If ever a camera has achieved iconic status it is the Nikon F3T. Coveted by collectors, used heavily by photojournalists in the 1980s and 90s, the Nikon F3T was easily voted “Camera most likely to be working after having been beat to hell.”
The first thing you’ll notice if you find a nice one for sale is that they’ve managed to hold their value fairly well. In average condition they sell on EBay for around $600. This price has held fairly consistent for the past several years. A mint F3T in its box can easily fetch $1,600.00 or more. What will your digital camera be worth in 25 years?
The most impressive feature associated with the F3T is the cool factor. Yes, it’s made with titanium. Yes, it’s virtually indestructible. Yes, it looks like a million bucks slung around your neck. But it’s that “T” that follows the “F3 that really pumps your ego. I mean, who the hell really needs a camera made out of titanium? Yes, it’s lighter than the ordinary (pronounced in the fashion of a sleepy southern belle: orrrdinnnarrry) F3, but unless you’re a finely tuned balance scale, you won’t be able to tell the difference. At least I can’t tell the difference. If you add a lens and the MD4 motor winder then what’s really the difference between 1 brick and 1.1 bricks?
I like my digital cameras for their convenience but digital cameras leave me cold. It’s the difference between drinking tea and enjoying a tea ceremony. The digital camera revitalized the photography market and changed society forever. But didn’t photography do the same thing to the world of art when it was first invented? Yes, but I digress. I enjoy the process continuum employed to coax a fine image from a film negative. I own every Ansel Adams book and have read each several times. I enjoy the feeling of opening the developing tank after the fixer stage, slowly unwinding the film from its reel, and seeing the images scroll past one at a time. I just don’t get that same feeling when I upload a thousand digital pictures to iPhoto. If you feel the same way, please send me an email and I’ll be happy to post your thoughts on this site.
What I’ve come to believe as a personal philosophy is that film and digital photography will coexist and in fact engage in a symbiotic relationship for many decades to come, if not forever. Here’s why: They each serve unique purposes. For the same reasons the 35mm camera did not kill large format, digital will not kill film. (Well, digital killed Kodachrome, sadly.) The 35mm camera invented by Leica introduced convenience. (Sound familiar?) Yet many photographers, including myself, still reach for their large format cameras simply because the unique images they are capable of producing cannot be reproduced with a fixed-image-plane camera be it film or digital. It’s a matter of aesthetics.
Actually, the most impressive thing about the Nikon F3T is that it will still be around and working 25 years from now. And your digital camera? Where will it be?