Cameras that Last AND Last AND Last... (35mm bayonette mount SLRs in particular)

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by contaxman, Jul 21, 2007.

  1. contaxman

    contaxman Guest

    On my window sill, as "decorations", like fallen soldiers, sit the
    conked out, worn out, shells of camera bodies from the late '70s
    through the late '90s. All met an untimely demise for different
    reasons. Some were "pre-owned" and others I bought new. Some died from
    a built-in fault(s) common that brand's model, and some simply wore
    out before their time. With the price of film cameras so extremely low
    these days, all are uneconomical to repair vs. buying a "new" used

    Nikon EM - Light streaking, and, if memory serves, unreliable/"jumpy
    needle syndrome" (probably due to some kind of resistor failure?

    2nd Nikon EM - Bought over eBay abd sent back because of same problem
    as above.

    Nikon FG - Ultra bright viewfinder with easy focusing but the lever/
    gears? are locked up (no its not a battery problem or a failed circuit
    board as is common for this model but the gears are literally
    mechanically locked up. Also bought over fleaBay (the lockup happened
    a few months after I bought it a couple of years ago so was/is not

    Canon 630 - I believe it was a faulty shutter stop so the shutter no
    longer opens? (its been a few years now).

    Maxxum 600si - Totally my fault. It was raining and I didn't protect
    it well enough. Rain + electronics = flashing "help" signal. :-( (and
    yes I did try removing/reinserting the battery after the camera dried
    off/I dried the camera off but with no real luck.*

    Contax 167MT - Not on the sill (but still in my camera bag). Same
    problem as above but happened in a swimming pool, LOL. Minor water,
    not really a full dunking, dried off the electronics came back to life
    fine but the shutter itself no longer opens/closes.*

    Nikon F3 - Also bought on fleaBay and sent back because it kept on
    winding and winding and winding during the exposure (and after it
    too?), there was no catch/lock to the shutter lever/wining mechanism,
    the exact oppositte problem of my locked up wind lever on my FG. Also
    sent back to original owner. It was beat to crappish and cost about
    $75-$80 and I'm not sure how long and by whom it was used and abused
    before me no how much film went through it, anyway, up till the point
    I bought it and tried it out I thought that Nikon F3s were nearly
    indestructible (I had two that I had bought new in previous decades,
    long since traded in on Leica gear/whatever), boy was I ever
    wrong... :-(

    My other 35mm SLRs (Pentax ZX-5n and MZ-S) are working fine except for
    a slight problem with banding (lighter and darker areas within the
    exposure due to shutter variance of speed during the exposure,
    probably) in the ZX-5n which has not yet resurfaced since I got a
    battery grip FG that runs off of AA batteries (maybe the shutter
    problem was a power problem?).

    Anyways, I've heard that there is a plastic part that really should be
    metal (cutting costs?) that also causes breakdown (the kind of
    breakdown I can't remember) in the ZX-5n models so it may be only a
    matter of time before my ZX-5n (also bought used on fleaBay) goes too.

    Don't care about digital.

    Don't care about screw mount cameras.

    Don't care about rangefinders or Twin Lens Reflexes.

    Just want to know others' experiences with which _35mm SLR bayonette
    mount _film_ _ cameras, from any era, that are still reliable after
    many years of use and/or abuse. Are there any? AND have you babied
    your equip, use it often or beat it to heck and expose more frames
    than a feature length motion picture through it?

    Yes, film cameras are cheap(ish) to replace, but with older cameras
    you never know what they've been though and whether you're going to
    get a lemon (something bad/"sucky") or lemonade (something good/fun to
    drink, though I prefer apple juice to lemonade ;-)), so if/when I get
    another Pentax, Contax, Nikon or whatever, _used_, I would want it to
    last a bit longer than just past opening the UPS box I got it in ;-).
    Cameras are like milk, but without the expiration date written on the
    top of the box so younever no what you're going to get... or for how
    long you're going to be able to use it/keep it.

    My window sill is pretty well filled up, don't want to add more
    "decorations" to the window (or the Christmas tree ;-)) so any
    suggestions would be appreciated. Cameras are for using/collecting
    light, not collecting star dust.

    *Yes, I've learned my lesson with water and will only drink it, bathe
    in it, or swim in it from now on, sans camera ;-)
    contaxman, Jul 21, 2007
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  2. contaxman

    Max Perl Guest

    Never had any problems with my Nikon F4 and I know many happy
    F5 users. F2 with the simple eye level prism could be a good choice.
    The F2's shutter seems to be quite reliable.

    I know some will say you should go for a Leica SL2 and some for a
    Canon F1, EOS1 and some for a Pentax K1000. Never tried these but have
    looked into a Leica SL2 viewfinder and it seems to turn green by age.

    Don't look into the Nikon EM, is plastic junk.....
    Max Perl, Jul 21, 2007
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  3. Well, I have two Ricoh XR-X´s from 1980´s that suffer from sticky
    mirror, I know I should have them serviced but I really have not
    bothered. An older (late 1970´s) Ricoh XR-2 works fine and has never
    given any trouble. I also have a Pentax MZ-5n that works fine. My oldest
    (1976) is a Pentax KX, fully mechanical camera that is built like tank
    and works fine. My flagship, so to say, is a Pentax PZ-1p (middle
    1990´s?) that also works fine.

    Väinö Louekari
    Väinö Louekari, Jul 21, 2007
  4. contaxman

    Mike M Guest

    Some camera experiences:

    My Minolta X-700 is still ticking and I go through about 25 rolls/year,
    but after a couple severe drops onto concrete, some of the LEDs in the
    viewfinder are no longer functioning. I just bought another one on
    Craigslist for $25 because it was too good of a deal to pass up. Good
    cameras, but I wouldn't consider them something that will last forever.

    I have a Minolta SRT-101 that is bulletproof. Handed down from my
    dad. Never failed since he bought it in 1969 (but CLRed once). However
    due to sentimental value, I'm no longer using it for everyday shooting.
    That said, over the years, I've picked up another SRT-101 and SRT-202 on
    FleaBay. One works perfectly after lightly lubricating one sticky
    mirror return gear...the other needs meter recalibration when I have time
    to tackle this project. As much as I love these bricks, the X-700 cameras
    are just lighter and easier to use. However I keep these around because I
    know that they will last forever whereas I expect my two X-700s to
    eventually fail in the electronics department.

    Before acquiring my first X-700, I bought a Minolta XD-5 on FleaBaby that
    failed after a couple months. Electronics shot. Not fixable. I won't go
    near the XD series due to widespread electronics failures of the hIC

    My mother's Canon Elan II flaked out after a couple years of light use.

    I think if you get a nice mechnical workhorse that isn't beat up, and get
    the thing serviced by a competent repair shop, I don't see why it wouldn't
    hold up to heavy use and last a long time. I think the big problem is
    that people knowledgeable about mechnanical cameras will eventually
    disappear. But thats why I acquired a couple SRT cameras to try and learn
    some of this myself. Cheap cameras with lots of online documentation on
    how to fix common problems.

    Of course my 35mm shooting really is dwindling...

    Mike M, Jul 21, 2007
  5. contaxman

    Ken Hart Guest


    My first camera, back when I was in high school (graduated in '74) was a
    Canon FX. I traded one of my father's rifles for it-- dad quit hunting years
    At a high school reunion a couple years ago, someone made the comment that I
    was always going around the school with "that damn camera". I pulled out
    that same "damn camera" and took his picture!

    I have since started collecting Canon FX cameras. I am amazed at how much
    better condition my old camera is in compared to some of the cameras I've
    purchased. Typical problems include film counter not working, mirror locks
    up at firing and doesn't return until film is wound, lenses not stopping
    down entirely or at all at firing, shutter speeds off particularly at very
    fast or very slow speeds.
    Ken Hart, Jul 21, 2007
  6. contaxman

    contaxman Guest

    Thanks ALL, for your comments so far, I really appreciate it. Keep 'em

    I went for the F3 because it was the lightest/smallest of the pro
    Nikon series and had aperture priority. The F4 is big beautiful (in a
    rugged sort of way) and quite heavy. I have used it and after awhile
    of portable shooting I need a third arm just to prop up one of my
    other arms ;-). The reason I went with the EM, FG and F3 were that
    they were smaller (relative to other Nikons) Nikon cameras that took
    my excelent Series E 50/1.8 (I know, its not multi-coated but
    _excellently_ sharp wide open and with pleasing complex bokeh (it
    tends to blur out backgrounds/background details with more"fuzziness"
    than other 50s of similar wide open aperture).

    By the way, I failed to mention that my first pre-owned Nikon EM's
    light streaking was due to shutter problems, _not_ from the camera

    I have held/most likely fired off Minolta SRTs and they are like large
    well built mechanical bricks but the only lenses I still have (or
    want) are left over AF lenses for the Maxxum series so, though I
    appreciate their ruggedness, the MD (or before) MF lenses are not on
    my used shopping list. Most likely I will shop around for used bodies
    of the lenses I already own/plant to use - Pentax, Contax (AE and MM)
    andNikon and possibly, if I ever get the urge again, Maxxum bodies.

    I am familiar with the Canon EF, not the FX. Was the FX Canon's manual
    exposure/mechanical camera that took breech mount lenses? Glad yours
    is still working for you :).

    Thanks again ALL and keep those comments and experiences coming :)*

    *It's Deja Vu all over again again.


    Lewis (and CSNY)
    contaxman, Jul 21, 2007
  7. contaxman

    AAvK Guest

    I used to shoot a canon F1n (later model starting in the 80's) and it is a seriously solid
    piece_a_nugget! Completely professional level of hardware. There only leedle discrep-
    ency... the F1n's shutter is rated at 100,000 shots compared to the Nikon F3's 150,000
    shots, and is made of titanium foil curtain of horizontal travel like the old cloth type. No
    mirror lock up because of a very high-end shock absorption system for the mirror...

    I shot hyper close macro of antique US stamps, 50 1.4 reversed onto a 80-200 two touch
    zoom, totaly sharp as my chisels, with which a doctor could operate. This camera takes
    a common silver 6 volt battery.

    And the old 70's SSC (Canon's own "super spectra coatings") breachlock lenses are the
    same quality, glass and sharpness equal to the best German, yet great color depth and
    perfect contrast.

    Owner's manual pdf:

    ....hope this helps and good luck in your hunt,
    AAvK, Jul 21, 2007
  8. contaxman

    AAvK Guest

    Breechlock and FD mounts are the same, they work differently on the lens.
    AAvK, Jul 21, 2007
  9. contaxman

    contaxman Guest

    Yes, I know. Also some people thought the breechlock mount lenses were
    more rugged/less likely to fal off than the latter FD mount. Though I
    did have a plastic piece of sh*t 35-70 FD from the '80s (on a T70)
    whose _front_ part of the lens fell off, not the back/mount.
    Fortunately I was able to snap/screw it back on again.

    Ok, I'll rephrase that...

    Was the FX Canon's manual exposure/mechanical camera _from the
    breechlock mount era_ that took breech mount lenses?
    contaxman, Jul 21, 2007

  10. My very first camera was a Minolta XG1. That camera was taken all
    over wherever I went. A small camera that was well built. It never
    failed me. I still have it, and it still works perfectly though I
    never use it. It's more of a sentimental piece than anything else.
    helensilverburg, Jul 21, 2007
  11. contaxman

    contaxman Guest

    Thanks for the links, Alex. :) Years ago I tried a friend's Canon
    AE-1 with the 50/1.8 SSC lens I believe which I believe had really
    nice bokeh.

    The 50/1.4 FD lens I had was super sharp with brilliant color though
    really mushy in sharpness wide open. Nikon's was better in that

    I am not a fan of the current _regular_ Canon EF lens line's color
    rendition (whether it has SSC or not - the exception being the L
    lenses which have always looked both more contrsty, sharp and _color
    saturated_ to me, even back as far as the FDL lenses from the '80s
    like the 80-200/4L? and the 100-300/5.6L? (can't remember which of
    hese I shot with) and the 85/1.2 FDL (magnificent lens!)) and see/feel
    I get better color saturation/richness with both Pentax (all the best
    qualities of Zeiss - color, bokeh, sharpness but not quite as fine
    micro-contrast or edge acutance with the possible exception of the
    Limited lenses (for micro-contrast) of which I've only tried the
    31/1.8 Ltd. on a Pentax 6MP *ist DSLR - not the best of test cameras
    for sharpness/resolution vs. film) and Contax (Zeiss) if not Nikon
    lenses too...
    contaxman, Jul 21, 2007
  12. contaxman

    contaxman Guest


    Thanks for the link Helen and relaying your experiences. Which camera
    do you shoot nowadays?
    contaxman, Jul 21, 2007

  13. Nikon F Photomic FTN. Bult to last forever, the finest camera I ever
    owned. Sadly, I sold it to get into MF.

    Current 35mm: Olympus OM2 and OM10. Solid, metal, go on forever.

    Michael Weinstein, Jul 21, 2007
  14. contaxman

    Ken Hart Guest

    The FX is from the late '60's (IIRC), it uses what I've heard called
    "Breech-lock Bayonet" mount lens. The lens do not couple the aperature
    setting to the camera; they have only one pin that stops down the lens at
    firing. If the lens has a second pin (90 degrees clockwise), that couples
    the aperature setting to the camera for metering. The "newer" lenses with
    the second pin will work on the FX, but the older lenses with one pin will
    not work on the newer Canons, such as the TX, FTb, or AE because of the
    metering. The two types of lens are called FD and FL; I can never keep
    straight which has one pin and which has two!

    The FX metering is what my high school photography teacher called "Through
    the thumb" metering. The meter cell is located on the front beside the prism
    near the rewind crank. The meter has two ranges; the selecter puts a
    Waterhouse stop over the cell for the less sensitive range. The meter is
    coupled to the shutter and ASA dials, and the needle points to the /f-stop.

    (If the gentleman who posted about his Minolta SRT101's in this thread would
    like to add another to his collection, please contact me privately. I've got
    nice one to sell at a real good price!)
    Ken Hart, Jul 21, 2007
  15. contaxman

    bob hickey Guest

    Not too long ago I got A Ricoh XR something that fired fine but only up-side
    down. Turned out to be a tiny spec of foam that landed sticky side down (of
    course) on the side of the mirror box and stopped the mirror on the way
    down. Once I saw it, it was fine. Plus that, the lenses fit the Pentax "K"s.
    The Ricoh 35f2.8 is one of my favorites along w/ the 135 f2.8. But I've had
    my best luck w/ the old Pentaxes. As far as Nikons; I had good luck, but I
    hated the noise. The "F" was terrible, and as far as I could see, the shots
    were nowhere near a Pentax. I have a Canon Ftb, which is great, but I don't
    care for the meter. It's accurate, but you have to be more careful than I
    like. Bob Hickey
    bob hickey, Jul 21, 2007
  16. contaxman

    AAvK Guest

    Thanks for the reply, but take it from me, the SSC breechlock is not the later FD mount lens.
    the FD mount is the result of "economizing"... try the SSC again. Because I didn't like plain
    FD's either unless it was that 80-200 F4 two touch. They simply did not have a genuine
    sharpness either.

    AAvK, Jul 21, 2007
  17. Don't forget the Nikon F5. - Probably the finest Nikon ever built. Just as
    good as their new F6, except it's a little heavier, and you can pick them up
    in like new condition for about $500. (The F6 is $2000) Of course, anyone's
    choice of a film camera body depends on his/her lens set.......
    William Graham, Jul 22, 2007
  18. contaxman

    contaxman Guest

    When the Nikon F6 comes down to $500 - sign me up/beam my wallet up

    Even an F6 (though just light enough) is rather borderline too big/
    bulky for me... anybody know when the F7 is coming out (besides in my
    dreams ;-))?

    Bob: Some of the older ('80s?) Ricohs were built quite well/tough,
    can't speak for their foam though...

    Ken: Thanks for all the in-depth breech lock bayonette mount details -
    much appreciated :)

    Alex: Will be along while before I try/buy an older Canon MF camera
    (if ever - I have Contax, Pentax, Nikon and Minolta Maxxum lenses all
    waiting for reliable bodies that wont quit out first ;-)) but if I
    ever do, I'll make a mental note to try some of the older SSC
    breechlock lenses again as well as some of the better FDs.

    Michael: Loved the build and the "giantness" of the OM-1/2/3? (did I
    try this one, I believe I did) and OM-4 Ti viewfinders. I've owned
    Olympii (plural of Olympus? - Olympuses is another alternative), both
    Pen FT 1/2 frame (great lenses but world's worse SLR eyepoint) and
    OM2s Program but even though I loved some of the lenses' sharpness/
    bokeh, outdoors at least I was less than a fan of their color
    rendition, seemed to lack the saturation of my Pentax lenses, but,
    hey, at least in part it could have been due to flat lighting
    conditions, lack of flare/coatings control and/or the Kodachrome? I
    was shooting at the time too as the still lifes I took indoors with
    artificial lighting (and Fujichrome? - I hope I'm remembering right)
    seemed quite saturated.

    Warping ahead in time (from 70s/80s era SLRs)... has anybody had good/
    bad experiences with the various EOS 1 flavors of film cameras?
    contaxman, Jul 22, 2007
  19. Have two Pentax ME Supers which seem difficult to kill. One is a bit
    damaged when I tried to dismantle it to clean dust out of the
    viewfinder. I don't know why I keep it really. The other one is going

    Canon T90. With all the electronics I just await the day it gives up,
    but in the meantime it's pretty indestructible.

    As you're not interested in screwmount cameras I'll not bother to
    mention the Zenits that never die. They have made plenty of PK-mount
    bodies however, but I've never had one.

    Richard Polhill, Jul 22, 2007
  20. contaxman

    Matthew Winn Guest

    My Nikon FM2n has been through various amounts of abuse, having been
    bounced around, bashed into things when on a neck strap, dropped a
    couple of times, and never properly protected from the weather. (On
    occasions the only protection it's had from rain has been me hunching
    over it when not using it.) It's still working perfectly. The foam
    around the mirror and back is starting to get tacky and squishy but
    there are no light leaks so I'm not bothered by it.

    I also have a Nikkormat FTN that I bought as a backup body in case the
    FM2n broke down. The FM2n hasn't broken down so I now use the FTN for
    black and white film. It's not what you'd call a quiet camera -- when
    the shutter fires it sounds like someone hammering a metal rod into
    rock -- but it works well. The only problem is that the meter judders
    from time to time, though that may be a dying battery.
    Matthew Winn, Jul 22, 2007
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