First Look: Nikon FG

P1110728 WP

There’s a new arrival here at the Alexander house, a Nikon FG. I wanted a second 35mm machine so I could have one loaded with color film and the other with black and white when needed. Lisa got me this one for Christmas from KEH. Another reason for getting another Nikon was the lens. It came with a manual focus 50mm f/1.8 Series E lens, which pretty much rounds out my manual focus Nikon F-mount lens lineup; Nikon 28mm, Nikon 50mm, and Tokina 70-210mm.

The FG is surprisingly small, as the photo below shows. It will take up less space in my saddlebag than the N90s (F90x). By comparison the N90s is a tank; much heavier and larger and about the same size as the D200. It would make a good weapon (and probably still work after use as a bludgeon). The FG is no larger than my micro four thirds camera, a Panasonic G1, and only slightly larger than the compact Rocoh 500G rangefinder in the 2nd photo below. And the camera has a metal case! Just try to find a digital camera with anything more than a metal frame encased in plastic. I found that the FG fits in the Kodak case for the old and brick-like DC 3400 from a dozen years ago, so I’m not going to invest in a dedicated case for it right away. 

P1110719 WP

Size Comparison: Nikon FG versus Nikon N90s (F90x).

P1110725 WP

Size Comparison: Nikon FG versus Ricoh 500G rangefinder.

99% of the time I shoot in Aperture Priority mode. After “seeing” a photograph and when setting up to shoot, I tend to think about the aperture setting first, the shutter speed second, then everything else, so Aperture Priority is a natural shooting mode for me. The FG has the three shooting modes detailed below.

Manual Mode  Full manual control from 1/1000sec to 1sec and B. Works with all Nikon/Nikkor lenses.

A Mode (Aperture Priority)  Works with all F Mount AI’d, AI, AIS, E, AF and D series lenses.

P Mode (Program mode)  Works with all F Mount AI’d, AI, AIS, E, AF, and D lenses.

When I received the camera on the morning of the 25th, I set it aside for couple hours while I got used to the bulk loading equipment mentioned in the Bulk Film Loading post. A few days before I had downloaded a copy of the original manual for the camera here. I studied the manual, then loaded a ten-frame cartridge of film to test both the camera and my understanding of the bulk film loading process. I took the camera outside and quickly shot the short roll of film in the front yard.

When I pressed the shutter button the first time, it scared the shit out of me (not literally). The series of sounds emitted from the mirror/shutter combination was LOUD! I’ve become so used to nearly silent shutters on my other cameras, that I wasn’t ready for the audio assault of the FG. It made me question whether there would be a lot of camera shake and blurred photos as a result.

While developing the roll, I wondered if there would be light leaks through the film cassette because I hadn’t sealed it correctly, and/or blurry photos from what seemed like heavy mirror vibrations. When the roll was developed, it appeared that all of the mirror and shutter noise wasn’t a problem. The photographs looked nice and sharp, though I had deliberately shot handheld at 1/15 and 1/30.

So far, the only thing that bothers me about the camera is the need to search for an appropriate camera strap, which has nothing to do with the camera itself. It seems to me that there are too many overbuilt straps available. Overbuilt in the sense that one could suspend oneself from the side of a mountain with the average strap and that it is overkill specifically designed to elevate the price. It reminds me of prices on items like gloves and apparel, which double immediately once they are designated as “motorcycle” gloves, shirts, jackets, etc. A simple one inch wide strap like the one that came with the Panasonic G1 would be more than adequate for the FG (and the N90s, for that matter).

I have only shot a couple rolls of film including the short test roll. It is not yet time to come to any definitive conclusion about the FG, though I already like the camera based on the very short time I’ve had it. A year or two of field testing is probably needed…