Hi, I have been runnng nearly every kind of pro Nikon for over 30 years doing hard press use: F, F2, F3, F4, FM, FE, FM2, FE2 and I kept them after the newspaper retired them. They are all motor driven and still purr like kittens! The only one that ever popped a shutter was the F4 and that was about 8 years ago. I still think the FM2 is the best camera ever made, fast flash sync and smooth but tough as nails. Remember too that these bodies had at least 10 rolls a day through them, every day of the week. The old mechanical Nikons thrive on use and probably the worst thing you could do is buy a mint one the has sat in a cupboard for 20 years getting fat. They love excercise! Cheers, Bruce
I bought my black FM3a in Nov 2005 just before they were discontinued.
This camera is build of precise mechanical parts and some electronics, so it's not a simple device like old all-mechanical FM (the FE/FE2 is the most close to FM3a).
I don't know if all that will work 20 years later, but I hope my FM3a will last as long as my F6.
The EM's were known for having I believe shutter and/or meter issues. They were (relative to other Nikons) not as reliable. You might get a good one, you might not, and the shutter and/or meter could conk out on you. I remember from my days working at the camera store that our outside repair service I think flat-out refused to repair them because they were not economical to repair.
Scott has it right. The EM had a serious issue with the meter mechanism. And since the piece of junk worked only in auto mode (or 1/90 second manual), that turns into a serious shutter issue.
My FM2 was bought new in 1985/86. Looks like hell. Been beaten around the bottom of a camera bag or shoulder bag or whatnot for 20 some years all over the world. Damn thing's meter stopped working a couple of weeks ago. I broke down and replaced the second set of batteries it has ever had in it. Now it meters like a champ again.
I am trying to decide which of my ungrateful kids to will it to... and I am only 50.
I have heard the FM3 is a better built camera than the FM2 but I surely have no idea how that could be.
I had an FM3a for a while before I moved to LF. The thing felt like you could club someone with it and they would be worse of than the camera. The battery only operates the light meter, and the aperture priority mode as far as I know. I am not sure how the aperture priority system works, I never used it, so I don't know how the aperture priority system is connected to the mechanical bits. I bought it because I was planning a now-delayed trip to Antarctica and I wanted something that would work even with the battery-eating cold.
I use a pair of FE2's a lot and recently travelled through India with them. I also use them to shoot weddings. They really are very tough cameras indeed - bearing in mind mine are already 20 years old. One of the real advantages over more modern AF cameras is the smaller size - this is whay I think they are so good for travel.