5 Vintage & Cheap Nikon FE Lenses

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: April 12, 2020
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Best Nikon FE Camera Lenses

The Nikon FE is a terrific 35mm film SLR camera. This webpage will talk about the 5 best lenses for the Nikon FE, plus a handful of alternative lenses.

Additional information below, but if you are limited on time, here is the list:

  1. Kit Lens - Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series E
  2. Wide Angle Lens - Nikon Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 Ai
  3. Portrait Lens - Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series E
  4. Zoom Lens - Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/3.5
  5. Macro Lens - Vivitar 90mm f/2.8

The top Nikon F-mount lenses are categorized by price and area of photography. There are many great lenses to select from that are in price ranges ideal for the value of a FE.

Standard Prime Lens

A 50mm focal length lens is an excellent choice for a vast array of photography. The types of photography include street, travel, portraits, everyday use, landscapes, and architecture. This is the most popular focal length used with the Nikon FE.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series E

If you don't already own it, a good first lens for the FE is the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series E. The 50mm f1.8 is readily available, has nice photo quality, is inexpensive, compact, and lightweight.

Make sure to buy the second version of the lens, which has a chrome ring around the body. It is built from aluminum, whereas the first version is made from plastic.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series E

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series E Lens

  • One of the most popular 50mm lenses Nikon ever made.
  • Terrific value.
  • Light, small, and compact.
  • 52mm front filter threads.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

The 50mm Series E lens is often referred to as a pancake lens because it is about as thick as a pancake. When mounted on the FE the lens barely sticks out. This is helpful for carrying the camera under a jacket so you can keep a low profile.

A variety of 50mm manual focus lenses were manufactured by Nikon for the F-mount.

Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.4

Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.4

  • Exceptional optics.
  • Optical multi-coatings to improve performance.
  • Easy to find.
  • Comparatively inexpensive.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

The Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 is 2/3 of a stop faster, at the added cost of weight and size. It is a bit higher priced than all of the f/1.8 or f/2 lenses.

Voigtländer Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II AI-S

Voigtländer Nokton 58mm f/1.4 prime lens, 2nd version.

Voigtländer Nokton 58mm f/1.4 Lens

  • Spectacular optics.
  • Has a Meter Coupling Prong.
  • CPU Contacts.
  • Available new.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

Nikon built a 50mm f/1.2 and 55mm f/1.2, but the cost to performance is not good. Because of the age of the lenses, you need to be concerned about the grease in the focusing helicoid drying up, ruining the experience of using the lens.

The Voightlander 58mm f/1.4 is overall a better choice for a top-of-the-line lens. The focusing ring is the smoothest I've ever encountered on a manual focus lens. The Voigtländer is a complete delight to use.

Additionally, the lens provides compatibility across all F-mount SLR cameras. It has a Meter Coupling Prong, Ai Meter Coupling Ridge, CPU contacts, and has a switch for electronic control of the aperture. You’re able to swap the lens from a Nikon 35mm film SLR to a Nikon DSLR seamlessly.

Alternative Standard Lenses

Below are several other good lenses that are comparable options.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8AmazoneBayKEHAdorama
Nikon 50mm f/2AmazoneBayKEHAdorama
Nikon 35mm f/2.5 Series EAmazoneBayKEHAdorama
Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Series EAmazoneBayKEHAdorama

Wide Angle Lens

Nikon Nikkor 24mm f/2.8

Nikon Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 Ai Lens

  • Great combination with a 50mm lens.
  • Optical multi-coatings to improve output.
  • Many copies are available.
  • Relatively inexpensive.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

A very good option for a wide-angle lens is the Nikon Nikkor 24mm f/2.8. The lens is well suited for architectural or landscape photography.

There are plenty of wider focal lengths to select from, but they are either way more expensive or have noticeable amounts of barrel distortion. Third-party lenses have visibly lower image quality than lenses made by Nikon.

Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Series E

Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Series E Lens

Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Series E Lens

  • Excellent when used with a 50mm lens.
  • Optical multi-coatings to reduce flare.
  • Many copies are available.
  • Cheap.

Also found at: eBay and KEH

A lower-priced option, the Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Series E, is on the border of being a wide-angle lens. It is attractive to use with the FE thanks to the low cost and ease at which the lens can be found.

Alternative Wide Angle Lenses

In terms of price, the relationship is easy to understand. The wider the field of view, the costlier the lens will likely be. Lenses with larger apertures also sell for considerably more.

Nikon 8mm f/2.8 FisheyeNikkor 13mm f/5.6
Nikkor 15mm f/3.5Fisheye Nikkor 16mm f/2.8
Nikkor 18mm f/3.5Nikkor 20mm f/2.8
Nikkor 24mm f/2

Portrait & Telephoto Lens

Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series E Lens

Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series E Lens

Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series E Lens

  • 85mm substitute.
  • Excellent value.
  • Relatively inexpensive.
  • Widely available.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

85mm focal length lenses weren't as widely used as they are today compared to when the FE was first released in 1978. 100mm or 135mm focal lengths were more widely used thanks to their more affordable cost.

Like all of the other Series E lenses listed, the 100mm f/2.8 hits an excellent balance of performance, functionality, and price. That's why it was favored when released and why a large number of copies are available for purchase on the used market.

Nikon Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 Lens

Nikon Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 Lens

  • 85mm alternative.
  • "Classic" portraiture rendering.
  • Easy to find.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

The "classic" look of the Nikkor 135mm f2.8 stems from the focal length combined with the lens only containing 4 elements.

1965 was when the first version of the lens was released. A total of 6 different versions of the lens, with only the last two versions being suitable for the FE.

If you go looking for a copy of the lens, the compatible versions will be listed as Ai-S or Ai.

Alternative Telephoto Lenses

There's an abundance of additional telephoto lenses to choose from. The 85mm lenses and focal lengths longer than 135mm will be expensive.

Nikkor 85mm f/2Nikkor 105mm f/1.8
Nikkor 105mm f/2.5Nikkor 135mm f/2
Nikkor 135mm f/2.8Nikon 135mm f/2.8 Series E
Nikkor 180mm f/2.8Nikkor 200mm f/2 ED
Nikkor 300mm f/2 IF-EDNikkor 300mm f/2.8
Nikkor 300mm f/4.5Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 IF-ED
Nikkor 500mm f/4 IF-ED PMirror Nikkor 500mm f/8
Nikkor 600mm f/4 IF-EDNikkor 800mm f/5.6 IF-ED

Nikon FE Zoom Lenses

Before cameras had autofocus, in the early 1980s, there were a small number of lenses made by third-party manufacturers that performed better than Nikkor lenses.

A large number of these lenses would be released with the Vivitar brand name. Any lens that has the Vivitar Series 1 branding on it is going to have outstanding optics.

Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/3.5

Vivitar 70-210mm f/3.5 Zoom Lens

Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/3.5 Zoom Lens

  • Covers a popular zoom range.
  • Great for portrait or wildlife photography.
  • A rare time when a third-party lens is the better choice.

Also found at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

Alternative Zoom Lenses

There aren't many options for zooms for the Nikon FE that have a shorter zoom range. Wear and tear along with age has caused many Nikon zooms to end up being practically useless.

The single zoom I would advise searching for is the Vivitar Series 1 VMC 35-85mm f/2.8 (Also found on KEH). Keep in mind, it can be tough to come across.

Vintage Zoom Lens Problems

The lens that could have been the leading recommendation, the Nikon Zoom-Nikkor 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5, is regrettably, a push-pull zoom. Instead of a zoom ring that turns, the entire focus ring is pushed or pulled to select the lens zoom range.

The grease in nearly all of these lenses has deteriorated to the point where the zoom mechanism cannot hold itself up. Because of that, the lens will have small changes in focal length when you try to focus. This is going to be made worse if the lens is pointed up or down.

Nikon Macro Lenses

Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 & Vivitar 55mm f/2.8

Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 Macro Lens made by Komine

Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

  • My favorite vintage macro lens.
  • Available in many lens mounts.
  • Outstanding value.

Also found at: KEH, Adorama

Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 Macro Lens manufactured by Komine

Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

  • The second best vintage macro lens I've used.
  • An outstanding lens for close-up photography.
  • Can achieve life-size magnification without needing an extension tube.

Also found at: KEH, Adorama

Komine produced both of the two mentioned macro lenses in Japan. The lenses were released under numerous brand names. Elicar, Quantaray, Panagor, Spiratone, and Rokunar are brands that also released the lenses.

There is a Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Review and a Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Review.

For capturing images at macro magnification (1x), the 90mm lens will be the better choice because it has a greater working distance.

The 55mm macro lens is a good choice for close-up and table-top photography.

Alternative Macro Lenses

Micro Nikkor 55mm f/3.5AmazoneBayKEHAdorama
Lester A Dine 105mm f/2.8AmazoneBayKEHAdorama
Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8AmazoneBayKEHAdorama

Used Nikon Camera Lens Prices

The prices of lenses change all the time depending on supply and interest in manual focus lenses. During the last several years, film photography was going through an increase in popularity, which has pushed prices higher.

Economic conditions are constantly changing, and unexpected changes can quickly lead to changes in prices. However, the difference in prices between lenses should stay similar.

Checking several sites is an intelligent way to get accurate pricing information. If you're lucky enough to come across a great deal, buy it because the best deals do not last very long.

What Lens Mount Does the Nikon FE Use?

The Nikon FE uses the Nikon F lens mount. Released in 1959, the F-mount is still being used. Over time changes have been made to add metering information, autofocus, electronically controlled apertures, and CPU contacts.

Use manual focus lenses listed as either Ai or Ai-S with the FE. The meter coupling ridge built into those lenses allows the camera to correctly meter light.

For a complete explanation of the differences between lenses, here is a page that explains Nikon F-mount lens and camera compatibility.

Standard Lens Cap Size

The standard lens cap and filter ring thread diameter for most vintage manual focus Nikon F-mount lenses is 52mm. Bear in mind, lenses with large front elements will need larger lens caps and filters.

The advantage of having a standardized filter thread size is that you only need to have a single set of lens filters.

Non-Ai vs Ai & Ai-S Lenses

A Meter Coupling Prong was used on early Nikon F-mount cameras. The Nikon FE uses a Meter Coupling Ridge.

A handful of lenses have both forms of meter coupling as they were built when Nikon was transitioning to the Ai design.

Older lenses that only have a Meter Coupling Prong will cause damage to your FE if you attempt to use one on the camera.

More Nikon FE Resources

There is no more information on the best Nikon FE lenses. When new info is included on the site, links can be found below.

Best Film for the Nikon FE

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