The Nikon FM3a is quite simply a dream camera for anyone who shoots manual 35mm film SLRs. The body is solid (but light enough) and it has the full suite of mechanical and electronic features coupled with fantastic handling, a bright and big viewfinder, and a failsafe needle metering system.
Why do I like the FM3a so much? It provides me flexibility in what I photograph and when I photograph it. Its fully mechanical shutter up to 1/4000s easily handles HP5 pushed up to two stops in full daylight (typically only N+1). The body with the 50mm Ai-s f/1.8 attached is compact enough to carry around all day in the city or to go hiking with. The sound of the shutter and the ratchet on the film advance are that of a well made machine – this camera simply goes and goes and goes. As Ken Rockwell says, “The Nikon FM3a is one of the very best cameras ever made by Nikon, or anyone. The Nikon FM3a incorporates every good feature of its forerunners… and retains none of the bad.”* I also love that this camera was made in the early 2000s – hopefully it means it will last well into the future.
But its not just a machine, the camera looks good too. The chrome version (which I have) with its black detailing its visually simple and stunning. I’ve paired it with a handmade black Hawkesmill leather camera strap which I also can’t recommend highly enough. If I had to rely on a single camera & lens combination to travel the world with, this would be it. Everything you need and nothing you don’t.
The other good news is, as far as cameras go these days, they are pretty affordable. The suite of lenses available to use on this camera (pretty much every Nikkor lens up to the current G-series) are fairly priced as well.
*For all the specs and technical details, eat your heart out here: https://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/fm3a.htm