A few years ago, I decided to upgrade my 35mm gear. My 1st 35mm was a Konica TC. Loved that little camera, but wore it out. In the early 80's put together a kit around the Fujica AX3. Nice camera, but the electronic shutters were a crap shoot. I had picked up a few extra AX3 bodies off Ebay with the thoughts that my 2 kids could also shoot them. Most had shutter problems. I even purchased a New-Old-Stock AX3 body that didn't last a roll before the shutter quit, grrrrrrrrr.
After some research I decided on a Nikon FM3a, the last of the all manual Nikon 35mm cameras. I have 3 FM3a bodies and an FM2t body, a large selection of FAST Nikon lenses and just love it. One of my favorite uses of these is to photograh my friends young children on the dock at our lake house. The kids can't get too far away, the morning light is open shade and with an 85mm lens the photos are just magical.
If you would like to get together to put some Azo/Lodima through the darkroom and check out the cameras, I'd be happy to oblige.
I still don't think anyone will give any better advice if they are recommending cameras they have only read about. The person asking for a recommendation can do that. If you are recommending a camera to me, I hope it will be one you have first-hand knowledge of.
The choices are multiple:
Handle first to see if you like the form, the weight and how they adjust to your hand.
I'd stick to Manual
Canon New f-1
Olympus from OM-1 to OM-4Ti
Of course we recommend what we own. If we recommended something else that means we should really sell what we own and buy what we recommend doesn't it? People have to feel good, they have to feel they made the right choice. Otherwise we're stupid, right? Advocacy is not selfless, it is selfish, by becoming an advocate of the products that we use we hope others will use them which both validates our choice and hopefully means they'll keep buying our product of choice and thus it will continue to be supported. The latter doesn't really work for Canon FD gear as it was dumped over 20 years ago by Canon but it still works.
If your eyes are still good then manual focus is good. If they aren't so good anymore then I say there is no shame in using autofocus, especially since you want it more for snapshots rather than carefully framed and focused landscapes on a tripod. Canon FD and EOS are what I obviously recommend based upon what is in my .signature.
While everyone will recommend that you get an F-1, they are still quite expensive and honestly don't offer a whole lot more for snapshots which is what you say you want. The FTb or TX offer 95% and 90% of what an F-1 offers, all suffer from bouncing shutter problems and the odd sticking mirror given their age but a CLA can usually deal with it.
Otherwise you could get an AE-1 or A-1 if you want some automation and still want to wind the film yourself or add an optional winder.
If you want to get a T-90 then you might want to keep your EF lenses (if they aren't EF-S) and get an old EOS-1. Strangely the EOS-1 is cheaper than the F-1. For manual use, the EOS-1 is great with two wheels for shutter speed and aperture adjustment in Manual exposure mode. The viewfinder is good enough for manual focus use and you can get split prism, microprism and other focus screens with manual focus aids. You can shoot in single shot mode if you like. For snapshots, AF is useful and so is some good matrix metering for times that you don't want to take it so seriously that you need to bring out a tripod.
The old manual focus lenses are better for manual focus if you want to go that way obviously. Nice helical focusers with actual gears you can feel, nice distance and depth of field scales unlike the mostly laughable ones on EF lenses. But as I said, AF can be good for snapshots.
Nikon F-100...and NO, I do not have one. I have an EOS 3. These cameras are just-sub-pro bodies, and they have similar features. However, the Nikon will allow you to use autofocus or manual focus lenses, while the Canon needs an adapter to use manual focus lenses (not Canon FD lenses, but other brands that can be focused to infinity), and they lose the automatic aperture and full aperture metering. Using lenses designed for AF manually is an unpleasant experience for me, which is why I suggested the F-100 over the EOS 3. If all you wanted was AF, I would suggest either camera. Either should be under $200 in excellent condition. IMO, they are the best bang for the buck in a high-end AF film camera.
Last edited by 2F/2F; 10-14-2010 at 07:56 AM. Click to view previous post history.
"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)
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If your budget allows it; get a Nikon FM, FE, FM2 or FM3A. If your sight is failing; calculate distance or use Hyperfocal Distance.
I'm not clear whether you want autofocus or manual focus. If autofocus, I'd recommend a Nikon F100, a recent model which can be found lightly used at a very good price but has most of Nikon's modern metering and flash options. You can also use manual focus lenses on the F100.
If you want only manual focus, I'd go for an Nikon F3 or F3HP, which is a pro camera, built like a tank, also widely available for a good price.
If you want light and portable instead of heavy and solid, a Nikon FM2 or FE2.
The F3/F3HP and FM2 are manual cameras; the F100 and FE2 have automatic exposure as well. The F100 and FE2 are (much) better for flash. All these cameras are available for less than $300 in great condition.
I like Nikon for its vast system, but if it's not the brand for you, you couldn't go wrong with a Pentax K1000, which is very cheap and all manual.
Since I own a fair number 35mm SLRs I can give you my impressions of each from favorite to least.
Nikon N80, easy to use, lots of control, good auto-focus when locked on center spot. Spot, Matrix and Center-Averaged metering always accurate. Fits nicely in my hand. Auto focus fast enough for small children.
Nikon FE, small, compact (especially with 50mm 1.8 series E) and rugged. Nice match-metering needles, lots of info available in viewfinder.
Canon AE-1 Program, nice to hold with grip, large bright viewfinder, easiest to manually focus. Metering works well, auto-exposure very good. Not as rugged as Nikon FE.
Nikkormat FTn, indestructible, center-weighted metering works well. ISO change and shutter speed on ring around lens mount kind of weird.
Canon Rebel Sii, metering works well, auto-focus slow, too big in my hands compared to Nikon N80.
Buy one or two clean Nikkormat FTNs and a few venerable AI Nikor lenses, and never look back!
The deed is done. I feel like I just burned my bra. Where the 50D used to reside, there is now a sweet little F3HP with a power winder and a 105mm 1:2.5 lens. Let the games begin.