A RETROSPECTIVE ON BAD CAMERAS

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by David Lyga, Oct 16, 2012.

  1. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,872
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Shooter:
    35mm
    There are many who read these posts who have little or no experience in buying a used camera. I would like to offer perspectives on SLR bodies to largely avoid. There were some troubleprone cameras made and time has allowed us to be better judges of just which ones they are.

    I offer the following SLRs, due to frequent jamming: Petri FT II (maybe even ALL Petris, although their lenses are superb). Also, Praktica tends to jam too often. Zenit, as simple as it is, can have bad quality control and for that reason can be one to avoid. Also, Topcon UNI (NOT the RE though, which is good). The Yashica electronic cameras sometimes offer problems.

    There certainly are exceptions to all of these but, generally, these are the worst in my opinion. - David Lyga
     
  2. Andy K

    Andy K Member

    Messages:
    9,422
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2004
    Location:
    Sunny Southe
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have found Zenits to be the AK47s of the camera world. Simple, heavy, tough as nails.
     
  3. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,711
    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    The Zenit is one of the only cameras I know that when you look through the viewfinder you have a vision of the interior around the pentaprism, distracting the eye from the image in the middle. Also when you wind on it sounds like two house bricks grinding together. However from a design point of view, compared with a Konica AiBORG it looks like a Leica gIII.
     
  4. Nick Merritt

    Nick Merritt Member

    Messages:
    421
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2007
    Location:
    Hartford, Co
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Retina Reflexes. Any leaf shutter 35mm SLR, because of the complexity of the mechanism, will be a higher risk than focal plane SLRs, but the Retinas are particularly prone to problems.
     
  5. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    9,444
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The "Brand" 4x5 "field" camera. The thing makes an RB67 feel like a Ricoh GR1 in your hand. The handle on the rear standard gives the illusion that you could somehow hand-hold this beast. The dual-rail chassis design is also something that could get mis-aligned, and due to the fact that all the standards and the tripod mounting block are cast metal bits, if they got bent (say, you dropped it on a concrete floor while trying to mount it on your tripod) there'd be no way to accurately re-align them or to repair the camera to any degree of precision.
     
  6. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

    Messages:
    3,925
    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2011
    Location:
    Adirondacks
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    What about Mirandas? I have one I've never used, and everyone says it's crap.
     
  7. PentaxBronica

    PentaxBronica Member

    Messages:
    365
    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2011
    Shooter:
    35mm
    In my experience anything with no control over the exposure isn't likely to be good. Basing this on a selection of horrible fixed shutter speed/aperture/focus compacts I had as a kid, they could just about get a reasonable shot in broad daylight but forget about shade, indoors, etc!

    I have a Zenit B which I've yet to put a film through, every so often I fish it out, play with it a bit...and think "I'll use my Pentax SV instead"!
     
  8. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    9,444
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Another thought- a Kiev medium format that hasn't been reconstructed by Arax. And even those are questionable. Fun to play with, but don't ever try to depend on it for anything.
     
  9. lxdude

    lxdude Member

    Messages:
    6,942
    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Location:
    Redlands, So
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    When all I had was a 126 Kodak Instamatic, I discovered a trick for shade or somewhat dim light. Put a flashcube on it and the shutter speed is reduced. I'm not sure how much now, but it was at least a stop, maybe two. So putting a used flashcube on it afforded decent shade shots and even faces near a campfire with the Kodacolor of the time. (1972)
     
  10. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

    Messages:
    7,473
    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2007
    Location:
    Midwest USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Some of those cameras listed can be "Good" cameras if you can get them for free and fix them :smile:
     
  11. Dali

    Dali Subscriber

    Messages:
    729
    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2009
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Not sure such list is really pertinent as old cameras are prone to failure anyway. Those reliable (or supposed to be) when new might develop unexpected weakness with years.

    Praktica might be low in your list but it is the only camera I bought used which worked great right out of the package. All others need some adjustment / lube at one point (Pentax Spotmatic, several Olympus OM, Yashica TL, you name it), the worse being a Nikkormat which broke after 2 rolls... Too, my Zenit 3M worked great after I slightly adjusted the second curtain of the shutter (it was sometimes dragging).

    So, my advice would be to buy whatever you like and to get it CLAed. If the job is done correctly (another variable in the equation...), you can expect to be happy for a decade. But I would not rely only on a camera reputation after all these years.

    Take care.
     
  12. pen s

    pen s Member

    Messages:
    241
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2011
    Location:
    Olympia, wa.
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Too much anecdotal evidence and personal experience , not enough hard facts to establish a list. I have found many old cameras not functioning at all or functioning poorly.

    The key is really the knowledge of how to *thoroughly* check an old camera. Perhaps short of an instrument shutter speed test in the field, then at least a basic function test.

    When on a camera hunt I always bring several common meter batteries, (the #675 zinc air hearing aid battery can usually be substituted for non available 1.35 mercury cells). and a small electronic flash with PC cord to check sync and, to an extent, lazy or capping shutter curtain problems. These checks will take several minutes and if the seller balks at the care I am taking then I walk away. Even with these precautions the camera could quit in the first month or two. That is the risk we all face.

    In all of the above I'm not saying there are not some cameras that have not stood the test of time as well as certain others. The problem is that quite a few of our classic cameras have spent the last 20 or 30 years sitting around and not getting used. That is often times more detrimental to a camera than being used regularly over the same time frame.
     
  13. summicron1

    summicron1 Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,946
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2010
    Location:
    Ogden, Utah
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    if you don't mind bumping up to MF, the Kiev 88 is my nominee for the all-time suicidally-inducing fall-apart-on-opening-the-box piece of crap camera in existence.

    At least the one I had, briefly, was -- it made three trips to be "fixed" in the space of a month, and the last trip was one-way after it started falling apart, quite literally, in my hands as I just worked the shutter because at that point I was afraid of the thing.

    I know the Kiev 88 has its fans, and people speak highly of those models that have been "upgraded" with better parts, but I might, maybe, take one if you gave it to me, but that's it. Ukranian/Soviet quality control added to a camera design that Hasselblad abandoned because they couldn't make it work right is an evil mixture.

    Other bottom line: Never buy a camera from a factory in a country where the rule of thumb is to find out what day of the week it was made because on Mondays everyone has a hangover and on Friday everyone is rushing to get out, and even those made on Wednesday are dicey, at best.

    I second the comments on SLRs with between-the-lens shutters (Retina, Zeiss contaflex) -- the shutters probably worked well new, but are too complex, with too many things going on, to age well and are very expensive to have serviced.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 16, 2012
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. narsuitus

    narsuitus Member

    Messages:
    791
    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My first SLR, a Miranda Sensorex, was very unreliable when brand new. I doubt if it has improved with age.
     
  16. Yashinoff

    Yashinoff Member

    Messages:
    193
    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2012
    Shooter:
    35mm
    My Miranda D works perfectly...

    For this list though I nominate Edixa. All of them. I've had five or six pass through my hands. Every single one of them had a dragging shutter. Very easy to take apart though, so not a big problem to fix this. However, all but one of these Edixas also had degraded prisms and mirrors. Which is a shame because the one good one I have is really bright, and the image is larger than on most M42 cameras. The last problem is that most Edixas won't actually work with regular M42 lenses. The aperture plunger does not travel far enough to push the pin on most M42 lenses. This is why companies made Edixa specific M42 lenses.

    That being said the camera I have run the most film through this year was an Edixa Prismaflex. I just can't recommend one of these to anybody who is not mechanically inclined. Because they're all broken.
     
  17. Craig Swensson

    Craig Swensson Member

    Messages:
    388
    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2009
    Location:
    Oceania
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Could not agree more, all the General Motors and General Electric stuff i have ever owned came out of such a factory...true ,
     
  18. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,872
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Shooter:
    35mm
    OK: I have been buying SLRs and RFs (the cheap ones) for literally decades and do minor repairs. MY EXPERIENCE has been that (E von Hoegh) Mirandas are MOSTLY good but I admit that there are some dogs, and for no apparent reason. I have always thought that their really silly advertising (essentially 'sex' ads glorifying the man/woman sexual attraction that segues into their product(?!) is what they were trying to use to sell their cameras. Compare those 1960s ads with the cool, quite, intellectual ads placed by Nikon. Advertising, more than any other factor destroyed Miranda. Who was their Madison Avenue agengy? But, no, Mirandas were generally not faulty products.

    (Nick Merritt): yes, Retina reflexes were bad. In fact, were ANY leaf shutter SLRs that were any good? Thank you for reminding me.

    (TheFlyingCamera): Kiev 88 was out of my scope here as I was not talking about MF. I am not knowledgeable about that but I will say that my first 'real' camera, age 16 (1966) was a Minolta Autocord CDS and I loved it (until a grain of rice entered the rather accessible gears during the shoot of my cousin's wedding! Quality control in the Soviet bloc was generally bad but even the Zenit could perform well (optics great) in its dire simplicity if the QC was good for that particular item.

    (Dali): Nikkormat was never quite the 'god' it was cracked up to be. I have had Nikkormats, Spotmatics, and SRTs get truly soaked and only the Nikkormat did not respond to drying and TLC.

    Yes, Yashinoff: Edixa in in the quagmire.

    My BEST experiences have been (talking ONLY of mass market items here, folks, not professional caliber items): Spotmatics (and H series predecessor and progeny like K1000), Minolta SR and SRT, electronic Minoltas, electronic Canons. Mechanical Canons are also great but somewhat overengineered. Also excellent but less 'sexy' are most Ricohs, Vivitars, Mamiya DTL. In fact, if one were to have to specify the single, best mechanical mass market 35mm SLR I would choose Pentax (H series, Spotmatic, and K family) as the very best, closely followed by the Minolta SR and SRT. It took FOUR years of R&D to bring the Spotmatic to market but I have the same high regard for the predecessor, the H series, which I feel to be the most aesthetic SLR design of all times. - David Lyga
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 17, 2012
  19. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,538
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Location:
    U.K.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    When I sold cameras for a living an old lady bought a black Zenit E from me and a couple of weeks later she brought in her camera and asked me to remove her first film from the camera and have it processed and put a new film in.
    When I took the camera out of the E.R.C. there were hundreds of small dents in the cameras base plate, and when I asked her what she had been doing to it she said "oh my stair carpet was was coming loose and was dangerous and I don't have a hammer to tack it down with, so I used the camera " :eek:.
    I tested the Zenit and it still worked perfectly, and I know for a fact it worked for the next three or four years at least, so you can literally "pound nails in with them"
     
  20. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,872
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Ben, that is a true story because the Zenit is suffiently simple, engineering-wise, to withstand that 'abuse'. Really, think about it, what could go wrong using the bottom as a hammer?

    When I was a child I used to build electrical battery operated gadgets on wooden bases and I had no hammer. Instead of having the intelligence or insight to ask my father or mother to use a hammer to hammer the nails on my contraptions, I used the bottom of an EverReady D cell as a hammer. I used to stip wire with my teeth also, Stupidity has no dearth of places to hide. - David Lyga
     
  21. PentaxBronica

    PentaxBronica Member

    Messages:
    365
    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2011
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I know of a Pentax K2 which survived falling down a mountainside in a holdall (it didn't have a case of any sort). Only damage was a small dent in the baseplate. It went on to shoot almost twenty years of family holidays before my parents bought a digicam, and still works perfectly now although I've yet to persuade Dad to put the K-7 down for a bit and give it some exercise.
     
  22. lxdude

    lxdude Member

    Messages:
    6,942
    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Location:
    Redlands, So
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Oh man, I did that when I was a kid. I still remember what it felt like when a strand got caught between my teeth as I was pulling outward on the wire.:sad:
     
  23. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

    Messages:
    3,925
    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2011
    Location:
    Adirondacks
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
     
  24. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

    Messages:
    9,083
    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Location:
    Ryde, Isle o
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I have three which all work perfectly! One of them was my first SLR back in 1979.

    Me too (still do sometimes). I also used to use my mum's hairdressing scissors!


    Steve.
     
  25. lxdude

    lxdude Member

    Messages:
    6,942
    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Location:
    Redlands, So
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    In my house, using those or her sewing scissors for that (or for any reason without asking) was an effective way to learn the true meaning of wrathful!
     
  26. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

    Messages:
    2,671
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2004
    Location:
    Phoeinx Ariz
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I collected Mirandas, the lens are very good and test well, the bodies were mid range, not up to pro Nikon or Cannon, but good for the day. Many Mirandas were lightly used and can be found in good condition, interchangable viewfinders, the EE had spot and average metering with shutter speed priortiy, but a limited range of lens and no winders or motors. The only Miranda I would call a dog is the Dx, the last version sold, I have yet to find a Dx in working order, used 4 or 5 button batteries, really very odd for the time. Early Mirandas are very collectable.