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Nikon FE

Having just written recently about assumed Brand Loyalty and the fact that it really isn’t necessary at all with the variation of lenses and adapters these days – I find that I have not listened to a word I said and added to my collection with my second Nikon SLR and this time it’s a Nikon FE from the late 70’s.

This was their first electronic shutter camera that ran with an analogue needle, center weighted meter on the left hand side of the viewing screen.

The reason for getting one of these and not the next generation FE2 were –

– the bodies are remarkably cheap these days at around US$20 on ebay compared to the US$ 100 for the FE2.

– the meter is analogue and not digital lights and so batteries last for years with an on camera indicator – which the FE2 doesn’t have and of course you can be much more accurate as a meter.

– The speed on the dial only goes up to 1/1000th (which for film should always be sufficient if you chose the right ISO) – where as the FE2 goes to 1/4000th which means the shutter requires much more power to control and hence battery life is massively reduced.

– The camera runs on Aperture Priority and has an easy to use AE Lock on the front and will fire up to 1/8000th if the AUTO or AP is selected and the camera meter tells it too (even if the meter doesn’t show you it will go so high).

– and finally, as the meter is so center weighted, it means you can check highs and lows around the image you want to shoot before selecting the reading you want by using the AE Lock.

You would have thought that by stepping further towards an automatic camera, that life would get easier and so taking photographs would become simpler but this simply isn’t true. There are only three functions to manage on a camera when you take a picture – focus, aperture and speed – and if you are not thinking about all of these when you take a picture, then you may as well not bother to look through the view finder either and just rely on the great method of ‘pure luck’.

So if you are going to think about them – then why not make the adjustments too – as for me this help focus the mind onto what you are creating.

So is the FE a complete waste of time when I have the F2A already? Maybe yes and maybe no.

Yes, because it doesn’t do anything for me that I really need as it really isn’t too far away from the fully manual F2A.

No, because having two bodies means I can take two ISO films out at the same time and it is smaller and lighter than the F2A, plus the AP mode does make quick snaps easier sometimes.

Also, if you have compatible lenses – it is a US$20 camera body with little that could ever go wrong that runs in manual if you knacker up the electronics anyway.

So for the last week or so I have been using the camera and have also put through some different films from Ilford Delta 100 to Kodak 125PX and have taken pictures that have always turned out to be really bright days with massive contrast – and so the lens that has ended up on the camera more often than not is the amazing Nikkor 50/1.2.

The center weighted meter works really well and allows for control in really difficult lighting conditions.

The body is really compact and light at 577 grams versus the F2A at 835 grams and the Priority Control makes quick pictures of kids very easy.


Posted by simon on November 2, 2011
5 Comments Post a comment
  1. 11/2/2011
    Darko Bojanic

    you really haven´t been listening to your words of wisdom. Ha ha Enjoy that camera and if I may give you a sugestion get an FM body they are just the best according to me. It is reliable and actually doesn´t need an battery to work. I have an FA which is absolutely one of the best housings Nikon ever made. MAtrix metering is all you need when stepping up to the big pictures. Then you also only need an 50mm 1,8 and you are set.

    Enjoy your FE body because I would and have no bad feelings you bought it.


    • 11/2/2011

      I have a 50/1.2 and a 50/1.4D so have the lenses – and unfortunately the next one is going to be an F5 so I have something as heavy as a Kiev…………

  2. 11/2/2011

    I had two of these cameras from the early eighties and only sold them a few years ago which was probably a mistake. I also had a Nikon FM – a great bulletproof camera not dependent on batteries.


    • 11/2/2011

      $20 will get you another one now too…FM may happen in the future – depending on the size of my addiction….


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