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Nikon FE, FE-2, FM, FM-2,
FM-2n and FM3a

© 2006 KenRockwell.com

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Nikon FE and 50mm f/1.4 AI-s

Nikon FE and 50mm f/1.4 AI-s. You can get all you want at this link to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay). This free website's biggest source of support is when you use that and these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thanks! Ken.

Nikon FE and FM Family Comparison Chart 18 March 2010

FM3a Review March, 2010.

Nikon FE review 01 October 2008.

 

Introduction

adorama

Ritz Camera

I use Adorama, Amazon, eBay, Ritz, Calumet, J&R and ScanCafe. I can't vouch for ads below.

All these great cameras are very similar. Most take the same MD-12 motor drive and backs and they are all excellent professional cameras.

The FM and FE were introduced in the late 1970s as light weight, lower cost alternatives to the flagship F2.

The FM series is mechanical with manual exposure.

The FE series is electronic with automatic exposure control.

The FM, introduced in 1977, was a mechanical manual camera with a built in three LED + 0 - meter similar to the F2AS. (Most people consider the F2AS to be the very best serious 35mm camera ever made by anyone; it has the most sensitive meter ever made by Nikon, but I digress.) People didn't take the FM very seriously compared to the F2 back then. That was too bad because the only things the F2 did that made it different were features that no one uses anyway like interchangeable screens, interchangeable prisms and 250 exposure film backs. The FM has a 1-1,000 shutter and 1/125 flash sync.

The FE, introduced in 1978, was an electronically controlled aperture-priority automatic and manual exposure camera very similar to the FM. Unlike the FM it has interchangeable focusing screens. It takes the same backs and motor drives. It has two needles in the finder: one is the setting of the camera's shutter speed knob, and one is the exposure suggested by the light meter. This allows easy use in manual exposure setting: just match the needles. In the A setting then only the one needle indicates the shutter speed set by the camera. Marked shutter speeds go from 8 seconds to 1/1,000, flash sync is 1/125, and a mechanical speed of 1/90 also available for the paranoid who were worried about the batteries dying. A secret feature for night photography is that in A mode the FE will time perfect exposures as long as several MINUTES, and draw only 11mA from the button cells while doing it.

In 1982 the FM2 added a brighter screen and faster shutter speeds to 1/4000 and 1/200 to 1/250 flash sync. The trick to getting 1/250 sync is to set the shutter that way and ignore the blinking flash indicator. Pop Photo's 1st article about the FM2 was published in the April 1982 issue.

The FE-2 adds 1/4000 top speed, TTL flash and 1/250 sync. It was discontinued in 1987.

The FA is a more advanced camera than any of these including the new FM3a and was introduced in 1983. It introduced the world to matrix metering. This camera also takes the same screens and motors as the other cameras here. See it's own review here.

The FM3a was introduced in February 2001 at the PMA show in Orlando, Florida. Here's data from the factory. It incredibly adds the automatic electronic exposure capabilities of the FE-2 to the mechanical FM-2n. There must be a catch somewhere, but as I understand it the FM3a offers both mechanical operation in manual and electronic operation in automatic.

 

 
FM
FE
FM2
FE-2
FM-2n
FM3a
FA
Innards

mechanical

electronic
mechanical
electronic
mechanical
both
electronic
Exposure
M
M, A
M
M, A
M
M, A
M, A, S, P
Meter*
CW
CW
CW
CW
CW
CW
Matrix, CW
Speeds
1-1,000
8s-1,000***
1-4,000
8s-4,000***
1-4,000

1-4,000 manual

8s-4000 Auto****

1-4,000***
Sync
1/125
1/125
1/250
1/250
1/250
1/250
1/250
Cost
$150**
$150**
$550
$650
$250**
Lenses*****
all AF & MF since 1958
all AF & MF since 1958
All AF & MF since 1977
All AF & MF since 1977
All AF & MF since 1977
All AF & MF since 1977
All AF & MF since 1977
Made
1977-1982
1978-1983
1982-1984
1983-1987
1984-2001
new in 2001
1983-1987

 

* CW = Center-weighted
** used prices
*** actually up to many minutes in A or P exposure mode
**** Appears to go much longer than 8 seconds in Auto mode. Put the lens cap on, try it, and let me know.
***** NONE of these cameras work with the latest G series AF lenses.

 

Lens Compatibility

Most all AF and manual focus lenses work on all these cameras, except the newest "G" series. The G series lacks an aperture ring and won't work on any of these cameras.

FM and FE: Almost all lenses since 1958, auto and manual focus.

FM2, FM-2n, FE-2, FM3a: Almost all lenses since 1977 (AI and newer), auto and manual focus.

Every lens Nikon ever made from 1958 through today works great on the FM and FE, auto or manual focus. OK, lenses that insert into the camera like the primitive fisheyes and ultra-wides with separate finders can't be used because of the lack of dedicated mirror lockup, but other than those you can pop on a 1962 lens and shoot away, complete with stop-down metering and even automation on the FE.

The FM and FE have retractable AI coupling lugs so that they work fine with pre-AI lenses in stop-down mode. In 1977 conspiracists whined that one lost coupled metering with the pre-AI lenses and had to revert to stop-down measurement, just as I whine today that one gets no metering at all with manual focus lenses on the N65 and N80. Bravo to Nikon here. The FM and FE are the Rosetta Stones of compatibility. They are among the few cameras that take every Nikkor lens made from 1958 through present without modification.

The FM2, FE-2, FM-2n and FM3a all require AI lenses, in other words, anything made since 1977. No, they won't swallow the primitive lenses like 1960's fisheyes and ultrawides that require mirror lock-up. Auto and manual focus lenses are all fine!

Even the newest AF-S lenses couple perfectly to the all these cameras. Even though Nikon deliberately cripples newer AF cameras from making full use of older MF lenses, they are decent enough to continue putting the mechanical lugs on the newest lenses to ensure that they work perfectly with older cameras. Heck, there are still two pilot holes on every AF and AF-D and AF-S lens' aperture ri

ngs to allow the installation of coupling prongs to use on pre-AI camera bodies.

 

Flash

You can use any flash on any of these cameras, except of course flashes dedicated to other brands of camera.

Use an old Vivitar 283, use any Nikon speedlight of any age or flashbulb gun, or use any of the brand new flashes like the SB-28DX or SB-800.

Honestly, use any Nikon TTL flash (about SB-16 or newer) and you'll take full advantage of the TTL flash exposure.

I prefer the SB23 or SB22 for small size.

The TTL flash modes on most of these cameras only works in a range of film speeds up to about ASA (ISO) 400. Back in these camera's heyday TTL flash was a pretty advanced concept, and also ASA400 color film was exotic stuff you'd only used for the purposes of avoiding the flash, so this wasn't an issue. Look out if you intend to use fast film and TTL flash. Even today's FM3a only couples up to ISO 1,000. These are all professional cameras so this isn't much of an issue; it's pretty silly to use fast film with flash since you get better quality for less money with slower film.

 

Specifications

Hey, check out these pages by some dudes in Malaysia. Although some of the dates are a little off, these look far better than my pages do! You'll find all the operational manuals, too.

FM

FM2 and FM2n

FE series

FE

FE2

FA

 

Service

As of August 2007, Nikon has no parts for the FE or FM. There may be limited parts for the FE2.

That's not a big deal; I've never seen an FE or FM break.

 

Recommendations

All of these cameras are sturdy and fully up to the rigors of professional abuse. They are tougher than the amateur F100 that costs twice as much. The F100 has more blinking lights and autofocus and costs more; these other F series cameras are built tougher, need you to focus them and cost less.

I prefer the automatic exposure models like the FE, FE-2 and FM3a The FM, FM2 and FM-2n require manual exposure setting, taking more time.

If you are on a budget then a used FE tends to sell for about $150 - 200. It would be a great choice for anything.

If you are rich, then go buy a brand new FM3a which I guess ought to sell for about $650. It replaces everything any of these cameras do, except for Matrix Metering of the FA.

None of these except the FA gives you matrix metering or program automation. I still prefer the more advanced FA, although only available used, which offers these features.

 

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Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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