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Thinking of Buying a Nikon FE...

Discussion in 'Film Forum' started by ShadowFox19, Oct 3, 2008.

  1. Hey Y'all!
    I'm thinking about looking for, and buying, an old-school film camera...a Nikon FE to be exact. Is there anything I need to know about this camera? I've never used a film SLR before, but they've always intrigued me. I was thinking of just buying one lens for it (like a 50/1.8 or 1.4) and keeping it on it all the time. What glass would you recommend?
    Also, I'm currently using a D80, how will this camera differ?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Nick, I honestly would recommend an N80 for a first time film user. They are cheap ($50-$80). Since they function in a similar manner to a dslr the transition is easier for first time film users. The N80 also works well with afd, afs and vr lenses! If you find you indeed like film then you can pick up an older manual camera like the FE (which is great little camera by the way).
  3. mhcfires


    Aug 23, 2007
    El Cajon, CA
    I have been a long time film user who bought a Nikon D80. I then found a used (virtually new) N80 which I chose because it can use all the same lenses as the D80. I have other much much older film cameras which I still use. I agree that the N80 would be a good choice for Nick. It will make the transition to an older manual camera easier. :smile:
  4. rotxlk82


    Jul 20, 2007
    Firstly, you haven't by any chance been reading Rockwell recently have you? :smile:

    I have used an FE briefly and it is a capable machine, in his review Ken makes all very valid points which I generally agree with after having used the camera myself.

    That withstanding Ray's suggestion of the F80/N80 is also very good, the FE allthough capable is very different in operation to modern cameras while the F80 will act very much like the modern digital body you're used to. Personally I like the traditional virtues of my old FA but sometimes I do miss the features of newer cameras.

    You may also want to conisder your lens collection, the FE doesn't support G lenses or VR so if you value those features maybe an older model isn't for you.

    Best of luck choosing in any case, keep us posted.
  5. braver


    Apr 2, 2008
    The FE brings you back to the basics of photography, in a very friendly way. Everything you need is right at your fingertips. Photography with the FE becomes about framing, exposure and timing. Not about matrix, spot, frames per second, autofocuspoints, etc.
    Just pick the prime of your preference (the 28 2.8 is mine, or the 35 1.4 if I had the money). They can usually be had for under a 100,- euros (about 500 USD sorry ;)  )
  6. cotdt


    Jul 14, 2007
    Bay Area, USA
    The FE is one of the best cameras I've ever used.
  7. califlefty


    Apr 7, 2006
    As someone with a lot of experience with the FE I would say you should look at the FE2 or FM instead. Whether FE or FE2 the key to these cameras is size, weight and simplicity. For a bit more money and a bit more size and weight, I would recommend you forgo the FE completely and go directly to an F-100, for the ability to use G/D lenses, auto focus (even focus assist with older AIS lenses) and better build in every regard.
  8. I appreciate the recommendation and I know this sounds a little bit shallow, but I'm looking for a camera that has that old school look. Also, I'm looking to challenge myself to learn my craft/hobby better, so I don't mind the transition.

    BUSTED! Yes, I did see Ken's article. It's not the whole reason why I'm looking to do this, I've been thinking about it for quite some time.

    Like I said above, I'm looking for a challenge, not an easy transition. I want a camera that's going to force me to learn, not rely on features on a camera. People might think I'm nuts, but that's what I want...sorry:tongue:

    This is more the attitude I was going for going into this. When I went into the shop earlier today, the salesman had me tryout a 180/2.8 AI...fantastic lens! Great DOF. After trying out that lens, I've decided I'll be getting a 50/1.4 and 180/2.8.

    I'm looking forward to getting some experience with it! (Well, a FE2 anyway...close enough:smile:) 

    Shout-out to HEAD-FI!

    Funny you recommend the FE2. I went to my local shop today and ending up preferring the FE2 to the FE because of the higher shutter speed ability. The operation of either camera was a lot easier than I thought it would be.

    Thanks for all your replies!

    Any other lens recommendations?
  9. cotdt


    Jul 14, 2007
    Bay Area, USA

    When you get the FE, replace the screen with a Nikon E3 screen, sold new at BH Photo. Those screens are super bright and clean. The stock FE screen is a bit dim.
  10. Thanks for the tip!

    Any lens recommendations?
  11. cotdt


    Jul 14, 2007
    Bay Area, USA
    The AIS and Zeiss ZF lenses feel the best, and are optically superb. 28/2, 35/1.4, 50/1.2, 85/2, 105/1.8, 75-150, 50-135, 85/1.4, 105/2.5... there's too many to list! There is a huge selection of cheap AIS lenses available, which makes the Nikon FE so appealing.

    The manual focus system of the FE isn't anything like the ones in modern cameras. The viewfinder is bigger and brighter, the DoF is much shallower for easy manual focus. With practice you can consistently nail the focus on every shot, even at f/1.4, in under a tenth of a second.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 3, 2008
  12. califlefty


    Apr 7, 2006
    Sounds like you've got your heart set on the FE, go for it.

    Here's wha I do when buying used: Check meter operation against a hand held meter, check the light seals and look for any indication of trouble on the shutter, oil, bends or dents, etc. Look for gunk on the film plate and guides, Inspect the lens mount carefully, mount a lens and make sure it couples. Overall condition like dirt/dust around hinges is indicative of poor maintenance by the owner. Look in the viewfinder, any irregularities, dust, fungus, dimness? All displays are good? Check the batter compartment - any sign of leaking? If so reject it! Mount a motor drive if available and give it a whirl - does the sound of the shutter firing start to change? Reject it! Finally (ok laugh if you must) smell the camera! A musty smell or a hint of burnt oil? That's trouble. Look at all visible screw heads, any sign they've been turned means the camera had major maintenance in the past.

    A typical CLA (clean/lube/adjust) should be done on a regular basis so you might as well plan on it. If not, make sure your shutter timing is ok --shoot a roll of a grey card out of focus but fill the frame in good light, meter in manual mode, going from low to high shutter speeds - now do the same the same in A mode. Are the exposures consistent or are they getting lighter as the shutter speed goes shorter?? Lighter exposures, your shutter is too slow.

    Or you can go with a 9+ from a known dealer. Oh, don't forget to enjoy the experience!
  13. Go for the FE...don't fret a slower maximum shutter speed. You probably aren't going to photograph nuclear fission with it. MF and LF users live with sub 1/500th second maximum shutter speeds with no problem. I spoke with a really cool LF guy who builds his cameras, tripods, lens barrels, etc a couple days ago at the Mt. Whitney Portal. He was doing a two second exposure of a little bubbly cascade with a lens cap (he didn't HAVE a shutter) and remarked that that was the fastest exposure he'd done in recent memory...:biggrin:
    Simplicity is divine.:smile:
  14. cotdt


    Jul 14, 2007
    Bay Area, USA
    Advantages of the FE over the FE2 are:

    -LED battery indicator
    -quieter shutter
    -needle-point metering that is much easier to read
    -tend to be slightly cheaper for one that is in great condition
    -compatible with non-AI lenses
    -longer battery life (battery doesn't need replacing for years)
    -FE2 keeps turning off by itself, which is annoying
    -can shoot 2 extra exposures per roll of film compared to FE2
    -sexier, here's mine:



  15. Nice rig! I love the silver FE. How do you like the 50/1.2? Is it sharp? I was thinking about eventually building up to a lens kit that has a 50mm (not sure which f-stop), 105/2.5, and 180/2.8. Also, where do you usually find your lenses? I've been looking on ebay, but I'm a little leary of that place. I've been burned too many times.
  16. Also, what's a good price for a used FE or FE2? Is it normal to find them for under $100?
  17. cotdt


    Jul 14, 2007
    Bay Area, USA
    Thanks. I get my lenses right here on NikonCafe, sometimes locally via Craigslist, and sometimes on eBay. The 50/1.2 AIS is great. It's as sharp as it gets by f/2, though wide open it's dreamy (the details are there, but it has lower contrast and there is some glow effect). If you really want to know how sharp it is, I tested this lens to get over 200 lines per mm, or over 150 megapixels, at f/2.8 on high resolution B&W film. Actually all the Nikon AIS lenses are really sharp. Build quality is the best that Nikon offers with its viscious-coupled manual focus ring.

    Your plan for your lens kit sounds great, though you might want to have a wide in there, such as a 17-35 or something. A cheaper, smaller option would be a Sigma 24/2.8 or a Nikkor 28/2.8. There are many different versions of the 180/2.8. Go for the AIS EDIF one, never used it myself but I heard good things about it everywhere.

    Not sure how much FEs go for these days. It would depend on the condition. Like the above poster said, make sure you get the camera CLA'ed. It usually only means redoing the light seals, which is very easy to do.
  18. Do you ever transfer your film to digital? If so, where do you get them done? Is it possible to have a transfer made so you get 150MB digital images?
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