Repair: Nikon FG

Hello, everybody! With the coronavirus lockdown being loosely enforced, I cannot go out from my house to enjoy my usual weekend routines. Staying home gives me chance to enjoy some simple things that I took for granted. Things like eating a simple meal and enjoying a smoke afterwards or taking a nice, long siesta surely feels refreshing. It’s sometimes nice to get out from our usual routine and enjoy the simpler luxuries of living. It’s like riding an old car around town in a lazy weekend. Speaking about simple things, we’re going to talk about a simple Nikon that touches on the basics. It’s something so simple that it takes us back to the roots of photography, all that without having to spend a lot of money. It’s cheap yet it’s feature-packed, something that will benefit students and the casual photographers alike.

Introduction:

The Nikon FG is an advanced version of the Nikon EM, it debuted in 1982. It was only made for 4 years and was replaced with the Nikon FG-20, a cheap, dumbed-down version of this capable camera. This camera is an improved Nikon EM with manual shutter speeds, programmed (P) mode and the usual aperture priority (A) mode amongst other things. Despite being a cheap and somewhat flimsy Nikon it has everything an advanced photographer needs. It can even mount to the Nikon MD-14, a more advanced motor-drive that’s also compatible with the Nikon FG’s siblings. It’s able to use the Nikon MF-15 data-back which makes it even more useful for documenting.

Despite all the advanced features the Nikon FG is still an amateur camera, it is most-apparent in its build quality where you get a sense of flimsiness and it doesn’t have the reliability of its more expensive cousins like the Nikon FE and specially the flagship models. The shutter mechanism for example isn’t as tough as the ones found on the more expensive models but it’s not so bad either and it will last you hundreds of rolls before it taps-out. A nice touch is the little screw-on hand grip, it makes the camera easier to hold but I find it annoying as it gets in-the-way, you’ll have to remove it in order to mount its motor-drive. Needless to say, these are easily-lost.

I personally enjoy shooting with this camera a lot. It did felt cheap but that’s not a reason from preventing this little camera from taking great pictures. It is definitely a capable machine in its own right. The biggest thing that you’ll appreciate if you were coming from a Nikon EM is the ability to use manual speeds. Many people won’t appreciate this until they tried to shoot with it in lowlight wherein manually-metering your shot is the best way to get a right exposure reading.

The Nikon MD-14 is better-built than the Nikon FG itself which is a joke. The chassis is made from alloy and it has a respectable heft to it. This enables it to shoot at around 3.2fps which isn’t bad at all for a cheap, amateur camera. Smaller lenses such as this New-Nikkor 50mm f/2 will feel balanced and you won’t feel that the handling is off but it’s a different story for larger lenses.

Heavier lenses such as the Nikkor 135mm f/3.5 Ai will make your setup a bit front-heavy as the camera itself is feather-weight. The good thing is it’s nice as a backup camera for traveling so long as you’re careful with it.

I can highly recommend this little camera to everyone. If you’re looking for a Nikon EM, consider this one instead. It costs just a bit more but you’ll find one occasionally that costs less. Its high price-performance ratio is its best trait so students and the budget-conscious market will appreciate this. You will have to check everything carefully when purchasing one, check if the fastest speed works without capping, see if all speeds work accurately and check if the meter works flawlessly, its needle shouldn’t be jumpy at all. Its advance mechanism can be flimsy so test that as well and make sure that it will charge the mirror properly. If the camera exterior is just dirty then it’s just a simple problem, if the viewfinder is dirty then that’s a different story and you’ll have to partially-open the camera just to clean it properly. That’s the focus of our repair article for today and you’ll soon see what I mean.

Before We Begin:

If this is your first attempt at repairing a lens then I suggest that you check my previous posts regarding screws & driversgrease and other things. Also read what I wrote about the tools that you’ll need to fix your Nikkors.

I suggest that you read these primers before you begin (for beginners):

Reading these primers should lessen the chance of ruining your lens if you are a novice. Before opening up any lens, always look for other people who have done so in Youtube or the internet. Information is scarce, vague and scattered (that is why I started this) but you can still find some information if you search carefully.

I highly recommend that you read my working with helicoids post because this is very important and getting it wrong can ruin your day. If I can force you to read this, I would. It is that important!

For more advanced topics, you can read my fungus removal post as a start. This post has a lot of useful information and it will be beneficial for you to read this.

Disassembly:

We won’t go-in too-deep in the disassembly because this camera is working. I will only show you how to clean and troubleshoot some minor problems. I don’t think it’s worth buying a broken Nikon FG at all or any of its siblings, it is a waste of time trying to repair it yourself and sending one out for repairs will cost you more than the camera itself. This is only for your education so don’t treat this as a repair manual of some sort.

Before you begin working on anything, remove the back cover, use a piece of cardboard to cover the shutter so you won’t accidentally damage it. This is an important SOP that you should do with any camera repair.

The collar of the advance-lever can be unscrewed. Simply use a rubber cup to unscrew it, you won’t need a lot of effort to remove this. I am not sure if this is a right-handed thread so try both directions to see which one works.

The advance-lever is secured by this grub screw.

Loosening the grub screw will enable you to free it.

There is a collar that secures the speed-selector dial and the right-hand part of the top panel. Carefully remove it with a lens spanner.

The speed-selector dial can now be easily removed.

This is how things should look like at this point. It is dirty so clean this later after the top panel is gone.

The rewind-crank can be easily-removed by unscrewing it. It’s conventional so all you need is to jam the fork and turn it until it’s off. I am not sure it it’s secured by a screw so if you find something simple loosen it first before you unscrew the crank.

This shaft lock/releases the back cover, you can easily remove it by pushing it until it drops.

The film-speed dial is secured by this plate. It’s easily damaged or scratched, it’s best to use a rubber tool first and see if you can remove it safely. Resort to plastic or metal tools if the rubber option won’t work.

This part is usually sealed as you can see in the picture.

Carefully remove this plate.

The ISO-selector dial should come-off easily. Be careful when handling this, the metal part is simply pressed into the dial and you don’t want to damage it in the process.

The brush of the ISO-selector is very delicate, if you damaged it you will get erratic readings or cause a short which will make the camera unresponsive. Clean the brush carefully with Q-tips soaked in alcohol to remove dirt. This is easily-soiled and a lot of meter-related problems can be traced back to it.

The contacts for the ISO-selector should also be cleaned carefully like what you just did with its brush. Fungus, dirt and oil can cause it to be faulty and only wiping it clean will solve it. If it’s dirty it can cause a faulty connection which results in erratic or faulty readings.

Remove the name-plate by extracting these.

The name-plate protects these potentiometers. Adjusting these will alter the camera’s meter or the battery-check reading. It’s best to leave these alone if your camera is working properly. I would cover these with a strip of tape or cardboard just so that nothing can be accidentally turned.

The focusing screen can be removed after you get rid of the frame. It’s being secured by a single screw at its front. Store the focusing screen so you won’t scratch it, it’s made from acrylic and it’s easily-scratched.

(Click to enlarge)

Extract these screws to remove the top panel. Be careful when you do this, I think some of them have plastic threads so it’s easy to cross-thread these.

The top panel can be removed just like this. Carefully pull it up until it gives, never use force or you’ll end-up damaging something. There are electronics connected to it which you can remove if you want to but I left them alone, it can be dangerous removing these as some of them were glued to the panel.

The eyepiece/viewfinder assembly can be removed after you extract these.

You can’t totally remove it since there are flexible printed circuitry glued to it so you’ll have to carefully pry it off from the chassis. This will allow you to clean the sticky, deteriorated foam underneath it. You can replace them for your peace-of-mind.

Clean the deteriorated foam carefully and clean the prism and condenser. It can be difficult to reach these but a Q-tip will help you get the job done. You can replace the foam once everything is clean. I used a strip of felt so it will not rot.

The bottom cover can be easily removed once its screws are gone. Clean the moving parts here and oil the pivots, the levers and gears should be greased lightly to help things glide smoothly. Troubles with the mirror-box, advance mechanism and charging can sometimes be fixed from here depending on its severity or location. Some levers or pins may be bent or some things may be stuck due to dry grease. The brush over to the right side is used to help it communicate with the motor-drive if a cycle ended. Clean it with Q-tips and be careful not to damage the brush.

Clean everything really well. Blow some air into the open camera and let it dislodge any dirt, the debris should fall out from the open bottom. Check if the meter works correctly with the top panel installed to make sure that no stray-lights will affect its accuracy. Check the shutter and look for problems while the bottom cover is off. Be careful when you put things back, if any of the electronics gets a short the camera will become unresponsive. This is an easy task to solve with a multi-tester.

Conclusion:

It took me under an hour to clean this camera. Lubricating the mechanisms at the bottom of the camera helped make the operation smooth. It operates so smooth now that I don’t feel any irregularities when I cock the shutter. It is important to clean the prism, too. You should be careful with cleaning the prism so you won’t damage the display, it’s simply printed-on. Crumpling it will make it look ugly, something that will haunt you each time you use the camera. This is not something for an amateur to work on, it’s best to send it to a real repairman. Again, it’s unwise to purchase a faulty low-end camera. It will cost you more to repair it. Even if you got it for cheap or free it’s not worthwhile repairing these unless you just want to fiddle-around and learn something.

Thank you for your continued support. It helps me maintain this site, your help is needed in offsetting the cost of hosting. I also use it to purchase and process film for our reviews. I intend to make this site the best and it’s only fit that we show pictures that were shot with film to make it complete. You can also share this with your friends at social media as the clicks and views also help me earn a few cents. Thank you very much and I hope that this is helpful. See you again in the next article, Ric.

Help Support this Blog:

Maintaining this blog requires money to operate. If you think that this site has helped you or you want to show your support by helping with the site’s upkeep, you can make a small donation to my paypal.com (richardHaw888@gmail.com). Money is not my prime motivation for this blog and I believe that I have enough to run this but you can help me make this site (and the companion facebook page) grow.

Buy me a roll of film or a burger?

Thank you very much for your continued support!

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Helping support this site will ensure that this will be kept going as long as I have the time and energy for this. I would appreciate it if you just leave out your name or details like your country’s name or other information so that the donations will totally be anonymous. This is a labor of love and I intend to keep it that way for as long as I can. Ric.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Repair: Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 Ai-S | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review
  2. Trackback: Repair: Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Series-E | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review

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