Tuesday, July 24, 2012

GOING RETRO: Nikon FE Film SLR Camera Review

"They dont make things like they used to" ahhh how many times have we heard people say such remarks. Up to a certain extent its mainly true. Consumer products now are designed to last for no more than two years. Well, in my latest trend setting movement of "GOING RETRO" I have yet again to take another step back in the past and went bought a Nikon FE Film SLR camera.

Old and new "Nikon" Font

No batteries required, No autofocus, no beeps or LCD displays and of course no memory cards!!! This particular Nikon FE is actually older than I am. It rolled out of the factory way back in 1978 and now 34 years later it lands in my hands. Even though it has minor signs of aging, the camera still works flawlessly after all these years.

Why go back to film???

Truth be told, I actually started photography with film, back in 1995. I played around with my teachers nikon FM10. What I missed the most about film photography is the semi-circular focusing screen that you would use to help with focus. With film there is relatively no digital noise and as a photographer one can really appreciate the fundamentals of photography by taking my time and making sure everything is just right before I click the shutter. After all, one can't just simply fire away and delete the pictures like on a digital camera. Going back to film, I can fully utilize "full frame" photography which would be much more expensive to go for digital full frame.

The camera...

This little baby was built tough and robust, most of the components are made from metal. You can feel the weight but its still marginally compact when compared to a DSLR. The beauty about getting a nikon Film SLR is that the lens mount has never changed for nikon. I can happily attach my digital nikon AF-D lens to my film camera and vice versa. So even though I am venturing into a film SLR, I can still make use of my current collection of nikon lens (just as long as the lens has an aperture ring)
Brilliant!!! so now I have two nikon bodies and bunch of lenses that I can mix and match.

Tough and robust

Operation and controls...

For someone that is just getting back into film the nikon FE is a friendly camera. Load a film (I would recommend ASA 200), Crank the frame advance lever and you are good to go. The nikon FE was one of the first few to have an Aperture Priority mode (Auto) so instead of setting the shutter speed your self and adjusting the aperture to get the right exposure, all you hade to do was to set it in "Auto" select the aperture on the lens and the camera will determine the correct shutter speed (dont forget to set the film speed). Wait a minute...doesn't "auto" mode require a power source? yup it does but only the "metering" part. If you are a seasoned photographer or use an external light meter then you can go full manual mode. The built in meter uses 2 LR44 batteries (laser pointer batts)

Film advance lever, shutter release and shutter speed dial

Other interesting features...

The shutter speed can be varied from 8 seconds to 1/1000th of a second, there is a Bulb mode, M90 flash sync mode and it can sync with an external flash up to 1/125th of a second. A Depth of Field preview button to check your composition and even a little mirror so that you can see what aperture you are on without taking your eye of from the viewfinder.

Metering scale to the left, aperture window at top and the lovely semi circular focusing aid in the middle

What I like best...

Even though this camera was made in 1978, it is compatible with nikon lens and flashgun made today. I hook it up with a nikkor 50mm f1.8D and even with an SB-800 flashgun and everything works flawlessly. Well done nikon.

Processing film...

Now this is the hard part, its hard enough to find places that sell film rolls of your desired speed, its even harder to find places that can process and develop them. Lucky enough for me there are a few places nearby my house and work place that can do this for me.It might be hard but its sure worth it when you look back at the photos develop and your hard work.

Rolled up and ready to be developed


Going back to film requires a lot of patience and you may find that sometimes you learn the hard way. Everything must be set up properly before you press the shutter, from film speed, shutter speed and aperture. I once emptied an entire roll not realizing that I had mistakenly set the shutter speed to 1/1000 and in the end, all the frames were pitch black :( oh well lesson learnt.

I know some of you generation y geration whiners are mere laughing at the fact of going back to film when digital is soooo much easier but give it a shot and who knows you might actually like it an dappreciate the "art" of photography.

Retro is the way to go.......

See some more pictures captures with the nikon FE here : http://www.facebook.com/#!/media/set/?set=a.10151058001628746.455251.632673745&type=3

1 comment:

Effdom said...

The FE actualy needs the bateries to operate. It has electronic shutter. Without the battery it works on 1/90s only. But the drain is low and the cheap bateries last long. You need no bateries in the FM body.