Help! First 35mm SLR for college freshman photo major


TPF Noob!
Mar 14, 2006
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Guilford, CT
I'm a photographer that has pretty much only worked with my Canon Digital Rebel I bought a couple years back. I'm upgrading my digital to a Nikon D200 soon..

So I got accepted to quite a few art schools on the east coast. Where I'm going I have really no idea, but I know I need to purchase a 35mm SLR. Honestly, I've never worked with film before, besides a crappy photo highschool course where we accessed the darkroom once a week for 10 minutes.

I'd like to think I'm a pretty decent photographer, and I did get accepted to these schools based on an all-digital portfolio, but I'll obviously be working a lot in film come September, when my freshman year at college begins.

My question is, what kind of camera and lens should I be purchasing as a college freshman photo major? Price isn't much a worry, but I can't dish out 4,000 for a Leica. I was looking at the Nikon FM3a.. B&H sells it as a kit with Nikon 45mm f/2.8 P AIS Manual Focus Lens, for about 900 dollars. It looks like a solid camera..

Then there is the newer Nikon F100, an autofocus SLR.. a bit pricier, and I'd purchase a separate lens.

Any input would be great from ANYONE who works with film or has gone to art school as a photography major. I need to buy the camera to start practicing, and for a summer course I'm taking at the Maine Photographic Workshops..

Help? :)
Most college course descriptions I've seen require a manual camera because they really get into the basics of how a camera works. They require a good understanding of the relationship between aperture, shutter speed, focal length, hyperfocal distance, etc. My nephew had the same question a few years ago and I recommended he check pawn shops and camera shops for a good used manual SLR with a couple prime lenses. He ended up with a Pentax body (I forget the model) and some lenses and a flash. I believe he has a 50mm, an 85mm, and a 135mm. For a tripod you can get one of the cheaper aluminum/fiberglass units at Wal-Mart for about $40. Total investment in the 350-400 range. Even if money is no object, why ???

check e-bay. all sorts of canon, nikon, minolta manual cameras (most do have built in metering) for 1-200 with lens. If you dont already have a tripod....well shame on you ;) you might want to invest some money there, i have a manfrotto/bogen with ball head, and QR that i like, my dad currently has it though (my camera was basically "stolen" by my mom the past fewyears and i havnt had the money to care) im gettin re-started in photography myself, and may end up with an old manual to play with. Might also upgrade bodies, and get a digital rebel when i get the money!

hope you have fun and learn a lot :)
nymtber said:
check e-bay. all sorts of canon, nikon, minolta manual cameras (most do have built in metering) for 1-200 with lens.

I second the eBay option - I got a great Pentax k1000 (an all manual camera) with 50mm lens for really cheap to use on a film course I took ages ago. If you're only going to be using film on the course, and aren't palnning on using it otherwise, a secondhand camera may make more sese. If you already have a collection of lenses, a body that matches them would be a wise move.

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