Nikon FM vs Nikon FE vs Nikon FE2 Review (+vs F4 / F5!)

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 FE2 Portrait

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?

Nikon Fm vs Nikon FE vs Nikon FE2 camera review
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.

Nikon Fm vs Nikon FE vs Nikon FE2 review photo

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.

Kodak Portra 400 Colours

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!

Nikon F3

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.

Nikon FM vs Nikon FE vs Nikon FE2

Nikon FM

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 FM & Nikkor 50/1.2 AIS

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.

Nikon FE2

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!).

35mm Wedding Photography

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 –

  1. Cheap – All 3 cameras can be found for <£150 on eBay
  2. Tough – All are solid and would probably withstand a drop/ knock
  3. Lightweight – Nikon FM (590g) Nikon FE (590g) Nikon FE2 (550g)
  4. Compact – the form of the Nikon FE/FE2/FM is smaller than later F’s
  5. No battery required – all cameras can* function without a battery
  6. Lightmeter built in – all 3 have centre weighted lightmeter
  7. 93% coverage / 86% magnification viewfinder – on all 3 cameras
  8. Double exposure button – if you want to get creative!
  9. Battery – 2x S76 or A76
Nikon Film Portrait

Nikon SLR buyers guide! Nikon FM vs FE vs FE2

Nikon Fm vs Nikon FE vs Nikon FE2 review comparison photo

Nikon FM – why to buy?

  1. Fully manual – so will operate at any shutter speed without a battery
  2. Cheapest – of the Nikon FM,FE, FE2 (Usually <£100)
  3. Works with older lenses – Nikkor Pre-AI lenses (FE2 won’t)

Nikon FE – why to buy?

  1. Works with older lenses – Nikkor Pre-AI lenses (FE2 won’t)
  2. Slow preset shutter speeds – down to 8 sec + bulb (FM = 1 sec)
  3. Usable without battery – manual shutter of 1/90 (vs 1/250 FE2)

Nikon FE2 – why to buy?

  1. Lightest – The Nikon FE2 is 40g lighter than the FE,FM
  2. Highest flash sync speed – 1/250 vs 1/125 (FM,FE)
  3. Fastest maximum shutter speed – 1/4000 vs 1/1000 (FM,FE)
  4. Slow preset shutter speeds – down to 8 sec + bulb (FM = 1 sec)
  5. Brightest screen – easier for my eyes to focus accurately
C41 film developing at home

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.

Nikon Fm vs Nikon FE vs Nikon FE2 review

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 –

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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).
  4. Lightest of the three cameras (which I love) so it is perfect for when I’m travelling overseas and travelling light/ with weight restrictions.
  5. 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
  1. Cheap! Nikon FE2 is 1/5 of the cost of a Leica M4-P (approx)
  2. High flash sync speed – 1/250 vs 1/50 (FE2 vs M4P)
  3. Maximum shutter speed – 1/4000 vs 1/1000 (FE2 vs M4P)
  4. Built in light meter – vs without with the Leica M4-P (+M2, M3)
  5. Closer focusing ability – <0.7M for FE2
  6. Weight – 550g vs 560g (FE2 vs M4P) (Great that FE2 is that light!)
  7. Double exposure button option of FE2 (vs not for Leica)(nice option)
  8. 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 Macro Elmar-M 90mm

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 –

  1. Maximum flash sync speed: FE2 and F4 both offer 1/250
  2. Maximum shutter speed: FE2 – 1/4000, F4 – 1/8000
  3. Weight: FE2 – 550g, F4 – 1200g (with batteries)
  4. Autofocus: FE2 – No, F4 – Yes
  5. Batteries: FE2 – 2x S76 or A76 , F4 – 4x AA (or 8x AA in grip)
  6. Film advance: FE2 – manual, F4 – auto film advance
  7. Film rewind: FE2 – manual, F4 – auto or manual film rewind
  8. 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 F5 Review

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 –

  1. Maximum flash sync speed: FE2 and F5 both offer 1/250
  2. Maximum shutter speed: FE2 – 1/4000, F5 – 1/8000
  3. Weight: FE2 – 550g, F5 – 1445g (with 8x AA batteries)
  4. Autofocus: FE2 – No, F5 – Yes (super fast autofocus)
  5. Batteries: FE2 – 2x S76 or A76 , F5 – 8x AA
  6. Film advance: FE2 – manual, F5 – auto film advance
  7. Film rewind: FE2 – manual, F5 – auto or manual film rewind
  8. 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.

Nikon FM Portrait

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).

Voigtlander Ultron 40mm

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Nikon mount lens reviews
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Nikon F5 Review (Best Nikon Film Camera?)

Nikon F5 Review (Best Nikon Film Camera?)

Qu. Is the Nikon F5 the Best Nikon Film camera?
>>  In this review I explain why I bought the Nikon F5 & why it is the Best Nikon Film Camera for me
Nikon F5 Photographer

Nikon F5 SLR Camera

I bought the Nikon F5 35mm film camera last (2017) year but I didn’t get a chance to write about it. I won’t write a detailed Nikon F5 review here as I will only be duplicting the work of others before me.  (Check Ken Rockwell’s website if you want camera specifications).  Instead I will focus on a few key facts, some of my thoughts so far and finish off with a few of my Nikon F5 Flickr photos to show what the Nikon F5 can do.
1996 Nikon F5 – Brief History
The Nikon F5 SLR (“Single lens reflex”) camera was released in 1996 and replaced my Nikon F4 that was first released 8 years earlier.  The Nikon F5 was one of the last professional spec Nikon film bodies (the last was the Nikon F6 I believe) before they switched to digital. When I look at the Nikon F5 it always reminds me of a Nikon D4 or something of a similar pro level today.
Nikon F5 Pro Level SLR
The Nikon F5 oozes quality and is a fine-looking camera I think, even coming from the Leica camp (where people think we can only appreciate other Leica cameras)(Not me). The Nikon F5 is very different to a Leica but still built well build.  I would say a Leica is more of a precision tool, which is built to last but needs more care.  I think the Nikon F5 could survive a drop down a flight of stairs and still work (my Nikon F4 survived this and it is less rugged than the F5).

Nikon before Leica (My history with Nikon)

I used digital Nikon cameras before I discovered Leica cameras and owned first a crop sensor Nikon D90, then a full frame Nikon D700 camera and finally a Nikon D800 that I bought on pre-release. It was not until a few years later that I bought my  first Leica, a Leica M9.  Having come from having digital Nikon cameras I still own some very nice Nikon F mount lenses.  I can now use all of these lenses on the Nikon F5 so I’m glad I kept them. I also own two other Nikon film bodies, a Nikon FM and the aforementioned Nikon F4.  I will compare my three Nikon film cameras in a separate article.

Nikon F5 Camera Review

Nikon F5 Review – Top 3 features (for me)

1. Nikon F5 – Well built
As mentioned above it feels like the Nikon F5 is built to last and feels less fragile than a Leica.  (By this I mean the Leica  rangefinder calibration can be knocked out of alignment if easily if the camera is knocked). The Nikon F5 is not a light camera with the camera body alone weighing 1.2kg (without the 8 AA batteries) A Leica M3 bodies weighs less than half that of the F5 at 580g (and it still feels quiet weighty for it’s compact size). The added weight of the Nikon F5 gives a good solid sturdy feel but doesn’t suit packing light for overseas trips and model shoots!
2. Nikon F5 – Fast autofocus
I bought the Nikon F5 specifically as the Nikon F4 auto focus is unusable for moving subjects (for me). The F4 is so slow I missed almost every photo. I can focus a manual focus Leica much faster than the F4 autofocus. In addition to this, I wanted to enjoy using telephoto autofocus lenses on the F5.  One example lens is the Nikkor 180mm f2.8 AFD which I bought in my Leica ‘era’.  Using an SLR camera and long lenses is a different photography experience to using a Leica camera. With a Leica I tend to use shorter focal length lenses, often 21mm-90mm.  My eyesight is not good enough to use a long lens without AF at a distance on an SLR camera so I appreciate the fast auto focusing of the Nikon F5.
3. Nikon F5 – Bright viewfinder
Lastly I enjoy the modern looking big bright viewfinder with focus confirmation. I use manual focus lenses on the Nikon F5 too so it is great to confirm if I have a subject in focus and can see accurately enough with just my eyesight.

So.. Is the Nikon F5 the Best Nikon Film Camera?

The answer is it depends on what camera features are most important to you when you think of the best Nikon film camera.  If for you the smallest lightest Nikon SLR is best then you would prefer the Nikon FM (from the cameras I use).  Perhaps you want your Nikon SLR camera to have autofocus and you mostly photograph static subjects then the Nikon F4 SLR offers autofocus in a smaller lighter camera body (vs the F5).  If however you need a film camera to photograph fast action photography such as motorsport then the Nikon F5 could well be the best Nikon film camera for you.   It is not small nor lightwight but it the Nikon F5 shoots 8fps vs only 4fps for my Nikon F4.  Not only that the Nikon F5 focus seems much advanced that the Nikon F4, focusing faster, hunting less and seems to nail focus regularly.  So for me yes the Nikon F5 is the best Nikon film camera when size is not an issue (even though I shoot portraits, fashion and weddings and not motorsport!).

Nikon vs Leica

I wrote a lot more for this review (over double the length) but it was going off topic comparing Nikon to Leica rather than the F5.  Instead I have cut this post here and will share the less Nikon F5 specific part another time. On to the Nikon F5 photos!

Nikon F5 Flickr photos

*(Click any photo to see the lens/ film used)
B&W Portraits
B&W Film Developing Nikon F5 Studio Shoot Nikon F5 Portrait Voigtlander Ultron 40mm F2 SL II Kodak Eastman 5222 Double-X Nikon F5 Camera Review Tenerife Photoshoot Nikon F5 B&W Fashion End of the film
Nikon F5 Colour film
Nikon F5 Camera Kodak Portra 400 Portrait

Nikon F5 Camera Review – Note

I appreciate you probably didn’t learn anything new from this mini Nikon F5 camera review and I only cover perhaps 1% of the Nikon F5 features. Hopefully the sample images will give a taster of what the Nikon F5 can do using the most basic F5 camera setting.  For me the final image is the reason I buy a camera. The 2 comparison posts to follow will help cover more of the specifics and will help when deciding between buying a Leica or a Nikon and a Nikon F4 vs Nikon F5 (for example).

Wait! Do you have film?

After reading this article hopefully you are now ready to get out and start shooting!  Have you got film ready to load?  Here are some of my favourite / the best films that I use in the Nikon F5 camera for portraits.
Colour film
Black and white film

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More Film photography posts Nikon F5 Test Photo The National Gallery, London