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Nikon FG-20

Hello my name is Ben and I’m an addict. I own a Nikon FG-20 which I purchased a while ago but haven’t added it to my blog collection yet.

The FG-20 is one of 3 similar Nikon cameras that came out in the early 1980’s that presented a nice balance of budget and weight savings. They would make a great hiking or travel camera if you wanted to travel light but still keep an SLR. Additionally, they are sort of paired with Nikon’s eight E series of lenses ranging from 28 to 210mm.

The FG-20 is in the middle of the pack in terms of features, which basically means it has a manual mode as well as an Aperture priority mode. There simply isn’t much else on this camera. On the top plate you have a film speed dial (which might double as an exposure compensation if you needed it,) and a shutter speed dial which allows you to select an Aperture priority mode, with or without an alerter beep. On the front you have a self timer lever and a button which dials in +2 exposure should you need to shoot a backlit subject. That’s it.

The meter readout consists of a needle that shows the shutter speed in Aperture priority mode, or shows the recommended shutter speed if you are in manual mode.

Major con’s: No depth of focus preview button. I have missed this quite a bit actually. No exposure lock button. The +2 probably works ok for many situations, but I like to be able to meter off of something and then easily recompose. A solution is to see if the scene needs +2 exposure dialed in and then use the supplied button, or to use the manual mode. Another problem with the camera is that the +2 button is on the left side, so it makes focusing difficult if you need to use the button. I think they should have put the button on the right, but that will never happen now, will it? One final nitpick is that I managed to kill the batteries by leaving the meter running in my camera bag. The batteries may have been dead, and there is a fully manual 1/90th second backup speed, but I’ve never killed a battery on these cameras before. Oh yeah, and if the shutter is cocked, there is no “safety” on this camera. I’ve got a number of shots of the ground or nothing which fired off when I was just carrying the camera around. The F3 won’t fire the shutter if the power is turned off, and the FM2 has a “safe” position for the winding lever which allows the camera to be carried around without fear of wasting film.

Despite these shortcomings, the FG-20 does have the major benefit of being incredible lightweight. With the E series lenses, you can set up a very lightweight package that can go anywhere. Plus, they are actually rather cheap on ebay right now, so if you break the camera by taking it kayaking, you aren’t out too much. Not sure how many people take film cameras kayaking anymore though. And like many (all of them?) of Nikon’s manually wound film cameras, you can buy a motorwinder for the camera if speed of shooting is more important than lightweight. The film advance lever does have a “different” feel to it compared to my FM2 and F3. The FG-20 seems to “let go” of the film just before the shutter is cocked where as the others feel the same throughout the winding stroke. Feels ok and is easy to wind though, and it can be wound in several short strokes if that is what floats your boat.

I would recommend this camera to someone wanting to shoot a manual focus film camera, as it can be had for cheap on ebay, often with a 50mm 1.8 E Nikon lens, and just as often with some budget off brand zooms.  While simple, it is cheap and lightweight. Thanks to the aperture priority mode, it is also pretty fast to use. It also has a full manual mode too.



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