Whats your advice on a manual slr 35mm camera?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by GerryDavid, Dec 3, 2003.

  1. GerryDavid

    GerryDavid No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I need to get a manual slr 35mm camera, but there are alot of them on the market and im just starting my research, just wondering if anyone has any advice.

    Also I know even less about medium format cameras, just that they exist. Where do you buy the film? How much are the film and how many shots is there per package? :0) And whats the benefits of using medium format cameras? Just more detail per picture?

    Thanks for any advice.
     
  2. dlc

    dlc TPF Noob!

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    There a few manual cameras still available new(Minolta, Nikon), but more choices used. To look at used cameras and get an idea of prices, check www.keh.com (new and used equip). Check B&H or Adorama for new prices. Nikon will give you the most versatile choice of lenses that can be used on their manual cameras.

    Medium format cameras and lenses are much more expensive and 120/220 film that they use are not available everywhere as 35mm is. It is also more expensive to process. Depending on format with 120 film, the most frames(645 format) will be 15-16 frames per roll. Other formats would be less with 120. 220 film is twice as long as 120.
     
  3. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    By "manual" do you mean manual exposure or manual focus? Almost all of today's auto-focus cameras can be switched to manual focus and/or manual exposure. All you absolutely need is shutter control, aperture control, and a meter; everything else is cake. Tell us what you want to shoot, and we could recommend features you might want.

    A bigger neg holds more info and decreases the the amount of enlargement necessary (or increases the amount of enlargement possible). An 8"x10" piece of paper is over 50 times the area of a 35mm neg, but only four times the area of a 4"x5" neg. The MF sizes fall between these (6cmx4.5cm, 6x6, 6x7, fuji makes a 6x8, 6x9, 6x12, and 6x17cm). If you compare an 11x14 print from 35mm with the same size print from a larger format you would probably notice increased sharpness and decreased grain in the MF/LF print. I've noticed that it's a lot easier to get a really nice tonal range and contrast from a bigger neg. I've goofed on exposure and still been able to get a nice print from some of my MF/LF shots, and I know I would have struggled with it in 35mm.

    If you think of the cost in terms of per shot, then yes MF and LF are more expensive. But if you think of it in terms of square inches of film then a roll of 120, a 36exp roll of 35mm, and 4 4"x5" sheets of film are the same. I get Tmax 100 120 size for $2.15 a roll and 4 4x5 sheets of Tmax 100 costs about $3.20. I haven't bought a 36exp 35mm roll of Tmax 100 in a while, but I'm guessing it's in that same price range.

    The equipment does tend to cost more, but it's typically considered "pro" equipment, and there's plenty of really expensive "pro" 35mm gear. Right now on EBAY basic Hasselblads are going for about a third of what they were worth when I last looked a few years ago. You can get a good used MF camera for the price of a mid level consumer 35mm AF SLR. You can find decent working used MF and LF cameras for $100 if you just want to dip your toe in first. Yashica TLRs for MF and less popular models of the Speed Graphic for LF is where I'd look.

    I think that one big disadvantage of MF is equipment size. The cameras tend to be big, heavier, and just generally not as nimble as 35mm gear. Some models can be hand held successfully, but many will do their best work on a tripod.

    When I look at my work I think it's easy to see the difference between 35mm and MF/LF in prints as small as 8"x10". But there are folks who have the gear and the technique to get shots with 35mm that I'll mistake for a larger format. So consider your maximum print size. If you're never going to make prints bigger than 11"x14" then good 35mm equip and skills and a light load may be a better choice than bulky MF gear. I get a masochistic thrill hauling a heavy tripod, camera, and film around.
     
  4. GerryDavid

    GerryDavid No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    By Manual I mean being able to do everything yourself. Its for a college course. So manual focus, manual timing, manual aperture, etc. Pretty much anything that I will need to do in the college class. My main concern is that Ill pick a camera that is lacking a feature they will be teaching in the class. I asked the director of the course and he just said get a manual camera, etc.

    And wow, thanks for all the detail in the MF/LF cameras. :0)
     
  5. christopher

    christopher TPF Noob!

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    get a nikon FM3 woo
    or FM2... or FM...
     
  6. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Almost every 35mm SLR made has the basic features you need for a class. In the late 80s and early 90s there were a few point-n-shoot SLRs that couldn't be switched to full manual exposure, but I don't think they did very well, so they stopped making that design. Now days even the SLRs with a dozen auto-modes can be switched to manual exposure control.

    Look for an "M" setting. This allows you complete control over shutter and aperture.

    The two basic features that are sometimes lacking are cable release socket and ISO override.

    ISO override is so that you can set your meter for a different film speed than the coding on the film cassette tells the camera. If this feature is missing there are still ways to deal with it, but it's silly that they would leave this off a camera.

    Someday you will want to use your camera on a tripod with a cable release. In the old days (pre 1990) all camera had the same screw mount in the shutter button and you could buy a cable release to fit for $10. Now days everyone has their own fancy cable release socket, and the brand name release is gonna cost you. But watch out, some cameras do not have a cable release socket. This is a horrible design flaw, and demonstrates the problem with hiring engineers that don't actually use the equip they are designing.

    I've taught a few photo classes, and if I were providing cameras for my students to use I would choose an older, all metal, mechanical design with the least amount of bells and whistles. Something along the lines of a Pentax K1000 with a 50mm f/1.7 lens. I'm not saying that this is the best camera for all kinds of shooting, but it's stripped of all extra features, leaving only the controls that are absolutely necessary, and it's cheap and sturdy.

    Also, a note on zoom lenses and beginning photographers. I think that the intuitive way most beginners use a zoom is to spot the subject, plant their feet, and use the zoom lens to get closer or farther away from the subject. This is the wrong way to use a zoom, and why many photo teachers recommend a fixed focal length lens. The correct way is to spot the subject, think about what focal length you want to use, set the zoom to that focal length, and then move yourself to compose the picture. This teaches you about how focal length affects your image. The only time you should do it the first way is if you are physically constrained from moving (your back is up against a wall, you'd fall off the cliff if you got closer, etc...)
     
  7. drlynn

    drlynn TPF Noob!

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    I think you'll be glad you bought a manual camera. very good quality lenses for manual cameras are a fraction of the equivalent lenses for a new AF camera.

    One note, however. When looking at older cameras, make sure the model you're looking at has all the controls you want. For example, the Canon AV-1 is a nice camera, but it does not have shutter speed control. The camera sets the shutter speed according to the meter reading.
     
  8. Jewel

    Jewel TPF Noob!

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    I picked up an old (1967) Praktica Nova 1 with a 135mm lens on Ebay for next-to-nothing ($A46 including postage), and I've since managed to build quite a comprehensive little kit around it. The only thing it's missing that I would have liked is a light meter. I believe the Nova 1B which came out a year or two later has one.

    So far the camera works great (the user is another matter...!) I'm still learning after years of playing around with point-and-shoot cameras.

    Old beasties like this are cheap, just about bullet-proof (a mate told me that the camera surviving a motorcycle crash is not likely - his developed a light leak after hitting the deck at speed) and lenses are cheap and still fairly easy to find, although a lot of 'luck of the draw' may apply. AF lenses will fit this one, although the AF obviously doesn't work.

    Good luck with the search. Apart from good ol' Ebay try camera shops (here in Oz a lot stock second-hand gear) and pawnbrokers. I've also found lenses and filters at an antique fair of all places!

    Cheers
    Jewel
    (off to experiment with photographing Christmas lights over the next couple of nights)
     
  9. tr0gd0o0r

    tr0gd0o0r TPF Noob!

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    I agree with Jewel. Get on ebay and find a camera for relativly cheap. Definitly go for one from the 60s 70s or 80s these are usually completely manual and offera lot of experience that some of the newer ones may get in the way of. Make sure it has a buit in light meter tho (or you'll regret it and your grade will undoubtedly suffer) Also u may wanna ask around on campus. One of your friends most likely has a camera they could let you use.
     
  10. bogleric

    bogleric TPF Noob!

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    People are too spoiled with fully automatic camera's today. The great picture s tend to come from either fully manual or some level of manual on a hybrid setting camera.
     
  11. tr0gd0o0r

    tr0gd0o0r TPF Noob!

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    While we're on the subject on manaul cameras and better pictures from them, I have a question for everyone. Does anyone else find that pictures tend to look better if they are a little underexposed. To me the color looks fuller and the picture is more saturated. What do you guys think?
     
  12. GerryDavid

    GerryDavid No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thanks for the advice everyone. :0) Im looking for something sorta new but not to new so the $$ would be less. :0) Turns out I may be able to borrow a manual slr camera for the 4 months that I will have the college classes. Which is good since if I go for the full time next fall, they provide a camera appearantly, part of the college fee so every student starts off at the same level.

    So far the cameras ive looked up on ebay have all been to close to the retail value, but they all have been digital and most are new. Im not to sure about buying old slr cameras on there cuz if they dont work theres no warrenty or store to take it back to. :0) Plus by going to a pawn shop, you can usually haggle down to 50% thier price. :0) Hmm, maybe I should buy one from a pawn shop and list it on ebay, hehe.

    So this way by borrowing one, when it comes time to me buying one if I get to choose it next fall, Ill know more about the settings and what I like or dont like.

    One good thing I can see about manual cameras is the focus. :0) Cuz with the auto ones, its hard to focus on a small thing like the eyes since it focuses what ever is in the lil square thing thats about 1/5 of the size of the picture.
     

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