feeling strangely summarised

Nikon FM & Nikkor 50mm f1.4 Non-Ai

June 2017

I have always been attracted to the retro look of the 'F' series of Nikon film cameras. They are well-crafted, beautiful pieces of kit. I have also always loved the look of film - it has a misty look to it. I'm rather new to shooting film, but the last week or so with my new Nikon FM has been a lot of fun.

It all started when I found the FM in a little shop in Japan, hidden in a department store. I stood at the cabinet which was lined with lovely classic film cameras, trying to decide what to get on my budget. There was an F, FM, various Nikkormats, a few F-801's, an F3 and assorted Canons and Minoltas etc. but we shan't worry ourselves about those.. I wanted a FM or FE, or possibly an F3, but that was beyond my budget. The FM stood out at me and so I enquired about it's condition in my best Japanese. I saw a 50mm f1.4 (very often used with the FM) in the lens cabinet and the owner took it out for me and told me it was very clean, which it was indeed. He told me that this lens was a fully manual lens (non-ai), or rather he tried but we got by. I was aware of ai and non-ai, however I wasn't quite sure how I would shoot with non-ai on the FM at that point. I also added 2 rolls of Superia 400 to my basket (I saw he had a mini fridge in the corner with Velvia 50's, 100's and probably Provias etc too, but I wasn't ready for those).

The Nikon FM was on sale from 1977-1982. It's a fully mechanical camera with an (optional) light meter function powered by two L44 / A76 button batteries. Having bought a non-ai lens, the FM can't detect the f-stop due to the absence of the coupling on the lens. This means I have to use the 'stop-down metering' method using the depth of field preview lever on the FM. However, I actually enjoy operating the FM fully manually (manually apart from the metering). Pulling the advance lever each time I take a shot is very satisfying. It's rather refreshing not having to think about the film speed or white balance, either. Focussing is also fun, believe it or not - matching up the two sectors on the focussing plane. I have quickly got used to metering with the brilliantly simple yet effective three LED meter, too. Shooting in this fashion (manually) is of course slow, though. I have missed a few photo opportunities while trying to set up the shot.

As for the 50mm 1.4, also very happy with this lens. I love these old prime lenses. The photos I managed to get in focus look great & plenty sharp. Changing the aperture and focus with the lens is also really satisfying. I am looking forward to trying out my other lenses with the FM too - especially the 105mm f2. The FM will work with any Nikon lens ever except the G (gelded) lenses (of which there are not many & even then it's not a big deal).

Overall, very happy with the FM & I want to keep shooting with it for a while - I have become rather attached to it. I have uploaded some photos below from my first two rolls (Fuji Superia 400). I have a roll of Fuji Velvia 100 in at the moment..

The following photos are copyright me (Phil Jones). I do not give permission to save them or use them elsewhere.

Yosakoi Festival, Sapporo

Yosakoi Festival, Sapporo

Yosakoi Festival, Sapporo

Yosakoi Festival, Sapporo

View of Sapporo from Mt. Moiwa

View of Sapporo from Mt. Moiwa cable car station

My girlfriend enjoys the view

My coffee at the top of Mt. Moiwa

A building at the top of Mt. Moiwa

Foggy journey back down

Sapporo city

A sign at the red brick old govenment building

Strangers share a bench

Red brick old government building

Japanese-style (but slightly rare blue) taxi

Exiting the subway

Pioneers village, Sapporo

Horse-drawn carriage

Building at the Pioneer village

Old fisherman's building

Old fisherman's building close up

A street at the Pioneer village

Old Japanese-style hallway bathed in light