New to the collection: Nikon FM3a and Bronica ETR-Si

I have two new additions to the camera collection: a Nikon FM3a and a Bronica ETR-Si. I bought both of these cameras off eBay, which just goes to show that it’s possible to find decent deals online if you know what to look for — and are willing to shell out cash during a period of time when few others are able to do so, e.g. during the Christmas season.

The Nikon FM3a

I’m a big fan of the Nikon “prosumer” camera lines from the 80’s. Sure, the Nikon F2, F3, and F4 are beautiful cameras and legendary to boot, but I’ve always liked the combination of size, specs, and affordability that the likes of the Nikon FE, FE2, FM, FM2, and FA offered.

My Nikon FM3a, equipped with a 24mm f/2 lens.

The Nikon FM3a takes the same camera body style I adore so much and pretty much makes it perfect. It has the fast shutter speeds of a Nikon FE2 or FM2, aperture priority auto-exposure like an FE2, the ability to run completely mechanically like an FM2, and allows me to shoot frames 00 and 0 like an FE. While the camera looks old, it’s actually quite new, having been made in this millennium and not the last.

I found this black FM3a on eBay. Not a perfectly pristine collector piece, but also not a dented overly worn out workhorse camera either — in other words, perfect for someone like me who wants a camera that looks nice but is not so nice that I’m afraid to shot the damn thing.

The camera also included a manual focus Nikon 35mm f/2 AI-S lens. As I already have a AF-D version of the Nikon 35mm f/2, I didn’t need the AI-S lens, even if the older lens is nicer to use on manual focus cameras. As such, I figured that I could sell the lens and recoup some of the cost of the camera.

The opening bid for the greatest manual focus Nikon SLR ever? $500. I managed to win it for the opening bid. Sweet!

Assuming I get $100 when I sell the lens, I’ll have a really nice Nikon FM3a for $400. Considering that most other Nikon FM3a cameras in good condition routinely sell for $600 or more, that’s a deal I’m happy with!

The Bronica ETR-Si

I stole this camera.

I was browsing eBay for a 40mm lens for my Bronica ETR, as I’ve already got 50mm, 75mm, and 150mm lenses but desired the widest ETR lens of them all. There is a healthy business in Japan wherein buyers find minty clean film cameras and sell them to folks here in the United States. This camera was from one of many Japanese eBay listings.

Bronica ETR-Si with a 40mm lens and 135w back.

I once had two Bronica ETR camera bodies, but decided that I didn’t need two bodies, and sold one to my friend Perry along with a pair of lenses. It wasn’t my intention to get another ETR body, but if I could get a nice body and a 40mm lens together for a good price, I wouldn’t mind.

This Bronica looked promising. For one, it was an ETR-Si, which is functionally meaningless when compared to my older ETR when it comes to taking pictures, but at least it wasn’t another ETR. (Sure, there were changes for the metered prism, mirror lockup, a lighter weight body, and whatever. Don’t care.) It also had the 40mm lens that I so desired. And it had the ETR-Si specific AE prism, which was a bonus, and a hand crank film advance, which wasn’t a bonus but was at least different from my speed grip-equipped Bronica.

As I was looking closely at the pictures, I spotted something interesting. The camera was priced at $400, a bit high for a Bronica ETR series camera, but nothing unreasonable for a camera body with a slightly rare lens and a standard film back. The camera, however, wasn’t equipped with a standard 120 or 220 roll film back — it had one of the extremely rare (and extremely valuable!) 35mm panoramic film back!

How did I know? Because I had just spent $400 weeks prior on a single Bronica 135w film back myself, buying it from another Japanese eBayer and having it shipped to my front door.

It didn’t take me long to make the decision to hit “Buy It Now”.

So now I’ve got two Bronica ETR series camera bodies, and all of the ETR lenses that I want. I also have two 135w panoramic film backs where I only really need one, so the plan is to sell the spare one for at least $300 to recoup some of the cost of buying and shipping the camera here.

In the end, I may end up paying only about $100 for a Bronica ETR-Si film body and a 40mm lens. Another deal I’m happy with, made possible only by a seller who didn’t quite know what he/she had.

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