The Nikon FM2 - A Mechanical Masterpiece

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: October 30, 2019
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Nikon FM2 35mm Film SLR Camera

The Nikon FM2 is a fully mechanical 35mm film SLR produced by Nikon from 1982-2001. When released, it filled the middle of Nikon's camera lineup, behind the F3.

Currently, the FM2 is an excellent value for a high quality 35mm film SLR. The ridiculously fast shutter shutter and flash sync speed as well as replaceable focus screens are not something you'll find on other affordable mechanical cameras.

The introduction of autofocus SLR cameras starting in 1985 is what caused the production run of the FM2 to last so long.

Autofocus viewfinder screens don't work well with manual focus lenses. The FM2 (and F3) stayed in production because there was enough demand from people that wanted to continue to use their manual focus lenses.

Price & Where to Buy

Nikon FM2 with Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4 Lens

I checked eBay and FM2 prices were all over the place. Chrome bodies started around $200, and the black version started around $300.

There are several versions of the camera, which are covered below. It seemed like newer versions of the camera were selling for more money.

That makes sense as a newer camera should be less likely to have problems. Finding someone to service or repair the camera is going to be difficult.

Cameras that are bundled with a lens have prices all over the place. The more desirable the lens, the higher the price of the bundle.

Your best option is to check eBay to see the current prices of FM2 camera bodies.

There are also listings on Amazon for the chrome and black versions of the camera.

Original Price

My catalogs and magazines only go back to 1985. I was able to find pricing information in a Competitive Camera Corp Catalogue No. 24, from 1985.

Body Only$224.95
Body + 50mm f/1.8e$284.95
Body + 50mm f/1.8 Ai$324.95
Body + 50mm f/1.4 Ai$369.95
Body + 50mm f/1.2 Ai$448.95
Black Body+$15.00
Case$29.95

Using the BLS inflation calculator, $224.95 in June 1985, would be the equivalent of $536.78 today.

Nikon FM2 vs FM2n

FM2 Honeycomb Shutter
Honeycomb Shutter

Along with the two different body colors, several revisions were made to the camera.

FM2 Model I - The first version of the camera, which was sold in 1982 and 1983. It is easy to tell apart from the later models because it has a maximum flash sync speed of 1/200 of a second.

The serial numbers for the cameras began at 7000001.

FM2 Model II - It is known as a FM2n because of the "N" that is in front of the serial number. The "N" was meant to signify that it was a new version.

The most notable change was the increase of the maximum flash sync speed to 1/250 of a second. It was sold from 1984-1989.

My camera falls into this group as it was likely made in 1988.

FM2 Model III - These are also knowns as FM2n cameras.

With this version, the titanium honeycomb shutter found in the previous two version was replaced with an aluminum shutter. The N8008 (F-801) was the first camera to use this type of shutter.

Nikon claimed the shutter was switched because the titanium shutter had problems dealing with cold temperatures. More likely was that it was changed to reduce production cost.

This version was sold from 1989 until the end of production.

FM2/T - The FM2 Titan. Named that because the bottom plate, upper, and rear covers are made out of titanium.

The chassis of the camera is cast aluminum, just like all of the other versions. It has the aluminum shutter.

It was made in small production runs, first available in 1994. You can find them on eBay.

Year 2000 "Dragon" Millennium Edition - A special edition built to commemorate the millennium. A total of 2000 camera were made.

More details about serial number ranges can be found here: https://www.photrio.com/forum/threads/nikon-slr-serial-and-production-date.137356/

Battery

FM2 Camera Batteries LR44

No batteries, no problem. The two LR44 batteries that can be installed in the camera only power the light meter.

The FM2 manual states that the batteries should last a year with "normal" usage. That's not helpful because I can't tell you how many rolls of film that equates to.

To save battery life you can push the film advance lever flush with the body. That will lock the shutter release and turn off the light meter.

Even if your batteries die, the Nikon FM2 is completely functional without batteries. The entire camera is mechanically operated.

All shutter speeds will work without batteries. You'll even be able to see the aperture a lens is set to in the viewfinder, as it uses a small window instead of a LCD.

Build Quality

FM2 w/ 35mm Series E Lens

Almost the entire Nikon FM2 is made of metal. The film rewind knob, depth of field preview lever, and a few other pieces are plastic.

This is a big difference from lower end or newer cameras that contain significant amounts of plastic. The build quality is noticeably better than the Nikon FG.

The camera weighed 548 grams (19.3 oz) without a lens or body cap, but it did have batteries installed.

Compared to other mechanical cameras, the FM2 is light. Cameras such as the Canon FT QL, Minolta SRT101, and Pentax K1000, are all heavier.

Shutter Speeds

FM2 Top Controls Shutter Speed ISO

Shutters speeds range from 1 second to 1/4000 of a second, in whole stop increments. A 1/4000 of a second shutter speed for a fully mechanical camera is impressive.

What's more impressive is that the maximum flash sync is 1/250 of a second. That's absolutely ridiculous when you consider that the majority of mechanical cameras have a maximum flash sync speed of 1/60 of a second.

The center of the shutter button is threaded for a cable release.

There is a standard hot shoe above the viewfinder. A PC sync port is on the front of the camera, below the film rewind knob.

The camera has a self timer with a delay of approximately 10 seconds. It can be used at any shutter speed, with the exception of bulb mode.

Multiple exposures are easy to do with the camera. There is a dedicated multiple exposure lever at the base of the film advance lever.

By pushing the multiple exposure lever bad towards the rear of the camera, the shutter can be cocked with the film advance lever, without advancing the film. You can take as many exposures as you want on a frame.

Setting ASA/ISO

ASA/ISO can be set from 12 to 6400 in 1/3 stop increments. The setting is done by pulling up on the film speed dial and rotating to the desired ISO.

Viewfinder

Viewfinder Camera Back

The viewfinder is large and bright. Shutter speed is displayed on the left. Lens aperture is displayed on the top via a small window.

Circular, screw in eyepieces can be used over the viewfinder. This is a much nicer compared to slip on eyepieces found on lower end cameras. It is much less likely to fall off.

Lens Aperture Window
Window that displays the aperture in the viewfinder.

The focusing screen was designed to be interchangeable. There are three different types that can be used in the camera.

  • K2 - Matte Fresnel with Split Image (Came with camera).
  • B2 - Matte Field with Center Focusing Spot.
  • E2 - Same as the B2, but has etched horizontal and vertical lines.

You can also use K3, B3, and E3 focusing screens. These were made for the Nikon FM3A, but are compatible. These can still be found new and are easier to find in general.

All of the focusing screens can usually be found on eBay. Expect to pay anywhere from $25-$45. You can also find some of them on Amazon and other photography retailers.

There is a special tool designed to help change focusing screens. It looks like a small pair of tweezers.

If you don't have one, make sure to buy a screen that includes it. This shouldn't be a problem as there is a place for the tool in the storage case.

Metering

The FM2 has 60/40 center-weighted metering. Silicon photodiodes were used for the light meter sensors.

When the film advance lever is in the locked position, the light meter will not turn on. A half press on the shutter release button will turn on the light meter.

On the right of the viewfinder are 3 red LEDs used to indicate exposure. Metering operates on a center-the-LED principal.

Over exposure is indicated by a "+", correct exposure "o", and under exposure "-".

Lens Mount

Nikon F-Mount

The FM2 has a Nikon F-mount. Introduced in 1959, and still in use today, there is a massive amount of lenses and accessories available.

A meter coupling lever is used so the light meter can give a reading without needing to stop down the lens. This makes the camera incompatible with non-Ai lenses. Forcing one of these lenses onto the camera will damage the meter coupling lever.

If you don't know the difference between non-Ai, Ai, Ai/s, and the other lens versions I have written a guide about Nikon F-mount lenses and camera compatibility.

While it is possible to use early AF and D-series lenses on the FM2, I don't recommend it. The mechanical autofocus system feels terrible when manually focused.

These are by no means the end all be all best lenses to use with the camera. They're just some lenses that are enjoyable to use with the FM2.

Voigtländer 58mm f/1.4 Nocton

My favorite lens to use on my FM2. It is a fast lens that is sharp wide open and produces beautiful bokeh.

It is a manual focus lens with a buttery smooth focus ring. What's nice is that it has CPU contacts which means you get EXIF data when using the lens on a DSLR.

The lens has been very popular in Japan. I bought my copy off of eBay from a Japanese seller. It came in the original box and looked brand new.

There are lots of used copies available on eBay for less than $400. The best deals are going to be from Japan.

Nikon 35mm f/2.5 Series E

Not a great choice for use with color film. There is so color fringing that will show up unless the lens is stopped down.

It is also smaller and less expensive than the 35mm f/1.4 Ai lens. You should be able to find one for less than $100 on eBay.

There is also a listing for the lens on Amazon, so that is another option.

Nikon 135mm f/2.8 Ai / AiS

There are a 8 of versions of this lens. There are 2 Nikkor versions that have a Ai or AiS mount. The same lens formula was also used for the E Series versions of the lens.

What makes this lens interesting is that it has 4 elements in 4 groups. It renders noticeably different than a modern lens.

Don't expect corner to corner sharpness or an absence of chromatic aberrations.

The Ai or AiS versions can be found on eBay for less than $100. Avoid the non-Ai versions as they will not work on the FM2.

Compared to the ~$200 for a Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 Ai or ~$500 for a Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 Ai, the 135mm is much cheaper.

Accessories

Motor Drive MD-12

Adds automatic film advance film functionality to the FM2. Continuous firing is possible at a maximum rate of 3.2 frames per second.

The MD-12 sold for $139.95 price in 1985. You can find a working copy for less than $30 on eBay.

Flash

Any center pin fire flash (almost all of them) can be used with the FM2. Even newer wireless flash triggers work with the camera.

Nikon Speedlight models listed in the manual are the Nikon SB-20, SB-22, SB-19, SB-18, SB-16B, and SB-15.

Data Back MF-16

Replaces the film back on the FM2. Has three different options to imprint information in red numerals on the photos.

  • Year/Month/Day
  • Day/Hour/Minute
  • Picture Count (Up to 2000)

Camera Manual

A PDF scan of the Nikon FM2 manual can be found on Butkus.org.

Alternative Cameras

Nikon FM

The predecessor to the FM2. It is a fully mechanical camera. You can find copies of it for less than $100 on eBay.

The trade off is that the flash sync speed is only 1/125 of a second, and maximum shutter speed is only 1/1000 of a second.

Another thing to keep in mind is the camera was manufactured between 1977-1982. Age makes cameras more prone to problems that can be difficult to find someone to repair.

Nikon FE2

The FE2 has a similar body to the FM2. The major change being that the FE2 has an electronically controlled shutter, with manual 1/250 of a second mechanical backup.

An electronic shutter allows the camera to have aperture priority mode. Exposure times can also go up to 8 seconds before needing to use bulb mode.

FE2's can be found for less than $150 on eBay.

Nikon N6000 / F-601M

The Nikon N6000 (F-601M) is an oddity because it is a fully electronic camera that is manual focus. It has a similar body and controls as a N6006 / F-601.

They can be difficult to find used, but do pop up on eBay and other site from time to time. When they show up, they can usually be had for less than $50.

Some benefits it has over the Nikon FM2 are the inclusion of aperture and shutter priority, TTL flash exposure, and automatic film advance.

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