Question about Nikon F3 35mm Film Camera

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Just put in new 357 batteries and shutter still wont go

Brand new batteries where put in, no display will come up, and shutter wont go. Only works with manual lever

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There are realistically only a few things you can do on a DIY basis to try and solve this.

Check that the batteries are correctly inserted and that the battery chamber is clean and free of all corrosion. The battery chamber contacts should be bright and clean. The batteries also need to clean and often won't work if they were inserted using bare hands: an alcohol wipe will clean off any grease and if you must use your bare hands to reinsert them make sure to handle the batteries only by the sides.

If all this checks out OK then there's nothing else you can do and your camera will need professional attention. What often happens is that the foam parts of the camera used as light seals/baffles degrade into a corrosive sticky goo. Replacing the external light seals and mirror bumper is tricky but is a DIY job, but most people don't realise that the glass pentaprism (under the bump on top of the camera) also has a foam covering. As this degrades it can leave marks in the viewfinder image but more importantly it attacks the flexible printed circuit board (pcb) where it passes over the top of the prism. Sometimes the fault is with the mode selector switch, but this is less likely as you have a dead viewfinder display which is more typical of a pcb failure. Also if the camera has been stored in humid conditions with batteries inserted then another common fault is known as black-wire corrosion: this is where the wires which are soldered to the cattery contacts corrode inside the insulative sheath; the wires appear normal on a casual inspection but they no longer conduct electricity. This can be a cheap fix but only if the corrosion has not yet spread to other wires or to the pcb. If it has then it's usually best to look for another F3 and use yours as a mechanical spares donor.

The bad news is that a failed pcb cannot usually be fixed, but the good news is that most F3 spares are easy to get either as new or used items. A full clean service & adjust (CLA) including foam replacement requires that the pcb is temporarily removed anyway, so the labour costs to swap it completely for a spare are not dramatically higher than the normal CLA + foam replacement. Foam replacement is usually a one-off job as modern materials do not degrade like the originals. After a good CLA your camera will be good for many more years of regular amateur use.

I live in the UK and usually expect to pay around £100 for this type of repair (plus parts) with a typical six week turnaround. When I visit the USA the standard turnaround is about the same (unless I pay up to 100% more for a rush job) and the price is almost the same but the spare parts are usually much cheaper or even free if salvaged from another camera. If you travel a fair bit, then there is an excellent place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia which does top quality repairs quickly and cheaply. If you need their details then add a comment and I'll add them in a reply. Good, used F3 bodies typically start at around £130 for an unserviced but working example and around £230-£250 for a fully serviced model with new foam. Pristine examples with all the work done can go for much higher depending on whether they are still in the original box and also upon whether the sale has attracted collectors.

Sorry if my answer has not fixed your camera, but I hope it will help you to decide whether it's worth getting repaired professionally or not. Either way I'd be grateful if you'd return the favour and rate my answer.

Posted on Oct 01, 2009

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