Repairing & Shooting a Nikon EM & 50mm f/1.8 – By Jordi Fradera

Once again my friend Enrique has lent me a camera whose previous job was to serve as a decorative object and collect dust. When I saw the Nikon EM the first thing I did was check that it worked, without batteries it would shoot in B, M90 (1/90 sec,) and Auto (1/1000 sec), I immediately decided that I could make an article with it, so I took home. It was like new with no scratches or wear.

When looking for information on the internet I was discouraged because there are many articles about it and even two in 35mmc although with different objectives. Suddenly my interest grew when I saw that the lens had oil on the diaphragm blades and they were stuck in the closed position. Fantastic, I had found my goal. I got down to work.

Disassembling the lens and cleaning the diaphragm was not difficult. I was quite quickly successful.

It was time to buy the batteries and a roll of Kodak 200 from my supplier Foto Joma (Barcelona). Now all the elements in my possession I got ready to start the tests, but…

The photometer needle almost always stuck in the upper position and did not measure the exposure in AUTO. Again, fantastic – another project! Searching the internet I discovered that the EM did not measure until it reached frame 1, but the one I had in my hands did not do it from 1 either. A new search suggested that the contacts under the shutter button, mode selector or counter frames might be dirty or rusty and I so decided to proceed to disassemble the top cover of the camera.

An article told me how to do it and I quickly disassembled the rewind part. The shutter button side looked more complicated and it was. I knew I had to turn the washer around the trigger clockwise to disassemble but it was impossible to unscrew it. After causing small scratches in the piece, I put, in moderation, sewing machine oil and – protecting the rest of the camera – I heated the area with a hair dryer. I was still unable to unscrew the washer. Discouraged, I put everything back together.

I didn’t completely give up though. I kept tinkering with the camera until, miraculously, the error became rare. If the meter got stuck I could fix it with some gentle percussive maintenance. From that moment on, I was happy to shoot it! I loaded the film in the camera and went out to take pictures with.

I gave the film development to Foto Joma and in 6 hours I had the results via Wetransfer. I liked it and it disappointed me at the same time. Some photos were out of focus (where was the AF?), others came with stripes of light that entered through the back of the Nikon and one with the image double exposed, which I assume was a film transport failure. The good ones came out well though.

I will show you several photos, all of them slightly edited to improve their appearance or cropped to eliminate the veiled part and two of them stitched to obtain a panoramic view.

Residence for the elderly at 30m. from my house.
My big Quixote and my little Quixote.
Old Hospital de Sant Pau (Barcelona)
Aerial of the Olympic Ring, 1992 Games.
Bell on the Olympic Ring. Montjüic mountain.
Fountain in the Montjüic Olympic Ring – with a bit of ghosting.
Montjüic Stadium, site of the 1992 Olympic Games – Panorama with two vertical photos stitched with Image Composite Editor.
Olympic ring, Korean salute (detail) commemorating the 1992 Games .

I have had fun shooting this camera and making this article – which is the important thing. The Nikon EM reminded me of the Pentax ME that I used for 15 years (more than 3500 photos) in all kinds of conditions, but if I compare them I would say that the Pentax ME is more robust and reliable.

My Pentax ME did not stop working due to failure. I disassembled it to clean the viewfinder screen and I broke the electronic circuit and it was finished, RIP.

I hope you liked the article, thank you for reading it.

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14 thoughts on “Repairing & Shooting a Nikon EM & 50mm f/1.8 – By Jordi Fradera”

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, if you have EM and it works, you will see that it is very effective. I know that its weak point is the photometer because I have seen some other with the same problem. You have already read “my solution”.

  1. Laughed at “gentle percussive maintenance”! That describes my primary repair skill.

    I’d be interested in an article showing your repair workstation, essential tools, and best practices.

    1. Thank you for your comments.
      OK, as in snooker a soft hit fixes the play.
      I don’t have a workstation or specialized tools, I just use small DIY tools and I like to get into trouble the more complicated it is, the more fun I have.
      Me: In photography: 100% amateur and 0% professional but 100% curious. And I translate into English with Google.

  2. Castelli Daniel

    I enjoyed your posting. Isn’t it a nice feeling resurrecting a non functioning piece of equipment? Not long ago, I got my old analog Luna-Pro functioning again. I just thought, “what the heck, it’s not working” and so, how much worse could it be?

    1. Thanks, time does not forgive when a camera rests too long, sometimes it ends up working and other times it does not, but trying is exciting. I don’t know what the LUNA-PRO is and I’m going to browse Google.

  3. Castelli Daniel

    The Luna-Pro is an analog light meter. I’m ‘old school’ and rely on manual light meter readings. I have a Leitz-Minolta CL with a working meter, but it reads a tiny portion of the scene (almost like a spot meter) and I’ m not a fan of narrow view light meters.

    1. Thanks for the information, I had understood that it was an analog camera, English is not my language and I translate with Google.

  4. Great example of what simple machinery and human willpower can do! A Nikon EM just arrived on my doorstep with 28mm, 50mm and 100mm lenses. The camera appears to be metering properly, but the meter test light appears to be out. We’ll see what happens with that film!

    1. I hope you’re lucky and it works fine, I don’t have MS anymore and can’t remember the meter battery test button.

  5. Castelli Daniel

    Please don’t apologize: I too speak ‘google!’
    We share the universal language of photography. Continued good health and good photography!

  6. The EM is a great little camera. I’m glad you were able to fix it up and enjoy it!

    I have a Nikon EM I found with a broken 50mm lens at a thrift store for $5. Sadly the lens was unfixable (the plastic helicoid was b
    cracked and jammed) but the camera worked great. I found another 50/1.8 and it became my “glovebox camera”. Rugged, small, and if the battery dies it still works in M90!

    1. I’m glad for your success with the Nikon EM, you have to fight to get what you want. I have already returned the camera to its owner, I have several outstanding items with cameras loaned by friends and I appreciate their generosity.

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