Less than the sum of its parts? The Nikon F3P, a press camera

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Back in the day, the “stock” Nikon F3 was so popular amongst Japanese photojournalists that Nikon decided to make a “Press” or “Professional” version to the Japanese market. Apparently, only accredited photojournalists could get their hands on one of these babies, so only limited quantities were produced until… Nikon decided to make extra ones called the F3LE (LE for Limited Edition).

Here’s a very quick review of one that recently entered my posession.


The Nikon F3P has a lot of modifications over the stock F3 model, essentially suit the kind of work of a photojournalist. This involved the removal of many irrelevant / not-so-relevant features and modified it so that it would make the process of taking photos and reloading much, much faster. The camera also had ruggedised features and better weather sealing to suit tough working environment. In effect, this camera was made to be beaten.

A full list follows:


Nikon F3P modifications

Textured titanium-finish pentaprism viewfinder for increased sturdiness.

  1. A new finder (DE-5), with an ISO-type accessory shoe with flash and ready light contacts located on the top of the pentaprism viewfinder. (TTL flash photography is NOT possible when Nikon Speedlights are attached to the new accessory shoe). For that, you will need the AS-17 flash coupler.
  2. Focusing Screen Type B (matte screen) as a standard,
  3. A new databack (MF-6B) with auto rewind stop when used in conjunction with Motor Drive MD-4. It would leave the film leader sticking out of the 35mm cassette.
  4. A new mechanical shutter release lock – push in and set the lock release lever to its red mark to release the lock control. I believe this is much quicker and better weather seal .
  5. Round film counter window.
  6. Film counter numerals in white.
  7. ASA/ISO film speed setting dial window cover.
  8. Taller shutter speed dial and shutter release button (to be aid shooting with gloves on)

The following features have been removed from the Nikon F3 High-Eyepoint camera in accordance with the new modifications:

  1. The 1/80 second shutter speed control until film counter reaches the first frame.
  2. Multiple exposure lever.
  3. Self-timer lever and self-timer LED.
  4. Camera back lock lever (pull the film rewind knob up to immediately open the film door).
  5. Cable release threaded hole in shutter release button. Like legit, even if you take the rubber cover off it’d be just a normal shutter, it wasn’t threaded from the beginning.
  6. Eyepiece shutter and eyepiece shutter lever.

My experience with the Nikon F3P (and the Nikkor S.C-Auto 55/1.2 and Nikon 20mm f/4 Ai)

Righto, I won’t bored you with the technicality, everyone can Google that. 

The standard F3P comes with the MF-6B back (with its auto film stop when used the MD-4 winder). If I use it without the MD-4 it’ll be crooked. So, I got myself a broken MF-14 because I’m a cheapskate and would rather invest in lenses instead of motor drives. And I got my two favourite lenses in the world: the Nikkor S.C-Auto 55mm f/1.2 and the Nikon 20mm f/4 Ai. 


My experience with the F3P is that it’s… a rather interesting camera. As someone who loves landscapes and long exposure, using the Nikon F3P is a very different experience. As I mentioned, the F3P does not have a threaded cable release or timer, so the Bulb function is pretty much useless.

It completely changed my shooting mindset, style, and how I approach photography in general. If you want this camera for landscape, the longest exposure you can shoot on the tripod is 8 seconds, as the Bulb mode would be useless if you press and hold it with your hand, even on the tripod as it would still cause some vibration. 

I must say, to me, this is like a cut-down version of the Nikon F3HP but more expensive. But of course, less is sometimes better (or that’s what I keep telling myself after spending ~$700 on the camera because there were only 2 F3Ps in Vietnam at the time of this review, one in Ho Chi Minh City and one in Hanoi). As this camera cuts down so many things, it makes me shoot more and think less about the technicalities (in my book it’s a good thing because I tend to think too much and miss the shot).

The on-off button is much quicker to use, you just press in and move to the red dot for the camera work, definitely faster than the standard F3. The removal of the 1/80th shutter release, until you reach the first frame, is definitely a plus, more metered shot, so I only need to turn the camera on and shoot, less thinking, more shooting, YAY!.

In terms of metering, I do enjoy the F3’s metering system. It’s the only manual camera that I would trust it with my slide films and one of only a few film cameras in general (the Nikon F6 and F5/100). The F3P’s A mode is super accurate. I’d say more accurate than a lot of the non-pro camera out there, including the FM3a or the FA’s matrix. Although, please don’t hate me on this, it’s just my experience with these cameras.

I have everything from 35mm all the way to 4×5 and if I can only keep one, the Nikon F3P is my choice.

One really annoying thing about this camera is the DE-5 prism. Nikon made the DE-5 with an integrated the hot shoe but then didn’t allow the shoe to use TTL flashes. Why? Without Nikon’s AS-17 flash coupler mounted I have to do flash calculations when my Nikon SB-24 flash is mounted. Not that I complain or anything but TTL flash would be nicer. Still, the hot shoe is definitely convenient when I want to mount the trigger on top of the camera. 

I pair my F3P the “soft” Nikkor SC-Auto 55mm f/1.2 and the ridiculously low-distortion Nikkor 20mm f/4 Ai. I use both of these lenses for portraits and street photography. 


So, is the Nikon F3P like the title says, “less than the sum of its parts”?

Well, there’s no denying it’s certainly a cut-down yet more expensive version of the Nikon F3HP but on the other hand, its metering is excellent and it does everything it can to get out of the way to squeeze every possible economy from each roll you put into it. That counts for a lot when my main motivation is getting out there and burning through several rolls of film!

Thanks for reading my short review!

~ Trevor

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2 thoughts on “Less than the sum of its parts? The Nikon F3P, a press camera”

  1. I love that camera, i had my F2 for such a long time and trust me, my pictures were better than with any existing modern gear, besides those babies were made for anything, dust, hits,,bumps etc,etc. light metering was the best, I really wanted the F3 but by the time I saved my money, I was onto some other model.

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