When looking for a replacement SLR (after the death of my Yashica) I was hesitant to choose an aperture priority camera as I thought it might limit me slightly. However, it was affordable and obviously made by a hugely reliable brand, so I went for it.
The EM is a solid little unit. I mean, it’s been well used, it’s almost twice my age and is still works like new. There’s nothing that seems to be even remotely worn out on this body, which is a true testament to Nikon’s design.
How it Shoots
One thing that aperture priority cameras really rely on is their in built light sensor. And as this was one of the first Nikons to feature an automatic aperture priority, I was a little dubious to use it. The thought of capturing that perfect shot, only to have it blown out by a dodgy old sensor was a risk I would have to take. Thankfully the meter works great and I was not left frustrated.
As far as design goes, a feature that I particularly liked on the EM was the articulated film advance lever. It flicks outwards on a little elbow so you can advance the film, then it snaps back out of the way. It might only be a small addition but it really makes the difference in how you use this camera.
I think the most notable thing about the EM is it’s size. It is very small for an old SLR. When it was first created it was billed, in a weirdly sexist manner, as ‘the women’s Nikon’. Nikon’s all-men 1960s marketing department obiously thought this was a good idea, but regardless of their blunders (and blunder they did, the EM was a bit of a flop) I really love the EMs size and simplicity. It puts you in control of your pictures’ outcome without over-complicating the process and is hugely refreshing to shoot after using a fully manual camera for so long.
Buying a Nikon EM
A nice, good condition EM might set you back around £40-£50. There’s quite a few knocking about thanks to their sturdy build quality, so have a look on eBay and the like. I prefer finding my film cameras in physical shops (if there’s any near you) because you can really assess their condition before you commit to buying.
Nikon’s picture quality standards are upheld by the EM. Despite it being a cheaper model than the likes of the F models, there’s no loss of quality when it comes to the actual images it produces.
I’ve only used it with colour film so far, but next week I’ll be getting the B+W negatives and prints back from the lab so we’ll see how it performs on monochrome.
For anyone trying to get into film photography who feels a little put off or intimidated by going full manual straight away, this is a godsend. Whilst it may be slightly limiting to a photographer who wants to harness shutter speeds and aperture together, for those who want to really get the hang of setting apertures and framing shots without anything else getting in the way, the EM is perfect.
It’s a reliable, straight-talking introduction into the world of SLRs, a trusted companion to any film beginner out there.