually, Lex ran down the main features pretty well. I have an FE2 so I wouldn't probbably looking for one, and to tell you the truth, it sees very little use as my version is LOUD. In fact, it's the only camera I"ve used on the sreet that actually makes people's heads turn when the shutter fires.
  36. I would hate to have to justify the expense of shooting what I use these days, not to mention the things that are sitting on the shelf not being used at all.
  37. This thread demonstrates that those of us who have one and use it, love it for a variety of reasons, none of which is because we aren't familiar with the alternatives. Some bought one and rolled it because for whatever reason, it didn't suit. But did you note that not one of us is a collector and all of us use our cameras?
    I think there is a good possibility that these cameras aren't being 'collected' and driving up the price but that they are recognized by more photographers for their fine points than there were when they came out and that not too many are sitting around in boxes or cabinets waiting for the price to go up.
    This camera was never intended to compeete with a Leica. It was for all those who said repeatedly that if they could get a new/updated FE/FE2, they would buy it. Before I got my FEs and FE2, I heard that over and over and I think Nikon heard and responded.
    I have never run out of battery power on any of my cameras because I always have backups. Likewise, I have never run out of film nor had film break in the cold. I also really don't like a MD on a manual camera so don't own any. It's all in being prepared.. But I am glad to know that my FM3a will still function if I have a lapse in preparation.
    I do not regret buying either of my FM3as but there are others I have regretted. I am not a collecotor but I am an accumulator.
  38. I totally agree, Conni. I bought my FM3a without ever considering that it would become collectible...if it indeed is. I use it weekly. It's not for everybody, but neither is a D700.
    I have serious doubts that Nikon produced this camera to satisfy collectors.
  39. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Nikon certainly did not introduce the FM3a in back 2001 as a collector's item or to complete with Leica. The problem was that they introduced it well into the AF and plastic camera era, and digital photography took off much faster than anybody could enticipate around the turn of the century.
    While the FM3a was in production, it was widely available for about $500, while a plastic N80 with matrix metering, spot metering, AF and VR was going for about $300 new. Since the FM3a was very labor-intensive to produce, reportedly Nikon was losing money on each unit they sold, but of course there is no way for us to verify that claim. It wasn't until after the FM3a had already been discontinued in 2006 that all of a sudden its price took off in the used market to a point that it became much more expensive than the original new price. By then most photographers had already switched to digital as the sub-$1000 D70 and D80 and $1600 D200 became available in 2004/2005/2006. Meanwhile, used FM2 and FE2 bodies that have similar features as the FM3a but with much longer production cycles and a lot more units in circulation became dirt cheap in the used market.
    Therefore, if one is to buy an FM/FE camera to take pictures today, it makes a lot more sense to buy an FM2/FE2. However, the amusing part is that certain people come up with very lame excuses to justify the insane prices for used FM3a's today. In particular, mint samples are in high demand, which is a clear sign that collectors are snapping those up. Unfortunately, the OP listened to those excuses, paid the high price for an FM3a, and is now left wondering what the fuss is all about.
  40. Therefore the problem is not with the camera - which is fine and welll built as most manual focus Nikons - it is the problem of human behaviour in the market place driving up silly prices.
    Some of us seem to be blaming the product rather than the accepting how markets unfortunately work from time to time. Markets as efficient and effective allocators of resources eh? Not all the time obviously!!
  41. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    It is all indeed human behavior. I am extremely into photography but am not a camera collector, so I don't pretend to fully understand their reasoning, but generally speaking, something becomes a collector's item must be:
    • rare
    • in mint condition
    Nikon does occasionally produce some collector's cameras, such as the reproduced S3 rangefinder, limited edition (limited to 2000 units around $5000 each): http://www.nikon-image.com/jpn/products/camera/slr/film/s3/index.htm
    And the F5 anniversary edition: http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00H7ns I'll repeat a story I mentioned in that other thread:
    Shun Cheung , Jun 29, 2006; 11:45 p.m.

    I recall that about 10 years ago, there was some rare stamp from the 19th century on auction. At the time there were only 2 known ones left in the world. The person who won the auction spent like 2, 3 million dollars. It turned out that he was the owner of the other one. As soon as he got the stamp, he destroyed it immediately so that the one he had was the only sample left. That is the mentality of rich collectors.​
    Therefore, had Nikon introduced the FM3a in 1991 (instead of 2001) when AF was still in its infancy, they would have sold a lot more of them and the FM3a would never have become a collector's item with the unusually high price today.
    Incidentally, 2009 is the 50th anniversary of the original Nikon F and the entire F mount system, but apparently there is no special edition camera for that occasion.
  42. Shun, I did not pay a high price. I paid what it sold New as back in 2001 or 2002 ($450). I guess it is high but not ridiculous. I buy a lot of different cameras to play with. I don't have buyers remorse. I just wanted to know why a lot of people would pay $800 for the camera.
  43. As Shun correctly pointed out, in 2002-3, you could buy a new FM3a for around $500, and a really clean used FM2n or FE2 for around $300. That all made sense, and you could rationalize a new $500 FM3a as easily as a used FE2 for $300. But fast forward 5-6 years, and a used FE2 or FM2n is now a mere $150, while a used FM3a is $600-700. At this point, one cannot rationally state that the value proposition is still there for an FM3a - for someone who actually plans to seriously use the camera. Whereas 5 years ago, it was.
  44. Here's my own story.
    I bought a Nikon FE in 1982 and it was my only camera for over 20 years. I was very satisfied with this basic camera and as years went by I had no interest in autofocus, built-in winders, or other more recent features. In 2004 I decided to finally get a midrange zoom and ended up buying a G lens not knowing any better, because the salesman (at a reputable and trusted store) assumed that my camera was from the last 15 years and could use such a lens. Fortunately they accepted my return of this lens and I got the a D lens instead, but I realized that my favorite camera technology (at that time) was way behind the times. I assumed that such cameras were not being made any more and that once mine wore out or could no longer be repaired then my only option would be to buy a used one. If I had dug deeper I'd have found out about the FM3a.
    To my surprise and pleasure I did discover the FM3a in 2005 and I proceeded to buy one as a replacement for my FE. By that time my FE getting old and parts for repairs were getting scarce, so I realized that a brand new camera for the next 20 years would be a good idea. Upon using this camera I found it was a new and improved FE that was as pleasurable as ever to use.
    Subsequently I caught the collecting bug and got the F3HP among others, and fell in love with that camera. The FM3a is lighter and a little more compact, but now that my vision is worse the F3HP has a better viewfinder (I used to be able to get away with taking my glasses off for the FE), dedicated mirror lockup, takes non-AI lenses, and has a more solid feel. I also found the N80 better for action and quick shots; autofocus has its uses at times after all. On top of that I've generally been using medium format more recently for my landscape and nature photography.
    So my poor FM3a has been neglected the last couple of years even though it's a wonderful camera within its category. It's fallen into the cracks between my serious medium format film shooting, my serious 35mm shooting with some non-AI lenses (e.g. 8mm fisheye), and my casual digital snapshots with my D60 or compacts. When I went to New Orleans last year and shot 35mm, I took an FG and an N80 on the basis that their theft would be no big deal financially, so why bring my precious near-mint FM3a?
    Having now handled a wider variety of recent cameras, I can see why people accustomed to autofocus, autowind cameras with ergonomic molded bodies might be mystified by the appeal of the FM3a to some. However, for someone wanting a camera in the FE/FM series it's the best of the lot and will have parts available the longest, but as others have said it's too expensive in mint condition. I could still see buying one in EX condition as a long-term user in lieu of an FE2 or FA, on the basis of aperture-priority automation that's not available on the other FM series cameras and on the basis of it being newer camera which will have better parts availability for a longer period.
    I'm holding onto mine because I may yet go back to it at times when medium format is too heavy and bulky and I want to go lightweight with AI lenses.
  45. I would suggest that the idea that parts will be available longer for an FM3a than an FM2n or FE2 is a total myth. Maybe new parts bought from Nikon will be available longer. But because those other cameras probably each sold 2 orders of magnitude more units, and virtually all of those cameras are users - rather than collector models, it will be INFINITELY easier to buy and canibalize parts bodies for the FE2 and FM2n, for a cost that is noticeably less than that of a the parts alone for the FM3a, out into perpetuity.
  46. Other than price, which may as well be an indication that people like those of us here who have them and use them are just now buying them to use. Where is the hard evidence that there are hoards of collectors out there hiding them away and therefore, driving up the price.
    While I don't know everybody, I don't know anyone with an FM3a who didn't buy it to use and is either using it or holding onto it to use when they want to but not as a collector's item.
    Most of my older manual Nikons have had to have a CLA
    or something (usually) minor repaired. Even when it's minor, it's not cheap. The last time I took one of my FEs in, the repairman said that while there are parts available, they may not be much better than what was in my camera. The answer to that is that I will use it until it irrevocably fails and then carry it to the curb.
    There is an FM at Keh for almost $400. I bought one new. It is not my favorite manual camera because of its ear-shattering 'thunk' when you press the shutter release. But it would be a fine weapon.
    I bought both of my FM3as when they came out and so didn't pay today's prices (includes inflation?). But that wouldn't bother me any more than it did to pay several thousand dollars for my latest digital camera and I am by no stretch wealthy. If it was to sit on a shelf, I wouldn't bother but to use, it's an expensive hobby and the price for an FM3a if I want one, is not going to ruin my day. I prefer it to any of my other manual Nikons and that's good enough.

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