Nikon FE/FM/FA Series Model(s) - Shared Resources
- The Nikon MD-12 Motor Drive -
Setup Process and Basic Operation Part II


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With MD-12 attached to a FM/FM2/FM2n/FE/FE2 or a FA, you need not have to pull the camera's film advance lever to the standoff position to unlock the shutter release button anymore. Just leave the film advance lever flush with the camera body. Then, when the motor drive's power switch is turned on, the camera's meter can be activated by halfway depressing the trigger button on your MD-12. Can it still be done on the camera shutter release button to trip for an exposure ? Can. But just doesn't have logic in doing so because the trigger button has replace the camera's and perform the same manner as it. After releasing your finger from the button, the meter will remain on for approx. 50 seconds giving you enough time to set the correct exposure or adjust the controls. Then the meter will turn itself off automatically to conserve battery power. Note: There are some Nikon's own marketing leaflet that has published different figures on meter-off, the FE2 says 66 sec., while the FM2 says approx. 50 sec. If this data is very important to you, you can just do a quick time test yourself to determine the actual timing. As I found out it is not consistent with varying models and battery condition.

Note: With the FE attached, the delay circuit causes the MD-12 operates at an interval of approx. 205ms immediately after meter switches on. Where this is even slower in the FA, the FA maximum speed is only 2.7 fps as opposed to the normal highest speed of 3.5 fps. Nikon has revised this figure on the FM2n/MD-12 to 3.2 fps (1/125 sec and above) on their newer instruction manual.

MD-12 Top view.jpg (12k)
With the motor drive attached all exposures should be made via the trigger button on the motor drive grip. Surrounding the triggering button is the motor drive S-C mode selector, giving you a choice of either single frame (S) or continuous (C) shooting. To set the motor drive to either S or C, depress the lock and turn the selector to the required setting.

Single-frame shooting: In this mode, depressing the trigger button on the motor drive grip fires the shutter, advances the film one frame and cocks the shutter. You can lift your finger from the trigger button even before the exposure is completed since the electronic interlock prevents the film from advancing until the shutter has completed its travel.

S mode.jpg (4k)
The usable shutter speed range when the MD-12 is set at "S" is from 1 second to 1/1000 second with the FM. With the FE, in addition to the automatic setting (AUTO), you can set any of the marked speeds including M90. The "B" setting cannot be used with either camera.

Continuous shooting: In this mode, the motor drive will automatically trigger the shutter and wind the film for as long as the trigger button is depressed. Framing rate will depend on the shutter speed setting, as the motor drive's electronic interlock with the camera's shutter automatically advances the film as soon as the exposure is completed. Maximum framing rate is approximately 3.5 frames per second (fps) at shutter speeds faster than 1/125 sec.

Note: With the exception of the Nikon FA, there is a slight delay action for the shutter to react after you have trip the trigger button fully, thus, the maximum speed achievable in the FA/MD-12 combination is restricted to 2.7 fps based on Nikon official statistic.

Remember that continuous shooting at the maximum rate of 3.5 fps will result in a standard 36 exposure cassette being completely exposed in a little less than 11 seconds. Consequently, you should exercise restraint when operating with the motor set for continuous shooting. Many photographers, however, prefer to leave the camera set for continuous shooting, lifting their finger off the trigger button the instant the exposure is made. This technique results in single-frame operation, but readies the photographer for taking sequence photographs should the situation or need arise. The recommend shutter speed range when the MD-12 is set at "C" is from 1/2 second to 1/4000 second with the mechanical FM series. With the FE/FE2/FA, in addition to the automatic setting (AUTO), you can set any of the marked speeds including M90/M250. The "B" setting * cannot be used.

* Note: Should you trigger the motor drive with the shutter speed dial set to "B" the absence of an "exposure complete signal" may result in the camera's mirror locking up and the shutter remaining open. To restore normal operation in the event of this happening, merely move the shutter speed dial away from "B." I have not tried this on a FA. Wait till you tell me.If you want to use the B setting for long time exposures with the MD-12 attached, just turn off the motor drive power switch and use the camera's shutter release button (the triggering button has no thread for accommodating a cable release on the MD-12). The FE series models (other than the FE10, which doesn't has a motor drive coupling and thus, cannot use a motor drive such as the MD-12) and the Nikon FA, automatic exposure (AUTO) capability allows you to follow subjects as they pass through areas of differing brightness, yet still obtain acceptably well exposed results. Although widely varying brightness changes of EV 4 or more may sometimes result in over- or underexposure for the first frame following the transition, this situation is rare in practice and thus likely to be of little consequence to the average photographer. ** Note: Although the camera/MD-12 combination is designed to work smoothly under a wide range of climatic conditions. Sub-zero (centigrade) temperatures, however, have a very severe effect on its mechanism. For faultless performance under these conditions, Nikon recommends in the manual that, for continuous shooting, you do not use shutter speeds of less than 1/30 sec. The use of slower shutter speeds may result in erratic operation. If it is imperative to use shutter speeds of less than 1/30 sec., switch to single frame shooting.

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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

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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.