A lot has been written about the famous Nikon F3, so I decided to make it a little bit more personal and tell the story of how I shot my first roll of film in a Nikon camera.

So, I was there in the middle of the lockdown, a cinematographer choosing to sell my digital camera to a dear friend, in part because I didn’t have had almost any job during this time, we were moving to a new apartment and in part to force my self to use more film. I usually shot on a Canon EOS Rebel K2, which I had since college, but lately, it was consuming a lot of CR2 batteries and in México City they have become expensive and hard to find. So I was shooting less and less film.

The friend to whom I sold my camera gave me as a gift a pack of 5 Portra 400 rolls, for a documentary we were working on, but at this time I didn’t have any batteries. Anyway, this wasn’t a big problem because he gave me one of his Nikon F3‘s with a Nikon 50 mm f/1.8 Series E to use, he decided to lend me his camera for a few weeks after we finished the documentary. Before he left, he told me “you really should try this one, you’ll love it”.

Fast forward two months later I was going to shoot a music video. Minutes before leaving my home I remembered that the F3 was lying there on my desk, so I grabbed a couple of rolls of film and the camera. As soon as I arrived at the location I realized that the battery had died. Being used to use a “modern” film camera, at first I thought that I wasn’t going to be able to shoot any film that day, but as I was thinking of this I said to myself “isn’t this one of the most venerable Nikon cameras? I might be able to use it in some way” and I was right. A couple of minutes later after searching on the internet I learned that the camera can shoot at a fixed speed of 1/60 without a battery. So there I was switching my light meter between 1/60 and 24 fps all day long.

The more I used the camera, the more I got in love with it. It’s easy to use, comfortable, and being the first time I used a Nikon for more than just a couple of shots I can tell that this camera is built to last. I loved the viewfinder I even removed it a couple of times and used it as a waist-level finder just to impress the band I was working for. Last but not least its small size makes it easy to carry it around the set all day long.

My scenes for the music video were all lit with tungsten lights. With all the fuzz in the set, I didn’t remember that Portra is balanced to daylight until lunchtime when my assistant asked me what kind of film I was using. It was a bit of a surprise, but I decided to continue shooting without filtering and correct the color in post-production, just to see how capable the film was to recover the real colors.

As you can see in my results, bringing back the real colors wasn’t a big problem, the film performed in a great way, as could be expected from a Portra film.

At the end of the shooting days, I was really happy to carry the Nikon F3 with me. I ended loving it. I already shot a lot more with it, my first roll of Kodak Vision 3 film, but that’s material for another article.

~ Fernando

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About the author

Fernando Cum

I'm a cinematographer, living and working in México City. I'm currently on a quest for shooting more and more film, at least 1 a month.

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1 Comment

 

  1. simply perfect
    Exceptional images
    and show :
    F3 still a winner and beauty
    Portra 400 an other winner
    Nikon 50mmf1.8 serie E a great winner despite not expensive at all.
    Why ?
    All is belong the photographer. When he has great talent like you, it gives great images with any gear, there it serves him.