If it were the shutter hanging up, that edge at the black hole horizon would be sharper, so I'm going to go with the mirror theory as well. It's also in the correct position to be the mirror, as the image on the film is upside down. Does this camera have a mirror lockup? If not, when doing your look-through-from-the-back-with-no-lens test you could just hold the mirror up with your finger. With the mirror out of the way, do you see the whole frame like you expect?
I will try that. Earlier today I was trying to take photos with it upside down to see if gravity had any effect on the ailment.
The camera is at home now and I'm finishing my day at work. Do I risk damaging the camera if I hold the mirror up while releasing the shutter?
I recently received a FM2 and a FE back from KEH repair. Both are working beautifully. The FM2 only needed a CLA and seals replaced, the FE needed some repair. I mailed both cameras out on a Friday, by the following Friday. they were back on their way to me. EXCELLENT turn-around time. They also completed additional repairs to the FE beyond what I asked. They did charge $120 per body, but I felt that was fair, especially considering the excellent speed. I would recommend.
Edit: Just for clarification, I did include a note authorizing the work, up to the $120 estimate/body along with the cameras when I mailed them in. The next I heard from KEH, the work was done, and the cameras were being shipped back. Not sure if this sped things up, but I would do it again.
I'd hate to guarantee no ill effects from holding up the mirror, but on every SLR I've owned it would be fine. If you can (gently! From the back surface!) lift the mirror up with a finger, i.e. it's not held in place by some geartrain or something, it should be fine. If the camera has a mirror lockup lever, all the better obviously.
I called two of Nikon's authorized repair centers in Illinois. One said it'd cost 150.00. The other said 116.00. I called another repair center in Kansas and the guy laughed and said it took him two days of labor to fix the last FM shutter he got into. He said one curtain is slow or fast in regards to the other, but you have to get all the way into the camera to service it. He told me to just go to KEH and buy one of their EX condition FMs and be done with it ;)
I may see if KEH wants to take this one in on trade.
I think the confusion is the word sync which usually means flash. The camera has no mirror lock up unfortunately.
One thought to further diagnose it would be to (with lens off camera) use B to have the camera lift the mirror up and stay while you hold it open. Then with either tape or a toothpick, keep it so it does not return when you release the shutter.
If it stays up, put lens on and take a photo.
Then go back to B and remove mirror prop or tape.
I am wondering if the mirror foam would be sticky enough to cause it to hesitate at faster speeds. Which, it the picture was ok in the new test, might be as simple as replacing the foam yourself.
If its the shutter, then you can anticipate the cost and decide what to do. Keep in mind any replacement might develop the same problem after you own it so fixing it might be an option to consider.
Anyway, good luck to you.
I'm admittedly weird, but I'd much rather sink $120 more into a camera for a CLA and have it be functionally brand new when done, than buy a replacement camera for about that much and know nothing about it, no matter how well it works today. (My dirty little secret is that I do both! Buy more good used cameras, *and* CLA the ones I already have :-) )
I was told the same thing about about the FE that needed some repair - just buy a "new" body , rather than paying for a CLA. I must say, I feel better about this camera now after the CLA, then I would have about another "new" one. They are old, they need some TLC. It operates like an actual new camera now.
Course, I drive 10+ year old vehicles too. I know their history and quirks.
Lyle, I'm putting it in the queue. I've got a 90mm Schneider lens for 4x5 that needs a new shutter, a Rolleicord that needs the shutter fixed, a Retina IIc that needs a cocking rack and CLA, and now the FM ;)
If I can ever -stop- myself from buying new gear, I can save up to have the holy pile sent off for repairs to all corners of the country.
I'm glad to hear you're happy with KEH's service. I may go to them since 120 dollars includes new light seals, and the CLA rather than JUST shutter work. This camera does indeed have rotten foam in it, but it's not sticking to the mirror. What's happening (to the best of my knowledge) is that the front or rear curtain (I'm going to say rear) is slow or flat out not opening all the way at high speed.
The man in Kansas told me he MIGHT be able to fix it by holding onto the curtain while throwing the shutter to pull down on it. But that was only a maybe. He said sometimes they get out of track with where they're supposed to park themselves. His other advice was to put a sticker on the back of the camera that said "Don't use this unless you can shoot slower than 1/125th" Ha!
I agree with frobozz (Duncan) and LyleB, the camera you know is better than the camera you don't know. I purchased many of my cameras/lens new and no how much or little they have been used. Don't know on anything I buy used.
In this case, if the body looks well taken care of, it probably is not worn out, just needs cleaning and fresh lube. Dings, dents, scratches, worn leather or brassing, may have a lot of life left, then maybe not. They most likely would need a clean and lube and may have worn out parts.
To each their own.