To be perfectly honest, I’m a sucker for mechanical match needle SLRs. They’re simple, elegant and great to learn on and even now still a joy to shoot. The FT3 is just that, an easy to use, fun camera that can if needed double as a self-defense weapon. The sad part is that the FT3 only was made for a few months before being superseded by the Nikon FM. A unique creature among the more consumer oriented Nikkormat lines the FT3 can use AI and AI-S lenses even if they don’t have the coupling claw. Sadly you won’t be able to use the Non-AI glass that many Nikkormat shooters love.
Model: Nikkormat FT3
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 35mm, 24×35
Lens: Interchangeable, Nikon F Mount (AI)
Year of Manufacture: 1977-1979
The FT3 is a strong camera, hands down. The best part about it is that it can take AI/AI-S lenses, unlike previous Nikkormat models. Which means you have a solid lineup of glass available to you as well as inexpensive Nikon Series E which you shouldn’t dismiss out of hand. And while this is a slightly more modern camera it feels like one made in the 1950s or 1960s, but it still feels great in the hand. And as an added touch, I like the round film counter window adds a nice retro look to it. Combine the look, feel, and weight with a short throw on the film advance you have a comfortable camera to use. The FT3 is also built like a brick so you can easily take it into almost any situation and it will come out on top. And finally, there’s battery power, while not needed (thankfully) it takes a normal silver oxide cell, so you don’t have to worry about keeping the meter running.
Sadly the FT3 will not accept the Non-AI lenses; the coupling pin is missing from the camera body. While not a big issue for me as I have all AI/AI-S glass, it could be for someone who is using it to replace an older Nikkormat body. There are a few usability issues that I have with the camera that could be just because of age and my unfamiliarity with them. The first is the shutter speed control. The shutter speed dial is located on the lens mount, and while there is a nice handle, it is still not visible in the viewfinder which makes it a little difficult to operate the camera. Additionally, the slider for setting the film speed is a bit awkward to use as it is connected to a locking section of the shutter control handle. And last is a jumpy meter which could mean the camera just needs a good Clean, Lube, Adjust, but I have gotten good at catching a right meter reading before it jumps around. But since the FT3 is mechanical I can always fall back on Sunny-16.
The FT3 is the perfect camera if you want a solid mechanical camera that won’t break the bank, and already have a collection of AI/AI-S glass. And even though they don’t say ‘Nikon’ on the front doesn’t mean they don’t have the same quality. And if the older Nikkormats are just as good as the FT3 the whole series of cameras gets my blessing. Just watch out and get one that can use the lenses you have on the model as older Nikkormats require you to have the coupling claws present on the lens.
Photos taken in Toronto, Ontario
Nikon Nikkormat FT3 – AI-S Nikkor 50mm 1:1.4 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-100 – Kodak D-23 (Stock) 6:00 @ 20C