35mm camera/lens for artistic results..?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by bn22my, Jan 25, 2008.

  1. bn22my

    bn22my Member

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    Hi there, I'm looking to shoot film again after using digital for a while and pretty much hating it.. (so sterile!) Anyways I'm looking for a camera and lens combination that will give me slightly more interesting/unusual/characterful results than a regular 35mm, but am a bit stumped as to what to go for. The cheaper the better I guess, but I might be able to spend upto $800ish.. someone suggested the lomographic/Russian camera route- a Zenit 122 or KM, but I've heard they're pretty unreliable etc.. someone else suggested a Contax/Zeiss Planar 50mm lens, but they can be fairly expensive.. Does anyone know of a camera/lens that yields characterful results, that is generally reliable and fairly inexpensive? Might be an impossible thing to find, but worth a shot.
    Any thoughts are much appreciated. Cheers~ Ben
     
  2. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    Get a used Pentax K1000 with a good Takumar 50 mm.

    This is what I tell all my students to get.
     
  3. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    What you've mentioned is at opposite ends of the scale in terms of quality, both in mechanics and, to a lesser extent, optics. A lot depends on what you consider artistic. As for your budget, you could easily accomplish such a goal with a third of that, but you could also spend double. I would lean towards a Cosina Voightlander Bessa with a fixed focal length lens that fits your vision best. For example a 35, if you like a lot of space, or an 85 or 105 if you like tight framing. A 50 would probably be my last choice, but it depends on what you like. For 800 or less the possibilities are almost endless, far from impossible.
     
  4. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Ben,

    Welcome to APUG. You might want to post a thread on the "Introduce Yourself...." forum.

    For $800 you can get yourself a very nice kit.

    Since you seem to have had some SLR experience in the past - perhaps you'd like to give RF a whirl?

    At that price range I think you can swing a new Cosina Voightlander R2M and 50mm lens. Where you go from there is up to you.

    Personally, I'd stay away from the FSU stuff. Fun to play with but lousy as reliable shooters.
     
  5. David William White

    David William White Member

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    And from the cheap seats...

    Depending upon what you mean by 'artistic' and 'character', you might get a kick out of a Holga or a Diana? See 'Light Leaks' magazine. $50 gets you a camera and a few rolls of film to have fun with.

    The nicest photograph I ever took of my newborn daughter was with a Holga!
     
  6. alanrockwood

    alanrockwood Member

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    What do you mean by "characterful"? That should help people give you some answers.
     
  7. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    One thing that I do is use a screw-thread Leica, which gives you access to OEM lenses made over a period of 80 years and which have quite marked differences in terms of flatness of field, bokeh (quality of out-of-focus image) and flare. One thing that quite a lot of people do is to use a 35 mm SLR (any leading brand will do) and fit it with a "Lens Baby", which has been deliberately designed to offer a highly quirky image quality. This latter idea is quite attractive, you can get weird optical effects while not having to use a cruddy cheap camera that leaks light, overlaps frames, etc.
     
  8. zenrhino

    zenrhino Member

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    For $800 you could put yourself in a Rollei TLR or a Bronica GS-1 and avoid the limitations of 35mm altogether.
     
  9. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi ben

    you can get the results you are going after
    with just about any camera.
    i second the idea of getting a k1000.
    they are cheap and reliable,
    no use spending money if you don't have to.
     
  10. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Well, not to belabor the point, but you can make art with every camera/lens imaginable... :wink:

    Anyway, if you want something with character that is reliable, get a Brownie. They are the simplest possible camera, and they were built to a decent standard. Even if they break, they are so simple that you could repair them yourself.

    If you want quality glass with character, then the notion of character itself becomes difficult to define. Most professional 35mm lenses are optimized for sharpness. In 35mm, however, the Leica Thambar lens ($$$$) is one of the few famous pictorialist lenses. I know that Minolta used to make a lens that was optimized for out of focus areas (bokeh). Nikon also made a lens with Defocus Control (DC), which allows you to control the aspect of the bokeh.

    If you want to go the large format way, you can find amazing soft focus/portrait lenses that will have sharp to blur transitions to die for.

    You could also make a pinhole camera, but that will require long exposure. However, that has a lot of character, and has no moving parts.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 25, 2008
  11. nsurit

    nsurit Subscriber

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    Hmm, the character probably resides behind, rather than in the camera. That is the good news. The good and the bad news is that if you understand how the tool works, almost any tool will do. If your budget is $800 or less, you should be able to get a pretty good variety of equipment. I probably wouldn't spend it all on one camera. For a couple hundred dollars you should be able to pick up a Holga or a Diana and a nice medium format pinhole (http://www.8banners.com/index.php?option=com_ezcatalog&task=viewcategory&id=2&Itemid=36) or (http://www.zeroimage.com/web2003/EntryPage/entryFrameset.htm) which would leave you with $600. Take 3 or $400 of that and decide on what 35mm SLR you want and start looking for a kit. With a little judicious shopping on Craigslist or eBay you should be able to pick up a kit in that range that would include 3 lenses or so. That would leave $200 to $300. Spend $150 or so and have a good repair person go thru the body with a CLA and you will still have enough left to buy a tripod, extension tubes or other goodies and that should provide you with the tools you need to let your imagination run wild. My poison of choice happens to be the Olympus OM line, however there are many other good ones. If you are going to chase something on eBay, take a look at esnipe.com. My 2 cents worth and then some . . . Bill Barber
     
  12. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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  13. BobbyR

    BobbyR Member

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    Kiev 10, it has gobs of character.
     
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  15. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Hi, Ben. Welcome to the group. The camera really doesn't matter all that much. You need two things. Artistic vision and familiarity with your equipment. I have a Minolta sr-T101 and a few assorted (nothing special) MD/MC 3 lug bayonet mount lenses. I have been using them for a few years now and am still getting used to my Mamiya M645j MF w/ three Sekor-C lenses. But when you know what your gear is capable of and you are able to see past the norm in your subjects and are deliberate with your technique, very little of your work is not going to be artistic. I've even found that my family event snapshots have a little something extra even for quick hits on the fly. So I hope you you enjoy your stay, Ben. Post pictures so we can see what you're made of. Thanks, Ben.
     
  16. bn22my

    bn22my Member

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    cheers!

    Thanks so much for everyone's thoughts, it's much appreciated. I don't think I was clear about the fact that obviously the picture comes from who's behind the camera, rather than from the camera itself- that's a given. I guess though I was missing the immediacy of film to give a certain quality that can add character, such as the colours or vignettes that even a knackered old lomo lc-a can produce. Digital can't replicate that.
    I will definitely look into everyone's suggestions! Thanks again- Ben

    www.benmostyn.com
     
  17. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Cameras are just tools, even the Jujxiti 16 Megawatt Picanator. The right tool for the right job. In the film way, you could have allot of tools (cameras) and still be under $800.

    For example, you could have a pinhole camera ($5 on up), a "normal" SLR ($80-$300), a cool old 35 or 120 folder ($20-$200) with a funky lens, a Holga($30), an old 120 box camera($2-$20), and an oldish monorail 4x5 including a lens ($300-$500), and come in around that $800 with a little time invested in careful shopping.

    No- none of them are new, except the Holga, but you would be suprised how much life is left in many old cameras.

    Then you get to choose the tool like an artist chooses a paintbrush.

    You don't listen to only one CD, why shoot only one camera?
     
  18. lens_hacker

    lens_hacker Member

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    I tend to use the older "vintage" lenses. They have more character, a different look. More like the pastels of Kodachrome. These do not have to be expensive. A new Bessa R series camera can use 1930s lenses with a Leica Screw Mount to M Adapter. An older Summitar, Elmar, or Summicron has a different look to it. As do the Sonnar copies, such as the Canon and Nikkor lenses. I just "made" an uncoated 5cm F2 Sonnar for a Leica thread mount camera out of parts lenses. Some of my best B&W photos have come from that lens in Contax mount.

    With a 50 year old Canon 50/1.5 on a Bessa R2:

    http://flickr.com/photos/oldcamerapictures/1491182844/

    On a Humorous note, a friend on another forum asked me to make a lens that would give "Holga" quality images on a Leica camera:

    http://flickr.com/photos/oldcamerapictures/2077202232/

    How about a single-element, RF coupled lens for a $5,000 camera?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 26, 2008
  19. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    As much as I like shooting with my Kievs, I wouldn't recommend an FSU camera to someone as their only/first film camera. While using them are wonderful experiences, the technology is a bit dated and the cameras are only middle-of-the-road in reliability. For $800 and a desire to return to film photography after working in digital, I would recommend considering a camera that wouldn't be so different in operation from your previous digital cameras. There are many excellent, modern Nikon, Canon, Pentax, etc., cameras available used and they all benefit from improved optical technology. If you want to look at older equipment, it's hard to beat Nikon F, Canon FD, Pentax screw-mount and K-mount, Minolta, Olympus, etc. Great cameras with great lenses and operation that's not so different from current cameras. You can even get into medium format for $800. Lots of great stuff there too. You can get that "character" you're looking for in the optics from a lot of brands.
     
  20. BobNewYork

    BobNewYork Member

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    Interesting question Ben. (Welcome back from the dark side by the way!) It's food for thought for all of us.

    I think it depends entirely on what type of photography you want to do. A 4x5 view camera won't help you with street shooting, but then again, if you want to work in a more deliberate, contemplative way then that 4x5 may just be the answer. A medium format would put you in between in terms of ease of handling.

    All lenses have their own characteristics and some will suit your personal vision better than others. To make that choice you should look at the work of others, decide what you admire and then see if you can find out what they use. I don't mean copy the work of others but look for the image characteristics that best work for your own, personal vision.

    If you can I'd think about getting access to a darkroom too - you can further refine your images there with personal control which you just can't get from a lab.

    Exciting times my friend. Enjoy them.:wink:
     
  21. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    lens_hacker, I shoot a variety of older lenses, many uncoated, some pre-WWII, on my 2x3 Graphics. All are, though, anastigmats and I don't shoot them on a format they won't cover. I've never noticed much in the way of different "looks" from any of them except Aldis Unos (a little soft, still acceptable, and they don't get sharper at smaller apertures) and a no-name Goerz dialyte type doppel anastigmat (not a Dagor, terribly soft at all apertures) and a 65/6.8 Raptar (same). Until proven otherwise, I think that stories that older "vintage" lenses have more character, a different look are old wives tales.

    And I've shot a lot of Kodachrome, mainly both versions of Kodachrome 25. Pastel it ain't. Have your eyes and your shutters checked. Your vision's probably ok, but your shutters almost certainly run slow. Or perhaps your exposure meters need to be calibrated.
     
  22. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Dan, allow me to disagree. Some lenses do have different characters, although most are made to be sharp and neutral, and most of the rest just fail to achieve that. just take a look at the few samples in my gallery...

    But I agree on Kodachrome: If it's pastel, there's something wrong. :smile:
     
  23. frank

    frank Subscriber

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    I'd suggest a Summarit 50mm f1.5, a Summar 50mm f2, an Elmar 50mm f3.5, an Elmar 35mm f3.5, or a Summaron 35mm f3.5 as lenses that have interesting (not straight-forward) rendering. These are all older Leitz lenses and may or may not be coated. Look for uncoated ones, and since you are looking for artistic character, cleaning marks on the lens elements would be acceptable. These lenses are available from $100 to $250 in this condition. Find a screw mount RF body (canon, leica, CV) to screw it on. Bodies are available from $175 to $300 used. Or get an M-mount body from Leica or CV for more money but better viewfinders, and you can use these lenses with an adaptor. Good luck and have fun!
     
  24. nsurit

    nsurit Subscriber

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    Ben, having just visited your site, I'd say you understand "camera as tool" better than most. For any who haven't done so , it is worth a visit. http://www.benmostyn.com/

    So back to my original post . . . yes, Olympus OM is my poison of choice. The metering on the OM 3 & OM 4 is pretty special, as it is with the OM 2S, for those who understand light. Zuiko glass will match or better most available. Their macro stuff, which is territory you seem to have little interest in doing, is unsurpassed. What reside on the OM 2S which I currently have loaded with Ilford HP 5 is a Zuiko 85mm f2, however it migh just a s easily be one of the wides (21mm f2 or perhaps 24mm f2.8.) With your talent with composition and effective use of depth of field the camera and or lens should make no difference.

    I do like to get outside the box sometimes and when I do so with my 35mm, it may be with something on front of a Zuiko that has been altered (the attachment rather than the lens) or I might use soemthing like the superb Tamron 70-150 soft focus lens, a Sima 90mm soft focus or other specialty lenses. Lens Baby comes to mind. Nylon stockings, vaseline, sandpaper,tape, chunks of black paper and other bits and pieces find their way into my kit from time to time.

    Whatever your choice of tools, I'm sure you will make the best of it. Bill Barber
     
  25. bn22my

    bn22my Member

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    cheers..

    I appreciate that Bill- it's good of you to say. Thanks for checking out the site. I will definitely look into those suggestions. I'm only just starting out as a pro (I'm 23 years old and not as experienced as some of my older peers), but I figure it's necessary to always be looking to keep things fresh, otherwise it's easy to get lost in the masses.. reverting back to film seems to be one way to shake things up a bit. I kind of think something's been lost with all the digital technology, despite its uses, so while film is still around (which I hope will be for a long time) we should probably make the most of it!
    Thanks again to everyone who has posted a suggestion.. Cheers~ Ben
     
  26. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    As a pro you want a system that is reliable, repairable, and rentable. If you will be shooting both film and digital you also want some cross compatabiity, a common lens mount. Some of the charatisitic your are looking for in the final product comes from both the lens and the choice of film. I would look at both Nikon and Pentax. With a lens adaptor you can shoot 42mm and K mount on both film and digital bodies with Pentax.