Nikon FE

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Nikon FE

Camera makers entered the industry at a particular market stage. The early makers began with brass and mahogany, graduated into smaller folder models, shrunk further with lens technology advances, then into even smaller klapp models and matured into compact monoblock bodies.

Nikon came on board in the late 1940s, hitting straight into the monoblock segment with the L, M, and S models, a distinguished line of Zeiss Contax copies. These cameras had a successful ten-year run, during which Nikon established itself as a power to reckon with and at the top of the Japanese optical industry. Two decades later, in the 1950s, the market had turned into single-lens reflex models, with technology advances and prices declining. The SLR offered compact bodies, endless lens options, fast response, agility and versatility. In 1959, Nikon introduced the F model, a camera that promptly became a yardstick for quality and reliability. It was made almost unchanged for fifteen years, followed by the very similar F2 and F3. The F models topped the professional market, overshadowing the Germans that ruled that market segment before.

Nikon was not alone. Other camera makers sold SLR models, catering to the ever-growing lower end of the market pyramid. Nikon offered the Nikkorex models and some lesser-known low-end models to cater to the amateur market, but the mid-market was still up for grabs. Nikon aimed the Ft, FTn, EL and FM series at the mid-market, but the gap between the three segments still widened.

To borrow from the airline industry, the numbers are from the economy class, but the revenue comes from the first class. The airline created four classes to cover all bases: economy, premium economy, business and first. With a similar approach, Nikon offered the equivalent of the business class with the FE model. It was a high-end camera at a palatable cost. The FE had a five-year run and was succeeded by the FE2, almost identical save for electronic controls, that lasted for another decade.

The FE models were just a step down from the legendary F. Both share the same build quality, lens selection and similar mechanical controls. The FE has a slightly smaller body with a fixed viewer, whereas the F is interchangeable, offering a pile of options. The metering in the FE is integral to the body, whereas at the F, it is available through a dedicated viewer.

There are ample online reviews of the FE, so I will not add another. Use the lines below as a short guide, written in no particular order.

  • The FE has two modes: aperture priority auto and match needle guided manual.
    • In the viewer, a shutter speed scale shows on the far left, and the f value shows on the top. The speed scale is not apparent; look way left to see it.
    • For auto mode, set the speed dial to the green auto mark. Set the aperture, and the camera will select the appropriate shutter speed.
    • For manual, first set the shutter speed. It will show on the left side of the scale. Dial the aperture ring to match the floating needle with the speed value showing.
  • When fully folded back, the winder lever locks the trigger and switches off the meter. Pull the lever about 30° away from the body to activate both.
  • A push-in lever that falls under the right-hand index finger by the lens mount stops down the aperture to view a true depth-of-field view. The aperture will stop down when shooting.
  • The mechanical self-timer is by the above lever; I strongly recommend not aggravating it as it is the first thing to fail on older cameras. It can be pushed back to cancel or, in the case of an aging camera, to prod back into place.
  • The timer lever doubles as an exposure lock to keep metered settings when the lens is trained elsewhere. Aim to the object, set the speed/aperture, and then push the lever towards the lens. This will keep the values till it is released.
  • To uncouple the lens, push the button at the left or the lens mount and turn the lens body slightly left.
  • Most Nikkor lenses and an endless list of aftermarket lenses will flawlessly fit.
  • For double exposure, fire the trigger, then pull back the black tab by it and cock it again. The shutter will operate on the current frame.
  • Most cameras show a visible red dot or alike to mark where to position the lens. Here it is a modest chromed pin under the viewer’s left shoulder.
  • The shutter speed selection dial has an auto mode that clicks to place. To dial out, press the pin in the middle.
  • The camera meter and speeds will work only with a charged battery. To bypass, set to M90 on the dial for manual use at 1/90″.
  • The battery check is a small lever by the rewind crank at the back. Press down, and a dot in the centre will light red if the battery is good.
  • Two concentric dials around the rewind crank,
    • The outer is for exposure compensation, lift and dial as needed.
    • The inner is the film speed. Press the pinhead between the dial and the viewer and set it against the red dot. Here, both dials are locked together.
  • To open the hinged back, pull the lever at the left of the rewind crank and pull the crank up.
  • The bottom carries the power winder coupler, rewind release, threaded mount socket, battery compartment and power winder contacts.
  • The frame counter resets itself on the back closure.


Camdex list number 2079
Brand Nikon
Model FE
Manual Camera manuals
Value FE chrome
FE chrome body
FE black
FE black body
FE sterling silver
FE Japan Camera Show
Format 35mm
Introduced 1987
Country Japan
Qty made
Initial price
Type Compact SLR
Body material Metal
Mode Auto / manual, AP
Weight 590 gr,  Body only
Class average weight 605 gr,  Body only
ASA range 12-3200
Kit lens 1.8/50
Lens make Nikkor
Filter size
Lens mount Bayonet
Mount size Nikon Bayonet
Shutter Focal plane vertical metal
Shutter make
Trigger On top
Winder Lever
Shutter_cocking Lever on body
Light meter TTL, lever activated
Lock Yes, winder lever
Speeds B, 8 sec – /1000
Mirror Auto return
Viewer Fixed eye level prism
DOF preview Yes
Exposure lock Yes
Exposure compensation Yes, +- 2
Shoe Hot
External sync X
Timer Yes, mechanical
Battery, original A76
Sync speed 125
Battery, replacement LR44
Battery voltage 3
Integral flash None
Service / repair links See


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