Suggestions on 35mm Film Cameras and Lenses?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Strangelove, Jul 5, 2006.

  1. Strangelove

    Strangelove Guest

    Hello, i'm looking for a 35mm film camera but since I am very very new
    to photography I have little to no knowledge on what brands or models I
    should consider. I am not sure how much I am (or should be) willing to
    spend, but anything under 700$(USD) is reasonable.

    As for the type of pictures I will be taking, B&W photos (for prints
    smaller than 8X10) is what I will be working with, and hopefully later
    on, color prints. Initially I plan to spend below 2000$(USD) to get
    things moving including the darkroom.

    Any suggestions, past experiences, and other miscellaneous input would
    be greatly appreciated.

    -Jon
     
    Strangelove, Jul 5, 2006
    #1
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  2. Strangelove

    Gordon Moat Guest

    If you want to do B/W prints, then the aspect ratio of 35mm film would
    give you 8" by 12" prints. Unfortunately many papers come in 8" by 10"
    or 11" by 14", meaning you would need to trim the edges of the prints,
    or that you would need to crop your images. The aspect ratios of some
    medium format choices, like a 645 or 6x7 camera system might be a better
    match for your chosen print sizes.

    Do you wish to purchase a new camera with warranty? Would you consider
    buying used from a reputable dealer like <http://www.keh.com> KEH in
    Atlanta? Are you looking at auctions on EBAY?

    Lenses can often cost more than camera bodies, though the choices depend
    upon what you want to photograph. There are also a few really nice
    compact 35mm film cameras with fixed lenses, like the Contax T3 or
    Rollei AFM35. Other considerations are autofocus or manual focus bodies
    and lenses. You might also consider a rangefinder camera instead of an
    SLR, since they are often smaller, lighter and more compact; though it
    can be a little tougher to get use to the different focus and viewing
    method.

    It is not bad to buy a used camera from a company not in business. You
    do not need to send a camera to a manufacturer in the event it might
    need service, since there are many repair places that can handle various
    cameras. The exception to that is very old gear, though your budget of
    $700 could easily get you into not so old used gear, or fairly recent
    newer gear. Canon and Nikon seem to be the only two companies still
    making new film cameras in your budget range, but they are not the only
    choices you should consider.

    Feel free to ask more questions. Perhaps some more people can give you
    some ideas.
     
    Gordon Moat, Jul 5, 2006
    #2
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  3. Strangelove

    jeremy Guest


    You risk making poor choices if you buy everything now, while you don't
    really know much about photography.

    1: Are you CERTAIN that you want to get into film, not digital, photography?

    2: If you are sure about wanting film, I'd suggest buying something used,
    and then deciding over time what you really need.

    I'm most familiar with Pentax, so I'll recommend the P30t OR the P3n. The
    30t is gray, the 3n is black. Both models offer you a choice of full manual
    or 3 automatic modes. So you can start out using fully-automatic "Program
    Mode," then as you begin to understand a thing or two about exposure you can
    switch to aperture-preferred mode or to full manual mode.

    You can buy the camera and lens on eBay for under $100 complete. I'd
    recommend the 50mm f/1.7 normal lens to start (there is a less-expensive
    50mm f/2.0 that will serve you well--unless you are planning to do a lot of
    available-light exposures in relatively dark places).

    You could go with a zoom lens instead, but you will find that they are much
    slower than f/1.7 and they tend to have less resolving power. Zooms are
    also more likely to exhibit optical distortion--especially pincushion
    distortion at one end of the zoom range, and barrel distortion at the other
    end. If you are just learning, the fixed focal length normal lens is a
    better choice.

    While you're learning you can look for some books to give you the knowledge
    you'll require. Michael Freeman's "35mm Handbook" can be gotten from
    abebooks.com (its out of print) or possibly on eBay. It gives a good
    overview of cameras, lenses, focal lengths and how it all fits together.
    John Hedgecoe also published several 35mm self-taught photography courses,
    and you can find his stuff on the used book market.

    You can get all you need for under $150 and you can begin developing a style
    and also begin to assess what brand of equipment you want and which lenses
    will be best for you. You can probably sell the Pentax body and lens in a
    year, and get back most of what you paid for it.

    Your biggest hurdle right now is to figure out what you want. Buying a new
    camera is akin to throwing darts at a dartboard--you may or may not end up
    with what you ultimately want. You will not be able to sell a camera that
    you bought new, and get back most of what you paid for it. If you buy used,
    the depreciation is already amortized into the price, and you might even
    sell it for more than you paid for it.

    For some articles on Pentax lenses see these links:

    www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/sunday1.shtml

    www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/sm-02-11-24.shtml

    www.dcresource.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-16900.html
     
    jeremy, Jul 5, 2006
    #3

  4. I'd suggest something *very* cheap camerawise (preferably used, if you
    can get a guarantee that it is working properly).

    Also, possibly manual focus and exposure, with a 50mm lens.

    I'm not saying that those are the best combinations for everything, but
    if you eventually become limited by your equipment (and not just your
    abilities), you'll have a much better idea of what you really want or
    need without having wasted much money.
     
    Chris Loffredo, Jul 5, 2006
    #4
  5. Strangelove

    Scott W Guest

    You are likely going to spend more on lenses then what you spend on a
    body, at least over time. I would think that if you are just starting
    out it would make sense to start with either a Canon or Nikon body
    since these are the current big players in the DSLR market. You might
    no have an interest in digital at this point in time but with digital
    bodies getting cheaper and better all the time in a few years you might
    well want to pick up a digital body and at that time having lenses that
    would work with the better digital cameras would be a very good thing.

    Scott
     
    Scott W, Jul 5, 2006
    #5
  6. Back when I had my camera stores, I always told people not to agonize
    overmuch about their first camera; it would be the SECOND one they
    bought that they'd keep.

    As others have pointed out, lenses are going to be your big investment.
    And even if digital is not your goal now, that may change - or the
    market may force the change upon you!

    With that in mind, I'd concentrate on used cameras with lenses that can
    be used on digital bodies - Nikon would be best, followed by Canon.
    Nice bodies would be almost any of the FM or FE series, preferably
    equipped with AF Nikkors instead of the AI-S (manual focus) lenses they
    originally came with.

    Good, solid and inexpensive, easy to use manually, good to learn with.
     
    Scott Schuckert, Jul 5, 2006
    #6
  7. Strangelove

    no_name Guest


    How 'bout a Nikon N90S WITH 24-120 F3.5-4.5 D INTERNAL FOCUS (72) WITH
    LENS CAPS 35MM SLR AUTO FOCUS CAMERA OUTFIT

    Excellent condition at KEH camera brokers $424 USD.

    They're great people to buy from, very conservative in their ratings &
    willing to go the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction ... at
    least that's always been my experience with them.

    http://www.keh.com
     
    no_name, Jul 6, 2006
    #7

  8. Neither the FM or FE series support auto-focus.

    At this point, any camera of that vintage will be near the
    end of its usable life, even if it's been well cared for.

    I have two dead FE bodies at this point, and neither
    one is worth fixing. But an FE2 "bargain" grade is
    only $130 or so at keh.com.

    The lenses are still fine, though.

    rafe b
    www.terrapinphoto.com
     
    Raphael Bustin, Jul 6, 2006
    #8
  9. Strangelove

    Bandicoot Guest


    Good advice. For B&W, I like Nikon lenses more than Canon - the higher
    contrast seems to suit B&W. For colour I prefer Pentax lenses (and Contax,
    Leica and Minolta, in that order) to either Nikon or Canon. This is a very
    personal thing though, and something you acquire a feeling for over time.

    The other important thing is how the body feels in the hand, and how well
    the controls fall under the fingers. This is often overlooked in the rush
    to buy 'product features', but is a very important part of being comfortable
    with the camera as a working tool. It's worth trying a lot of cameras out
    to get that 'feel' right.


    Peter
     
    Bandicoot, Jul 6, 2006
    #9
  10. Strangelove

    Strangelove Guest

    I just want to say this has been really, really great help.

    First off i'm very, very, very sure about using film rather than
    digital.
    Secondly I should have added that atleast 50% of the photos I will be
    taking are of city scapes during the night, so usually with orange
    sodium lighting (high pressure sodium vapor) and i'll probably see
    metal halide lamps as well.

    As far as the lens goes i'm putting aside around 500~600$(USD), and I
    guess if I come across a rather inexpensive camera I should put whats
    left into the lens.

    Stuff like tripods, bags, and other miscellaneous equipment I can
    easily pay for so no need to worry there.

    -----------------"Do you wish to purchase a new camera with warranty?
    Would you consider
    buying used from a reputable dealer like <http://www.keh.com> KEH in
    Atlanta? Are you looking at auctions on EBAY?"

    Very good question, I almost forgot about warranty. I guess that really
    depends on what I have left after buying the body and whether or not
    the model is easily repaired at local camera shops. As for the used
    though, I would definitely consider getting a used one since this is
    after all my first real* camera.

    Oh, and i'll make sure I do browse around KEH and let you know what I
    find.

    -----------------"While you're learning you can look for some books to
    give you the knowledge
    you'll require. Michael Freeman's "35mm Handbook" can be gotten from
    abebooks.com (its out of print) or possibly on eBay. It gives a good
    overview of cameras, lenses, focal lengths and how it all fits
    together.
    John Hedgecoe also published several 35mm self-taught photography
    courses,
    and you can find his stuff on the used book market."

    Very good idea. I am currently reading some introduction and
    instruction type books from Ansel Adams but i'll make sure I get those
    books.

    -----------------"You can get all you need for under $150 and you can
    begin developing a style
    and also begin to assess what brand of equipment you want and which
    lenses
    will be best for you. You can probably sell the Pentax body and lens
    in a
    year, and get back most of what you paid for it.

    Your biggest hurdle right now is to figure out what you want."

    Very nice info.. 150$ is ALOT cheaper than I expected.
    And about buying a camera being my biggest hurdle... I can definitely
    relate.

    Lenses: I don't really have much of a clue.

    -----------------"How 'bout a Nikon N90S WITH 24-120 F3.5-4.5 D
    INTERNAL FOCUS (72) WITH
    LENS CAPS 35MM SLR AUTO FOCUS CAMERA OUTFIT

    Excellent condition at KEH camera brokers $424 USD. "

    Sounds like a good deal. What exactly does auto focus mean? and the
    F3.5-4.5D refers to aperature right? (I think?)

    -----------------"The other important thing is how the body feels in
    the hand, and how well
    the controls fall under the fingers. This is often overlooked in the
    rush
    to buy 'product features', but is a very important part of being
    comfortable
    with the camera as a working tool. It's worth trying a lot of cameras
    out
    to get that 'feel' right."

    Great advice---I almost forgot about ergonomics.

    Okay this might come as a shock to many of you but in response to Scott
    W:
    -----------------"You might no have an interest in digital at this
    point in time but with digital
    bodies getting cheaper and better all the time in a few years you might
    well want to pick up a digital body and at that time having lenses that
    would work with the better digital cameras would be a very good thing."

    I already have a DSLR, new, and (here it comes) for FREE!
    It's a newish? Nikon D200 @ 10MPX that was sent to me by a senior
    member at Nikon's PR devision when I sent out emails to different
    companies about an article I was writting, "10 Gadgets For That Family
    Vacation!" which featured arguably* made up quotes by a few celebrities
    (Tiger Woods, Jodie Foster among others). I talked to the guy for a
    good 30 minutes on the phone and told him more about myself and what
    paper I was writting for etc. etc. Eventually it got personal enough
    that I told him about my interests in film photography and he offered
    me one of the 35mm film cameras as a promotion. I accepted of course
    but he then declined and said that sending me the D200 would be a
    better idea. I guess it's a pretty big camera---tons better than this
    sony I had before it although I never really* put much effort into
    using the sony.

    Anyway, alright got that, but the main problem with all of this
    (Digital) is the professional scanners, programs, warranties,
    batteries, memory cards---etc etc etc. Those thing kind of turn me off
    of D although I do admit these cameras are probably Alot easier to use.

    Aesthetically though, B&W film is what I like, and I love the grainy
    texture present on film prints that arn't in D Cameras....
    That was probably a very naive thing to say since it probably refers to
    better Img Q on the D but still, I like the idea that I am the one
    making the prints.

    But anyway, these are very good suggestions and i'm already well on my
    way with checking out those stores and used Cs.

    Thanks a bunch

    -Jon
     
    Strangelove, Jul 6, 2006
    #10
  11. Strangelove

    Jeff Burke Guest

    Find a nice Minilta SRT-102 send it to Garry's and get it overhauled and it'll
    last you for years, decades maybe. Lots of great lenses available for it too.

    Good luck.
     
    Jeff Burke, Jul 6, 2006
    #11
  12. Strangelove

    Gordon Moat Guest

    Okay, so maybe not exactly what you were considering, though I thought
    you might find this of interest:

    <http://www.chrisweeks.net/>

    Chris is using a Nikon FM2 with a new Zeiss ZF 50mm f1.4 lens and B/W
    film. Both items would fit within your budget, especially buying the
    Nikon FM2 used from a place like KEH. The new Zeiss ZF lens can be
    bought directly from Zeiss off their website.

    Now maybe people images was not what you had in mind for night shots,
    though this combination above is more than capable of getting good
    results. Of course, the older Nikon lenses also offer a few good
    choices, though given a choice I would go for that new Zeiss.
     
    Gordon Moat, Jul 6, 2006
    #12
  13. Strangelove

    DD Guest

    Get a Nikon FM3a with a 50mm f/1.8 manual focus lens, then look for
    other manual focus lenses on eBay.
     
    DD, Jul 6, 2006
    #13
  14. Strangelove

    Father Kodak Guest

    Not true. I have two Nikon F2 bodies, both over 30 years old now, and
    both still going strong. They have been cared for very well, though,
    with regular trips to the shop for clean-lube-adjust [and rotate and
    balance the tires. :)]

    Look on ebay. Lots of choices there. Be sure to get some kind of
    guarantee (no DOA, all functions working properly,etc.) from the buyer
    or just pass up the item.

    Nikon is the manufacturer with perhaps the "best" record for lens
    compatibility over time with different camera bodies. But thinking
    ahead to the time that you do want to do digital photography, note
    that older "AI" and "AIS" Nikon lenses won't meter properly with the
    less expensive Nikon digital SLRs like the D50 and D70. If that
    doesn't make any sense now, then it's a good idea for you to not spend
    too much on lenses at this point.

    Father Kodak
     
    Father Kodak, Jul 6, 2006
    #14
  15. Strangelove

    Scott W Guest

    Don't skimp on the tripod, it might cost more then you would think to
    get a good one and a good head but it is worth it. If you are shooting
    night shots make sure you get a camera that can take a cable shutter
    release and it would also be good is the camera can lock the mirror up.

    And if you have a D200 then get a Nikon body so if you do decide to use
    the digital the lenses will fit. You might have a bad feeling for
    digital but get over it. Even if you just hate the idea the D200 can
    give you test exposures when you are doing night shots.

    You might also want to spend some time using the D200 to get a feel for
    what you like and don't like in a given body. It is after all a camera
    and using it will give you good experience.


    Scott
     
    Scott W, Jul 6, 2006
    #15
  16. Strangelove

    no_name Guest

    Auto-focus means just that, it automatically focuses. You have a full
    manual focus over-ride. Just switch the camera to manual and focus.

    As the eyes get older and don't work so well under some situations,
    auto-focus can be a big help. But the photographer is still in charge.

    The lens mentioned is a zoom lens with a variable maximum aperature; at
    24mm (wide angle) the max aperature is f/3.5, but at 120mm (short
    telephoto) the max aperature is f/4.5. A larger maximum aperature means
    faster shutter speeds for a given light. It's a fraction, so the lower
    the number, the larger the aperature (f/3.5 is "faster" than f/4.5). The
    holy grail is an f/1 lens. I think Leica may have made one.

    This is not a particularly fast lens, but I think a good general purpose
    starting or "kit" lens. Lets you get out and shooting while saving money
    for some really good glass.

    And I think the lens should function with a DSLR if you ever decide to
    go that route. A Nikon shooter would have to confirm that.

    Personally I use Pentax, which I consider to be a very undervalued
    brand. The problem with Pentax however, is that being undervalued,
    there's very little aftermarket support, and if you get into a situation
    where you need to rent compatable equipment you're likely to find
    yourself out of luck.

    That won't be true if you stick to Canon or Nikon. And of the two, I
    think Nikon provides the better value. If I ever have to change brands,
    it will be to Nikon rather than Canon.

    Of course, this is somewhat influenced by being continuously beat up
    here, my very worth as a human being questioned, because I haven't
    already rushed out and sacrificed my first born for the latest &
    greatest widget from Canon.

    I have sort of an adverse reaction to that ... just don't care for
    religious fanatics, be they christian, muslim or canonista.
     
    no_name, Jul 6, 2006
    #16
  17. Strangelove

    jeremy Guest

    There are a couple of overriding considerations:

    1: Cameras don't take pictures, lenses do (this applies to film cameras, not
    digital). Landscapes require very little in the way of special features.
    Any of the classic SLRs from the late 60s through mid-70s will suffice. You
    need a relatively fast lens (I'd say f/1.8, 1.7 or 1.4), provision for a
    cable release (this eliminates the Pentax P3--not the P3n), and a self-timer
    (this eliminates the Pentax K1000).

    2: I assume that you agree that your first camera/lens may be replaced at
    some point in the future--possibly with another brand--once you decide what
    setup suits you. So the question is, how do you get the most bang for the
    buck right now?

    I suggest that it would not make sense to get a very old camera that
    requires cleaning/lubing. You want to get in cheap. I maintain that the
    Pentax P3n or P30t are your best bets. Here's why:

    1: They both give you full manual AND automatic exposure. Why limit
    yourself to just manual, when you can have your choice? Eventually you will
    determine whether you prefer one over the other. In the beginning, when you
    don't know how to set your own exposure, you can use automatic mode and get
    well-exposed shots. Later, when you want to experiment with depth-of-field,
    you can shoot manually or in aperture-preferred automatic mode.

    Finally, if you ever want flash, you can pick up several dedicated Pentax
    units that will work automatically with those camera models.

    2: Pentax lenses are of excellent quality. If you get the 50mm f/1.7 "A"
    lens, it will operate in auto exposure mode and it is purported to be one of
    the sharpest normal lenses that Pentax ever made.

    3: Most of these bodies were purchased by amateurs, and the odds are that
    you will get one with very little mileage on it. As I mentioned previously,
    I have 4 of them, and they all were received in near-mint condition.
    Contrast that with the K-1000, which is readily available but may have a lot
    of previous use. (And no self-timer and no automatic exposure)

    4: Others have suggested that you buy lenses that can be used later on
    digital cameras. In your particular case, that seems unnecessary FOR YOUR
    FIRST CAMERA. You can get one of the Pentaxes with lens for under $100, and
    you can sell it on eBay in a year and get back virtually everything you paid
    for it. You also may decide that you like those Pentax lenses, and you can
    stay with the camera and add bodies and lenses. You won't know until you
    get your feet wet.

    The reason I recommend Pentax over Nikon or other brands is because those
    two models are probably Pentax's most underrated models. They are dirt
    cheap on the used market. They have electronic shutters by Seiko. They
    have meters that are more advanced than the previous screw-mount bodies had.
    They have really excellent lenses.

    Where can you go and get "almost new" for $100?

    Remember, you are not committed to Pentax--you are just looking for a good
    starter camera that you can sell off down the road. You may very well
    decide that you want to go Nikon, or Canon, or even Leicaflex. But for now,
    you have more important things to learn. Your camera does not matter.
    Remember, landscape photography does not require any advanced features.
    Your three biggest accessories will be a good, sturdy tripod, a lens hood
    and a cable release. To that you might want to add a polarizing filter to
    darken the skies, or a yellow filter if you are shooting B&W. That's it.

    You don't need shutter speeds of up to 1/8000, you don't need autofocus
    (most of the time you'll set your lens on infinity or on hyperfocal
    distance), you don't really need matrix metering, you don't need
    autowinders or special data backs to imprint the date on your pictures.

    You don't even need anything particularly rugged. You are not a war
    correspondent.

    You might find that mirror lockup is nice, but if you are shooting at speeds
    above 1/60 that will not be a problem. And I can't think of anything with
    MLU at the price of $100.

    I do lots of landscape work, and I have found those Pentaxes to be ideal.
    They are small (they came out to compete with the Olympus OM-1, which took
    the market by storm when it was first introduced). They are light (because
    they replaced a lot of the mechanical stuff with electronics--no gears to
    get gunked up). They are CHEAP. They have accurate metering and electronic
    shutters. And the cost of switching into another brand down the road is
    virtually nil.



    To see the Pentax lens brochure:

    http://pentax-manuals.com/literature/eyes.pdf (The password to read the
    file is "Pentax" no-quotes)

    also here:

    http://pentax-manuals.com/literature/lenses_9_89.pdf

    You can see some of the Pentax lineup here:

    http://pentax-manuals.com/literature/range_9_88.pdf The P30 is the
    closest model to the ones I've recommended. It looks virtually identical.
     
    jeremy, Jul 6, 2006
    #17
  18. Correct. I was recommending AF LENSES, so as to keep his options open
    on newer, perhaps digital bodies. They'll work fine on the FM/FE
    series, manually focused.
    Uh, no. Any camera of a certain vintage will need seals and a little
    CLA, but I see a lot of these models in particular with almost no
    "mileage" on them. Many were bought as "serious cameras" by people who
    lost interest. You can tell which ones.
     
    Scott Schuckert, Jul 6, 2006
    #18
  19. Strangelove

    jeremy Guest

    For landscapes, which is what the OP indicated it would be used for, a slow
    kit lens is a compromise. There is a big difference in light-gathering
    ability from f/1.7 to f/3.5-4.5.

    Then there is the matter of the viewfinder. Slow zoom lenses make for DIM
    viewfinders. And that makes focusing difficult, and depth-of-field preview
    to be virtually useless.

    It may not be quite in vogue, but there is much to be said in favor of a
    normal prime lens, or perhaps a 35mm prime lens for newbies. That bright
    viewfinder and low distortion of the glass are quite pleasant. And, if
    realism is of paramount importance, as it is for my work, the normal focal
    length is essential. I use mine perhaps 85% of the time. Even on my
    digicam, with its zoom lens, I usually shoot at normal focal length. That
    wide-angle, with trees and utility poles that always look as though they are
    about to fall over--is a real bummer.
     
    jeremy, Jul 6, 2006
    #19
  20. As far as I can tell, most AF Nikkor are not very good for manual focus.
    They are very obviously not designed for manual focus to the same extent
    as manual focus Nikkors.

    You OP wants to try manual focus, he should get a good manual focus body,
    and non-zoom manual focus lenses.

    On the other hand, for AF, get a simple AF body with an AF zoom and try
    to see if you can make that work.

    Certainly for beginners, manual focus and AF require different approaches
    to photography.
     
    Philip Homburg, Jul 6, 2006
    #20
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