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I recently bought a used Nikon FA, and while it works fine without film, it seems to suffer from a shutter "lag" when shooting with film loaded. After pressing the shutter release button, it hangs for a second or two before it fires.

What's going on when this happens? Is this a feature or is my camera broken?

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Assuming you're not talking about the normal exposure interval delay in closing the shutter after opening it, you should never experience any noticable delay in opening the shutter after pressing the shutter button unless:

  • Your batteries are low.
  • The self timer is slightly engaged.
  • There is an electrical fault in the metering system.

The batteries should last 1-3 years for a pair, but I've seen odd behaviour like this with my FA when batteries are very low, so check that first, then play with the self timer.

Now, a few points on FA shutter release behaviour:

  • When in M or A exposure modes, the camera uses a mechanical shutter retard mechanism. This requires an additional 1-2mm of movement on the shutter release button before it releases the shutter. This is normal and doesn't delay the shutter release as such; it just feels and sounds slightly different.
  • When in P or S exposure mode, the FA uses an electronic shutter retard mechanism, which is slightly quieter than the mechanical one and the shutter button requires less pressure to release the shutter.

I hope this helps, as the FA is a terrific camera and excels at low light auto exposures.

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    Interesting. Does the same delay happen in P and S modes with the AMP meter engaged? What about with the center-weighted meter engaged? Also as @John Cavan rightly pointed out above, the FA has an Off The Film (OTF) reflected light sensor, and behaviour may well differ with/without film loaded. Either way, this delay is very odd and should not be happening. The exact circumstances in which it occurs will likely pinpoint the problem, but it most certainly is electrical in nature. – HamishKL Jan 24 '16 at 23:13
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    Ok, try this: Cock the self-timer fully, then trigger the shutter. When the self timer finishes it's travel, is there a further delay of 2-3 seconds before the shutter actually fires? If so, then this might rule out the self timer as being involved. The fact that there is no delay when the shutter is set to M250, but there is a delay with all other modes and shutter speeds(?) suggests this is an electrical fault in the meter, as Bulb and M250 are the only settings where the meter is not engaged. – HamishKL Jan 24 '16 at 23:17
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    OK, that's not normal. There should be no perceivable delay between releasing the shutter and hearing the self timer kick in. With the self timer cocked, you should also immediately hear a click when you press the shutter button. This is the mirror popping up, but this is where your camera is not working properly. Here's the confusing part; even though the shutter retard mechanism is mechanical in M and A modes, the shutter release is electronic and this is where your problem lies. What I can't yet figure out is why there is a delay instead of just intermittently not working. – HamishKL Jan 26 '16 at 5:01
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    One other important thing to check is to look at the LCD display in the viewfinder when the meter is off (asleep), then lightly press the shutter button in anything except M250 or Bulb mode. You should immediately see something appear on the LCD panel as the meter wakes up. Only press the shutter button once, then wait and see what happens. If there is a delay here then try to figure out if the delay is consistent or random. If nothing happens press the button lightly again then wait some more. If this is just a dirty electrical contact on the shutter release then that's easyish to fix. – HamishKL Jan 26 '16 at 5:14
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    No problem, but I must caution you about removing the camera's top plate. The FA is a minefield of electrical wires (not circuit boards - this is a cybernetic camera after all) and delicate cable pulleys that transfer setting from the dials to the various mechanisms. Even just getting at the shutter button is tricky. Good luck and take care. – HamishKL Jan 26 '16 at 18:10
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The Nikon FA manual is interesting reading... On Page 39 there is a description of the exposure metering system that I think explains the delay you're encountering. Basically, when using one of the automatic modes, the metering system reads the exposure data and compares that to the patterns (about 30,000) stored in memory in order to determine the correct exposure settings when the shutter is released. This can take a bit of time to actually do and then adjust the aperture or shutter speed accordingly.

When you have no film loaded the camera likely detects this and doesn't meter, so no lag.

  • Thank you! Wow. I actually read that, but it didn't make sense to me that this should be slow in use. – tiasg Jan 24 '16 at 17:10
  • Do you know if there is any way to override this feature and just go with the set exposure? – tiasg Jan 24 '16 at 17:16
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    @tiasg - You could shoot fully manual. I'm not especially familiar with that camera, I shot Pentax in my film days, but when shooting manual there should be no need for the camera to make changes to the exposure settings and so it should be faster. I did look around a bit further online and it does seem to be a known behavior of the FA. – John Cavan Jan 24 '16 at 17:19
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    Thank you. Even M mode behaves like this, but the "M 250" mode with a set 1/250 shutter speed do not, so I guess I might be limited to the M 250 if I don't want the shutter lag. – tiasg Jan 24 '16 at 17:28

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