The Nikon F3HP, the longest production camera OF ALL TIME sits gently on my shelf. Half the size of todays digital monsters and a solid hunk of metal with real dials, the F3HP ruled the world. HP stands for high eyepoint which means you can wear glasses and see the image from several millimeters away from the viewfinder. They made a non HP version also which cost less. It took a lot of real glass to make a HP viewfinder.  When I found out that Nikons 5100 camera had a metal MIRROR and not a glass prism, in the garbage it went and I spent twice as much to get a d7000.

The d7000, $1200 new, cost twice as much as the d5100 and d3100 models which had higher pixel counts. But it did two things. It let you program ALL your old manual focus METAL lenses into the camera and just USE THEM and it would do full correct metering and exposure with them. And the second thing of course was a real pentaprism but the pentaprism you got was small compared the the f3hp and teeny tiny compared to my Pentax 67.

Enter the Nikon DF. For the first time the japanese are not being japanese. After years of giving us video games with bleeps and gobs of platic, they have finally come around. And what triggered it is the huge success of the Fuji X100 line of cameras which were the first to return to real dials.

Real dials on a camera area  bit like a real stick shift in a sports car. Its precise control as quickly as possible. Sure TECHNICALLY the auto shifters are more efficient, but you aren’t driving the car you are detached. That’s the same thing with the autofocus auto exposure crap of today. The new “gelded” nikon lenses don’t even have aperture control rings for christs sake! What were they thinking.

The F3HP released in 1980

They have release a new 50mm 1.8g lens for this camera (g for gelded) but throw that away immediatly and get some 1980s lenses with real aperatures. Then you will have arrived at the very first camera on earth to bridge proper engraved metal control dials with lenses which manually or auto focus and contain the aperture rings for you to just grab and set. And behind it, the beautiful Nikon D4 sensor at 16 megapixels has only half of what todays tiny pocket cams boast heck even the Nokia has 40 megas. Ahh but these aren’t normal megapixels these are womping fat ones blessed by angels that give you insane crystal clear iso 200,000 pictures. Try doing that mr 40 mega nokia.

There are some losses. The F3HP was an interchangable camera system. You could remove the entire top pentaprism and replace it with a different style finder. You could remove and change out the focusing screen. Tne new Df can do none of this which is a shame. It seems like they have forgotten some of the most important aspects of a camera as a system for longevity.  Why don’t they make a swap out sensor so that in five years I can upgrade to 100 megapixels for not too much money?

 

a whole host of viewfinders and accessories made the F3 camera relevant for over 20 years

For a decade firms like Leica have been able to sell their crappy 18 megapixel rangefinder camera for eight grand. OK its not crappy, its rather nice actually, but it is no way twice as nice as cameras like the D4 who eclipse it’s picture quality ten fold. And that is the next and final challenge for the camera makers, to give us their first full frame rangefinders.

After that, we’re all basically stuffed.  More pixels just would have to break the laws of physics to give us better pictures so the only way to step up in quality is to go to 6×4.5 sensor size. Ahh but then the 30 years of lenses would no longer work on them and the cameras would start getting enormous. Things are going to remain stuck for quite a few years until a new level of physics goes into the sensor itself.  So since we have a decade, lets get back to what makes a  truely great camera. Nikon just took the first step,