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.