I Did What Ken Told Me...

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, Nov 22, 2014.

  1. At the conclusion of his article on the Nikon FE, Ken Rockwell's recommendations are short and sweet: "Don't get one; get two!" So I did.
  2. Having grown up in the Canon camp, I've not had a great deal of experience with Nikon SLR's, other than a couple of Nikkormat FTn's that persuaded me that Nikon certainly have a knack of designing and manufacturing durable and attractive cameras that feel just great to use. Having somehow accumulated a few of the older Nikkor F Mount (non-Ai) lenses, I began to wonder about stepping up to the FE, which could still use these lenses, a facility lacking in the later FE2. Everyone seems to love the FE, and I'm beginning to see why. These two beauties were bought by a young man some time around 1980; he was going to become rich in his new-found role of a wedding photographer, but was one of the many who found the field crowded and the competition fierce, and who be came disenchanted and gave the game away. He took the batteries out, packed the cameras in a shoebox, placed them in a cupboard in his parents' house and went away overseas. The cameras quietly resided there until early this year, when he re-discovered them as he helped sort out his fathers' chattels prior to the old chap moving into a retirement home. He offered them to me at a very fair price, so my search for a FE2 sort of finished before it began. Happily, both cameras work very well, and the tidy M12 winders add the kind of weight and bulk I like in a camera, though they do make access to the stop-down and exposure lock controls a little difficult for big fingers.
    Overall, I'll have to admit that my descent into the Dark Side continues. These FE's really are pretty close to being my ideal SLR, and I'm wondering if you Nikonistas out there agree with my opinions regarding the FE. Anyway, I just thought I'd like to share a couple of very nice Nikons...
  3. The FE and FM are absolutely awesome cameras. They're comfortable to hold and shoot, they're solidly built and reliable... there's just nothing to say against them. Well, just one thing: eye relief isn't great if you want to shoot while wearing glasses. But that aside, they're basically flawless.
    I really like the FE's dual-needle meter display, which shows you both what speed the camera recommends and (in manual mode) what you currently have selected. It's so easy to tell how many stops off you are, which makes manual compensation very easy.
    As much as I love all my cameras, if I were forced to choose a single 35mm film SLR to use for the rest of my life, it would have to be a Nikon. For eye-relief reasons I'd have to choose the F3HP, but there's something about the FM and FE that makes them feel better in my hands and makes them an even more pure pleasure to use than the F3.
    Btw, I also originally bought my FE because of Ken's enthusiastic review.
  4. I bought my FM just after the FE came out, but had no thought to an automatic camera. It got a lot of use until I got a D70s.
    In recent years, I have bid on some FEs, but never got one. I now have an EL2, which seems to be the predecessor to the FE. I also have an FT3, the predecessor to the FM. I haven't had a chance to try the EL2 yet, but a few rolls though the FT3.
    Like the FM and FE, the FT3 and EL2 use AI lenses, or, with the tab out of the way, stop down metering on pre-AI lenses. I also now have an FTN with non-AI 28/3.5 lens. I could try the lens on some of the other cameras.
  5. I do wonder sometime, the EL2 and FE are classic, but not (always) manual. But since they do work without batteries, I suppose they qualify here.

    I also have a Canon T70, which is electronic only. Maybe that doesn't apply here.
  6. About a year ago I gave my ancient FE and a couple of lenses to the daughter of a friend--she was taking a photography class and needed a manual-control film camera. I was tickled that someone was going to USE it again. That camera deserves to be used. Mine looked like some previous owner had used it for breaking rocks, it was *battered*. And it worked perfectly and it was always a joy to use. What a great camera!
  7. Some years ago now, in the days of film, I bought an FM2n and some AI lenses. I liked using it so much that the FE2 soon followed and became my all time favourite Nikon camera. At this point in time SLR design and technology seemed to have reached a maturity and sense of rightness which I found very satisfying. Of course they were all soon to be swept away with the increasing use of electronics and finally digital technology but... today they still seem to be great examples of purposeful and aesthetically pleasing design.
  8. After working for two summers to save up, I purchased a back Nikon FM in 1979. Would have liked an FE - but that would have meant to wait yet another year. Never owned an FE or FE2 - but added a chrome FM2N with the FE2/FA titanium shutter a few years later, and another black FM2N with the new aluminum shutter joined in the early nineties. Replaced all of them with two FA bodies in 2001/2.
  9. I have a chrome FE along with my FM2N and an FM3a. I love it. I also had it serviced when I bought it for £34 in 2005. It has the B2 screen. All I would say is that the viewfinder is not as bright as its younger relatives and you can only compensate exposure in half stops (the FM3a does 3rd stops - ideal for popping colour on slide film). I'd love a black one.
    Other than those very small caveats, it is a great camera with great metering and an exposure lock. The only other thing to look out for is to not the leave the winder lever out (revealing the red dot on the top plate) as you will drain the battery. Mine is always filled with 400 ASA B&W film to capture my rapidly growing children.
  10. There is a certain non-brass "steam-punk" look to these beauties!
  11. Clean looking pair! Once you have taken the Nikon path, it's hard to go back. Even with all my massive film downsizing, the FE2, F3HP and F2 (and F100) are cameras I shall never relinquish. Thoughtful designs with legendary build quality. I have an MD-11 motor for the FE2 but rarely ever used it. Somewhat defeated the great compact/lightweight features of the camera. The Ai-S lenses are so good that a couple, the 85mm f/1.4 and Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8, currently live full-time in my digital camera bag. Staggering image quality. The Mr. Rockwell got this one right.
  12. Oh No, Mr. Ken!
    Say it ain't so! (ref. Black Sox).
    Next you'll have to get an F4, then, if that's where you're getting your playbook.
  13. "the FE2 soon followed and became my all time favourite Nikon camera" Colin C.
    I totally agree Colin!
    Next to the Nikon F2, the FE2 is the most efficient Nikon they ever made.
    Compact conventional ergonomics with high quality durability, simple yet feature laden.
    (Memory lock, quick dual needle analog metering, 4,000th high speed, 250th flash sync, screen interchangeability, etc.)
  14. I have several Nikon bodies, but none of the FE series. With as much time as I'm spending on eBay these days, I wouldn't be surprised if one somehow found it's way to me, if the price is right. As it is, I have plenty of bodies to occupy what small amount of time I have for shooting. Looking forward to seeing some images from yours, Rick.
  15. Wow, that's a pair of beauties you've got there, Rick!
    I've got an FE. It's my second one, and I didn't even need KR to advise me of how good they were. I bought one way back in around 2002, which had been well-used but was still quite nice. And when it got nicked about three years ago at an MMA show, I simply had to get another to replace it, I liked it so much.
    I know this will never happen, but if Nikon had really wanted to provide us with a "pure photography" experience, they'd have given us a digital sensor in a body identical to the FE instead of that rather bloated beast that is the Df. Fortunately, as long as they're still making film, I can shoot my trusty, capable little FE, and have loads of real fun. Hope you have plenty with your lovely FEs!
  16. Oh, and to address Mark's minor complaint that the viewfinder isn't quite as bright on the FE as in some more modern cameras:
    One thing you can do to pimp it out is to install the K3 screen for the FM3a, which is available from B&H for $34.95 (although I see it is currently back-ordered). That will quite noticeably improve the brightness of the viewfinder. You *may* have to dial in a bit of exposure compensation as others online have recommended, but I've not found that necessary with my camera. I've found this a very worthwhile improvement to the already enjoyable experience of shooting with the FE.
  17. Since I am currently recovering from a disk crash (everything safely backed up, fortunately) I cannot post pictures from
    my archive. But here is a small collection of FE shots from our summer holidays of 2013.


    I absolutely do agree that the FE is a wonderful little machine.

  18. Next you'll have to get an F4, then, if that's where you're getting your playbook.

    Well, it's hard to love the look of an F4 by comparison to those beauties, but you could do a whole lot worse when it comes to photographing. I can't say I like my F4 because of Ken or despite him, but it's a heck of a machine.
  19. Many years ago, I owned an FE2. A fine camera in almost all respects, save one crucial flaw: to turn on the meter, you pulled the wind lever away from the body. Since I am left eye dominant, it always felt like I was about to put my thumb in my right eye. Not a problem if you use the winder, but did that thing ever make a racket!
  20. Professor K, have I got a sample for you. I have a Zenit 3 (M39 lens mount) where the film advance lever broke off. I took it into work and had one of the gentlemen in the welding shop weld a piece of aluminum to the base. Unfortunately, it sticks out straight to the back. If you're left eye dominant and you want to use this, you might get used to poking yourself in the eye. :p
  21. Although I got some of the early AF Nikons as a part of my investigation of the phenomenon, my personal favorite from the period of the F4 is the Canon EOS-1 and more especially the Canon EOS-3.
    All the same, I still love my Nikkormat EL, Nikon F, and Nikon F2. They work really well with my old, non-AI Nikkors.
    Of the AF Nikons I tried, the one that was most comfortable to me was the F80 (N80 in US), but no non-AI lenses there. It just 'felt' like the older Nikons I used for so many years and loved.
    Of course, even on my Canon EOS cameras, my hands still want to do the "Nikon Twist" when mounting lenses. Old habits (of the old) are hard to break.
  22. I love the FE metering display and its accuracy. But, I also love the FM / FM2 / FM2n display for use in dark areas or at night (LEDs) where I can't see the FE's display easily.
    At ebay's prices it's hard not to be able to pick up a decent body of almost each one. In fact I picked up an FE and an FM which came as "rear lens caps" for a couple of lenses I wanted to purchase.
    Good luck Rick, you'll have a fun time I'm sure.
    Jim M.
  23. I always looked at the FM/FE series as good solid and reliable, great every day field pieces but never did want one. I got spoiled by the F2 early in life I guess. Excellent finds there Rick, you'll enjoy working with them.

    Rick H.
  24. There are many early electronic SLRs floating around in various states of disrepair. Models like the Konica FS-1, Nikkormat EL, Canon AE-1 and Minolta XG series cameras have not aged well. The FE was a second generation electronic model for Nikon and has held up much better. I have three of them - two chrome bodies and a black one. If I need a higher shutter speed I will use an FE2. I have a Minolta XE-5 out for an overhaul now and I hope I will enjoy using it when it comes back. I might use the FE cameras more often but when you can get an N90S in excellent condition for $25, it's tempting to use that instead.
  25. The FE, FM series sure are nice to use, and I only have an FM2 these days and regularly give it a workout. At first the FM seemed a bit "tinny" after the Nikkormat, but proved to be very reliable with excellent metering.
    When I was working and using various Nikon F4/ F5's, I always kept the FM2's as backups and often found myself using them in preference to the bulky F's....autofocus never really excited me.
    I do have an MD11 for my FM, but find it rather noisy and coarse sounding...how are yours?
  26. Very nice catches Rick! It looks
    like y you have the 50mm f1.8
    long nose and the 50mm f2. The
    f1.8 is a real gem, and a perfect
    fit on the FE.
  27. I've got too little experience and too little comparison material (certainly compared to regulars of this forum) to add much to anything said, but: those are two really nice and clean looking FEs. Just a few months ago, I opted for a FM2 instead - the FE/FE2 cost less, but I like the idea of a full mechanical body, I only have Ai lenses so a slightly newer FM2 seemed a nicer buy. I never really listen to Ken, so its brother (or sister) is a F3, an equally nice and desirable piece (I think). I wouldn't want to choose between these two.
    Lovely cameras. Just get a 105 f/2.5 with it, and enjoy. A lot.
  28. I have my original chrome FE from 1983, and picked up a black one last year for $10.00. They are my #1 favorites. Everything else is a step-down compromise, even the F3HP which has a poorer viewfinder and more weight.
    I collect everything else for the joy, and use them too. But when I go out with just one camera to get the best possible shots (in 35mm) I use the FE. It's my baby.
  29. Thanks for all the comments and advice; I'm pleased my rising opinion of the FE is shared by so many of you. As I hinted, I decided to pursue the FE rather than the FE2 because of it's acceptance of the non-Ai lenses, and the improvements to the FE2 such as an increase in top shutter speed weren't that important. There's a rumor that the FE, in auto mode, will expose up to that speed with the needle off the top of the speed scale; I must experiment! I find the hierarchy and model designations of the Nikon lenses vastly more complex than their Canon equivalents, and have been assisted by this excellent site, which most of you Nikon experts have probably discovered:
    One feature I really like in a camera is the ability to lock exposure with a half-pressure on the shutter release, but I don't know if any of the Nikon SLR's do this.
    Tony, the winder noise is about the same as most of the other-brand winders I have, definitely not the gadget for photography during a funeral. The worst is one created for the Pratica "B" series, which erupts into action with a sound like an old egg-beater in it's death throes. Ah well, now to start exploring the "F's"...
  30. I've got three...Near-perfect size and ergonomics, bomb-proof, nice VF display and accurate meter. Interesting how the gorgeous little Fuji XT-1 is practically the same size and layout. Coincidence?

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