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Photography QnA: Manual Cameras

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Category: Best Photographic Equipment to Buy : Film-Based Camera Equipment : 35mm Cameras : Manual Cameras

How do you set your manual camera? Ask questions like this and more in this useful Q&A.

Page 1 : 1 -7 of 7 questions

Photography Question 
Brittany Erin Hyatt

member since: 8/11/2004
  1 .  Beginner ... Help Please!
I have never purchased a camera in my life, although I am currently looking into it. I would like a 35mm fully manual camera. If you could give me some idea of what direction to start off in when looking for one of those - or just give me a few suggestions - I would really appreciate it.

8/11/2004 2:13:07 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/17/2003
  Hi Brittany,
For fully-manual SLRs ... think "Used". You can save money by purchasing a previously owned or re-furbished manual SLR body, and use the savings to get better lenses and accessories.
As a longtime Nikon user, I can fully recommend a Nikon FM10, which can be found new or used, or its predecessor, the FM2, first manufactured in the early eighties, but still available used, and a real workhorse! (I still use the one I bought new in 1984, and it works flawlessly.)
Be cautious when buying ANY used camera equipment, though. As long as the dealer/seller is reputable, you're usually OK. But make sure there is a return policy.
Happy hunting!

8/11/2004 7:03:18 PM


member since: 7/22/2004
  I have a Minolta X700 and love it.

8/16/2004 12:25:57 PM


member since: 3/6/2003
  Look on the Ebay site. I have purchased 4 bodies for 2 different cameras. All in working order. 2 Nikon FG bodies and 2 Canon A-1 bodies. My partner uses the Nikon and I perfer the Canon. We both purchased our orginal equipment in 1980's. so we have 6 interchangeable lenses for each brand. With that much investment in good lenses it made sense to just get more bodies. I would still use Ebay and purchase a later model. You can check out reputation of the vendors and also look for ones with a comment of 'just serviced'.

8/17/2004 4:34:28 PM

Robert Bridges

member since: 5/12/2003
  Used Canon and Pentax's are good too. Problem with the Canon is the inability to utilize the latest greatest Non FD mount lenses. Not sure but thinks Pentax lenses are interchangeable with newer Pentax cameras. Nothing wrong with the Nikon either.

8/17/2004 11:43:12 PM

Steve Warren

member since: 7/18/2004
  I used to have a Pentax K1000, which was amazingly tough. I'd highly recommend that or a Canon AE-1, which I have now.

8/23/2004 8:40:25 AM

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Photography Question 

member since: 7/14/2004
  2 .  Good Places to Sell My Manual Camera?
I've just recently purchased a digital camera, so I've decided to sell one of the two Nikon FM2n 35mm cameras that I own, along with a 50mm lens and some good Vivitar flashes (all the stuff is excellent condition). However, I live in El Paso, Texas, where there is not much of a market for photo equipment; and I've looked into selling on ebay, but their fees seem way too high, and it's too much of a hassle (they want your bank account number as well as your credit card number!). So I was wondering if the good people of this site knew of any good places to sell, on the Internet or elsewhere. All replies will be welcome, and if anyone here is interested, I'll give you a good deal.

7/14/2004 5:06:03 PM

  Charles: I have sold camera equipment on ebay and got top dollar - more than I would have gotten anywhere else that I know of. More than two friends (who wanted my Canon D60 when I was selling that) offered me. A lot more. Cheers!

7/14/2004 6:43:51 PM


member since: 7/14/2004
  Thanks, Peter, for your quick response. Maybe I will try to go through ebay after all. The lure of extra capital is always great.

7/14/2004 6:47:55 PM

  Charles: There is not a huge demand for older, manual-focus cameras anywhere, but I still think you will net more on ebay than anywhere else that I know of. And Nikon or Canon products in very good condition always bring decent money.

7/14/2004 6:56:02 PM

Blanca Acosta
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/12/2004
  I'd be interested in the Nikon. What lens does it have? How much would you want for it? When buying a conventional camera one has to think that good films are expensive. Sometimes it's better to wait and buy a good digital camera. For the time being I have a Nikon Coolpix 2500, decent. I'd want a better camera, but I'm not wiling to pay much because the costs involved in a film camera.

7/20/2004 2:00:18 AM

Melinda Wheeler

member since: 4/3/2001
  You might want to look at similar cameras on ebay and see what they are selling for and then compare what KEH in Atlanta will give you for it. Unless you are already a seller on Ebay, it may be more trouble than it's worth.

7/20/2004 5:55:46 AM

Tahnya B.

member since: 4/27/2004
  Try The website allows you to sell your photography equipment. Very easy.

7/20/2004 7:32:06 AM


member since: 7/14/2004
  Thanks for all the responses. I ended up selling the camera (body only) to a local shop. I got $140 for it; which seemed to be MORE than the going rate on Ebay for chrome models in good condition (mine had some cosmetic wear). Considering that I purchased the camera nine years ago for about $225, I'm relatively pleased.

Tahnya...I'll keep in mind for some of the other stuff (a couple Nikkor lens and Vivitar flashes) that I still want to sell.

7/20/2004 8:34:17 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/11/2003
  could've tried UTEP. photojourn major or photoart major could have been interested. give a call to any of the teachers there to tell the students.

7/20/2004 10:24:38 AM

George Anderson

member since: 7/6/2005
  "There is not a huge demand for older, manual-focus cameras anywhere".

This isn't true AT ALL. In fact, prices for better quality brand-name manual-focus SLRs have stabilized and are even increasing in some markets for MF metal bodies in nice condition. It is rather the autofocus 35mm and older-generation digital SLRs that are in fact dropping in price like a stone relative to their original selling price.

Metal-bodied, metal-geared MF SLR cameras have an increasingly strong collector and hobbyist following. They have never lost any popularity among macro and night photography enthusiasts, of course. Furthermore, older-era manual focus SLRs that become inoperative can often be easily repaired and returned to service, where autofocus 35mm and digital SLRs will be virtually worthless as working cameras once manufacturers discontinue the production of replacement LCD panels, microcircuit boards, IC parts, plastic gears, and other hardware necessary to their continued functioning. One can already see this phenomenon in the autofocus SLRs piling up in increasing numbers in the 'inop/as-is' bins of various camera shops, with bleeding LCDs, broken plastic lens mounts, and dead computers, waiting for the arrival of the junk man.

7/18/2005 5:00:01 PM

  Hello Charles,
I am interested in Your flash units. Are you still wanting to sell them?

7/19/2005 8:00:29 AM

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Photography Question 

member since: 3/18/2004
  3 .  Should I Buy a Nikon FM3a?
I currently have a digital camera (Canon G2), but I want to get a film camera also. I don't like all the buttons on most cameras and having to always refer to the manual. I was looking at the Nikon FM3A. Does anyone have one? If so, do you like it and is it easy to use/learn? Also, would you recommend getting it new or are used cameras worth it? Thanks.

3/18/2004 2:59:22 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/17/2003
  If you want to "learn" manual operation, I recommend that you choose a Nikon FM2 camera instead of the Nikon FM3A. The only difference in the two models is that the FM3 has an aperture-priority automatic feature, in addition to all of its manual functions. Unless you plan to use this feature, you can save $$ by getting a used FM2 for less, and transferring the savings into better lenses and accessories.

3/18/2004 5:09:00 PM

Randall Stewart

member since: 3/20/2004
  The FM3a is the latest Nikon model that has basic manual operation as well as some auto exposure option. It is manual focus. It will not take the latest "G" lenses, but that's probably not an issue, as there are vast supplies of excellent lenses available. It has a simple, non-electronic control layout. If you want to use it manually, you will have to learn how to meter manually with the camera; otherwise, you can set it to auto-exposure.

It is built the old-fashioned, high-quality way, which means expensive for its features. If you are considering a used model, an earlier, similar model is the FE2, but that camera could be 20-25 years old [but still my favorite]. The Nikon FM2N is a manual exposure-only version, a good choice if you do not need auto-exposure. I would avoid the FM and FM2 manual models because of their age [20+ years]. Avoid the Nikon FA model, which has a lot of early electronics that proved not to be durable.

3/20/2004 11:54:36 AM

Michael McCullough

member since: 6/11/2002
  From what I've heard the Nikon FM3A is a great camera,that said my manual back up bodies are a Minolta XE5,and an SRT 101 I really have no complaints at all and am very satisfied with the results..

3/23/2004 12:50:28 PM


member since: 3/18/2004
  Thanks for the replies. It seems from the research I've done that everybody who owns one loves it. I am just afraid it will be too frustrating and hard to learn for me. I will just have to keep looking at all the options before I make my final decision.
Thanks again,

3/23/2004 6:08:51 PM

Justin Smith

member since: 1/29/2004
  I recently picked up a Yashica FX-3 Super 2000 for $25 at a pawn shop. This is an all-manual SLR (with TTL light meter). Yashica lens are quite reasonable on eBay, and you can upgrade to Carl Zeiss optics in the future.

3/23/2004 6:50:43 PM

Michael McCullough

member since: 6/11/2002
  FM3A,very easy to learn,no bells and whistles,uncomplicated basic,check it out at the local vendor before you invest!!!!!!don't be intimidated at all there's no reason to be!!!!!

3/25/2004 6:49:50 AM


member since: 3/18/2004
  Well, I went to a local store and bought a new FM3a yesterday. I could have gotten it cheaper online, but I was weary of that and the people in the store are very helpful and friendly.

I have to get used to the viewfinder, especially because I am used to looking at the LCD screen on my digital camera to take pictures. I also tried to load the film and that was a disaster. I will just keep trying with an old roll of film and if I can't get it I'll go back to the store and have them show me. Wish me luck!!!!

3/26/2004 8:04:18 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/17/2003

Congrats on your new camera. I know you will come to love its simplicity and dependability.

When loading your film, try hooking the leader into the take-up spool slot first.... then, advance the film winding lever half-way until the leader catches onto the take-up spool.
Next, pull the film canister backward, and seat it in place.
Rotate the flim rewind knob clockwise until you see the film tighten against the camera, and close the back.
Advance two frames with the shutter and film advance lever, and you're ready to go. (The film counter should read below #1.)

Not only is this faster than the traditional way, you can get two or three additional frames from a roll of 36 exposure film.

Good luck!

3/26/2004 5:41:22 PM

George Anderson

member since: 7/6/2005
  "..advance the film winding lever half-way until the leader catches onto the take-up spool. Next, pull the film canister backward, and seat it in place. Rotate the flim rewind knob clockwise until you see the film tighten against the camera, and close the back. Not only is this faster than the traditional way, you can get two or three additional frames from a roll of 36 exposure film."

Faster is fine, but it's not advisable with most cameras to short-wind the takeup spool (or to short-stroke the advance lever, for that matter). Without a turn or two of full-width film on the spool, the leader will often pop off the takeup spool the moment the user turns the rewind lever to tighten the film. Then, many users won't notice and go on to take a full set of 36 photos with no film wound on the camera. Talk about missed opportunities! And short-winding the advance lever will jam some cameras with levers designed for full stroke operation.

It just isn't saving a frame or two of film to risk the leader popping loose.

7/7/2005 1:16:49 PM

Don Curry

member since: 6/20/2005
  I have been using a Nikkormat FT2 since it came out in the 70s. It is fully manual. It is built like a tank and has been a great work horse. After 30 years it is still in mint condition. I now use it only for macro with a 55mm micro-Nikkor lens. It takes great pictures. I'm sure there are still some out there for sale.

7/7/2005 2:20:19 PM

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Photography Question 

member since: 2/16/2004
  4 .  Olympus OM10 with Indoor Basketball Shots
I need to know how to take great pictures inside a gym for basketball. I have an Olympus OM10 and a 2x lens adapter on a normal 50mm lens. I do not understand about the apature settings. Can you help me?

3/5/2004 10:08:14 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  Do you have the user manual for your camera? If not you can download it free from

Gyms are relatively dim and you'll want shutter speeds of 1/90 or more to stop action. Use high speed film (ISO 800 or 1600). To get the highest shutter speed you can, set the aperture to its maximum opening (the smallest f/number) and the shutter for AUTO. You cannot manually select shutter speeds with the OM-10 unless you have the optional Manual Adaptor.

3/5/2004 11:29:06 AM


member since: 2/16/2004
  Thank you. No I don't have the users manual. I will try to download it. Thanks you very much for your response. I'm ignorant when it comes to a camera that is not point and shoot.
Thanks again.

3/5/2004 12:36:38 PM

Jordi Trilla

member since: 5/26/2003
  Dear Sue,

For many years I had been taking pictures of a basketball team, using a Olympus OM2. The best way I found to do this work, was usig 400 ISO film, a 28-70 zoom lens, and using a flash (as powerful as you can get)

Shooting good photos during a basketball game isn't easy at all. Sit down (or get on your nees) besides a basket, set your focus around the line of the free shoots or shorter (sorry, I don't know the terminology in English), and set your flash at hight power to get some more field deepness.

Then, be READY! Observe the game, but not trough the lens, follow the play and shoot BEFORE the spectacular action actually happens!! This is the only way to catch it... if not you'll quickly notice your pictures show the action after what you wanted to picture... the ball isn't in your photo, etc... Experience is almost everything. Then, if possible, start changing your points of view to get different pictures of the players.

Good luck! (And sorry again for my awful English)

Jordi Trilla

3/9/2004 2:57:27 AM

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Photography Question 
Rhonda Fremen-Young

member since: 8/29/2002
  5 .  Comparing Od Pentax K1000 to the ZX-M
When I was in junior college (I'm 40 now), taking photography, I started out using a Pentax K1000 and loved it. I had that camera for a long time. My ex-husband sold it (long story), and later I bought a Canon Rebel X. Although the Rebel takes good pictures, I am *not* comfortable with it. It feels too small, there are too many buttons, and I don't like having less control. I'd like to get another Pentax K1000, but I want to buy a new (or like new) one. Finding one from a reputable dealer is difficult. I've considered the Pentax ZX-M, but I'm uncertain that I'd like the bar meter (in the viewfinder). [I'm worried that, at my age, I won't be able to see it that well.] Can you tell me if the ZX-M would be as good as the K1000? Am I the the only one on earth who *prefers* the old manual "tank" cameras to the new-fangled dinky automations?


10/16/2003 5:05:55 PM

doug Nelson

member since: 6/14/2001
  The most reputable dealer I know of is out of Atlanta. I've never had a problem with them, and, unlike some of the NY operators, they are kind and courteous.
Don't be afraid to buy used from them. I think you'd love a Pentax MX. The Pentax A and K-series lenses are superb, and the M's are merely excellent. See a site on Pentax at for more Pentax suggestions.
You're hooked, as I am. Once you've used a simple, straightforward mechanical camera, these plastic ones never feel right.

10/17/2003 5:34:29 AM

Rhonda Fremen-Young

member since: 8/29/2002
  Hey, Doug!
Thanks for your help!
I'll check out the Pentax site you mentioned. And thanks for letting me know that I'm not the only one who likes the more straightforward cameras.
Best wishes to you!

10/17/2003 4:30:18 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
I second the motion to check out KEH for used equipment. They are the "gold standard" for used dealers. I recommend the "EX" or better condition equipment. The next grade down are in very good working condition, but will show wear, an indication that some of the useful life has already been consumed by previous owners. For more sophisticated metering in Pentax K-mount camera bodies, consider the K2DMD, LX, or ME Super (not the plain ME). These three have aperture priority AE in addition to manual control.

I wouldn't characterize most older, manual gear as "tanks" though, not unless you're describing a Nikon F2 or F3. :-)

Would settle for descrobing them as having a solid feeling and "heft" to them. The lenses also have smooth turning, damped focus rings and smooth detents on aperture rings. This is my biggest complaint about the new plastic wonders; focus rings feel like plastic grinding on plastic (almost as bad as fingernails on a chalk board). I believe there's a visceral connection between photographer and the equipment being used. The two must become "one" for best results.

As you might guess, I use older cameras/lenses and don't need (or want) the automagic gizmos. Most of them are 15-25 years old; one RF is 50 years old. They're still churning out photographs much like the day they were new, and all of them have been heavily used. I'd rather have them overhauled by someone who specializes in working on the particular make/model than to replace them with any of the new wonder-bricks.

10/19/2003 9:21:43 PM

Karen Lewis
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/2/2003
  Rhonda, You are not alone! I own a K1000 and I love it. I am currently looking around to buy an extra camera body and I cant find one that I feel comfortable with. The K1000 has become an extentsion of me. I honestly cant find a camera that is built like it. I only ever have used a manual camera and dont think I'd use the extra features of the newer cameras. K1000 are still readily available. Take your time and check them out and I'm sure you'll find another K1000 in very good condition! If you do opt for another camera, could you let me know what you eventually choose as I'd like to check it out !

10/21/2003 9:46:16 PM

Buddy Purugganan

member since: 8/31/2002
  Comparing a K1000 Pentax SLR manual camera to a new and sleeker ZX-M is like comparing a Chronometer Swiss watch to a G-Shock watch. There may be cosmetic differences, additional or even better features but THE BASIC MANUAL FUNCTIONS of the cameras are considered equal! You'd be amazed Pentax had made vast improvements! Look at Nikon FM2N ---decades ago it was the ultimate manual camera and now they decided to add more to their arsenal of manual cameras---the Nikon FM3!!!( which surprisingly costs MORE than their entry level AF cameras! ) So don't worry of the manual cameras additional stuff with the digital cameras takeover---its still technically manual in its operation!

10/21/2003 11:56:06 PM

Rhonda Fremen-Young

member since: 8/29/2002
  Hi again!
Thank you all for your feedback!
The only reason I used the term "tank" to describe the older cameras is because I read someone else (not here), who preferred the newer cameras, referring to them as such. I like the heavier cameras (just my preference). They seem to balance better in my hands and actually create less camera shake (for me).

And, to Buddy above, I would really like more on your opinion of the ZX-M. Can you tell me what the viewfinder meter is like? Is it easy to read/see? When in manual mode is it *totally* manual? No buttons to press while doing such-n-such? (My Canon Rebel X lens can be switched to manual, but when you want to use the camera's manual mode for setting aperture and shutter speed, you have to hold *this* button down while depressing *that* button...It's too confusing and just plain gets in my way.)

10/23/2003 7:02:56 AM

Melissa N. Rothacker

member since: 2/18/2004
  I started on a KX-M in high school, and it was so easy to use that I don't want to try anything else. The viewfinder meter is just like the green digital readout on common clock-radios. You'll have no problem reading/seeing it. I can do both, easily, without my glasses. When in manual mode, the camera lets you do your own thing... you select your aperture and shutter speed. It also features an AV and TV mode, too. So, pretty much, this camera ranges from fully automatic to partially manual to completely manual. What more could you want?

2/18/2004 7:09:07 PM

Tom Walker

member since: 3/12/2004
  I still find the "match needle" to be quicker than the match diodes of newer manual cameras. I don't know where you live but Southeastern Camera in most southern cities sell used k1000's for under $200 with 50mmF2.0 lenses. All their used equipment is well inspected and checked b4 selling

3/15/2004 5:46:23 PM

Rhonda Fremen-Young

member since: 8/29/2002

Does Southeastern Camera have a web site? Where is it located? (I'm in Oklahoma.)


3/15/2004 7:52:06 PM

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Photography Question 

member since: 10/30/2001
  6 .  Distorted Prices?
One thing thats really puzzling me... Why do most of the manual focus basic camera like the FM3A and FM2n cost more than the feature loaded AF SLRs these days???

11/2/2001 8:20:58 AM

doug Nelson

member since: 6/14/2001
  Maybe there is a little bit of demand for them by purists like us, and by pros who must have reliable back-up, but not enough demand to mass produce them in great numbers. My hat's off to Nikon for continuing to make them, even if it is not all that profitable.

11/2/2001 10:18:11 AM

James Bennett

member since: 1/22/2001
  I'd be glad to stick my nose into this one. First, the older MF units were simply better built. Ask yourself how many AE-1s are still out there taking great pictures. Then ask where your Rebel or Elan will be in 30 years? Secondly, most new cameras have "features" most people will never use. I've never had occasion to take a picture at 1/8000 shutter speed, have you? Or eye controlled focus? Please! Third, a really good AF lens can cost you a ton. A similar quality MF lens can be had for a fraction of the cost. Finally, simply ask yourself if you would really rather have, say, a mint condition T90 or a new A2? 'Nuff said.

11/15/2001 7:14:53 PM

George Anderson

member since: 7/6/2005
  It's a question of sales volume, production site, and construction material/quality. Compared to a modern "consumer quality" AF camera, Nikon builds the FM3a to a last generation standard - solid duralumin body, ball-bearing advance mechanism, metal shutter transport gears, etc. Plastic's a lot cheaper than metal. The FM3a is not built in China by ill-trained staff but by skilled labor in Japan on a small assembly line. Even if the FM3a seems expensive, Nikon probably loses money on every FM3a they make. Certain to be a valuable collectible and a functioning camera long after the LCDs on more modern camera desins have winked out for the last time.

7/12/2005 9:52:33 AM

John Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/8/2001
  With each new iteration of "The Computer" [a digital camera,] the demand for well made, manual and semi-automatic cameras goes up. If fact, a friend, who owns a camera exchange, will not buy cast off digitals - but, he will go after film cameras because there's a strong market.

Check Q&A and you'll find reference to the Canon AE-1, the Pentax K-1000, the Minolta SRT-201 and a host of other 18-25 year old cameras. They're like the original Volkswagen Bugs - you can't kill 'em.

7/13/2005 12:25:30 PM

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Photography Question 

member since: 10/30/2001
  7 .  Nikon FM3A
I was wondering if anyone out there has had the opportunity to use or purchase the new Nikon FM3A. I already have a AF Nikon 4004, which lacks viewfinder information. I very rarly use the AF and am looking to buy a manual focus. I was really hoping that the new camera came with shutter priority but I'm not sure just how often I would really need the feature. The Nikon FM2n is so far first on my list. Most of my photos consist of my kids, and nature. Any help would be greaty appriciated.

10/30/2001 4:20:49 AM

Hermann  Graf

member since: 2/28/2001
  Stu, I had the opportunity to have a look at the new FM3A in a photo shop. In a nutshell, it is a replica of the FE2, the production of which was ceased in 1989, but with some additional features (e.g., mechanical backup of all exposure times, automatic setting of the film speed, etc.). As for exposure, there is either shutter priority or manual operation. As for the other features, it is quite similar to the FM2n. Exposure is indicated in the viewfinder by a needle meter, not with LEDs as in the FM2n, which may be a problem when it is dark.

11/13/2001 11:04:26 AM

George Anderson

member since: 7/6/2005
  Actually, the FM3a is a completely new body casting and mechanism, with hereditary but also completely new engineering of mechanical and electronic components. The FM3a (and the FE-2 for that matter) do not use shutter-priority, but rather APERTURE priority as well as full-manual operation. The focusing screen is also brighter than the original FE-2 and is quite easy to view the shutter speed display for any potential handheld use of the camera, even at dusk or twilight. If you're shooting at night you'll be on a tripod and doing time exposures anyway.

7/11/2005 12:05:55 PM

Larry T. Miller

member since: 9/29/2003
  I have the FM-2N and the FE-2. Love them both. I probably wouldn't get the FM3A unless my FE-2 went down. Then I would seriously consider it.

3/27/2006 1:20:19 PM

Gil H. Penaflorida

member since: 4/24/2006
  The FM2n is a wonderful camera and has served me well, the red LED + 0 - is much much eaiser for me than the needle style because I shoot with my dominant left eye and you have to contort a bit to be able to see the match needle specially in low light. However I find the FM3a metering more accurate and the option to use A priority on those sitautions where you need to shoot fast and specially useful for portraiture. yes the FE is the same in principle but the newer design of FM3a IMO is better plus the bright focusing screen. Not sure whether you have the flash compensation to -1 stop for those fill flash needs with the FE (never used one. Also the collectibility of FM3a being the last MF camera produced by Nikon is higher value than the FE. Since Nikon's announcement, some FM3a in other areas used and new have gone up if you can still find a new one in the market. I saw someone mention that somebody in japan has advertised for US$ 1400 for a new FM3a. Most important the earliest FM3a is only 5 years old so buying a used gives you more security in terms of defects and abuse of use. If budget is a constraint then go for the FM2n it's a great camera - you can see in the latest issue of Shutterbug near the last pages some write-ups on the great Nikon MF cameras.

4/26/2006 2:44:33 AM

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