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Nikon FM3a - vs. Nikon F3 HP - sturdiness and durability
Old 07-25-2019   #1
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Nikon FM3a - vs. Nikon F3 HP - sturdiness and durability

A question for those who have used/are using both cameras: which is the sturdiest of the two? I'll be taking one of them with me to SE Asia for a prolonged period of time, and I hope to avoid trips to the roadside repair man. Many thanks for your best advice, Peter
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Old 07-25-2019   #2
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Haven't used either but I frequently travel Asia with various cameras. Get the one that rust the least and isn't black paint. I had with me my Pentax 6x7 for thee months in Indonesia last winter and it looks 20 years older. Everything seems to deteriorate at a much faster rate over there.
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Old 07-25-2019   #3
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The F3P. It has much better sealing than the regular F3 and is made of
titanium including the prism.
This is a big deal as judging by how many dented prisms I’ve seen on regular F3hps, they must have made them out of soda cans.
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Old 07-25-2019   #4
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I think you'd have a hard time finding one that much more durable than the other. Enjoy the trip
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Old 07-25-2019   #5
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Any variant of the F3 will be way more rugged than the FM3a. I love my F3p. For travel however, I'd probably go with the FM3a for its weight and simplicity.
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Old 07-25-2019   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Wijninga View Post
... which is the sturdiest of the two? I'll be taking one of them with me to SE Asia for a prolonged period of time, and I hope to avoid trips to the roadside repair man. ...
That's a tough one! I've owned both over the years - just not at the same time.

In all practicality, it'd come down to ergonomics. But the F3's removable prism might provide a slight edge to the FM3 as to durability. OTOH, I'd figure out a way to pack both - use the F3 and pack away the FM3 (it's pretty small) and use it as a back-up.
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Old 07-25-2019   #7
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I still have my FM3 a and F3 HP.The FM3a went with me on a walking trip in Tasmania. It was soaked for days and still functions correctly to this day.
The first F3 suffered a catastrophic meltdown when I tried to take off a Nikon flash without first turning off the flash and the camera.
Nikon in Singapore did not have a replacement mother board as the camera was so new.
So I bought an old Fm 2 which also still works.
You can't go wrong with a Nikon.
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Old 07-25-2019   #8
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having opened both...i would say that the FM3A will probably be just as tough as an F3. the biggest durability issues for the F3s are the plastic buttons and dials and the old-tech LEDs. these were revised in later models I was told by no more than mr. Goto himself.

between the 2, i will choose the FM3A as it can operate without a battery, the F3 requires one, the way to trigger the M90 backup speed can be tedious, too.

there are many plastic parts on the FM3A than can break but so does the F3.

if you can, just bring an F2 with you or even an F. I am familiar with the F and those can really take a beating. the mechanisms are simpler and not a lot of things can fail.
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Old 07-25-2019   #9
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I'm with Richard, bring an F as opposed to either the FM3A or F3. Although I don't own an FM3A, so I'm no expert on that camera. But I do own an F and used to own a pristine, low mileage F3HP that just up and died on me when the little plastic circuit board/copper ribbon thingy (or whatever it's made of) under the film rewind knob, where the flash is attached, cracked/broke, and that was it, camera stuck with M90, no remedy.

Where as my very old, very beaten F, just keep chugging along, no issues.

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Old 07-25-2019   #10
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I have a FM3a and it appears pretty solid and rugged. The F3 is pretty rugged but has an Achilles heal when using a flash mounted above the rewind knob. If the mounted flash is bumped reasonably hard, the glass FRE chip (which controls exposure functions) under the rewind knob can crack, rendering the F3 largely inoperable. Also, the FM3a's fixed prism is more moisture resistant than the F3 removable prism.
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Old 07-25-2019   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dtcls100 View Post
I have a FM3a and it appears pretty solid and rugged. The F3 is pretty rugged but has an Achilles heal when using a flash mounted above the rewind knob. If the mounted flash is bumped reasonably hard, the glass FRE chip (which controls exposure functions) under the rewind knob can crack, rendering the F3 largely inoperable. Also, the FM3a's fixed prism is more moisture resistant than the F3 removable prism.
That's why the F3P is so good, hotshoe is on the prism.
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Old 07-25-2019   #12
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Originally Posted by richardHaw View Post
between the 2, i will choose the FM3A as it can operate without a battery, the F3 requires one, the way to trigger the M90 backup speed can be tedious, too.

there are many plastic parts on the FM3A than can break but so does the F3.

if you can, just bring an F2 with you or even an F. I am familiar with the F and those can really take a beating. the mechanisms are simpler and not a lot of things can fail.
I forgot about the batteries! But if you can pack film, you can pack a set of tiny LR44 batteries which will last a few years.

Honestly, you can't go wrong with any of these lumps. My choice would be FM2n or F2As... F2As..
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Old 07-25-2019   #13
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I have owned both. For me the FM3a hands down.
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Old 07-25-2019   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeLopez View Post
I think you'd have a hard time finding one that much more durable than the other. Enjoy the trip
That's probably very true. I have had a couple of F3, presently own an FM3a. I think the ability of the FM3a to function in manual mode without batteries, because in manual the shutter is mechanically controlled, gives added security. I'd much rather shoot with the FM3a than an F3, so I'm not leaving it behind when we go to Colorado next month!
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Old 07-25-2019   #15
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The viewfinder you prefer...thats my answer...
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Old 07-25-2019   #16
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I had several F3 fail on me out of the blue.
The FM3a, I didn't own long enough to know.
But I will never, ever, count on a single camera for a long trip, without a backup.
If I was forced to take only one, I would probably take the one that will continue to shoot after a failure of the electronics.
But again, even mechanics fail sometimes.
Always take a backup, even if it's "only" a Rollei 35 if room in the bag is a concern.
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Old 07-25-2019   #17
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Never owned an F3 but have an FM2-T and an FM3a.

The F3 body weighs in at 715g, whilst the FM3a is 570g and FM2-T, 515g.
Which would you rather be lugging around in a hot, steamy clime?

Durability? Without a doubt.

Run out of battery power? Both will fire at 1/4000th of a second with none.

Backup? Ricoh GR.
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Old 07-26-2019   #18
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FM/E series always seemed pretty durable to me

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Old 07-26-2019   #19
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Whatever you do, DON'T bang the re-wind knob with the hot shoe on the F3 too hard. There's a wafer-thin round glass resister plate in there, underneath the ISO selector dial that I cracked twice bumping a mounted flash.

I bought a couple of those resister plates from Nikon years ago. They were $25. Today, they are unobtainable unless you can find a tech with new-old stock. Once cracked, the camera is rendered unusable.
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Old 07-26-2019   #20
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I have a FE and the F3.
The weight difference equal to a small prime lens..
The FE can work without battery.
The F3 is the stronger, more durable camera body.
Take both or add a small backup, 35mm Rollei-T.
F3 are all black, mine shows brassing..
A pure mechanical body that has almost never let me down,Nikon-F.
Biggest problem SE Asia, heat, humidity, rain, rain, mist.
Small towels and plastic bags used in rain, not storage!

I travel with Point and shoot digitals, AA rechargeable, extra memory cards..

Last edited by leicapixie : 07-26-2019 at 05:16. Reason: Asi asia
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Which Nikon more durable?
Old 07-26-2019   #21
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Which Nikon more durable?

I've owned/used various Nikons since my first FM, and still have a loved FE2, as well as an old FE and a F3HP. The most durable is the F3, of course. However, the FM3a is lighter to carry and is probably easier to use in both manual and autoexposure modes. Whichever you choose,, as others have said, take a back up camera (or body). Because they are plentiful and insanely inexpensive used, buy an F100 body, put in fresh batteries and store it in a freezer bag at the bottom of your luggage.
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Old 07-26-2019   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randy stewart View Post
I've owned/used various Nikons since my first FM, and still have a loved FE2, as well as an old FE and a F3HP. The most durable is the F3, of course. However, the FM3a is lighter to carry and is probably easier to use in both manual and autoexposure modes. Whichever you choose,, as others have said, take a back up camera (or body). Because they are plentiful and insanely inexpensive used, buy an F100 body, put in fresh batteries and store it in a freezer bag at the bottom of your luggage.
Not really the case of the F100 anymore. They're becoming rarer to pick up and also getting expensive.
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Old 07-26-2019   #23
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Peter, in simple answer to your question, in every case, i'd take the mechanical camera. I've travelled a lot with one camera over the decades. Failures are a very occasional issue & i've never had one during my trips in the mountains.
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Old 07-26-2019   #24
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Old 07-26-2019   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ste_S View Post
Not really the case of the F100 anymore. They're becoming rarer to pick up and also getting expensive.
Plus the film back latches are snapping like twigs on a frosty morning.
Because Nikon decided to make them out of plastic not metal. Even the freakin EM has metal latches!
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Old 07-26-2019   #26
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I own and use both frequently. I would have no issue taking either camera on a long trip. to me it comes down to LCD vs match needle metering. I much prefer the needle to the LCD. I always said my ideal camera would be an F3 with the FE-2 meter reading. both will sand up to heavy use, but not abuse. if thats not an issue, then go with the FM3a as its newer and as mentioned above, can shoot at all speeds with no battery.
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Old 07-26-2019   #27
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Avoid the early models of the F3. The ones before the HP prism came along. All subsequent F3's have a good record of reliability but the early one had problems.

If you can locate an F3P, it's the best of the lot as far as being tough is concerned. After my original early F3 had gone back to NPS 3-4 times due to failures in the electronics, Nikon sent a box of F3P bodies for me to distribute to the photographers at the newspaper where I was working and to report on how they functioned. They were flawless...bulletproof. The way the camera should have been to begin with.
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Old 07-26-2019   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huss View Post
That's why the F3P is so good, hotshoe is on the prism.
I don't recall the hotshoe being on the prism of the F3P's that we used. The ones we used had an extension forward of the rewind that held the hotshoe.

Maybe later models had a redesign.
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Old 07-26-2019   #29
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As well as the coveted hot shoe, thel F3p had a larger shutter speed dial and the safety latch for the rewind back opener was removed so it opened by just pulling up the knob. Didn't have the viewfinder curtain and had a soft rubber covering over the shutter release. It was the King of Nikon film cameras. Until the F5 and F6, at least...
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Old 07-26-2019   #30
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As well as the coveted hot shoe, thel F3p had a larger shutter speed dial and the safety latch for the rewind back opener was removed so it opened by just pulling up the knob. Didn't have the viewfinder curtain and had a soft rubber covering over the shutter release. It was the King of Nikon film cameras. Until the F5 and F6, at least...
Also larger round film counter window and you are not locked out of shooting until the counter gets to 1. As in it will meter correctly before then.
In many ways I prefer it to my F6, especially for battery life!
p.s dont forget the heavy duty weather sealing.
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Old 07-26-2019   #31
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On second thought, I have pretty much owned all the Fxxx cameras except the F6. I use the ancient FE (not FE2). See Ken Rockwell's review. (He nailed this review). https://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/fe.htm'. They are super cheap and very reliable.
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Old 07-26-2019   #32
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Thanks for your generous feedback! I'll go for the FM3A and if I'm able in bribing my daughter, she'll carry the F3HP. I'll also bring the 24,28 and 105. Many thanks, again. Peter
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Old 07-26-2019   #33
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24 and 28? They are pretty close together. I’d swap the 28 for a 40-50mm lens.
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Old 07-26-2019   #34
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Hi Huss, you are right. I should have left the 24 out and add the 50, instead. I have a nice 1.2/50 which will be added to the mix.
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Old 07-26-2019   #35
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Dropped a FM3a on concrete floor once. It hit hard and the meter system went kaput, but the mechanical part - all shutter speed were still available. Used it so till sending it to Nikon Japan to get fixed. Yes the FM3a is one of the three film models they would still repair!

I'd be surprised anyone could wear it out in normal use .
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Old 07-26-2019   #36
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Quote:
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Dropped a FM3a on concrete floor once. It hit hard and the meter system went kaput, but the mechanical part - all shutter speed are still available. Used it so till sending it to Nikon Japan to get fixed. Yes the FM3a is one of the three film models they would still repair!

I'd be surprised anyone could wear it out in normal use .
The F6 is of course the 2nd. What’s the 3rd?
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Old 07-26-2019   #37
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Dropped a FM3a on concrete floor once. It hit hard and the meter system went kaput, but the mechanical part - all shutter speed are still available. Used it so till sending it to Nikon Japan to get fixed. Yes the FM3a is one of the three film models they would still repair!

I'd be surprised anyone could wear it out in normal use .
How long ago was that? I know Nikon still repairs the F6, as they repaired my AF last year. It just failed, even though it never was dropped or bumped. So much for that pro quality... (and it failed on a project to make matters worse).

The only camera that I own that I trust to take extreme abuse/shock/drops and still work perfectly are my Nikonos V. I know because I unintentionally tested that! If you really want a bombproof camera that has a great lens and is also waterproof, the Nikonos V is the answer...
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Old 07-27-2019   #38
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I have the F3HP and F3P... both purchased used... the F3HP fail due to the previous owner using the camera in the rain (water got into the camera around the shutter button and corroded the on-off switch). The F3P has a rubber cover on the shutter button (no cable release), and it provides better protection in wet conditions.

Bring a few tools as somethings are fixable in the field... I did some minor repairs to the F3 rewind crank with a pocket knife while shooting in remote winter conditions.

Edit: the F3HP was repaired by Kiitos Camera here in Tokyo and works with no problem
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Old 07-27-2019   #39
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I don't recall the hotshoe being on the prism of the F3P's that we used. The ones we used had an extension forward of the rewind that held the hotshoe.

Maybe later models had a redesign.
ALL F3P (NOT the way more common HP) were originally issued with hot shoes on the titanium prism. I guess, like anything removable one could have been replaced with a standard HP prism.

https://cameraquest.com/nff3p.htm
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Old 07-27-2019   #40
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Originally Posted by Peter Wijninga View Post
A question for those who have used/are using both cameras: which is the sturdiest of the two? I'll be taking one of them with me to SE Asia for a prolonged period of time, and I hope to avoid trips to the roadside repair man. Many thanks for your best advice, Peter
With cameras it is very similar as with cars:
The older they are, and the more 'mileage' they have, the higher the risk of getting a problem and needing a repair.
With younger cameras the chance for a flawless operation is generally much higher.
That speaks for the FM3A.
But as you are on a longer trip, in any case I would take two bodies. One as a back-up to be on the safe side.
And you are more flexible: In one you put color film, in the other BW. Or in one reversal film, and in the other negative film.

Cheers, Jan
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