Our 1st SRL camera

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Laura, May 25, 2004.

  1. Laura

    Laura Guest

    Hello all,
    My husband and I are looking at getting our first SRL camera (after
    owning point and shoot, and digital cameras). I found a Pentax ME
    Super and a generic 200 mm zoom lens at a Goodwill by my house for
    $130. I can buy it, take it to a camera shop, have them check it out
    and if it does not work, I can return it.
    My questions are:
    1. Would this be a good beginner camera?
    2. Is this a good price?
    3. Or should we look at an automatic/manual camera.
    (I realize there will be a learning curve with learning how to adjust
    the speed and light, and we are willing to learn these things)

    Thanks for you input,
    Laura and Jeff
    Laura, May 25, 2004
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  2. In my opinion, this would be an excellent camera to learn on.....I found
    many good reviews on Google......And the price is very reasonable......
    William Graham, May 26, 2004
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  3. Laura

    Hzakas Guest

    Hello all,

    Laura and Jeff,

    While I cannot comment on the particular camera in question (I've been a "Nikon
    man" for about ten years), I would like to offer some thoughts on other points
    in your post.

    First, I'm curious about the lens you mention. Traditionally, zoom lenses are
    described by the minimum and maximum focal lengths, e.g. an 80-200 mm, usually
    followed by the largest aperture, such as "4.5." It sounds as though what you
    described is a "prime" lens, i.e., one with a fixed focal length.
    speed and light, and we are willing to learn these things)

    IIRC, the specific camera you mention is an aperture-priority model with an
    electrically-operated shutter. That means, when the camera is set in
    "aperture-priority" mode, the camera will choose the shutter speed based on the
    aperture setting of the lens.

    My personal preference (okay..."bias") is for a fully-manual camera, such as
    the Nikon FM2N I now use. I once had a Minolta XG-1 that also was an
    aperture-priority model, but having to depend on batteries to operate the
    shutter meant a number of lost photos because the camera would malfunction as
    it aged; the electrical system would basically short circuit (this was
    especially bad when I mounted it on a tripod, which was how I first learned of
    the problem. In the end, it became an precision paperweight. Thus, I'm leery of
    ANY camera with an electrically-operated shutter. (I'm just playing devil's
    advocate to make you aware of potential pitfalls down the road. YMMV.)

    Next, I would recommend going to the library, camera store or bookstore and
    getting a book on photography. One title I have from my college days is
    "Michael Langford's 35mm Photography," which is a good book to which I still
    refer from time to time. There are others.

    Next, take LOTS of pictures. Compared to the investment in camera gear, film is
    relatively cheap. Besides, it's the only way you'll become proficient in your
    camera, and in photography.

    You may also wish to enroll in a photography course, such as at a local
    college, or adult education course. The education you get is invaluable.

    As an "advanced amateur," I'm honored to share what I know with others.
    Similarly, I find there's more I want to do, as well as expand my photographic
    horizons as I pursue my avocation.


    Dieter Zakas
    Hzakas, May 26, 2004
  4. Laura

    Chris B Guest

    I used an ME Super for a number of years and it served me well. I still have
    it and an ME-F and wouldn't hesitate in using one of them again if one of my
    main cameras packed up. They're quite robust and work pretty well - as
    pointed out by another poster, it can work in aperture priority mode as well
    as fully manually; which I personally found very useful in helping me to
    learn how and when to properly operate a camera manually.
    You also have a good range of second-hand lenses available that will fit
    your camera - some of the Pentax SMC lenses (especially the primes) are of a
    very high quality and any 'K' mount lens will fit (including newer autofocus
    lenses, with the exception of some of the latest ones).
    I cannot speak too much about the price as I am in the UK - it seems
    reasonable but does rather depend on the lens. You could probably pick up
    just a body for quite a bit less.

    Chris B, May 26, 2004
  5. Probably not. I've seen clean one's available for $60-80US with standard
    lens. You don't want a generic zoom, as you'll almost certainly be
    disappointed with the images it creates. A standard SMC Pentax-M 50mm f1.7
    lens in clean condition goes for $35-35US. Don't pay for what you will not
    want to retain (the zoom), because the resale value is nil.
    The ME-Super is a aperture priority with an electronic manual shutter speed
    over-ride. A good one well maintained is a good camera. For your
    purposes, however, a fully mechanical camera is better.

    Older Nikon and Pentax mechanical camera mounts are still current and will
    accept most of their latest lenses. The same cannot be said of Canon or (I
    think) Minolta. Olympus is now obsolete, though it was very nice gear.

    One more thing: Do not get a camera that does not permit you to preview the
    depth of field (DOF). Too many good one's offered that to have to choose
    one that doesn't. Mirror lock-up is good too....

    As far as learning is concerned, lots of ways to go. But get a tripod and
    use it. Get a lens hood and use it. Get a shutter release and use it.
    You won't always do the tripod and shutter release, but that will force you
    to set up your shots with some deliberation and that's how you learn. Keep
    the lens hood, as you'll continue to use it even hand held.

    Get some books or whatever that will teach you what is going on when the
    camera records the image on film. That way, there will be no misunderstood
    mysteries and the habits you form will be sound. Then practice what you
    learn to see how it really works.

    (Do back lit shots. Do shots in bright sunlight to learn what the film will
    really record. Get a small flash and use it to fill in the shadows. Learn
    about depth of field, and how to lean on that DOF lever until your eyes
    adjust to the reduced brightness in the viewfinder and you can see what
    really is and is not in focus. Do anything you can to discover the
    limitations of your equipment and film. Etc, etc)

    That way, when you are ready to go after the really good stuff, you'll have
    the skill and knowledge to nail the shots you want and take home negs that
    will do you proud!

    *Don't* just toss off shots and burn film indiscriminately. That's
    snapshootery and the results will be frustrating. *Don't* despair if what
    you get initially isn't what you thought you'd get. These are the
    "mistakes" from which you can learn, and they are extremely valuable for
    that reason.

    Once you get a handle on the gear and a feel for what is required to get
    what you want, you'll be so glad you did, because it's a marvelous ride
    from there on!!

    And enjoy!

    Bill Tallman
    William D. Tallman, May 26, 2004
  6. I like your advice to these beginners. I'm a recent beginner myself. One of
    the best ways I found to learn was to keep a log of my shots that included
    camera, lens, film type, film processor, shot #, f-stop, shutter speed, lighting
    conditions, and focus target & distance. I will either fill-in a paper log with
    a template with 25 blank entries or I'll carry a voice recorder and just dictate
    the information into it. The best part about the voice recorder is that when
    you view your results, you can just listen to the shot details as you inspect
    the photo. With the paper log, I have to switch my view back and forth.

    All for now,

    Sorry-No_Email_, May 26, 2004
  7. Yes. You'll be able to see what to do with exposure and how to compensate.
    IOW, how to practice exposure.
    Just a bit on the high side. But if time is worth anything it might be good
    to get it and just use it.
    Don't expect too much from yourselves. Good pictures are more than technical
    excellence. They're quality composition as well. Practice making
    pleasing images and let good lenses improve the detail in the pictures.
    Keep it fun and, if you get into the craft of photography, keep it fun
    as well. It's easy to get tired of the "work", if you try to learn too
    much too fast.

    I also use Pentax. One "character" of these newsgroups is the preferences
    shown by everyone. Some are enthusiasts and others are real evangelists
    for the brand of preference. I use a Super Program and a KX for SLR work, a
    Canon G-III rangefinder and an Olympus Stylus ยต for a carry-around, and
    a 4x5 for "serious" work. They each have a place and are good to use.

    Pentax will allow you to use any lens on this body that was made from
    about 1974 to today with no issues whatsoever. Some of the finest lenses
    ever made can be used on this body:
    SMC Pentax 30/2.8
    SMC Pentax FA 31/1.8
    SMC Pentax FA 43/1.9
    SMC Pentax A, F, and FA 50/1.4,
    SMC Pentax FA 77/1.9
    and some others I can't think of right now.
    For more info on quality Pentax equipment go to http://www.bdimitrov.de/kmp

    Glad to help. Have fun and take lots of nice pictures.

    Collin Brendemuehl, May 26, 2004
  8. Laura

    Mark Roberts Guest

    It would be an excellent beginner camera!
    VERY good if it's working properly. The 200 zoom will be a little
    limiting so I'd recommend getting a Pentax 50mm f/1.7 or f/1.4 as well
    (very cheap second hand). New Pentax-mount autofocus lenses will work
    fine on the ME Super so between new and used lenses you have thousands
    of lenses to choose from.
    The ME Super *is* an automatic/manual camera. Try using automatic
    exposure first and then move on to manual exposure.

    Have fun with it.
    Mark Roberts, May 26, 2004
  9. Laura

    Lung Fish Guest

    [posted and mailed]
    Be sure to check http://www.keh.com for some used Pentax lenses. The GREAT
    thing about Pentax K-mount is that there are a TON of great used lenes out
    there at very low prices. Look for a 50mm lens as well as a 24 to 28mm
    lens and you'll have a fantastic kit!
    Lung Fish, May 26, 2004
  10. One quick note: also make sure you get a good tripod too. For
    low-light work, they are totally irreplaceable. Also a skylight or UV
    filter to protect the lens.

    I like the Pentax ME Super. I'm a Nikon man to the hilt, but I have a
    "soft spot" for Pentax equipment of that era, too--and the ME Super is
    definitely a good one.

    Also, don't forget about newer cameras that may be good starter
    cameras. Some of Minolta's cheaper ones (Maxxum 5 I think) are good
    starter cameras, although of course they're more modern and of a
    totally different era. Then you get into whether a more "vintage" and
    "back to the basics" camera like the ME Super (or others on a list to
    come) is better for someone learning than a modern AF SLR, vs how with
    a new SLR you have manufacturer's warranty and
    all of that. Some argue that the newer ones tempt you away from
    learning with their auto-modes; others say that since you can turn
    them off what does it matter.

    If you go with a new one, though, cheap Minoltas are good starters.
    Also a Nikon N65 is good--the only problem with it is that you can't
    override the film's ISO value. Otherwise it has everything:
    depth-of-field, full manual control with dummy "auto" modes for those
    who don't know f-stops etc, multiple-exposure, auto-bracketing,
    exposure compensation, and of course being a Nikon you have access to
    a huge assortment of lenses (although only newer
    ones work best with it--"G" or "D" types). The dedicated release for
    it--part ML-L3--is only $20.

    You can get a N65 body used (and still newer than the ME Super) for
    $130 or commonly less than that. (I like the N80--which I have--even
    more as it's more "straight-up", but it's a bit more than $130.)

    Nikon also has an even-cheaper N55 but it doesn't support TTL
    (through-the-lens) with a hot-shoe flash, only the built-in pop-up--an
    absurdity in my opinion, considering the entry-level Nikon N2000 of
    20-years ago is not handicapped like that. I'd only consider it if you
    can get it extremely dirt-cheap and figure you won't be using hot-shoe
    flash often anyway.

    Getting back to the ME Super: I don't recall if it has depth-of-field
    preview or not; that would be a concern as the person who stressed
    that aspect had a good point.

    Also of course is concern about the camera's age. I would definitely
    want the camera shop to check it rather thoroughly and also get their
    recommendation per the camera's price etc. What brand is the zoom? If
    it's a Vivitar (especially a "Series 1") or (perhaps) a Kiron or even
    Tokina then odds of it being good are pretty reasonable. If it's a
    Sears or JCPenney or some name like "Takumar" or the like, then
    consider the zoom a neat gizmo-toy to give to the kids--that's about
    what it would be worth.

    If it's working good and you get good recommendation on condition &
    price per the camera shop, then I'd personally be proud to own a
    Pentax ME Super. I remember back when I was 14 and vying for my 1st
    SLR (it's just a hobby for me); the ME Super was one I really wanted.

    Ultimately it came down to the Pentax K1000 or the Nikon EM; I chose
    the Nikon EM. (Give me a break; I was only 14 years old! It wasn't
    like a had a real job or anything!)

    If the Pentax ME Super turns out to be a dud, then if you don't find
    another ME Super then here are others of similar age you may consider
    looking for on eBay etc:

    * Pentax Super Program.
    It replaced the ME Super. It adds (if I recall) TTL flash,
    depth-of-field (not sure if the ME Super has it), program mode, and
    shutter-priority (if I recall correctly). It is definitely one to
    consider if the ME Super doesn't work out.

    * Canon AE-1 Program.
    You can probably get it--and the lenses that fit it--cheaper
    since Canons of that era use a totally different lens-mount than the
    autofocus Canons that came out later. It's a good camera overall.
    (Yes, I'm a Nikon man, but I'm for real.)

    * Nikon N2000.
    A GREAT entry-level beginner's camera. Does have auto-loading
    and advance, but otherwise is a classic 80's-type "you do the work"
    kind of camera. Doesn't have depth-of-field though if I remember
    correctly. Does have TTL flash. However it requires a special
    dedicated (and expensive, typically) cable for cable-release, whereas
    the others here use the standard cheap one.

    * Nikon FG.
    Not as "prestigious" as the Nikon FE or FM (the former of
    which I once owned) but a good 1st SLR nonetheless. It does have full
    manual control and also has TTL (through-the-lens) flash if you use a
    dedicated flash. Doesn't have depth-of-field preview though. Has
    "pseudo" mirror-lockup by using the self-timer.

    * Nikon FE
    A great classic auto-SLR from that era. Has depth-of-field
    preview, PC flash socket, multiple exposure, tough body build, and a
    match-needle display (those were the days!). Also has "pseudo"
    mirror-lockup by using the self-timer. Make sure you push the
    film-advance lever back in when you're through, though--that's the
    camera's OFF-ON switch.

    (The FE2 is even better--but quite expensive.)

    * Minolta X-700.
    Has lots of features and TTL flash is among them. Note,
    though: newer Minolta lenses won't work with it. I think it's a
    totally different lensmount which won't even fit. It suffers from the
    same sort of "era fragmentation" that Canon does (that is, new lenses
    not working with the older bodies etc). Just be aware of that.

    * Minolta X-570.
    Same as above although I don't recall if it has TTL flash. I
    know it does do away with the Program mode. It's a bit cheaper though.

    For more on cameras of this age, try http://www.mir.com

    Larry R Harrison Jr, May 26, 2004
  11. Laura

    Bob Hickey Guest

    used to keep an ME in a coffee can on the floor of my van. The van packed it
    in at 343, the ME was still OK. My ME Super was REALLY in bad shape. So I
    loaned it to my step-son, who figured even his girl friend could'nt kill it.
    He was wrong. Real Pentax 50 mm lenses are very cheap and a 200mm after
    market lens is pretty useless. I wouldn't hesitate to get an ME Super, just
    not that one. And real Pentax lenses. And decent film, Fuji or Agfa. Bob
    Bob Hickey, May 27, 2004
  12. Laura

    James Cloud Guest

    Laura and Jeff,
    I just bought my first SLR too! Owned it for a couple of months now
    and loving every moment.

    Anyway, back to the topic. I don't consider Pentax ME with a generic
    lens for $130 a good price. Rarely would you see a good price on an
    old camera in a local outfit like Goodwill. The reason is this:
    entry-level camera prices have been tumbling in recent years. Often
    times a store is judging the worth of an old camera on how much it
    sold for when it was new, not how much it's worth in today's market.
    A brand new autofocus Minolta or Pentax SLR is being sold for less
    than $130 in many online stores, and a generic lens manual focus ain't
    worth much these days (on ebay, I often see 50mm MF lens gone unsold
    even if the asking price is less than $10).

    So my advise is that you should research the camera system you want
    first, before deciding on a price to pay. There are so many good
    cameras in the market today, you'll be glad you did the research. Of
    course setting a budget is sensible, but my point is that there may be
    many choices available to you within your budget. Photography is a
    hobby of love. In the end, what gives us satisfaction has little to do
    with the extra $20 or $50 we saved initially.

    Good luck,
    James Cloud, May 27, 2004
  13. Laura

    Nick Zentena Guest

    Ebay brings it's own issues. Shipping. Getting crap. This from somebody
    that has happily bought various cameras off Ebay. I'd still pay more for
    something I can hold before the sale. I'd also do not consider the bottom end
    modern cameras in the same class of older cameras. I know a person can get a
    better camera for less on Ebay but it's not all about the selling price. A
    better comparison might be the prices on www.keh.com but then you've still
    got shipping to tack on.

    Nick Zentena, May 27, 2004
  14. Excellent suggestions!

    Bill Tallman
    William D. Tallman, May 27, 2004
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