Nikon FA Opinions?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by snegron, Jun 7, 2007.

  1. snegron

    snegron Member

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    Curious to know user opinions on the Nikon FA. How is the build quility, reliability? How does the 5 segment metering compare to the metering found on newer Nikon film bodies? How is the battery life? Will the shutter operate without a battery? Are there any special or annoying quirks you have discovered after using it for awhile? Anyone care to share their experiences with the FA?
     
  2. gchpaco

    gchpaco Member

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    Mine has been pretty good to me. I haven't owned it long enough to have a real opinion on reliability, but it went with me to Europe a couple years back with no trouble. The 5 segment metering is adequate but lacks a lot of vertical patterns, so you may want to be careful if you do that a lot. I haven't had any problems with battery life, with or without the MD-15 (which overrides the camera's battery). The shutter has one manual speed, 1/250th if memory serves... yup, also B. The main annoyances I've had is that the stop down lever and self timer are awkward to reach with the MD-15 attached, there's no AE-lock, and I hate manual exposure on Nikons with LCD +/- indicators. In practice I only really notice the last one (mostly when using my 35 PC) and it's not that big a deal, and I appreciate the autoexposure modes. I also have a slightly easier time seeing the LCD with my glasses on than I do on my F3HP. A good little camera.
     
  3. BradS

    BradS Member

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    I bought mine used to take with me on a big trip to Ireland. I kept B&W film in one body and color in the other. After about three rolls through the FA, I simply fell in love. I left the other body (an FM3A!) in the bag except for the rare sunrise (needed color).

    I can't say enough good about the FA. I shoot mainly in aperature priority auto or manual exposure and have never had the thing screw up an auto exposure - even with a speed light. I've run it without battery (1/250 second and B are all you get). I've dropped it, used it in all weather conditions and it just keeps going. Never a problem. Just what you'd expect from a Nikon.

    The FA has even made me wonder why I ever sprung for a new FM3a (only the second new 35mm SLR I've ever purchased). And, the FA has certainly relagated teh FM3A to un-used status.

    If I had to pick a nit, I'd have to agree that I wish it had a match needle metering display instead of the in view finder +/- in the LCD.

    Incidently, I think Phil Greenspun has called the FA the best Nikon ever (but, that was a few years ago).
     
  4. Marc Akemann

    Marc Akemann Subscriber

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    I've been using a Nikon FA since 1995 and it may be my favorite Nikon. I actually have two black models with MD-15 motor drives attached. I have used them quite frequently over the years, shooting a wide variety of subjects,...even weddings for a couple of years. One of my favorite features with the FA is the ability to use mirror lock up (activated by use of the self-timer) in aperture priority mode. Not many cameras can utilize stepless shutter speeds with the mirror locked up, and I find this feature useful for when I shoot certain things like macro work or landscapes. I agree with gchpaco, in that using the FA in Manual mode is not as enjoyable as, say, a match-needle camera, but other than that, I have no complaints. I've used both of my FA bodies in sub-freezing weather, extreme heat, rain, snow, etc. They're tough, accurate tools and I hope I can use them for many, many years to come. -Marc
     
  5. Kiron Kid

    Kiron Kid Member

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    I don't own one, but my camera repiar guy, tells me to stay away from them. Not a bad rig, but when the main electronics board dies (and they do), that it's very expensive to fix, if, you can find the parts. I find my FE, FE-2, N90s and F100, to be very reliable.

    Kiron Kid
     
  6. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I tend to hear that alot from repair technicians regarding any type of camera with electronics. I wonder how many times do they really encounter a camera that malfunctioned due to faulty electronics vs. one that has been soaked in water and malfunctioned due to user neglect.

    I forgot to ask, are the top/bottom plates of the FA made of metal or plastic?
     
  7. Snapshot

    Snapshot Member

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    I own this camera and I think it's really nice to use. I has a lot of nice features, including a virtual mirror lockup when you use the timer. However, the camera has the feel of a high-end consumer model than a professional feel like the F3.
     
  8. Marc Akemann

    Marc Akemann Subscriber

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    The top is plastic and the bottom is metal.
     
  9. gchpaco

    gchpaco Member

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    How odd. I was about to say the brassing on my top plate speaks to the contrary, but I looked at the brassing patterns again and apparently there's a thin plate of metal or something and it looks like some sort of very hard plastic underneath.
     
  10. BradS

    BradS Member

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    Yeah, I don't know about the top plate being plastic...mine's got a pretty nice dent in it that suggests otherwise. Maybe production switched at somepoint from metal to plastic?
     
  11. Snapshot

    Snapshot Member

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    Mine is definitely plastic.
     
  12. Marc Akemann

    Marc Akemann Subscriber

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    I have a slightly damaged FA top plate that is off the camera with a serial number of 5398266. It is definitely plastic throughout. "The New Nikon Compendium" states that "The top plate is made of a plastic as opposed to metal in the FM2/FE2 and is a lot wider above the prism.....".

    The reason one might see 'brassing' in worn areas is because there is a bronze colored layer of paint between the gray plastic and the outer layer of black paint. It's plain to see looking at the underside of this particular top plate. I think that's pretty clever, although, I would have preferred metal over plastic.

    Brad, since your Nikon FA top plate has a dent in it, perhaps some earlier models were metal. I don't know.

    I can send photos if anyone is interested in seeing both sides of a Nikon FA top plate. I'm usually not this technically 'vocal', but I really love using FAs (as far as 35mm goes). -Marc
     
  13. Snapshot

    Snapshot Member

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    Marc,

    I would be interested win seeing the FA top plate. Thanks for offering.
     
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  15. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    The FA was my first and only new SLR I ever bought. The metering was excellent and the camera gave consistent spot on exposures in all modes. Mine finally died a couple of years ago when the titanium shutter jammed and broke. The repair person I consulted told me this was a typical end fate of the FA. The repairs would have cost more then the camera was worth as I was told repair parts would need to come from another FA as that particular shutter was not used in any other camera made by Nikon and replacements were no longer avaialble from the factory.

    I had thought about just buying a used FA, but not knowing how much real use it may have had I decided against it not wanting to suffer another shutter failure a few months down the road.
     
  16. lawrenceimpey

    lawrenceimpey Member

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    I used an FA for a number of years but eventually it developed an annoying fault: occasionally a frame would come out completely blank for no apparent reason. Maybe the shutter developed a fault but because it was completely random I never managed to get to the bottom of it -- yes, I did try changing the batteries ;-)

    About ten years ago I replaced the FA with an FM2, which is still going strong, and even bought another FM2 quite recently. I am totally satisfied with the FM2. Even though the metering is relatively simple compared to the FA, there is a lot to be said for simple, manual metering. And the LEDs are visible under even the darkest conditions.
     
  17. Robert Kerwin

    Robert Kerwin Member

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    I bought my FA new back in '87. It was a fun camera to use, but around 1996 or so it started to develop problems. It started with the blank frame problem (as described by lawrenceimpey) but gradually this became worse until eventually the shutter wouldn't fire at all. Sometimes I could "reset" it by switching the shutter speed to B or M250 or by removing the batteries. A CLA seemed to fix the problem, but after a short time it quit working for good. Given Nikon's reputation, I was surprised that the camera died after only 10 years of light-moderate use.

    For technical specs, operation and any specific questions, this is a good site to look at:

    http://www.mir.com.my/rb/photography/hardwares/classics/nikonfa/index.htm
     
  18. Marc Akemann

    Marc Akemann Subscriber

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    Well, here are a couple of quickly made shots of the underside of a Nikon FA top plate and one image of a scuffed top-right-front corner of the FA top plate showing the gray plastic, some of the bronze paint and, of course, the black painted surface.

    So it looks (and feels) like the whole piece is plastic with a layer of bronze paint and then black paint over that. It also looks like there is some green paint in the area of the shutter button/film counter/film advance lever/mode selector/shutter speed control (underside of top plate). Not sure what that's for.

    Anyway,...here you go.
     

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  19. S.larsson

    S.larsson Member

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    Hi, I've just bought a brand new top plate for my FA, is replacing it difficult? I don't want any springs flying away when I take the old cover off! Also I will change the bottom plate. Is it the same story there?

    Thanks,

    Stephan
     
  20. Vilk

    Vilk Member

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    used four of them in the 90s, a bit heavier than "nomal" use perhaps--two of the four shutters died in mid-roll, right on the job. also, i'd forget that early matrix--sooner or later you'll notice it makes you recompose ever so slightly, to get a better exposure, quite a silly thing to do; when you eventually lock center-weighted, you'll quickly realize you've got yourself a less reliable, plastic FE2 or FM2N, with a squinty readout that disappears at night

    :cool:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2012
  21. cramej

    cramej Subscriber

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    I like my FA alot - even more now that I installed a K3 screen. I just shot some challenging subjects this past weekend (backlit people in water in the late afternoon) and most of the exposures were right on; definitely comparable accuracy to my N80 that I was shooting at the same time. I even had the FA on P(rofessional:D) I normally use aperture priority but it did just fine in program with the 75-150 Series E. Fill flash was the only thing I had to work to figure out. If you use a dedicated flash on the FA, it will default to 1/250 BUT if you use a 'dumb' flash on Auto, you can easily set your fill flash ratios with the ambient exposure. My Metz 54 with the standard shoe works well for this since you can dial in the exact under or over exposure on the flash instead of messing with the ISO, but any other would work fine. The only feature I REALLY wish it had was a backlit LCD.
     
  22. henbo

    henbo Member

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    I bought my Nikon FA new in 1986 as far as I recall. For a couple of years I used it together with a F100, but I actually preferred the results of the matrix metering in the FA when shooting slide film. I used it until 2006, where I bought the Nikon F6. At the same time the sealing needed to be replaced as it gummed up.
    It's a great camera in my opinion, and I have decided to keep my sample on the shelf, even though I don't use it anymore.
    For me the most annoying thing about the camera is the viewfinder coverage that always gave me some trouble when shooting slides.

    Henning
     
  23. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    I didn't like the FA when it was introduced and hence I never had one until a couple years ago I got a used one out of curiousity. The camera had problem with the shutter as sometimes it would go to 1/4000 no matter how it was set. But that's only a problem specific to the camera I had.
    I found the display are not consistent due to the fact that it has too many automode.
     
  24. Photo-gear

    Photo-gear Member

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    Could somebody tell me the difference between the FA and the FE2 ?
    I own an FE2 and the way the FA is highly regarded, I am wondering whether I am missing something or not... :wink:
     
  25. Leigh B

    Leigh B Member

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    I really like the FA. It was my carry-around camera for several years; with me 24/7 in the car, on the street, wherever.

    It was fast, reasonably light weight with a 35-105 (compared with my F3HP/MD-4), and the metering was quite accurate.

    - Leigh
     
  26. Leigh B

    Leigh B Member

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    I think the difference is the matrix metering. Nikon made a really big deal out of that when it was introduced.

    - Leigh