Top 10 Nikon Film Cameras of 2020

A Nikon film camera comes with a badge of quality and utilitarian charm that no other brands can replicate. No matter the age, there's a high chance that it's well-built and deserves to be shot. Even if they're broken, most can be fixed easily and readily.

Selecting the "best" Nikon camera would be impossible. Different people have different opinions, and certain situations call for different cameras. That being said, we utilized Google search data to generate this list, just like our list of the Top 10 Film Cameras of 2019 and the expanded Top 35 Film Cameras list.

Below is a video where Nico goes over the top 10 most searched for cameras, and reveals which Nikon film camera topped the list. Keep scrolling for a text version, and be sure to check out our shop, where we have over 8500 items, including plenty of Nikon film cameras.

For details on the lens information discussed below, including Ai tab, internal autofocus screw, etc., check out our article on the Nikon F system. This article goes over the different iterations of Nikon’s F lenses.

No. 10 - Nikon F90x / N90s

  • The Nikon F90x is an interchangeable lens, electronic, autofocus, auto-exposure 35mm SLR using Nikon’s F mount.
  • The camera requires 4 AA batteries for all functions, including advanced metering, single-point autofocus, a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000th, and a continuous shooting speed of 4.3 frames per second.
  • The F90x can utilize all modern Nikon lenses except for DX and AF-P. AF-S lenses will be particularly quiet, even when paired with the 1990s F90x body. Even older mechanical lenses can be used, since the F90 has an Ai tab.
  • Introduced in 1994, the camera was Nikon’s top consumer-grade camera until the F100 released in 1999.
  • Improvements over the normal F90 / N90 include a slightly faster autofocus motor and more specific shutter speed selection, in one-third stop versus full-stop increments.

No. 9 - Nikon F50

  • The Nikon F50 is an interchangeable lens, electronic, autofocus, auto-exposure 35mm SLR using Nikon’s F mount.
  • The camera requires a 2CR5 battery for all functions, including TTL metering, biased program modes, DX coding, and a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000th.
  • The F50 can only use CPU-enabled Nikon lenses, as it does not have an internal autofocus screw or an Ai tab for metering.
  • Introduced in 1994, the F50 was intended as a cheaper, entry-level camera that offered extremely simple operation with some potential for minor creative control.
  • The F50 has a switch labeled “Simple / Advanced” that switches the camera from advanced program modes (Simple) to a more traditional PSAM setup (Advanced).
  • The camera was succeeded as by the F60 in 1998 as the entry level Nikon film camera.

No. 8 - Nikon FG

  • The Nikon FG is an interchangeable lens, electronic, manual focus, auto-exposure 35mm SLR using Nikon’s F mount.
  • The camera requires 2 LR44 button batteries for all functions, including center-weighted metering, LED viewfinder readout, program mode, and a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000th.
  • The FG, introduced in 1982, can be seen as a more-advanced version of 1979’s EM. Where the EM was aperture priority only, the FG allowed for full manual control as well as full program.
  • The camera is capable of shooting at 3.2 frames per second using the MD-14 battery grip, which will fit the EM and FG-20.
  • The FG was succeeded by the FG-20 in 1984, which removed program mode, TTL flash metering, and exposure compensation.
  • The FG and FG-20 can be seen as Nikon’s equivalent to the Canon AE-1 and AE-1 Program.

No. 7 - Nikon L35AF2

  • The Nikon L35AF2 is a fixed-lens, electronic, autofocus, auto-exposure compact camera with a Nikkor 35mm f2.8 lens.
  • The camera requires 2 AA batteries for all functions, including autofocus, programmed auto-exposure, film advance, and a max shutter speed of 1/500th.
  • The L35AF2 is the successor to the very popular L35AF, but loses some key features of that model. These include a thread for attaching filters and manual ISO control, which could function as a makeshift exposure compensation. The L35AF2 uses DX coding and has an integrated lens cover. It also has a simpler four-element lens than the original L35AF.
  • The L35AF2 was turned into the all-weather L35AW, with rubberized grips, waterproofing, and drop protection.

No. 6 - Nikon FM

  • The Nikon FM is an interchangeable lens, mechanical, manual focus, manual exposure 35mm SLR using Nikon’s F mount.
  • The camera requires 2 LR44 button batteries to power the light meter only, which simply reports if the photo will be over, under, or properly exposed.
  • The 1977 Nikon FM (and later the FE) was Nikon’s response to the introduction of small SLRs with electronic control.
  • Despite being less remarkable upon release than its electronic cousin, the FE, the FM has become the more popular of the two.
  • The FM has a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000th, and a maximum continuous speed of 3.5 frames per second using the optional MD-11 power winder.

No. 5 - Nikon F

  • The Nikon F is an interchangeable lens, mechanical, manual focus, manual exposure 35mm SLR using Nikon’s F mount.
  • The camera does not require batteries for any function, although certain accessories may require batteries for things like light metering, motorized advance, etc.
  • The F introduced the F mount in 1959, revolutionizing the photographic world and becoming the first widely popular 35mm SLR system for professionals.
  • It was Nikon’s first SLR, and featured an integrative design of what was popular with SLRs before it. Interchangeable prisms and focusing screens, instant return mirror, depth-of-field preview, and an advance lever rather than knob. None of these features were revolutionary, but Nikon put them all together with a level of build quality that was unmatched by its peers.
  • The F has a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000th and a continuous speed of 4 frames per second with the F36 motor drive.

No. 4 - Nikon FE2

  • The Nikon FE2 is an interchangeable lens, electronic, manual focus, auto-exposure 35mm SLR using Nikon’s F mount.
  • The camera requires 2 LR44 button batteries for all functions, including aperture-priority auto exposure, center-weighted metering, LED viewfinder readout, and a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000th.
  • The FE2 improved the honeycomb titanium shutter first seen in the FM2. Being electronically controlled meant the FE2 was capable of faster, more precise speeds.
  • The FE2 also had quartz-timed flash synchronization and an advanced mirror dampening system that made mirror lock up unnecessary.
  • It is capable of 3.2 frames per second continuous shooting with the MD-12 motor drive.

No. 3 - Nikon F2

  • The Nikon F2 is an interchangeable lens, mechanical, manual focus, manual exposure 35mm SLR using Nikon’s F mount.
  • The camera does not require batteries for any function, although certain accessories may require batteries for things like light metering, motorized advance, etc.
  • The F2, introduced in 1972, refined the idea of a mechanical SLR that the original F introduced. It added a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000th and was the preferred camera of professional photographers until the mid-1980s despite being discontinued in 1980 with the introduction of the Nikon F3.
  • By using the self timer and “T” shutter mode, the F2 has mechanical shutter speeds of up to 10 seconds.
  • The various light meters available for the F2 all require LR44 button batteries.

No. 2 - Nikon F3

  • The Nikon F3 is an interchangeable lens, electronic, manual focus, auto-exposure 35mm SLR using Nikon’s F mount.
  • The camera requires 2 LR44 button batteries for all functions, including aperture-priority auto exposure, an LCD meter readout, and a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000th.
  • The F3 was Nikon’s first professional SLR to require batteries to function, which scared many professionals into using their F2s far longer than they needed to. The F3 has since proven itself as one of the most reliable cameras ever made.
  • Versions of the F3 were produced until 2004, making it the longest-produced professional Nikon SLR ever.
  • The F3 was designed by Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, and the iconic red line on the left side of the camera is mimicked by almost all Nikon SLRs to this day.

No. 1 - Nikon FM2

  • The Nikon FM2 is an interchangeable lens, mechanical, manual focus, manual exposure 35mm SLR using Nikon’s F mount.
  • The camera requires 2 LR44 button batteries to power the light meter only, which simply reports if the photo will be over, under, or properly exposed.
  • The second generation of Nikon’s mechanical pro-sumer SLR introduced a revolutionary titanium shutter capable of 1/4000th of a second, with an industry-leading flash sync speed of 1/200th.
  • Because it is not electronically controlled, the shutter can only go down to 1 second exposures before requiring bulb mode. The FE2’s electronic shutter can fire for up to 8 seconds.
  • A second version, known as the FM2n, was released following the Nikon FA and included the FA’s more advanced shutter. This moved its flash sync speed up to 1/250th.
  • There was a titanium version, the FM2/T, released in 1993 and produced until 2001 when the FM2 was succeeded by the FM3a.

Conclusions

Nikon’s most famous cameras are clearly their old-school SLRs, with 60% of the list being either professional F bodies or members of the FM/FE semi-professional family. While far from revolutionary or flashy, these SLRs were built with precision in mind and have garnered a reputation (and price) to go along with it.

Nikon’s SLRs are highly sought after on the used market because they simply work. Nikon made their cameras from more rugged materials and better adhesives/lubricants, so their cameras tended to work better for longer. They were also built by engineers, for engineers, and are often easier to repair than similar offerings from companies like Canon or Minolta.

The inclusion of two plastic AF bodies, the F90x and F50, is surprising but important. As the film camera market expands and matures, prices for all-metal, mechanical SLRs have skyrocketed while feature-packed plastic SLRs have remained cheap. Realizing the value in these newer bodies is an important step. Just like when they were first released, these cameras are easy to use and have advanced features, which makes high-quality film photography accessible to a wider audience.

Whether it’s the original F from 1959 or a plastic AF body from 1999, you can’t go wrong siding with Nikon.

This article was originally published on 13.11.2020.

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