Canon Ftb or Pentax K1000.
Canon Ftb or Pentax K1000.
the lenses would hurt you, however.
I'd say your best SLR, bar none, for a beginner is a Pentax Spotmatic or K1000 -- match needle metering is intuitive and simple, lenses are dirt cheap and amazing quality. It will be a great learner and if you learn well enough that it is you, not the camera, that takes the pictures, it will be the camera that lasts you a lifetime.
You want something with at least both A (aperture priority) and M (full manual) modes, and with the ability to do both spot metering and averaging. Autofocus is handy, but make sure you can override it manually without a bunch of hassle. Choice of lens doesn't matter hugely except that the cheaper kit lenses are often so bad that they can drive you away from photography. By all means, keep the cheap crap lens that comes with your cheap secondhand camera, but also spend $50 to get a good 50mm f/1.7 lens - it will be razor sharp, you can get nice shallow depth of field and it will teach you to move the camera around for composition.
Though this is APUG and it will piss off some people here, the fastest way to learn is to buy a cheap secondhand DSLR ($200?) and go shoot about 10,000 photos on it. The instant feedback is invaluable; ignore anyone who never had that and says you can do without - of course you can do without but it doesn't make it a good idea. Once you know what you're doing with metering and composition and can say with absolute confidence that pushing the shutter button will result not only in a technically good (properly focused and exposed) image but one worth keeping, then come back to film. Get a nice medium format camera or whatever and enjoy a huge step up in technical quality over what you can get from affordable (under $10k) digital systems.
Once you have a basic camera and one good lens, the biggest difference in quality (much more important than ANY body feature or special lens) you can make is off-camera lighting. A cheap wireless flash that you can bounce off walls/ceilings makes a huge difference.
All good choices so far but I'll have to go with a k-mount pentax (personal bias). Best to less than best in my opinion k2,kx,km k1000. I owned a k1000 for years and loved it but admit dof preview and self timer mirror lockup on better models can come in handy while not absolutely necessary. Chan you are right about match needle the k1000 and km have center the needle and the kx and k2 have match needle. I have a km now got it and a 1.7 50 for less than a k1000 body goes for:)
yup, the k1000 seems to have it ... they work like a charm ! :)
If you can't take a good shot, take a lot of them, is tickets to hell for all you can pay IMO.
I've been down this route over the past 3 years. What I see in many posts here is a recommendation to buy a manual 35mm camera with built in metering. I followed almost this path and I'd like to respectully disagree. (My manual focus Pentax had manual/ae and program, I used the manual setting and built-in lightmeter/led's in a similar way to a match-needle)
To start, I agree that a manual camera is essential. Not because one needs manual to learn, but because one must not have automation available, it's just far to easy to use the automation to get the shot. My experience was that I could never remember which shots were 'mine' and which were 'the camera's'. Take notes you say? Oh how I tried, they never made any sense by the time I finished the 36 shots and processed the film!
Next I think 35mm is a right pain to learn with. There's simply too many shots per roll and consequently too much time elapsed and too many frames, too many little projects etc available to work out where my errors were. I can't imagine what the confusion would be like with essentialy limitless digi shots all mixed up in a mass of manual/auto/semi-auto. In addition, I'm all fingers and thumbs with 35mm in the darkroom, minor I know, but another frustration a newbie just does not need. And those tiny, tiny contacts that tell me so little I wobbled about for quite some time thinking I was doing something wrong with my enlarger when my real problem was simply an occaisional out of focus shot! I'm inclined to think 35mm worked well in a school environment because the teachers could load short rolls at very, very low cost, not because there's anything inherently easier about using it to learn. And, when we own the camera, toughness is much less of an issue because we look after our stuff don't we?
Next, my learning got a step change when I began my own processing and printing, that sent me back to re-learn what I thought I knew about exposure. I'm still getting to grips with variance from processing technique, agtiation, dilution temperature and the like. (Loads of mistakes here, I came to dislike and stopped using Tri-x before I learned I simply had poor temperature control, it's hot where I live. Oh well, plenty of other good films out there I can blame my next lot of mistakes on...).
Next, focus and depth of field. 35mm has so much depth of field and (seemingly to me, I'm still learning remember...) so much flexibility with focus as a result (putting aside the extreme high speed lenses that us newbies don't/shouldn't buy until we've got a few skills to exploit them) that I really have only learned the importance of what element of my composition to focus on since I started playing around with 6x6. Of course my compositions are still rubbish and I often miss my focus, so I might have this one wrong... :-). But then, If I'm right, digi crop sensor's might be worse again?
In my experience my 6x6 folder and modern lightmeter is teaching me more about exposure and focus/DOF than my 35mm pentax ever did. Though it was fun buying cheap pentax primes that I did'nt (er, don't) have the skills to master. And there is significantly more scope for cropping with the bigger neg in my enlarger to address composition, descisions.
My new method is to take my folder (& tripod) to my chosen location, select a composition and make my exposures using bracketing of my focus and compostion, and my exposure by making an incident metered and reflective metered version of 1 or 2. Then run off any remaining shots on my way home or at home. Then I process the film that evening and print my contact sheet the following evening. Using my notes (if any) I then think about what worked and what did not and try a few 8 x 10's. As there's never more than 12 shots, confusion is kept to a minimum. Because i can clearly remeber most of my exposures (that one was cloudy, this one I focussed colser to infinty etc) my think seems resonably clear, to me at least. Most rolls I end up with 1 shot that I'd like to try as an 11 x 14 and best of all I can usually devise an intent for an improvement in one element of my workflow to aim at next time. (I'm going to aim for less contrast when developing my roll for example).
Given that I'm a weekend amataur shooting maybe 2-4 rolls a month the modest increase in cost per frame is totally irrelevant (to me). Others may differ on this.
If I did it again, I'd go for a TLR (or maybe a Bronica SQ, these seem nearly as cheap as TLR's now), for no other reason than I expect it to be easier to use on my tripod. (anyone want to swop good user TLR (Flexaret/Belar maybe?) for a good user (ex Certo6) Franka with a Radionar F2.9? PM me.).
But, if the OP really wants to go down the 35mm path, I have a Pentax P30n and 35-70 A series zoom you can have for the price of postage (oh, I did'nt check your location sorry, I'm in Australia, it's likley cheaper to buy one of these at a garage sale/op shop near you for the $5 it's now worth!). PM me and I'll tell you the good and bad about it.
Assuming you are looking for film (why else would you be here!), I don't think it matters which major brand or model. The most important things are they are capable of fully manual operation, are in nice (as in working!) condition, and they have a single focal length lens of about 50mm. The Pentax k1000, Nikon FM, Canon AE1, Olympus OM2 are all fine....just avoid anything requiring an old mercury battery like an OM1. I love the OM1, but it isn't worth the battery hassle starting out. I personally think that manual focus (all camera mentioned above) is an important feature. When you take the picture you will know exactly where it is focussed. As far as where to buy, I'd either buy it in the classifieds here (good, honest folks) or from KEH.