A bonus review for you mostly because I have this camera temporarily in my possession, and if this camera tickles your fancy keep an ear to the Film Photography Podcast as you may have a chance to win it! So I took the chance to not only put the camera through its paces but review it at the same time. Don’t let the small size fool you, the FG is a solid camera and a bit of an odd ball in the camera lineup. The camera itself was the successor of the compact automatic Nikon EM, but where the EM fell down, the FG shined. The FG features both full auto exposure along with aperature priority and full manual functionality and worked with any AI, AI-S, Series E, and D-Type lenses. And is a generally pleasing camera to use!
Type: 35mm Single Lens Reflex
Lens: Interchangeable, Nikon F-Mount
Date: 1982 to 1984
I wasn’t expecting to like this camera as much as I did, having used an EM before and generally not enjoying the experience the FG was a pleasant surprise. I would actually put this camera on par with the Canon AE-1 Program with full auto exposure (and a good meter, not as good as say the Nikon FA, but nailed the exposure) it also has a fantastic aperture priority mode as well, which for me is a must as I mostly shoot in that exposure mode on most of my cameras. Even for it’s small size the camera handled really well with all the controls within reach and a nice short throw on the film advance means I could shoot pretty quick even without a motor drive. And to top it all off the camera has a nice bright viewfinder with a small window to indicate the aperture and LED lights to indicate what shutter speed has been set or what speed you need to set.
The biggest problem I have with this camera is the fact there is no dedicated on/off switch, even one like on the Nikon FM series that you just have to flip the film advance out and in to turn it on and off. On the FG you need to set the camera to Bulb on the shutter speed dial to turn the meter off, if not you’ll drain the batteries fairly quickly. Next is that there’s no indication of what shutter speed is set inside the viewfinder, only what speed you should set, which if you’re shooting outside what the camera’s meter is saying can be difficult.
I like this camera, I really do. Mostly because it’s one of those forgotten Nikon’s in their grand history, most people would go for the culty FM and FE or the Pro line of cameras (F, F2, F3, F4, F5, or F6), but the smaller ones that didn’t last long, the EM (actually avoid the EM), FG, FG-20, and FA don’t get as much love as they should. I would actually suggest that someone who is used to automation and want to take the first faltering steps into a more manual world of film photography the FG is for you. And you can use a whole host of excellent Nikon glass at the same time!
All photos shot in and around Southern Ontario
Nikon FG – Nikon Series E 50mm 1:1.8 – Ilford Pan F+ @ ASA-50 – Ilford Ilfosol 3 (1+14) 4:30 @ 20C