Friday, May 07, 2021

Nikon FE10 - Hands On Review

 I recently decided that it was time to reduce the number of camera systems that I had been keeping on-hand, so I sold my Cosina-manufactured Canon T60 and lenses that I have had for a few years. I replaced it almost immediately with a mint-condition Nikon FE10 from KEH. I'd been wanting an FE10, because operationally, it was very similar to the T60, as both were made by Cosina. You may not have heard of the FE10, as it was only made for a short time in the mid-late 1990s, and it was not as common as the FM10, also a Cosina body that features only manual settings. 

 Why an FE10? I really liked the lightweight Aperture-priority Canon T60, and the Nikon FE10 is similar, but with more features. Just as lightweight, it comes in at 1 lb 6 oz with a 50mm f1.8 Nikkor, camera strap, and roll of film. Obviously, an ABS plastic body, with that champagne silver and black body that we also saw in the Nikon N60. While it obviously isn't a typical Nikon build, the FE10 has the following features: 
  •  Aperture-Priority and Manual exposure, with speeds indicated via diodes in the VF. 
  • Shutter speeds B, 1-1/2000 sec (in A mode, up to 8 seconds) 
  • Flash Sync at 1/60 and 1/90 with Nikon TTL Speedlights 
  • ISO settings 25-3200 
  • Exposure lock button 
  • Exposure compensation dial built-in with ISO settings. 
  • Cable release socket in shutter release button 
  • Depth of field preview lever
  • Self-timer 
  • Film roll window in back 
  • Multiple-exposure lever 
  • Lock setting on shutter speed dial to conserve battery power and avoid accidental exposures 
  • Viewfinder - 93% coverage, with matte focus screen, microprism collar and split-image center spot (Nikon "K" screen) 
  • Power- 2 1.5V LR-44 cells (required to operate camera) 
Some Observations - 
Manual Nikon SLRs have the shutter lock when the advance lever is flush against the body and once the lever is brought out about 30 degrees, the meter is activated and the camera will operate. After using Nikons for over 20 years, it's an automatic thing that I rarely think about. However, I recall a couple of times when I put a Nikon FE in a bag and the advance lever got pulled away, resulting in drained cells when I tried using the camera. The Lock setting on the shutter speed dial is a good feature, especially for those that might not have a long history with Nikon SLRs. 

Shutter speed dial set to Aperture-priority

ISO and exp. compensation dial

 Exposure compensation dials are typically separate when they are included on a Nikon SLR - i.e., all AF camera bodies, and on the Nikon FE, FE2, FG, FA, FM3a, F3, and N2000. Manual-only bodies do not require the +\- exposure comp. dial. At first I thought this setup was a bit ungainly on the FE10, but in reality, it does teach how +/- works - you are setting the ISO speed +/- in stops. So, if I have ISO 400 film and I want a stop extra of exposure, I set the dial to the +1, and the ISO speed is set at 50. The only drawback with this setup is that you might forget to change back to the actual film ISO. It's a compromise, but it does work. 

The shutter release does not require much force to activate, but once I got used to it, I had no problems.

Using the FE10 -

 After I received the camera from KEH, I installed 2 fresh LR-44 cells, and popped in a roll of Ultrafine Extreme 400. I have to say that the only thing the FE10 lacked was that new camera smell, (Okay, I confess, there is no such thing). The body looked like it had never been used. 

 I used it with a Nikon SB-18 Speedlight - a small flash that is a perfect match for this camera. I also shot it with several lenses, under different conditions, and I was so sure of the operation of the FE10 that I packed it as my only SLR for a long weekend in Pittsburgh. Once I got used to the touchy shutter release, I found using it to be good experience. The FE10 was a good choice, as I visited some interesting areas, one of which was Carrie Furnaces National Historic Site. There were a few times when I used the exposure compensation dial to accommodate the dark tones of the site. The FE10's simplicity of operation and the Aperture-priority automation makes it a great choice as a street camera. The lighter weight was nice, too. Of course, it's not like a Nikon FE2 (weight 2 lb, 3 oz in a similar configuration) either in sturdiness or feel. It was designed for countries that wanted cheaper cameras with the Nikon badge all while AF bodies were the rage. The FE10 and FM10 may not have been built like other Nikons, but as a "student" camera, I certainly can recommend them. 

 As a backup body, the FE10 would be so light to pack in with the rest of your gear, you might not notice it's there. I'm not going to be a snob and turn up my nose at the FE10, just because it's not made in a Nikon factory. If you want a bit more about the history of this camera - check out this review.  The only manual focus Nikon body I have that's newer is the FM3a. Overall, I found the FE10 to be a good companion on my Pittsburgh trip. I shot 6 rolls of film with it, and all the exposures were to my liking. I'll probably be using this camera in my travels, as I easily packed it in a shoulder bag with a flash and several lenses. I have other Nikons that are better-made, fuller-featured, but heavier. I can see packing my FM3a with the FE10 as a backup on a trip. As a walk-about camera, the FE10 won't weigh me down, and based upon my results, it's a better choice than a 40-year old Nikon FE. 

 And now, for some photos...

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