I would start with a Nikon FM/FE. Plenty of Nikon lenses, lots of support, cheap prices. Has worked for me for over 35 years.
As already mentioned, you should give more details about your preferences, etc. In general I think it goes like this:
If you want mainstream, easily available cameras with almost any potential focal length lens available, then go with a higher level Nikon or Canon. Just be careful that you don't get a beater that a pro abused for several year.
If you like something a little off the beaten path, more esoteric, high quality, then pick up a Contax body with Zeiss lenses. The lenses will still cost a bit of a premium but is incredibly cheap compared to the old days and you will enjoy the aesthetics.
If you want the absolute best deal, less readily available, but still quality lenses, then do your research and pick up a clean Olympus, Pentax, or Minolta.
That is a summary of the responses you are likely to get.
Another option, as an addendum to jeroldharter reply above, regarding Contax/Zeiss.
For a nice "beginner" slr, you might consider one of Yashica's "little brothers" to the Contax/Zeiss cameras. I would suggest starting out with something like a Yashica FX-3 with one of the Yashica ML series lenses, it is small, light, dependable, fully manual, and not battery-dependent. And it has the added benefit of sharing the same C/Y bayonet mount of it's more expensive Contax brethren, so you could upgrade to the more expensive Zeiss T* glass if you feel the need to.
A nice starter rangefinder would be the Konica C35 Automatic, once again, small, light, and dependable, with a wonderful lens.
I think Leica and Canon are still missing. Just wait...
I probably would buy into the Nikon camp only because of the great availability of lenses that will work on manual, AF and digital bodies depending, and the supply of parts for repairs down the road. This would be the manual FM's, FE's, F3 and the AF N90(cheap) and F100 more $. If you want to use AF lenses only, consider perhaps Canon for slightly better lens prices. Rebel's, Elan's even the higher valued 1 and 3 series. If you want a point and shoot there's the cheap but favorite Olympus Stylus and a slew of others. For rangefinders perhaps at more money there's the Contax G1 or the Bessa series. If anything consider you might have to get anything serviced for light seals which is an added expense. Overall the older bodies are relatively inexpensive and the good lenses can be the expenditure. They all have their features and it will be up to you to determine which ones you want. I prefer DOF preview and mirror lockup.
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I suggest a Nikkormat or something like it (i.e. a mid-level SLR) from one of the other companies, such as Canon, Minolta, Pentax, Olympus, etc. You can get camera and lens for under $100, usually.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
You know, I've noticed that you almost never hear anyone say "I started with camera X, but it wasn't a very good starter and I wish I'd used camera Y instead". Everyone likes whatever their first "real" camera was. There must be exceptions, but there don't seem to be many of them.
From this I conclude that it doesn't much matter where you start, and that "get something that seems like a good idea at the time" is probably good general advice.
San Diego, CA, USA
The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
-The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_
If you use a MF camera now, I'd suggest a 35mm that is as far opposite it as possible. The more separation between the cameras, the more like you'll have situations where each makes sense.
You can't take a step without tripping over an SLR these days. You'll end up with one at some point anyway.
I'd suggest going with something really compact - something you might not otherwise try - to balance the MF camera. Manual and auto control. Perhaps an Olympus 35RC? If that is too small in your hands, one of the compact rangefinders with a great reputation (lots floating around) can be had for less than $50. The Canonet 17 GIII is probably the other most recommended compact rangefinder. On the smaller side and without manual control, an Olympus XA. Lots of options really.
This and the MF camera would cover different situations but would leave you with similar focal lengths (assuming your MF has a normal lens). If you do want an SLR, I'd suggest checking out the Olympus OM2n before making a decision. I wish I'd found it before buying a bunch of Nikon gear. They float around on craigslist for as little as $65 with a fast 50mm lens.
Ok, I'll do the Leica reccomendation... ;-)
Originally Posted by RalphLambrecht
(Being no fan at all of Canon EOS)
1) Leica M (read this to include several brands of interchangeable lens 35mm rangefinders) offer a (somewhat) lighter and usually much more compact kit than SLRs.
Advantages are generally good lenses, a different work style & vision, discretion.
Disadvantages are that longer focal lengths, very exact framing and close-ups aren't on offer.
2) Leica SLRs. Despite their reputation, you can pick up a kit for not much more than most other film SLRs now.
Many models, but in general:
Advantages: Bright focussing systems, very dampened shutters and mirrors, spot metering, many lenses really do have that "something extra".
Disadvantages: Extra price, weight (esp. the lenses).
That said, the older Zeiss lenses for Contax and Rolleiflex (Rolleiflex 35mm SLRs are for those with a slight masochistic streak) often have a better "look". They're my, favorites, even if or when technically surpassed by others.
M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa
Originally Posted by RabbitHeartedGirl
Yes, you do have an idea where to start. You started by asking on this forum.
Which medium format camera are you using? Since you labeled yourself as a plastic camera shooter, I will assume it is a Holga. If that is the case, why not consider the Holga H-135 35mm camera?