Nikon FM vs Nikon FE vs Nikon FE2 Review (+vs F4 / F5!)
Are you looking to buy one of these 3 classic Nikon SLR film cameras? Can’t decide which one to buy? Hopefully after this review you will be in a better position to pick the right camera for you! (It also includes comparisons to the Nikon F4, Nikon F5 and a Leica!)
Nikon film cameras
The 35mm Nikon FM SLR film camera was one of my first cameras when I first got into film photography (See FM example images). I tend to shoot with Leica film cameras now for 35mm film but as the years have gone by I have picked up a Nikon F4 and a Nikon F5. The Nikon F4 and F5 are both more modern Nikon autofocus SLR cameras. The Nikon FM is a much lighter, simpler design, as are the Nikon FE and Nikon FE2 models.
Why more 35mm cameras?
Rangerfinder film camera restrictions
Although I love my Leica film cameras, shooting with a rangefinder camera will give photos with a different look to those shot with an SLR camera. Why? Leica rangefinder camera lenses usually only focus as close as 0.7m-1m. There are exceptions such as using Leica lenses with close focus goggles like the Leica Summicron 50mm f2 DR lens or Leica Elmar 50mm f2.8 lens. SLR cameras however can focus closer than 0.7m with most regular lenses such as a 50mm. Some SLR telephoto lenses can be 1m or further closest focus.
Cheap vs Expensive!
As you are probably aware Leica cameras and lenses are not the cheapest. I’m fortunate enough to use them but I prioritise cameras over most other things in life. As a camera is only a tool I thought it might be nice to use only cheap £100 cameras for a bit. My plan is to use two Nikon SLR cameras for a planned up coming trip. I would then leave the Leica film cameras behind.
Two became three!
As I’ve written on here before I have my dumb moments. My head is always full and I bounce from idea to idea constantly. I will put the dumb moments down to lack of sleep but that might be unfair on sleep! As I already had one Nikon SLR camera I wanted to get a second film body. My first stop was YouTube to see which was the “best Nikon SLR camera” to get.
Best Nikon SLR camera?
The best Nikon SLR camera is different for everyone depending on your personal preference and needs. There were so many different Nikon film cameras made over the years it is all a bit mind boggling when you come to buy one. All these cameras shoot 35mm film and they all capture photos. Most Nikon SLR cameras will accept the same Nikon mount lenses so the only variable really is the functionally and form of each camera model. That and of course the price! The different film camera prices vary widely depending on which camera model you chose. Help YouTubers! Time for me to get researching. Cue hours of camera review binge watching/ listening/ reading!
One of the seemingly most raved about Nikon SLR cameras is the Nikon F3 (and the many Nikon F3 variants). I was buying into the rave reviews until I looked at the replaceable viewfinder and compared that to my existing Nikon FM. The weight of the Nikon F3HP model is 200g heavier than some of the earlier camera models like the Nikon FM. If I want heavier Nikon SLR cameras with all the bells and whistles I can just use my Nikon F4 or Nikon F5 which are better than the F3 as they also offer autofocus (and many more updated features). (The Nikon F5 is an awesome camera!) For now however I wanted lightweight and super simple camera to travel with. More like a Leica M film camera.
As mentioned, the fully manual Nikon FM camera has served me well so far. Weighing only 570g it is almost the same weight as a Leica M4-P film camera (560g). This is a good thing. I wanted a cheap lightweight Nikon SLR setup for travel. My Nikon FM was ready to be used but I wanted a second SLR film camera body. One camera will be to shoot black and white film and the second camera body will be loaded with colour film.
Nikon FE vs FM
Me being dumb. After more YouTube reviews I became more aware of the Nikon FE camera. The Nikon FE has a built in light meter and seemed to get better reviews than the Nikon FE2. The Nikon FM is fully manual and can be operated without any battery. This is how I have used the FM camera to the extent that I totally forgot that it had a built in light meter! (Doh!) My fault for always jumping between so many different camera systems rather than mastering just one!
After watching two or three videos I noticed that they all seemed to be very pro Nikon FE. I spend a few days watching eBay then once I spotted a good deal I pulled the trigger and got myself a nice condition Nikon FE body. This would be my second lightweight Nikon SLR body. That is all I need for my trip. Done.
If you are like me you keeping reading reviews on your new purchase until it arrives. As soon as it arrives you never watch another similar review (you just find something else you think you really ‘need’ and the process starts all over again!). (Or is that just me!?) Reading up on the just purchased item probably helps pass the time while waiting for delivery and gets you up to speed on what to expect for when it arrives.
In this instance watching more Nikon F YouTube videos was a mistake. I binge watch when I review cameras and gear so I probably watched three more (plus) Nikon FE related videos. This time however all the YouTube videos seemed to be pro Nikon FE2 and saying it was better than the Nikon FE (that I’d just bought!)(Doh!).
Nikon FE vs FE2
Just my luck to find this info after already ordering the Nikon FE film camera. I started to weigh up the pros and cons of the Nikon FE vs FE2 and decided to look on eBay for an FE2. The Nikon FE2 is priced slightly higher than the Nikon FE and Nikon FM but it offered some features neither other camera had. I guess I can always sell one later and keep my favourite two. Hmm.
Nikon FM vs FE vs FE2 – similar features
After lots of reading I found that the Nikon FM, FE and FE2 all share some similar features. Here are some of the major ones for me –
- Cheap – All 3 cameras can be found for <£150 on eBay
- Tough – All are solid and would probably withstand a drop/ knock
- Lightweight – Nikon FM (590g) Nikon FE (590g) Nikon FE2 (550g)
- Compact – the form of the Nikon FE/FE2/FM is smaller than later F’s
- No battery required – all cameras can* function without a battery
- Lightmeter built in – all 3 have centre weighted lightmeter
- 93% coverage / 86% magnification viewfinder – on all 3 cameras
- Double exposure button – if you want to get creative!
- Battery – 2x S76 or A76
Nikon SLR buyers guide! Nikon FM vs FE vs FE2
Nikon FM – why to buy?
- Fully manual – so will operate at any shutter speed without a battery
- Cheapest – of the Nikon FM,FE, FE2 (Usually <£100)
- Works with older lenses – Nikkor Pre-AI lenses (FE2 won’t)
Nikon FE – why to buy?
- Works with older lenses – Nikkor Pre-AI lenses (FE2 won’t)
- Slow preset shutter speeds – down to 8 sec + bulb (FM = 1 sec)
- Usable without battery – manual shutter of 1/90 (vs 1/250 FE2)
Nikon FE2 – why to buy?
- Lightest – The Nikon FE2 is 40g lighter than the FE,FM
- Highest flash sync speed – 1/250 vs 1/125 (FM,FE)
- Fastest maximum shutter speed – 1/4000 vs 1/1000 (FM,FE)
- Slow preset shutter speeds – down to 8 sec + bulb (FM = 1 sec)
- Brightest screen – easier for my eyes to focus accurately
Nikon FM vs FE vs FE2 – which is best?
So I guess you might ask, of the Nikon FM vs FE vs FE2 which is the best? As you can see from the advantages of each camera listed above there is no clear winner. The best camera is the one that ticks the most boxes for your needs.
Best Nikon film camera for me? – Nikon FE2
Personally I think my favourite / best Nikon SLR for me is the Nikon FE2. It gives the most functionality in the same size box. Specifically for me –
- Fast 1/250 flash sync speed is great for daylight flash portraits. Leica film cameras with a flash sync of 1/50 are terrible for this.
- Fast 1/4000 maximum shutter speed means I can use fast lenses like the Nikkor 50mm f1.2 Ai-s in bright conditions wide open without an ND filter (or stopping down).
- 1-8 second built in slow shutter speeds should be useful for if I do any low light landscapes or night photography. (It is better that the camera has 1-8 seconds automated timer than me have to count it on my phone with a cable release).
- Lightest of the three cameras (which I love) so it is perfect for when I’m travelling overseas and travelling light/ with weight restrictions.
- Brightest screen which will help me critically focus the 50mm f1.2 lens (and others).
In summary, for a slightly higher price tag the Nikon FE2 wins for my needs.
Nikon FE2 vs Leica M4-P
My most used 35mm film camera is the Leica M4-P so here is a quick Nikon FE2 vs Leica M4-P comparison! Being a Leica shooter here is a summary as to why I bought the Nikon FE2 –
Nikon FE2 vs Leica M4P – Nikon FE2 Benefits
- Cheap! Nikon FE2 is 1/5 of the cost of a Leica M4-P (approx)
- High flash sync speed – 1/250 vs 1/50 (FE2 vs M4P)
- Maximum shutter speed – 1/4000 vs 1/1000 (FE2 vs M4P)
- Built in light meter – vs without with the Leica M4-P (+M2, M3)
- Closer focusing ability – <0.7M for FE2
- Weight – 550g vs 560g (FE2 vs M4P) (Great that FE2 is that light!)
- Double exposure button option of FE2 (vs not for Leica)(nice option)
- Ability to mount affordable lenses (vs expensive Leica M lenses)
Once you list the features like this it is easy to see that the Nikon FE2 and Leica M4-P (or any older Leica film camera) are quite different.
Leica vs Nikon FM (for completeness)
The Leica M2, M3 and M4-P are closer to the Nikon FM that the FE2. All these camera can/ do operate manually and with 1/1000 maximum shutter speed. The Nikon FM offers the 1/125 flash sync and built in light meter and costs a fraction of the price. The Leica bodies let you mount the desirable Leica M lenses and are rangefinder cameras (which I generally tend to prefer for most of my photography)(hence “Mr Leica”).
Nikon FE2 vs Nikon F4 (as I own both)
I mentioned I have the more modern Nikon F4 so here is why the Nikon FE2 is desirable to me –
- Maximum flash sync speed: FE2 and F4 both offer 1/250
- Maximum shutter speed: FE2 – 1/4000, F4 – 1/8000
- Weight: FE2 – 550g, F4 – 1200g (with batteries)
- Autofocus: FE2 – No, F4 – Yes
- Batteries: FE2 – 2x S76 or A76 , F4 – 4x AA (or 8x AA in grip)
- Film advance: FE2 – manual, F4 – auto film advance
- Film rewind: FE2 – manual, F4 – auto or manual film rewind
- Size: FE2 – small for a Nikon SLR, F4 – bigger
In conclusion the Nikon F4 is 2x heavier (+ bulkier) than the Nikon FE. If weight is no issue or if you use all auto-focus Nikon lenses, I would recommend the Nikon F4 instead. Great camera but heavier.
Nikon FE2 vs Nikon F5 (as I own both)
I also stated how amazing the Nikon F5 camera is so again here is a quick summary as to why I looked to buy the Nikon FE2 –
- Maximum flash sync speed: FE2 and F5 both offer 1/250
- Maximum shutter speed: FE2 – 1/4000, F5 – 1/8000
- Weight: FE2 – 550g, F5 – 1445g (with 8x AA batteries)
- Autofocus: FE2 – No, F5 – Yes (super fast autofocus)
- Batteries: FE2 – 2x S76 or A76 , F5 – 8x AA
- Film advance: FE2 – manual, F5 – auto film advance
- Film rewind: FE2 – manual, F5 – auto or manual film rewind
- Size: FE2 – small for a Nikon SLR, F5 – huge (but nice ergonimics)
To summarise the Nikon F5 is 3x heavier and probably twice as big as the Nikon FE2. If weight is no issue or if you use all auto-focus Nikon lenses, I would recommend the Nikon F5 instead. Awesome pro level Nikon body film camera and more features than you will ever need. Looks good and shoots well. Better autofocus than Nikon F4 if you only need one Nikon with auto-focus.
Amazing bang for the buck!
As I’m used to Leica cameras when I buy cameras made by a different brand they need to be good enough for my needs and expectations. I’m not a Leica snob I just discovered that rangefinder cameras suit me the best (in most conditions). I enjoy using lots of different film cameras such as Hasselblad, Mamiya, Fuji, Nikon but for digital photography I use only Leica.
Nikon film cameras offer amazing bang for the buck, as they say! Excellent value when compared to a Leica. Especially when they both do the same job – take a photo.
What is your favourite Nikon film camera?
If you also use a Nikon SLR film camera I’d love to hear which is your favourite camera model in the comments section below. Did I miss a gem? (This review is based on the Nikon cameras I own so I can’t account for every Nikon ever made. That said I’d like to think I’ve got some of the best ones from all the research I did prior to buying).
More Nikon Blog Posts!
- Nikon F5 – Tenerife Model Photography
- Nikon F4 – Ukraine Girls
- Nikon F4 vs Leica M3
- Nikon FM + Leica M2/M3 Wedding
Nikon mount lens reviews
- Samyang 24mm f1.4 lens
- Nikkor 35-70mm f2.8 D lens
- Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 SL lens
- Tamron 45mm f1.8 lens
- Nikkor 50mm f1.2 ai-s lens
- Petzval 85 Art lens
- Samyang 85mm f1.4 lens
- Tokina 100mm f2.8 Macro AF lens
- Nikkor 135mm f2.8 NAI pre-Ai
- Nikkor 200mm f2 Ai-s lens
You may also like… What Gear I Use for Portraits!
- See full details of my portrait photography lighting kit – HERE
- See full details of my portrait photography equipment kit – HERE