The 5 Best Nikon FM Lenses

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: April 12, 2020
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Best Nikon FM Cameras Lenses

The Nikon FM is an excellent SLR film camera. This web page will go over the 5 best lenses for the Nikon FM, as well as a handful of alternative lenses.

More details are further down, but if you're short 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
Nikon FM 35mm film SLR camera with 100 mm lens

The best Nikon F-mount lenses are categorized by price and type of photography. There are a bunch of great camera lenses to pick from that cover price ranges suitable for the value of a FM.

Standard Nikon Prime Lens

The 50mm focal length lens is an excellent choice for a wide variety of photography. The types of photography include travel, landscapes, street, architecture, portraits, and everyday use.

This is the most popular focal length used on the Nikon FM and just about every other SLR camera.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series E Lens

If you don't already own one, a great lens for the FM is the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series E. The 50mm f1.8 is readily available, has nice photo quality, is a bargain, small, and lightweight.

You'll want to purchase the second version of the lens, that 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 best selling 50mm lenses Nikon ever made.
  • Excellent value.
  • Small, compact, and light.
  • 52mm filter threads.

Check prices at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

The 50mm Series E lens is known as a pancake lens because it is thin. When mounted on the FM it will barely stick out. This is great for keeping the camera under a jacket so you're able to keep a low profile.

Lots of 50mm manual focus lenses were released by Nikon for the F-mount, but none as small as this one. Here's my review of the Nikon 50mm f/1.8e.

Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.4

Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.4

  • Superb optics.
  • Optical multi-coatings to improve output.
  • Widely available.
  • Comparatively inexpensive.

Check prices at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

At the added cost of size and weight, the Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 is 2/3 of a stop faster. It is a little bit more expensive than any of the f/1.8 or f/2 50mm 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.

Check prices at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

Nikon made a Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.2, but the value for money is poor. Because of the age of the lenses, the grease in the focusing helicoid has likely started drying, ruining the experience of using the lens with a film camera.

The Voightlander 58mm f/1.4 is overall a superior choice for a high-end lens. It has the smoothest focusing ring I've ever encountered on a manual focus lens. The lens is a complete joy to use, 5 stars.

Furthermore, the lens provides compatibility that spans all F-mount SLR cameras. It has a CPU contacts, Ai Meter Coupling Ridge, Meter Coupling Prong, and has a switch to allow for electronic control of the aperture. You can switch the lens from a Nikon DSLR to a Nikon 35mm film SLR seamlessly.

If you want a used copy in excellent condition for your FM, purhcase one from Japan. The shipping is pretty quick and you'll have many more options.

Alternative Standard SLR Lenses

The following are other quality options that are worth buying.

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 paired with a 50mm lens.
  • Optical multi-coatings to reduce chromatic aberrations.
  • Many copies are available.
  • Comparatively low-priced.

Check prices at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

The Nikon Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 is a great selection for a wide-angle lens. It is fantastic for architectural or landscape photography.

There are loads of wider focal lengths to choose from, but they are often are a lot more expensive or have significant amounts of barrel distortion. Third-party lenses have clearly decreased image quality than Nikkor lenses.

Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Series E Lens

Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Series E lens. Second version with the chrome ring.

Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Series E Lens

  • Excellent when paired with a 50mm lens.
  • Optical multi-coatings to reduce flare.
  • Easy to find.
  • Easily affordable.

Check prices at: eBay and KEH

The Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Series E lens is a cheaper option for the Nikon FM. It is appealing to use on the FM due to the affordable price and ease at which the lens can be found.

There are usually enough on the market where you should be able to submit a best offer or get free shipping.

Alternative Nikon Nikkor Wide Angle Lenses

In terms of price, the relationship is straightforward. The larger the field of view or the aperture, the more expensive the lens ıs going to be, especially considering they have the Nikkor branding.

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

Film SLR 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 alternative.
  • Excellent value.
  • Relatively low-priced.
  • Many copies are available.

Check prices at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

The 85mm focal length was not as commonly used in 1977 when the FM was released as compared to today. 135mm or 100mm manual focus lenses were more common because of their lower price and similar field of view.

Just like all of the other Series E lenses listed, the 100mm f/2.8 hits a good balance of functionality, value, and performance. It feels good to use on the Nikon FM. That's why the lens was favored when released and why numerous copies are readily available on the used market.

Nikon Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 Lens

Nikon Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 Lens

  • 85mm alternative.
  • "Vintage" portraiture rendering.
  • Many copies are available.

Check prices at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

The "vintage" look of the Nikon Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 stems from the focal length in addition to the lens only containing 4 elements.

1965 was the year the initial version of the lens was released. There's a total of 6 versions of the lens, only the last two being suitable for the FM.

If you go looking for a copy of the lens, the compatible lenses will be listed as for an Ai-S or Ai Nikon film camera.

Alternative Nikon Telephoto Lenses

There is no shortage of alternative telephoto lenses to choose from. The 85mm lenses and focal lengths longer than 135mm will be high-priced.

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 FM Zoom Lenses

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

Some of these lenses would be released under the Vivitar brand name. Any lens that has the Vivitar Series 1 branding on it is going to have excellent optics and be great to use with the Nikon FM.

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 wildlife or portrait photography.
  • A rare time when a third-party lens is the better choice.

Check prices at: eBay, KEH, Adorama

Alternative FM Zoom Lenses

There are not very many options for zoom lenses for the Nikon FM that have a shorter focal length zoom range. Age along with wear and tear has resulted in many Nikon zooms to become basically useless.

The only zoom lens I would suggest looking for is the Vivitar Series 1 VMC 35-85mm f/2.8 (Also found on KEH). Be warned, the lens can be challenging to come across.

Vintage SLR Film Camera Zoom Lens Problems

The lens that could've been the best choice, the Nikon Zoom-Nikkor 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5, is sadly, a push-pull zoom. Rather than having a zoom ring that turns, the entire focus ring is pushed or pulled to control the lens zoom range.

The grease in nearly all of these lenses has deteriorated to the point where the zoom mechanism can no longer support itself. Because of that, the lens will have small changes in focal length when you try to focus the lens. This is going to be made worse if the lens is not parallel to the ground.

Nikon Macro Lenses

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

Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 Macro Lens by Komine

Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

  • The best vintage macro lens I've used.
  • Was produced in a variety lens mounts.
  • Great value.

Check prices at: KEH, Adorama

Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Made by Komine

Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

  • My second favorite vintage macro lens.
  • An excellent choice for close-up photography.
  • It does not require an extension tube to reach life-size magnification.

Check prices at: KEH, Adorama

Komine made both of the two suggested macro lenses in Japan. The lenses were also released under many different brand names. Quantaray, Spiratone, Rokunar, Elicar, and Panagor 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 1x magnification with the Nikon FM, the 90mm lens will be the superior pick since it has a greater working distance.

For table-top and close-up photography with the FM, the 55mm macro lens is the better option.

Alternative Macro Lenses

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

FM Camera Lens Prices - Buy Used?

Prices change all the time as they are influenced by supply and the popularity of vintage lenses. During the last several years, film photography was seeing an increase in popularity, which has pushed prices higher.

Economic changes can quickly lead to large changes in prices. Having said that, the relative difference in lens prices should be expected to stay similar.

Checking several sites is the best way to get accurate lens pricing. If you're lucky enough to come across a great deal, be quick because the best deals do not last long.

What Camera Lens Mount Does the Nikon FM Use?

The Nikon FM uses the Nikon F lens mount. The F-mount was first used on a camera in 1959. Over time changes have been made to add metering information, autofocus, electronic aperture control, and CPU contacts.

Use manual focus lenses listed as either Ai-S (AiS) or Ai with the FM. The meter coupling ridge on them will allow the camera to meter accurately.

For an explanation of the differences between lenses, this page explains everything you should know Nikon F-mount lens and camera compatibility.

Nikon Standard Lens Cap Size

Nikon lens cap size is 52 mm for all lenses possible. Makes dealing with lens filters easier.

The standard lens cap and filter ring thread diameter for just about all vintage Nikon lenses is 52mm. Keep in mind, lenses with big front elements are going to need larger lens caps and filters.

Employing a standard filter thread diameter is useful because you only need to buy only one set of filters.

Non-Ai vs Ai & AiS SLR Film Camera Lenses

The flip back meter coupling ridge on the FM that can be flipped back for non AiS compatibility.

Earlier F-mount Nikon cameras had a Meter Coupling Prong. The Nikon FM uses a Meter Coupling Ridge.

Lenses built around the time when Nikon changed to Ai lenses can have both forms of meter coupling. This was done to allow a lens to be used on a camera with a meter coupling prong or meter coupling ridge.

Non-Ai lenses will damage your FM if you attempt to put one on the camera without flipping back the meter coupling ridge. The meter coupling prong on the lens may still interfere with using the lens.

More Nikon FM Film Camera Resources

Here are some additional resources about the Nikon FM.

Best Film for the Nikon FM

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