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In praise of Nikon FM/FE/1/2/3
Old 12-27-2012   #1
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In praise of Nikon FM/FE/1/2/3

Anyone who has ever owned a Nikon FM/FE series camera knows that they are compact and essentially bombproof. My FE (circa 1981) was my first SLR. It has gone backpacking thru the wilds of the Rocky Mts, The Blue Ridge Mts, the Everglades and many sandy beaches. It has never failed, ever. I have owned an FM3a (I am an idiot for selling it). Yes they are a bit clunky compared to a Leica M, but these rigs are great street shooters as well as great with telephoto lens. I love traveling with my Fe combined with the CV pancake 40/2 and a Nikkor 105/2.5. Light and tough. Nuff said.

FE



FE with 105



FM3a

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Old 12-27-2012   #2
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I have a pair of FE2. Yes, a good camera! I used mine to shoot thousands of slides in Colorado. Recently i noticed that my FE2s were overexposing, a thing I had never noticed in all those slides. I'm not sure if it's a new thing, due to age, or if it was always doing this and I didn't know it. How could that be? Because I shoot Velvia. Most of those slides were on Velvia 50, which has/had a reputation for being slower than the box speed. Many photographers shot it at 32, or even 25. If I shoot Velvia 100 at 125 or 160, I get perfect results with the FE2.

Has anyone else noticed this?

Something I really like about the FE2 is the analog exposure needle. I can really fine-tune an exposure with it!
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Old 12-27-2012   #3
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Bought an FM-2n twenty years ago to use as a back-up to an N90s and then an F4s. Eventually sold the N90s and the F4s, but the FM-2n will probably be with me for life.

Strangest thing about that camera, I bought it in black on black because I was using it for work, but for some reason I remember it as silver on black. It stays packed away most of the time these days, but whenever I take it out, I'm always surprised that it's black on black. Never fails. I have a total memory block when it comes to the color of that camera.

Put in the solid matte focusing screen years ago because I was using it with long lenses while covering sports. Recently used it with a 50 and the matte screen doesn't work so well for that, so the split prism will be going back in.

Great camera.

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Old 12-27-2012   #4
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I own FM and FM2n and I really admire the engineering behind those cameras. My friend recently measured shutter speeds on both of cameras and they were within 10% margin! After some 20, 30 years of use. FM2n was used by a wedding photographer, so heavily (mis)used and still all speeds were spot-on!

It's wonderful how they simply work...

I'd also like to add that ever since I obtained Plustek 7400 scanner, I also believe that Nikkor lenses are great and I'd be hardly pressed to think of a situation where they wouldn't be up to the task...
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Old 12-27-2012   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timmyjoe View Post
Bought an FM-2n twenty years ago to use as a back-up to an N90s and then an F4s. Eventually sold the N90s and the F4s, but the FM-2n will probably be with me for life.

Strangest thing about that camera, I bought it in black on black because I was using it for work, but for some reason I remember it as silver on black. It stays packed away most of the time these days, but whenever I take it out, I'm always surprised that it's black on black. Never fails. I have a total memory block when it comes to the color of that camera.

Put in the solid matte focusing screen years ago because I was using it with long lenses while covering sports. Recently used it with a 50 and the matte screen doesn't work so well for that, so the split prism will be going back in.

Great camera.

Best,
-Tim
Get that rig out and use it.
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Old 12-27-2012   #6
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An FM3A was my reintroduction to manual-focus cameras. Bought used on a whim while I was waiting for Nikon's D200 to hit the shelves, it instead led me down the path of manually-operated film cameras - and I can't say I ever regretted it. It has since been traded away for a medium-format camera because good though it was, it couldn't in the end compete with my F3HP on quality of finder or of shutter release.
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Old 12-27-2012   #7
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canon f1, now nikon f/m, is slr making a come back?
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Old 12-27-2012   #8
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I have a black Nikon FM. Nice little camera. Noticeably smaller than the F bodies and a lot lighter. Tough as nails.
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Old 12-27-2012   #9
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Wow - this thread made dig through the drawers to find a forgotten black FE.
Agreed, great little camera... but I got seduced by the OM line.

BTW - Also found my lovely Nikon 2002. The one with the slow-ass auto focus.
When used with a manual lens, this is one terrific camera... auto wind, focus confirmation, decent metering and all in one handy package.
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Old 12-27-2012   #10
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I remember when the first FMs were released and had some first production teething problems. Nikon quickly took care of that.

Then the FM2 came out with the new shutter that X-synched up to the unheard of speed of 1/200 second for a focal plane shutter. It was unheard of. Along with interchangeable focusing screens etc, it was grand.

Another short time and the FM2n was released, with a revised shutter and overall internal upgrade. The FM2n received yet another thorough overhaul by Nikon around 1989, where all internals were made even more robust with self-lubricating rollers and pins in the shutter to meet the toughest standards of use in the arctic and jungle environments ... no lubricants needed to get runny or freeze up. A rock of a camera.

The original FE came out replacing the Nikkormat EL.. then the FE2 came out about 1982 and was everything the FM2n was with auto metering besides.

The FM3a melded the two lines.

I loved these cameras. An FM and FM2n were the basis of my SLR kit, along with an F3, for nearly 20 years. I have often considered buying another but I just don't shoot with SLRs enough anymore to warrant buying more than the two SLRs I have now.

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Old 12-27-2012   #11
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My beat-up FE gets regular use. The battery gets replaced once a year. It's got the little film reminder frame on the back door. What's not to like? I've never understood why the FM3A goes for so much on ebay, when an FE can be had for about US$50.
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Old 12-27-2012   #12
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I've shot the FE2 more than any other camera. Have had 4.5 of them (the .5 is a parts camera). Destroyed two of them in semi-professional use (stringing for newspapers in high school and as photographer for the student paper in college). Deployed with AIS lenses: 24/2.8, 35/2, 85/2, and 180/2.8 ED. One of the bodies had a motor (MD12?) on it.

Other than the M6, the FE2 is my favorite do-it-all SLR. In particular, the TTL flash system and 1/250 sync speed were godsends for indoor basketball and for fast portraiture.

Had an FM2 also, and it's great as well. Flash and match-needle metering were why I preferred the FE2 to the FM2. Still have 1.5 FE2's. The 1/4000 shutter speed on both cameras was unique when they were released and was great for shooting baseball with the 180/2.8 ED on a sunny day.

Even with the sports work, I'd say 2/3 of the frames I've shot with these cameras was with the 35/2 AIS. Great, small, competent setup.
Only thing better is an M6 with a Summilux ASPH.



David Thomas, leader of the seminal experimental rock band Pere Ubu. c. 1987. FE2, 85/2, HP5 probably pushed to 1600.
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Old 12-27-2012   #13
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These are just great cameras, every model of them. My only quibbles really are that the meter needle on the FE series can be hard to see in low light, and I do wish the finder was closer to 100% (the OMs are superior in this respect). But I think that if I were told I could use only one SLR, it'd probably be one of these.
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Old 12-27-2012   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KoNickon View Post
These are just great cameras, every model of them. My only quibbles really are that the meter needle on the FE series can be hard to see in low light, and I do wish the finder was closer to 100% (the OMs are superior in this respect). But I think that if I were told I could use only one SLR, it'd probably be one of these.
I always preferred the three-LED metering readout in the FMx models. It is a nearly perfect system, for me, and I was so glad when Leica went to that in the M6TTL. :-)
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Old 12-27-2012   #15
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Originally Posted by ruby.monkey View Post
An FM3A was my reintroduction to manual-focus cameras. Bought used on a whim while I was waiting for Nikon's D200 to hit the shelves, it instead led me down the path of manually-operated film cameras - and I can't say I ever regretted it. It has since been traded away for a medium-format camera because good though it was, it couldn't in the end compete with my F3HP on quality of finder or of shutter release.
I understand the finder part but what do you mean by the shutter release part?
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Old 12-27-2012   #16
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Originally Posted by KoNickon View Post
These are just great cameras, every model of them. My only quibbles really are that the meter needle on the FE series can be hard to see in low light, and I do wish the finder was closer to 100% (the OMs are superior in this respect). But I think that if I were told I could use only one SLR, it'd probably be one of these.
I put a K3 screen from the FM3a on my FE. Makes all the difference in the world.
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Old 12-27-2012   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kshapero View Post
I understand the finder part but what do you mean by the shutter release part?
My F, F2, and F3HP, all had shutter releases that were/are completely smooth and crisp; the release on my FM3A always felt like it was catching slightly just before tripping the shutter. Similar to the difference between a well-sorted competition 1911 and its service-issue counterpart (I remember the days when an Englishman could still play with interesting toys). The FM3A wasn't bad, but the F3HP was better.

Of course that could just have been my example of the little Nikon, but it looked like it had led a sheltered life before it reached me - and in any case it was the only one that counted.
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Old 12-27-2012   #18
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My first two SLRs were an FE and an FE-2 respectively, and except that they didn't have illuminated finders, I'd still be using them.
Wonderful cameras with all the essential features one needs for serious photography.
They're both long gone, replaced by an F2 and an FA, but, 33 years later, I've added an FM to my SLR kit.
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Old 12-27-2012   #19
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I've been shooting exclusively for the last three months with an all black FE that my dad bought new in '78. At first with the 50/1.4, and I've since added a 105/2.5 and a 35/2.8. I took the time to replace all the seals myself, and it feels really solid now, akin to closing a VW door (well, not quite). I actually really like the loud clunk of the shutter release, and winding the film on. It reminds me that I'm operating an analog device with moving parts. Its satisfying. Although, the shutter noise does get noticed on the street. Perhaps one day I'll experience the understated "tsik" of a Leica shutter release and it's "buttery smooth" film advance and the FE will be ruined for me, but until then, the FE is great. I carry it daily with two lenses in a messenger bag over my shoulder, because it's small enough.

I've also picked up a gently brassed black FM. In general I prefer the match needle of the FE over the LED display of the FM, but agree that the needle of the FE is hard to see in low light, which is where the FM will be better.

I like to push HP5 to 800 or 1600, and at times I'd really like the 4000th shutter speed of an FM2 or FE2 when I'm going from inside to outside. The brighter viewfinder would be nice too.
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Old 12-27-2012   #20
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I have an FE2. I don't find it "clunky," at all, compared to any Leica i've owned. In fact, the FE2 feels as much or more like 'a real camera' than anything i've ever owned. And, i'm a 'canon guy.'

I have the 50/1.8 Series-E and consider that my favorite lens. Also have a Mir 35mm, but haven't really shot with it yet....

FE2, Series E, Rollei Retro 100 + D-76/ID-11. That's my thing these days.
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Old 12-27-2012   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rohankent View Post
I've been shooting exclusively for the last three months with an all black FE that my dad bought new in '78. At first with the 50/1.4, and I've since added a 105/2.5 and a 35/2.8. I took the time to replace all the seals myself, and it feels really solid now, akin to closing a VW door (well, not quite). I actually really like the loud clunk of the shutter release, and winding the film on. It reminds me that I'm operating an analog device with moving parts. Its satisfying. Although, the shutter noise does get noticed on the street. Perhaps one day I'll experience the understated "tsik" of a Leica shutter release and it's "buttery smooth" film advance and the FE will be ruined for me, but until then, the FE is great. I carry it daily with two lenses in a messenger bag over my shoulder, because it's small enough.

I've also picked up a gently brassed black FM. In general I prefer the match needle of the FE over the LED display of the FM, but agree that the needle of the FE is hard to see in low light, which is where the FM will be better.

I like to push HP5 to 800 or 1600, and at times I'd really like the 4000th shutter speed of an FM2 or FE2 when I'm going from inside to outside. The brighter viewfinder would be nice too.
Very nice rant. Any photos?
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Old 12-27-2012   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kshapero View Post
Very nice rant. Any photos?
Of the cameras, or from the cameras?
I've just ordered a Plustek 8200i and promise to flood the gallery with images soon...
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Old 12-27-2012   #23
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Having F2's spoiled my FM2n experience. It felt flimsy and cheap in comparison. I know they're tough but they just don't feel it. I'd rather have an F3 which is what I did at the time and which can be had for the same money. I paid 70 euro for my late black FM2n, 75 euro for an F3 with a lens. All gone now in favour of an F5. I have an FE2 that I was given somewhere around, must dig it out and sell!
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Old 12-27-2012   #24
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Having F2's spoiled my FM2n experience. It felt flimsy and cheap in comparison. I know they're tough but they just don't feel it. I'd rather have an F3 which is what I did at the time and which can be had for the same money.
The whole equation of camera weight with "build quality" has always struck me as bizarre. But my formative experiences are from climbing and bicycles and motorcycles and skis and backpacking, where the best-built gear is almost never heavy. Quite the opposite, in fact.

I've always valued low weight because my periods of most intensive shooting always have coincided with using bicycles for transport. And I also was doing a lot of climbing and backpacking, again favoring lighter setups. Galen Rowell for most of his career used FM series cameras because of the superior combination of weight and reliability.

Hence: FE/FM rather than F2 or F3 or Nikkormat; M6 rather than M4; Fuji X-E1 rather than X-Pro or DSLR. Black rather than silver Summilux ASPH [:P].

So when people act as though heaviness = "build quality" I think that's nuts. To me higher weight just means "inefficient use of materials." I will admit that the F3 is a killer camera, though, and I'll go out on a limb by saying it has the best manual film advance on any camera ever made, the M3 very much included.
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Old 12-27-2012   #25
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I bought a good used FM many years ago, and kitted it out with all the Series E lenses, MD-11, Sunpak 611, right-angle finder, bellows, SB-20 ring flash, and whatever else I could find to use. Did all kinds of stuff with it, and it never let me down. The FE I bought though was another story. It failed in the middle of the first roll, and when I took it back, they supposedly fixed it. Well, it didn't last through loading the next roll, so I took it back again. They wouldn't refund my money, saying I must have messed the camera up. I took it to a reputable repair shop, and they said the shutter needed replacement, and was unavailable. Unfortunately, a few years ago, I had to make up my mind what camera outfit I was going to keep when I had to divulge myself of anything I couldn't eat. The N90s outfit won out because it was newest, had the widest array of focal lengths, and I figured had many more years of life in it than the FM.

Earlier this year, I came into ownership of another FM as part of a lens sale. The owner didn't think it worked, but after a thorough going over, I couldn't find anything wrong with it. So I got an MD-12 to keep it company, and shot a tractor show with it. It was great to feel that rig in my hands again. Then last week, a friend of mine sent me a box of stuff with a note that said "some work, some don't". In amongst all the stuff was another MD-12, and an FE. WooHoo! The MD-12 only works on continuous, and the FE will lock-up the mirror if you press the shutter release too far without turning on the meter circuit. You then have to turn the shutter speed to M90 to get the mirror to return. Both problems are fixable, so I'm more than happy to have them. The more Nikons, the merrier!

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Old 12-27-2012   #26
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Of the cameras, or from the cameras?
I've just ordered a Plustek 8200i and promise to flood the gallery with images soon...
either or both.
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Old 12-27-2012   #27
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The whole equation of camera weight with "build quality" has always struck me as bizarre.
So when people act as though heaviness = "build quality"
I think you must have imagined what I wrote in my post as I actually mentioned nothing about weight! I referred to the feel of the camera. I personally don't care that much how much a camera weighs as long as it's doing what I want. I'll stand by my post and say that the FM/FE series feel like toys compaired to F2's however they have a good track record for reliability.
For my 35mm film needs I use an F5 and a Leicaflex and I carry them wile travelling no problem.
What strikes me as bizarre is the notion that a mechanical camera is more reliable than an electronic one.
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Old 12-27-2012   #28
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Apologies if I misconstrued you. That equation seems to come up again and again around here.
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Old 12-27-2012   #29
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Staying with the theme of the smaller Nikons... When the FM and FE came out, I simply stopped using my F2. The smaller bodies were that much more convenient and seemed to do everything I needed.

Rugged enough for me; I've had no failures.
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Old 12-27-2012   #30
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F3's don't feel as well built or precise as F2's either (the wobbly film advance was just so crappy on such an expensive camera) however along with the FM series cameras, reliability and longevity is without question. For myself the feel of the F2 returned with the F4 continuing with the F5 and to a lesser extent the F6.
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Old 12-27-2012   #31
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I have two F's, an F2, an FE, an FM2n, and an FM3A. The most solid feeling machine among my Nikons would be the F100 and the D700 -- but they ALL feel extremely well made. I have owned, among SLRs, many Minolta's, Pentax's, Canons, a Leica R4, two Contax SLRs, and at different times the OM2, 3, and 4. The only cameras in the lot that have seemed to me as rock solid in engineering and mechanics as the Nikons have been the OM2n and the RTSII (Contax). The R4 is close; so is, surprisingly, a Pentax ME-Super that my wife's parents gave her in the 1980s.

What most surprises me is the dramatic statement about how cheap and flimsy the FE felt after the F2. I just fired off my two F's, the F2, and the FE/FM2n/FM3A set and the earlier larger F's and the F2 have noisier more guillotine-ish shutters and more ratchety film advances. The later smaller set all feel smoother. The shutter-mirror operations of these definitely feel smaller but not at all cheaper or more flimsy.

They are all great.
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Old 12-27-2012   #32
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I spent the Xmas weekend using my old reliable FM in -25C temperatures without any problems.

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Old 12-27-2012   #33
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I spent the Xmas weekend using my old reliable FM in -25C temperatures without any problems.
Wow. Gorgeous. I need to experience a white Christmas at some point in my life.
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Old 12-28-2012   #34
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That is a fantastic image: really beautiful.
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Old 12-29-2012   #35
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Nikon FE 1.4/58
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Old 12-29-2012   #36
markwatts
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I have owned an F, I have a F3HP and 3 FM3A. I have never quiet understood why so many see a marked difference in 'build quality' or toughness. I have every expectation that my cameras will outlive me, including the rangefinders that are within a year of my age.
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Old 12-29-2012   #37
Armoured
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mablo View Post
I spent the Xmas weekend using my old reliable FM in -25C temperatures without any problems.
I've used an FM for (hurts to say this) over twenty years and my experience is the same - solid, reliable, no fuss, and the weight equation is fabulous. It's still the camera I trust the most to just work - the weak part in the formula is always me. I've since picked up an FE and FE2 and they are both great - the big advantage being the flash metering. I've never had any problems with any of them.

And I used the FM outdoors for a very long day of -25C, a lot of in and out of doors, back and forth, very punishing. Never an issue, even the batteries. I was also carrying a digital camera and it would give half an hour at best in the real cold.

The only camera I've ever felt had the same feel of quality and size - even somewhat better - is the OM4. The feel is even better actually. The ridiculous battery issue ruins the equation. All of the Nikons can be picked up after months and I'll be quite certain they'll work; the OM always needs to have an extra set of batteries. I still want to get an OM4T because of the battery issue.
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Old 12-29-2012   #38
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I still have the FE2 I purchased to replace a stolen camera. I haven't used it for a while. I have the MD-12 drive and 50mm, 36-72mm, 75-150mm series E lenses. I also modified several of my older Nikkors (non ai) to use with the FE2. It is a very nice handling camera.
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Old 01-02-2013   #39
nobbylon
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Curiosity got the better of me and I picked up an FM2n today just to see if I remembered it correctly.
I've put my 50 H on it and here's a few observations.
General feel is of an F2 on a diet. The film advance is so much nicer than a wobbly F3 and actually feels very like my F2. You can definately tell the difference between a vertical and horizontal shutter though. Not that it's important. I can actually focus it better than F, F2 and F3 but not as good as my Pentax K2 and nowhere near my Leicaflex which is in a different league focus wise.
Meter, I like the LED now because it's easy to see. All in all I'm pleasantly surprised however I still think the cheap looking shutter dial plate lets it down.
I'll put a few films through and see what they're like however for M/F there simply is nothing like a Leicaflex SL/SL2.
My perfect M/F SLR would be the size of this FM2, focusing and screen of a Leicaflex with R6.2 readouts and finish of an F2. I've never used an R6.2 which are not too far size wise from the FM series. At the end of the day though it's about focus for me and the SL wins.
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Old 06-22-2019   #40
twvancamp
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Had an FM years ago and was missing it. Saw a great offer on an FM2 from RFF member jja. Such a great camera--here's one from the first roll.



Nikon FM2
by twvancamp, on Flickr
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