Nikon F2 vs FM handling in use

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I'm primarily a rangefinder shooter (in love with my little Leica iif), but I'm looking for an SLR system for when I feel like something different. I currently use an OM2 I bought for my partner, and while I love the small size I don't love the fragile feeling or the odd ergonomics. Since I'm in search of something a little more robust I'm considering a Nikon.

I don't care much about having the meter or having AE, so I'm thinking either an F2 (plain prism) or an FM (first model, don't mind not having 1/4000 and like the idea of being able to use cheap pre-AI glass and a more classic metal construction). The biggest difference between the two is obviously the size and weight. Looking at pictures online they don't seem thaaat different, anyone here own or used both?

How much bigger and heavier does the F2 with plain prism feel in practice compared to the FM? Ideally I'd just use a wrist strap like my iif and the OM2, is that feasible with either of them? Is build quality and viewfinder brightness similar? I'm not fussed about having 100% coverage (the external viewfinder on my Leica isn't exactly precise), but I do highly value brightness, again coming from the incredible SBOOI I use on the iif.

I was also considering the Pentax LX, but while I'm quite comfortable CLA'ing my own gear, the electronics problems I hear about from them have scared me off for now. The Contax S2 is also beautiful, but I've heard iffy things about the build quality of 'zeiss' CY glass, and the spot meter readout looks very frustrating in use.
 

Melvin J Bramley

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I have two Nikon FE's one FE2 and two FM's.
The viewfinders are similar other than the metering system.
I like the matched needle of the FE plus it's ability to take all Nikon manual focus lenses.
You can, as I did, use a FM3a view screen in the FE to give a little extra brightness.
You cannot change screens on the FM.
The FE is the best bang for the $$ of cameras of that era.
I've also had a F2s and F2as and a plain F.
They are noticeably larger and heavier.
I also have a Minolta XD11 with similar specification to the Nikon FE.
It is not built to the same standards but otherwise a capable camera.

Hope this helps

FWIW; I just missed out on a Nikon FE with a 50mm f1.4 , a 105 f2.5 and a 180 f2.8 which was for sale for $100 in a remote location here in Canada.
Please let me cry on your shoulder!

TB
 

Alex Benjamin

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You can use pre-Ai lenses with the FM with stop-down metering.

Haven't used the F2 in a while, but I do remember finding it to be a heavy camera. Weight is noted at 850g while the FM is at 590g.

I love the FM. For a long time, it was my only traveling camera, even though I have a Leica M2. The FM is light, fits wonderfully in the hand, and you can get so many good Nikkor lens for cheap. My set has a 20mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm, and I've paid less for the whole set then any single high-end 35mm Leica M lens. Had two FMs on all my travels until recently, when I upgraded to an FM2n. Don't think you can use pre-Ai lenses with the FM2, but never checked.
 
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My set has a 20mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm, and I've paid less for the whole set then any single high-end 35mm Leica M lens

Yep this is exactly the pain I'm feeling at the moment. I've tried to use cheap LTM glass, but so far they've all been pretty trash. I just bought my first "proper" lens for my iff (a Summitar) and it set me back more than most my other cameras combined. Add to that needing to buy an external viewfinder for every focal length and it adds up really fast, for 1950s glass that any average SLR lens could out-resolve.

Had two FMs on all my travels until recently, when I upgraded to an FM2n
How do you find the build of the FM2n compared to the FM? I've heard they're more plasticky, and the faster shutter speed comes at the cost of a louder shutter. I find myself pretty rarely reaching for even 1/1000 so that's not that big a drawcard for me, but I do like my gear to be 'forever' cameras, so if the FM2 is an improvement I'd definitely consider it.
 
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You can, as I did, use a FM3a view screen in the FE to give a little extra brightness.
You cannot change screens on the FM.

I didn't realise the screens in the original FE were user-changeable. Putting in an FM3a screen is something I would definitely do if the camera was a keeper. If the FM just has to be opened up and the prism removed to change the screen that's fine, I CLA my own gear all the time, so I'll have to look into it. I know they FE's have proven themselves reliable, but I still don't trust 40+ year old electronics to not die irreparably on me.
 

mrosenlof

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I have an F2 now, and used to have an FM, but not any more.

The F2 is definitely more durable, as well as bigger and heavier. It also has a big beautiful viewfinder (plain prism). I use a neck strap with the F2, and OM-1 for that matter it works for me. I think many would find the F2 too heavy for a wrist strap.

The FM is bigger than the OM1. I no longer have the FM, so can't really compare VFs, and it's been enough years that I don't remember the FM in that much detail.

They're both fine cameras.

You might consider the f3 also. It's smaller than the F2, but still larger than the FM, nice VF. It takes Pre-AI lenses.
 

Les Sarile

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I'm primarily a rangefinder shooter (in love with my little Leica iif), but I'm looking for an SLR system for when I feel like something different. I currently use an OM2 I bought for my partner, and while I love the small size I don't love the fragile feeling or the odd ergonomics. Since I'm in search of something a little more robust I'm considering a Nikon.

I don't care much about having the meter or having AE, so I'm thinking either an F2 (plain prism) or an FM (first model, don't mind not having 1/4000 and like the idea of being able to use cheap pre-AI glass and a more classic metal construction). The biggest difference between the two is obviously the size and weight. Looking at pictures online they don't seem thaaat different, anyone here own or used both?

How much bigger and heavier does the F2 with plain prism feel in practice compared to the FM? Ideally I'd just use a wrist strap like my iif and the OM2, is that feasible with either of them? Is build quality and viewfinder brightness similar? I'm not fussed about having 100% coverage (the external viewfinder on my Leica isn't exactly precise), but I do highly value brightness, again coming from the incredible SBOOI I use on the iif.

I was also considering the Pentax LX, but while I'm quite comfortable CLA'ing my own gear, the electronics problems I hear about from them have scared me off for now. The Contax S2 is also beautiful, but I've heard iffy things about the build quality of 'zeiss' CY glass, and the spot meter readout looks very frustrating in use.

Nikon didn't really embrace the smaller format introduced by the OM series but they did shave weight noticeably. The F and FM series are all within a few grams of each other with exception of some of the special finders.

FG-FM3A-F3 by Les DMess, on Flickr

Selection 71 by Les DMess, on Flickr



As you can see, the FM isn't all that larger or heavier than the OM and only the Pentax MX managed to get dimensions a tad smaller then the OM and have a bigger viewfinder magnification. BTW, how do you prefer your viewfinder magnification - 0.92X on the OM1 vs 0.83X on the FM/FE series? The MX has 0.97X.

Size Lineup by Les DMess, on Flickr

The LX of course has an interchangeable viewfinder but with the size of the fixed versions.
 
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Madeleine Ostoja
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BTW, how do you prefer your viewfinder magnification - 0.92X on the OM1 vs 0.83X on the FM/FE series? The MX has 0.97X.

This is another thing I've been wondering — I don't have much to compare between in SLRs, just the OM2 with its very high mag vf and an old Pentax SV on the shelf. I don't know the magnification of the SV but it's definitely smaller and dimmer so I'm not sure it's a fair comparison. I think given the option I'd take brightness over magnification, that's the biggest thing I notice going from an SLR to my rangefinders. I also don't fully understand the relation between eye point and magnification, I do know that if I try to frame precisely with the OM I have to roll my eye around a little which is frustrating.

The LX in that lineup sure does look like the sweet spot, the size of the FM with the build and pro spec of the F2/F3. Pity I've heard so many horror stories about it
 
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momus

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Both are great cameras, and you can use Leica R lenses in stop down mode w/ an adapter. So that's all good, but they aren't small, or light.

I went to the little Pentax SLR's, as I wanted something small and light after carrying a N8008s w/ an R 90 2.8 Elmarit on it. The image quality was stunning, and the N8008s is a pro camera in every way, but again, big/heavy.

The Pentax 85 f2 is a really, really good portrait lens, the only 85-90 Pentax I've seen with bokeh as nice as Leica R lenses. The only negative is that the little Pentax cameras don't have AE-Lock. That should be standard on every AE camera. It doesn't have a spot meter either like my N8008s, but you can't have everything in such a nice, small, light camera.

 
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Les Sarile

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Well with the LX, you will have a choice from largest to smallest magnification as you prefer. M shows magnification.

LX Viewfinders by Les DMess, on Flickr

You say you don't care about aperture priority but with the LX you get the only camera ever - past or present of any brand or model, that will aperture priority autoexpose a scene for as long as it takes all the while adjusting exposure as the scene lighting changes. Below is about a 45minute autoexposure shot taken on Kodak Ektar 100.

Untitled by Les DMess, on Flickr

BTW, I have two of these - one bought from KEH in EX condition and the other from auction of unknown condition for parts. Both continue to work perfectly over 10 years now and still going.
 
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Another thing I can't figure out, does the early model FM (with the shutter lock around the button) still require the advance lever to be pulled out to fire the shutter? That sounds pretty annoying and might turn me off the FE/FM
 

Steven Lee

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Another thing I can't figure out, does the early model FM (with the shutter lock around the button) still require the advance lever to be pulled out to fire the shutter? That sounds pretty annoying and might turn me off the FE/FM

It's one of these things that you just have to try for yourself. I was skeptical too, but now I simply love this feature because it removes the need to have an ON/OFF switch on a camera - those switches are more annoying to me than anything else. The better way to think about it is: you don't "pull" the lever to take a shot, you just leave it where it always is (slightly sticking out). That is the default position, it requires no effort. Then you simply push it all the way in before putting a camera away into a bag. AFAIK, the FM doesn't have or doesn't need it because its shutter is mechanical.

BTW, with the FE/FM cameras I do not feel any day-to-day weight/size difference between them and the F3 which is similar to F2. I suspect that to a Leica shooter like yourself these cameras will feel far more similar than different.
 

AZD

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I vote for the FE over the FM. The battery lasts a long time and you can carry a dozen spares in your bag without noticing, manual exposure is a breeze, match needle meter with shutter speed display makes precise manual under/over exposure very fast and easy, it has automatic exposure when you need it, exposure lock, DOF preview (also for stop down metering), works with AI or pre AI lenses… For the money they are a great deal.

I don’t have an F2 but settled for a Nikkormat FT2, basically the Nikkormat version of that camera and a suitable stand in for this conversation, minus the unusual shutter speed ring. It is noticeably larger and heavier than the FE, but neither prevent me from using it. I like having one all mechanical body. It seems to be nearly indestructible. I would take it anywhere and not worry. If I had an F2 I’d probably feel the same.
 

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I have and had the F2, FM, FM2n.
Also the Pentax MX and LX. As well as other Pentaxes (and other cameras..)

I sold off all my Pentaxes because too much gear, but it is telling that I got rid of that system but kept the Nikon system. The MX has a very big finder, but it is next to impossible to see the entire thing all at once, you really need to jam your eye in there. If you wear glasses, fughedaboutit. Also the exposure LEDs are very dim and extremely difficult to see in daylight.

As for the Nikons, I found the FM just as nice to use as the more expensive FM2n and didn’t notice any difference in build quality. The FM2 now can be three times as expensive as the FM from what I have seen, which to me is not worth it.

I sold off both those cameras and still have my F2s and F3P. The build quality is definitely noticeably better, but I guess that only matters if you were to abuse them. But to me they just are more satisfying to use and the shutter action (when you push the shutter release button) feels much crisper and immediate. The bigger bodies also dampen vibrations more so it is easier to get sharp pics at lower speeds w/o needing a tripod and/or mirror lock up.

I have the plain prism and metered heads for the F2. The plain prism is sleeker and easier to adjust the shutter speed. Fyi I recommend the AR1 soft release which also helps make the release more immediate and reduces shake.
 
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M-88

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Another thing I can't figure out, does the early model FM (with the shutter lock around the button) still require the advance lever to be pulled out to fire the shutter? That sounds pretty annoying and might turn me off the FE/FM

Earlier FM do NOT require it. Instead, they have a rotating switch on shutter button collar. I have a later FM and as I'm a left eye user, pull-out switch can be annoying at times. But only at times.
 

Nitroplait

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Another thing I can't figure out, does the early model FM (with the shutter lock around the button) still require the advance lever to be pulled out to fire the shutter? That sounds pretty annoying and might turn me off the FE/FM
I own Nikon F, F2 and F3s as well as FE and FE2s. I have used the FM quite a bit. They are all great cameras, but only the FM/FE would work well on a handstrap IMO.

The FE is my absolute favourite camera implementation. It is superior to the FM for manual use - if you use the meter that is: You can see exactly how far from recommended exposure you are, not the simple binary above/below implementation used in F2 and FM.
If you don't plan to use the meter - that doesn't matter of course.

The pulled out lever is also one of the nice things about the Nikons of that era. Meter-off and shutter release locked when flush with the camera, meter-on when out and you are ready to forward the film.
I know some don't like it, but it feels natural to me, and Nikon stuck with that for years, so I doubt it was as controversial as it may sound.

The shutter in the FM and FE is the same. Only the speeds are governed electronically in the FE. Both are great cameras.
The F2 wins heads down on robustness, but is more of a burden if travelling lightly.
 

logan2z

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The F2 wins heads down on robustness, but is more of a burden if travelling lightly.

How about servicing? I know that many people opt for Sover Wong to service their F2s because that's his specialty, but is there anything about the F2 that requires more specialized service than the FM? I assume the plain prism F2 would be easier to service than a metered model (if the meter needs repair).

I have an FM that has yet to need service, but I believe there are several repairers in the US that can handle FM service. I'm curious if the F2 is as easily serviced.
 

250swb

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How about servicing? I know that many people opt for Sover Wong to service their F2s because that's his specialty, but is there anything about the F2 that requires more specialized service than the FM? I assume the plain prism F2 would be easier to service than a metered model (if the meter needs repair).

I have an FM that has yet to need service, but I believe there are several repairers in the US that can handle FM service. I'm curious if the F2 is as easily serviced.

It depends on what you bought, many F2's and FM's are in the price bracket where buying another is cheaper than a service. If you bought a really nice F2 with a metered head, say an F2As, or instead an FM2n, then it would be worth servicing.
 

logan2z

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It depends on what you bought, many F2's and FM's are in the price bracket where buying another is cheaper than a service. If you bought a really nice F2 with a metered head, say an F2As, or instead an FM2n, then it would be worth servicing.

I'm not necessarily trying to justify a service, I was just wondering if any good repair shop that could handle an FM service could handle an F2 service as well, or does the F2 require some specialized knowledge that only someone like Sover Wong would have.

I wonder about the argument that buying a replacement camera is cheaper than servicing. Unless you buy a replacement that has recently been serviced, my guess is the replacement camera could very likely need a service as well.
 

guangong

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I use both F and F2 cameras with plain prism. Nikon F since early 1960s. They were built to outlast me, and will also outlast you. Without meter, cameras can use any lens with Nikon mount. For me, the metered prisms on F and F2 make the cameras unwieldy.
Nikon made to many that repairs will be possible way into the future. Also many nonNikon lenses available, plus with adapters I use longer Zeiss lenses.
 

ooze

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I have and use F2's (I like the plain prism) and also an FM2 and FM3a. Build quality of the F2 is noticeably better than the FM series. I also much prefer the viewfinder of the F2 compared to the FM2, in terms of both brightness and ease of focusing. Although the FM3a's viewfinder is very bright, with the F2 it's easier to see and focus into the corners. Also, as others have noted you can install an FM3a screen into an FM. Personally, I favour the F2, but an FM would certainly be extremely capable as well. BTW, an F2 with a pancake lens is a beautiful day-to-day use camera.
 

Alex Benjamin

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How do you find the build of the FM2n compared to the FM? I've heard they're more plasticky, and the faster shutter speed comes at the cost of a louder shutter. I find myself pretty rarely reaching for even 1/1000 so that's not that big a drawcard for me, but I do like my gear to be 'forever' cameras, so if the FM2 is an improvement I'd definitely consider it.

Not plasticky at all, it's all metal, solid, and extremely durable. They feel pretty much the same. One of my FMs was an early model, and was becoming a little unreliable. Was going to send it for CLA, but had the chance to trade it, with the added cash that the CLA would have cost me, for a FM2n. There's a good 15 years difference between the two models I had, and I use it so much that I liked the idea of increasing its longevity. The other FM I later included in another trade for a medium format lens.
 

Nitroplait

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or does the F2 require some specialized knowledge that only someone like Sover Wong would have.

I wonder about the argument that buying a replacement camera is cheaper than servicing.
Any experienced repair person (worth a damn) will be able to repair an F2. The F2 was never meant to have the smoothness of a Leica - as Sover Wong will make it to have - that is just a luxury.
To survive. the old school repair techs had to be able to service the most commonly professionally used camera.

The shutter of Nikon FM was never meant to be repaired (although it can be). If you send in an FM with defective shutter, Nikon would just replace the shutter with a new one.

From that perspective, now when new parts are unavailable: If your F2 fails, have it repaired - maybe invest in a parts camera. If your FM does, buy a functioning one to replace it.
 

Pieter12

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One note in the F2 with a plain prism: they tend to be hard to find. And the plain prism can cost as much or more than a metered one. There were 4 different metered prisms for the F2, so if you end up with a metered camera, make sure it’s the one you want. The latest one is best in my opinion. And the F2 being a pro model designed for rough use by photojournalists is pretty bulletproof and designed to be serviced.
 

BradS

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I'm not necessarily trying to justify a service, I was just wondering if any good repair shop that could handle an FM service could handle an F2 service as well, or does the F2 require some specialized knowledge that only someone like Sover Wong would have.

I wonder about the argument that buying a replacement camera is cheaper than servicing. Unless you buy a replacement that has recently been serviced, my guess is the replacement camera could very likely need a service as well.

The F2 is/was a camera designed and marketed for professional use. As such, it was designed to be serviced periodically and many were regularly serviced. The FM (and FE, et. al.) was targeted at the amateur market and was not really designed to be serviced and most of them have never been touched by a technician (because they've simply never needed it). This has many implications...some counter-intuitive.

The biggest problems we all face is the non-availability of parts and that there are far fewer qualified techs around today than there were twenty and thirty years ago...and now, there way too many folks who are willing to "destroy it yerself".

The obvious advantages of having Sover Wong work on an F2? ... he has OEM parts and actually knows what he's doing. He's outrageously expensive and has a ridiculously long queue (14 months last time I checked)...but he'll make an F2 work and feel like new....and he's a gentleman!
 
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