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  1. #1

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    Nikon FE meter deception

    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. #2
    MattKing's Avatar
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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.
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

  3. #3

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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. #4
    Ricardo Miranda's Avatar
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    The Nikon Fe is going to beat least 3 yers old now
    Are you sure you aren't missing anything in there? Maybe a zero?

    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.
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  5. #5

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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.

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

  7. #7
    Ricardo Miranda's Avatar
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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!
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  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ricardo Miranda View Post
    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!
    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. #9
    Ricardo Miranda's Avatar
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    Thank you Tom for the explanation. Much appreciated! Something new I learned today. Thanks!
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  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom1956 View Post
    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.
    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.

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