The unique, the desirable, and hard to come by Nikon FM3a was the final FM model SLR produced by Nikon and exclusively for the Japanese market. But this is an FM camera that isn’t 100% and FM camera, you may have noticed the A in the model, and there’s a good reason for it, the camera is more a best of both worlds. All you love about the FM series and all you like about the FE series in one beautiful camera that will have you wanting one of your own to replace your FMs and FEs. Big thanks to James Lee for loaning out not only the FM3a but the MD-12 drive that goes along with it.
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 135 (35mm), 36x24mm
Lens: Interchangeable, Nikon F-Mount
Year of Manufacture: 2001-2006
As I mentioned in the introduction, the FM3a is the perfect hybrid of the iconic FM and FE series of cameras. Like the FE there is an A mode, this sets the camera into Aperture priority for semi-automatic functionality combine that with a centre-weighted spot meter and you’re laughing. But if you want to run the camera in mechanical mode, just set your shutter speed and aperture and follow the easy to reach match-needle inside the big bright viewfinder. The finder is just as bright as the one you’d find in the FE2. But what sets this camera apart from the FE, is that even without batteries, you can still operate the camera (just without the meter) as it maintains it’s full range of mechanical shutter speeds that you have access in Aperture priority mode. The camera itself is easy to handle, light, all the knobs and dials are where you want them, it is a photographer’s camera. Not to mention it looks good!
While mechanically and electronically there is absolutely nothing wrong with the camera, it’s fairly new with even the last production ones just over a decade old at this point and having modern electronics and construction there are two things that set this camera apart from the other cameras of the same style from Nikon. And these are cost and supply. Being a limited run camera, the FM3a was made specifically for the Japanese market and only for five years (short for Nikon considering the FA saw production for four years). So the chances of finding one on the used market in North America is possible but rare. The second issue is cost, these cameras, due to their scarcity command a large price tag. I did a quick check on eBay and came across no cameras under the 500$ mark, most averaging between 620 on the low end and 1500 on the high end.
Your chances of purchasing an FM3a are slim, but if you’re willing to shell out top dollar, you will be getting the ultimate semi-automatic, manual focus camera, that Nikon produced in the post-2000 era. It won’t let you down; you can use all your AI and Ai-S even AF-D lenses on the camera without any major loss of functionality. The camera’s meter is spot on, and it is incredibly lightweight. I do recommend getting the MD-12 drive for it as it gives great balance, an easier power source (AA batteries), and makes the camera sound amazing when operating. Oh, and yes, you can get them with the chrome top plate as well.
All Photos Taken in Burlington, Ontario, Canada
Nikon FM3a – AI-S Nikkor 35mm 1:2.8 – FPP EDU 100 (ORWO UN54+) @ ASA-100
Kodak HC-110 Dil. H 7:30 @ 20C