The Nikon FG film camera is a highly under-rated camera that many who don’t really know much about it see as only a beginner’s camera when it is far more capable than many realize. I hope this FAQ helps to inform you about this camera and answers all your questions. If you have any additional questions you can email them to me and I will add them to the FAQ.
The Nikon FG FAQ is written and maintained by me, Allan Hall.
Specifications for the Nikon FG:
Size – 136mm X 87.5mm X 54mm
Weight – 490g
Power – 2 X 1.55v silver oxide S-76/SR-44, or 2 X 1.5v alkaline LR-44 or 1 X 3V lithium CR-1 3N
ASA/ISO range – 12-3200
Flash sync – 1/90sec
Viewfinder coverage – 92%
Production dates – 1982-1986
Operational Modes of the Nikon FG:
Manual Mode – Full manual control from 1/1000sec to 1sec and B. This works with all Nikkor lenses.
A Mode – Aperture Priority control. You set the aperture, it sets the shutter speed. This works with all AI’d, AI, AIS, E, AF and D series lenses.
P Mode – Program mode, it’s sets the aperture and shutter speed. This works with all AI’d, AI, AIS, E, AF, and D lenses.
Other Functions of the Nikon FG:
ASA/ISO Dial – Just like most cameras this one uses a dial to manually set the film speed.
Exposure Compensation – up to +2/-2 stops in 1/2 stop increments.
Handheld warning – A warning tone sounds when the camera is set to a shutter speed that may be to slow to hand hold the camera (1/30sec and lower). This can be switched off by moving the switch on the right hand deck to cover the audible symbol. This is a fantastic tool for sports photography that I do not think is on any other Nikon. When using a long lens (200+) on a monopod in either auto or program mode this will warn you that you are in trouble without you having to look away from the action!
TTL Flash Metering – Full integration with TTL flash units (SB-16B etc) and an in viewfinder flash ready light that functions with some TTL flash units.
Backlighting button – Press a button and the camera will over-expose by two stops, useful for brightly backlit subjects.
Timer – Yes it has a timer to trip the shutter after 10 seconds. This can also be used as the MLU (Mirror Lock Up).
Optional Accessories for the Nikon FG:
MD-14 Motor Drive – The MD-14 is a great motor drive allowing up to 3.2 frames per second to be exposed. The MD-14 also has a setting for single exposures where the frame is not advanced until the shutter release button is released. This is in my opinion the most comfortable camera/motor drive combination Nikon has ever made. Unlike the MD-12 and MD-11 you do not need to use a different button for the motor drive than is normally used on the camera, this means that once you get the feel of the camera there is no need to re-learn after buying the motor drive. The MD-14 runs off 8 AA batteries in a quick load holder.
MD-E Auto Winder – The MD-E was a slower (2.0 FPS), smaller and lighter (about 150g vs 400g for the MD-14) winder. It was referred to as an auto winder instead of a motor drive because of these factors, plus the lack of a real hand grip, and it’s cheap plastic build quality. The MD-E runs off 6 AAA batteries.
MF-15 Databack – Allows you to record date and time, frame number on the film in the camera. Also has built in alarm.
General Information on the Nikon FG:
The FG is an all metal camera for you metal buffs that is actually lighter(490g) than many current plastic models. The only metal Nikon that is lighter is the EM. The controls are easier to use than the standard Nikon setup with the shutter speed quite easy to roll around with your left index finger without having to take your eye off the viewfinder. On the down side is that you cannot see the aperture in the viewfinder. Metering is a standard center weighted setup. The Nikon FG camera battery is the standard battery setup for cameras of the day and market position.
Q&A about the Nikon FG:
Q:What functions does the Nikon FG have without a battery?
A:1/90sec shutter speed only, other features except the audible warning tone and meter work fine.
Q:I have heard that the Nikon FG is a cheaply made body, will it stand up to hard use?
A:It is no less rugged than most other Nikons, with the exception of the T models of the FM2, F3 and F4. I used one for several years of sports photography and never had a problem with it. The exception to this is that because the FG uses a different type of dials on the decks I would prefer a FM or F3 for conditions where the camera would be subject to mass amounts of dust. For example I had to shoot in an operating spice factory and could hardly breath even with a dust mask on, I used an FM for that.
Q:How can the Program mode work with AI and AI’d lenses when these lenses do not transfer the information about aperture to the Nikon FG body?
A:Simple actually, the camera stops down the lens before making the last split second choice of shutter speed. This means that the last meter reading that is taken of the subject is done with the aperature already set, therefore there is no need for the body to know the aperture.
Q:Is the Nikon FG the perfect Nikon manual focus camera?
A:No. But for the money I think it beats the FE, FE2, FM, FM2, and EM unless you need specific features of the other bodies. Since I don’t need 1/4000sec shutter speed and have almost no use of DOF preview I picked the Nikon FG over the others.
Q:Will the Nikon FG use the newer EDIF and AF lenses?
A:Yes! But only to the capabilities of the camera itsself. (No AF) It will not however use the G series lenses as these lenses have no aperature ring. It will even use new AF-S lenses as long as they are not also G lenses.
Q:Will it use flashes that are not TTL or not fully TTL with the Nikon FG?
A:Yes, for example the SB-17 is TTL designed only for the F3, but on the FG the flash works fine without TTL. It will however operate the viewfinder’s flash ready light.
Q:Is the Nikon FG a good camera for a beginner?
A:Absolutely! Considering it’s inexpensive pricing and the fact that it can do full automatic and full manual and that it can use almost all existing lenses makes this camera an excellent choice for beginners. You can pick one up for between $150 and $250 for most used camera stores unlike it’s closest Nikon cousin the FE which goes for $350+.
Q:Is the Nikon FG a good camera for a professional or serious amateur?
A:Yes for its day. Given that it can use all the latest lenses of that time and has both a motor drive and a data back and that the camera is extremely lightweight makes it a fantastic choice for professionals as a second or backup camera. Of course it depends primarily on what you are photographing. If you do random shooting, sports or wildlife this is a great body. If you do a lot of macro work or still life you might consider looking into a body that offers mirror lock up (MLU) and depth of field preview (DOF preview). Then again, maybe not…If you need something a bit more “serious” try the Nikon FA, here is a FAQ for it.
Q:Why do some people insist that this is an amateur camera?
A:Because these people don’t realize that a professional camera is a camera used by a professional. Spending $1500 on a camera does not make you or the camera a professional! If you use most manufacturer’s definition of professional Nikon has few cameras that fit the bill, the F3, F4, F5 and F6. Interesting that while some professionals I know do own these expensive “professional” cameras they primarily use their FMs, FEs and FGs for day to day work. I had a teacher (a professional who would teach me photography on weekends and during the summer) who instructed me in photography for two years before I even knew he owned an F3. Every time we went out to shoot he used his FM.
Q: Does the Nikon FG come in black or just chrome?
Q: Does the lack of a depth of field preview button or mirror lock up button detract from this camera?
A: I do not think so. The few times I have needed mirror lock up (4 or so in 8 years) I have used the self timer. All my macro work is done with a flash so that camera shake is not a problem. DOF preview isn’t really needed in any work I have ever done (macro, sports, nature, portrait), I have it on my FM but have never used it.
Q: Can I change focusing screens in my Nikon FG?
A: No, the screen is fixed.
Q: You mention this camera is light, is it also small?
A: Yes! In 2009 I am still carrying one of these in my car at work in case I spot something I want to take a picture of and do not have my “camera kit” with me.
I hope you enjoyed this Nikon FG FAQ!
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