Who did Nikon make the FM3A for?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by db_gallery, Jan 10, 2014.

  1. I bought my first SLR at age 13 after mowing lawns and washing cars over a Summer and well into the warm California Fall, a new Nikon FM with a 50mm 1.8 lens. No longer was I stuck using my dad’s old folders or my plastic X15F 126 camera. Over my 23 career as a photographer I have probably put over a million frames in Nikons like the FM2N, F100, F2, F3, F4, F5, D1H, D100, D300, D3, D700 and now the D800.
    But in 2001 when I was traveling abroad shooting for news agencies for a year, Nikon announced the FM3A and I was mesmerized….how in the hell did they create a step-less AE shutter that would go for minutes with great exposure accuracy and yet have full manual speeds from 1 second to 1/4000th with NO battery?? Needless to say, I wanted one. Even though I always appreciated the greater build quality, higher frame rate and feature set of the F series cameras, I appreciated the smaller form factor of the FM2N, F100 far, far more. In pro use, I actually had more failures with F series cameras ( rewind motor went bad in an F4, shutter in an F5 ) than with the other ones, go figure…
    After I got back in the U.S. and got settled into my staff job at the paper, I ordered an FM3A in black brand new from B&H for $525. I fell in love with it right from the start, small, light, accurate, awesome TTL -1 stop flash compensation, exposure AE lock, KILLER JOB Nikon! I summited over 40 peaks with the FM3A, shot countless days in sub zero weather without a care in the world. I even bad the battery go at 13,000 feet right in the middle of a shoot. I had no hand held meter that day, no spare batteries, I just winged it and everything looked perfect.
    What was once my *new* FM3A is now dented, brassed, scuffed and well used. I now keep it loaded with TMAX-400 and it even goes on every digital shoot I bring a Nikon D800 on, I always see something I want to make a real photograph of when I am making the digital ones.
    Over the years I have read countless arm chair reviews of the FM3A that show just how misunderstood it is. People tend to defer to some other model as doing better or equal to the FM3A for less money, better build, blah, blah, blah. Before I say the following, read the above list of professional Nikon experience again….hundreds of thousands of photos in earning my living, not testing, not collecting and not babying. The FM3A is by *far* the best Nikon 35mm camera body ever made for my needs. Hybrid shutter folks, it has made a big difference in using the FM3A for darn near anything I can think of.
    The inspiration for this came today when the winds whipped the ridge I had descended to the tune of 70+ MPH in bitter cold. I held up my FM3A and looked at and thought to my self about the awesome shutter, “How in the hell did they do that”?
    I know who Nikon made the FM3A for….they made it for photographers like me…..
    00cIik-544785584.jpg
     
  2. If you like the camera why not just come out and say so? No beating around the bushes. :)
     
  3. Daniel, Me Too! I'm grinning here because I'm enjoying your post, and so true your comments on the FM3a, and yet I'm sure you could have gone on. You know the Nikon engineers on the FM3a project felt the same way, and hold the FM3a very sentimentally in their memory. There is a story here on the link that I'm supplying that you may have read already, but in case you haven't, here it is, its a good read, and the technical issues that went into the making of the FM3a shutter controls are amazing!
    http://imaging.nikon.com/history/chronicle/history-fm3a/index.htm
     
  4. Thanks Don, I think I did see that on another post over the Summer, it's a good read. I am just amazed at this little camera, how capable it is, how well built it is ( scuff on the very top of the pentaprism from 4 foot fall on concrete ) and how......misunderstood it is.

    And today marks 12 years of owning it, not 13.
     
  5. Just dug out the invoice on my FM3a purchase. 8/05 ! So 9 years, and going strong not only mechanically, but emotionally too. I don't know that there's any inanimate object that I own, and still enjoy as if new, like the FM3a. I'll try to articulate why another time.
     
  6. Another Daniel Bayer, I'm such hardcore photog post...I hate digital, but I loved hipstermatic and iphone, and shoot with the d800, but film is where it's at, look at my well worn fm3a blah blah blah. I carried my 4x5 with 15 lbs of film up the Himalayas. Oh, now, we learned that he bought his first camera mowing lawns and washing cars, at the tender age of 13...What are you trying to prove, Daniel? It's tiring, enough about your contradictory film/digital yaps, or how photography hardcore you are. Yes, the fm3a is a great film camera...
     
  7. Wow Leslie, that was really uncalled for.
    Don did not have a problem with it and read that this post is personal, I put it in context like other people put it in context.
     
  8. Yeah, agreed. Daniel and I have butted heads a few times over the years but there was no call for that, Leslie. In this case he's just expressing enthusiasm about a great camera that has a lot of fans.
    Sorry if I sound condescending but we all have to resist a tendency to lug our baggage of grievances from previous online scuffles into every thread and consider each statement on its own merits, not merely on some reflexive reaction based on previous spats.
    And the FM3A was the Nikon I wanted when I switched from Canon FD to Nikon back around 2001. But my budget was squeaky tight and I had to include a 28/3.5 PC Nikkor into the total. So I bought a well used and beaten F3HP instead so I could afford the shift lens. Still have a hankering for that FM3A. Definitely one of the best of the film era Nikons. I wish Nikon would take a cue from the FM3A more often when designing dSLRs and the Nikon 1 System.
     
  9. Also, damn, Daniel - Nikon should have hired you to do their teaser videos for the Nikon Df. Probably should have consulted with you on the design too. Your post and photo were way more convincing than those low energy teaser videos last fall. I'm betting there are some hardcore retro fans who'd be more inspired by your enthusiasm than by those videos, which were slick and a nice departure for Nikon, but just not quite... there.
     
  10. Ray House

    Ray House Ray House

    Daniel...thanks for sharing this with us.
     
  11. someone is still selling them new, YES BRAND NEW ones on that "auction" site from Taiwan :)
     
  12. Loved my FM3a, have wanted a 'digital FM3a' ever since I crossed over. Nearly have one now - it's made by Olympus. Yet my D800 gives quality way ahead of either the FM3a or the EM5; would it was half the weight. The FM3a with a couple of primes, a rucksack, mountains and the relative youth to make the most of them......
     
  13. Hmmm, Not a FM3A, but I have used my F3 and the FM2 in that conditions and they always worked... and a much older F2 have been used in the forest when capturing King-Kong... (just kidding) :D

    I want to tell you a recent story:
    Two weeks ago we were on a soft, easy, 2000mts high, with childrens, mountain tour, so I decided to take my D700 with the usual 24-120/4 to document family life... it has been our first "high" mountain trip for the kids, so I thought a digital would be better than the Leicas and FM2 I used to take on my older alpine routes...

    Well, we were around -2ºC and the camera failed. As I`m used to cold batteries, I switched it with a spare one I kept on my pocket... no way, the camera was frozen! I was surprised. I finally used a perfectly warm iPhone.

    After several hours in the backpack, the camera was too cold to show viewfinder info. I have read many times here about people who use their cameras below -10, or even -20ºC, so I wondered about the reason... after some minutes in my arms, the D700 started to work, first with the "emergency centering indicator" (+0-), later with the full viewfinder and backscreen. Same in the following days, with temperatures around 0ºC.

    I have spent day after day over 3000mts with a FM2 in the backpack, hours and hours walking in the snow (think that from the wake up in the shelter, way to the summit and return, it could be around 10-15 hours between -5 and -20ºC), where the only problems were to avoid fogging the viewfinder&lens, and to keep the camera clean and the batteries warm for the metering.

    Lesson: There are situations where a simple hoe is still way more practical than a Black&Decker :D
     
  14. Forgot to mention that even with the camera "cold", the photos came out perfect.
    I was not able to check the focus point, nor the aperture or whatever, but the camera still metered and focused right.
     
  15. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    First of all, I apologize in advance that Lex and I maybe moving the topic to about Daniel rather than the FM3a. However, Lex wrote:
    Also, damn, Daniel - Nikon should have hired you to do their teaser videos for the Nikon Df. Probably should have consulted with you on the design too.​
    If I were Nikon, Daniel Bayer is the last person I would hire to promote the Nikon Df. See what he wrote above:
    What was once my *new* FM3A is now dented, brassed, scuffed and well used. I now keep it loaded with TMAX-400 and it even goes on every digital shoot I bring a Nikon D800 on, I always see something I want to make a real photograph of when I am making the digital ones.​
    In Daniel Bayer's world, everything old is "real" photography. That means manual, mechanical cameras without AF, and Kodachrome is the film to be celebrated. In that world, the digital Df can't possible be "real photography," a theme Nikon attempts to make in the Df advertising campaign.

    Perhaps I started photography a bit later in life than Daniel, as I bought my first SLR at age 15 instead of 13. However, I am a bit older and still recall that Nikon introduced the FM in 1977. The FM was a tiny SLR compared to the F, F2 and Nikkormat FT2/FT3 that were common in the 1970's, and magazines back then described the FM to be "flimsy." The following year 1978 Nikon introduced the FE and I bought one. All the subsequent FM2, FE2. FM3a and even the FA are rather minor variations and improvements from the original FM/FE.

    In the 1970's when I was a teenager, once the battery inside my Minolta SRT-101 went dead and I had to guess exposure all day. I learned my lesson and always carry extra rolls of film and battery. In these days there is always extra battery and some high-capacity memory card or extra cards. I haven't run out of those since that one occasion in the 1970's.
     
  16. The difference is when I post something "some considered out of line," I get ban for like two months, or only allowed to post once a day, i.e. can't response to others taking shots at me. Since the my last ban and the off topic forum gone, this place is a dump, as far as discussions go...Even Michael Chang used to multiple post per day here, he's hardly posting now -look at the unified forum for yourself over the couple weeks- A few here can criticize, but can't take any criticism. How many times had Daniel Bayer said uncalled for posts (about the digital realm and others not being hardcore enough), check the post history...
    I was ban numerous times within the last six months over little things, and PN had the audacity to email me that my membership fee is due...
     
  17. Shun, all the best...I think you are the only East Asian regular/mod poster left here:)
     
  18. The FM3A is by *far* the best Nikon 35mm camera body ever made for my needs.​
    Well said, the camera that gives you most joy is the best one , no matter what others think about it...
    P.S.
    Leslie : i do not care when someone is chineese japaneese afrikan arabian indian amerikan portugese Inuit russian or whatever nationality etc.
    The reason i mostly skip replies when im reading a post is that they almost always seem to have some negative message or citisism . sorry i had to write this but that's my personal experience. wiish i had skipped those too......
     
  19. I enjoyed your post Daniel.
    You are one of the few professional photographers I follow on photo.net.
    Cool times for us in Colorado,
    Happy New Year !
    Lindy in Colorado Springs
     
  20. Well. after reading this I am going to break my no-more-old-film-camera-buying vow and get an FM3A. Really.
     
  21. Daniel: thank you for your post.
    We'll agree to differ about what
    a "real photograph" is, but we
    can agree on the technical
    expertise in Nikon cameras -
    something it's easy to forget
    when criticising what Nikon
    choose to release. My reasons for
    not shooting much 35mm film has
    more to do with the limitations
    of the recording medium than the
    cameras.

    Leslie: I'm sorry about how you
    feel. I enjoy your posts; I hope
    you'll stay. I'm also sorry if
    you feel that race is an issue on
    this forum. I've not really
    noticed it (perhaps due to the
    efforts of the moderators, our
    just because KR's "quality: made
    in China" line has burnt out my
    casual racism sensors), but if
    it's affecting the demographic of
    the participants, I hope it's
    something that can be resolved.
     
  22. Leslie's reaction uncalled for.... well, maybe it's overly direct, yes. But the continuous snarky "real" photos versus "the digital ones" in every thread possible is typically equally uncalled for, plus typical disagreement with Daniel gets the reply just how much money he is making with his photos. As that makes his opinion more worthy than the rest of us. Not called for ever, either. This OP wasn't free of that same usual boasting.
    That said, fully agreed the sentiment ought to stay at the door when entering a new thread. But that has to go for all of us.
    So, I hope Leslie stays - his views tend to be quite balanced and adding to the discussions here even if I disagree more than often enough with what he writes. It would be a waste to see such members go because of other's inability to think a bit wider than their own narrow views.
    I do hope any discussion, started by whoever (pro or amateur) that find it necessary to look down at photographers who prefer either digital or film in an outspoken manner, goes away. They're about the most annoying thing on p.net by far. But I am dreaming a little now.
     
  23. Getting back to some of the OP concept.... Was thinking just the other week about what a nice camera my first Nikon was, a new FM with 50/1.4AI. The FM had great blend of function and style, as did the original F.
    Certainly, the FM3a is the ultimate evolution of the original FM design, and probably is the best manual focus 35mm film SLR.
    My Nikon DSLRs are good tools, but lack something of the appeal of the best F film cameras. The D3/4 line almost has that appeal, IMO, more so than the Df.
     
  24. Jose, I would not expect the D700 to fail in -
    2C. I routinely use mine in temperatures
    lower than -20C, and have spent whole days
    outside at -15C with it. Winters are quite cold
    where I live. Sometimes I stick it out the
    window of an airplane at -30C into the 150
    knot relative wind, although that's only for a
    couple of seconds at a time. Even with
    gloves on, my fingers fail before the camera
    does. The battery does drain faster than
    normal, but it's not unmanageable.
     
  25. Please consider other posts I have made in which I have left out context and think why that is for a moment. For the times
    I have employed context it is because I am reading far too much of what is simply not true out in the real world and when
    it comes to perpetuating web-hype, Photo.net started becoming rather chronic about it some 6-7 years ago.

    This site has an amazing amount of technical resources, even equaling or besting other sites who's main topics are only a
    small part of this one. I had no intention of turning this into a stupid D vs A debate nor talk about my balance sheet, but on
    the other threads?....come on guys, what am I supposed to do when I read things like no one uses film in pro work
    anymore, there is no need for pros, film is dead and gone or the DF is like the FM3A, a feature hobbled retro for
    enthusiasts. How would you feel if you were me, a guy who loves to mentor young shooters locally and plans to hold
    workshops in the near future? Is it really fair for Leslie to "sweep the kitchen floor" to gather together parts of other posts
    in order to serve up one nice lump of coal? Shun, you seem to have an issue with me as well, would my posts be more
    welcome if they went with the flow of what often appears to be *your* Nikon forum?

    Plain and simple, I use the crap out of my FM3A and find I am using it more and more on digital shoots to create film
    based images I can print in my darkroom for a 25 year book about where I live. It's not unlike Jim Richardson's long term
    personal work on Cuba, Kansas...it's personally driven with a professional goal in mind in the background.

    I started the new year with lots of goals in mind and one was to try to find a more positive way through web forums to
    present my brand of mentoring and I knew this site would be a tough one. But honestly, in finding a particularly personal
    affront to my enthusiasm on the first page of the thread I started, I am pretty sure it will not be Leslie who will stop posting
    but me.

    I have some 1,200 posts on this site now, I guess that is really plenty from me and I do better in person. Come visit me in
    Aspen where I live and work, I am opening a new retail / office space downtown and part of it will be to launch workshops
    because I love to share my passion for this craft.

    No other camera system I use is as flexible and far reaching as the Nikon system, regardless of format. I even still run the
    idea through my head of getting a DF but wish it were more like 24MP which seems to be the jumping off point for of the
    work I do and I applaud Nikon for even doing it. I love those knobs when using gloves, pretty intuitive.

    But that FM3A, what a camera. I ought to buy another one to keep in case I kill this one, lol!
     
  26. When it gets that cold around here I just stay inside. 8 degrees in Alabama Tuesday morning! As for the FM3A, I never got into that series of cameras much but don't doubt they are excellent. My preference has always been for the F2 and F4s. Lately I find myself getting incredibly bored with the entire digital process and have put batteries back into some of the film bodies. If it ever quits raining I'll put them to work.
    Rick H.
     
  27. When I bought the FM3A it was being promoted with Nikon's small lens, the 45 f2.8, as a carry around camera analogous to the Leica rangefinders which are small. I also liked the shutter. I have both the black and the silver copies and, curiously, the shutter dial on the black copy has shifted to one speed slower than on the read-out; that is, selecting 1/500 gets you 1/250, .... . I have not sent it in for repair as it still works fine for me but with the indicated constraint. My silver copy has survived in better shape than the black copy. And, the simple 45 mm lens works just fine on my D800.
     
  28. I started reading this and it rekindled the lust I had for the FM3A when it first came out. As a proud owner of a FM (which I still have, but rarely use) this was the camera I wanted. I was enjoying the post and how it brought back memories about those good old days, and then . . . .BAM, out of left field, in fact from out of the park, came this . . . .
    Another Daniel Bayer, I'm such hardcore photog post...I hate digital, but I loved hipstermatic and iphone, and shoot with the d800, but film is where it's at, look at my well worn fm3a blah blah blah. I carried my 4x5 with 15 lbs of film up the Himalayas. Oh, now, we learned that he bought his first camera mowing lawns and washing cars, at the tender age of 13...What are you trying to prove, Daniel? It's tiring, enough about your contradictory film/digital yaps, or how photography hardcore you are. Yes, the fm3a is a great film camera...​
    WOW
    I'm stunned and saddened at the tone it carried and the innuendo that it contained. Sad day here. I think I'll go and curl up with my FM.
     
  29. Another Daniel Bayer, I'm such hardcore photog post...I hate digital, but I loved hipstermatic and iphone, and shoot with the d800, but film is where it's at, look at my well worn fm3a blah blah blah. I carried my 4x5 with 15 lbs of film up the Himalayas. Oh, now, we learned that he bought his first camera mowing lawns and washing cars, at the tender age of 13...What are you trying to prove, Daniel? It's tiring, enough about your contradictory film/digital yaps, or how photography hardcore you are. Yes, the fm3a is a great film camera...​

    Nick Sanyal , Jan 11, 2014; 11:59 a.m.
    I'm stunned and saddened at the tone it carried and the innuendo that it (above quote) contained.​
    Nick, or anyone else unfamiliar with Daniel Bayer's repeatedly snarky digital isn't real photography remarks...Just check/seek out his posting history. Oh, yes...he also boast repeatedly, as stated earlier by Wouter, how professional he is and how much $$$ he makes off his photography, or, say, how he's opening his retail space above...Yeah, Daniel, you are so much better off than us lowly photo hobbyists...
    BTW this is my last post here on PN, EVER!
     
  30. I'm stunned and saddened that you rarely pick up a digital camera and see f-stops and shutter speeds the way of film cameras. It's one of the many things I like about my old Leica M8 digital camera. I can pick it up and set the shutterspeed and f-stop without menu drama. My D3200 provides a few more steps in manual mode.
    I don't "contribute" much in this forum but I always enjoy the discussions. They're lively and go off track at times but good discussions tend to do that.
     
  31. Leslie - hey - you're an old-timer around here. I'd hate to see you go!! I've always enjoyed you conversations.
     
  32. Reading this post it kind of makes me think I should have bought a FM3a last week instead of an M3. I did pickup a plain prism black F a couple of weeks ago though. Still if the M3 doesn't work out I can always sell it and get the FM3a.
    Personally I'm happy that Daniel reminds the world that film still exists and is still a viable alternative to digital. Are digital only shooters really so thin skinned and insecure that they can't take a bit of ribbing, really they are only cameras, I mean come on there is a whole industry based on making digital look like old film. Me, I'm happy with both mediums I often try to make my digital shots look like B&W film and I've got no problem if somebody would say I m faking it.
     
  33. It's clear that there are people here that want us to want the camera's they want. If you don't have, or want the camera they like or have, how could you? Camera snobs! Big time! Nothing to do with Photography. So much so to bring racist overtones to the forum? Who's running this place? Who's business is it what camera I use, or like? If the guy likes, and takes time out to celebrate his FM3a so be it. So What? Now you got to be asian to contribute here? What started out as an innocent commentary on a great effort, the FM3a, from an icon camera manufacturer has turned into a real sick scene. I'll have to do some soul searching myself regarding this Nikon forum, and its the Nikon forum, not P.Net., thats the problem.
     
  34. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Are digital only shooters really so thin skinned and insecure that they can't take a bit of ribbing,​

    The problem with these "real photography" posts is not with "digital shooters," it's that those types of comments are incredibly off-putting to new users who come looking for help. A first time camera shooter with a new camera they got for Christmas is going to read this and quickly think they are in the wrong place. Eventually that mentality makes the forums becomes a bunch of old guys and a few hipsters and people who want to argue. If a poster was really trying to be helpful, the "real photography" comments wouldn't show up.

    It's pretty clear that the "real photography" comments are intended to be divisive rather than helpful.
     
  35. Gup

    Gup Gup

    I always see something I want to make a real photograph of when I am making the digital ones.​
    I read this with nostalgia in my heart. No animosity at all.
    Unlike Daniel, I don't have the resolve to develop my own work, never have, and the lab I used professionally for over 25 years no longer does either. I was dragged kicking and screaming into this digital era and gave up my F5 and Hasselblad system for a new D2x almost 10 years ago now. I still enjoy the process of shooting the image but often resent the time spent finishing the NEF in PS afterward (jpegs are not an option). My daughters prefer my old film bodies to the digital SLRs I purchased for them when they required them for school and I admire them for it.
    I don't have an Fm3a but I can fully appreciate the joy Daniel and the rest of you share for a machine that nears perfection. Living where winter is a 5 month reality I always miss the mechanical stability of a manual SLR or Hasselblad body while working in sub-zero temps to the point where I just don't take my rig with me anymore when it's cold, opting instead for a tiny Canon P&S in an inside pocket in case I 'see' something and hope it's not moving ;)
    I also take exception to members carrying grudges from thread to thread and wish some could learn to resist the urge to vent. I can go into the real world for that.
     
  36. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Sorry to see another thread dragging down into the mud.
     

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