Best Auto Film Camera, that also has a manual mode?

Discussion in 'Modern Film Cameras' started by twcxz, Mar 20, 2020.

  1. Hi there,

    i'm after a fully automatic film camera, with the option of shooting manual when I want to.

    I've had a look into the Canon EOS 1n, but I'm wondering if there are any other options out there.

    Interchangeable lenses is a must.

    I currently don't own any lenses, other than a 50mm K mount that came with my Ricoh.

    Any recommendations?
  2. Almost any Canon EOS camera will have both auto and manual modes and would work well. The EOS 1N is a great option and of course the newer EOS 1V is even better.

    Some other great EOS film cameras are the EOS 3, EOS 5, and EOS 7NE.

    You you will probably want to avoid some of Canon's older EOS film cameras that used only over/under indicator arrows instead of a proper full exposure meter in manual mode.

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    Last edited: Mar 20, 2020
    twcxz likes this.
  3. On the Nikon front, it's hard to go wrong with an F100. It was the last of Nikon's "prosumer" film cameras or whatever you want to call them. It has all the PSAM modes, and is fully compatible with autofocus lenses(save for newer/high end "E" apertures and AF-P) and works in aperture priority or manual with auto-indexing manual focus. Manual metering is by a bar graph in the finder similar to what is shown for the Canon above.

    Other good Nikon options are the N90(s), F4, F5, and F6. The F4 and F5 are full sized pro-quality bodies and are heavy. The F5 has the same lens compatibility as the F100, and otherwise operates/handles very similarly. The N90 and F4 lose some compatibility with newer G-type lenses(they will only work in P and S mode). The F4 has a physical dial for everything. The F6 is a very nice and refined camera, but is expensive. It has the same compatibility as the F5 and F100, but can do matrix metering with manual focus lenses(the F4 can do this also).
    lance_blakeslee and twcxz like this.
  4. Pentax 645(n)?
  5. An EOS Elan (or EOS 50), EOS 7, or EOS 1n all make a lot of sense with respect to the Canon world. In addition, the EF lenses for these cameras are completely compatible with Canon DSLRs and mirrorless cameras (with an adaptor). An EOS 3 or IV will cost a considerable amount more compared to the other options described above. The good thing is that all Canon EF lenses produced since 1987 are fully compatible on any EOS film, digital, or mirrorless (with adaptor) camera. I will let the Nikon folks parse through their world of compatible bodies and lens lines throughout the ages. I will admit that an Nikon F100 would be high on my list of cameras, though I would assume it will not be inexpensive these days.
  6. By auto do you mean autofocus? I’ll also get behind the Nikon F100. Just excellent all around. One of the best grips I’ve ever used in any camera.

    If you want manual focus with manual and auto exposure, you have a lot of options. Nikon made excellent ones but they’re running expensive these days. Hard to beat an FE2. There are deals to be found in Minolta. An X570 or X700 (from a good dealer because you do see some with electronic failure) or XD11 is an excellent camera.
  7. The Nikkormat EL is manual or automatic. They are plentiful and not expensive.
  8. SCL


    I had a Nikon F100 and it did a good job, but I like the F5 much has more flexibility IMHO, although it is quite a bit heavier. On the less well known side is the Contax RX, automatic and manual capabilities in exposure, but fully manual in focus. It uses the magnificent Zeiss lenses, or if they are too expensive for you, their Yashica similar focal lengths, some of which are very good, some of which are mediocre. While I like autofocus capabilities, I grew up with manual and have no problems manual focusing. I do like having an autoexposure capability for certain situations. Again, if you can deal with manual focusing, but want autoexposure and manual capabilities in a fine camera, the Olympus OM2N is a good catch...the better (also more expensive) Olympus lenses have great color and contrast. Lastly, again, manual focus, but manual and auto exposure in the Canon line (before the EOS series) is the T90, which uses the FD lenses. The professional end of the line is outstanding, but again, expensive by comparison with the consumer ones...which are no slouches.
  9. I'll second the Nikkormat EL. It's one of my favorite cameras in the 'traditional form'. (LINK)
    However, I'd also suggest the Canon EOS-3, another of the 'best film cameras ever made.' It has AE and AF, but can be used in fully manual mode. (LINK)

    The Canon T90 would be on the list if it were not for its flaky shutter relay.
  10. "i'm after a fully automatic film camera."
    Automatic as in P mode and auto focus? Then a Canon EOS 3 or Nikon F100, or their contemporary Pro models if portability is not an issue.
    Or since you are going the film route, do you perhaps seek a closer tactile relationship with the process itself? As in manual focus and film advance with the convenience of exposure automation?
    Then the Nikon F3 is not going to bankrupt you, but offers a luxuriously smooth film advance, professional heft and access to an amazing number of relatively bargain priced lenses. 20 years in production -basically unchanged- speaks for itself.
  11. The Nikon FE remains one of my favorites. I have a few pre-AI lenses, so the metering tab that pivots up out of the way so they can be mounted is a plus for me. The FE2 (and FM2 and FA) lacks this feature -- it uses just a plain plastic concentric ring with the tab molded into it. Try mounting a Pre-AI lens on an FE2 and you risk breaking off the metering tab. And even though its larger and much heavier, the F4 is one of my favorites also for this very reason. I find its AF capabilities to be rather abysmal though, especially when trying to shoot moving subjects. I also own a Nikon EL2 (second version of the Nikkormat EL), which seems to be the direct predecessor to the FE. Great camera -- bigger and heavier than the FE, but a very solid feeling camera. And of course, there's the F3. Love it or hate it, it's a solid good camera and has proved its worth in a pro environment many times over. Svelte and relatively light weight, it was Nikon's big departure in a pro camera because of its battery dependence.

    The Minolta X570 is a better choice than the X700 because the meter on the X570 is fully coupled in manual mode. It is not on the X700. Yes, you're giving up the Program mode with the X-570, but it still has Aperture priority which is usually more than enough automation for most folks. The MD-11 is another great choice -- probably Minolta's finest 35mm SLR in terms of build quality.

    Most any Canon EOS has a fully coupled meter in manual mode, even the basic Rebels. So it's a matter of choosing whatever other features and/or capabilities you want. The only FD Canon that has a fully coupled meter and at least one auto exposure mode is the New F-1 with the AE FN finder. No other FD Canon with an auto exposure mode has a fully coupled meter -- not even the T90. A glaring oversight, I've always felt.

    I'm not familiar enough with Pentax's AF offerings to say what they offer, but when it comes to their manual focus cameras, there are more than one. However, my favorite Pentax with an auto mode and fully coupled meter is, by far, the LX. It was Pentax's pro-level camera, equivalent to the Nikon F3 and the Canon New F-1. One of my favorite things about the LX is its ability to meter off the film plane. This capability makes long exposures in low light conditions a very useful reality.
  12. As you can see, twcxz, people are trying to guess what you want/need more than anything else. If you want replies that are specific to what you're looking for, you need to come back and let us know more of your specific intentions and what compromises you are and are not willing to tolerate.

    Here are some things that would help in narrowing down your options, many of which have been asked above in different posts:

    1. When you say "fully automatic film camera", are you assuming auto focus and built in motor drive as well, or are you more interested in a "old school" lever-wound manual focus camera without built in motor drive? There's a pretty big divide between these two classes, and they don't overlap at all.

    If you want/need autofocus, realistically you're down to Canon or Nikon. Minolta is long gone and Pentax is too niche unless you have prior experience with and particular preference for those brands (usually because you're loyal to a couple of exceptionally good lenses). Coming at it from zero, you'll likely be better off with Nikon/Canon. A good midrange buy for Canon is the EOS Elan or Elan II, for Nikon theres the N8008S/F801 or N90S/F90S. Money no object? EOS1n, Nikon F6.

    If you DON'T need AF in your film camera, there's an infinite number of choices, which leads to

    2. Do you plan or expect to use any lenses you buy for your film kit to be usable with your digital kit if you own or plan to buy a DSLR? If "yes", you're pretty much stuck with Nikon, because only Nikon made and still makes DSLR bodies that fully couple to their older manual focus lenses for metering, aperture open/close, and basic EXIF data capture. The reverse also applies: many older Nikon AF lenses work fine on their manual focus film bodies (just check that the lens has an aperture ring). Old Minolta AF lenses will couple to earlier Sony DSLRs and the AF adapter for Sony A7 mirrorless digital bodies, but the former are discontinued and the A7 adapter is clumsy at best.

    If you don't care at all about total lens compatibility between film and digital bodies, lots of good cameras of several brands out there to play with, so you need to filter them further:

    3. How important is manual exposure mode? Do you care if manual mode is coupled, with viewfinder display guiding your hand as you set the controls, or is it OK if the camera punks out in manual mode, leaving you to guess the settings or use your own intuition? Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, Contax and most Minoltas give you feedback in manual mode. Canon, Konica and several others usually don't: in manual mode the display still shows you what the camera would set on auto, but isn't coupled to the camera controls so its a bit more clumsy.

    4. How important is the type of autoexposure? Often each camera brand favored one over the other: usually "you set the lens aperture and the camera sets the shutter speed" with only Canon and Konica offering "you set the shutter speed and the camera sets the lens aperture". More recent models eventually offered both types, and added the mixed program mode (camera sets everything by itself), but many of those have not held up as reliably as the older simpler models which leads to

    5. How high is your risk tolerance? Are you willing to gamble on receiving potentially defective cameras that need to be returned/exchanged (or repaired at significant extra cost)? Some of the most popular, nicest autoexposure film cameras were great in their day but after ten years (never mind forty) some design glitches routinely cause problems. i.e., the Canon AE-1 and A-1 develop squeaky shutters and gummy lens aperture mechanisms. The beautifully crafted Minolta XD-11, one of the finest cameras ever made, had soft leatherette that rots, electronics that short and shutters that punk out. Sometimes these can be DIY repaired, but often you need to pay a pro and it isn't cheap.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2020
    Jochen likes this.
  13. Being mostly a Nikon guy I will say N90S, F100, F4s, F5 or if you don’t require autofocus an FE or FE2. I don’t have an F5 but have used it and liked it. I have the N90S and F4S, more than one of each actually and they get the job done nicely.

    Rick H.
  14. Silent Street

    Silent Street Silent Street Photography AUS

    I would not recommend a professional level camera for a person stepping up from a very basic camera, with the added expense of a selection of EF lenses (the 1N is optimised for the higher-end L-series lenses in terms of speed and focus metrics). Results will not come overnight, even if you let this camera (and the later, similarly specified 1V) "do the talking". Having said that, the Canon EOS 1N has metered manual e.g. it will be aware of the scene and keep track of the exposure, but you will be exercising judgement on the exposure, and this requires baseline skill and experience. Reinforcing my point above, the 1N is not the best camera for a beginner because of is complexity and function overlays that can fundamentally alter the way exposures are made and their metrics (this refers to custom functions). Something like a Nikon FE2 with simplified viewfinder exposure information — the FE2 (which I travelled widely with around 1984-1988) is still sought after today and Nikkor lenses are reasonably easy to find and cheaper than AF lenses.
  15. Canon EOS-1V, EOS-1VHS, Nikon F5, Nikon F6. are among the best.
  16. I'm surprised nobody's mentioned the Nikon F801s (marked N8008s in the US). It has great metering and runs off standard AA cells, which last a good long time. The 'high eyepoint' finder is also much better than most earlier cameras.

    Its looks won't win you any points for coolness, but its mainly plastic body doesn't have any cruddy foam light-trapping to turn gooey either.

    IMO opinion it's more like what the F4 could have been if Nikon hadn't decided to turn it into an overweight door-stop.
    robertgiles likes this.
  17. I like the N8008(s), but deferred mentioning it in favor of the N90(s). I don't see a TON of difference between the two cameras. Take your pick, though, the N90 gets nasty and gooey on the back that needs some work to strip off, but works with AF-S lenses. The N8008 doesn't get gooey, but also doesn't work with AF-S

    If VR is important to you, you need something with at least 5 focus points, which means an F5, F6, F100, or N80(maybe others). BTW, I don't know if the 5 point thing is actually a requirement of VR(doubt it) or just a quick and easy way to differentiate camera generations that support it.
  18. I don't know the N90, but I dug my F801s out the other day, and it kicked right into life with (enter any number between 5 and 10 here) year old batteries in it.

    It immediately filed a complaint against low batteries, but after fitting 4 new AA alkalines it was happy and ready to shoot.

    I was so impressed I ran a roll of T-max 100 through it, and couldn't find any reason to disagree with its metering. The whole roll was well exposed, despite being presented with some high contrast and difficult lighting conditions. The frame spacing was slightly erratic, but not bad enough that it prevented adequate cutting-space between frames.

    Anyhow, that's why I popped it into this thread.
    robertgiles likes this.
  19. Since I hadn't looked at either for a while, I dug out both my N8008s and N90s.

    As I said, the big selling point for the N90 is AF-S compatibility(the N8008 doesn't work at all, the N90 does). I compare the two since the N90 basically was the upgrade/replacement of the N8008. Both have basically the same control layout(the N90 has a few more buttons) and the same lovely high eyepoint finder.

    The N90 has a few additional mostly irrelevant features. It has the useless "scene" modes that are difficult and nonsensical to access. The N90 also gives you a "grippy" back cover that's most likely now a gooey mess and is best stripped off to give you the smooth back of the N8008.

    The N90 has been bulked up in almost every dimension-it looks like an N8008 that spent a few months under shelter in place :). The difference isn't noticeable unless they're right next to each other. The weight isn't that different, so I think it's mostly just bulking up the dimensions. Some may like this better, some may not.

    AF seemed about the same on both using the same lens(in my case a consumer 35-70mm that I had handy). Both require a bit of care to make sure you're putting the AF point on something with enough contrast for it to grab. If there's a difference in speed, it wasn't noticeable in my limited testing.

    Both make a nice sharp "clack" when firing the shutter. If you're counting on your camera to be quiet, these may not be the camera for you. If it doesn't matter, they're great.

    If you like the annoying AF confirmation beep, the N8008 lets you click the power switch over one more position and get it. If you want it on the N90(not sure why), you need Photosecretary(good luck) or Meta35. If you get an N90 where it's been turned on, I hope you're happy with it(or beg someone with Meta35-for the time being if you have one, want it turned off, you can send it to me and I'm happy to do it).

    You really can't go wrong with either, and at current prices the N8008 really is the winner.

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  20. With lockdown time on my hands, I finally got around to completing the shutter-speed tester project I started decades ago. Basically, it came down to an opto-schmitt sensor, a battery box and a little circuit to regulate the battery volts and provide probe contacts for a storage 'scope.

    Originally it was going to incorporate a pulse-width counter and display, but in the meantime I've acquired a nice battery-operated storage scope..... so.

    What was the point of this rambling preamble? Ah, yes. Tested the F-801s with it, and..... perfect. All the way up to 1/1000th s. Shorter than that things went increasingly pear-shaped. I'm not sure if Nikon actually intended the top 3 speeds to be slightly longer than marked or not. With film, it would make sense to incorporate some inbuilt compensation for high-intensity/short-duration reciprocity failure. Or maybe I'm imbuing a technical shortcoming with virtues it was never designed to have.

    Whatever. The F-801s's shutter can't be faulted for accuracy between 30" and one-thousandth.

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