The Nikon FA is Nikon’s most advanced manual focus camera. 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. Please keep in mind that this FAQ is new and incomplete, I will be updating it as time allows.
The Nikon FA FAQ is written and maintained by me, Allan Hall
Specifications for the Nikon FA
Size-142.5mm X 92mm X 62.5mm
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
Manual Mode-Full manual control from 1/4000sec 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, and AF series lenses.
S Mode-Shutter priority control. You set the shutter speed, it sets the aperture.
P Mode– Program mode, it sets the aperture and shutter speed. This works with all AI’d, AI, AIS, E, and AF lenses.
ASA/ISO Dial– Just like most cameras this one uses a dial to manually set the film speed from 12 to 3200.
Exposure Compensation– up to +2/-2 stops in 1/3 stop increments.
Depth of field preview lever– Allows you to view what is in focus before tripping the shutter.
TTL Flash Metering– Full integration with TTL flash units (SB-16B, etc). It also has a connector for a sync cable.
Timer– Yes it has a timer to trip the shutter after 10 seconds. This can also be used as the MLU (Mirror Lock-Up).
MD-15 Motor Drive– The MD-15, this motor drive is specific to the Nikon FA and will power the camera.
MD-11/12 Motor Drive– This is the same drive used on the FM/FE/FM2/FE2.
MF-12 Databack – Works with FE and FM by using a sync cord, or with newer cameras including the FA by using internal contacts.
MF-16 Databack – Newest databack for the FA.
Interchangeable focusing screens – There are three basic screen types available; Type K2, B2, and E2. These differ from the K, B, and E types because instead of just a tab, they have a notched tab. You can not interchange the K and K2!
Viewfinder correction lenses (diopters) – Allow for use of the camera without glasses.
This camera uses a 5 segment matrix metering system for extremely accurate meter readings (this is the primary reason people often choose the Nikon FA vs FE, or Nikon FA vs F3). Displays in the viewfinder are located above the frame in three sections. First on the left is the LCD display used in all modes, to the right of that is a window allowing you to view the currently set aperture (in A and M modes only) and on the right is a shutter speed window available in S mode. In M mode the LCD displays the currently selected shutter speed along with an M for the mode and a + or – for metering.
The shutter is a Titanium leaf that runs from 1sec to 1/4000sec. Manual modes are available (1/250 and B) by pressing the silver safety button on the back near the thumb crank and rotating the dial to the correct position. Multiple exposures are possible with the lever under the thumb crank near the front. After exposing the first frame simply pull the lever towards you and wind to reset the shutter without advancing the film. The FA also has a cover for the viewfinder, the lever is to the left of the viewfinder. Flip this lever and a cover will close to eliminate any light that may enter the viewfinder and mess up the metering.
The grip of the Nikon FA is enhanced with a removable Nikon FA grip on the front right side of the camera. This can be removed to mount the motor drive.
Q: What functions does the Nikon FA have without a battery?
A:1/250sec and B are available on the Nikon FA.
Q: How can the Nikon FA Program mode work with AI and AI’d lenses when these lenses do not transfer the information about aperture to the camera body?
A: Simple actually, the Nikon FA 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 aperture already set, therefore there is no need for the body to know the aperture.
Q: Is the Nikon FA the perfect Nikon manual focus camera?
A: Maybe so! The Nikon FA has all the features one could ever want in a manual focus camera.
Q: Will the Nikon FA use the newer EDIF and AF lenses?
A: Yes the Nikon FA can! But only to the capabilities of the camera itself. (No AF) It can not, however, use the newest G series lenses.
Q: Will the Nikon FA use flashes that are not TTL or not fully TTL with the Nikon FA?
A: Yes, for example, the SB-17 is TTL designed only for the F3, but on the Nikon FA the flash works fine without TTL. It will, however, operate the viewfinder’s flash ready light. Personally I use an SB-16 as my Nikon FA flash.
Q: Is the Nikon FA a good camera for a beginner?
A: Yes if you can justify the price. The Nikon FA is a fairly expensive body between $100 and $350 depending on the condition and where you get it. While in my opinion the cost is justified you may be just as happy with the Nikon FG which is a much cheaper body. See the Nikon FG FAQ for more information. The Nikon FA is also fairly heavy for a camera of its time so is not as popular as the EM and FG for street photographers.
Q: Is the Nikon FA a good camera for a professional or serious amateur?
A: Yes. The Nikon FA is the professional’s manual focus dream! Unless you need a 250 exposure back or some other such nonsense this camera is everything a professional or serious amateur would ever want. It wraps all those features up in a nice metal body that is solid as a rock and provides all the accessories you might want. What about the Nikon FA reliability? I think it is excellent considering all the bells and whistles it has. Not as reliable as an FM which basically has nothing in it to fail, but still very reliable. Personally I prefer the Nikon FA to more professionally aimed cameras such as the Nikon F3p.
Q: Does the Nikon FA come in black or just chrome?
A: The Nikon FA comes in both!
Q: Does the lack of a mirror lock-up button detract from the Nikon FA?
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.
Q: Can I change focusing screens in the Nikon FA viewfinder?
A: Yes! There are several focusing screens available for the Nikon FA.
Here is a copy of the Nikon FA Manual.
I hope you enjoyed my Nikon FA FAQ!
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