Ladies and gentlemen, here’s another rare find: The Nikon S3M.
It was released in March 1960 and was the last rangefinder camera made by Nikon.
It is unique in that it is in being the first, and only, half-frame Nikon camera ever made.
In US price lists from 1960, it is described as follows: “An S3M camera, specially adapted for 18×24 single frame photography. Takes 72 pictures on a standard 36-exposure roll. Viewfinder provides correct viewing field for 35mm, 50mm and 105mm lenses. Other features are the same as the Nikon S3.
The S3M is equipped with with an (S72) electric motor drive taking single, 2, 3 or burst exposures up to 72 frames at the rate of 4 per second.” The ‘M’ designation meant that is was designed for motorised use. Only 195 units were produced of which only 50 were made with a chrome finish.
According to Robert Rotoloni in his magnum opus “The Complete Nikon rangefinder System” only about 100 Nikon S3M ‘sets’ ever existed (S3M plus motor drive). Not only is the S3M the most unique of all rangefinder cameras but also the rarest, with a complete set with proper motor even rarer.
The viewfinder of the S3M is unique to this model. Each etched frame line is keyed individually by sliding the chrome lever on the back of the camera next to the viewfinder.
It is click-stopped for each frame line and the focal length is also visible below the frame.