Nikon FE2 VS Nikon FM2: What’s The Difference?

I’ve been shooting film for around 7 years and over that time I’ve mainly used the Nikon FM or Nikon FM2!

The key differences between the Nikon FM2 and FE2 are reliability, exposure modes and working with/without a battery. These are small aspects that can make a big difference when it comes to making a decision.

I have a lot of experience with both of these cameras and I pooled together some other people’s experiences from forums to give you the best info.

A Tale Of Two Titans

The Nikon FM and FE system cameras are arguably some of the best SLR cameras ever made. The FM system was known as the professional’s second camera because it would work in nearly any situation and it didn’t need batteries to shoot.

Released in 1982, the FM2 was the pinnacle of reliable, professional yet rugged film photography. The FE2 came just a year later in 83′ and it would seem to appeal to a slightly different audience due to its electronic shutter and aperture priority mode.

The FM2 could withstand temperatures as low as −40 °C to +50 °C, so it’ll even withstand or climate crisis-riddled planet for the foreseeable. It doesn’t seem that the same can be said for the FE2, so there’s one of the first differences between these two classics.

Exposure Modes

Since virtually everything else is exactly the same on these cameras (shutter speeds, ISO, the build, and anything else that isn’t specified here), I’m not going to list all the attributes of these cameras, but if you are interested, I’ve got the FM2s here.

No, instead, we’ll talk about the first big difference which is exposure modes.

The Nikon FM2 is a fully manual camera, so exposure is fully manual and you use the internal (or your own external), light meter to decide which settings to use. For a lot of people, this is part of the charm of the FM2.

The Nikon FE2 can also be shot fully manually but it also has it’s own ‘Auto’ mode, which is just aperture priority mode. In aperture priority mode, you just change the aperture and the camera decides which shutter speed is needed to properly expose the picture.

On first glance, the FE2 could seem like an obvious choice, why wouldn’t you just take the camera that has both a manual and an auto mode? Well, it’s not quite that simple.

If you were comparing these cameras purely on their exposure modes, the FE2 wins, but it’s not only about exposure modes.


The FM2 has a fully mechanical shutter which means it can be shot with or without batteries (a massive pro if you absolutely need to shoot no matter what).

Whereas the FE2 has an electronic shutter which does give it a less reliable nature than the FM2 and it also means you need batteries to shoot with it.

I’ve found that it’s pretty rare to have any issues with an FM or FM2 and it’s definitely more common to have a problem with an FE or FE2, especially after 40 years or so.

The mechanical VS electronic shutter is definitely a part of this problem. Electronics are prone to failure and they’re difficult to fix.

The risk of an electronic shutter puts me off the FE2, but it depends what you value more, ease of use or reliability.

Light Meters

This would be something that I would easily overlook but after a glance on a few forums, it seems obvious that it’s important to some of you.

The FM2 light meter is a red LED display which shows a -o+ and personally, I’ve always found it really easy to work with.

A lot of people seem to believe that the FE2 light meter is better for them. The FE2 light meter is a display of shutter speeds with a line that you need to match.

I don’t really see why that’s easier but it’s all about personal preference and figuring out what’s better for you. Personally, I don’t see the light meter as that integral to my shooting experience, as long as I can understand it, I don’t really care.


This is the biggest difference between these two cameras. One is built to last forever and the other has electronics.

I don’t think this should necessarily put you off the FE2 because if you need to be able to shoot a bit more intuitively in a more fast-paced environment then it’s a good option. Aperture priority will allow you to basically just focus on focusing.

It’s just that when you need aperture priority, you give up a bit of reliability.

The Nikon FM2 is going to be a slower and more thoughtful shooting process but it’ll be with you through thick and thin. It’s unlikely that you’d have to worry about replacing it or anything like that.

So it kind of depends on what you value most. There’s not much difference between these two cameras and even their price is very similar at about $300-350 with a lens.

Final Word

Obviously, I’m biased because I’ve used the FM2 as my main camera for years but I do understand why people go for the FE2. Aperture priority is a really valuable thing and if you find a good FE2 then you should probably go for it! Maybe have the FM2 as a backup!

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