Nikon FM,1977

A mechanical-shutter version of the FE,
considerably lighter and smaller than other Nikon SLR's, the FM patches some of the key weaknesses found in the Nikkormat bodies FT series cameras, while on the other hand, it measured well against competitions with its original concept and body design; in addition, it offers a enterprising photographer a few advances of its own. The FM has proven to be a very successful camera. It can take you to the heart of 35mm SLR photography in a compact, economical and easy-to-operate format and bring you right to the door step of Nikon SLR system.

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Operational ease is the keynote of the FM. Technological highlight started from a equaled to F2 standard high tensile strength copper silumin body that can withstand bumps and hard knocks on the field.

Warning: Before you attempt to use content in this site as a reference; please ensure your camera is a Nikon FM (1977). If you are using a newer FM2 or the current FM2n, you should click here for original FM2 (1982) and FM2n (1983).

W A R N I N G: G-SERIES Nikkor lenses have no aperture ring on the lens, they CANNOT ADJUST APERTURES with any of these manual focus Nikon FM series SLR camera models.

A very precise film transport system which provides a smooth 135° winding at constant torque yet with durability to handle the pounding speed of a 'new' motor drive system designed specifically for the FM and the FE at 3.5 fps (The Nikkormat has no motor drive coupling, but only a slow 2 fps Winder (AW-1) was made available for the last two electronic EL models - the Nikkormat ELW and the Nikon EL2).

The FM's metering uses a simple yet un-offensive LED (light emitting diode) display which works even in low available light without the need for artificial illumination in the finder. The LEDs are in five combinations just like the F2AS Photomic. Using a pair of gallium photo diodes housed just beside the eyepiece, the system features the standard 60/40 center-weighted sensing pattern and has a metering capability from EV1 to EV18 (i.e. f/1.4, 1 sec. to f/16, 1/1000 sec. when using an f/1.4 lens and ASA 100 film). Easy and accurate viewing/focusing can be achieved by the standard type K matte Fresnel screen with a combination microprism/split image spot built into the fixed eye level finder. Others "master touches" include depth of field previewing, stop-down metering, multiple exposures and auto indexing, etc. Compact and reliable, the Nikon FM accepts almost all Nikkor lenses and most Nikon system accessories. Most of all, it is a pure mechanical camera and works even without any battery cell(s) installed in the camera.

From its very inception, it was designed as a flexible standalone system camera. The camera body incorporates all the controls, terminals, circuits and coupling devices necessary for accommodating, systematically and naturally, the vast array of accessories available from Nikon from the past and still able to tab in the current system dominated by AF design. These include attachments for flash, close-up and motor-drive accessories, as well as for remote-controlled shooting. The FM even has its own, compact and lightweight motor drive unit, the MD-11, which was developed along with it but it is compatible with the upgrade in MD-12, which is the current model. This patched the vacuum, where all along, the earlier Nikkormat's apparent weakness in lacking a caliber motor drive system. While there were upgrades along with the advancement in respective fields, backward compatibility were always there.

Because the FM (And all the other models within the FM series - A little reservation on the current FM10) is being built exceptionally rugged, enduringly reliable, uncompromisingly precise as evidenced by the million that were still in use today. Besides being lighter and smaller than the Nikkormat, its comes with an excellent human engineering design for positive, responsive and easy handling. Nikkor lenses' F-mount, a major strength and selling point for Nikon camera, has remained unchanged since its introduction that stretches back to 1959, these FM models work virtually with all Nikkor lens models past (Except the OP Fisheyes and Ultra wide Fisheyes Nikkor), present and even the latest AF-D lenses (The FM, FE (and the bulkier Nikkormat) are the only two such compact Nikon models that has a adjustable meter coupling lever to accept past and present Nikkor Lenses. However, started from the FM2 in 1982 (But Nikon EM was the first Nikon), all other Nikon bodies has a fixed, nonadjustable meter coupling lever that can only accept AI lenses (or modified) and the newer series. (Except the professional F4. However, the current F5 comes with a 'replaceable' fixed ring which can be altered based on specification).

It is simple, straight forward and no frills camera. Easy to understand and operate. This site will go from the utmost basic from preparation of the camera to shot, outline its various controls and features, explain what can the system accessories can help you to have a more creative, productive and responsive SLR photography with this jewel-liked camera from Nikon.

Reflex Viewing :

The Nikon FM utilizes a through-the-lens or TTL viewing system. This simply means that the image the photographer sees through the lens, through the viewfinder eyepiece, is the image that will be recorded on the film. A principle that has made the SLR so popular as compared rangefinder system. Accordingly, the image changes every time the lens is angled differently and, indeed, every time a lens with a different focal length is used with the camera.

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The image itself appears erect and un-reversed through the FM's fixed eye-level pentaprism viewfinder; the picture area covered is approximately 93%, which corresponds to that of a mounted transparency. To compensate for the difference between the more superior viewing system had in the rangefinder camera system, SLR manufacturers has spent a lot of development effort in the viewfinder system to bridge the gap. The FM's image brightness is enhanced by the use of silver coating on the viewfinder's pentaprism and some special treatment applied on the viewfinder screen to make the most of TTL viewing at full aperture.

Viewfinder Screen

This is similar to the Type K which is the standard screen for Nikon F2 (but remains as a standard screen for all manual focus Nikon bodies). To outline the standard Type K screen in details, there are three focusing "aids" available: (1 ) a Split-image rangefinder spot with a diameter of 3mm, (2) a 1mm wide annular microprism grid, and (3) a fine, matte Fresnel outfield. You will note that the main focusing"aids" - the spot and the grid - are placed centrally in the screen, which is often where the main subject is positioned. This makes focusing considerably fast and easy for the vast majority of subjects. The split-image rangefinder spot is especially invaluable for precise, pinpoint focusing. All that is required is to turn the focusing ring of the lens until the two halves of the portion of the image framed by the spotcoincide perfectly to form a single, "unbroken" image. The microprism grid, on the other hand, is best for focusing rapidly on subject outlines, such as in sports or fast-action photography; image breakup is quickly noticeable even when the subject is only fractionally out of focus. In this case, the focusing ring is turned until the portion of the image seen through the microprism pattern appears crisp. As for the fine matte outfield, it is particularly useful when shooting with telephoto lenses that have small aperture, or when doing close-up or microphotography Although the focusing screen has no condenser, Nikon applied some special treatment on the matte Fresnel outfield assures the brightness of the entire view field. In conclusion, the screen of the original FM may not be the brightest among the lots but its viewfinder screen is adequately makes for fast, simple focusing for most of your needs.

The FM viewfinder came with a fixed eye-level pentaprism type with built-in TTL exposure meter. Essential key information pertaining to shutter speed, aperture setting indicated in the finder when lens in use is fitted with an aperture-direct-readout (ADR) lens aperture scale (See the red optical path in the illustration above), LED display indicates five exposure graduations through combinations of three symbols (+ & - );

The finder coverage, approx. 93% of the picture field; viewfinder magnification, 0.86X with 50mm lens set at infinity. Matte fresnel field with central split-image rangefinder surrounded by micro prism ring; 12mm-diameter reference circle indicates area of meter center-weighting in the 60/40 composition.

So much for the bright side of the viewing system in the FM. However, the main drawback is, the focusing screen design works a little weak in some small aperture lenses. Since the focusing screen is not interchangeable type as with the FM2n or the FE and you can only have the same screen to work. The center split image tends to darken. In this case, you ought to use the outer fields for focusing - especially when you are shooting vertically.

Focusing screen design were eventually enhanced further in later years to brighten the viewing by almost a full stop with the introduction of the newer type 2 screen when the FE2 launched in 1983.

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The early batch of the Nikon FM upgrade, the original FM2 in 1982, which came with focusing screen interchange ability were sharing with the type 1 screens which the FE uses.

All other FM series models (Except the FM10 and the original FM we are discussing right now, unfortunately the Nikon FM was not able to enjoy that extra benefit, because it was designed with a fixed, non-interchangeable standard type K screen mentioned above. You may check the focusing screen section for further info.

Depth-of-field (DOF) preview

Conveniently shaped in the form of a lever and positioned for easy, coordinated activation by either the right index or middle finger, this control, when pressed, 'stops down' (A photographic term which means close the iris diaphragm of the blades in the lens) the lens to its taking aperture.

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The photographer can then see exactly which elements of the picture will appear in sharp focus in the actual photograph, even though some of them may have appeared otherwise prior to pressing the lever. This is a clear departure from the mechanical Nikkormat FT series, where the DOF preview is via a button located at the top of the camera. It was not the first, the electronic Nikkormat EL series were already adopted this in 1972.

While the lever is kept pressed, the lens iris is not wide open (unless, of course, the photographer has set the lens to its maximum aperture); naturally, the image in the viewfinder 'darken' and will become even more so as smaller apertures (i.e., bigger f/numbers) are set. Note that you get more depth of field with smaller apertures. It should be mentioned that the selective use of depth of field through lens aperture manipulation, in accordance with any given picture-taking situation, is a significant camera operation since it is often closely connected with the creative effects that will be found in the actual picture. The FM's depth-of-field preview control has another function. It is used for stop-down (i.e., not at full aperture) exposure measurement with Nikkor lenses that do not have the AI (automatic aperture indexing, where a lens will automatically set to its largest aperture when mount to the camera for brightest possible image for view and focusing, stop down to the actual aperture value when you trip the shutter release button for an exposure) facility. This is an indispensable feature when you are frequently involved with creative depth of field priority assignments. For instance, close up, portraiture photography.

Reflex Mirror Mechanism

Although the FM is not the tiniest lot of the compact SLRs available in the market. But at its relatively compact body, it houses a very large reflex mirror in its main chamber. Employing a unique retraction system, the mirror's hinge mechanism moves back, then up, as the mirror itself flips out of the optical path when a picture is taken. This system, which was originally proven on the F2, has made it possible for the FM to employ a reflex mirror with a PO value
* (see illustration) that is substantially larger than what one would expect in such a compact camera. Note also how the aperture direct readout (ADR) works.

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The advantage of this extra-large size is that there is no image cutoff when the photographer uses a super-telephoto lens as long as 800mm or such close-up accessories as bellows and extension tubes for high magnification works. Noise and shock during the mirror's movement are further absorbed by the use of an air-damper in the mirror box. The mirror's back itself is specially treated to prevent flare-forming reflections off the back when the mirror is in the flip up position.

It should likewise be pointed out, too, that in motor-drive photography, it is the mirror mechanism that takes most of the punishment of the pounding motor drive. The FM's mirror mechanism, which is based on that of the reliable professional F2, is more than tough enough to take the demanding tension in motorized photography of up to 3.5 frames per second.

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However that since the FM omitted the a mirror lock up mechanism as with all the earlier Nikon (Including all the Nikkormat), some of the special lenses like the 6mm f/5.6 and 10mm f/5.6 fisheye Nikkor cannot be mounted onto the camera body.


The logical extension of TTL viewing is TTL metering. Virtually all modern cameras are now adopted with this principle in their respective metering system, which only differs by complexity and methods used, this applies to the rangefinder cameras as well (Asahi Pentax pioneered this technique, but Topcon was the first to launch a model commercially). Not only does it free the photographer from the burden of having to make complicated exposure calculations with external handheld meters in some complex lighting conditions. With the exposure indicators readily visible inside the viewfinder, you can readily get basic key exposure information relates while you are taking the picture. The Nikon FM's built-in meter, powered by a pair of Gallium Photo Diodes, located near the eyepiece in the viewfinder, operates on the principle of Nikon 60/40 center-weighted exposure measurement to provide quite accurate and responsive exposure measurement.

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The meter reads the intensity of the light coming through the lens over the entire viewfinder screen, with its sensitivity (60%) is concentrated on the central area (12mm) outlined on the screen (Balance 40% shared across the whole picture frame, that is how the term 60/40 metering composition came from - the standard metering pattern adopted by virtually all manual focus metered Nikon bodies (there are few models used average meter in early days and variations in either 75/25 or 80/20 combinations) until the arrival of a revolutionary metering method in the Nikon FA's Multi Segments Metering in 1983).

This method of exposure measurements has shown itself to be the most effective for achieving correct exposures in everyday picture-taking situations. The metering system, has very similar way with the electronic EL series cameras, which over the years tested and polished up a a lot during early days of computer circuitry for SLR automation. The adoption of some Nikon developed solid-state devices such as GPD photo sensors, Nikon's Functional Resistance Element (FRE) and a monolithic IC, all of which contribute to the FM's compactness and reduced weight, as well as tackling over a fairly wide range of light levels from EV 1 to EV18.

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Also, regardless of whether metering is at full aperture or stopped down, you can have all the basic exposure information right there inside the viewfinder. The exposure indicators are in the form of a five combination LED display which lights up to indicate the precise degree of overexposure or underexposure, or correct exposure.

The selected shutter speed is also indicated, as is the set aperture (in the case of Nikkor lenses with the Al facility). The meter can be switched on by moving the film advance lever, an action that will uncover a red dot; it can be switched off by pressing the lever all the way flush it back with the body.

LED display and ADR facility

The main advantage of the FM's exposure readout facility - the five-combination LED display - is that it enables clear and easy readings even in extra-dim or extra-bright light,something the more conventional needle-centering or matching-needles will find hard put to equal.

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Inside the viewfinder are three exposure indicators : '+' for overexposure, '0' for correct exposure and '-'