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

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With the FE2 on manual mode, it will operate exactly like an FM2 - perhaps with even more options in term of available shutter speed range than the mechanical counterpart. Doubting what I have said ? The FE2 has 18 fully operating shutter speed range (Both mechanically operated 'M250' and 'B' mode are included, other than these two speeds, the rest are are quartz timed for technically unmatched accuracy, now - just count the FM2n and I am sure you would agree in certain way, hehe ...). You can choose aperture and shutter speed according to how you feel towards your subject, limited only by your own taste or imagination. The image you want to put on film takes priority over other considerations. For example, to freeze a fast-moving subject, first set shutter speed, then set aperture. To express your subject in terms of the nuances of light, do it the other way round - first set aperture, then set shutter speed. Thus, by either "shutter speed priority" or "aperture priority' you can transform an otherwise plain picture into an exciting one. Did I explained earlier why and what are the M250's usage ? In extremely cold weather or when the camera's battery is exhausted, you can still take a picture with the FE2. Just set the shutter speed dial to M250 to release the shutter at 1/250 sec. If the shutter behaves 'strange' behavior - by just rotating the shutter speed dial to M250 or B may solve most of these operational problem. Lastly, for the first few frames after a new film is loaded, prior to frame 1, FE2 is set on mechanical operation of 1/250 sec. (The FE2 is a very reliable camera, but I do have some reservation over to the choice of materials used in some key areas - most of my personal complaint are minor, like the aluminum 'polished' film rail guide may get 'corroded' - especially to a user lives near the coastal areas. Fussy ? No quite. I have not seen a FE or the FM or the F3 that has exhibited such problem (To be fair, I have not seen one yet but I did on a couple of occasions on FE2, FA and the newer FM2n). In short, I don't think the little saving on those areas out-weight the consequence of eroding users' confidence.

Manual Exposure Control Mode

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At the Auto mode setting, a locking mechanism prevents accidental shifting of the setting. To unlock from the 'A', just depress the center button and rotate the dial will free from the lock. Once you are out from the 'A' setting, you are in manual exposure - the same way all Nikon FM series cameras do. You will have total control of the the exposure, intentional over or under exposure or locking on to a specific subject or brightness for shooting sequential shots.

When switch over to the manual mode. All timings in the FE2 are Quartz control. This makes manual shutter speeds accurate and precise as a Swiss time watch... No matter which of 16 shutter speeds from 8 sec. to 1/4000 sec. that you are setting, you are assured of absolute accuracy. That's because a 32,768 pulses-per-second quartz oscillator times the FE2's manual shutter speeds precise and flawlessly. I don't think it is appropriate to make a direct comparison between a mechanical precision mechanism and a electronic quartz timed component. Just like a automatic and a quartz timed Patek Phillippe hand watch, which is better ? (Well, some may still prefer a mechanical Patek Phillippe! -- MC Lau)

So, it depends very much on a few perspectives A collector may appreciate man made precision engineering more. To a collector - important is how rare the camera or optical quality of the lens is. 'Substance' it has in a negative or slides is secondary. To someone who thinks photography is an art form may strive for perfection, including hand adjustment of aperture and shutter speed. For a pressman, objective may be different, but his boss or editors may not appreciate too much of excessive manipulation of skill. May be it is not important for a scientist in a research lab to understand more than what the camera salesman tells you how to get an image rightfully exposed . Thus, the keyword for justification here is individual's priorities.

Manual operation allows you to shoot at your choice of any combination of f/stop and sixteen speeds on the camera's dial. By varying these combinations, you can achieve not only correct exposure but also such special effects as under- or overexposure, blurred action, etc. Manual is also valuable in developing your photographic skills, and is additionally recommended when an electronic flash other than the Nikon dedicated flash unit is used. 'B' and 'M250' settings also offer manual exposure photography, regardless with or without metering/battery (ies). Exposure is determined by the combination of shutter speed and aperture. As the numbers on either the aperture ring or shutter speed dial increase by one increment, the amount of light striking the film is reduced by approximately one half. For example, the amount of light at 1/125 sec. is one half that at 1/60 sec., and the amount of light at f/16 is one half that at f/11. Brighter scenes require either faster speeds or smaller apertures or a combination of both which will give the same amount of exposure; darker scenes require the reverse. For example 1/1000 sec. at f/5.6 is the same as either 1/4000 sec. at f/2.8 or 1/125 sec. at f/16.

Shutter speed (sec.)







Aperture (f/number)







These simple combinations (and other factors relates) have made photography so exciting. As apertures and shutter speeds have their respective effect projected in the final image. With the camera's metering as a guide for an theoretical good exposure, you can alter the combinations to suit the effect that you like it to be. Basically, apertures varies the depth of field and shutter speed spells action or projects movement. Refer here for a separate article as this site will have too many duplicated resources then. Nikon FE2 (1983) was the second commercial production SLR camera that has broke the 1/4000 sec top speed limit after the Nikon FM2 (1982). (But the FE2 was the first to reach the 1/250 sec. top sync speed as the original FM2 has only 1/200 sec. sync speed). Once a battery is installed, an oscillator circuit involving a quartz crystal and IC begins to generate a 32,880 hz clock signal. In manual mode, the speed selector is not a variable resistor as with the FE, which only offers a top electronically timed shutter speed of 1/1000 sec. and a sync speed of 1/125 sec. The professional Nikon during that era was the Nikon F3, which only possessed a top shutter speed of 1/2000 sec. - a full stop lower than the FE2. Thus, this has made the FE2 one of the most accurate timed Nikon ever during that time.

1/4000.jpg (5k)
A generally wrong perception by many users on the FE2's top speed of 1/4000 sec are only applicable for action or scientific relates photography. But a seasoned photographer would know what it means when your work demands a greater depth of field control. The additional two stops in the FE2 also permits the use of higher speed film in broad daylight.

Shooting on manual

    1. Turn the shutter speed/mode selector dial to any of sixteen numbered settings or set the f/stop you desire. Faster shutter speeds will freeze moving subjects while slower ones cause the action to blur. (Note: You cannot use the shutter speed/mode selector dial in between the indicated settings. But because the aperture ring can be set in between the engraved f-numbers, slight adjustment to obtain the correct exposure shou/d be made by turning the aperture ring of the lens).
    2. While looking through the viewfinder, place the subject in the center of the frame, then pull out the film advance lever, depress the shutter release button halfway, and check both the black meter needle and green shutter speed/mode indicator needle.x
    3. If both are apart, to get the correct exposure, rotate the aperture ring and/or the shutter speed dial so that they are aligned.
    4. Depress the shutter release button all the way to take the picture.

manual.jpg (5k)
To adjust the exposure (If your are comfortable with the exposure value (EV) that the camera metering provides), use the meter reading (Black meter needle) as the guideline, you can either turn the aperture on your lens or in this case, turn the shutter speed setting on the shutter speed ring to adjust until the two needles match. If you wish to create intentional under- or overexposure, set either the aperture ring or shutter speed/mode selector dial so that both needles in the viewfinder are not aligned. Next, we will go to the stopped down metering method in the FE2.
When the meter needle is rested at the bottom or at the top, it indicates the exposure reading is far exceeding the camera's metering range. 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 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.

Notes :
At the mechanical settings of M250 and 'B', the meter does not function and the meter needle will not move.

A camera's meter may be used only within the shutter speed range covered by the exposure value (EV) range of the meter, which varies with the aperture and ASA/ISO setting. The FE2 has a metering range of EV1 to EV18 at ASA/ISO 100 with f1.4 lens. But first, what is EV ? Exposure value (EV) is a number representing the available combinations of shutter speed and aperture that give the same exposure effect when the scene brightness and ASA/ISO remain the same. At ASA/ISO 100, a shutter speed of one second at f/1.4 is defined as EV 1. If the aperture is stopped down by one full f/stop or the shutter speed is one step faster, the EV increases by one; if the aperture is opened up by one full f/stop or the shutter speed is one step slower, EV decreases by one. Using ASA/ISO 100 as an example, 1 sec. at f/2.0 is EV 2, 1 sec. at f/5.6 is EV 5, while 1/125 sec. at f/5.6 is EV 12. As the exposure is the same, 1/30 sec. at f/11 and 1/1000 sec. at f/2 are also EV 12.

| NEXT | 7/11 Stopped Down Metering (* You can skip this if ALL your lenses are AI lenses and above to FE2's Through-The-Lens (TTL), Off the film plane (OTF) Flash Metering ).

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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.

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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.