Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikon F3 - Flash Photography - Index Page

Nikon F3 MD4 SB-12.jpg (15k)
In 1975, Olympus introduced their second compact SLR camera, differed after earlier compact mechanical body of OM-1(n) debut in 1971, the second body was actually an automatic exposure (AE) camera - it was the Olympus OM2(n). It shares the same dimension and equally light weight as the earlier OM-1, but it encompasses some revolutionary and trend setting systems, especially in the area of metering, both for ambient light and flash exposure control. It measures light directly reflected from the film plane during an exposure process to assure great accuracy with or without flash.

The innovative metering system was generally referred as the current popular TTL OTF (Through the lens, Off the Film) metering method used virtually by all modern AF SLR cameras. And more amazingly, the proprietary metering was real-time and it even operates in ambient light, the Olympus OM2n, when operating in auto mode, can meter and go as low as - EV6.5 (This EV interprets into a long shutter speed of 120 sec for 50mm f1.4 at ASA 100) ! A professional class but equally compact and impressive Pentax LX introduced some 5 years later in 1980, has emulated a similar design and posted an equally impressive EV range of down to - 6.5 EV (125 sec at f1.2) to EV 20 (1/2000 sec). Just to give you a rough idea of how good that number is, the Nikon F3 has only a conservative metering range in AUTO mode from EV1-18 (1 sec at f1.4, ASA 100).

I am not so sure how Nikon and Pentax (Pentax's design was very innovative) can evade a patent claim from the Olympus's design (In the first place, I don't know to what extend the Olympus's patent covers). The Olympus could have been the pioneer but no one doubts Nikon, was the company that has refined and leap frogged TTL flash technologies to such new heights that perhaps it is beyond the originator's expectations. (Such advancement in flash technologies are best represented by current models like F90X, the awesome flash capabilities of the current F100 and the F5)

SB12 Front View.jpg
I know it is hard to use today's standard to measure an original effort by Nikon to produce their first TTL flash unit. As you can notice, only a PC terminal is provided and multi-TTL flash set up is not possible (The flash unit is used as primary flash or either in AUTO or manual flash mode - as there is no TTL socket). The flash foot is a dedicated Nikon F-3 type, if you wish to use this on a common standard ISO-type accessory shoe camera such as (Errr.. other than F2 and F), a flash coupler is required, however, also at the expense of the TTL flash exposure control feature.

You can say the TTL feature first employed in the Nikon F3 brings a new dimension to Nikon flash photography as a whole. The key advantages are automatic through-the-lens flash metering with every interchangeable finder, screen, reflex-viewing lens and lens mounted accessory ! It does this with a startling choice of two unique Nikon thyristor units during its introduction in the early eighties and followed by some newer and updated models, each offering some important similar capabilities:


Since the days of the Nikon F, the location of the accessory shoe (D) was a 'dedicated' Nikon style. The Nikon F2 was using the same design (A), but since the Nikkormat FT-2 in 1975, other Nikon bodies other than the professional level F-Series SLRs were all using the standard ISO-type hot shoe, few expected the Nikon F3, the first Nikon model incorporating TTL OTF flash exposure control would be using such a proprietary accessory shoe., although the pattern was to use proprietary on the F series.


At the top (B) is a standard hot shoe for Nikon F4 (the first Pro F-series model that decided to adopt the mainstream ISO-type accessory shoe for flash (What a relief...).
But Nikon F4 was not the first, in fact, Nikon FG in 1982 was the first popular price Nikon model that provide TTL flash exposure measurement) and since then, many other manual focus Nikon models like the FE2, FA and virtually all autofocus models were provided with TTL OTF flash exposure control as standard feature in a Nikon.

Note:Three additional electrical contacts are provided other than the X-Contact (Compared this with the FM2n's hotshoe (C).

f2flashfoot.jpg f2readylite.jpg
Although adopting a similar concept and appearing similar, both the proprietary Nikon F2 (Nikon F bodies as well) and F3's accessory shoe are not compatible. The main flash contact is actually at the side of the viewfinder housing !

Nikon F and F2-series cameras have grooves on each side and spring-loaded rails below grooves hold the flash foot securely in place. Electrical contact at the back is used to fire flash. Small electrical contact on side of viewfinder housing also makes contact with flash foot and is used to operate flash ready-light in viewfinder eyepiece.

Cross Reference: I know it may sound confusing, but I did try my best to compile some info to help your understand Nikon designed/made flash units relating to all the non-AF SB-xxxx since the original Nikon Speedlight unit and the BC-7 Bulb Flash... (sorry for diverting your attention in this page, hehe..).

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What IF you have mixed brands of Nikon SLRs such as Nikon F3 with Nikon FM2n, FEe etc ? While you have chosen the F3 as the primary TTL flash and you wish the various F3-specific flash units be able to share your other Nikon SLR with ISO-type accessory shoe ? AS-6 comes in handy here ...naturally, the compromise is - you will not be able to retain TTL flash function but the readylight function is still possible.

I am quite convinced the designer for the earlier AS-7 flash coupler for the Nikon F3 has been demoted to a nonproductive department in Nikon.

Those decision makers who have been sleeping for the last twenty years eventually woke up and took a big yawn and said "Oh... I have forgotten to announce this good news 20 years ago - ..Nikon is hereby pleased to announce the debut of an innovative Nikon Flash Unit Coupler AS-17 specially designed for the Nikon F3 cameras. This unit gives photographers TTL flash control capability for the F3 even when used with all Nikon TTL Speedlights that have an ISO-type flash mounting foot (i.e. the SB-28, SB-27, etc.)...".

AS-17 Coupler.jpg

To me, Nikon's decision is something like realizing they have made a big mistake on the F3's accessory shoe design (They have to maintain two production lines for flash units that has a special flash module for F3 and another big group with the standard ISO accessory shoe for the last 2 decades (You will find the AS-8 for the SB-16A) and another SB-17 which essentially was a replica of the SB-15 that has long been discontinued. All these added up to indicate that the SB-16A and SB-17's days could be numbered from now - AFTER a sensible commercial decision for Nikon.

AN UPDATE for flash section: Mr Andrew Kalman has Some detailed explanation to Nikon's miserable Flash Shoe issue. It deserves a good read to understand WHY but as I am NOT a service technician and I have no way to confirm whether what Mr Andrew has clarified is correct or not - but I am publishing it here for all to consume.

Well, that was not bad news after all, because the Nikon F3 can virtually use any Nikon made flash units which include the current AF models but why I felt so upset is, since those guys can resolve the F3's handling problem with flash with the AS-7, why couldn't there be something like the AS-17 that comes 20 years later ? Anyway, if such a simple 65g device could take 20 years of research to materialize, well ?

Credit: Dan Coogan from Coogan Photographic / Phoenix, AZ <> for resolving a series of broken links to the AF SB800 sections in these pages.

... that was also a sensible business decision for Nikon, but at the expense of consumers' benefits (because anyone who broke, spoilt, got stolen their flash gun(s) for the F3 has to 'contribute' some money to Nikon by buying a brand new AF flash, which currently they would only intend to retain in their production line after the debut of the great little AS-17 here, after a span of twenty years..). Hey, what am I going to do with my AS-8 and AS-9 now ?...

Highlights: Flash unit coupler for the Nikon F3 • Connects Speedlights with standard ISO-type mounting foot to the F3 • Enables TTL flash control with Nikon TTL Speedlights, including the SB-28 • Ratable hot shoe


Main function: Enables F3-type TTL control with ISO-type Speedlight units
Compatible cameras: F3-series cameras
Compatible Speedlights: SB-15, 16B, 18, 20, 21B, 22, 22s, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 21s; plus SB-11, 14 or 140 with SC-23 attached
Film speed range: ISO 25, 50, 100, 200, 400 (ISO 25 + 1/3 EV and ISO 400 -1/3 EV are possible)
Exposure compensation: -1/3, 0, +1/3 EV
Hot shoe rotation: Clockwise: 0 to 90 degree; Counter clockwise: 0 to 270 degree
Dimensions (W x H x D): 57 x 46.1 x 54.6mm
Weight (without batteries): Approx. 65g

HannuYlioja_VivitarCouplerA.jpg HannuYlioja_VivitarCouplerB.jpg /HannuYlioja_VivitarCouplerC.jpg HannuYlioja_VivitarCouplerD.jpg

<<<--- Credit: Images of these Nikon F3-Vivitar flash coupler courtesy of Mr. Hannu Ylioja| Contact|) . Images copyright © 2005 All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the respective contributing photographers.

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Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikon F3 - Flash Photography - Index Page

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