Looking for information on older MF Nikons

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by Fountainhead, Sep 20, 2003.

  1. Fountainhead

    Fountainhead Guest

    I'd like to pick up an older (70's era...FE, FM??) manual focus Nikon
    body, mostly for fun. It would not be my primary camera. Can anyone
    point me to a comprehensive resource that covers the features and
    desirability of Nikons from this period. I don't want to spend a huge
    amount of money on this (so no F3's).

    Also, would any of the MF Nikons from this period ba able to use modern
    D lenses...specifically, the 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor (obviously, sans AF).

    Thanks for any direction.
    Fountainhead, Sep 20, 2003
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  2. Fountainhead

    Rafe B. Guest

    These are fine cameras but getting a bit long in the tooth.

    A mint FE2 will set you back around $350.

    A good, useable FE body with a few scratches and
    some brassing might go for $150.

    Problem is that if/when they break they will be difficult
    to repair. My FE (bought new in 1980) is still functional
    but getting a bit cranky, in spite of a couple of visits
    back to the repair shop. I still love using it, in spite of
    its occasional hiccups.

    They will mount AF-D lenses (works OK on my FE.)

    Phil Greenspun's site (http://www.photo.net/) has user
    reviews of these and many other vintage 35 mm SLRs.

    FE features: manual wind, manual focus, manual
    or aperture-priority auto exposure. Vertical bladed
    metal shutter. Microprism focusing, interchangeable
    focusing screens. Runs for years on two button cell
    batteries. Match-needle metering. Shutter speed
    and aperture both visible in viewfinder.

    Shutter speeds to 1/1000 (FE.) Reasonably light,
    with a beautiful feel to it. IMHO, the FE is no more
    or no less than a classic 35 mm SLR should be.

    rafe b.
    Rafe B., Sep 20, 2003
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  3. Fountainhead

    TWK53 Guest

    I bought a Nikon FA on a whim and found this site to be very helpful:


    Start by clicking on the pictoral history of Nikons. You'll be taken to links
    to all of Nikon's manual cameras.

    By the way, I would recommend a Nikon FA. It has all the bells and whistles.
    Great camera.

    Also, take a look at:


    About 1/3 down the page are links to Nikon's older manual cameras. Good info.

    overall, I found kenrockwell.com to be very helpful about photography in

    TWK53, Sep 20, 2003
  4. This site is very useful. The Nikon history was my 'net bible for a while,
    and the information is primarily factual.
    I cannot recommend this site. While it does have useful factual information,
    it also has a wealth of subjective opinion that sounds informed enough to
    fool the casual observer into thinking it is fact.

    The FM and FE are capable bodies. The FG is more capable in terns of
    exposure modes, but is mostl disdained for it's less sturdy body. The FG20
    is similar but lacks Program mode. The Nikkormat FT3 was the most advanced
    mechanical Nikkormat, and has a very old-style feel to it. For fun, i'd
    probably recommend an FM. I owned one for the better part of a year and,
    dspite having since traded up to an F3, FE2 and FM3 I don't think i've been
    quite as satisfied with a 35mm SLR since my FM. Of course, this is just me
    being sentimental.
    Martin Francis, Sep 20, 2003
  5. Fountainhead

    Rafe B. Guest

    The FM lacks the match-needle metering of the
    FE and auto exposure.

    Insead of the match-needle, the FM has 3 LEDs
    in the viewfinder to show high/low/ok.

    Otherwise the FE and FM are practically identical.

    I've heard lots of folks say if you're going for a
    camera from that generation, the FE2 is the one
    to get.

    rafe b.
    Rafe B., Sep 20, 2003
  6. Fountainhead

    John Miller Guest

    Yes, those LEDs are one of the main reasons I bought a couple of FMs 24
    years ago, in preference to an F3. If memory serves, they'll get you
    within 1/5 of a stop (when *only* the center LED is illuminated), and
    they're better for "corner of the eye" evaluation than any needle.
    A fine camera, as well. (Ask three photographers, get four preferences.)
    John Miller, Sep 20, 2003
  7. Before you buy a camera that old be aware that it will need to have the mirror
    bumper (a small foam strip) replaced, the other light seals checked and
    ot be in top shape it should be CLA'd (cleaned, lubed and adjusted).

    Avoid a camera that has been sitting unused for a long time, it may have
    problems with the lubricants hardening.

    I would not buy a camera that was used without some type of warranty or
    it was cheap enough to cover the cost of a repair. Look at KEH cameras
    for example. You can get an FE in 9 out of 10 condition for about $130
    with a warranty.

    I tried to explain to a local who wanted to sell me his "9" FE for $350.
    For that price I could buy one with an MD-12 from KEH, ship it here
    (ISRAEL) 3 day airfreight, and pay the import duty and still have

    Needless to say, I'll never hear from him again. :)

    Note that the Nikkormat EL, EL2, ELW and FE all use various analog
    intergrated circuits that fail from old age. Once they do the camera
    becomes a paperweight. Before you buy make sure that the shutter works
    properly in automatic mode and a set of batteries lasts more than 2

    A rough chart:

    Nikormat FTn and FT2. Built like a tank, needs forked lenses.
    match needle meter. 1-1/1000 shutter.
    Nikormat FT3 Same as above but AI.
    Nikormat EL FT2 with apeture priority.
    Nikormat EL2 EL with AI.
    Nikormat ELW EL2 with capability for a winder.

    All of the above use discontinued batteries.

    All of the below are AI. (do not need fork)

    FM Smaller lighter. Mechanical shutter. 1-1/1000.
    LED +o- in viewfinder. takes winder.

    FE Same as FM with electronic shutter. requires
    battery at all times. Apeture priority. takes winder.

    FM2 FM updated with interchangeable finders,
    top speed of 1/4000, 1/200th flash sync.
    Only made for a few months.

    FE2 FE updated with an improved (beyond FM2) shutter, etc.
    1/250th flash sync.

    FM2n FM2 updated to faster flash sync (FE2 shutter).

    EM Small light, low price, good value for money camera.
    1/90th mechanical apeture priority 1-1/1000th
    no manual metering. takes winder. Black only.

    FG Sort of an EM2, EM body with full manual metering,
    and the first Nikon implementation of programed
    exposure. (camera sets f stop and shutter speed)
    Does not need AIs lenses for programed exposure.

    FA FE2 with added programed exposure. Requires AIs
    lenses for programed exposure.

    N2000 Sort of the offspring of FE2 and a FG. Cheaper feel
    than FE2, (I don't remeber if it had programed exposure
    or not, but don't think so), built in winder.
    Used 4 AAA batteries, adaptor for AA batteries.

    N2020 N2000 with SLOOOOOOOOW auto focus.

    At this time, about 1986, Nikon stopped manufacuring and retooled for
    autofocus. They only sold old stock (which they had a lot of) until they
    were ready to announce the new autofocus cameras.

    8008. IMHO the best Nikon camera ever made.
    Modern AF, focus assist on MF lenses. Meters
    with all AI, AIs and AF lenses.
    High eyepoint finder, Manual, apeture priority
    and programed exposure. Built in winder uses AA
    batteries. Shutter 30sec-1/8000th in all modes.
    A "user" sells for about $200, so worth considering.

    4004 Cheap camera to complement 8008. Only works with
    AF lenses. Very slow autofocus. Woof.

    8008s 8008 with faster autofocus.

    4004s 4004 with original 8008's autofocus. Not as bad
    as the 4004, but still lacks features.

    You might want to consider the F line of cameras too. In your price range
    you may be able to get a used F2 photomic (DP-1 prism). You would need
    to have your lenses "forked" but it might be worth it.

    Any camera made after mid 1977 would be fine. Pre 1977 cameras can use
    the lens without the meter, or a "fork" can be added to lens to couple
    it to the meter. It costs about $30 and the lens is not affected in any
    other way.

    Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Sep 20, 2003
  8. Fountainhead

    Lourens Smak Guest

    The needle is also less suited for low-light photography, it gets
    difficult to see at a certain point. The FE/FE2 is an exceptionally
    great camera though.

    Agreed, although the FM3 is very similar, and being current it's
    available brand new. The FE/FE2 has few problems though. (the spring of
    the Ai-ring around the bayonet is a weaker spot)
    4th preference: make sure you get the motordrive with it; the MD11/12
    grip is the best there ever was. (and ever will be, judging from modern

    Lourens Smak, Sep 21, 2003
  9. I bought my FA new in the 1980's, and last used it a couple of months
    ago. From today's perspective, it has a few small small advantages
    and a few disadvantages over a used FE2.

    The advantages are:
    -- Shutter Priority and Program exposure modes. Once in a blue moon,
    I'll use shutter priority to shoot racing. I never used program after
    the first test rolls. As a result, I never bothered to replace my
    50mm f/1.8 AI with an AI-S model.

    -- The MD-15 motor drive. It's more capable than the MD-12, but
    because it only fits the FA, in the used market it sells for half the

    -- AMP metering. It's primitive, but you can use it as a "second
    opinion." Alas, I find the switching mechanism awkward.

    -- It seems a little quieter than the FE2.

    The disadvantages are:
    -- No AE lock.

    -- Long Term Reliability. The FA had some early teething pains,
    especially with the electronics. If you see a low serial number FA in
    mint condition, test very carefully before buying. Not only is the FA
    more complicated than an FE2, but parts are harder to find.

    -- More plastic, especially the prism cover. To some, this was (and
    is) an unpardonable sin for cameras of the era.

    So in summary, the FA is too gimmicky and plastic to appeal to the
    "classic" heavy metal Nikon crowd. Nor does it appeal to the "bells
    and whistles" crowd, since it lacks autofocus.
    Michael Benveniste, Sep 21, 2003
  10. Fountainhead

    Fountainhead Guest

    Thanks for all of the feedback. Some of the posted web links were quite
    helpful, as well as suggestions posted here. One last question...is
    there any reason beyond personal preference to choose between chrome and
    black? My own personal preference would swing towards the black body. Is
    one considered more "prized" than the other for bodies of this era?

    BTW, I'm probably leaning towards the FE, or possibly the FM. The FE2
    and the FA look very nice, but the prices I'm seeing push them a bit
    high for the intended purpose of a goof around camera.
    Fountainhead, Sep 21, 2003
  11. Fountainhead

    John Miller Guest

    Basically personal preference. Back when chrome finish was standard, black
    was sort of a custom option, preferred by some pros and advanced amateurs
    who wanted their gear to be less conspicuous, so it aquired a certain
    cachet. As a result, for used camera models available in either chrome or
    black, the black typically commands a little higher price.

    The chrome finish is more durable than black paint over brass, however.
    John Miller, Sep 21, 2003
  12. Fountainhead

    Slingblade Guest

    In all brands of cameras, generally black was considered more
    "professional looking", although, you're likely to see a professional
    with anything. Many of your consumer grade cameras in the past were
    offered only in chrome, or the bulk of sales were chrome, because
    chrome finishes were generally offered cheaper than black. Black
    tends to show brassing more than chrome, however, but there again,
    some people think brassing looks "good" in small doses...kinda like
    vintage electric guitars that have a few dings and knicks on them,
    giving them some "class".

    Personally, I prefer black, and some camera companies only offered
    certain models in black as they were aimed at the serious amateur and
    professional photographers to begin with. The Canon F-1 only came in
    black, as did the A-1.

    I'm not sure if Nikon ever had a series of their pro-lines that
    weren't available in chrome or not. I am pretty sure I've seen chrome
    F's and F2's. The later models like the FM2, FE2, etc, I know came in
    either color. My dad has a chrome FE2 that looks great.
    Slingblade, Sep 22, 2003
  13. Fountainhead

    Fountainhead Guest

    Thanks again to all who responded. I thought I'd let you know that after
    agonizing for a couple of days, I went ahead and ordered an EX+ FE2
    (black) from KEH. It ended up costing considerably more than the $200 I
    had originally anticipated for this little project (and nearly as much
    as my N80!) but what the hell. I liked the 1/250 flash sync, and the
    fact that it'll do Standard TTL Flash with my SB-28.

    I realize that no one really cares about this...but I needed to share my
    news with folks that would at least *understand* -- the wife certainly
    won't. ;-)
    Fountainhead, Sep 22, 2003
  14. Yes... SHE just may have to tie you up and spank...

    PS: send *photos*
    Dennis O'Connor, Sep 22, 2003
  15. Fountainhead

    Roger Guest

    Good choice. A couple of years ago, I supplemented my AF kit with a
    FM2n "just for fun". I was just going to use a lens or two. The FM2n
    became a F3, although I really did like the LEDs for low light
    photography, and the lens-or-two became a 24/28/35/50/80/105/135
    actually several 50's, still looking for the right one :).

    Enjoy, for some the silky feel of a MF AI or AIS lens is addictive.

    Roger, Sep 22, 2003
  16. Fountainhead

    Gordon Moat Guest

    So how much more? I am a big fan of the FE2, and have also considered
    getting one.
    Sounds like you may need to do a flash photo session with the wife.


    Gordon Moat
    Alliance Graphique Studio
    Gordon Moat, Sep 22, 2003
  17. Fountainhead

    Fountainhead Guest

    A black FE2 from KEH rated EX+ was $364. A chrome EX+ was listed at
    $349. I would have been happy with an EX rated body, but they had none
    in black. A chrome EX was listed at $325. By comparison, EX and EX+
    rated FE's were listed at $189 and $215 respectively.

    I could have gotten an FE2 cheaper on eBay...but even though I've
    actually had pretty good luck there in the past, I felt better about
    going with KEH on this one.
    Fountainhead, Sep 22, 2003
  18. Fountainhead

    Gordon Moat Guest

    A glance at EBAY shows the FE choices much cheaper, but the FE2 choices are
    nearly the same price. It seems that KEH is a much better deal than EBAY, at
    least for the FE2. Amazing that these cameras still sell for this much. Also,
    it is not that much lower in price than an FM3A.
    I have watched off and on for a few weeks, but deals on FE2 cameras seem rare.
    Most go for nearly the KEH EX price, but without the guarantee. Where I live is
    good for some old Nikon choices, and perhaps one may show up. I am not in a
    hurry, and I should probably sell off a couple other cameras first, but an FE2
    would be a nice change in my 35 mm work bag.


    Gordon Moat
    Alliance Graphique Studio
    Gordon Moat, Sep 24, 2003
  19. Fountainhead

    Fountainhead Guest

    A brief follow-up...I have received the FE2 from KEH. It was supposed to
    be EX+, but it is not. To my eye, it looks practically unused. There is
    not a mark on it. I could literally shrink wrap this baby and pass it
    off as a brand new item...assuming one didn't know that it hasn't been
    manufactured in years. It really is "minty." Amazing.
    Fountainhead, Sep 24, 2003
  20. Yes....I recently bought a 45mm f2.8 "pancake" Nikkor from KEH that they had
    listed as, "bargain" grade. It is actually closer to, "mint". And you are
    right.....They are a better place to shop than eBay......Now, whenever I
    need something used, I always check out KEH first, and eBay only if KEH
    don't have it......
    William Graham, Sep 24, 2003
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