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The Nikon F3 was Nikon's third professional single-lens reflex camera body, preceded by the F and F2. Introduced in 1980, it had manual and semi-automatic exposure control whereby the camera would select the correct shutter speed (aperture priority automation). The Nikon F3 series cameras had the most model variations of any Nikon F camera. It was also the first of numerous Nikon F-series cameras to be styled by Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, and to include a red stripe on the handgrip – a feature that would later become (with variants of stripes and various other shapes) a signature feature of many Nikon cameras.
The F2AS was a current model when the F3 was introduced, and for a while both were sold concurrently. The earlier Nikons had developed such a sterling reputation for extreme ruggedness and durability that many Nikon F and F2 owners were initially reluctant to transition to the new F3 from the F2 series, particularly due to the new camera needing batteries to operate. The F3 was superseded by the F4 in 1988 and the F5 in 1996. Despite being superseded by the newer cameras, it remained in production through to 2001, with over 751,000 F3s produced through September 1992. It continues to be the longest running professional grade Nikon SLR. Long after production ceased, new bodies in boxes were available throughout the world, so an exact production number is not readily available.
Initially, the F3 model with the DE-2 eye-level finder was introduced, soon followed by the popular F3HP, or High Point camera, with the DE-3 High Eyepoint prism/finder. The major advantage of this finder was that the entire viewfinder image could be seen from a distance of 2.5 cm from the viewfinder. This made the F3 more usable by those who wear glasses when shooting, or were forced to shoot in high-glare situations while wearing sunglasses. The only down-side to this was a smaller image through the viewfinder compared to the standard prism. With the exception of the "P" spec camera, all viewfinders are completely interchangeable. The F3 and F3HP retained the flash mount on the rewind dial, which (with flash mounted) obstructed that area of the camera.
A significantly more durable, robust titanium version of the F3HP was also offered, called the "F3/T", initially in a more natural titanium finish or 'champagne' coloring, and later in a less conspicuous black. It weighs 20 grams less than the comparable F3. The champagne offering was introduced in 1982 and was quickly discontinued around 1985, making it the rarer (and costlier on the used market) of the two titanium models. The F3/T featured titanium clad viewfinders (DE-4), titanium back, titanium top and bottom plates. It also benefited from the conformal coating of the internal circuit board. The mechanical specifications between the black finished F3/T and the natural finish F3/T were identical.