The camera that
I have chosen for all of the pictures shown in the gallery
were taken with my trusty Nikon FE2. In this Nikon FE2 review,
I hope to discuss the broad selling points of some of the
older generation of 35mm SLR cameras. The FE2 is a manual
focus camera system that began selling in 1983. It offers
one automatic exposure mode with aperture priority. It is
wonderfully durable and easy to understand. Being a system
that is over 20 years old, there are certainly more capable
cameras today, but a few characteristics drew me to this
Cost - a used manual camera can be found
at a much lower cost than the comparable modern equivalent.
I purchased mine on ebay for around $150.
Simplicity - there is a much more direct
interface of aperture, shutter speed, and focus on the
older manual cameras. Functions are not hidden behind
3 layers of electronic menus. The simplicity does limit
the capability of the camera in some situations, but for
someone who is simply learning about photography it allows
the user to confidently set the exposure and concentrate
on composition, the most challenging aspect of photography
for most beginners.
Durability - all metal construction
offers confidence that the body will withstand a few bumps
and dings. Weatherproofing is also adequate as I have
shot in light rain showers without problems.
Cheap Prime Lenses - Inexpensive prime
focus lenses are readily available at low cost. The optical
performance of prime lenses is certainly comparable, if
not better, than modern zoom lenses. Prime lenses often
offer a larger maximum aperture than the modern zoom which
will allow you to shoot in lower lighting conditions.
Low (or no) battery consumption - the
only battery required in the Nikon FE2 is a small button
type battery - I have to replace mine once every 1-1/2
years - the battery is easily located at any drugstore.
The Nikon FM2 does not require any batteries for operation
as every shutter speed is a fully mechanical operation
- a battery is only needed to operate the camera's internal
Lack of Autofocus - This is the only
feature that I find is a handicap in some situations.
No matter how quick you think you are at focusing, a lower
percentage of shots will be in focus when you encounter
certain shooting situations. Moving subjects, especially
ones that are close to the camera, are difficult if not
impossible to capture with manual focus. One method used
is to pre-focus on a plane where you predict your subject
will cross and press the shutter when it comes into focus.
Success with this method depends on the speed of the subject
and your reflexes.
- Classic Zoom Lenses are Inferior - If
you have to have a zoom lens to meet your needs, you are
much better off getting a modern lens. Zoom lenses made
in the era of the manual operation SLR are much lacking
in image quality and speed.
There are many great classic cameras
available and easy to find through ebay. Canon's very popular
AE-1 is one example. Pentax makes many great lines of beginner
cameras including the K-100 - a staple for many photography
courses. From Nikon, I was choosing between the FE2, F3, FM2,
FE, as well as a few others. After much research, a few of
the features of the FE2 stood out and helped me to a decision.
- "Needle" type light meter - My main choice was between the FE2 and the FM2. I had
used a classic Pentax prior to my purchase that featured
a light meter where all shutter speeds are clearly indicated
at the side of the viewfinder and offered a needle that
pointed at the shutter speed for correct exposure. The
alternative to this type of meter can be found in the
FM2, where a (+) or (-) sign indicates if your current
shutter speed and aperture combination is over or under
correct exposure. The problem that I have with the (+)
and (-) type indicators is that it does not tell me how
far above or below I am. Finding the correct exposure
turns into a quick guessing game where I turn the aperture
until it indicates correct exposure. With a needle type
light meter, I can clearly see how many stops over or
under I am with my current aperture setting and quickly
make adjustments to capture the shot.
- The Nikon FE2 offers a precision quartz timed
shutter speed. When set in aperture priority
mode, the camera is able to select intermediate shutter
speeds to exactly match what the light meter is calling
for. Normal offerings for shutter speed are 1/60, 1/125,
1/500, etc. If the light meter calls for 1/90s where the
needle is somewhere between 1/60 and 1/125, the camera
actually shoots at the exact shutter speed required.
- Maximum 1/4000 shutter speed - this
is higher than most cameras made at the time, which often
only go to 1/1000 or 1/2000. Higher shutter speed is a
nice feature to have but I have found that it is not as
important as most beginners make it out to be. Very few
shooting situations require such high shutter speeds.
My descriptions of the FE2 are very
humble compared to the Malaysian website documenting the history
Cameras. Their site is a great resource for specifications
on any piece of Nikon gear you can think of from any time
period. Along with the specifications are good reviews of
the operation of the equipment. The page on the Nikon
FE2 is very informative and has served as a Nikon FE2 Manual since my camera did not come with a manual.