Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikon FE2 - Basic Operation Part VI

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With the FE2 set at 'A' (Auto), all you need is to select the f/stop and the electronically controlled metering circuit of the camera will match it with the correct stepless shutter speed to your aperture value. The A mode is especially useful, because it allows you to control depth of field while using the camera on automatic to assure perfect exposure.

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Deeper depth of field (or a greater zone of sharp focus in front of and behind the main subject) is achieved as you stop down the lens to smaller apertures (indicated by numerically larger f-numbers e.g. f11, f16, f22 etc.). Shallower depth of field (where the focus is restricted to the main subject) results when larger apertures (i.e. f1.4, f2, f2.8 etc.) are used. If you want to understand more about these relationship, click here.

Shooting at auto mode

    1. Set the shutter speed/mode selector dial at green 'A' (Auto).
    2. Set the desired f/stop on the lens.
    3. Look through the viewfinder and place the main subject in the center of the frame.
    4. Pull out the film advance lever and depress the shutter release button halfway.
    5. Confirm the position of the meter needle. If the shutter speed is above 1/30 sec., but not over 1/4000 sec., depress the shutter release button all the way. The correct exposure will be obtained.

Sequences may be simple for a starter but a seasoned user will understand that it may need more than getting a 'optimum' expsoure. I am not talking about photo technique but rather more on a camera, so excuse me. When you are doing this, the viewfinder information changes as well. First, you will notice the green needle has rested at the 'A' to tell you the camera is currently engaged in the automatic exposure mode. While the black meter needle will, based on the camera metering cells measure across the image field, through the lens in used to instruct the camera by way of the meter needle to indicate the current light level in shutter speed for a theoretical good exposure corresponding with the film in use.

When the meter needle is between 1/30 and 8 sec. the picture will probably come out blurred if you attempt to hand hold the camera to handle an exposure. In this case, turn the aperture ring to obtain a larger aperture. If after opening up the lens all the way, the shutter speed does not go above 1/30 sec., use a tripod to steady the camera. As alternatives, use electronic flash or change to a higher speed film.
If the meter needle is in the upper warning area, use a smaller aperture. If, after you have stopped the lens down all the way and the needle still remains in this area, use a neutral density filter or change to a slower speed film.(If there is a small area that contains a brightly lit area, avoid to include in the center 12mm main metered area to adversely affecting any exposure). If the meter needle is in the lower warning area, use a larger aperture. If, after you have opened the lens up all the way and the needle still remains in this area, use electronic flash or switch to the B setting to make a time exposure. Some may regret that the FE2 is not equipped with a shutter priority automatic exposure method as found in the Canon or the newer Nikon AF cameras. Don't be. All camera works on the same principle. Aperture + Shutter Speed = Exposure. What does this few words tell you ? The FE2 has aperture priority AE, all you need to do is reverse what you see in the viewfinder, work the other way round. For shooting moving subjects, the FE2 also enables you to select the shutter speed on Auto either to freeze the action and produce sharp outlines with a faster shutter speed, or to cause an intentional blur by choosing a slower shutter speed. To operate the FE2 in this way, depress the shutter release button halfway; then match the meter needle with the speed you desire by turning the lens aperture ring. Simple huh ? Speaking about the lower speed range while working in auto mode, although Nikon did not specify how long an exposure time the FE2 can handle. I have tried once just for fun and satisfied my curiosity. Its shutter opened more than half a minute in pitch darkness with the lens stopped-down to f22 before it released, grayish with end result.. because there was no subject, ha! Is that all ? No. There are a few options/features in the FE2 auto mode that can supplement you to handle more delicate control in the exposure. In fact, with an automatic camera, this is perhaps one of the most convenient and frequently used feature. I have trained myself to use this with the FE and FE2. The F3's button is even more friendly, but it is strange to see the Nikon has so confidently removed this feature in the FA.

Memory Lock (AE-L) In a automatic camera, memory lock is the fastest and most convenient, exacting and responsive way in actual picture taking situation when you are in the automatic mode. The self-timer lever in the Nikon FE2 has another function, conveniently placed, making for ready finger access, it is also a memory lock when it is press at the opposite direction towards the lens. Memory lock enables the photographer to "lock in" a close-up reading of the subject. The FE2's memory lock is a great improvement over the original FE. As the metering needle will NOT move once the lever is held down. (FE's meter needle continues to move while the memory lock is activated, thus, you may have to trust the camera's meter has been activated even without the 'locked' needle acts as a guidance for exposure lock).

AE Lock.jpg (4k)
To operate the memory lock, view through the finder and meter on the selected area; then, simply push the lever toward the lens to hold the reading until the completion of the exposure. The reading will be retained as long as the control is held in this position.

While the exposure reading can be 'locked in' electronically, several frames can be exposed using the same locked reading (This is more flexible than manual mode as you can lock, unlock or relock new readings as light level changes). Also, the aperture can be adjusted without affecting the locked-in shutter speed. This simplifies exposure measurement when compared with another two methods in the exposure compensation or adjusting the ASA ISO /Film speed settings. Memory lock provides a more accurate reading as the exposure compensation adjustment may need a lot of experience to correctly compensate for some highly unfavorable and complex lighting condition. Notes: Be sure to switch the meter on prior to using the memory lock IF the procedure is reversed, the correct exposure may not be obtained, further, during memory lock operation, the meter remains on, then automatically turns off 16 sec. after releasing your finger off the lever.

The second method is more of a conventional type. That is to utilize the exposure compensation, in which case some improvement was done as compared to the original FE. It has more refinement than the FE in its new 1/3 step fine tuning in exposure compensation (FE has only 1/2 stop adjustment at the 2 stops over or under exposure compensation scale). The exposure compensation is located at the same ring that set your film speed.

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To use the exposure compensation, just depress the locking button (1) and turn the ring (2). The safety lock is for prevention accidental shifting of the setting as this will cause undesirable exposure. Warning: Don't lift the ring while you adjust the setting, as it may accidentally shifting the ASA/ISO film speed setting. Just unlock by depressing the button and rotate according the scale based on the red index mark.

When is the purpose of the exposure compensation method useful ? First of all, we have to explain how you get your meter reading. FE2, as with any camera that has a exposure meter built in, uses a pair of silicon photo diodes near the eyepiece which watch the subject brightness on the viewfinder screen (It has three sensors in total, the last is being the TTL flash sensor). There must be a neutral point where the meters use it as a reference point. The reference is, as with any metering system, use a 18% gray card as the neutral point. 18% gray color is, in many situations, same with common surrounding like greens which in black and white reflect the almost the same value. Thus, if the overall scene is unusually light or dark in tone or there is a substantial difference in contrast between the main subject and the background, the camera's meter may be fooled into giving incorrect exposure. In these cases, exposure compensation must be made. Actually, as suggested earlier, the memory lock is much easier and accurate for closer subject to work in. But, certain scenarios like over all unusual lighting situations, such as snowscapes or you don't have the opportunity to work in close to use the memory lock, the exposure compensation dial allows adjustments to prevent over- or underexposure. Also, the dial can be used to obtain special effects like intentional over- or underexposure under normal lighting conditions or if meter reading stays the same value and you have to take rapid sequences of the same pictures.

Dial.jpg (7k)
Conveniently operable on 'A', the dial ranges from +2EV to -2EV in one-third increments with the following exceptions:

1) At ASA/ISO 12. Only 1 step compensation in the + direction is possible; the - direction is normal. 2) At ASA/ISO 16. Only 1-1/3 steps compensation in the + direction is possible; the - direction is normal. 3) At ASA/ISO 3200. Only 1-1/3 steps compensation in the - direction is possible; the + direction is normal. 4) At ASA/ISO 4000. Only 1 step compensation in the - direction is possible; the + direction is normal.

Exposure compensation works in the same manner as adjusting the ASA/ISO film speed settings (Which is the third method) e.g. If you are using ASA/ASA100 film, adjust the film speed to 50 means a stop increase in compensation (+1). The FE2's exposure compensation is more refining than the FE. As the FE2 provides compensation in 1/3 increments as compared to the FE's 1/2 stop. Although the FE2 provides a maximum + - 2 stops, in certain extremely high contrast scene like a tiny spot lit subject in a large high contrast background, it demands a higher compensation than the 2 stops. Olympus OM3 and 4 provides a auto highlight/low light settings, the compensated value is 3 1/2 stop, you may use it as a reference. How to go beyond the 2 stops limit ? Use the film speed to fool your camera....friend.

Viewfinder.jpg (13k)
The FE2 has a very considerate feature as compared with the earlier FE when the exposure compensation is being activated. A red LED exposure compensation mark ( + / - ) reminder also appears on the right side of the viewfinder after the shutter release button is depressed halfway (except when the shutter speed/mode selector dial is set at B or M250). After taking the picture, remember to return the dial to '0' neutral value; otherwise incorrect exposure will result in subsequent shooting. Note: Both AE lock and exposure compensation adjustments sometimes may wash out details on the background details after compensation/locked value. More ideally, of course is to use fill-in flash to compensate for more natural rendered effect if effective working distance permits you to do so. The FE2's exceptional high 1/250 sec. sync speed is just perfect for this kind of task to reduce chances of ghost images.

Should we go on manual mode ? I guess so..

| Next | 6/11 Manual Exposure Mode | Manual control operation

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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.