Which film body to get?

Discussion in 'Film Discussion and Q & A' started by Gabriel, Nov 8, 2009.

  1. Gabriel

    Gabriel TPF Noob!

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    I can't decide between the Canon A-1, AE-1 Program, or a newer EOS Elan 7 body. They are all within $25-30 of each other, except that the EOS does not come with any lenses. The other two have 50mm lenses.

    The Elan would seem to make the most sense, being that it's a body for which I already have glass (I've been shooting Canon for years). My workhorse lens is usually the 17-85, which is my only EF-S glass and not compatible with the Elan, but that's fine because I'm looking for a film camera for a specific portraiture project which will be mostly shot with a 50mm anyway.

    However, if I'm going to go film, I'd love to have the feel of an older body - manual everything, though I'd prefer a reliable built-in meter. I have two film bodies, the Yashica Electro GTS rangefinder (I didn't like shooting it that much), and a Minolta SRT101 (free handmedown), which I went to run a roll through today and found that the meter was stuck, even though the battery checks out as it was recently replaced. That one has a 55/1.7 on it, but the glass is covered in fungus - so I'd have to get the meter fixed, and get a new lens for it.

    I have a handheld meter, but would prefer to be able to shoot on the fly for this project. I'll probably use the meter often anyway, but I don't want it to be necessary.

    Any thoughts? I love the look of the A-1, but I don't know if that one's the best choice.

    I have found all the above cameras for $50 or less, but I'm open to other brands if I can find a body/lens combo for a similar price.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2009
  2. flightless_beaker

    flightless_beaker TPF Noob!

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    I'd go with the Canon A-1 over the AE-1. I have the A-1 and an EOS ElanII. I love both cameras. The advantage of the A-1 is it takes the FD lenses. Those are easy to get and people are constantly selling them on eBay for cheap. Accessories are also cheap and the camera does not take cheap looking photos. I took my film to a lab and the guy was stunned when I told him what camera they were taken on. Another thing about the A-1 that I like is that its fully mechanical. I'd get the A-1 over the AE-1 because its better built and more robust.

    One thing to look out for on the used market for mechanical cameras is the condition. I bought my A-1 on Craig's List. First couple shoots were fine then the shutter seized. I payed 130 to get it repaired. Money well spent but still expensive and difficult to find a shop that will actually fix it.....at least in my experience.

    However, do you have any EF lenses or are you going to be investing in a digital body? If so, get the Elan so you can invest in the whole system. FD mount lenses for the A-1 won't fit on the EF mount bodies. The Elan is a very good body. I have the more consumer ElanII and I love it and the 7 is better. The thing I like about my Elan is I can minimize my load in my bag by taking my 7D and Elan so I have the crop sensor and a full frame format and use the same lenses, instead of taking my 7D and the accessories then my A-1 and the older lenses and speedlights that are not compatible. Hope this is helpful :)
     
  3. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I have Canon 1vHS, A-1 w/ high speed motor, F1 and Elan IIe,

    For sheer usability, I think the Elan makes much more sense. It shares the same EF lenses as your current DSLR system. Any lens you choose can be shared on your cropped sensor DSLR. I personally would prefer to have the ElanII over the Elan 7. Overall the feel felt more comfortable (Elan 7 is a tad smaller) and the ElanII retains the dim red (IR?) focus assist light which is a whole lot less annoying than the bright white light emitted from the Elan 7 in low light focus. Of course, the Elan 7 is a newer model...

    If you go with a manual body for the feel, don't feel obligated to stick with Canon as none of them will be directly compatible with your DSLR. The AE-1 was a very popular camera just as long the one you choose isn't suffering from shutter "squeel". The A-1 (to me) feels pretty much the same as the AE-1 with a lot of additional features. In that pedigree, you really don't "feel" a difference until the F1. The F1 ranks pretty up there when it comes to feel..

    It might just be me... but my most favorable "grassroots" manual is still the trusty Spotmatic. The camera is bombproof and so simple to operate. M42 lenses are plentiful and I like the sound of the cloth shutter. It is also a camera that batteries need not apply. I guess being the prototypical student camera has something to do with it as well.

    Another worth mentioning is the Pentax LX. What a solidly built compact camera! It still might be expensive even today... not sure.

    I might as well throw out Medium format as well...


    There are sooooo many choices out there since film camera prices have bottomed out... try a few out...
     
  4. Gabriel

    Gabriel TPF Noob!

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    I appreciate the replies. I ended up going with the A-1, looks like I'll be getting a nice example with a 50mm on it. $47 including shipping.

    I think it also came down to the A-1 and the Elan for me, but I have enough high-tech stuff with my 40D and wanted something more along the "lo-fi" scale. I love the mechanical film advance, and the manual focusing (when the camera has a large enough focusing screen for it; it's not so good on the EOS models). I don't know if I had made the same choice had I been able to pick up an EOS 3 for a similar price, though :confused:

    It's interesting that you guys mentioned the ElanII. I had immediately assumed the 7 would be the better model, but the II could actually be had for a cheaper price (the 7 I was looking at was $39 at keh.com, I think).

    I love older cameras but try to find ones that are still relevant enough to get worked on at most little camera shops, otherwise I'd still have a big collection of some real non-working antiques. I actually shot medium format for a while - a Pentax 645 and a Mamiya M645, but the lack of a meter in both was a little frustrating as I tend to shoot kinda fast, in changing light conditions. I've got the manual focusing down, but if I have to be whipping out the Minolta V F for every other shot, I'll start creeping back to the 40D in the middle of the shoot.

    It took me a while to get into digital as I "grew up" on film. I shot my old EOS 650, and then an A2E, for years before I finally gave in and bought a digital body (the D30). I'll always love film and I always want to have a functioning film body within my gear.
     
  5. jbylake

    jbylake Dodging the Men in Black Supporting Member

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    I have 2 A1's and 2 AE-1's. I don't favor one over the other. The A1 tempts me to get lazy, and shoot in Auto mode, whereas I shoot the AE-1's almost exlusively in all manual mode. Don't ask me why, I'm just weird that way.

    47 bucks with a 50mm (canon?) lens seems a little cheap even at today's prices. I would inspect it pretty closely, and shoot a couple of rolls of cheap film through them.

    The story behind mine, were at the time I bought them, I was in the millitary and traveling overseas and could buy them on the base for less than one half of the price here. I would pick one up, every now and then, along with a lot of freakin canon glass. One was recently put back into service, that was basically new, probably less than a couple of rolls of film, still in the box.

    Sent it off to a camera service shop, and they only charged me shipping, as that hardly did anything to it, just a little bid of this and that. Others are in great shape also.

    Most of them I see from reputable dealers in 9 or 9 plus or better condition are going for about 90 to a hundred for the bodies only, up to a few hundred for a new in box specimen.

    Anyway, I'm rambling here, but I think you'll be pleased with your choice.

    J.:mrgreen:
     
  6. Gabriel

    Gabriel TPF Noob!

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    Thanks. I actually did a bit of sniping on eBay to get it - but the listings have more than a few A-1s. Here's mine: Canon A-1 35mm SLR Camera & 50mm Lens - eBay (item 280417771254 end time Nov-08-09 16:19:19 PST)

    Maybe I'm taking a chance on it, but at that price, I can live with it. Definitely running some cheapie film through it. Actually, I bought a roll for the Minolta last weekend, so I'll take that one out and put it in the Canon. I'm glad I kept all my old film camera tools :mrgreen:

    I shoot my 40D primarily in aperture mode, and lots of manual as well, so I think I'll be OK with the A-1. Hell I don't even think the 40D's dial has ever even been set to any of the picture modes - now that would be lazy, lol.
     
  7. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I'm am a bit confused.. my pentax 645 has a meter...
     
  8. Gabriel

    Gabriel TPF Noob!

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    Oops. You're right - what I didn't like about the 645 was that it didn't have interchangeable film backs. That's why I went to the Mamiya - and in retrospect, though the Mamiya is also a wonderful camera, I should have overlooked the film backs and stuck with the Pentax. I liked shooting with it much more.
     
  9. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    ah yes...

    I've tried a few medium format cameras and the Pentax was one of the most "fieldable" camera. The "film inserts" (as opposed to backs) are cheaper and easier to carry. I used to pack a dozen or so preloaded film inserts. A K-mount pentax can easily use 645 lenses (with an adapter) making it a good "backup" camera. It had motorized film advance. It had a very simple metering system. Once you "option" out a hassy with backs, prism, etc... you were looking to several times the cost of the pentax 645.

    Going from a 35mm film pentax to the 645 pentax was very fluid.

    It also helped that I am a pentax/asahi/takumar fan.. :lol:
     
  10. Gabriel

    Gabriel TPF Noob!

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    Yes, but at the time I was stuck on the whole classic medium format thing, and was convinced that the Mamiya backs, and interchangeable finders (that was the other gripe) were the way to go. I wanted a waist-level finder so bad! Had I actually been able to test-drive the M645, I probably would never have traded up the Pentax - and would probably still have it today, and shooting with it instead of buying a Canon A-1...

    ... Which should be here on Friday, by the way :mrgreen:
     

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