Try reading the information at www.photoethnography.com on the various 35mm cameras that are reviewed there. (Choose the Equipment link, then choose My Classic Camera Collection from the left-hand menu. There are a lot of write-ups on a lot of classic cameras, and they're all from the web site owner's personal experience.)Originally Posted by reinis
Weight wasn't something you mentioned in your original post, but since the weight of the camera is important to you, you should pay attention to the tables at the bottom of each review that include the dimensions for the cameras (including weight).
Each review also includes highlights of the features of the cameras. You'll be able to tell if the cameras have the features you want.
Although it's more expensive than the Pentax models I mentioned above, perhaps something like a Nikon FE-2 would be good for you. It's not quite as heavy as the Pentax, but it's still an all-metal body that will stand up to abuse. It has both manual and Aperture Priority shooting modes, depth of field preview, mirror lock-up (using the self-timer), a bright, user-replaceable view screen, 1/4000th top shutter speed, TTL flash metering, and an extensive range of lenses and accessories. I've been using one since they first came out, and it's never failed me. The only problem when compared to the Pentax system is the price; both the camera and the lenses will cost you at least double what the Pentax will. (Still much cheaper than the Zeiss lenses, though.) The Nikon FE should be even cheaper, and you only give up TTL flash metering and the slightly brighter viewscreen.
If the size of the camera is a problem, you might also look into the older Olympus cameras. They tended to be smaller than the cameras produced by other manufacturers. Olympus has a long history of introducing technical advancements in small camera bodies; if the size of the camera is important then the older Olympus models might be good for you.
The truth is that no camera is perfect for everyone, and one camera is rarely perfect for even one person. If you could list the top ten things that you want in a camera, in order, I'll bet someone here can make a recommendation that will be helpful to you. (You probably also want to give us some idea of how much money you want to spend.)
APUG is full of friendly people who love to share their knowledge and who love helping people who are new to an area of photography. You couldn't have come to a better site for information. If you can help us understand what's important to you, many of us would love to help you find the best camera for you.