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.
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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.
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