Nikon EM FAQ and general information

The Nikon EM film camera was the lowest-priced entry-level SLR camera for NIKON available from 1979 through 1986 or so.  While a very inexpensive camera with limited capabilities, it did use most of the current Nikkor lenses meaning you could still get excellent results from it. If you have any additional questions you can email them to me and I will add them to the FAQ.

The Nikon EM FAQ is written and maintained by me, Allan Hall.

Specifications for this Nikon:

Size – 135mm X 86mm X 54mm
Weight – 460g
Power2 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 – 25-1600
Flash sync – 1/90sec
Viewfinder coverage – 92%
Production dates – 1979-1984

Operational Modes:

B Mode – Bulb mode. The shutter remains open as long as you hold down the shutter button. This works with all Nikkor lenses.
M90 Mode – Manual mode setting the shutter at 1/90sec. This works with all Nikkor lenses.
Auto Mode – Aperture priority mode, the camera sets the shutter speed based on the aperture you set on the lens and the available light. This works with all AI’d, AI, AIS, E, AF and D series lenses. (note that with a dead or removed battery, setting the camera to Auto will fire the shutter at approximately 1/1000sec) 

Other Functions:

Auto Flash Metering – Semi-Full integration with the SB-E flash that was made specifically for this camera.
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).
Handheld warning – A warning tone sounds when the camera is set to a shutter speed that may be to slow to handhold the camera (1/30sec and lower). This can not be switched off as on the Nikon FG. 

Optional Accessories for the Nikon EM:

MD-E Auto Winder – The MD-E was a slow (2.0 FPS), small and light (about 150g) winder. It was referred to as an auto winder instead of a motor drive because of these factors, plus the lack of a real handgrip, and it’s cheap plastic build quality. The MD-E runs off 6 AAA batteries.

General Information on the Nikon EM:

The Nikon EM is a metal-framed camera for you metal buffs that is actually lighter(460g) than many current plastic models. This camera did use quite a bit of plastic such as the entire bottom cover, to keep price and weight down. Metering is a standard center-weighted setup. The Nikon EM camera battery is the standard battery setup for cameras of the day and market position.

The Nikon EM light meter is not directly coupled to the Nikon EM shutter speed, the meter is very close in most cases but can vary from camera to camera.

Q&A about the Nikon EM:

Q: What functions does the Nikon EM have without a battery?
A: 1/90sec, B, and 1/1000sec shutter speed only.

Q: I have heard that the Nikon EM is a cheaply made body, will it stand up to hard use?
A: It has more plastic on it than other Nikon’s of the day but still uses a metal frame and a remarkable amount of metal in other places. While absolutely less robust than say a Nikon F3t, or even a Nikon FM, it is an extremely well-made camera and the vast majority of models I have seen over the years have survived remarkably well. 

Q: Is the Nikon EM the perfect Nikon manual focus camera?
A: No. But for the money, it is an excellent camera to purchase and play with these days when film has become a fun pastime.

Q: Will the Nikon EM use the newer EDIF and AF lenses?
A: Yes! But only to the capabilities of the camera itself. (No AF) It will not, however, use the G series lenses as these lenses have no aperture ring. It will even use new AF-S lenses as long as they are not also G lenses. This huge selection of lenses is why the Nikon EM is often seen as the better choice when in a comparison such as Pentax ME vs Nikon EM, or even the Nikon EM vs Canon AE-1.

Q: Will the Nikon EM use flashes other than the SB-E that was made for the Nikon EM?
A: Yes, for example, the SB-17 is TTL designed only for the F3, but on the Nikon EM the flash works fine without TTL.

Q: Is the Nikon EM a good camera for a beginner?
A: Absolutely! Considering the inexpensive pricing of the Nikon EM and the fact that they were very lightly used when bought means you can get an excellent deal on a camera in really great condition and have some fun with film! You can easily pick these up used for between $50-$100, sometimes with a nice lens. 

Q: Is the Nikon EM a good camera for a professional or serious amateur who wants into film?
A: No, the Nikon EM is unlikely to be used by any semi-serious photographer. It lacks way too many features that you would need such as a manual mode. I am sure a gifted photographer could make one work but it would be an uphill battle all the time. Go for at least the Nikon FG or better yet, the Nikon FA. Nikon EM street photography has gained popularity, however, probably due to its small size and lightweight build. Many street photographers have selected the Nikon EM vs FM because of its fast auto mode. 

Q: Does the Nikon EM come in black or just chrome?
A: The Nikon EM comes in both!

Q: Does the lack of a depth of field preview button or mirror lock-up button detract from the Nikon EM?
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 EM?
A: No, the screen is fixed in the Nikon EM.

Q: You mention this camera is light, is it also small?
A: Yes! It is about the smallest and lightest of the Nikon SLR models making it a great little film camera to take backpacking or on day trips.

Here is the Nikon EM camera manual (Nikon EM manual) which will help you learn how to work a Nikon film camera.

You can buy a Nikon EM on Amazon or eBay.

I hope you enjoyed this Nikon EM FAQ!


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