Looking for decent, fully manual camera for $50 & under

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by vamason, Feb 28, 2005.

  1. vamason

    Alan Browne Guest

    It's unfortunate that you haven't met Mikey (uraniumcom...) before. He is
    indeed a jerk-ass (to be kind) and we all learned very early to ignore him.

    Alan Browne, Feb 28, 2005
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  2. vamason

    Chuck Guest

    I bought a new Vivitar VS4000 (Cosina) with a 35-70mm lens, which
    takes excellent photos, for under $50.00 on Ebay . Also I bought a
    jammed Hikari slr that took 15 minutes to repair for 99 cents and that
    also works well. A L series (I like the MTL50) Praktica almost always
    sells for less than $50.00 and combined with a good lens , can serve
    one well for years. Happy hunting. Chuck
    Chuck, Feb 28, 2005
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  3. vamason

    Jeremy Guest

    Any of the Canonet rangefinders would fit the bill. Excellent lenses.

    I'm an SLR man myself, and the reputation of the Pentax SMC Takumar 50mm
    f/1.4 is excellent, but I don't think he can find one attached to a
    Spotmatic for under $100.

    I would suggest that he try to get the best lens he can, since that will
    have more of an effect on the image quality than will the box he mounts it

    He ought to have a look at cameraquest.com to see all of the possibilities.
    Jeremy, Feb 28, 2005
  4. vamason

    Jeremy Guest

    I second that suggestion. I still use my Spotmatics and SMC Takumars,
    rather than leave them on the shelf, and the lenses are first-rate.


    There are a couple of real bargains in that line:

    1: Go for the SP 1000 or SP 500, rather than the Spotmatic. Same camera,
    same chassis. Only missing the self-timer. I understand that the SP 500
    DOES have a 1/1000 speed--it is one click stop above the 1/500 mark--it just
    is not documented.

    2: There were THREE SMC Takumar normal lenses. Everyone wants the 50mm
    f/1.4, but the 55mm f/1.8 was sharper and had less straight-line distortion.
    I have them both, and I use the 1.4 only in very low light situations.

    But many people do not know that the 55mm f/2.0 was the very same lens as
    the f/1.8 model, and it is available dirt cheap!

    Pentax offered the f/2.0 lens only on the SP 500 and SP 1000--never with the
    Spotmatics. The did the same thing with the lenses as they did with the
    cameras--they dumbed them down a tiny bit. In the case of the camera, the
    omitted the self timer. In the case of the lens, they restricted it to a
    maximum aperture of f/2.0. THERE WAS NO OTHER DIFFERENCE. Same glass, same

    The other advantage with the SP 500/1000 and the f/2.0 lenses is that they
    were typically purchased by amateurs, and there is less likelihood that they
    were subjected to a lot of hard use. Every time I've bought used Pentax
    gear from amateurs, the stuff was well cared for, and in some cases was
    virtually unused. I bought a Spotmatic F last year, with 55mm f/1.8 SMC
    Takumar, for US $98, that looked like it had been sitting on the shelf
    unused for the past 30 years! A little STP-Son-Of-A-Gun cleaned it and
    shined it up to where it looks virtually new. Even the leather came up

    If he really wants to go cheap, he can get an SP 500 with a Super-Takumar
    55mm f/2.0 lens. This lens did not come multicoated, but they have
    excellent optical characteristics, and they can be had for a song on eBay.
    Jeremy, Feb 28, 2005
  5. vamason

    Jeremy Guest

    Now that you mention it, he could pick up a reconditioned Olympus Infinity
    Stylus with single focal length normal lens for under $40, complete with a
    warranty. Excellent lens, active auto focus, auto flash, uses DX coded
    Jeremy, Feb 28, 2005
  6. The OP wants something fully manual.
    Woodchuck Bill, Mar 1, 2005
  7. I believe you should be able to get a used Pentax Spotomatic and a
    Pentax SMC 50mm f/1.8 for $100 on eBay.

    I bought a Pentax Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.8 for ~$50 and Spotomatics go
    for about $50 here in India.

    Else, look for the Pentax K1000.

    - Siddhartha
    Siddhartha Jain, Mar 1, 2005
  8. A Pentax Spotmatic with a 50mm f/1.8 lens is going for $30, with 17
    minutes to spare as I type this, on eBay.


    - Siddhartha
    Siddhartha Jain, Mar 1, 2005
  9. vamason

    Peter Irwin Guest

    It ended up at $62.03 plus postage which is a hair over the OP's
    budget, but I agree that old Pentaxes are great cameras. My dad
    had a Spotmatic-F when I was a kid, and that (together with an
    old and junky Samoca ragefinder) was the camera I learned on.
    I have been enjoying my S3 (pre-spotmatic) very much.

    There are lots of good old cameras for under $50. As long as you
    have some assurance that it is in good working order, it it really
    hard to go seriously wrong.

    Peter Irwin, Mar 1, 2005
  10. Ignore the rude idiots, it IS entirely possibly to find a quality camera
    is good shape for well under $50.

    Find a well-to-do area of town and hit the garage sales. Scouring
    Scottsdale and Fountain Hills, AZ (These peeps have way more money than
    common sense!) over ~7 weekends, I've found a near-new EOS rebel (A
    price point, entry level camera, but who's gonna argue!) for $35, and a
    Ricoh TLS 401 SLR in excellent shape, with as-new 50m lens, for 5 bucks!
    I passed on a complete, near new, Nikon N50 kit for $65. You gotta
    get up at 5:30, adn be willing to get skunked, but if you keep at it, a
    deal will materialize.

    If you're brave, check Ebay. Once you leave the realm of Nikon, Canon,
    and the better known brands, the bodies get real inexpensive and 'real'
    cameras can be found for well under your $50 limit. Run a search for
    'Sears' (Yes, I'm serious). They caried rebadged cameras and lenses
    from a variety of reputable manufacturers including Ricoh, Chinon, Sigma
    (OK, not the greatest, but for <50 you gotta cut a few corners),
    Vivitar, and others. Find a 'Sears' model in good shape and run a
    google search to determine what it 'really' is.

    Many of these old cameras are in fine shape, but will need new foam and
    light seals. There is a guy on Ebay selling repair kits for $6. DIY
    and save a bundle.

    Greg Campbell, Mar 1, 2005
  11. In the past 18 months I've acquired a Chinon-CS SLR and a Fed-4
    rangefinder all in perfect working condition for less than the UK
    equivalent of $20 each.

    I've also acquired a number of decent but not exceptional lenses for
    the Chinon for between $5 and $15 a lens by keeping my eye out in junk

    The Chinon is an m42 screw-mount so fairly out-dated but a similar
    Japanese K-mount type camera could be had for not a lot more.

    The Fed-4 takes better pictures -- it really was in immaculate as-new
    and fully working condition -- but extra lenses for it are harder to
    come by and require an additional viewfinder. People are wise to the
    value of the soviet made screw-mount lenses and it's increasingly hard
    to pick up Jupiter and Industar type lenses as cheaply as similar m42
    screw mounts.

    Matthew McGrattan, Mar 1, 2005
  12. Be sure to use some film from 1974 while you're at it!
    uraniumcommittee, Mar 1, 2005
  13. vamason

    Jeremy Guest

    "Matthew McGrattan"
    The OP had stringent requirements in terms of price, and that limited his
    choices. Buying the very cheapest camera/lens may be false economy. It
    costs the same money to process your film, whether you used an excellent
    sharp lens with good bokeh and saturated colors, or whether you used a
    cheapo piece of junk that exhibits distortion, poor resolution, poor
    contrast and poor color saturation.

    When I bought my first Honeywell Pentax Spotmatic IIa in 1973, it came with
    the SMC Takumar 50mm f/1.4 normal lens. It wasn't long before I had a
    hankering for a zoom lens. I bought a "Sonagar" 85-205mm from one of the
    New York camera shops, because I was trying to save a few bucks over the SMC
    Takumar equivalent.

    I still remember the first shots I took with that lens. I alternated some
    shots with the SMC Takumar normal lens and others with the Sonagar zoom
    lens, on the same roll of film. When I got the prints back, the difference
    in quality was plainly visible.

    The SMC Takumar had sharp, saturated colors with excellent contrast. By
    contrast, the zoom lens had visibly less resolution, much less contrast, and
    a grayish cast that toned down the color saturation. It was a big
    disappointment, and I learned an important lesson in the School of Hard

    I put that lens in a drawer, where it has sat for these 30 years, and I
    never used it again.

    I also bought a wide angle 25mm f/3.5 no-name lens, and got similar results
    to that of the zoom. I don't think I even shot 25 frames with that lens.

    I never bought an off-brand lens again. I still shoot with my Pentax
    bodies, and I've accumulated 15 SMC Takumar prime lenses. I am told that
    zoom lenses and other third-party lenses have significantly improved since I
    purchased mine, but I have never been inclined to try another one. Besides,
    Pentax screw mount lenses are dirt cheap, relative to new gear, so it is
    possible to get excellent glass and still save a lot of money.

    The reviews I've read on the Russian lenses lead me to believe that their
    quality is inconsistent, and their optical characteristics are not up to the
    same standard as Japanese lenses. After my experience with off-brand
    lenses, I'm just not interested in messing around with any of that stuff.

    The Carl Zeiss Jena lenses also tend to be inconsistent. Some people swear
    by them, while others have experiences less-than-distinguished performance
    from those East German lenses.

    If I were looking for cheap lenses, there are two choices that I'd pursue.
    The first is Pentax M42, which I am intimately familiar with, and the other
    would be the Canon breech lock cameras and lenses. They've been orphaned
    for a long time, and they are good values. I've never heard anything but
    glowing reports about them.

    But I think that limiting the budget to $50 may be pushing things a bit.
    $100 will buy some nice stuff, and $200 will buy gear that, in my opinion,
    is more rugged and performs as well as any of today's plastic stuff.
    Jeremy, Mar 2, 2005
  14. vamason

    m II Guest

    Know anyone in Greenville SC, USA? That's where this came from


    OrgName: NuVox Communications, Inc.
    OrgID: NUVOX
    Address: 301 N Main Street
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    PostalCode: 29601
    Country: US

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    NetHandle: NET-216-23-0-0-1
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    NetType: Direct Allocation
    NameServer: EXTNS1.NUVOX.NET
    NameServer: EXTNS2.NUVOX.NET
    RegDate: 1998-07-15
    Updated: 2003-12-01

    OrgAbuseHandle: NARD-ARIN
    OrgAbuseName: NuVox Abuse Resolution Department
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    OrgTechName: Hester, Eric
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    m II, Mar 2, 2005
  15. Yeah, I wasn't recommending buying the absolutely cheapest lens but
    just trying to point out that pound-for-pound the m42 lenses seem
    better value than the LSM mount lenses -- which are more widely sought

    I've also been bitten by some poor quality lenses. I have a 200mm 3rd
    party m42 lens which is basically terrible.

    On the other hand, I have a Rikkenon 1.7 50mm lens which, despite not
    being an especially notable name, is fantastic.

    I've heard the same things re: Soviet lens quality control that you
    have and lots of people tell me that the Industar 61 L/D lenses (which
    is what I have) can be excellent but only if you get a 'good' one.

    I'm lucky enough to have a 'good' one.

    Matthew McGrattan, Mar 2, 2005
  16. vamason

    Jeremy Guest

    I saw a review in Shutterbug several years ago about a Russian/Ukrainian
    perspective control lens. Cheap, yes. Image quality? So-so. Vignetting,
    flare, not the greatest resolution, soft near the edges. I remember
    something about the mount having a piece of hard nylon as a spacer so the
    lens could be manufactured for either Pentax or Nikon mounts.

    I just can't see myself using something like that. It would end up next to
    my other two off-brand lenses.

    Fortunately, the Takumars are plentiful on eBay, at least in the 35-200 mm
    focal range, and they are inexpensive. So it is possible to save a ton of
    money and to still get excellent optics. Just stay away from those eBayers
    that advertise things like, "Slight fungus, but it should have no impact on
    the photographs," or, "Slight ding in filter ring. Can't mount filter, but
    should have no effect on photos."

    The best example of hype I ever saw was a guy that was offering a lens that
    had heavy fungus inside. He represented it as a "Soft Portrait Lens!" I
    still can't believe that anyone could have the cajones to make such a
    Jeremy, Mar 2, 2005
  17. Another example of how YMMV, especially dealing with Soviet stuff!
    Mine is quite good. Fully decentered, the corners are very sharp at f/11.
    Unshifted, it is o.k even at full aperture.
    The PC-Nikkor I had did no better.
    Again, no worse than the Nikkor.
    Using a lens shade, again, no noticible difference from the "good" lens.
    Not stopped down (just like you-know-who)
    You do realise that today's wonderlenses mostly have polycarbonate barrels?

    The Arsat even seems to have less distortion than the Nikkor (though to
    be fair, I didn't measure it).
    The only real negative I find about the Arsat lens is the very
    demultiplied shift screw (i.e. Slooow).

    All this to say that Soviet/Russian/Ukranian equiptment can be a real
    bargain IF you know what to look for AND one of the following is true:
    1) You are lucky
    2) You buy from a dealer who checks the stuff
    3) You cherry pick (i.e. buy several, test & keep the best)
    4) You are competent at repairs, or take the equipment to a pro to be
    sorted out

    I've taken all 4 routes and am very happy with my Sov. stuff...

    Not recommended for the inexperienced, the impatient or the
    fainthearted, but an excellent opportunity for some.
    Chris Loffredo, Mar 2, 2005
  18. vamason

    Alan Browne Guest

    Which message are you referring to...?
    Alan Browne, Mar 2, 2005
  19. I think YMMV is definitely good advice.

    I was lucky - at the time I bought the camera/lens I had no idea what
    was good or bad and wouldn't even have been able to tell the
    difference. I could easily have ended up with a piece of rubbish.

    As it happens the performance of this lens, and of the camera it's
    mounted on, is excellent.

    Matthew McGrattan, Mar 2, 2005
  20. vamason

    Jeremy Guest


    I still shoot with classic equipment--all metal. I have my first camera, a
    MF Yashica TLR from the late 50s. My 35mm workhorses for the past 3 decades
    have been Spotmatic IIa, Spotmatic-F and the two ES models. I've
    accumulated 15 SMC Takumar prime lenses--all metal, optics that are sharp
    and contrasty.

    And the lens I use about 90% of the time is the lowly 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar
    normal lens! The body I most often use is the Spotmatic-F. The ES, with
    their aperture-preferred automation, turned out to be too much automation
    for me.

    Maybe it's a personality thing. I'm definitely a minimalist. I drove a
    1973 Volkswagen for 18 years before I finally traded up to a Plymouth
    Reliant, and I kept that another decade. The VW had 5 paintjobs, a dozen
    mufflers, more brake jobs than I can remember, and it still had the original
    engine, with 400,000 miles on it when I finally upgraded to the Plymouth.
    Never an engine or clutch job, either.

    So when someone asks me why I don't modernize, my usual response is
    something like, "Why bother?" That is just the way I am. I hate having to
    learn new things to accomplish tasks I already know how to do. I still run
    Windows 98 on my computer.

    I prefer to take photos, rather than agonize over equipment. If I were to
    duplicate my current 35mm SLR setup in, say, Contax or Nikon, it would cost
    a fortune, and I am convinced that it would yield no real improvement in my

    So, no, I really have not any experience with those plastic whizbang cameras
    and lenses that have been on the market for about 20 years. My most recent
    acquisition is a Pentax P3n (K-mount!) SLR. It seems nice enough, and it
    does retain much of the classic Pentax metal construction, but the fit and
    finish are nowhere near as nice as my ESs and Spotmatics.

    I could actually be happy using one body and my favorite 55mm normal lens,
    and I could chuck the rest. My passion is freezing time, not creating
    photographic art, and the classic camera-with-normal-lens that was sold to
    just about everybody back in the 60s and 70s works great for me.

    I have an Olympus Infinity Stylus (the original one--with the fixed-focus
    f/3.5 lens) and a P&S digicam, and they both have more automation than I
    want. Biggest problem with those cameras is that I feel completely out of
    control. I point, I press the button, the cameras do everything else. I
    really dislike having no DOF control on those cameras.

    I'll just pass on the plastic for now. "Why bother?"
    Jeremy, Mar 2, 2005
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