Modern Classic SLRs Series :
MD15 Motor Drive for the Nikon FA


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A motor drive can help you be more responsive to action or happenings around you. There are more reasons for an FA to have a motor drive attached to its body other than just for the exciting world of motor-drive photography. With the shutter always ready for the next shot, you'll have every chance to pin down un-repeatable moments of truth as they arise.

MD15.jpg (11k)
You can also try motor-driven multiple exposures for really special effects or take sequential shots of a action game. And since the FA's has a shutter priority AE along with few other automatic exposure control, with the matrix metering or the center weighted metering to handle the accuracy in different lighting imaginable, shooting with the MD15 can be a very enjoyable experience as you don't have to worry too much about exposure calculation.

* Alternate 3rd party products: Soligor Power Winder | Y.I.C Power Winder
Motor Drive MD-15 The FA is an electronic camera. It needs battery to power most of its function - except the M250 and B setting, which operates mechancally even without a batter installed in your FA. The camera's power efficiency is commendable, Battery consumption: Metering: Approx. 9.4mA; Shutter releasing: Approx. 17mA;
Exposure compensation LED lighting: Approx. 2mA. and making the FA one of above average fully electronic Nikon bodies. The MD-15 was introduced in 1983/4 and was discontinued around the same time. The FA was discontinued in 1989. The MD-15 served a dual functions when used in combination with the FA. This motor drive was produced exclusively for the Nikon FA - it is a dedicated unit and it cannot be shared with other Nikon body as with the MD11/12. Firstly, it is an automatic film advance device. Next, this is the second and last detachable motor drive designed by Nikon that can power the camera operations -
even without battery(ies) inside your camera body (the MD-4 for the F3 is the first). When you attached the MD15 onto the FA, the camera body's batteries are automatically turned off and MD-15's will take over the power supply for the camera. The shutter release button on the motor drive acts and behaves the same way as the camera's, slightly depress will automatically activates the meter and off after 16 seconds when in a state of inactivity.

How to check battery condition in the FA ?

By confirming if power switch is on by depressing shutter release button halfway.

Battery voltage Power switch
2.5V or more Remains on for approx 16 sec
2.5V - 2.3V Remains on momentary
2.3V or less Fails to turn LCD readout on Prohibits shutter release

Note: Power source for camera body: Two 1.55V silver-oxide batteries, one 3V lithium battery or two alkalinc-manganese batteries. Battery power is supplied by the MD-15's power source automatically when attaching the motor drive to the FA.

It provides single frame or continuous drive mode. Its top drive rate is 3.2 fps - slightly fall short of FE/FM/FM2(n)/FE2 + MD12 combination of 3.5 fps (Some manual says 3.2 fps to 3.5 - varies among combinations) and it is powered by eight AA batteries and generate a very good power effiency. Alkaline batteries will expose up to 70 rolls of film. Carbon-type and NiCd batteries will drive lesser rolls. and it takes Lithium batteries as well.

MD15 Left View.jpg MD15 right View.jpg

This MD-15 is fitted with the shutter release MR-3 accessory for vertical shooting.

It has a very attractive outlook and contour with the Nikon FA body - the base was designed like the F3/MD-4 combination, it will still solidly on its base even when a 80mm lens was mounted. However, to mount the drive, you have to detach the handgrip on the camera body first. Vertical fireing is also possible with an attachment of an accessory like MR3 at the remote connector. Just like the MD-4, after you open the camera's battery chamber lid, the battery compartment's cover can be stored on a special place on top of the motor drive to avoid misplace of the cover - how nice...

The only thing you can picked on the MD15 is the compatibility issue with other Nikon bodies such as FM, FM2, FE or the FE2. But since the configuration and earlier design concept differs, and it may need camera like FM2 or FE2 to modify the camera (The base connector for the FA is different, referred to the illustration below to see their respective function) which Nikon is quite reluctant to do so, so you have to live with it.

Beside this, well... as with MD-11/MD-12, there is no auto rewind feature. But the MD-15 does opened up a lot of potential in remote or unmanned photography with many other two/three pins connectors remote accessories in the Nikon system.

MD Connector (Bottom part of the camera body). Remove the cover for the electrical contact and you will find these connectors which will couple with the pins on the motor drive. Note: The MD-12 has only four electrical connector on the drive, the FA's camera body - as illustrated here, has 7 connecting points. The MD-15 utilizes all, including powering the camera from the MD-15's power source.

Base Connector.jpg

Connector Illus.jpg (13k)
a: Power on sig
b: Release sig,
c: GND
d: MD power supply
e: 16 sec hold sig
g: Film-advance sig

Both Motor drives MD-15 and MD-12 are usable with the FA. MD power switch and MD film-advance switch are used by both the MD-15 and the MD-12. Battery power is supplied from the MD-15 and power hold of the MD-15 is controlled by the FA. The camera's release switch is electrically connected to the MD-15. The second release switch for the MD-12 is turned on by the stroke of MD-12's shutter release pin.

Motor Drive MD-15 Specitications

Shooting speed:
Up to approx. 3.2 fps at 1/125 sec. shutter speed or faster
Shooting modes:
Single-frame (S) Continuous (C)
Usable shutter Speeds:
Any speed from 1/4000 speeds: to 1 sec.
Meter switch:
Trigger button acts as meter "on" switch and automatically goes "off' approx. 60 sec. later
Remote control: Possible; uses standard Nikon 3-pin connector
Power source:
Eight 1.5V penlight batteries (AA size, in integral battery holder)
Approx. 1475mm(W) x 99mm(H) x 73mm(D)(including grip)
Approx. 390g (excluding batteries)

Other Views:

Top View with Nikon FA | Motor Drive Top View | Back View
Credit: Special thanks to Mr Terence Tan for these images on the Nikon FA/MD-15;

Update: If you are strapped with budget to spare for an auomatic film advance device, and yet still can live with a slower speed 2 fps Power Winder, here is a 3rd party Power Winder from Soligor for you to consider.

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The AI-S Nikkors (related info | TTL OTF Flash Metering | Interchangeable Focusing Screens. The MD-15/MD12/MD11 Motor Drives | 3rd party Power Winder (new) | Flash Units -SB-16 | SB-15 | SB-10 | SB-16B | Databacks | Titanium Shutter | Variation : Mr Y K Wong from Singapore contributing 11 images of his Nikon FA GOLD

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Credit: Chuck Hester for some of his beautiful images used in this site; Ted Wengelaar®, Holland for his continuous flow of input; Lars Holst Hansen, Danish 'Hawkeye' who shares the same passion; Mr Poon from Poon photo for their input; Ms Miss Rissa (Sales Manager) & members of the Technical Service dept. of Shriro Malaysia, local distributor of Nikon cameras in Malaysia & Singapore, in providing so many useful input to make this site possible. Special thanks to Mr MC Lau, who has helped with his images of the MF-12 databack. Michael Tan, Pertama Photo (603-2926505) for lending his original Titanium Shutter Display Unit. Dave Hoyt who has prepared the introductory page and offer some images of his FE2 in this site.. Hiura Shinsaku, Nikomat ML, Japan for his contribution on all the various images; A contributing site to a long lost friend on the Net. Note: Certain content and images appeared in this site were either scanned from official marketing leaflets, brochures published by Nikon and/or contribution from surfers who claimed originality of their own work to publish in this site based on educational merits. The creator of this site will not be responsible for any discrepancies that may arise from such possible dispute except rectifying them after verification."Nikon", "Nikkormat", "Nippon Kokagu KK" & "Nikkor" are registered tradename of Nikon Corporation Inc., Japan. Made witha PowerMac.