When it comes to classic cameras, there’s a specific look that will always be connected to Nikon. From the massive metered prisms of the F and F2 and the red strip that remain with the cameras to this day first introduced with the F3. But in the 1970s a certain touch of class entered the Nikon line, clean, simple, sharp. Pure photography as Nikon touts in their advertisements for the Nikon Df, which oddly enough is based around the camera under review, the Nikon FE. The design of the FE and it’s mechanical cousin, the FM, remained so popular the design lasted for several more models before production switched to Cosina where they took on a more modern Nikon look complete with the red stripe. The FE remains a solid shooter even today with a semi-automatic aperture priority electronic (hence the E in the name) camera with full manual function on top of it, and it fills in a small gap in my Nikon kit between the F2 and FA.
- Make: Nikon
- Model: FE
- Type: Single Lens Reflex
- Format: 135 (35mm), 36x24mm
- Lens: Interchangeable, Nikon F Mount
- Year of Manufacture: 1978-1983
The strongest feature on the FE is in its simplicity, having on a few dials to run the camera operations in a well laid out manner. A dedicated on/off switch with a pull out on the film advance lever. And that film advance, nice and short that allows for quick shooting. And don’t let the small size of the camera body, it has a decent weight and balance. I’d put the FE up against an OM-2 for size and functionality. While the viewfinder isn’t the brightest out there, that honour goes to the FE2, but the viewfinder is one of the best I’ve seen. A clear display of shutter speeds along the one side that makes the automatic mode easy as the shutter speed is indicated by a needle. And when you’re in manual mode, you simply match a needle to the indicated shutter speed. A modern version of my favourite match needle system. And the camera has a good meter in it to boot, centre-weighted and dead accurate.
There is one lone issue I have with the Nikon FE. It’s not that it’s an electronic camera that requires a battery to operate fully, I knew that when I got the camera. Like many electronic cameras of the age, they came with a mechanical mode with a single shutter speed. That’s not the problem either; it’s the selected speed to make the mechanically fixed speed, 1/90th of a second. It just doesn’t make sense to me. The camera would be far more useful in mechanical backup if the speed were 1/125th makes it easy to run with Sunny-16! Thankfully the camera is not a battery hog, and the spares are pretty easy to acquire so having a couple in the bag wouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Having shot the Nikon FM2n in the past I took to the FE immediately. It also reminds me of my third camera, the Minolta X-7a. For a first camera, this camera is great for anyone, style and class, second to none. With access to every Nikon lens out there from the early Auto-Nikkors to AI and AI-S (including AF-D), you have a solid camera that really won’t let you down. And while they carry a decent price-tag on the used market you can have one for between 80 to 200 dollars, and even in rough shape, the camera will still work. And while you can get a two-toned chrome/black, I’d go with an all black one; they look better in my opinion.
All Photos Taken in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Nikon FE – AI-S Nikkor 50mm 1:1.4 – Bergger BRF 400 Plus @ ASA-400
Kodak HC-110 Dil. E 10:30 @ 20C