Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikon FM - Film Transport Mechanism & Flash Photography

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Film Transport

Film transport system that will not only take on the demands of manual film advance but also withstand the punishment of continuous motorized shooting of up to 3.5 frames per second - as well as provide for intentional, accurate-registration double or multiple exposure operation in either mode. The FM/FE's film flatness and positive film travel with such a low torque was a vast improvement over the earlier Nikkormat, perhaps even smoother than the Nikon F2 (But not the F3, the F3's film advance action is by far the most impressive among all the manual focus Nikon). There is even a precisely positioned film plane indicator, the film-advance-mechanism-coupled frame counter, the smooth action film rewind mechanism and a unique provision for double or multiple-exposures operation forms the basic in the camera film transport mechanism.

Absolute film flatness and positive, sure film travel are essential to picture sharpness; the FM has a special seven-point system. The film cassette stabilizer (
1 ) on the reverse side of the camera back prevents the cassette from wobbling, ensuring correct film positioning.

Film Back Illus.jpg (8k) Camera Bakviewillus.jpg (12k)

The film leader can then be pulled out and fed into the film take-up spool (2), while two sets of sprocket gears (3) which are made of durable material engage the sprocket holes, or perforations, on either side of the film. The takeup spool itself has three slots, any of which can be used for easy film leader insertion; it winds the film emulsion-side-out to effectively negate its natural tendency to curl in on the emulsion side.

As the film is advanced, it moves on a pair of precisely ground rails (4) that keep it perfectly straight; smooth running is assured by the roller-type film guide pin (5) which rotates to eliminate any damage to the film that may be caused by friction as it travels, and by the camera back's film roller (6). Finally, the large film pressure plate (7), also on the reverse side of the camera back, keep the film perfectly flat in the crucial area across the film gate

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Film advance lever

The core film transport system is with the film advance mechanism which is operated by the film advance lever. Most Nikon cameras use a non temperature-conductive plastic for the film advance lever. The Ball bearing contributed to the smoothness, in combination with a double-shaft winding mechanism, give the lever extra-low torque for constant and smooth operation.

The Nikon standard 30° standoff position to the completed stroke of 135° - but multiple of short strokes is not possible as with the F3. Since the lever also acts as a shutter release lock for the FM - as with the FE/FE2/FM2 and the FA, this position for the FM uncovers a red dot to indicate that the camera's meter is on; when the lever is pressed back into place, the meter is automatically switched off.

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In other words, the film advance lever also doubles as the FM's meter on/off switch. The completed stroke of 135° itself, which is the shortest among compact 35mm SLR cameras, simultaneously cocks the shutter mechanism, advances the frame counter by precisely one frame, and frees the camera's shutter release, thus readying the camera for the next exposure.


Film plane indicator

This is a hardly used feature by modern close up capabilities of camera system. But since it may be useful, even the current F5 is still providing it for reference. Those days, where close up or reproduction photography is not as advance as today's, people use this for precise measurement of the film to the lens mount flange for critical picture-taking situations, such as close-up photography or copy reproduction, the exact subject-to-film plane distance must often be measured to determine the exact reproduction ratio. Accordingly, the FM is provided with a film plane indicator; the indicator's mark, which is on the bottom right-hand side of the film rewind knob, is positioned exactly in the film plane: 46.5mm from the front surface of the lens mounting flange.

Film rewind (1), (2), (3)

Depressing the rewind button on the base plate of the camera body will disengage the film advance mechanism to allow the film to be rewound via the rewind knob's foldable crank.

Step1.jpg Step2.jpg Step3.jpg
The direction of rotation is shown by the white arrow engraved on the knob. Note that the rewind knob has another function; its adjacent safety lock is turned counterclockwise to allow the knob to be pulled up and the camera back opened.

The camera back itself is the hinged, swing-open type which can easily be detached from the body when the occasion calls for it. The earlier Nikkormat didn't provide this, as there was not a databack designed for them. The Nikon FM, uses a separate data back as there is no data back terminal contact points provided for direct communication.

Frame counter

This is the additive type and is directly coupled to the film advance mechanism. With each stroke of the film advance lever, the counter advances one graduation to show the exact number of frames exposed. Numbers are provided at every second frame from 0 to 36 with 0, 20 and 36, appearing in
red. The counter does not operate during rewind operation and automatically resets to S (two frames before 0) when the hinged camera back is opened by lifting the film rewind knob.

: The counter's numerical indication will not change during double- or multiple-exposure operation, a convenient reference point. I have written a section to explain how the mechanism works automatically to reset the counter once the back is opened, Err.. too big of a site, cannot remember where have host that..Hope you haven't read this part, ha!

Multiple-exposure operation

Multiple exposure operation in the Nikon FM is a great improvement over any previous Nikon bodies - that include both the mechanical or electronic versions of the Nikkormat and earlier professional bodies of Nikon F and F2.

In fact, it excels in this area than many of its competitions - but models after the Nikon FM are slightly more convenient than the FM by relocating the lever just next to the film advance lever to permit for a more positive, single hand operation.

Nevertheless, earlier Nikon cameras is very weak in this section. Although improved, but the FM's double or multiple-exposure operation still need to use two hands to operate, this is not that bad, but when work with a motor drive, that is really difficult. Well, that was an improvement over earlier models but still a slight drawback if you are fussy enough. The Nikon FE that was launched a year later patched that (A - the new location in later models other than the FM) and since then, up to the Nikon F4, that convenient position hasn't been changed.

Whatever, you have to praise Nikon's engineers for that innovative effort, it works perfect and effortlessly (If you don't complaint too much) and the multiple-exposure mechanism itself has an improved design which assures that there will be absolutely no frame shift, no matter how many exposures are made on any one frame. By pressing the button towards the camera's pentaprism (Arrow) housing the photographer can go into double- or multiple-exposure photography, with or without a motor drive (MD-11/MD-12), and achieve 100% accurate registration. This is one area I have absolutely no doubt about that.

Speedlight/Flash Units

The top of the camera is where the accessory shoe (more popularly referred as the "hot shoe"). But unlike the FE that introduced a year later, Nikon FM was never upgraded with a flash viewfinder ready light feature which is distinguisheable with an accessory shoe that does not has an secondary terminal for such purpose. Most Nikon made flash unit (They called them "speedlight") regardless whether they were made for Nikon F, F2 or F3 series SLRs which has a proprietary accessory shoe can still find a way either via Flash Coupler or Cord/Cables to fit onto the Nikon FM for flash photography. The hot shoe is a standard ISO-type and thus, theoretically, you can even make use of today's modern AF flash (Some Nikon AF speedlight only has AF/TTL but does not provide Manual or AUTO settings).

(More info: Nikon SB-1 to SB-21 Speedlight/Flash Units)

Earlier Nikkormat bodies and earlier Nikon F2 can make use of an handy accessory called "SF-1 Pilot Lamp" that can be attached to the eyepiece to enable such function.

I am not so sure whether the SF-1 can be used with the Nikon FM, if you have any knowledge relating to this, make use of the Message Board to post your finding.

For older cable flash, you can still make use of the PC terminal to trip the flash. The terminal can be also used for simple multiple flash setup or use it to plug a slave unit. In the case of using MF-12 Databack, you have to plug in the cable into the terminal for proper functioning. (Note: Nikon FM can only use the older cabled MF-12 Databack, the newer MF-16 is not usable).

Naturally, you can also used Nikon FM with any older Flash bulb. Below is a table that provide you a reference:

Shutter Speeds








1/30 - 1 sec


Electronic Flash










M, FP and MF Flash Bulbs










Part 7/7

Index Page | Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5 | Page 6 | Page 7 | Specification | Main Reference Map

| Back to Nikon FM's Index Page |
Back to Nikon FM Series Main Index Page |

Detailing its Basic Camera Operations (Instruction Manual)
Detailing its Technical Application of its features (6 parts)

Download a free instruction manual in PDF (4.2MB), courtesy of Mr. Jim/ pls send a thank you note on my behalf. But don't mail me.

| Message Board | for your favourite Nikon FM Series SLR models
| Message Board | for your Nikon Optics in a shared environment
| Message Board | Specifically for Dispose or Looking for Nikon/Nikkor Photographic Equipment

Standard production Nikon FM Series models:- Nikon FM | Nikon FM2 | Nikon FM2n | Nikon FM10 | Nikon FM3a |
Known variants:- Nikon FM Gold | Nikon FM2/T | Nikon FM2N Tropical Set | Nikon FM2/T Limited Edition | Nikon FM2N LAPITA | Nion FM2n Millennium 2000

Shared Resources: MD-11 | MD-12 | Focusing Screens | Titanium Shutter | Flash Units -SB-16 | SB-15 | SB-10 or other Options | Databack | Nikkor lens mount (related info)

Others:- Nikon AF-TTL Speedlights | SB-20 (1986) | SB-22 (1987) | SB-23 | SB-24 (1988) | SB-25 (1991/2) | SB-26 (1994) | SB-27(1997) | SB-28 (1997) | Nikon SB-29(s) (2000) | Nikon SB-30 (2003) | Nikon SB-600 (2004) | Nikon SB-800 (2003) Nikon AF-TTL Speedlight DX-Series: Nikon SB-28DX (1999) | SB-50DX (2001) | SB-80DX (2002)

Nikon BC-flash Series | Original Nikon Speedlight
SB-2 | SB-3 | SB-4 | SB-5 | SB-6 | SB-7E | SB-8E | SB-9 | SB-E | SB-10
| SB-12 | SB-14 | SB-140 UV-IR| SB-15 | SB16A | SB-17 | SB-18, SB-19 | SB-21A (SB-29) Macro flash | Flash Accesories | SF-1 Pilot Lamp

Instruction Manual: Nikon FM (HTML | PDF) | Nikon FM-10 (HTML) | Nikon FM2n's User's Manual available only in HTML format (6 parts) | Nikon FM3A (HTML)
Nikon FM, FM-10, FM2, FM2n and FM3A / Main Reference Map: (HTML) Nikon FM, FM2, FM-10, FM2n (Applicable to FM2T, FM2 "Year of the Dog"; Millennium 2000") and Nikon FM3A

weblibrary.gif   Nikon F | Nikon F2 | Nikon F3 | Nikon F4 | Nikon F5 | Nikon F6 | Nikkormat / Nikomat | Nikon FM | Nikon FE/ FA | Nikon EM/FG/FG20 | Nikon Digital SLRs | Nikon - Other models

Nikon Auto Focus Nikkor lenses:- Main Index Page
Nikon Manual Focus Nikkor lenses:- Fisheye-Nikkor Lenses - Circular | Full Frame | Ultrawides Lenses - 13mm15mm18mm20mm | Wideangle Lenses - 24mm28mm35mm | Standard Lenses - 45mm 50mm 58mm | Telephoto Lenses - 85mm105mm135mm180mm & 200mm | Super-Telephoto Lenses - 300mm 400mm 500mm 600mm 800mm 1200mm |

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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.

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| Back | Main Index Page of Pictorial History of Nikon SLRs

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Credit: To all the good people who has contributed their own experience, resources or those who are kind enough granting us permission to use their images appeared in this site. Mr. MCLau®, who has helped to rewrite some of the content appeared this site. Chuck Hester® who has been helping me all along with the development of all these Nikon websites;LarsHolst Hansen, 'Hawkeye' who shares the same passion I have; Ms Rissa, Sales manager from Nikon Corporation Malaysia for granting permission to use some of the official content; TedWengelaar,Holland who has helped to provide many useful input relating to older Nikkor lenses; Some of the references on production serial numbers used in this site were extracted from Roland Vink's website; HiuraShinsaku from Nikomat Club Japan. t is also a site to remember a long lost friend on the Net. Note:certain content and images appeared in this site were either scanned from official marketing leaflets, brochures, sales manuals or publications published by Nikon over the years and/or contribution from surfers who claimed originality of their work for educational purposes. The creator of the site will not be responsible for may discrepancies arise from such dispute except rectifying them after verification."Nikon", "Nikkormat", "Nippon Kokagu KK" & "Nikkor" are registered tradename of Nikon Corporation Inc., Japan. Site made with an Apple IMac.