Nikon S3 Review
I recently made a purchase on a Nikon S3 rangefinder camera. I am a huge rangefinder fan, and greatly prefer them over the SLR cameras. having recently made the decision to only have cameras that I use, I sold quite a few cameras that I did not use, did not like, or did not work, I was able to pull enough money together to purchase this camera (body only) from KEH. The camera was listed as EX condition, and I have to say, it is.
Having owned a few rangefinders prior to this, and having sold them for varying reasons, I started the search for another camera that I would be able to rely on. I used to own a Kiev 4a, which was based (read exact same) on the Contax IIa. I loved the design of this camera, and the photos is shot; the camera, being a Russian copy, was built to Russian standards, and the film spacing was never consistant.
The Nikon rangefinder was based somewhat on the Contax as well in that they have the same mount (slightly different) and the same focus wheel. Naturally, being a Nikon shooter, and having already fallen for the contax style, the Nikon was in my sights.
This camera was introduced in 1958, after the more professional version, the Nikon SP. The S3 is basically the same thing, with a different viewfinder patch, etched frames lines as opposed to the selectable framelines of the SP. The SP also had a second viewfinder for wider lenses next to the main viewfinder.
The Nikon S3 has a 1:1 finder, so you can shoot and compose with both eyes open. I dont find this feature to be too useful, as I always shoot with one eye closed. The SP and the S2 also have a 1:1 finder, the M and S do not have this feature.
This camera, unlike the Kiev or Contax has a lever advance as well as a retractable lever film rewind. This is a very underrated feature until you have a camera that does not have one. The Nikon S that I owned prior to this had a simple knob advance that was taxing and frustrating. the lever advance is awesome.
Another upgrade of this camera over the S/S2 is the non-rotating shutter speed dial. When you set the shutter speed on the S or S2 and fired the shutter, the speed dial would rotate 360 degrees, if your finger was in the way, it would stop the dial and stop the shutter, which could ruin a shot; this does not happen with the S3, as the camera has a stationary dial. Once the speed is set, the dial stays until you need to change speeds.
I have an external viewfinder on my Nikon S3 because I shoot with a Voigtlander 21mm lens. This lens is too wide for the viewfinder on the camera. For whatever reason, and I am very thankful that they did, Voigtlander decided to come out with some modern lenses for the Nikon S mount. These lenses contain all the modern lens advances that others do, but have mount on the old Nikon/Contax cameras. As I mostly prefer to shoot wide, I purchased the widest available from Camera Quest, the 21mm F4 lens. The lens compliments the camera very well, as it has a solid build, much like the camera.
I also own the typical Nikkor 50mm 1.4, though I do not use it as much as the 21mm. Both lenses have a very low profile, especially compared to the larger SLR cameras.
I am still running the first few rolls of film through this camera, though I can see it being a staple in my bag, right next to my Yashica LM
Although I know it would never happen, I would not be upset if Nikon decided to re-enter the rangefinder market with a digital version of this camera, I'm sure it would be a hot seller.