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

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

  1. We can definitely agree on that!
    My first camera (Dad's) was A Spotmatic (ages 14-18), sadly stolen at
    knifepoint in the USA.

    Then my 35mm camera history varies a bit from yours: Nikon (FM, F, F2,
    FE2), then Rolleiflex (Zeiss lenses!), Leica M & Exakta (no plastic
    ANYWHERE there!).
    Also some Soviet equipment, which - with my previously stated
    reservations - I find impressive.

    My most modern cameras are over 20 years old (though, after years of
    resistence, I now do accept auto-exposure).

    Recently I've returned to the Spotmatic as a "war zone" camera; i.e. one
    I use in high risk situations (loss, theft, destruction). This certainly
    isn't meant as a put-down, it's just a way of achieving first-rate
    results (albeit with a little discomfort) without having dangerous
    thoughts if I hear "your camera or your life" again.
    I have no intention of buying those (and hence, one of my gripes with
    digital - along with the 1.5/1.6 lens angle factor), unless my eyesight
    betrays me sometime in the future...
    Hear! Hear!!

    Chris Loffredo, Mar 2, 2005
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  2. vamason

    jsmith Guest

    A couple of bits of advice. Never buy a used camera without the option to be
    able to return it. Once you have it, remove the lens and shine a flash light
    up through the lens to reveal any fungus or scratches on the lens. Second,
    run a roll of film through the camera under varying light conditions and
    also be sure to use the flash to give it a test. Either mount the camera on
    a tripod or place it solidly on a firm surface and take aim at something
    symmetrical such as a window to test for any distortion. Another revealing
    test is to take a shot of a bare illuminated light bulb to see if there is
    any flaring.
    jsmith, Mar 2, 2005
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  3. vamason

    Jeremy Guest

    Here's something that'll make you chuckle:

    I recently bought a very nice Pentax P3n on eBay. I've been shooting Pentax
    for THIRTY YEARS, and this is my FIRST K-mount camera and lens.

    So I look in the viewfinder, and there are these blinking LEDs, right?
    Sometimes they blink fast, sometimes they blink slow, I've got an aitomatic
    setting on the lens aperture ring, and I have an "A" marking on my shutter
    speed dial. I also have a button marked "M.L." which is some sort of
    exposure lock. When I push it, it locks the exposure settings. I can't
    figure out how to turn it off if I decide not to use those settings.

    I am SO out of touch with this modern stuff (the camera has got to be at
    least 15 years old--to me that is modern.) that I can't figure out how to
    take a photo yet.

    Really, I could work much faster with my Spotmatics than I could by trying
    to figure out these damned blinking LEDs. I am going to have to spend a
    weekend with the manual and try to remember what all those blinking LEDs
    mean. There is a chart inside the manual that lists all the various
    indications: for example, when exposure lock is on the LEDs blink fast.
    When the batteries become exhausted, they blink slow.

    What id my focus lock is on and the batteries become exhausted at the same

    THen there are indications that the metering is "beyond metering range," and
    other indications that the lens and body are "beyond coupling range."

    If the "1000" speed blinks, it means that the subject is beyond the metering
    range in the Auto Exposure mode.

    There are a lot more of these cryptic indicators.

    And this is supposed to make photography easier? All I want to do is snap
    off a few frames, not memorize th meanings of blinking LEDs. This is worse
    than learning the multiplication tables.

    I could hand-meter, set the focus, aperture and shutter on my Spotmatic or
    my TLR, and shoot a good image faster than I can figure out how to make this
    "fully automatic" P3n take a photograph. I am really not a Luddite--but all
    these blinking codes are a real pain in the a$$.
    Jeremy, Mar 3, 2005
  4. vamason

    That_Rich Guest

    You must be a Bob Hickey minion.

    That_Rich, Mar 3, 2005
  5. My own favorite is the "subject is frowning" LED, followed by the
    "re-think your composition" one...

    I do appreciate simple aperture-priority automation, with a memory lock.
    Chris Loffredo, Mar 3, 2005
  6. My own favorite is the "subject is frowning" LED, followed by the
    "re-think your composition" one...

    I do appreciate simple aperture-priority automation, with a memory lock,
    as a good compromise between convenience and control.

    Chris Loffredo, Mar 3, 2005
  7. vamason

    Bob Hickey Guest

    I doubt it. If I have to read a manual, I prolly
    won't use it much. I ebayed my P3 for all the reasons mentioned. That thing
    solves a load of problems nobody ever had.
    Bob Hickey
    Bob Hickey, Mar 3, 2005
  8. vamason

    Jeremy Guest

    I received my first camera, a Yashica TLR, when I was age 9. I also got a
    Sekonic "Brockway" incident light meter. Both the camera and the meter work
    fine, after 45 years, and I still use them to this day, although not as much
    as my much younger Spotmatics and ES bodies (they're only 30 years old).

    Looking back on the various pieces of equipment that I've acquired, I
    realize now that my style of shooting would have been served just fine had I
    never gotten any of the 35mm gear. I shoot static subjects. MF blows away
    my 35mm images, and I shoot primarily with the normal lens, so lack of
    interchangeability is not a problem for me.

    If I had it to do all over, I'd have bought a brand new Rolleiflex, a good
    tripod, cable release, appropriate lens shades and a case and I would have
    spent more time taking photos rather than agonizing over lenses, equipment
    and accessories (more like "gadgets").

    Granted, my requirements are a lot narrower than those of others. But we
    have all, to some degree, been bitten by that bug that impels us to keep
    looking for the latest equipment in the hopes that we'll improve our images.
    That damned search for the Holy Grail never ends.

    My MF Yashica TLR, with all its deficiencies, still produces better results
    than most of the 35mm stuff out there. And it doesn't have any cryptic
    blinking LEDs, either.

    Maybe I really AM a Luddite?
    Jeremy, Mar 3, 2005
  9. I've always wanted a device for portraits that refuses to trip the shutter
    when the subject is blinking his/her eyes.....
    William Graham, Mar 3, 2005
  10. vamason

    Frank Pittel Guest

    : >
    : > 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.
    : >
    : > http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=15240&item=3876391819&rd=1
    : >
    : 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.

    The Pentax spotmatic is the biggest piece of junk ever made and the
    lenses for them are even worse. There should be a worldwide protest
    against the cameras and nobody should ever bid on them on ebay. :)


    Keep working millions on welfare depend on you
    Frank Pittel, Mar 5, 2005
  11. vamason

    Frank Pittel Guest

    I've got a collection of Russian cameras that I'm working on and although
    you always want a couple of each type because you never really sure if it's
    going to work when you press the shutter. The lenses have always been excellent.

    When asked about why I like the Russian cameras I always tell people that the
    Russian lenses are the best kept secret in photography.

    : "Matthew McGrattan"

    : >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.
    : >

    : 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
    : Knocks.

    : 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.


    Keep working millions on welfare depend on you
    Frank Pittel, Mar 5, 2005
  12. vamason

    ColynG© Guest

    What exactly makes the Spotmatics and their lens junk??
    ColynG©, Mar 5, 2005
  13. vamason

    Frank Pittel Guest

    : On Fri, 04 Mar 2005 20:45:36 -0600, Frank Pittel

    : >The Pentax spotmatic is the biggest piece of junk ever made and the
    : >lenses for them are even worse. There should be a worldwide protest
    : >against the cameras and nobody should ever bid on them on ebay. :)
    : >
    : What exactly makes the Spotmatics and their lens junk??

    I like them and the demand for them is driving up the price of them on Ebay.
    If I can convince people that they're junk then fewer people will be driving
    up the price of them on Ebay and I can get the lenses and bodies for less. :)
    (for the humor impared or those that didn't see the :) I'm joking about the
    spotmatics being junk)

    Keep working millions on welfare depend on you
    Frank Pittel, Mar 5, 2005
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