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Nikon SLR fans: Nikkormat or FM?
Old 09-12-2010   #1
paulfish4570
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Nikon SLR fans: Nikkormat or FM?

I have decided to sell all of my M42 stuff, and an RF or two to fund purchase of a Nikon SLR and a lens or two.
The key reason is this: it is very easy to find, buy and install corrective eyepieces for Nikons. I have excellent vision from 4 feet out. Why bother with reading glasses to focus when I don't have to do so?
I have been perusing ebay for possibilities. I am amazed at how low the prices are for Nikkormat FTNs in really good shape. FMs are available at good prices, too. I am somewhat familiar with the Nikkormat. I know it is Jeep of a camera. I have not handled an FM; I just know it is more compact and lighter weight, but still heavy enough to help dampen hand tremors.
A DSLR is not in my near future; future lens compatibility is not an issue. But cost is. Who wouldn't want an F, with plain prism? But good grief, they are precious to their owners!
So, Nikon fans, which one would you go for? Am I missing an option? Manual only, and I prefer a clean prism; a Nikkormat shoe can be removed simply by unscrewing the eyepiece, right?
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Old 09-12-2010   #2
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Having used both "back in the day" when they were current models, I would opt for the FM. Smaller and lighter, it also uses silver oxide batteries. Great camera. The FM2 has a brighter finder, but they can be a little pricey in the price range you seem to be looking at.

If looking at a Nikkormat, I'd look at the FT2 or FT3, rather than an earlier model.
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Old 09-12-2010   #3
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I have not had a Nikkomat, but my sister used to have one and I had handled it briefly long time ago. It is definitely heavier than any of the FM series cameras. I have used the FM, FE, and the FM2. Of these, I would recommend highly the FM2. It is a newer camera compared to the FM. And from a friend who used to repair cameras before he retired, he said that the FM was not as robust as the FM2, and that FM parts were difficult to find. Nowadays, even the FM2n can be found at good prices.
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Old 09-12-2010   #4
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IMO Paul, you might want to add the Nikon FE to your list. (Do some web-searching to see why.

Also, consider the Konica slr line, great solid cameras, terrific glass and dirt cheap.
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Old 09-12-2010   #5
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I purchased a like new FT last spring for $65. Pro build like my F2 which was the best mechanical Nikon SLR. It is one heck of a camera. Almost as nice as as the better Leica reflex cameras and I have them all.

You may need a CRISIS battery adapter to use silver oxide cells or have the meter recalibrated or use 1.35 v hearing aid batteries.

FM & FE series are just consumer grade Nikons, toy like in comparison, but they have upgraded features.

So pick the model with features important to you. I have FT, F2,Fe2 models and digi slrs.
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Old 09-12-2010   #6
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Paul be sure to give KEH a look over. I have bought from them & have been satisified.
http://www.keh.com/
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Old 09-12-2010   #7
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Nikon FM was my first "serious" camera, bought it new in around 1982. The camera needed service once (the circuit board had to be switched) but otherwise no problems at all.
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Old 09-12-2010   #8
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I've owned several Nikkormats and several FMs. The Nikkormat was a great camera, but definitely get the FM.
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Old 09-12-2010   #9
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^----- Dave Jenkins has it right. Or almost right.

I've shot with many FE2s, an FM2, an FA. I am currently using a Nikkormat FT2 that I've used on and off since I was a kid (it was my mom's camera).

In my opinion, best to worst: FM3>FE2>FM2>Nikkormat>FA.

All of these cameras except the Nikkormat have a 1/4000 shutter. The Nikkormat is 1/1000. All except the Nikkormat have interchangeable focusing screens, which I like.

I prefer the FE2 for its match needle metering. It is extremely thrifty with batteries. The batteries are a very reasonable trade-off.

The FM is a great camera, but its LED metering system is inferior to the FE2's match-needle. In use the FE2 is better.

I prefer the smaller bodies. The Nikkormat is the biggest, then the FA, then the rest. The Nikkormat seems bigger than a Spotmatic to me.

The Nikkormat is the weight of an anvil, yet it jumps in your hands when you trip the shutter. Its vibration damping is primitive. FE2/FM2/FA/FM3 all have better damping.

I don't like the FA's smaller viewfinder magnification, and I don't like its first-gen matrix metering, and I don't like its larger prism hump.

The FM3 has the best features of all of these cameras, but at too high a price. Its sole advantage over the FE2 is that it doesn't need a battery to run at any shutter speed. Who cares? At that price you can buy two excellent FE2s *and* a couple of spare batteries for your bag.

The FE2, FA, and FM3 all have TTL flash. The Nikkormat and FM do not.

The FT2 is the best of the Nikkormats. It has the best combination of features (including lens compatibility) and its meter runs on modern batteries.
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Old 09-12-2010   #10
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I'd recommend getting the FM.

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Old 09-12-2010   #11
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Maybe not that important but I found it worth mentioning: The Nikon FM is one of only a few cameras having a gallium arsenide photo-cell for the light meter. This type of photo cell has an advantage of high selective spectral sensitivity for the visible light range but low for IR.
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Old 09-12-2010   #12
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All good advice, guys.
I do want it known that my SP1000 and Fujica 605 have given stellar service. I love the ergos of the SP. It fits me perfectly - except for my having to wear reading glasses (1.5+-2+) to focus well. I have to use 'em to run my RFs, too, but them's the breaks. And man, I hate to give up my m42 Meyer-Optik Oreston 50/1.8, but I am sure there is a Nikon-mount lens out there with similar bokeh and close focus ...
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Old 09-12-2010   #13
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I have the F, several F2 including the Titan, FM2/T (titan again) and a pair of FM3A.

The FM3A is the last and the most evolved of the line. It needs only easy-to-find A76 or equivalent batteries...dead battery means only no AE, all mechanical speeds work.

The only features the FM3A do not have are (as compared to the F or F2): mirror lock-up and multi-stoke film advance...the former likely because no AIS lenses require mirror lock-up and the later because the wind stroke is so short.

If I had to pick just one camera for an unending trip, I pick the FM3A: lighter, all-metal robust... That mated with a 35~70mm f3.3~4.5, perhaps a 24mm and a 135mm are all the lenses you will likely need. Add an MD-12 if you don't mind a little more weight.

Dioptic correction eyepieces are widely available...you won't need it for infinity lens focusing anyway. Focusing screens in K, B, E styles are easily available. I prefer the E type (plain with grid).

After 40 years of using Nikon, that is my final verdict.
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Old 09-12-2010   #14
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The key think got to think about paulfish is the weight. The Nikkomat is a hefty camera. The FM is light weight.
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Old 09-12-2010   #15
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One other point. There are lens compatibility issues with all of these cameras. The newer ones can't use pre-AI lenses, etc. Ken Rockwell's site has a series of pages on all these cameras with full details. If you run AI/AIS lenses, all the bodies will work.

For pre-AI lenses the newer cameras (FE2, FM2, FA, etc.) are out. There may also be issues with compatibility between old cameras and AF lenses.
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Old 09-12-2010   #16
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if you are going to go nikormat then i suggest skipping the meter prism as it makes the camera insanely heavy.

that said, the one 35mm camera that i regret selling was my nikormat. i sold it when i upgraded to a leica m42 many moons ago. since then i have bought a fm2 but i don't use it much as nearly 100% of my assignments require digital. and when film is permitted the only reason that i would shoot film would be for 2 1/4 or larger format.

curious to hear what you end up purchasing and how you feel after you have used the new camera.

happy shooting
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Old 09-12-2010   #17
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I have the feeling that things aren't made like they used to make 'em. The FTn, 2, and 3 seem to be indestructable.
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Old 09-12-2010   #18
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More good stuff, gentlemen.
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Old 09-12-2010   #19
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I will buck the trend here and suggested a Nikkormat.

That's a classic camera that is very robust and smooth. And the older non-AI Nikkor lenses are now dirt cheap, but try to beat them in terms of image quality

If you have to have a meter built in, go with FT2 or FT3. But I prefer the all metal advance lever on the FTn. I don't care about built in meter anyways.

Heavy? no, Minolta XE-7 is heavy, F3 + MD4 is heavy. Nikkormats are "well-balanced"
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Old 09-12-2010   #20
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A meter is no requirement for me, either, in a manual camera.
A body of 20 ounces or more is sufficient. My SP1000 body is 20.5 ...
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Old 09-12-2010   #21
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If not mistaken the Nikkormat FTn is just over 26 oz.
Shutter speed controlled via a ring round the lens throat: a nice feature, I feel.

Also changing ASA is via base of lens throat... clunky & a threat to finger nails! Much better on the FT2 though still in the same location. Of course this won't be important to you if you don't use the meter.

Nice plain view through the finder: for the minimalist. Unmetered version of the FT- the FS- is sought after & typically sells for more (Edit) & the FS was made in smaller numbers, so relatively rare
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Old 09-12-2010   #22
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I have never had a Nikkormat but I have a Nikon F and a FE2. I would pick the FE2 everytime. I have had it since the mid 1980s and it's still a great light weight camera. I am sure a FM is the nearly the same. Batteries are not a problem, just carry a spare. - Jim
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Old 09-12-2010   #23
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Get an F3, does all the things FM, FE, FM/FE/2, 2n3n do, Auto exposure clocks to 30sec, with finder black out shutter. The build and finish are better than FM/FE series. I suppose FA has a better meter, but pricier somehow. N80/F100 can use AFS meaning the most current lenses can be used. Disadvantage is the little LCD readout for f-stop, but it is illuminated. These seem to go for all about the same price, of $100 or so on Craigs.
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Old 09-12-2010   #24
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About a half hour ago, I bought a very clean Nikkormat Ft2 for $60.
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File Type: jpg FT2.jpg (10.5 KB, 50 views)
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Old 09-12-2010   #25
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Having owned both I would go with a Nikkormat FT3 or FTn. The FT3 takes newer batteries and is AI savvy. Equal workhorse to my beloved FTn (first SLR). The FM does not have the same feel in my hands but she is lighter. As price is an issue (otherwise get an F with a plain prism or a FM3a) I thing you're better off with the FT3. Either way you will not go wrong. The FT3 has the K screen and the MD12 really never proved itself worth the weight, but that is me.

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Old 09-12-2010   #26
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I had a Nikkormat FTn. Good camera with good metering system, but the build quality is a bit flimsy. My shutter speed control slipped one notch, so it was off one stop. I have used my two FE2's extensively and they have been tough and reliable. Good meter setup there, too. I also have an FA. It has a very soft mirror action with low slap. Along with the F100, it may have the lowest mirror slap of almost any SLR. Also had an F3, but sold it as it was too loud and the mirror slap was pretty bad.
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Old 09-12-2010   #27
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Wow, that is the first time ever that I've heard the build quality of an FTn called flimsy! The Nikkormat (n, 2, 3) is typically descrribed as tank-like.
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Old 09-12-2010   #28
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FM2n.... I got mine on you-know-where for about $135. KEH is in that range for the 'bargain' rated ones which are in my experience with KEH in excellent shape. Watch for the high serial numbers (over 8,600,000 say; or at least over 8M) you are buying a camera that was built and sold in the late 80s or perhaps early 90s(??) (Do an internet search on the dates as I can't remember exactly.) Which isn't nearly so long ago as 1977 or 1980 or whatever. Which means you have a newer camera.

And they're great. Read about the FM2n and the FE2 on Cameraquest.

No one has talked about lenses. There is one absolutely priceless and reliable and fascinating site to read about Nikon lenses: http://www.naturfotograf.com/lens_surv.html

My own brief and fairly knowledgeable (at this point) lens round up:
You can use Ai or Ai-S plus AF and AF-D lenses in manual mode. AF-S with a G doesn't work. If you happen upon a delightful pre-Ai lens the conversion is not that big a deal and there is a guy all the Nikonistas know (in Ohio, I think) who does it for not a lot of money. Check the Nikon forum on photo.net. Here are what I think are the three essentials:
Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 Ai-S (avoid the Ai version).
Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 Ai or Ai-S. (avoid the pancake, get the 'long nose' for better performance). If you must have the f/1.4 go for it; it too is excellent. Just so you know: the sharpest 50mm Nikon made was the little discussed f/2.0 which I think is only in Ai.
Finally, VERY IMPORTANT: the 105mm f/2.5 (Ai or Ai-S) is the most beautiful lens I own, including a few (not the best, obviously) Leicas. You must have one.

General notes: Avoid the Nikon 24mm in any permutation. They never made a good one. The 20mm is better, but pricey. Watch e-Bay. Some say the f/4 is great, some say not, only the f2.8. Me, I lust after the 18mm f/3.5 Ai-S.... which costs even more, like $750 on the used market. More than my first two cars. Combined.

All the 35mm lenses are expensive, except one little neglected gem: I had an E series (cheaper consumer line Nikon intro'd when they started getting their asses kicked by Sigma et al) 35mm f/2.5 that I loved. You can get that for under $50. I now have the f/2 Ai-S and haven't decided yet whether the cost
was worth it.

You can live w/o any of the Nikon 135s. They're not that great. Longer than that gets quite pricey except for a hidden gem: the Nikkor 200mm f/4. These are often only $60 or so and are light and sharp and rich in color and just a pleasure in every way.

So all together the FM2n at $135 and the 28/2.8 Ai-S at about that as well (breathtaking close up at 0.2m); and the 50mm f/1.8 at $50 and the 105/2.5 at $100 and the 200/4 at $60 --- you'll need about $500. But you can start off with the camera and the 50mm for under $200.

Enjoy. They're not graceful but they're classic; the Ford F150 of camera systems.
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Old 09-12-2010   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob-F View Post
I had a Nikkormat FTn. Good camera with good metering system, but the build quality is a bit flimsy. My shutter speed control slipped one notch, so it was off one stop. I have used my two FE2's extensively and they have been tough and reliable. Good meter setup there, too. I also have an FA. It has a very soft mirror action with low slap. Along with the F100, it may have the lowest mirror slap of almost any SLR. Also had an F3, but sold it as it was too loud and the mirror slap was pretty bad.

EH? FLIMSY?
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Old 09-12-2010   #30
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Paul; I've been using F3 HPs for some time. They are heaver than an FE, but the best optical viewing I've found. I use a +1 diopter correction on my finder and also have a DW3 finder that I love. I used FEs for a while and they are great. If you want a smaller body, it's a good choice. The viewing in the F3 HP spoiled me years ago and with all the high priced digital gear I have for work, none of it has viewing optics as good as the HP finder. F3 HPs and FEs are cheap these days. Get one of each and play with them. Sell off the one you like the least, or keep both. If you get an F3 HP, also consider the DW3 as an accessory. You can adjust the DW3 for your vision. I'm also a fan of the "E" screen. A "B" is nice to have for long lenses. Let us know what you do. p.
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Old 09-12-2010   #31
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I couldn't agree more about the 105/2.5 nor could I not possibly disagree any more about the Nikon 24mm, particularly the 24/2.8 AI which I prefer to the shorter focussing AIS. They may not render like the Zeiss ZF 25mm but that doesn't suuggest, nor would I ever suggest, that the Nikon 24/2.8 isn't a solid performer. The 24/2.0 AI isn't bad closed down a couple of stops and its brightness on the screen is most useful for focussing in marginal situations. I have owned 4 different 24/2.8's: a pre-AI multicoated, a pair of AI-S's and currently have an AFD, as well as currently having a 24/2.0 AI. I wouldn't hesitate to use either in any situation. The 24/2.8 was updated with the introduction of the rubber focussing band, essentially the AI version. I do agree that the later versions perform better than the earliest.
I agree with this. My 24/2.8 AIS was a wonderful lens. Yes, it had low contrast wide open, and vignetted significantly. Proabably more than 2 stops in the extreme corners. This is fine for the kinds of photojournalistic situations where you'd use a 24 wide open. By f/4 or 5.6 the lens was well behaved, and at f/8 or f/11 it was entirely competent.

It's not an Elmarit, but then, my Nikkor 35/2 AIS was about as sharp at f/5.6 as my Summilux ASPH was at f/1.7.

In most situations it won't matter. If you prefer 24 to 28 (I do, very strongly), just get the 24 and use it.
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Old 09-12-2010   #32
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I couldn't agree more about the 105/2.5 nor could I not possibly disagree any more about the Nikon 24mm, particularly the 24/2.8 AI which I prefer to the shorter focussing AIS. They may not render like the Zeiss ZF 25mm but that doesn't suuggest, nor would I ever suggest, that the Nikon 24/2.8 isn't a solid performer. The 24/2.0 AI isn't bad closed down a couple of stops and its brightness on the screen is most useful for focussing in marginal situations. I have owned 4 different 24/2.8's: a pre-AI multicoated, a pair of AI-S's and currently have an AFD, as well as currently having a 24/2.0 AI. I wouldn't hesitate to use either in any situation. The 24/2.8 was updated with the introduction of the rubber focussing band, essentially the AI version. I do agree that the later versions perform better than the earliest.

I have a 105 2.5. the one with the hood on the barrel. It's a great lens. Of the 24 and 28 mm Floating Element lenses, all are good until they get bounced. The floating element must be factory repaired.. at least in the old days. The US dealers (EPOI / Nikon USA) sent them to Japan. I have a 28 F2.8. it's very sharp at f4-5.6. I also own a 20 F4 that's very sharp and has better contrast than my previous 20 f2.8.

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Old 09-12-2010   #33
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If your current cameras serve you well, just put a diopter on them. Not available? I saw a neat web article where the photographer couldn't find a diopter for his particular camera so he went to the drugstore, bought a pair of inexpensive reading glasses for his prescription, and cut down a diopter w/ a Dremel tool. He then filed the diopter to the correct final size and pressed it into his camera's eyepiece. Presto, a $5 diopter. You could always glue it on as well.
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Old 09-12-2010   #34
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Originally Posted by BillBingham2 View Post
Having owned both I would go with a Nikkormat FT3 or FTn........There are a few great people out there who do a great job with CLA and foam.

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Old 09-12-2010   #35
nobbylon
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depends on what era you want too. ols school feel, solid, large etc, go for a Nikkormat ft2 or 3. the FT doesn't have a split prism focus screen so it's easier with 2's and 3's. New school change toward lighter cameras, go for an FM2n. It has proven itself over the years and is a nice camera. Forget the FM as an FM2n is not going to be that much more, however the FM can use both pre AI and all later AI inc A/F as it has the flip up AI tab on the lens throat just like the FT3.
If weight isn't a major issue and funds allow then go for an F or F2. IMHO the greatest mechanical SLR's ever made.
Lenses? 105mm 2.5 AI version because of the longer focus throw than the AIS. The equal best Nikkor I've used even wide open (sharp as a pin) to a 28mm AIS 2.8. 0.2m focus version. Fantastic lens.
Any 50 f2 from Nikon is sharp and cheap
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Old 09-13-2010   #36
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All the wise things have already been said

I'd go for an FM. Cheap, indestructible and it can use both Ai and no-Ai lenses, the FM2 cannot. I am actually seriously thinking of having the mount of my FM2 converted for this reason.

AFAIK I prefer the LED meter readout, because it is easy to see in near total darkness (concerts). It has to be said however that the FM's metering system is not that accurate during those conditions, the FM2's is better.

If the budget stretches to a FM3A, go for that. It combines all the goodness of the FE2 and FM2 in one camera. If it would have the FM/FE's mount it would be perfect.
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Old 09-13-2010   #37
amateriat
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald M View Post
FM & FE series are just consumer grade Nikons, toy like in comparison, but they have upgraded features.
In the day, I ran into a lot of shooters for the NY Daily News, NY Post, and AP (staff and stringers) for whom the original Nikon FM was standard-issue gear. I won't kid you that the things were as bulletproof as an F or F2, but they had a decent enough rep, and only got better in later iterations.

I had an FM2 when it was first released, and it was a solid camera, my only beef with it being lack of VF eye-relief like I enjoyed with my F3 HPs. Loved its size and weight.

I'd certainly take an FM2, FE2 or FM3a over any Nikkormat (even though I'm fond of the FT2). If I want to deal with something full-size, I'll grab an F3.


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Old 09-13-2010   #38
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There is one thing the nikkormats (most of them) do better than the rest:
they will give you light measure with non-AI lenses.
Once you have a Nikkormat, you have access to a huge park of good, significantly cheaper Nikkor lenses.
The size of the FM/FE series is nice though...
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Old 09-13-2010   #39
BillBingham2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nobbylon View Post
EH? FLIMSY?
+3

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Old 09-13-2010   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by semilog View Post
I agree with this. My 24/2.8 AIS was a wonderful lens.
I also agree. I have an AF 24/2.8 and I'm surprised by how good it is. Yes it's not a 24/2.8 Elmarit but it's a very able lens.

OP: Go for the FM. I was an F3 guy but bought one of my kids an FM2 several years ago for her high school photography class and she's still using it. A great little camera; she still loves it and prefers it to her Canon digi!

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