Nikon FG – Camera Review

Nikon FG – Camera Review

1280 720 Josh Solomon

In my last article, I mentioned a shiny, little Nikon FG. The FG happened to be my very first 35mm film camera and remains one of my favorites today. Compact, light, and quite capable, it carried me through my photographic formative days in style. It’s the camera by which I measure every other camera, and I often find that most can’t match the sheer usability of this simple, modest machine.

But chat with photo geeks or poke around on the internet and you’ll soon find that the FG garners more than its fair share of detractors. As a forum lurker and occasional commenter, I noticed that recommending the FG to others or proselytizing its hidden sophistication would often prompt the naysayers to say nay. Mostly these rebukes came with the subtext that the superiority of the FE and FE2 dictate that the FG isn’t worth a look from any self-respecting shooter. My fond feelings toward the FG are so incongruous to the reputation it holds with most people that I’ve often wondered if I’m wrong. Do I love the FG only because it was my first camera? Am I ignoring the FG’s flaws out of nostalgia? Or are the naysayers wrong? Is it really as good as I think it is?

After years of shooting classic cameras I’ve finally come to a conclusion. The FG is one of the best amateur cameras on the vintage market, the only problem is it’s a Nikon. But before I extrapolate on my Theory of Inverse-halo Effect as it Relates to the Nikon Nameplate, let’s take a step back and consider the camera, unfettered by the reputation of its maker or the expectations of that maker’s fans.

Nikon FG Camera Review (7 of 8)

On paper, the FG seems undeniably ho-hum. Its vertically-traveling, electro-mechanical Copal shutter operates at speeds from 1 second to 1/1000th of a second and adds a bulb mode for long exposures. The shutter offers the battery-averse a mechanical backup speed of 1/90th of a second, selectable by choosing the “M90” mark on the enormous shutter dial. Additionally we’re offered the option of shooting in Program and Aperture-priority auto-exposure modes. The FG boasts further luxuries in the shape of a self-timer on the front, film memo holder on the back, and exposure compensation on the top. ISO compatibility ranges from 25-3200, and can be extended up to 6400 via the previously mentioned exposure compensation. In lieu of an exposure lock, the FG includes a backlight compensation button which, when pressed, automatically overexposes the scene by two stops (snarky spec-sheet mutterings aside, this is pretty fantastic). The hotshoe contains contacts for full TTL flash metering capabilities with dedicated Nikon flashes, something only replicated in the later FE2 and FA. And finally, the camera also boasts an alarm which warns the user when the exposure speed is slow enough that camera shake may result in blurred images. Thankfully we can turn this annoying feature off.

I know what you’re thinking. Boring camera, right? Nothing special. You can get this same machine from Yashica, Ricoh, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, and Minolta. Sure you can. But the FG has a few tricks up its sleeve, and one of these tricks is pretty unbeatable.

Where the FG starts to shine is in the way its automated modes calculate exposures, and by the quality of its fantastic metering system. The FG’s through-the-lens wide-open aperture meter employs Nikon’s now-famous 60/40 center-weighted pattern, a pattern that has proven unflappable time and time again. It’s accurate, easy to manipulate, and easy to understand. This metering aptitude combined with the FG’s fantastic Aperture-priority and Program modes results in flawless exposures. In my time with the FG, I never once made a bad exposure shooting in auto-exposure mode (something that can’t be said for many other cameras) and whenever I had heavy backlight, the situation was easily remedied via the dedicated switch.

Where the FG continues to surprise is in its viewfinder. With 92% coverage, the viewfinder is quite large considering the camera’s tiny footprint. It also comes equipped with a focusing screen coveted by users of the FE series, the K2 screen. The K2 split-image and microprism screen is among the best of the Nikon focusing screens for one reason – it’s bright, and it helps the the FG become an exceptional performer in low light shooting situations. Further augmenting the FG’s abilities in night scenes are the camera’s super bright LED readouts for shutter speed and exposure readings. Better than needles and analog readouts in challenging light, the bright LEDs found here are often missing in many other, more expensive Nikons.

Nikon FG Camera Review (1 of viewfinder)

Of course, all of this would mean nothing if the FG was clunky to shoot. Fortunately, Nikon got the ergonomics right. The FG is a small machine, but it’s never uncomfortably small. It’s easy to grip in all cases, and even more so when one’s fitted the detachable finger grip. It’s one of the lightest SLR’s ever made, making it easy on the hands and neck, and its control interface will be immediately comfortable for any shooter, experienced or otherwise. The oversized, overhanging shutter dial makes exposure adjustment extremely quick, and the to-the-point design ethos keeps extraneous and unnecessary features from getting in the way of the process.

In the field, all of these qualities combine to make for a remarkably worry-free shooting experience, regardless of the user’s knowledge level. Don’t know anything about exposure and just want to take pictures? Set the lens to f/22, flick the dial to “P” mode, and go to town as if you were shooting a remarkably well-lensed point-and-shoot. Want to learn and discover the joys of shallow depth-of-field? Set the dial to “A”, open that lens up as wide as it goes, and revel in your salacious bokeh. Feeling confident enough to go manual? Pick a shutter speed and aperture, and rest easy knowing the LEDs in that viewfinder are going to tell you all you need to know. The FG can cover the lacking skill-set of the most ham-handed amateur, and augment the skill-set of the most exacting professional to equally fruitful result.

For all of its technological innovation and capability one would think that the FG would be pricey, but astonishingly, this isn’t the case at all. I regularly find FG’s selling for less than it costs to buy and develop a roll of film. Why so cheap? The FG was mass-produced as a consumer level camera, so there are tons of examples floating around garage sales and hiding in thrift stores. Without a doubt, the FG is one of best deals in Nikon manual focus bodies.

But before someone yells “fanboy” or says “nay”, let me be the first to admit that the FG does have a number of drawbacks. Paradoxically, some of these drawbacks actually stem from the camera’s supposed selling points. Its minuscule size and weight are a boon to shooters who like to travel light, but it also means that the camera feels unbalanced with longer lenses, or blurs images when shooting below 1/60th of a second. The combined forces of mirror slap and shutter vibration, which are more manageable in heavier bodies, rip through the FG’s frail chassis faster than Emperor Palpatine’s Force lightning through a wiggling Luke Skywalker. Those with typically steady hands might find their special talents negated by the FG’s unbalanced mirror slap.

Its gloriously low price point demanded an economical design that sadly leads to a few glaring annoyances, as the camera omits certain features that hold it back from true greatness. It’s one of the only auto-exposure Nikon bodies that doesn’t feature an exposure lock, meaning that shooters who demand precise exposure control will almost certainly be let down by the FG. Nikon likely omitted this feature to prevent the FG from competing with the FE2, so while I understand the reason behind the design limitation I’m still chaffed. It’s a feature that’s sorely missed in this type of a camera.

Lastly, and most egregiously, the FG just isn’t as well-made as other Nikons. When compared to the indestructibility of the brand’s F-series or advanced amateur FE and FM bodies, the FG just doesn’t stack up. Its plastic body feels hollow and fragile, and it doesn’t inspire the same confidence gained from holding an all-metal, hand-assembled body. Its plastic film advance, while surprisingly smooth, can’t match the luxurious feel of an all metal film-advance rolling on self-lubricating ball bearings, and in my experience, FG’s are the most likely of the Nikon SLRs to suffer electronic breakdown.

nikon FG mosaic

But it’s only when we compare the FG to its immediate family that it comes up short. This makes sense. Comparing a consumer-level, plastic camera to the mechanical beasts Nikon is known for will naturally leave the FG wallowing in the dirt. But that doesn’t stop people judging it this way. After all, it is a Nikon, and comparing Nikons to Nikons is about as fair as it gets, right? I don’t think so. For the average photo geek, associations with Nikon’s typically excellent quality heighten expectations, and when a camera bearing the Nikon nameplate doesn’t live up to these expectations the result is vociferous disappointment. To many shooters, the FG’s shortcomings represent a betrayal of everything Nikon stood for, and for some this is unforgivable. But all this drama does beg the question, what went wrong with the FG?

The problem, it seems, was that with the FG, Nikon tried to assume an identity unusual to the brand and their acolytes. Let’s consider the Canon AE-1 Program, which can be seen as a direct competitor to the FG and a very similarly specced camera. In the decades that preceded the release of both cameras, relentless marketing had firmly cemented reputations for both Nikon and Canon. Warranted or not, the public regarded Nikon as the brand of the uncompromising professional, while Canon was seen as the brand for technology-loving amateurs. In part because of these reputations, buyers shopping for an amateur camera would naturally feel more comfortable choosing the AE-1P. If we look at the cameras through this lens we see that the FG just didn’t fit into Nikon’s identity, whereas the AE-1 Program makes perfect sense for Canon.

Apart from possible branding problems, Nikon’s relative conservatism compared to its competitors could have also hurt the FG. In the 1980s, Canon’s tech-savvy ethos paired especially well with consumer interest in hi-tech wizardry. The striking green “Program” proudly displayed on its logo and shutter dial jumped out at buyers while Nikon’s more stoic design philosophy likely left shoppers unimpressed. Let’s face it, “FG” hardly says “I can do things” the way “AE-1 Program” does. Nikon’s sophisticated, professional design cues may have made the FG seem like the boring choice.

But was all this really fair to the FG? To Nikon’s credit, they never advertised the FG as being an indestructible camera. They only advertised it as a do-it-all camera for the layman. It was the public perception of the brand that betrayed the FG, not the other way around. So if we cast aside prejudice fueled by brand recognition and instead take the FG for what it is, the FG is quite a good camera, and when we compare the FG to its immediate competition rather than its immediate family, the FG quickly proves itself to be one of the best choices for amateurs and enthusiasts alike.

With unclouded eyes it’s pretty easy to see this is the case. The FG’s semi-auto shooting mode is the artistically relevant Aperture-priority, preferred by many over the AE-1 Program’s Shutter-priority mode. The FG is smaller and lighter than Minolta’s X-700, and is more full-featured than the Olympus OM-10. It’s got a better metering system than the Pentax ME, and it’s viewfinder is almost as bright and massive as the professional-grade OM-1. And while compared to higher-spec Nikons it’s not as reliable, the FG compares very favorably to all the consumer-level cameras from competing brands. The FG doesn’t suffer from blown capacitors and squeaky shutters, it doesn’t randomly self-destruct its own light meter, and it doesn’t jettison its leatherette like a shedding snakeskin- it just shoots, and shoots, and shoots.

Nikon FG Camera Review (2 of 8)

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the most amazing aspect of the FG, and an asset that’s nearly impossible for any other maker to counter. It features a lens mount that’s downright legendary; Nikon’s F mount affords anyone shooting the FG the ability to mount a massive variety of Nikkor lenses. Every lens Nikon made from 1977 can be used on the FG, and a cheap conversion makes every so-called pre-AI lens made before 1977 mountable as well. Everything from the legendary 105mm f/2.5 to the super-speedy Noct-Nikkor can be mounted to the FG. What’s more, every single Nikon lens can be used with the FG’s fantastic program mode, something every other Program auto-exposure camera of the time could not accomplish.

And if that didn’t sell you, I don’t know what will.

The FG is an example of a camera that deserved a chance but never got one. But with so many modern shooters revisiting the world of film photography, the FG has another shot at the greatness it deserves. It’s a perfect first camera for a novice and can do a superb job as a backup body for more advanced photographers, too. So if you find one, spend the few bucks and give it the chance that others might not. You just might fall in love.

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Josh Solomon

Josh Solomon is a freelance writer and touring bassist living in Los Angeles. He has an affinity for all things analog. When not onstage, you can find him roaming around Southern California shooting film and humming a tune.

All stories by:Josh Solomon
  • Very nice review, thanks!
    I also always liked the FG. Got one from a friend one day with the 50mm Series-E, shot it for 1,5 years until it suddenly fell into a coma, 5 minutes after I shot the last picture.
    Great first SLR, would recommend.

    • Thanks Tikey! That Series E 50mm is one hell of a lens. Hopefully we get a review of that one soon. Glad you enjoyed your FG!

  • Great article! I just picked up one these to start off one of my students in film photography. I’ve shot my Nikon F3 (“the tank”) for years, and the FG certainly comes close to matching film quality and easy feel. Great article!

  • And for a moment, I thought one of those photos was of a Df…

    So did the humble FG inspire the design of the ‘hipster’ Df I wonder?

    • James – Founder/Editor August 11, 2016 at 2:05 am

      Could be! But I think if we saw them side by side it’d be pretty easy to tell them apart. The DF is massive!

  • I am glad to see this Rodney Dangerfield of cameras finally getting some respect. My dad gave me his and I have used it with my two FM2 bodies. I was skeptical at first but I have grown to enjoy its feel and handling as well as its manual mode. I recently picked up a second black body for a song. I actually prefer it to the FE2. It is not as rugged at the FM2 but no electronic camera is. I don’t plan on dropping it from the fourth floor anytime real soon. The fact that both bodies are well over 30 years old and still going strong (including light meters) is a testament to its build quality.

  • The ISO setting cannot be extended to 6400, because compensation dial is restricted only to positive compensation settings when ISO dial is set to 3200. (I don’t remember if maximum ISO was 3200 or 1600 – I had one long time ago)

  • Quick question. Where can i get my FG reapired? I live in Henderson, NV. I’ve looked online but I can’t find a qualified repair place. I was given this camera by my grandpa and he hasn’t used it in decades. I would like to use it for my highschool photography class. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Much cheaper to buy a replacement FG body on ebay than to seek repair of your own. Also, depending on what’s wrong with yours, it may not be repairable for lack of parts. If you can find a repair shop, it’s going to cost you at least $100 without a guarantee of results.

  • I fully agree that the FG is both a wonderful little camera and under-rated. I bought one in later 1980s as backup to by FE2, used it little and sold it. I repurchased one last year after reviewing its virtues. Nikon reacted to the popularity of the Pentax ME and Olympus OM-1 by introducing the EM, which was a point-n-shoot in SLR drag. After a few years, they replaced the EM with the full featured FG, which sold very well for 2 years or so, when it was replace by the FG-20. The FG-20 eliminated many of the user controls of the FG, going back to the EM class of camera. Why? Because the FG was killing Nikon’s sales of the FE2. Although not advertised, the FG adopted some metering tech from the coming FA: In auto-exposure modes, it re-measures after the lens closes to shooting aperature, thereby adjusting for any variance in the aperature mechanism – very cool. One unfair knock on the FG was the “Series E” lenses Nikon produced to sell with the EM, FG, and FG-20. The best was a 75-150mm zoom. The worst was a 28mm. The 50mm was a poor cousin the the 50mm 1.8 mm Nikkor; single coated and not a value. The rest are much inferior to their Nikkor cousins and gave the related cameras something of a bad rap. If you buy a used FG body today, give no extra value if it comes with a Series E lens, which is a discard.

    • Thank you for the information about why the FG was discontinued and replaced with the far inferior FG-20. The FG was not as rugged and durable as the FE2 but I preferred the FG for its compactness and ease of handling. Especially when price is taken into account, I can see why people would opt for the FG. As for the series E lenses, I personally do not think they are as bad as all that, especially in retrospect. I agree that the 75 to 150mm zoom is the best. I recently picked one up for less than $100.00. It is almost but not quite as good as my 105mm AI-S.The 50mm f 1.8 is not all that bad, especially considering you can get one now for next to nothing. It is so compact that it could practically be considered a pancake lens. Several ratings of Nikon lenses put it not that far below its AI-S counterpart optically. I also have the 28mm series E lens. It has decent sharpness at mid apertures but it does have some flare issues. The series E lenses were closer to a Canon or Minolta class than a Nikon class and were probably made to compete at the price point those companies were offering. My main quibble with the series E lenses is that the build quality was mediocre compared to the AI-S Nikkors. However, they are probably better made than the lenses anyone is making now, except for Leica or Zeiss. Interstingly, there is a resurgence of interest in the series E lenses for use with mirrorless digital cameras because they are so light and compact. I am glad I hung on to mine, since they work really well with my Olympus Pen digitial camera.

    • Contrary to your claim, the Series E lenses were not inferior to their Nikkor cousins. They had flaws like all lenses do, but Nikon actually used those same designs in lenses they sold later for much more money — some of which they still sell today. Single coating is not inferior to multicoating; that’s a sign you don’t understand what coating does or how it works.

      Don’t make claims that you have no factual basis for. You’re entitled to your uninformed opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.

  • The FG was also my first camera which I bought new and still have and use. It’s a great travel camera because of the size and weight. Not so great for street photography as I’ve had people snap their heads towards me from across the street due to the noisy shutter. The relatively low top shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second occasionally bites me when I want shallow DOF on a sunny day.

  • I have two of them (chrome).
    I got my first from photolab man, all beaten up. Later I realized the meter is off in high speeds so no longer in use with transparencies. But it works.

    The second one is practically new (I thing never been used). I tried and it works like a gem.

    What puts me back of FG are two things you mentioned in review: 1) mirror slap and 2) no AE lock.

    That is why I use FE more often (and partly because it has needle in the viewfinder, which is more to my liking).

    Otherwise I like the FG very much.

  • Shubroto Bhattacharjee November 26, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    Great review!
    Apropos Randall Stewart’s observation: “After a few years, they replaced the EM with the full featured FG, which sold very well for 2 years or so, when it was replace by the FG-20.” — the FG20 replaced the EM [my first SLR, and I loved it], not the FG.
    The EM and FG-20 relay the aperture-in-use info to the associated SB-E [I had one] and SB-19 dedicated flashes, eliminating the common need to “set” the aperture value on a sensor-controlled-auto-exposure flash. The SB-E had a 3-step aperture range; the SB-19 had 6.

  • I have maybe six FGs spotted around in different places with different film, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s the best SLR I’ve ever had. It does just enough, and does it well, yes, but it’s also one of the most ergonomic cameras I’ve ever used. I bought the first one before reading anything about it, then was surprised that all the trash talk this wonderful little camera collects. I also have an FM I have never used, saving for the battery-free apocalypse, maybe, and an FA which is just too much to lug around, and have owned several other film Nikons, but the FG is the keeper of them all. The gets-no-respect flash to pair with this camera is the SB-20, my favorite of the older Nikon flashes.

  • Mirror slap? If you’ve never used a 4×5 Speed Graphic, you’ve never felt the “recoil” of it’s large focal plane shutter! Picky, picky, picky. Get a good FG then spend the money on GOOD Nikon lenses. Add the grip and/or motor drive and you’ve got a nice package. Enjoy it, life’s short.

  • Russ Tattersall May 23, 2018 at 5:56 am

    Brilliant article on the Nikon FG Josh, you absolutely nail all the things that make it such a compact joy to use, without losing sight of it’s obvious ‘consumer’ limitations. I have a range of 70s/80s Nikon F, Olympus OM , Minolta SRT SLRs and whilst I’d be the first to acknowledge my gorgeous black Nikon FE is a far superior piece engineering, it is invariably the FG/ 50mm f1.8 Series E + Tri X combo that gets taken on any trips with the V1 Digital. I’ve learnt to live with the incredibly loud shutter/mirror slap and no longer wince. It’s just announcing it’s presence in a quirky, characterful way. No poncy Leica ‘shnick’ for me it says.

    Be good to see a review of the superb Nikon F80, F100 SLRs at some point. They always seem to get overlooked in favour of their F5 / F6 big sisters.

  • This is the best review on FG I’ve ever read. Great job! It’s about time to give FG the credit it deserved long time ago.

  • Enjoyed your review. Just to add a couple features that I use occasionally, the self-timer activates Mirror Lockup which is useful in some situations and the meter will read very dark/night scenes, giving minutes long exposures. Take a walk with the little FG loaded with bulk load TriX and I’m back in the 60’s!

  • When I finally moved to digital some years back (and moved to Canon at the same time) the FG was the only camera I kept. In fact, I kept four of them. The strengths that led me to the FG after years of shooting other Nikons were, first, its diminutive size. This is a truly big advantage for street photography and one of the things I miss most in the larger, heavier digital bodies. Second, for quick shooting, nothing beats the rapid compensation available with the backlight switch. I realize bodies like the F5 and F6 might not need such a contrivance, but in retrospect, it seems absurd that the FE2 and others of that generation neglected this basic convenience. Even the venerable F4 can’t compete, although it does have other features to recommend it, of course. The FG might not be for everyone, but a s a casual, easy to use camera that practically guarantees good results with every shot, even with chromes, it has no peer.

  • I enjoy reading reviews like yours when I have the ‘hots’ for another camera. I have been sitting the fence about the Nikon FG since I already own and use a Canon AE1P and A1 models. I read though the the FG and FG20 models are good values for amateur photographers. So who knows: the two FGs that I am looking at now, one of them maybe joining the collection. Thanks for the insights and comments. Tom

  • Just picked one up today for better price than reasonable.
    It has it’s lacks- no depth of field preview, or mirror lock~ but in all honestly, I rarely used them in my older Nikons.
    The K-2 screen is a real bonus, as is the stepless shutter in P and A. It leaves the AE-1 behind in the dust.
    Now to find lenses….
    The series E 50 F1.8 I’ve been hoarding all these years is not that bad a lens, and now has a home on the FG.

  • Here’s my FG story. I had decided to stick to two SLR systems: Olympus OM (I had my grandpa’s OM1N and 3 primes) and Canon EOS. (I have a 630 and A2 + 35-135)

    …but one fateful day on the commute home, I ducked in the thrift shop to make sure there was no quality orphaned camera gear for low prices. Lo and behold! There was a Vivitar (Kiron) 75-205/3.8 and a Nikkor 50/1.8 pancake for $10. I couldn’t resist. Then, I just needed a body for not much money. I hit up ebay and found a nice FG for $30. It is a “cracking good little camera” as the Brits might say.

    I was one of those nay-sayers you mentioned. I previously had an FM, FM2N and EM. The EM DID feel cheap and plasticky by comparison, but to be fair, it never let me down.

    A few weeks later, another nice FG showed up in the same thrift store for $30 with the Series E 50/1.8 lens. I bought that one for my 7 year old daughter, she was happy to “upgrade” from the Canon FTb, which was quite a beast for her little neck. When she’s interested, we can trade lenses.

    The only real drawback I’ve found was (as you said) it is not great with long or heavy lenses. The balance is something I could leave or take, but when I have a heavy lens, even just a Tokina AT-X 28-85/3.5-4.5, the little body is not really enough to hang onto. The grip helps a lot, but with a body that small, it only helps so much. This is the big advantage of the AE-1 Program; it had probably the best grip of any SLR of the early 80s. (the EOS 620/630/650 were the best of the late 80s)

    • Shubroto Bhattacharjee December 20, 2019 at 4:19 pm

      If you can snare an MD-E Winder, Jeremy, insert 6 AAA batteries, and thread it into the FG tripod socket, you’d be amazed at the transformation in balance and handling. (The MD-14 motor-drive is overkill).

      • Rather than bulk up an FG with a winder, you could just buy an F-301 / N2000. Or two, for the typical price of an FG. The winder is built in, and requires only four AAAs.

        You’ll gain an improved meter display, with numerals rather than blobs, an AE lock, a 1/2000 shutter speed and, praise the lord, an off switch. And you lose the floppy advance action that is the big let-down in the FG experience.

        I wanted to like the FG but just didn’t get on with it. The F-301 is a camera in the same spirit, just — for me at least — done better.

        • Shubroto Bhattacharjee November 10, 2021 at 3:40 am

          Agree absolutely, Clive, having owned an EM and an FG (the MD-E fitted either) *and* an F-301 (I added the AA battery holder).
          The latter brought lots of additional virtues, including the ones you point out. 😀

          • Impressive reactions after two years, Shubroto! The 301 is overdue some love. Yes, it’s a mid-80s camera but it’s the last of the line, a manual-focus Nikon with a shutter speed dial and a rewind crank. I have an FE as well, and the 301 really doesn’t give much away to it as a user experience — but you can still buy one for $50 or the local equivalent!

            Anyway, perhaps we’ll get an article about it, if we’re lucky.

        • Can’t agree Clive. I bought my FG as a curiosity on eBay to see what an 80’s ‘budget’ SLR from Nikon was like. I grew to love it for its lightness, ease of use and it’s inability to provide a duff shot. It has horrendously loud mirror slap and the winder feels a bit Fischer Price toy standard, but it just feels so perfectly balanced in use and looks so well designed. The F301was undoubtedly an improvement in terms of features but it also heralded the mid 80’s to mid 90’s use of polycarbonates in the camera body construction and those awful blocky ugly fat lumps loaded with heavy batteries. My black Nikon FE is still my stand out favourite metal bodied 80’s camera amongst my F3, FM, and later F80/100 collection, but it’s always the FG I grab if I want a tough little SLR to take travelling.I love the dinky little thing.

  • Just wanted to add one more thing – There’s an interesting article about this camera on the Dante Stella photography site titled “Nikon FG: The little camera that could.” It’s been up for years, and it provides a perspective on the FG’s usefulness that nicely compliments this review.

  • Great little camera. I had 2 , a sliver and a black. Used them both between 1986 and 2005 when I replace them with a pair of Nikon D70s.

    The auto mode was killer, but I learned how to shoot manual on these bodies. I last took out the black on 7 years ago to shoot a friend’s wedding on film. If film and /good/ developing weren’t so darned expensive these days I would bring these 2 back into part time service. Alongside the D7200’s that have now replaced the D70s.

  • It is funny how similar situation generates similar memories or feelings. My first Nikon was EM, mean not mine, just borrowed for couple of weeks, knock me down in compare with heavy artillery I used at the time: Praktica, Zenith. EM was heaven: small, light, soft, pancake 50/1.8E, gorgeous shutter/mirror slap sound. How soon realized, that slapping didn’t have that sweet sound effect only. It was responsible for shooting great shot too. Technically at least. Never before with my Practica/Zeiss or Zenith/Helios combo I could get head shot and count hair on it. Now I saw for the first time how sharp hair looks like.
    Fast forward 30+ years advance. Regarding feelings from the past I decided to buy one EM, what I did. Got it in excellent condition exactly as was one I had in my hands long time ago. It was equipped with 35mm/2.5 E . 50/1.8E and 28E I already had in my collection.
    Soon I wished to have a camera with more features how I can shoot with more own decisions. EM was designed for “housewives” how my old profesor used to make joke with point and shoot toys.
    I had bad experience with trying to get FE body and ones in good condition are priced over my will to spend on old camera. So decided to go with FG.
    Same as EM plus more controls of exposure.
    Only thing I am missing on both EM and FG is DOF button.
    I don’t know what plastic you are talking about?
    Regarding durability, it is also hard to say. To me seems that FE/FM series suffered from lot more from service calls, then those two. Probably FE/FM were much more in use and with much extensive number of shots, that is why statistics will show more wearing at them.

  • Lucian JOHNSON May 20, 2022 at 6:15 pm

    I have shot like 10 rolls and have not sent any rolls yet to get processed so I don’t think I’m going to be happy.. I am brand new film shooter. I have a Nikon fg. I have watched a lot of videos and the rewind part does not move when I get ready to to finding a image to shoot. My count says it’s working but I don’t it is? Am I screwed? Do I just have to send a new roll to see?

  • Great review. I owned this camera as a teenager back in the very early nineties, and it always served me well right up until the day I sold it around ten years ago – very reliable and had a great meter as you say.

    There’s no doubt it’s a more lightweight build and not as well engineered as the pro/semi-pro Nikons, but I don’t believe it’s “plastic” as you say. Internally it seems to be a metal chassis, and the external shell also seems to be metal – in fact I’ve seen brassing on the black version. I’m sure there’s plastic in the winder etc though.

  • Shubroto Bhattacharjee February 27, 2023 at 11:59 pm

    Saddened to see, repetitively, references to “plastic-bodied SLRs”.
    The Nikon EM/FG/FG-20 had metal chassis to provide rigid mounting and long-term alignment to the mirror-box, which in turn supported the shutter module, view screen, pentaprism, and lens-mount.
    Here is an accurate description of the family chassis:
    “Body Construction:
    • Copper silumin aluminum alloy body
    • Polycarbonate exterior
    • Leatherette (synthetic) covering
    • Metal lens mount”
    Indeed, the top and bottom covers were made of fibreglass-reinforced polycarbonate (FRP), an extremely strong engineering “plastic” used also for car bumpers!
    FRP recovers much better from bumps than does brass, thereby protecting the electronics inside.

  • yes, the build quality ruins the experience for me. for a cheap Nikon body, I prefer the EM, even with its limited feature set

  • Been using an FG for 40 years. Has not let me down. Photographed weddings, sport for newspapers and other photojournalism, family events, holidays, travel and still it goes. It’s a well travelled camera. Put up with the nay sayers in 1980s but I’m still using it in 2023. Won prizes for some of the images from my FG. Have Sony full frame and M4/3 these days but still use the FG. If you see one for a song in a 2nd hand shop buy it. It’s fun.

  • Great reviews sir.. prompting me to buy an excellent conditions unit from Yahoo Auction in Japan yesterday costing me about 80 USD inclusive shipping to Malaysia. Just can’t wait to get my hands on it..cheers!

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Josh Solomon

Josh Solomon is a freelance writer and touring bassist living in Los Angeles. He has an affinity for all things analog. When not onstage, you can find him roaming around Southern California shooting film and humming a tune.

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