The Nikon FM2 - Nikon's Mechanical SLR Camera Masterpiece

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

The target customer for the FM2 would have been a camera for professional photographers or advanced enthusiast. Every review you’ll come across is likely to have given this camera five stars.

Don’t expect a camera designed with business in mind. The FM2 was designed for the enjoyment of the photography experience. Even then, many photographers used the camera professionally.

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

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

Autofocus (AF) viewfinder screens don’t work well with manual focus lenses. The FM2 (and F3) stayed in production because there were people that wanted to continue to use their manual focus Nikkor lenses.

FM2 with Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4 Prime Lens great for photography

Prices have been steadily rising for analog photography gear for years. To get an idea of current prices I suggest checking prices at Amazon (chrome), Amazon (black), and eBay.

Expect to pay more for all black camera bodies and “newer” camera bodies. The new FM2, which was the last version released is usually referred to as an FM2n.

It makes sense as cameras produced towards the end of the production cycle would be the most expensive.

A FM2 that is bundled with a lens will have widely varying prices. Nikkor and more desirable lenses will have higher prices. Also, the closer the condition is to new, the higher the price since there are so few available.

My photography catalogs and magazines that advertise new prices for a mail-order customer only go back to 1985. I was able to find pricing information in a Competitive Camera Corp Catalogue No. 24, from 1985.

There were quite a few choices in terms of 50mm primes lenses and some items that could be useful accessories, all of which were discounted if bought as a “kit”.

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

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

Production 1982-2001
Lens Mount Nikon F-mount
Shutter Mechanical
Shutter Speeds 1 to 1/4000 of a second, Bulb Mode
Flash Sync Speed 1/250 second
Metering Center-Weighted, TTL full-aperture metering;EV 1 to 18 at ISO 100 with f/1.4 lens
ASA/ISO Range 12 - 6400
Battery One 3V CR1/3N lithium battery,or two 1.55V SR44 silver-oxide batteries,or two 1.5V LR44 alkaline batteries
Weight Approx. 540g (19 oz.)
Dimensions (W x H x D) Approx. 142.5 x 90 x 60mm (5.6 x 3.5 x 2.4 in.)
FM2 Honeycomb Shutter appearing on the second version of the SLR film camera.

Honeycomb Shutter Blades

Along with the two different body colors, several revisions were made to the FM2. Serial numbers for the cameras begin at 7000001.

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 X sync speed of 1/200 of a second.

FM2 Model II - It is known as an 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 X sync speed to 1/250 of a second. It was sold by Nikon from 1984-1989.

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

With this version, the titanium honeycomb shutter found in the previous two versions was replaced with an aluminum shutter. This was due to Nikon receiving feedback that the titanium shutter blades had problems dealing with cold temperatures.

The Nikon N8008 (F-801) was the first camera to use this type of advanced shutter design. This is the final version sold by Nikon from 1989 until the end of production.

Nikon FM2/T - The FM2 Titan, a titanium body version, was first available in 1994. Named that because the bottom plate, upper, and rear body plates are made out of titanium. It uses the aluminum shutter found in the third version and was only made in small production runs.

Year 2000 “Dragon” Millennium Edition - A special edition built to commemorate the millennium. A total of 2000 cameras were made.

More details about serial number ranges can be found here:

FM2 w/ 35mm Series E Lens Made in Japan

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

What really sets the Nikon FM2 apart from other film SLR cameras is that it will reliably operate in temperature extremes of −40 °C to 50 °C. (−40 °F to 122 °F) This is from modern improvements that allow for close tolerance assembly and minimal space lubrication. The mirror box was also updated so that the mirror box contains a light trap

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

Other FM series cameras are also small and compact like the FM2. That was a major selling point that made the camera a popular backup body to electronic autofocus cameras. The camera weighed 548 grams (19.3 oz) without a lens or body cap, but it did have batteries installed.

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

FM2 Top Photography Controls Shutter Speed ISO

Shutter speeds range from 1 second to 1/4000th of a second, in whole stop increments. It is a vertical-travel focal plane shutter.

A 1/4000 of a second shutter speed for a mechanical shutter on a single lens reflex camera is incredibly 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 film SLRs being sold at that time had a maximum flash sync speed of 1/60 of a second and used a shutter curtain instead of a more advanced shutter mechanism.

Nikon was proud of the shutter design when they released it. Any photographer that wanted a faster flash sync speed, would have to use a camera with a leaf shutter.

The FM2 shares the same mirror linkage mechanism that was used in the Nikon F2. Some improvements were made to further reduce mirror bounce and vibration.

The center of the shutter button is threaded for a cable release. This is helpful to reduce vibrations from showing up in a photo.

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

There is a self-timer with a delay of approximately 10 seconds. It can be used at any shutter speed, with the exception of bulb mode. Operation is similar to those of other Nikon cameras.

Multiple exposures are easy to do with the FM2. There is a dedicated multiple exposure lever at the base of the film advance lever.

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

There is no control for mirror lockup. The mirror will move up when the shutter release is pressed when the self timer is set.

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

This is a common way of setting the ASA/ISO on SLR film cameras. If you need film check out the best Nikon FM2 film.

Good View of Viewfinder and Camera Back Plate

The viewfinder on the Nikon FM2 is very large and bright. Nothing obstructs your view.

Shutter speed is displayed on the left. The lens aperture is displayed at the top via a small window.

The view finder shows the shutter speed and aperture.

Circular, screw-in eyepieces can be used over the viewfinder. This is much more secure compared to slip on eyepieces found on lower-end film cameras that fall off easily.

Lens Aperture Window above mount for Nikkor lenses

The window displays the aperture in the viewfinder.

Nikon designed the focusing screen to be interchangeable. There are three different types of focusing screens that can be used in the FM2.

  • 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. You can also find some of them available through 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 the FM2 focusing screen tool, make sure to buy a screen that includes it. This shouldn’t be a problem as Nikon made a place for the tool in the storage case.

Nikon FM2 Battery 2x LR44

The Nikon FM2 uses two LR44 batteries to power the light meter. All of the shutter speeds on the FM2 can be used without battery power.

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 FM2 light meter.

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

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

There are no advanced auto exposure features. The camera only has manual exposure control, just like the Pentax K1000. With only basic metering the art of photography can be focused on instead having to dial in countless camera settings.

The film advance lever is locked when it is pressed up against the camera body. Flipping it out will allow you to view metering information with a half-press of the shutter release button.

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

Overexposure on the FM2 is indicated by a “+”, correct exposure “o”, and underexposure “-”.

Nikon F-Mount Film Camera

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

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 Nikon 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.

Don’t be too worried as Pre-Ai lenses can be easily identified by the prongs sticking out from the aperture ring.

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

The best compatible lenses for the Nikon FM2 has a page dedicated to it. F-mount lens compatibility is covered there, but here are some important things to know about the FM2.

  • Can use manual focus Ai and Ai-S lenses.
  • Can use AF and D series autofocus lenses that have physical aperture rings.
  • Can not use lenses with electronic aperture control, such as G-series lenses.

These are by no means the end all be all the best lenses. Nikon’s best optics will have the Nikkor branding. These are just a few lenses that are enjoyable for general photography with the FM2.

Make sure to shop around and check lens prices and feedback of sellers. You want to order from someone that has good feedback so you know their customer service will also be good.

This is one of the compatible motor drives that adds automatic film advance film functionality to the FM2. This enables a maximum continuous shooting speed of 3.2 frames per second.

Do keep in mind that the motor drive will add significant amounts of weight to the Nikon FM2.

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

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

Nikon Speedlight models listed in the manual are the:

  1. Nikon SB-20
  2. Nikon SB-22
  3. Nikon SB-19
  4. Nikon SB-18
  5. Nikon SB-16B
  6. Nikon SB-15

A newer flash is one of the products that is worth upgrading to if you have an other electronic flash. With a newer flash you’ll get a faster recharge rate and more powerful output.

Having backward compatibility is great for an SLR film camera because it is one of those items you’ll want to have for other kinds of photography.

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

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

This is a useful item if you want to keep track of the dates of your photos without needing to view physical notes.

Nikon FM2 Manual for SLR film camera

A high-quality searchable PDF scan of the FM2 manual is available for download directly from Nikon [PDF].

The predecessor to the FM2 manufactured from 1977-1982. It is fully mechanical.

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

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 an aperture priority mode. Exposure times can also go up to 8 seconds before needing to use bulb mode.

The FE2 is also going to be a superior choice to the FE. Maybe 10 years ago the FE could have been a good choice, but they are getting too old.

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 an N6006 / F-601.

They can be difficult to find used, but do pop up on eBay and other sites 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, which can be huge advantages for some types of photography.