I’ve written here before about the camera that reignited my passion for photography nearly nine years ago; the Nikon FE2. It was the first film camera I purchased back in 2010. This is an image I made at Spud Point Marina in Bodega Bay the first year I lived here with that FE2 on now discontinued Kodak BW400CN, a black and white film that can be processed in C-41 color chemistry.
I sold that first FE2 for a small profit to help finance my first Nikon F2 and I’ve always kind of regretted letting it go. First, it was a really nice chrome body that I hardly paid anything for. Second, it was just a damn nice camera to make pictures with.
Some months back, I got to thinking about that Nikon FE2 and mentioned on the Classic Cameras Facebook group I belong to that I might want one again. It wasn’t long before photo friend Johnny Martyr messaged me that he had one he wasn’t using much and offered it to me for sale. Johnny’s camera was a black body FE2 that was in really good shape. I knew I wanted to properly review the FE2 this time around, so when the camera arrived, I immediately sent it up to Blue Moon Camera & Machine for a CLA.
The Nikon FE2 is a manual focus 35mm camera with manual and aperture-priority auto exposure modes. It was made from 1983 to 1987 and sold new through dealers until nearly 1990. Its predecessor was the FE, a fine camera in its own right. Nikon dropped a titanium-bladder shutter into the FE2 besting the FE and allowing an amazing 1/4000th of a second top shutter speed. The camera featured Nikon’s reliable and hard to fool classic center-weighted TTL metering.
This entire class of Nikon F cameras, including the FM, FM2n, FE, FM3a and FE2 are just the right size and weight. With a normal 50 out front, they feel just right in hand. Of this entire series, I love the meter display in the FE and FE2 the best, a simple analog needle that swings up and down on the right hand side of a magnificently bright viewfinder. There’s a split image screen in the FE2 to make focusing easy. While I’ve always considered 1/2000th or even 1/1000th of a second fast enough for most any shooting I do, it is reassuring to know that you’ve got those upper gears if you need them. And the FE2’s shutter sound is so nice!
I was bouncing back and forth between shooting my Nikon F3HP and this camera, so it was interesting to compare the pro-level F3 to the advanced amateur FE2. While the F3 certainly felt more robust and refined, the FE2 had features I wished the F3 had…most notably the FE2’s fine meter display. And even though the FE2 is not up to the F3’s professional build quality, you could head out on any photo adventure and not worry that this camera would let you down.
I loaded up some Kodak Pro Image 100 one Sunday and took my new FE2 for a late afternoon walk on the beach.
It was getting dark by the time I got home. I am happy I left my string lights on.
Shooting the FE2 again after all these years, it was easy to see why this camera inspired me to start shooting film seriously again. It feels great in the hand, is super easy to use and has bullet proof light metering. As a platform for an incredible selection of Nikkor manual focus lenses, you really can’t go wrong with either the FE or FE2.
I shot my very first photographs of the Sonoma coast with my chrome FE2 nine years ago. It’s ironic that I shot what could be my last roll here with this FE2. I’m moving inland very soon to take advantage of an opportunity to advance my career. New life and new photo adventures await.