Nikon FE meter deception

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by asteroid_death, Jul 27, 2013.

  1. asteroid_death

    asteroid_death Member

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    Howdy folks,

    So I just picked up a nice used Nikon FE and I really like the camera. First thing I did was replace the batteries. 2 new 1.5v lr44s then I went out and shot in high contrast daylight but when I got the roll processed (b&w) I noticed the negatives were maybe 2 stops under on all the pictures. I've since then checked the FE's meter against my seconic and my dslr and sure enough the FE's needles seem to want to underexpose by at least a stop under most situations.

    I'm assuming this could be attributed to aging as this particular SLR was manufactured in 1980? Other than the issues with the meter it works like a charm. Shutter functions well and the ai coupling ring is in good shape.

    Anyway, I'm wondering if it would be a bad idea to just keep the camera's exposure compensation at -2 (for overexposure) at all times and just meter normally? Anyone done this?
     
  2. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Welcome to APUG.

    The LR44 is an alkaline battery. The Nikon FE was designed for two 1.5V silver oxide cells, or one 3V lithium cell. The silver oxide or lithium cells are much more likely to supply the correct voltage under load to the camera.

    You need to try the correct battery(s) to see if that will solve your problem.
     
  3. BMbikerider

    BMbikerider Member

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    LR44 x2 or SR44 x2 or the 3v lithium equivalent doesn't matter one little bit. It is the actual voltage, not what the power source of the voltage is. The Nikon Fe is going to beat least 3 yers old now and would be brought back into line if it had a thorough service, clean and re-calibration, it ISN'T a battery problem.
     
  4. Ricardo Miranda

    Ricardo Miranda Member

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    Are you sure you aren't missing anything in there? Maybe a zero? :wink:

    Yeap, a CLA would correct it. BTW, "the camera's exposure compensation at -2". It should be the opposite: if the camera is underexposing by 2 stops, then you add +2 to compensate.
    LR44 aren't recommended as alkaline batteries voltage output isn't stable: it diminishes gradually with use, potentially affecting meter readings. Use silver oxide or lithium batteries for a stable output. They should last for 2 years.
     
  5. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    OK--the right batteries are important, but in this case of all batteries being new, alkalines lose their power in a constant downhill slope from their new condition, resulting in more and more overexposure, but in subtle amounts. What you have here is clear. You have one or both meter cells bad. If you experiment, you will see that you may be 2 stops off at one light level, 1 stop off at another, and close to accurate at still another. Classic symptoms of a bad cell. I believe the FE used silicon cells, and the meter circuit is somewhat akin to a low signal audio amplifier. At 2 stops off, I do not believe I have ever been able to adjust out the problem, and it certainly cannot be adjusted out for a flat response from dark to light. Bad silicon cells, one or both.
     
  6. asteroid_death

    asteroid_death Member

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    Hmmm so looks like I'll just be carrying a light meter at all times then. Thanks!
     
  7. Ricardo Miranda

    Ricardo Miranda Member

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    Off topic:
    Tom, just my curiosity: what factors or what influences a sillicon cell to go bad?
    And, you're right, the FE has 2 sillicon cells. As a curiosity, the Nikon EM for economy reasons only has one.
    Thanks!
     
  8. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    I am not a service technician, just a guy who has worked on a lot of cameras and have noticed trends, and tried to correct the problems. I've experimented, substituted resistors, and come to conclusions about how far you can go to correct these meter problems. What happens to some cells through aging is that the lose linearity. Commonly it is called losing sensitivity, which is what it is. But I prefer the term linearity, because although through component substitution in the meter circuit, you may be able to pull the weak cell back in bright daylight, it will be incorrect at lower levels. The cell has lost linearity, and age is the only accounting for it I can tell. Some do and some don't. The FE was about a 1980 camera I believe, but I have seen cds cells from the 60's be just fine. Either CDS or silicon cells both go bad in about the same percentages. CDS is a simple resistor-only circuit, and Silicon phototransistors are amplifiers, but both go bad, or not. No reason.
     
  9. Ricardo Miranda

    Ricardo Miranda Member

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    Thank you Tom for the explanation. Much appreciated! Something new I learned today. Thanks!
     
  10. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    I am not sure about the FE because it was introduced before the F3 and it was a lower class camera as well. With the F3 battery voltage stability is not a problem. It was designed to work perfectly with battery voltage of 2.4V and up. Below 2.4V it would stop working altogether rather than working erratically.
     
  11. asteroid_death

    asteroid_death Member

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    Turns out the shutter on this camera is kaput. The curtain hangs (sporadically) on anything higher than 1/250 resulting in an under or completely unexposed frame. Last roll I had processed had 8 exposed frames out of 24.

    Is it worth getting it fixed? I'm thinking no.
     
  12. Ricardo Miranda

    Ricardo Miranda Member

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    Unless Nikon has re-started production of the FE, it is better to have it repaired. Buying another FE isn't exactly the best solution as you don't know what lies beneath it, what problems it might have. This one you have, you already know what is wrong with it.
     
  13. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    Go on ebay and get a Nikkormat. They work perfectly and they're worthless. Perfect solution.
     
  14. asteroid_death

    asteroid_death Member

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    Thanks folks.

    I opened up the back of the FE and saw a very small bit of clear 'gunk' on the blades. I wiped it down with my microfiber cloth and now it seems to fire correctly. I don't know what it was. I thought it might be oil but it had the consistency of water. Anyway, not sure if I want to put a roll through it just yet, but may have a service guy take a look at it.

    I was thinking of getting a Nikkormat FT3 but I'm having a great time with my OM1, which is working perfectly. Only problem with the OM is the hearing aid battery doesn't sit in the pot correctly so the light meter does a funky dance and then quits. Looking into the back of the OM, it seems the shutter system on the Olympus is less complicated than the Nikon, and perhaps it is less prone to failure. I don't know. Seems a gamble with any 30 yr old camera.

    I noticed the black nikons sell for more than the silver. Was black considered 'professional' back in the day?
     
  15. Xmas

    Xmas Member

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    For the battery problem

    - you can try and locate the hearing aid battery better with a ring of plastic...
    - or remove the base plate and solder in a Shockley diode to reduce a silver cells 1.5V to close to the 1.3V of the Mercury cell the meter was calibrated for, the silver cells hold their voltage sensibly constant like mercury cells used to.
    - buy an ready made adapter incorporating a diode to allow a silver cell to be used.

    The OM1 used a copy of the Leica fabric shutter most of the good repair people can repair them.
     
  16. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    An O ring will solve the fit problem. Take the battery to the hardware & fit it.
    If you still have contact problems a bit of folded aluminum foil will take up the slack.