First Roll With: Nikon F3 by Kevin Dao
Gear: Nikon F3 w/ 50mm f1.4 Lens
Film:  Kodak Gold 200 (pushed to 400)
Dev + Scan:  Rewind Photo Lab

I must preface this entry by saying the Nikon F3 is a remarkable camera. It’s the halfway house of the camera world- the transition point between the days of all mechanical where patience was more than just a virtue and the current age of digital where patience is just a preference. If you are looking to experiment within and beyond the limitations of film- look no further. Astrophotography? Long exposures? Multiple exposures? Improperly exposing photos because you’re not familiar with 80:20 centre weighted metering with a manual system? An improvised defensive tool for the late-night trips home?

You can do it all with the venerable Nikon F3.

Hello readers- new to or familiar with film. My name is Kevin Dao and I am a property major working in banking that lives in Western Sydney. Photography for me began during exposure therapy and has since turned into a hobby. I have shot film exclusively for the past three months- first with my father’s point and shoot Epoca 135 and now with the Nikon F3.

I wouldn’t say I have an area of focus in my photography. I enjoy challenges- personal or technical- so to me every shot represents steps in overcoming and learning. I find that film encourages one to learn from their mistakes. You don’t have gigabytes of instantly accessible images to experiment with. Instant results never enthused me - even when I shot digital long exposures excited me the most because of the wait. There is something special about not knowing when dropping off a roll to be developed- something terrifying yet ultimately necessary in order to develop as a photographer - especially on a SLR like the F3.

Shooting on film has helped me learn to let go- to understand that not everything needs to be captured or remembered. Film photography to me is also about experimenting within the camera with the subjects available. I particularly enjoying making a mess of rolls by doing double- triple and sometimes quadruple exposures with the F3. Seriously- the F3 multiple exposure lever is a lot of fun.

The Nikon F3 used was purchased from Beginning Film. It is the first system camera of any type I bought following a search for a 35mm SLR with a removable prism to replicate the waist level viewfinder of my Epoca 135. Like a true beginner to film, my purchase was not without its many silly questions but fortunately the folks at Beginning were nice enough to give me the benefit of the doubt and answer my inquiries promptly. 

The F3 has given me the opportunity to shoot with a manual lens for the first time and what a joy they are to operate. It gives you a lot of respect for professionals of the past and is quite a humbling experience.

If there is anything negative, I can say about the F3- the ISO/ASA dial is a little awkward to handle so I personally have shot exclusively at one ISO setting so far. Also, the weight of the F3 reminded me to get a better tripod. There is a double exposure among these pictures where the F3 dipped when I engaged the advance lever. Nikon lens aren’t too badly priced so if you’re looking for your first or last SLR- I would still highly recommend the F3 for film photography. I hope you all enjoy a few shots from my roll with the Nikon F3.

Connect with Kevin!

Instagram: @cozziethecobber

All images and text shown in this post is provided to us by Kevin Dao.


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"First Roll With" is a blog series dedicated to those initial moments spent with your camera or lens. "First Roll With" is open to all levels of photographers, whether it's your first film camera or your 100th, we welcome you to share with us your own unique perspectives and experiences!

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