I'd have to submit the Topcon Re Super/Super D slrs of the mid '60's. If I'm not mistaken, it was the first slr with wide open through the lens metering. The Topcons copied the Exakta 3 claw bayonet mount after WWII, had interchangeable finders (prism, waist level) and placed it's Cds meter on tiny slits on the rapid return mirror which allowed you to change finders without losing meter capability. It came out with one of the first 300mm 2.8 telephotos as well as incident metering capability via a white hemisphere attachment which screwed into the 58 mm lens. It was a classic in that it was one of the first system cameras (motor drive, microscope attachments, etc.) and was widely known. The US Navy used these cameras as their official photography system up until the late sixties. Being wedded to the comparatively narrow Exakta lens mount was probably it's downfall since it severly restricted lens design. A very rugged camera and I still have one in working order.
From my point of view (in alphabetical order):
Canon F-1, F-1n, New F-1
Contax RTS II, RTS III
Leica SL, SL2
Minolta XM, XM Motor
Nikon F, F2, F3
This is very much biased to a certain period.
I only used the F2 from this list.
All before led to it.
All after, from it.
Many good cameras, many interesting cameras. Many desirable.
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Canon F-1 and the FTb are my choices.
My vote for THE classic 35mm SLR: Nikon F2A or F2AS. Last mechanical Nikon F-series, and functional with almost all Nikon F-mount lenses, pre- or post-1977, without modification.
Wish I could afford a minty F2AS.
“For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.”
― Henri Cartier-Bresson
Originally Posted by BradS
Nikon F, Exakta
John, Mount Vernon, Virginia USA
I may be a cynic, but what camera is a classic depends if you're buying, or selling.