I love my two chrome FEs. Overall, they are my primary shooters. Indeed, they are as reliable as can be. The design and features suit me perfectly. I just love the one-switch operation with the venerable MD-11.
A question for fellow FE users...I gather the FE/MD-11 setup requires the two 1.5-volt batteries in the camera? I did not notice this subject mentioned in the owner's manual, and so I thought I would ask.
Yes! Unlike the F3 the FE (FE2, FM3a in auto) does require the batteries in camera to work.
I bought an FE in 1981 then added two chrome bodies a few years ago. I use K, K2, and K3 screens with these. Last year I got a very cheap Nikon EM from auction-site. Surprisingly f/3.5, f/4.5 lens focusing is easier than FE in this little body although fixed screen in EM should be equivalent to FE – K screen. My Nikon Em’s speed are not accurent in the slow side but doesn’t matter too much for street photography.
For the way I use 35mm cameras the Nikon FE is the most bank-for-buck Nikon ever.
The film speed is fast and easy to set as opposed to the tiny hard-to-see dull red dot that doesn’t contrast much relative to the surrounding material of the FE2 and FA. I also find adjusting the ASA on the FE camera faster and more intuitive than the “lift-and-turn” film speed adjustment of the newer Nikons.
The meter comes on and stays on by moving the cocking lever back from its spring-retained storage position, unlike the meters on the FE2 and FA that must be switeched on by partially depressing the shutter release button and that wink out after 16 seconds (inconvenient at times).
I also really appreciate the metering out to 8 seconds as it’s useful for early morning and late afternoon shooting in low light. That was especially appreciated with ASA 25 Kodachrome and Technical Pan and ASA 32 Panatomic-X in low light. The FE2 and F3 have the same long speeds, but the FA is limited to metering to 1 second—far too limiting for me.
Yes, the F3 can be fired without batteries, but only at approximately 1/80 second—not terribly useful in most cases and that non-standard speed makes figuring exposure inconvenient (about 1/3 stop less than 1/60 second).
I rarely use speeds faster than 1/1000 second so the FE is ideal for my 35mm shooting. The only thing I give up is the 1/250 second flash synch speed of the FE2 and FA. For the most part that’s not too limiting. I don’t find the lack of TTL flash control much of a hindrance. I’ve tested my sensor-controlled auto flashes with my Minolta Flashmeter IV and have been pleased with the accuracy of their light output.
The small size and low weight of the FE is appreciated. That makes it a good choice for my backpack when cycling.
The analog meter display is useful in that it can be read in fractional stops by estimating the distance above or below the nearest marked speed. That isn’t possible with the digital display of the FA and F3.
Even now we can still find nearly pristine Nikon FE cameras and they’re often in excellent condition with “low miles.” Occasionally I find a pristine example at a modest price.
For the sharpest possible shots, it’s hard to beat tripping the self timer. The aperture closes and the mirror snaps up simultaneously dumping all vibration at the start of the 10 second countdown. Then when the shutter fires, it’s soft and inconsequential to sharpness.
All of these things make the FE one of the best camera values for the money and now they can be had at bargain prices.
The EM split image somehow has more tolerance to off-center placement of the eye when I use f/3.5 lenses. It has more tolerance than K screen on my oldest FE. K2 screen (needs +0.5 exposure compensation on FE) is very bright but split image darkens just like K screen. The split image on K3 (needs +0.5 exposure compensation on FE) never darkens but gets translucent when I use f/3.5-4.5 lenses.
I bought a Nikon EM body for $10, it was fully functional except the slower speeds and the foam was really sticky. I changed foam using Mr. Goodman’s (Interslice) directions but the mirror damper foam placement is more difficult than an FE. I advise Nikon lovers to buy EM bodies otherwise they are going to trash in these days.
I've had an FE for 30 years, always dependable. BobD is right about the non-AI metering. I have a 35mm PC, which is a pre-set (not automatic) lens, let alone a non-AI. Just stop it down to shooting aperture and there you go.