Best manual camera, ever?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by donaldamacmillan, Apr 5, 2009.

  1. Hello again
    I love this forum; i think i am addicted!
    Through the gentle and informed persuations of numerous members of i am happily compelled to continue my basic photography education and learning with my FM3a ... But i started to wonder, with my camera being so beautifully manual ... What, in the opinion of the many others (more qualified and experienced than i'll likely ever be!), is the very best manual 35mm SLR camera that has ever been made? And why? I'm not wishing for anyone to feel restricted to just Nikon! Be honest from the heart!
    I am very interested!!
  2. Since this isn't restricted to just Nikon I'll move this to the Casual Photo Conversations Forum.
    Over the years my favorite 35mm SLRs, in no particular order and based mostly on the intangible "Gee, I like this camera" impression rather than practicality:
    • Nikon F3HP (does almost everything well despite a few quirks)
    • Olympus OM-1 (best all-around travel kit)
    • Miranda Sensorex (first SLR I ever owned, when it was new)
    • Pentax Spotmatic (first SLR I ever used, when it was new on the market)
    • Canon FTbn (almost everything you need, nothing you don't)
  3. I'd have to vote for Pentax K1000; or, any of the other Spotmatic or Pentax AP derivatives. That whole group of cameras from AP to Spotmatic to K2 to K1000, I think they were very sturdily built. I enjoy using them, and think they are pretty much a good investment for the user. Collectively, they are the '57 Chevy of cameras.
  4. Nikon FM2
    Tough, great MLU function, light, tough.
  5. 35 mm camera bodies are only light boxes. The things that made them any good are the film and lenses. To compare the best 35 mm SLR is harder than comparing which is the best digital DSLR. At least the DSLRs have different sensors and megapixels. Just use which ever one you are most comfortable with and forget about comparing them.
    You may be able to tell the difference between a Nikon D3X and a Nikon D60 with the same lens. I challenge any one to tell the difference between the Nikon F2a and the Nikon FM using the same film and the same lens.
  6. I can't say I'm qualified to say which is the best but I sure loved and used my Canon F1n's for 10 years and they rocked. Metering was superb.
  7. Pentax LX; Canon F1; Canon T-90; (I own all 3): who couldn't want or couldn't use a waist level finder w/ground glass focusing every once in a while... or multi-spot metering-or even -5 EV "low light" metering?
    Haven't heard of either? That may be, "may" being the operative word, because neither is a "cult" favorite outside their own "cults".
  8. Nikon F, Nikkormat FTN, all working for four decades and likely many more. :)
  9. Canon F-1n and Canon T90. Fine pro level machines that use some of the world's best optics. There is a reason photonet devotes an entire forum to Canon FD.
  10. Hi, Donald -
    My all time favorite manual 35mm SLR camera and accessories system: Olympus OM-1n, followed VERY CLOSELY by Minolta SRT101.
    Why? OM-1 was very compact, relatively light, reliable as an anvil, one of the quietest shutters I've used. SRT performed equally, image quality at least as good, but was just a bit larger and heavier. OM-1 had more of the lenses available that I found useful.
    I'm quite sure Nikon had manual cameras that were considered among the very best, but I never bought one until my F-100, so can't speak to earlier models. Enjoy your FM3a.
  11. Nikon F, Olympus OM-1n, Nikon F2 with plain prism.
  12. Kodak Retina IIc (my first 35mm camera). It did everything is was asked and able to do. I developed the first roll of film I shot with it, and have been hooked ever since. Definitely a sentimental favorite for me. I wish I still had it.
    My other candidates: the Leica IIIf (my first interchangeable-lens camera...a hand-me-down that was several years older than me), and the Minolta SRT-101 (my second SLR, reliable as an anvil - got it in a trade deal for a Petri FT-EE).
    I bought an FM3A when they first came out, but always disliked having no mirror lock-up. IMO, that was a serious design flaw for the Last Great Manual SLR, and that shortcoming made it into an eventual non-keeper for me. I truly liked it otherwise.
  13. As a Nikon fan I like the FE2, the FM2N and the best combination the FM3A
  14. I really loved the Fe2 and the FM3a. Someone should mention the Blad 500 c/m.
  15. SCL


    Wow - everybody is concentrating on SLRs! I think the rangefinders deserve some well earned praise...begining with the Argus C3 (the Brick), of course the various earlier Leicas (M3&4), and one of my favorites, the Ricoh 500 series of the late 1950s. In the SLRs, I'd give a nod to Nikons, Olympus OM1, and the Leicaflex SL2 (which cost more to manufacture than they could charge for it - the production only ran for 2 years).
  16. 35 mm camera bodies are only light boxes.​
    Ah, if only that were true, Hansen. It would make things so much easier.
    But the fact is these light tight boxes differ significantly in quality and reliability. Years ago on the CompuServe photo forum, in response to that very truism about all cameras being the same, Ctein mentioned some difficulties keeping the Pentax ME mirror aligned accurately for critical focus (I hope I'm remembering correctly, it's been more than 10 years ago).
    Add to that the tendency of the flimsy plastic door latch on the Nikon N6006 to snap, leaving it a very non -light tight box. An otherwise very good camera, hampered by a stupid engineering decision to save a few cents.
    Lens mount rings tend to loosen up on the Canon T50 and T70 bodies, both otherwise good cameras. Not so good for critical lens alignment on those light boxes. While I used and enjoyed both, they'd never rank among my list of best or favorites.
    Resistor ring problems with some Nikon F2 metering prisms? Check. Not a deal killer for a light tight box, but a hassle for those who appreciate the convenience of TTL metering.
    Some folks can't stand the unconventional location of the shutter speed ring on Olympus OM's and some Nikkormats. Lefty Exactas for right-handed photographers?
    I could go on and on. There are very good reasons why we chatter about favorite cameras. Usually a little time and experience helps identify which particular light tight boxes won't drive you bonkers due to an unacceptable quirk.
  17. My vote goes, as always, to the mighty and immortal Nikon F. If in fact, we mean manual in its purest form. I suppose the F2 could be considered as even better, but I have a soft spot for the F. If you've ever opened one up and played with its mechanism, you'll find that it's impressive all the way through. It's a mechanical masterpiece.
    However, after a recent plunge into the later portion of the 20th century, I would add, if the "manual" designation is stretched a little, that the F3 is awfully nice too.
    Of course, if we expand away from SLR's, one could consider something like my Leica IIIb, another clockwork marvel. How many other machines out there can work perfectly after 70 years without ever having been serviced?
  18. Having used Pentax, Canon (F1), Leicaflex SLII, and Nikon over the years, I'd have to say the Nikon F2A is my all time favorite manual camera, followed closely by the F3HP. Nothing else comes close.
  19. Nikon FM - Small and simple with a meter. No battteries - still works. Film advance silkly-smooth....
  20. Ah yes, Lex you are correct and you did change the OP slightly. I understand there are "favorite" film camera. Unfortunately when I read the OP I read the question as the "best" 35 mm SLR camera. I love to discuss favorites but the word "best" is a pet peeve of mine.;-)
  21. Everybody's stuck on 35 mm. Best manual camera/system I've owned is the Hasselblad 500CM. But my sentimental favorite is my first "real" camera which was a Kodak Retina IIIC (yep, a big C). Still have it, still works, still great.
  22. Three favrourites:
    Nikon F2AS
    Minolta SRT 101
    Topcon Super D
  23. Lot's of old 35mm slr camera's out there that are very significant . Nikon F started it all really. A beast that worked. Many others also..I have never owned one but I think the FM2n is my favorite in the SLR. The Leica camera's are wonderful but they were not SLR bodies. Lot's of National Geographic photographers used the Nikon and Leica bodies back in the manual camera days. If you open up the rules a bit then you get into the Hassleblad bodies and then the large format camera's. Many wonder camera's out there. But now most of us are shooting digital point and shoot camera's like my D200.
  24. "Everybody's stuck on 35 mm." OK, I'll vote for the Zeiss Super Ikonta A. A lot smaller than a Nikon F, with a lot larger negative.
  25. It really depends on what you consider a "manual" SLR, but I'm pretty fond of my Canon F1 and EF. My favorite 35mm would probably be the Konica Auto S2 but then thats not an SLR, neither is my Argus C3 or Kodak Retina IIIc.
  26. You'd have to put in a vote for the least expensive Yashica, because it was a cheapish platform for Zeiss lenses
  27. Nikon F2, hands down. It did everything than any camera could do in its day and still does some things better than today's cameras. Feels better in my hands than anything today. Absoluetely never ever fails to produce a picture for any reason (other than user error) for any reason whatsoever. Any picture that I've ever had not "come out" with an F2 was something I did, not some mystery thing that the camera did. They are solid as a rock, built like a locomotive. My first one got dropped onto concrete twice before it noticed, and then the prism was only a little loosened up and still kept working. No battery, no problem (you lose the meter and the motor but who really needs those?) I have four, with various combinations of prisms, meters and motors, and I'm pretty sure I could drive nails with them without any problem.
  28. An R series Leica, without a doubt. I had a few R4 bodies. The results of an R body with Leica lens is head and shoulders above the Japanese cameras. I also, at various times, used a Pentax, a Mamiya 1000 and some FM2 and F3 Nikons. When you put a Leica picture in the same portfolio as a Nikon picture it looked like a larger format. This is not Nikon bashing, Lex. It is fact. I still have an FM3 and a few digital Nikons.
  29. Marty Forster, who used to run Professional Camera Repair in NYC, had a very few cameras he called "hockey puck" cameras for obvious reasons. They were cameras that could take anything and still work. He designated them as the Leica M, the Nikon F, and, I think the Canon F.
    Having used all three, I must concur, with a slight edge to the Leica M because it has so much less to break than the other two. Simple, solid, dependable, the sort of camera you could hit someone with and then take their picture with it.
    If that's how you define "best," that's it.
  30. If you want to hit someone get a Graflex Super Graphic.
    It is also pretty good as a photographic instrument.
  31. I think there was kind of a high point in 35mm cameras just prior to the introducton if the first auto exposure slrs. There were similar cameras from several of the makers and some of those brands are gone now. I happened to have the Minolta SRT-102, Canon and Nikon and others had similar models, many makers had "professional" or consumer models above and below them as well. Even some of the smallish rangefinders were a step above the the "point and shoots" and still fondly remembered. I do agree that the OM series was special because they did try to get out of the same mold as the others with a smaller, lighter system. I wonder a bit if they might not have captured a larger share of the pie if they had come out with them somewhat sooner?
    But instead of trying to parse that still popular group of cameras (as in "Why can't a get a digital SRT-102 or FTb or ....?"), how about the perhaps more universally sold and now widely panned, "Never-ready" case as the classic "worst" accessory?
  32. The answer is more a matter of you are not asking the right question and the right question is virtually impossible to phrase. Everyone has a different "feel" behind the camera. There are many many GREAT cameras out there, and each one has different characteristics that make it great. Durability and flexibility are only two quantities, but there are other factors. While durability and flexibility are quantifiable things that can be listed in charts and make for easy debate, the less quantifiable aspects are just as, if not MORE important. How a camera feels in your hands and how comfortable the controls feel for you are factors that are not quantifiable but will arguably lead you to more satisfaction in your image making experiences. To generalize this concept, people with small hands like myself are often attracted to cameras like the OM1 and similar small cameras with large controls. Cases like large vs. small may chartible data with fairly predictable results, but other cases are more based on simple preference. Starting from the perspective of someone who has never used a 35mm film camera, how would one know if they prefer a match needle meter over an LED meter or no meter or completely blind automated metering? Each style of metering has its merits and there are cameras having each of those styles which MAY be categorized as the "best" despite the vastly different user experience. The same is true for things such as focusing screen style, shutter ring style, aperture ring style, dof preview, width and style of the grippy focusing ring and aperture surface, handgrips, position of strap lugs, orientation and position of controls, and feedback such as exposure and frame information. I am aware that Nikon makes great cameras, but I find just about everything about them to be backwards, awkwardly placed and in some cases simply confusing. Canon and Minolta are a little better and for me Olympus OM is the perfect fit... especially the OM-1 which for my taste is an absolutely perfect machine from every aspect.
  33. Big: Pentax 67
    Small: LX for its -6 EV
  34. Best 35mm slr I used was Nikon F2.
  35. Canon F1.
  36. By the time the FM3a came out everybody was talking Digital so I skipped on that one. I do own the Nikon FE2 and the FM2N, both bought used on eBay. The FE2 does give you a little speed but the Light meter on the FM2N is absolutely accurate. I also owned an Olympus OM-4 until the light meter went out.
  37. My Norita was my hammer of choice during my wedding stage. Excellent lenses, easy handling. Built like a rock.
  38. gib


    Yashica FX-3 fitted with any of the fixed focal length Contax lenses, say a 28mm f2.8 lens
    Pentax Spotmatic and a 50mm f1.4 Pentax lens
  39. Ditto on the Yashica FX-3 (super 2000) with Contax lenses. An FX-3 and a Contax 35 2.8 sets you back, oh, $200, and has stunning optics.
  40. The Nikon F with the Nippon Kogaku logo on the top in front of the shutter release is my choice. All the parts were machined to finish. When the logo on top changed to just "Nikon" some parts became stamped, and the quality dropped a little.
    8x10 Deardoff View Camera with bulb release is the ultimate manual camera.
  41. FM3A and Leica M6
  42. Best camera ever was the one I used that got me the best picture ever.
  43. stp


    Best camera ever was the one that opened my eyes to the possibilities (for me, it was the Miranda Sensorex).
  44. Pentax Spotmatic, and what I replaced it with -- the Pentax KX
  45. Contax S2b, Canon F-1 (original) & Leica R-6....all superb for slightly differing reasons.
    But the Nikon F must remain the seminal manual SLR for it started the SLR craze.
  46. I'll put in another plug for the Nikon FM. The LED meter helps in low light and if you lose the batteries, you still get to keep your camera. The Olympus OM1 is compact, quiet and just plain fits the hand. Minolta SRT 101 was my first real SLR and the match needle metering was hard to beat along with the depth of field preview.
    They're not all "just light tight boxes". If a camera has controls that readily come to hand (for you) and gives the information most essential (for you) allowing a transparent interface to express or capture whats most important (for you) then you hold in your hands the best manual 35mm SLR camera(for you). The previous sentence may of course be subjective(for you).
  47. For 120 rollfilm: Super Ikonta B, Rolleiflex 2.8f; 35mm Nikon F2AS ; Canon F1, Olympus OM1; I have used Pentax MXs for nearly thirty years but I would put them a little below the three I have chosen. Others may contest this judgement.
  48. Only somebody who has never taken a photograph with a Contax would not include it on this list. I love the Contax AX, RTS II for simplicity, the Contax N1 for handling. All remarkable cameras.
  49. mtk


    Nikon F, Minolta SRT, Spotmatic
  50. My votes, in no particular order, Canon F-1, Kodak Retina Ia and Pentax K1000
  51. If only one 35mm body?
    Canon F1 with its five (5!) separate viewfinders.
    Talk about others all you want but the Canon F1 and its -5 EV capability is a show stopper.
  52. My manual SLR days were with Minoltas, and I never had one much impress me. The SRT was a little clunky, the XG-7 felt
    cheap, the XD-5 and XD-11 felt wonderful but were too prone to failure.
    The manual camera I love is my 6x9 Mamiya Universal rangefinder. A way better weapon than some folding Graphic, a
    couple of really stellar lenses in the system (the 50/6.3 and 100/2.8), and what may be the best 120 flatness ever.
  53. A yes, the unconventional location of the shutter speed ring on the Olympus OMs. That is one of my favorite bits on the cameras. It leaves everything ready at hand without akward attempts at changing the shutter speed with your eye in the view finder. Olympus OM-1 or OM-1n would be my favorite all time film camera. They are very small, light, Zuiko made some truely beautiful, high quality, sharp and very tiny lenses for the cameras and they just look great. I wouldn't consider them the best, but I would consider them the most fun to use and as Lex mentioned, an awesome, awesome travel camera.
  54. I think the category was supposed to be manual 35mm SLRs, not favorite cameras.
    I love the looks and feel of my Nikon F3HP but it is not a manual SLR. Neither is the Minolta XE-7 or XD-11, although I have each and like them. Nor is the wonderful Canon T90.
    Bells and whistles that I like are 1) metering at full aperture, 2) mirror lockup, 3) a blind to keep light coming in the viewfinder from affecting the exposure, 4) enough mass to dampen my old age shakiness but not so much as to be burdensome, 5) comfortable to hold with few sharp edges (bye-bye Nikon F1), 6) silicon meters, but the only mechanical camera I know of with this feature are two verison of the F2, and 7) uses silver 1.5 batteries. I rarely use flash on film cameras anymore, so I won't give demerits to the clunkiness of the earlier Nikon SLRs.
    So my choice of mechanical SLR 35 mm's is
    1) Nikon F2
    2) Pentax Spotmatic F
    3) Nikon FM2n
    I would like to have a Nikon FM3a, but not at the ridiculous price they now command.
    I enjoyed this exercise. It forced me to think of criteria and apply it to the cameras I have owned and used. If the envelope had been extended to cameras that need batteries and electronics, I prefer to use a Nikon F3HP or a Canon T90 over even the Nikon F2. But the F2 is close to mechanical perfection.
  55. As a long time Nikon guy and as one who loves the "old stuff" I feel the need to confess. Forgive me all but I recently wrapped my paws around a couple of stunningly beautiful Oly OM-1n's and I think I'm in love. I like small cameras and these gems are perfect in my eyes. Nobody seems to want them anymore so prices are cheap for both bodies and lenses. Right now I just have a few lenses including the 28 2.8, 28 3.5 and the 50 1.4. Haven't used the 28 2.8 yet but the 3.5 is sharp as a tack stopped down a bit and much smaller than it's Nikon counterpart. Also it's one of the few bodies that I prefer in chrome because of the impressive fit and finish. Now I need to score a portrait lens and I'll have (for my needs) a complete system. Attached photo was taken with the 28 3.5 on Plus-x rated @ 75 and developed in D76. I made a very impressive, sharp 11x14 out of this shot. Normally I don't push 35mm that big. (scuse the PS look. I get carried away sometimes.)
  56. I'm a bit surprised that no one has mentioned the Olympus OM4Ti. I've owned a black one of these for about 10 years now and will never part with it. Beautifully constructed, lightweight, and solid. It feels like a precision instrument. In my opinion a better camera than the Olympus OM1 due to the multi spot metering system which can average up to 8 spot readings. This enables very accurate exposure control. The Shadow and highlight buttons are also useful, and exposure sensitivity down to -5EV is great for long exposure low light work.
    Being a spectacle wearer I also prefer the viewfinder on the OM4 over the OM1 because it has better eye relief and is much brighter with a 2-13 screen (I suspect it has one of the brightest viewfinders ever on a manual focus SLR).
    I also like Nikons a lot and admire the FM2 and FM3.
  57. The best manual-focus camera ever is the Minolta X-900. Like it's predecessor X-700, it takes the great MD/Rokkor lenses, but in addition, the compensation dial is in thirds instead of halves. It has interchangable viewfinders & screens like Grandfather XK, a knob enables multiple exposures, can operate battery free, or manual metering & aperature priority, being electronically minimalist, and unlike X-700, is built like a tank. Unfortunately, X-900 hasn't made it off the assenbally line yet.
  58. I own one, I use one, and I LOVE my Pentax Spotmatic F. I'm told the K1000 is even better, but I can't say for sure since I've never shot it.
    I also have a Yashica TL/Electro-X. Excellent camera, and I believe the first to have an electronic light meter (if you consider two arrows that light up as "electronic")!
    In terms of sales, isn't the K1000 the best-selling SLR in history?
  59. Canon Pellix for 35mm, no interruption to the viewfinder was worth the slightly dimmer view. Pentax 6x7 for medium format, just like using a 35mm SLR only huge negs and great optics and either the Pentax MX or Nikon FM2 for cameras that were bomb proof, simple and great to handle.
  60. Another "vote" for the Olympus OM system in general & the OM-1n in particular...

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