Sunday, May 22, 2016

Spotlight: Nikon FE2

The Nikon FE2 is a high quality 35mm SLR that was made between 1983 and 1987, and is the successor to the Nikon FE. It's a fantastic tool for the passionate film photographer, packing loads of features into a relatively small body.

The camera is mostly brass, with some plastic thrown in for a few of the levers and knobs. The FE2 accepts all AI and AIS Nikkor lenses, as well as any autofocus Nikkor lenses that have an aperture ring. Non-AI lenses are not compatible, unfortunately. Focusing screens are interchangeable, which is always a plus. You are unable to remove the prism, however, a selling point reserved for the professional Nikon F3 that was out at the same time.

The shutter on the FE2 is much improved over the original FE, featuring a new top speed of 1/4000th, a full two stops faster than the FE, which maxed out at 1/1000th. This faster top speed makes using wide apertures in harsh daylight much easier. Along with manual shutter speeds between 8 seconds and 1/4000th, the FE2 has an automatic (aperture priority) mode. Just set the shutter dial to "A", select which aperture you want to use, and the camera does the rest. Exposure compensation is available at up to +/-2 EV.

Multiple-exposures are possible by holding a little switch next to the advance lever on the top plate as you cock the shutter. Much easier than having to hold down the rewind button on the bottom plate like most cameras, especially if you're using a tripod!

Top view of the camera. The advance lever must be out like this in order for the shutter to fire. 

The one fatal design flaw of the FE2, in my opinion, is how the advance lever must be pulled out in order to fire the shutter. When the lever is flush with the camera, the shutter is locked. This "feature" is especially annoying if you look through the viewfinder with your left eye like I do. The lever is constantly poking me in the face. Why Nikon insisted on using this locking feature for all their FM and FE models, I will never understand. This one personal deal-breaker is the reason I've never owned an FM or FE camera for myself.

Here are some photos I made with the FE2. I used my 50mm f/1.4 AIS and 20mm f/2.8 AI lenses, and Ilford FP4+ 125 film.

Overall, the FE2 is a very capable camera. If the whole lever-lock thing doesn't bother you, I strongly suggest picking one up if you're looking for a jack-of-all-trades 35mm SLR.