What inexpensive fully manual camera to start with

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Siddhartha Jain, Dec 3, 2005.

  1. Hi,

    I want to get a manual film SLR, mostly, to experiment. So I don't want
    to spend too much. Lets say less than $100 for the body. And another
    $200 over six months on lenses. Currently, I am looking at the Pentax
    Spotmatic II and M42 mount lenses. Used spotmatics sell for $50-60 on
    ebay and I already have a 50mm f1.4, a 60mm f2.8 Macro, and a 200mm f4
    to start with.

    Makes a good kit or do you think I should look at the rangefinders like
    the Canonet GL 17 III or some other older rangefinder that takes other


    - Siddhartha
    Siddhartha Jain, Dec 3, 2005
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  2. Siddhartha Jain

    Advocate Guest

    I like Nikkormats...I recently purchased a Nikkormat FTN in pristene
    condition for $55 on ebay.
    Advocate, Dec 3, 2005
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  3. What about lenses? How expensive or cheap are they? Lets say a 24mm,
    50mm, 135mm and 200mm?

    - Siddhartha
    Siddhartha Jain, Dec 3, 2005
  4. Siddhartha Jain

    Guest Guest

    You can't beat a Spotmatic SP 1000 or II for built quality. I once
    dropped mine on a marble floor from about 6 feet and it still works
    perfectly. And it has never needed service in the many years I have owned
    it. Never needs batteries either unless you really need the light meter
    which a hand held is better for or just the sunny 16 rule. The Super
    Takumar lenses are legendary. I would get the 55 1.8 rather than the 50
    1.4. I just like the pics better from the 1.8 and a 105.
    Guest, Dec 3, 2005
  5. Siddhartha Jain

    Jim Guest

    Nikon lenses are apt to be rather expensive because the MF ones are still
    very useful. I would try to find a body which accepts the lenses you
    currently own.
    Jim, Dec 3, 2005
  6. For the SP II, is the Tamron 35-105mm f2.8 SP worth acquiring at $160?

    - Siddhartha
    Siddhartha Jain, Dec 3, 2005
  7. Siddhartha Jain

    Guest Guest

    I have no experience with this lens but the older zooms tend to be not as
    good as newer ones. The primes are excellent. I carry a 55 and 105. You
    could add a 35 to the mix for a nice setup. The best place for
    information is the Spotmatic group at
    www.groups.yahoo.com/group/spotmatic/ The group has a lot of long time
    users and several pros and a few repair techs and good links to shops.
    Guest, Dec 3, 2005
  8. It doesn't seem like a tough decision to me. There's no reason to buy
    new lenses, and no reason not to get a Spotmatic II. It does everything
    you could ask a manual-everything camera to do, and there are enough M42
    mount lenses available that you can expand your lens collection at a
    reasonable cost when you have a better idea what you need.
    Gregory L. Hansen, Dec 3, 2005
  9. Siddhartha Jain

    JimmyG Guest


    For a tight budget, the Spotmatics can't be beat.

    There a gillions of screw-mount lenses out there to fit them, not just
    JimmyG, Dec 3, 2005
  10. The Spotmatic is hard to beat: If you can live with screw mount lenses &
    stop-down metering (= slower operation), it's all you need.

    My own lens reccomendations:

    Forget older zooms.

    The Takumar 35mm 3.5 is great (almost identical to the Schneider
    Curtagon 35mm 2.8 - buy either if if you can find it cheap).

    Look at Zeiss Jena lenses: Esp: 20mm f/4.0 & 25mm f/4.0. Also (if you
    need it) the 200mm f/2.8 and the 180mm f/2.8 (needs adaptor) are
    outstanding. The Zeiss Jena 300mm, Meyer/Pentacon 300mm, are also good
    (need adaptor) & the Meyer Telemegor 300mm & 400mm are excellent & Cheap
    (pre-select diaphragms).

    Around 90/100mm: The Schacht-Ulm 90mm & the Meyer-Optik 100mm are both

    Some Russian Lenses:
    Arstat 35mm f/2.8 shift is very good. Russar fisheye also excellent (if
    you need such a lens) and Russar 20mm is supposed to be quite good (not
    tried). Jupiter 9 (85mm f/2.0 - Zeiss Sonnar clone) is usually
    excellent, but pre-set diaphragm and variable build quality.

    There are also (rare) Zeiss (West), Mamiya & Fuji lenses, which tend to
    be very good.

    Also many Pentax (=Takumar) lenses are excellent, but I have less direct
    experience with them than the lenses mentioned above.

    Rangefinders are another animal:
    They are great, but mostly useless for longer tele & close-up shots. A
    good travel & reportage system, but a SLR is more versatile. My own
    reccommendation is a good rangefinder system (=$$$) alongside a SLR, if
    you can afford it.
    Chris Loffredo, Dec 4, 2005
  11. Siddhartha Jain

    Paul Mitchum Guest

    Use whichever ones you have easiest access to. The point of a cheap
    camera 'to start with' is that you know you'll 'outgrow' it anyway.
    There's really no point in getting a rangefinder if you already have
    some M42 lenses.
    Paul Mitchum, Dec 4, 2005
  12. Siddhartha Jain

    Paul Mitchum Guest

    Not at $160. I recently spotted a Tamron Adaptall SP 35-80 for $40.
    Either sum is probably better spent on a Super Takumar, but the Adaptall
    lenses have the advantage of retaining their value by being useful on
    more cameras.

    Then again, M42 adaptors aren't hard to come by.
    Paul Mitchum, Dec 4, 2005
  13. Siddhartha Jain

    Peter Chant Guest

    I'm not so sure. I could easily come away with a swathe of K mount lenses
    from any camera shop in town, any day, but you never, ever see a M42 lens
    in the window. That includes the lenses in the window going for £5 or £10.

    Get a K mount camera, the lenses are much more plentiful than M42 and range
    from very cheap for the less desirable names to reasonable.

    I'd suggest the ME Super, manual control for when you want and aperture
    priority for when you need to work a little faster. I.e. your mates won't
    hang around whilst you play with your exposures.

    Peter Chant, Dec 4, 2005
  14. Siddhartha Jain

    Peter Chant Guest

    Am I the only one who just does not see them for sale in the high street?

    Peter Chant, Dec 4, 2005
  15. And the price tag for an ME Super, 50mm f1.4, a 60mm f2.8 Macro, and a
    200mm f4 is how much? There's nothing wrong with an ME Super and K mount
    lenses, of course. But Siddhartha was asking about a starter camera, he
    already has some lenses, and he's on a budget. If he's not going to work
    with what he has, he might as well get a Rebel with a stock zoom lens.

    On the internet, the supply of M42 lenses is endless.
    Gregory L. Hansen, Dec 4, 2005
  16. Siddhartha Jain

    Tony Polson Guest

    And there's nothing wrong with an ME Super and M42 lenses, or a mix of
    K bayonet and M42 lenses.
    Tony Polson, Dec 4, 2005
  17. Siddhartha Jain

    Bandicoot Guest

    If you don't mind not having bayonet mount lenses, and using stop down
    metering - and neither is a massive problem, really - then you can't do much
    better in terms of value for money than the Pentax Spotmatics. Well built,
    very nice handling, meter circuits that still read accurately with modern
    batteries, and the _Pentax_ lenses for them are some of the best quality
    at almost any price.

    A rangefinder is a very different sort of tool from an SLR - so the choice
    comes down to what sort of subjects interest you and how you want to shoot
    them. If macro interests you, definitely get the SLR. If you ae mostly
    interested in 'street' pictures, then maybe the rangefinder. If you don't
    know, get the SLR as it will be more versatile and once you know what
    interests you most then you can decide where to go with your next camera.
    I'd pretty much go along with that. The old Pentax M42 70-150mm is
    'alright', but not great by modern standards. The 85-210mm has an 'OK'
    reputation and would be a nice lens to experiment with, but again it isn't
    on a par with modern zooms, and is a long way behind the fixed focal length
    Pentax lenses that yu can get in M42.

    I once had a screw mount Tokina that was OK for ocassional use, and there
    are a few Vivitar Series 1 (the original, not the rubbish made under that
    name now) and Tamron Adaptall zoom lenses that are good and that you may be
    able to use on an M42 camera. But these are things to think of further down
    the road, by which time you may have changed cameras anyway. So what I am
    saying is don't imagine that the idea of a decent zoom on M42 is impossible,
    but don't expect to find one easily: don't go the M42 route if you are
    determined to use zoom lenses from the outset.
    Second that: an excellent lens. The Super-takumar is newer, and the best
    (definitley) for M42 is the Super-Multicoated-Takumar version.

    A few other Pentax lenses to look out for then:

    15mm f3.5 is superb - and rare, and priced to match.

    20mm f4.5 is very nice. Low distortion and sharp.

    24mm f3.5 I liked, but never as much as either the 20 or the 28.

    The f3.5 is the nicest of the 28mm range.

    35mm f2 is very nice, but expensive. The f3.5 mentioned above is a much
    better buy, and a lot lighter too.

    All of the 50mm Pentax lenses are excellent. I love the f1.4, but some
    people prefer the 55mm f1.8. Some of the f1.4s are yellowed - it's probably
    best to avoid such a lens (unless you only shoot B&W!)

    The 85mm f1.8 is very nice, but the 105mm f2.8 is lighter, cheaper, and also
    a bit sharper: a very nice lens indeed. (The 120 is good too, but you are
    not very likely to find one.)

    The 135mm f3.5 is very good value for money, and light. The f2.5 version is
    a bit sharper still, but can be expensive (and it's heavy).

    The 150mm f4 is harder to find, but often not expensive. A good sharp and
    easy to handle lens.

    The 200mm f4 isn't the best of these, but it is nicer than most other M42
    200s that are available. The 300mm f4 is a good lens, but heavy - not a
    match to modern glass at this length, but still very good for the price.

    The 50mm f4 and 100m f4 macro lenses are both very good indeed. The 100mm
    is more useful if you want to specialise in macro, while the 50mm can be a
    nice general purpose lens. Both are excellent sharp lenses for distant
    subjects as well as for close up subjects.

    I used Spotmatics for years, and can definitely recommend them as a good way
    to explore 35mm SLRs with good lenses, and without spending a fortune.

    Bandicoot, Dec 4, 2005
  18. Siddhartha Jain

    Paul Furman Guest

    Why are you looking at a totally manual film camera? Getting sick of too
    many auto features getting in the way on the D70 or wanting to make
    larger prints, play with B&W, etc? Just curious. I would recommend
    whatever you can find with a huge bright focusing screen if you really
    want to spoil yourself!
    Paul Furman, Dec 4, 2005
  19. Your Pentax kit is an excellent starting point; I think much better
    than something like the Canonet (which is limited to the lens it comes
    with). An interchangeable lens rangefinder would also be good, but
    not especially better, and much more expensive (particularly because
    you already have a good starting set of lenses).
    David Dyer-Bennet, Dec 5, 2005
  20. Siddhartha Jain

    Peter Chant Guest

    Well, you do not see M42 cameras in the shops and looking at the adverts in
    UK photo mags you have to pay a premium for M42 stuff today. Spotmatics
    are dearer than most K mount cameras.

    Same for K mount!
    Peter Chant, Dec 5, 2005
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