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photography voyaging

reviving my Nikon F3

Analogue Friday with the Nikon F3

Since the advent of digital photography my trusted Nikon F3 HP has not seen much daylight. Bluntly put, for the past 20 years this iconic piece of equipment rested peacefully in my Lowe photo-suitcase. This digital post is all about analog picture taking. Musings about digital photography are here.

An extract of the Nikon F3 manual

page 5 of the Nikon F3 manual.

Then came Covid-19 and triggered all kinds of interesting projects “how to spend a summer in Singapore”. In this blog I share our F3-analogue journey through two beautiful spots in Singapore: China Town and Arab Street. We recorded the outings on an iPhone XR mounted on a DJI gimbal, edited the footage with davinciresolve and posted it on Youtube.

getting ready

When I took the F3 out of its padded comfort in the storage case, I was immediately drawn to it again. Firstly, the solid, heavy metal construction just feels great and conveys a sense of stability and durability. Secondly, a lot of great memories of past travels and journeys resurfaced as I, almost affectionately, touched the film advance lever. I inserted a new battery, mounted a 50mm f/1.4 manual focus lens and took the camera up to my eye to test the light meter. Great: the shutter speed display worked, I could fire a shot and wind forward. We were good to go.

doing it

In true hipster fashion, the excursion started in a down-town coffee shop. I spread all the gear on the table and put a Kodak ISO 200 36 Exp. film roll into the cartridge chamber, managed to fiddle the tip of the film roll into the film take-up spool, wind and close the back. So we were good to go, I thought. However, much to my surprise the shutter speed remained at 1/80 of a second regardless of the aperture I chose. Panic struck.

Maybe some electronic components didn’t survive the long period of inactivity? But then I remembered: shutter speed is fixed at 1/80 sec. until a film roll is properly inserted and the counter advanced to position “1”. Lo and behold, I triggered the shutter, wound twice and the shutter speed started changing depending on the chosen aperture. What a relief….. Apparently, Nikon built this feature into the F3’s circuits for protective purpose.

lenses

What equipment to carry for our urban photo walk with the Nikon F3? After some deliberation, I carried a 20mm f/2.8, a 35mm f/2, a 50mm f/1.4 and a 180mm f/2.8 – just to have it all covered. Interestingly, we mostly used the 35mm lens. The combination of a moderate wide-angle field of view with low distortion appeared most suitable for city-scape picture taking.

the walk

Our photo walk with the Nikon F3 was split into one session in China Town and one event in and around Arab Street. Both places offer plenty of sights and can easily be explored on foot. In addition, there is little to no traffic. My original concern that 36 exposures might be gone in no time, turned out to be a false assumption. We went slowly, considered each exposure carefully and ended up just filling up the roll.

processing

A few specialty shops in Singapore offer film development and scanning at reasonable prices. Having said that, analogue photography certainly isn’t cheap.

The nice people at Triple D did a good job developing and scanning the negatives within a few hours. They put the scans on a Dropbox drive for easy access. We went to pick up the negatives a few days later. Unfortunately, they don’t offer enlargement (aka printing) services.

the images

The scans were jpegs of medium resolution and quality. Noise is rather visible (maybe that was normal back then at ISO 200?) and the images showed good potential for post-processing and quite some latitude towards sharpening. Pleasantly surprised!

the vlog

Follow us for five minutes through China Town and Arab street in Singapore.