Nikon FE 35mm Film Camera Review by James Baturin

Nikon FE 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film - Front View of Camera
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Written by James Baturin

When it comes to old 35mm SLR cameras, there are really no shortage of options.

But if you’re looking for an SLR with a classic look, lots of lens options, and that makes taking double exposures a breeze, here are a few reasons to consider the Nikon FE.

Find the Nikon FE at KEH Camera or on eBay.

Nikon FE 35mm Film Camera Review
Nikon FE 35mm Film Camera Review
Nikon FE 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film - Front View of Camera

Features on the Nikon FE

As far as features, it really has everything you need for a simple everyday camera with all the benefits of a fully manual system.

It features interchangeable lenses, shutter speeds ranging from 8 seconds to 1/1000 of a second (plus Bulb), and a 10 second self timer for those family portraits you want to include yourself in.

It’s relatively lightweight and takes up less space than most modern day DSLR cameras (though new mirrorless digital options might be more compact).

Nikon FE 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film - Top View of Camera
Nikon FE 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film - Shutter Speeds Closeup
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The Light Meter

The Nikon FE also features an in-camera reflected light meter, which makes calculating exposures convenient, as you don’t need a handheld meter.

The meter reading itself is visible on the left side of the viewfinder as a black needle moving up and down along a scale of the camera’s shutter speeds.

A green bar shows the shutter speed the camera is currently set to, and the black needle will move relative to your chosen aperture.

Nikon FE 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film - Long Expsure

I have tried other SLR’s that are roughly equivalent to the Nikon FE (the Canon AE-1 for example), and personally found the light meter system in these less intuitive.

It should be noted that the in-camera light meter measures the “reflected light” of a scene and calculates the exposure by averaging the light reflected in the scene.

This means that if your scene contains an average range of tones from dark to light, the meter should be relatively accurate.

However, if your scene is not balanced (like say a winter scene where most tones are bright white), you may need to compensate by 1 or 2 stops.

Nikon FE 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film - Portrait

Double Exposures

One of my favorite things about the Nikon FE is how simple it makes doing double exposures.

It features a small lever beside the film advance crank for just this purpose.

To take a double exposure, simply take your first exposure, hold down the lever and advance the film as normal.

The lever prevents the film from actually advancing to the next frame, but still resets the shutter, allowing you to take another exposure over the first.

Nikon FE 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film - Double Expsure

Lenses for the Nikon FE

When I was first looking to buy an SLR camera, one of the reasons I went with the Nikon over other brands was the compatibility of its lenses.

The Nikon FE features the classic Nikon F mount system, which is still used on many of Nikon’s modern DSLR cameras.

That means the SLR lenses can be used on a lot of Nikon DSLR’s as well. You will only be able to manual focus and will lose the in camera light metering, but it’s great to have the option if you shoot digital as well!

In addition to compatibility, the Nikon FE has a variety of lens options. The popularity of the brand and camera itself also makes lenses easier to find than other more obscure camera types.

My set up includes a 24mm f1.4 wide angle, a 50mm f1.8, and a 105mm f4, which is a good variety for most types of photography.

Nikon FE 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film - Lens Closeup

Price of the Nikon FE

Like any used film camera, prices range depending on where you buy it, condition of the camera, etc.

I bought mine from my local camera shop in great shape, with a clean 50mm lens for about $75. But no doubt there are better bargains out there, especially if you’re willing to clean it up a bit.

Find the Nikon FE at KEH Camera or on eBay.

Nikon FE 35mm Film Camera Review on Shoot It With Film - Environmental Portrait

Thank you so much, James! James is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and you can check out his other articles here, including an article on How to Shoot Long Exposures and How to Sharpen Your Film Scans. You can also check out James’s work on Instagram.

Leave your questions about the Nikon FE below in the comments, and you can pick one up for yourself at KEH Camera or on eBay.

Check out all of our film camera reviews here!

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James Baturin

James Baturin is a regular contributor for Shoot It With Film. Find his other articles here, including Hasselblad 500 C/M Film Camera Review and Long Exposure Film Photography Tutorial.

Blog Comments

Good review of the Nikon FE as a good choice for an above aversger 35 mm for beginners. I purchased a Nikon F2-S and never looked bqck. The LEDS in the light meter allow extreem low-light photography. I miss Kodachrome 25 and am now experimenting with Fugi slide film for long exposures during night city shots in downtown Chicago. My lenses are all Nikon, including a 50 mm f1.4, 24 mm f2.8, 28 mm f2.8, 80 mm -200 mm f4.5, and 300 mm f4.5.

You will pay a little more for a Nikon F2-S, but you will have a little more luck seeing the meter during low light shots. The F2-S meters red l8ghts are easy to read in any light level.

My backup Nikon is a 35 mm Nikkormat EL-W. The camera is similar to the Nikon FE.

I am retired now, but both of my camerasa have been to the botyom of the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Mongolia and the high County of China and Napal, and the wetlands of India and Viet-Nam Both cameras over the past 36 years have operated flawlessly, although I take good care of them. It is always smart to have a camera which can be used manually and without a battery. Using cameras which are dependent on electronics can be tempermental in wet jungle and rain forests.

My pocket 35 mm is an Olympus 35-RC and this camera is usually with me. This camera is about 40 years old and and can be used without a battery if required. I also carry a Nikon P-7000 as my digital camera which I can use in manual mode if required.

My training in photigrapht started with my cousin Jim, who wad my mentor. The complete set from Time Life books served as my book source. The section on use of light and the ZONE system information has servrd me well, especially in black/white photography.

I started in amature fashion runway photography and later graduated to mediumn format using a 500-CM. I use it on a tripod, but I still use in on night shots in Chicago.

As noted earlier, I use the big brothet of the Nikon FE and would not hesitate to use the FE as my backup camera. I hope this information is helpful.

Finally, I enjoy each issue of this digital magazine the contributions everyone make. I never really moved to digital, but I do recognize its usefullness, ie: my Nikon P-7000.

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