What features do you consider essential on a camera?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by russkat, Jun 11, 2012.

  1. russkat

    russkat Member

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    New member here ! Greetings from Colorado.

    I'm looking to get back into shooting film for various reasons which I won't get into now.
    I'd like your varied opinions on what features you consider essential on a manual focus slr so I can make an informed decision on a camera purchase.
    Such as...
    DOF preview
    MLU
    In-camera spot meter
    Exposure compensation
    Auto bracketing
    AE Lock
    Bright viewfinder
    Horizontal cloth vs Vertical metal shutter
    Viewfinder info (shutter speed, aperture, etc...)
    ...and anything else you can think of.

    I have no inventory of lenses at the moment, so I'm open to all suggestions.
    I'd like something prior to the button/lcd display era and bayonet mount only (might venture into the m42 arena a bit later)
    I'm considering the following...
    Pentax LX
    Contax RTS or RTS II / Yashica FR or FR I
    Minolta series = XE, XD
    LeicaFlex SL / SL2 or perhaps the R3
    Olympus OM-4 / OM-4ti

    Something durable and can take some abuse. Preferably brass top and bottom plates (or ti)
    I'm studying composition and exposure techniques now (rule of thirds, zone system, etc...)
    I've seen plenty of amazing photographs from something as simple as a pinhole camera, so none of these things are really essential.
    Perhaps beneficial is a better word.
    I know it's all about the person behind the camera and the lens, much more than the body itself.

    I enjoy shooting landscapes, architecture, portraits, street photography. Don't see me needing a 5fps motor drive for anything though.
    I see myself jumping into medium format as well. Seems the Pentax 67 is cheap these days (it's good enough for Nick Brandt)

    Thanks for any advice you can offer

    Derek
     
  2. daleeman

    daleeman Subscriber

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    Derek,
    Don't forget the "Click" a camera has to go click.

    Worst thing to do is complicate anything in life. Find yourself a camera with simple controls and a simple lens. You are the zoom, exposure offsets, motor drive and focus control. The more you as a human are involved rather than technology, the less to go wrong and the better the results, IMHO.

    Pick a $ ammount that allows funding of film and printing then pick the camera that fits in there. It will probably not be your only camera you ever buy so enjoy the journey. And make certain it goes Click, a lot.

    Lee
     
  3. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    Depth of feild preview, mirror lock up, spot and either average or matrix is nice. Range of primes and zooms. I use a number of 35mm for landscapes, my Sigma SA 9 has loads of features but does not have a good selection of primes. My Pentax SF1n and PZ1 have a great lens selection but lack mirror lock up. I do have a 42mm lens to Sigma SA/D adaptor. A recent Nikon or Cannon or Mintola have all the elements. On the cheap a N 90S. Older manual focus cameras such as Konica, Minolta and Miranda have good features and a wide range of lens but are getting long in the tooth.
     
  4. russkat

    russkat Member

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    Good points Lee...
    Perhaps that's the best route for me to take, Thank you
     
  5. Kevin Kehler

    Kevin Kehler Member

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    I love a camera that works without batteries. I have had several occasions where I have hiked out into the middle of nowhere for several hours, or it is Christmas dinner and the batteries die or are dead. If it takes AA's, that's not a big deal but if it takes a specialized battery that needs a specialized store to buy, that is more than annoying. I can usually guess at the metering but still need the camera to fire. This of course limits you to manual cameras of the older variety but I like those kind anyways.
     
  6. rthomas

    rthomas Member

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    Don't overlook the Nikon F4. It's an AF camera but it works splendidly with almost any manual focus Nikon lens, even the older non-AI ones. And it has the feature set you specified: DOF preview, MLU, spot meter, exposure compensation, auto bracketing (if you get the MF-23 multi-function back), AE Lock, a gorgeous bright viewfinder as well as a very fast vertical metal shutter. Oh, and it has dials and knobs! If I was still seriously interested in 35mm I think I would pick up an F4 (not the F4s which has the larger 6-AA battery grip, but the MB-20 which takes 4 AA batteries).
     
  7. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Most important would be A: durability, B: comfort of use, C: has good lenses available in the focal length(s) I want to use, D: built-in metering. Not necessarily in that order of priority. Certain features would on a case-by-case basis override other features, like I'd trade a little durability for mind-blowing optics, or give up an internal meter for something that is more comfortable to hold in the hand. Doesn't matter if it has 20,000 point multi-evaluative matrix metering if there's a 50/50 chance it'll be pointing at the floor or ceiling instead of what you wanted to photograph because the camera is too small/big/slippery.

    On that list you provided, I'm a big Contax fan for the optics. I used to have a 167 MT and an RX. Beautiful cameras that were intuitive to use and had some of the best glass going. If Contax glass is in your budget, I'd also look at older Leica SLRs - an R6.x or even an R7 would be a good option and unlike their rangefinders, the Leica SLRs and lenses are actually affordable on the used market.
     
  8. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Essential features on a manual SLR:

    DOF preview.
    MLU.
    Time AND bulb settings.
    X synch with PC socket.
    All metal construction,must be rugged, durable, and reliable.
    Interchangeable prisms nice but not essential.
     
  9. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Aside from being able to attach the best lenses available for my type of photography (obviously):

    -Bright viewfinder with 100% coverage
    -MLU !!!
    -Focusing screen(s) that makes focusing easier
    -Time/Bulb settings
    -Standard mechanical cable release socket
    -Intuitive, simple controls

    Personally I've always found DOF preview next to useless. But it is always available on cameras with the above functionality anyway in case you need it.
     
  10. thegman

    thegman Member

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    For me, 99% of film cameras have everything required. A viewfinder, and full manual control. All the cameras you list look pretty good to me, Pentax LX would be top of my list though. OM4Ti is a little electronic for me, I think Leica SLRs lack the charms of the RFs, and not worth the pennies IMHO.

    For medium format, Rolleiflex offers a gorgeous camera at a good price. If you can get along with a TLR, the lenses are amazing and have a real "look", shot wide open, and plenty sharp when stopped down to f/8 or whatever. I wish I could get on with a TLR, as they are great value, very small, make great pictures and are beautiful objects.
     
  11. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    For me, perhaps the most important thing, once all the basics are covered (accurate shutter, proper collimation, reliability, etc.), is an excellent viewfinder / focusing screen.
    That will allow you to easily and accurately focus even in difficult light conditions or with "difficult" lenses.
    For that, the Leicaflexes you mentioned are unbeatable (despite what Olympus OM-4 fans claim).

    Other good things: Lenses!!! Also, good ergonomics, spot metering, DOF preview, well-dampened shutter and mirror (at least for 35mm SLRs, a well-dampened mirror makes MLU unnecessary IMHO).

    Of the cameras you mentioned, my first choice would be one of the Leicaflexes, then the Contaxes for their Zeiss lenses (not really for the bodies), then all the rest, which are very good except... the Leica R3, which I would avoid (if you must get an electronic Leica R, find a working R4, R5 or R7. The R8 & R9 are wonderful cameras too).

    The Pentax 6x7 is a lovely camera, it just takes some guts and energy to carry it around... ;-)
    If you get one, make sure it has MLU (in that case, MLU can make a difference!), though its mirror slap isn't as bad as legend has it, since most of it is the second shutter curtain closing and the mirror returning.

    If you decide for one of the Leicaflexes, ask and I'd be glad to give the pros and cons of the SL vs. the SL2...
     
  12. russkat

    russkat Member

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    100% coverage? That would narrow the field considerably....
    Contax RTSiii and a handful of others, but they are all far too complicated for my liking.
    Don't know of any vintage (pre 1980) slr's with 100% coverage.
     
  13. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Nikon F, a pre 1980 SLR with a 100% viewfinder. Pre 1960, in fact.:wink:
     
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  15. russkat

    russkat Member

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    PM sent regarding LeicaFlex SL vs SL2
     
  16. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    You should soul-search and determine what YOU need and/or want.
     
  17. russkat

    russkat Member

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    In the process of that now... it may be just a matter of trying a few cameras with different features and based upon my style of shooting/results determine what's essential or non-essential to me.

    Thanks for the great point !!!
     
  18. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    p.s. In addition to all of the above mentioned camera features... fast flash synch speed.
     
  19. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    "Buy and try, and buy again" is not my personal style. I tend to be more analytic and develop my requirements before buying anything. As a result I have a small collection of cameras and each is the first of its type I ever bought. Your requirements may change over time (as did mine) and all that means is that another camera needs to be bought. But realistic thoguht about PROBABLE actual usage should get you into the ballpark fast.

    Don't forget one criteria, though -- unexplainable and unjustifiable desire. :smile:
     
  20. Aja B

    Aja B Member

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    What…not a single Nikon on your list?

    Poll-like questions such as these don’t seem to be nearly as helpful as compared to, ‘here’s my criteria…what do you suggest?’ Kinda’ like the tail wagging the dog. What the gallery may deem essential may be superfluous and dead-weight in your hands.

    Rather than ID’ing what I feel to be essential features I’ll point you toward some bodies worth considering so you can deduce appropriateness as it relates to your shooting. From the Nikon line: FM2n, FM3a, FE2, F2AS, F3HP. I shoot each of these bodies. Conditions and subject matter determine which body is called to duty. Nikon also offers a few (dozen) nice lenses, many of which are available for a song and no dance.
     
  21. russkat

    russkat Member

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    Did not intend for this to be a poll...
    Shot nikons back in the 80's. Used an FM2, an FA, and an F4s.
    Have to rule out something, so I ruled out Nikons and Canons for a start.
    Plenty of others to choose from and I've always wanted to try Leica or Zeiss glass, so I'm leaning in that direction.
     
  22. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    You do know that you can Nikon manual focus and Zeiss glass at the same time, don't you?
     
  23. R.Gould

    R.Gould Member

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    With the cameras that I enjoy using, mostly folders and tlr,s the things that are essential to me are lens, means to focus the lens,shutter, shutter release button film wind and in many cases a red window, failing that a frame counter, anything else is an extra.
    Richard
     
  24. russkat

    russkat Member

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    Thanks Richard... Keeping it simple !
     
  25. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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    Okay, I consider absolutely necessary:

    aperture ring
    shutter speed dial
    DOF preview
    MLU
    depth-of-field-scale on the lens
    a large and bright viewfinder

    Another vote for Leica R8/R9 here. Always wanted one 10 years ago, now they are pretty cheap in mint condition.
    Or go medium format straight through!
     
  26. Brian Puccio

    Brian Puccio Member

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    Number one feature of a camera body: lightproof. :tongue: