It’s like the deodorant Secret: “Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.”…
The Nikon EM is perfect! I love it. There’s nothing it can’t do. Well… that’s an exaggeration. There’s nothing I can’t make it do that it shouldn’t be able to do. There’s plenty of “features” missing; I simply use my vast and overpowering will to crush those obstacles. I’m the boss, not the machine. I say what goes, and for the 5 bucks I paid for this camera I’m willing to boss it around a ton.
For example, when I needed a particular shutter speed the camera said, “No, sorry, I’m just aperture priority I can’t do that.” I said, “You shut your hole EM and do what you’re told.” I changed the aperture and got the shutter speed I required.
When I desired the shutter at 1/1000, I barked, “Nikon EM, get your ass to 1/1000 at whatever aperture I please.”
Nippon Kogaku said, “Who’s asking?”
I told him, “The U.S. of A. mother fucker!”
I’m very persuasive, I removed the batteries and in A mode the Nikon EM fired at 1/1000. There are other examples. Those are my favorites!
Now Wikipedia, Camerapedia, and every other review site has specs on the Nikon EM. I don’t care about those. This isn’t a serious review. If my man Hamish wanted a technical and concise review he wouldn’t have asked me. He knows what he’s getting. Also, I don’t want to copy and paste specifications here and try to rewrite them into my narrative; all I care about is how light and fun the Nikon EM is, and how the photos look.
So, how do they look? Obviously not a bit different from my Nikon F3 since I use the same AI lenses. Glorious I tell you!
The Nikon EM seems like a featherweight chump but shoots like a heavyweight champ. It can’t weight more than a pound. It feels like I’m carrying a little point-n-shoot with my favorite Nikkor glass. How cool is that! It might just be my new favorite 35mm camera (It’s not, although I do like it a bunch.) My F3 is a beautiful machine but lately I reach for the Nikon EM knowing what a breeze it is to carry. Don’t get me wrong, the F3 is much nicer to shoot; but it’s heavy, it’s expensive, and you have to look after it with care. Not so with the Nikon EM. The EM feels like a cheap plastic piece of junk…because it is; and yet, it’s deceivingly tough. I dropped mine a few times already. No problem! It can take a punch.
However, even with all that good, a couple cons stick out: The Nikon EM film advance lever is horrible. It advances as smooth as an old lady with a walker doing the Macarena. The camera has an annoying “beep” if it thinks you are over or under exposing the shot. It’s not annoying to me but it could be if you have tinnitus. I don’t have tinnitus.
Now here is a pro: It’s an excellent companion to the Speed Graphic; fits in the bag and I hardly notice the added weight. They go out together.
This is what I know from using the Nikon EM. It has an Aperture Priority setting, M90 setting (mechanical), and mechanical Bulb setting; if you take the battery out the shutter fires at 1/1000 in A mode. So even with no battery the camera works in M90, Bulb, and 1/1000 in A. What can’t you shoot with all those options? Nothin’ that’s what. Give me a scenario on how this camera won’t work for your style of shooting and I’ll give you a workaround in two seconds (or I’ll make up some nonsense that sounds legit.)
I really do enjoy the Nikon EM and find it amusing that it was designed and marketed as “cute” for women and entry level photographers. That’s according to Nikon’s website and the internet. I don’t think it went over well back then and nowadays they’d probably be boycotted.
A friend gave me some good natured grief when he saw I was shooting one, “Got a matching purse for your girl camera!” That had me laughing, and puzzled. I didn’t know what he was talking about until he told me the history. I looked it up, then had a real laugh. I think my lady-camera is super! Don’t assume my camera’s gender, bro.
The Nikon EM is a great camera, for me. Not for everyone I’m sure. There might be a few who snark at it, my writing, or perhaps the photos…whatever. I did get some flack for comparing a $400 Yashica T4 to the $4 Canon Sure Shot Max – I imagine it was somebody who paid the $400 for a T4 and got mad at me. They said I had no idea what I was talking about and then threw odd and even numbers and scanning procedures at me. I answered with an emoji laughing face and moved on. I don’t have time for that silliness. The overwhelming response was positive. That’s what it’s all about. Enjoying photography and having a great time sharing and spreading the passion.
Anyway, if you like to travel light or only have a small saddlebag (or purse) and still want to use fantastic Nikkor lenses, this camera might be for you. Especially if you don’t feel like dropping hundreds of dollars for the exact same image you’d get with a Nikon F, F2, F3, F4, F5, and F6. How effin’ sweet is that!
The photos so far were shot with the Nikon EM, Kodak film, and printed on Ilford RC pearl paper in Ye Olde Darktoilet. I scanned them in color because I selenium toned the prints in a 1:3 dilution. It’s nice to see the tones. They are almost accurate representations of the prints. The paper looks whiter in hand compared to the website background.
I usually like to print on Ilford Art 300 fiber, my favorite paper. The texture is so hearty that it doesn’t scan very well. I always start off printing on 8×10 RC paper to get a taste of what the 11×14 fiber print might look like, and that means I wind up having RC prints of everything I do in the darkroom. Those are nice for scanning.
The following are film scans of Kodak Tri-X 400 and Kodak Tmax P3200 developed in Kodak D76 stock solution. My scanner is an epson V600 and my scanning and Lightroom skills are limited. I’m more of a darkroom kinda fella, and still learning there too. To this day I always manage to get burn marks on 135 film. It’s those metal reels I use; I’m too damn stubborn to upgrade or get plastic. I enjoy the solidness of the steel tank and reels. It’s all about the feels, yo!
Surfettes in the photos:
The Nikon EM goes from $5 to $50 on eBay and there’s no way my praise here changes that. By the way, I don’t give a damn if it was made for broads, I think it’s cute too.
K Luv U,
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