Originally Posted by David H. Bebbington
I don't question your knowledge or expertise - and I am sure that on a pretty elevated technical level what you are saying is dead on the money. But, I don't think what you describe is the aim of this exercise. You have to learn a lot before you have the knowledge necessary to say what it is you like, dislike and how to fix it. By then, you will have shot a lot of film and learned a great deal, and probably laugh at all the unknowns that you faced in the start.
Also, I think that the aboslute technical perfection does not a great image make. There is a lot more to it, in my humble view - and it all begins with taking the photo in the first place. Not with second guessing your abilities and those of your gear. Its a mute point that better gear is... well... better. But the worst pictures are those you never got around to taking - especially when you consider the learning aspect of it all.
And one more thing. Simple, limited, etc. does not mean BAD. My Zenit happens to get the film behind the lens, and the lens is actually of a pretty decent quality - no bells and whistles, a woefully inaccurate meter - but really not bad at all as long as you realize its limitations and work within them. Its semi-retired now, but I can always count on its simple, mechanical nature to give me an image no matter where and when I ask for it.
Again, the wisest bit of advice here is to just get out there and start. Its hard to make a bad choice, and as Shawn said, you really can't go that wrong with a simple SLR and a 50mm prime. And although he makes an excellent point about the perils of buying used, there are many ways of doing it that are very, very reputable and a safe bet.
I am going to try to stay away from this thread now... I know I am just enjoying the discussion and not helping that much :)