This Nikon F3 Was Made for NASA and Actually Went to Space

You can get your hands on this rare Nikon F3 that’s surely a piece of history.

It’s sporadic that something like this actually appears. But when it does, it’s truly exciting. What we have here is an incredibly rare Nikon F3. Specifically, this is a variant of the Nikon F3 that was made for NASA. However, there’s a special cherry to top this wonderful sundae off. In fact, there’s evidence that this specific Nikon F3 went to space.

According to the listing, this Nikon F3 has astronaut instructions on it. That was only done if the camera indeed went to space. Others were sold off ASAP. And I completely understand why! Only around 50 of these cameras were ever made. The seller isn’t the only one to say this. We’ve reported on cameras like this before, and another seller said the exact same thing. In our previous coverage, we stated:

“The Nikon F3 was introduced in 1980 and is still considered today as Nikon’s finest manual focus camera. Early in the decade, NASA collaborated with Nikon to modify the F3 for Space Shuttle Program. This partnership produced several variations for the so-called NASA F3 cameras, including the “small” and “big” versions. The former was fitted with a motor drive while the latter came with interchangeable film backs and longer film for bulk loading.”

According to Nikon’s website, this camera was made in 1981. Gear for NASA is made to some very insane specifications. If you’re a fan of watches, you probably know the story of the Omega Speedmaster. It was one of the only things that worked. And Nikon is very proud of the F3’s durability. In fact, their website gives this golden nugget:

“The F3 models for NASA, and those for mass consumption, were developed side-by-side at the Ohi Plant. Another special team was assigned to the development of the F3 for NASA. The “Big Camera” was equipped with an interchangeable film back and used a thinner special long film for bulk loading. Members of the special team needed to concentrate on developing a new technology that would accelerate film advancement. After much effort and brainstorming, they solved the problem and succeeded in delivering the cameras for the space shuttle. The F3 for NASA had many of the same features as the F3 for mass consumption, including internal parts. Compared to the modified F models for NASA, the F3 for NASA was much more similar to the F3 models made for the public.”

The price of this relic? A casual flex of $24,950. That’s almost my yearly rent here in NYC. 

Who knows?! Maybe someone that’s an avid Nikon fan might want to sign up for the next Space X mission. Then you’ll bring some film up there and have a little bit of history in your hands as you go shooting. Of course, that’s a far stretch. But this Nikon F3 is in excellent condition. It includes the special NASA viewfinder, focusing screen, camera back, etc. If you pick this up and want to shoot with it, buy a giant roll of film. As it is, I don’t know many folks who freeze film in bulk and roll it themselves anymore. Besides, this camera belongs in a safe or a carefully cared for collection.

All images from the listing by allgoneby2000

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.