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nikon FM3A        the charm of simplicity

Wolfgang Bleier
Austria, April 2010

The Nikon FM3A is the quintesence of most evolved analog FE and FM SLR cameras manufactured by Nikon over more than two decades for serious photographers. If cameras could reproduce, its parents were the Nikon FE2 and FM2n. The FM3A combines both models by a unique hybrid shutter for mechanically controlled shutter speeds in manual mode and electronically controlled, infinitely variable shutter speeds in aperture-priority mode. You will hardly come across this exceptional camera, which was produced on small-volume assembly lines from 2001 until 2006. The FM3A is the final perfection of the advanced semi-professional FM series first time launched by Nikon in 1977.

Haptic and perception
The FM3A went on sale in July 2001 with manual focus and a minimum of automatic features, just at a time when digital cameras became mainstream. Its full metal body comes with a high quality finish in black paint or silver, solid but visually unobtrusive, and all actuators work precise and are in the right place according to classic design. The FM3A gets it clear from the very first moment you hold it in your hands that it is a serious tool manufactured by Nikon. This Nikon belongs to that kind of cameras which inspire us to careful manual photography, its center weighted exposure meter demands photographic skills, especially when using slide film. The Nikon FM3A is a star among these old-school cameras, probably the last of its kind. It is a camera against the Zeitgeist.

Features & Specifications
The FM3A opens the door to the world of superior Nikkor lenses. It connects not only with Nikon's manual focus lenses, but, with a few exceptions, it also taps into the popular AF Nikkor lens system. Nikon FM3AThe viewfinder of the FM3A shows the aperture (direct optical system), the selected shutter speed and (in manual operation) the camera's shutter speed recommendation, the auto shutter speed only in aperture priority exposure mode, exposure compensation warning and a flash ready sign. The exposure meter is a 40/60 center weighted meter, which means the meter concentrates 60% of its sensitivity towards the central area of the viewfinder. In manual mode the exposure meter uses the classic match-needle method. The thick needle shows the set shutter speed, the thin needle the camera's recommendation. This system makes it very convenient to overexpose or underexpose by a fraction of an f-stop. No need to think, you can decide for deviations from correct exposure at a glance according to the relative needle positions on the analog scale in the viewfinder. The automatic aperture priority mode is accomplished by an exposure memory lock function, which can be activated by a push button located at the rear of the body. This allows you to meter the important part of the scene, re-compose quickly and thus devote your full attention to taking the photograph.

Nikon FM3AThe hybrid shutter has mechanically controlled shutter speeds from 1s to 1/4000s in full increments, and electronically controlled, infinitely variable speeds from 8s to 1/4000s. The film speed can be set manually or via DX coded film canisters.
Many of Nikon's modern Speedlight flash units work with the FM3A as it offers modern auto-TTL flash metering, however, it does not use the Nikon "D"-system incorporated in the modern AF bodies. Its 1/250 second flash sync speed is state of the art, which allows also convenient daylight fill flash operation. A very nice feature of the FM3A is a smart little button next to the lens mount. Pressing this button reduces the flash output by 1 f-stop for fill flash in sunlight. The lever for depth of field preview is placed where it should be - at the right side of the lens mount. The Nikon FM3A has no separate mirror pre-release function, this is simply done by using the self-timer which flips up the mirror first before the timer countdown begins. Pulling the film advance lever out turns on the meter and unlocks the shutter release. And, last but not least, should you ever be out in the fields with drained batteries, remember the hybrid shutter and mechanically controlled exposure times.

Guess what, the FM3A is a real Nikon.

Nikon FM3A
Camera type
35mm single-lens reflex camera
Focus control
AF area modes
Eye-level pentaprism type, eye point: 14 mm.
Exposure metering
TTL, center weighted (60/40%) full aperture exposure metering system;
approx. 60% of the meter's sensitivity concentrated on a 12 mm diameter circle.
Exposure modes
Aperture-priority auto control (A), manual exposure control (M).
Exposure compensation yes
Auto exposure memory lock
yes (by pressing AEL button at the rear of the body)
Vertical-travel metal focal-plane shutter (electronically and
mechanically controlled hybrid shutter).
Shutter speeds
Automatic mode: 8s to 1/4000s (infinitely variable).
Manual mode: 1s to 1/4000s (in whole increments).
Bulb for long time exposures.
Film speed range
DX coded: ISO 25 to ISO 5000, Manual: ISO 12 to ISO 6400
Film speed setting
DX coding, manual setting
Film loading
Film advance modes
Manual (optional motor drive MD12)
Film rewind
Viewfinder display
Symbol for flash status
Exposure compensation warning
Shutter speed (in automatic mode)
Indicators for manual exposure control
Aperture value (direct optical system)
Overexposure and underexposure zone indication
Flash unit connection
ISO-Standard accessory shoe
Flash synchronization
1/250s, below 1/250s in manual exposure mode.
Flash exposure metering TTL metering (center weighted).
Flash sync modes
Synchronization with 1st (front) shutter curtain.
Mirror lock-up
Pseudo system, by using the self timer.
Depth of field preview
Mechanical lever
Self timer
Mechanically controlled 4s to 10s
Multiple exposure
1 x DL 1/3N Lithium batteries
Other features
Flash output reduction by 1 stop for fill flash in sunlight.

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