Nikon FM review

The Nikon FM helped inspire the retro-styled Nikon Z fc. But are the similarities between these cameras just skin deep?

Nikon FM
(Image: © Paul Burrows/Australian Camera)

Early Verdict

As we just happened to have one lying around, we thought we’d see how many worlds apart the Nikon FM/FM2 35mm SLRs and the digital mirrorless camera they’ve inspired, the Z fc, are. While these cameras helped build Nikon’s reputation, what you’re buying today is the very different user experience embodied in the classical mechanical 35mm SLR. They demand total involvement and it’s as much about the journey as the destination. Here’s where you can learn the principles of exposure control, of focusing and of depth-of-field… in fact, you have to if you’re to achieve anything. But this purity of purpose is both refreshing and rewarding… you have to work for your results, but it’s really worth the effort. There are both the tactile and visual elements too – the FM look… well, classically classical, which Nikon has managed to very successfully replicate with the Z fc, but the big difference is that these 35mm SLRs are the real thing.


  • +

    Classic film camera

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    Robust workhorse of a camera

  • +

    Can still work without a battery


  • -

    Film adds to running costs

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    Maximum 1/1000sec shutter speed

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    Very limited range of features

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So what do the Nikon FM and the Z fc have in common exactly? Well, in reality, not very much. It’s interesting that Nikon chose the Nikon FM2 – the FM’s successor – as the inspiration for the Nikon Z fc as the two really couldn’t be more different. Even the semi-auto FE and FE2 are a tiny bit closer, but both the FM and FM2 are fully mechanical, and so, obviously, also fully manual. 

Both were built uncompromisingly tough, which was partially based on an all-metal construction and partially on the simplicity of a camera using very little in terms of electronics. There’s a built-in exposure meter that requires a battery and drives a simple LED display in the viewfinder, but that’s it. The Z fc on the other hand…

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Paul Burrows

Paul has been writing about cameras, photography and photographers for 40 years. He joined Australian Camera as an editorial assistant in 1982, subsequently becoming the magazine’s technical editor, and has been editor since 1998. He is also the editor of sister publication ProPhoto, a position he has held since 1989. In 2011, Paul was made an Honorary Fellow of the Institute Of Australian Photography (AIPP) in recognition of his long-term contribution to the Australian photo industry. Outside of his magazine work, he is the editor of the Contemporary Photographers: Australia series of monographs which document the lives of Australia’s most important photographers.