One of my exciting finds at a recent re-enactment show was a second-hand Nikon analogue SLR. I could not quite believe it when I saw the thing in a basket of old camera bodies with a stallholder who proudly proclaimed they were all half price. Consequently I picked up the FM body and a 50mm 1.8 AI-S lens for about a quarter of what it might usually be sold for.
The FM (fully-manual) was the first in a venerable line of bodies which Nikon began producing in 1977. It wasn’t until the 1980s when automation was introduced so photography was still a rather technical subject requiring specialist knowledge. Consequently the camera market of the 70s was almost exclusively aimed at professionals and enthusiasts. The lucrative “entry-level”, which accounts for much of the market share today, was far less prominent. Because pro-sumers were the target audience cameras were made to last and the FM is a fine example of Nikon’s well-deserved reputation for build quality. Most of the body is machined from metal and the controls are satisfyingly clunky. I have read one review where the author claims to have never seen a broken FM. This is believable as there is little to go wrong. Aside from the light meter (which requires the two small batteries) the thing is entirely manual and the shutter is mechanically controlled.
The FM line has seen two further updates in the form of the FM2 (which added faster shutter and flash sync speeds and was revised again with the badge FM2n) and the FM3a (which allowed a degree of automation and is justly regarded as being the pinnacle of the FM line). I used to own an FM3a but sold it to make the move to digital. I have always regretted this and so it’s nice to have one of the family back in my possession. I am planning to run the first roll of film though it soon and I’ll post the results when I get them back.
Photo from here.