Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikon FE - The Body

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Exposure Control The Nikon FE features the aperture-priority system of automatic exposure control, in which the user sets the f/stop on his lens, while the camera automatically adjusts its own shutter speed to give just the right exposure... steplessly over a range from 1/1000 of a second down to 8 full seconds.

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For instance, if 1/345 second at f/5.6 is required to match the particular lighting conditions, then that's what the FE was able to delivers. There is nothing to shout about as compared with today's high tech AF SLR camera models. Anyway, Nikon FE was never designed to be a high tech SLR camera, but rather it was designed mainly to serve a photographer reliably rather than providing too many fancy gadgets.

In fact, you can referred the FE as a compact (NOT scale down) version of the Nikkormat's Nikon EL2 (Among all the Nikkormat, the EL2 is the only model that bears the Nikon's name). These camera of yesteryears were made to 'make' pictures, not shine in technologies and force the photographers spending half of the time following cursor or sensors in the viewfinder. With such simplicity in a sole automation, a photographer can now concentrate his full attention on capturing the decisive moment rather than worrying about mechanics, turn, press and dialing buttons. And because the photographer controls the f/stop in aperture priority automation, he also controls depth of field - an important consideration when shooting with ultra-wide angle or wideangle lenses. But the real beauty of aperture-priority auto exposure is that almost any lens or camera accessory can be used with the FE to produce automatic exposures, and that includes items like bellows units, extension tubes, telescopes, and microscopes. In many ways, the Nikon FM and FE remain as the only two compact Nikon bodies that still bridge between newer and older Nikkor Lenses in either with Automatic Indexing or Non AI versions. There are two silicon photo diodes (SPD's) are positioned, one on each side of the eyepiece, to measure the light coming through the lens. Their almost instantaneous response to rapidly changing light levels and extreme sensitivity to dim light make them the perfect choice for the light metering cells used in an automatic exposure camera. The Nikon FM, the mechanical brother of the FE, uses a pair of GPD (Gallium Photo diodes) instead.

FRE, Monolithic IC, and Reflow Soldering

(Referred to this page first for more before carry on)

Over the years, the FE has proved how and what a reliable camera it was. While this was a major consideration when purchasing a new (used) camera. I remember those days, shops assistants used to tell clients electronics can be easily affected by high humidity, magnetic & electrical field interference (It is still a hotly debatable, but recently for the first time, I came across a major SLR producer finally acknowledge and defense their decision on turning away from metal body shell construction to 'minimise' such interference - after 20 years !). While most of us doesn't bother by these, the FE has given enough attention in its design in its metering circuit, so that the camera will deliver accurate exposures despite extremes of temperature and humidity, or the bumps and jolts of normal everyday use.

While I don't have a actual photo of the FRE of the FE. Here is one of the photo I managed to snap in the service room of the Nikon F3's. It is housed under the film rewind knob, where the key input of essential data of film speed, exposure compensation etc. Cracked FRE is one of the most common cause of erroneous metering or exposure. (Magnified Black and White view of the FRE in the Nikon FE)

The Functional Resistance Element (FRE) incorporated into the FE's metering system is Nikon's own development and very similar to the EL's. Consisting of an ultra-precise metallic thin-film resistor on a hard glass baseplate, it transmits to the meter the precise information on the ASA film speed set for the film loaded in the camera, the lens aperture selected, and the shutter speed in use. I have seen and experienced cracked FRE that may affect accuracy of the metering. The FE's electronic has a reasonably shield from external changes in temperature and humidity, this important component has been made extra durable by the use of gold alloy and other precious metals in its connecting tapes and noise-free brushes. Like the FRE, the BI-MOS monolithic IC (integrated circuit) used in the metering system is also Nikon-developed. It consists of 212 elements placed on a mere 2 x 2.6mm silicon wafer. Performance is enhanced by the unification of two types of transistors: Bi-polar and field-effect. This IC computes information from the SPD's and the FRE to control the shutter speed. In addition, a recently developed technique called "reflow soldering" is used to connect the electronic components together. The reflow soldering method features automation of assembly and ensures high-quality, trouble-free performance by the elimination of lead wires.

Center-Weighted Metering First employed in the Photomic FTN finder for the Nikon F in 1967, center-weighted metering has become the standard of the 35mm camera industry for one very simple reason: it assures accurate exposures in nearly all of the lighting conditions encountered in everyday shooting. By concentrating the majority of its sensitivity (60 percent, to be exact) into a 12mm-diameter circle in the center of the frame, the FE's metering system makes certain that the main subject, which most photographers center in the viewfinder, will be properly exposed. Yet, the rest of the picture still receives 40 percent of the meter's sensitivity and is therefore taken into account, too. Center-weighted metering is the perfect compromise between averaging and true spotmeter reading systems.

Meter Pattern.jpg (7k)
The Nikon's center-weighted metering has been the core metering method for a few decades. The Nikon's FA in 1983 also saw the debut of the first generation of the current Nikon's hot 'Matrix' metering. However, for many Nikon seasoned users, center-weighted metering is still the logical choice where lighting is tricky enough and you don't want the camera built in computer to execute the computation for you. Sounds strange ? huh ...

Where Nikon was so confident in the Nikon FA's AMP (Automatic Multi Pattern - the early generation of the Matrix) metering, the AE lock was omitted in the FA. Although it doesn't make sense and when you are revert back to center weighted, metering in situation like a modified AI lens was used, you can either have the exposure compensation dial or the ASA/ISO film speed to play around with exposure. Where most photographers has been so used to the AE lock started in the FE, that decision sounds strange. What is the lock for ? Just like the AF lock commonly found in AF cameras, it locks exposure reading instead of Autofocus, that is all. It is also called 'Memory Lock'. For those situations, in which you don't want to place the main subject in the center of the frame, or when the subject is backlit, the FE has the ability to lock in an automatic exposure setting. Because the 12mm-diameter counterweighted spot is clearly etched on
all three of the focusing screens available for the FE, it's a simple matter to place this spot over the main subject, push the self-timer/memory lock lever in toward the lens to lock in the reading, then recompose, and shoot. When the lever is released, the FE instantly reverts to its normal automatic operation, in case you change your mind before the shot is taken.

AE Lock.jpg (11k)
Even though the meter needle continues to deflect while the memory lock lever is depressed, the meter reading is still locked in electronically.

This is one of the few weaknesses that you can identify in the FE - IF you are fussy enough. The needle's movement in the FE while you are locking on the exposure doesn't has any clue whether you have accidentally unlock the reading, the Nikon FE-2 in 1983 finally patched this and the needle will be stationed in the exposure bar in accordance to where you have locked the exposure reading.

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Index Page
  Special Application lenses:
Micro-Nikkor Lenses - 50mm~55mm -60mm 85mm -105mm 200mm Micro-Zoom 70-180mm
Perspective Control (PC) - 28mm 35mm PC-Micro 85mm
Dedicated Lenses for Nikon F3AF: AF 80mm f/2.8 | AF 200mm f/3.5 EDIF
Depth of Field Control (DC): 105mm 135mm
Medical Nikkor: 120mm 200mm
Reflex-Nikkor Lenses - 500mm 1000mm 2000mm
Others: Noct Nikkor | OP-Nikkor | UV Nikkor 55mm 105mm | Focusing Units | Bellows-Nikkor 105mm 135mm
Nikon Series E Lenses: 28mm35mm50mm100mm135mm | E-Series Zoom lenses: 36~72mm75~150mm70~210mm

MF Zoom-Nikkor Lenses: 25~50mm | 28~45mm | 28~50mm | 28~85mm | 35~70mm | 36~72mm E | 35~85mm | 35~105mm | 35~135mm | 35~200mm | 43~86mm | 50~135mm | 50~300mm | 70~210mm E | 75~150mm E | 80~200mm | 85~250mm | 100~300mm | 180~600mm | 200~400mm | 200~600mm | 360~1200mm | 1200~1700mm

Tele-Converters: TC-1 | TC-2 | TC-200 | TC-201 | TC-300 | TC-301 | TC-14 | TC-14A | TC-14B | TC-14C | TC-14E | TC-16 | TC-16A | TC-20E

Recommended links to understand more technical details related to the Nikkor F-mount and production Serial Number: by: my friend, Rick Oleson by: Hansen, Lars Holst

W A R N I N G: The New G-SERIES Nikkor lenses have no aperture ring on the lens, they CANNOT ADJUST APERTURES with any of these manual focus Nikon FE series SLR camera models; please ignore some portion of the content contained herein this site where it relates.

Recommended Reading Reference on Nikon cameras and Nikkor lenses
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A contributing effort to Michael C Liu's Classic Nikon Site.

Credit: Chuck Hester for some of his beautiful images used in this site; Ted Wengelaar®, Holland for his continuous flow of input; Lars Holst Hansen, Danish 'Hawkeye' who shares the same passion; Mr Poon from Poon photo for their input; Ms Miss Rissa (Sales Manager) & members of the Technical Service dept. of Shriro Malaysia, local distributor of Nikon cameras in Malaysia & Singapore, in providing so many useful input to make this site possible. Special thanks to Mr MC Lau, who has helped with his images of the MF-12 databack. Michael Tan, Pertama Photo (603-2926505) for lending his original Titanium Shutter Display Unit. Dave Hoyt who has prepared the introductory page and offer some images of his FE2 in this site.. Hiura Shinsaku, Nikomat ML, Japan for his contribution on all the various images; A contributing site to a long lost friend on the Net. Note: Certain content and images appeared in this site were either scanned from official marketing leaflets, brochures published by Nikon and/or contribution from surfers who claimed originality of their own work to publish in this site based on educational merits. The creator of this site will not be responsible for any discrepancies that may arise from such possible dispute except rectifying them after verification."Nikon", "Nikkormat", "Nippon Kokagu KK" & "Nikkor" are registered tradename of Nikon Corporation Inc., Japan. Made witha PowerMac.