The Nikon F3AF is a notable camera in the history of Nikon. Introduced in 1983, it was Nikon’s first autofocus (AF) single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, marking a significant milestone in the development of autofocus technology in SLR cameras.

Development and Design: The F3AF was developed during a time when camera manufacturers were racing to integrate autofocus technology into their cameras. Nikon’s main competitors, Canon and Minolta, had already introduced their AF SLRs. Nikon felt the pressure to catch up and began working on the F3AF in the late 1970s, building upon the success of its highly regarded Nikon F3, which was introduced in 1980.

The Nikon F3AF featured a similar design to the F3, with a few modifications. The camera was built around the same compact and sturdy body, with a modular design that allowed users to customize it with various accessories and finders. The main difference was the addition of the autofocus system.

Autofocus System: The F3AF’s autofocus system was based on a TTL (through-the-lens) phase-detection method, using a CCD (charge-coupled device) sensor to measure the phase difference and adjust the focus accordingly. This was a significant advancement at the time, as it allowed for faster and more accurate autofocus than the contrast-detection method used in earlier systems.

The F3AF’s autofocus system was integrated into the camera body, but it also relied on the use of dedicated AF lenses. Nikon introduced two AF lenses specifically for the F3AF, the AF Nikkor 80mm f/2.8 and AF Nikkor 200mm f/3.5 ED-IF. These lenses featured an internal motor that communicated with the camera body to adjust focus.

Notably, the F3AF was also compatible with Nikon’s extensive range of manual focus lenses (AI-S and AI lenses), making it a versatile option for photographers transitioning to autofocus technology.

Reception and Legacy: Despite its groundbreaking autofocus technology, the Nikon F3AF was met with mixed reviews. Its autofocus system was considered slower and less reliable than those offered by Canon and Minolta, and its reliance on dedicated AF lenses limited its appeal to professionals who already owned a collection of manual focus lenses.

The F3AF was also a relatively expensive camera, which further limited its adoption. Nikon eventually discontinued the F3AF in 1985, just two years after its introduction. However, the F3AF’s development played a crucial role in Nikon’s understanding of autofocus technology and paved the way for the company’s future AF SLRs, like the Nikon F4 and F5.

Although the F3AF was not a commercial success, it remains an important milestone in the history of autofocus technology and Nikon’s evolution as a leading camera manufacturer. Today, the Nikon F3AF is appreciated by collectors and enthusiasts for its unique place in the history of photography and its role in the development of modern autofocus systems.