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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Product: Naked Nikon FE SLR

I feel like I've been learning photography all my life. Here's a little reason as to why. This camera. This is my dad's first SLR, he bought in 1981 if i remember correctly. This was perhaps his favorite. He shot with one lens on this camera, a 50mm F/2 AIS. And so did I. My last adventure I can tell you exactly when it was, July 1 to the 11th 1992. I trekked this camera with me though the mountains of New Mexico on a Boy Scout High Adventure trip, only to find out most of my pictures did not turn out. The inside of this camera is like a fine clock, and the analog mechanics had become corroded over time. Nostalgically, I tried to take it apart and see what I could do to resurrect this old machine. Hit the jump to see more shots from my failed effort.

Nikon has a very long history of SLR cameras. The FE was introduced in 1978 and featured an electronic meter and Automatic shutter speed selection. Shutter speed could be manually selected but was electronically timed. The selector dialed showed "M90" for mechanical 1/90 of a second exposure. It's the only shutter speed that works reliably now. I never could figure out how fast the shutter was in any of the other positions.


This is about as far as the electronics go on these old manual focus legends. I was amazed how this was packed under the top plate over the mirror box. The FE use a split focus screen. Get the two partial images aligned and focus is sharp. Sometimes I miss such simplicity in the newer cameras. 


The top plate removed. This was far more challenging that I thought it would be. Everything is controlled by analog potentiometers, sliders, and wires. I assume the small dials on top here are to calibrate the cameras exposure controls.


The major components and dials removed. I've been inside of newer cameras, and this is really a work of precision and durability. Had it not been for a beach trip, I'm sure this camera would still be able to make great pictures.


When I was in the sixth grade, this camera won me 1st place in the regional Science Fair. I used it to make sample images on different speed film, the went up to the airport and had them run it through the x-ray machine differing number of times. That's probably something you'd be hard pressed to happen in today's security sensitive airport environment. My results conclusively indicated that airport x-ray machines do not noticeably affect exposed or unexposed film. 



The viewfinder display was refreshingly un-complicated. There was a needle for the meter that moved actively as long as the wind lever was popped out turning the meter on. And one that showed the selected shutter speed. Align the two needles for the proper exposure. There was no off timer back then, it stayed on as long as the batteries would last. And they did last for being button cells. The meter didn't take much power to operate. 



This is where I think most of the trouble is, but I wasn't able to get it apart any further with the tools I had.