Full Manual Mechanical 35 mm Camera

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jay_schrotenboer, Nov 16, 2011.

  1. I am looking for a good quality mechanical 35 mm camera that i can buy used. I know that the Nikon "FM" (before the FM3 anyway) line is fully mechanical, but i do not know of any others. So i thought I would ask here for any recommendations that all of you might have to offer. I will not be buying until next spring or summer so i will have time to research any suggestions and shop around for the best deal. I know that full mechanical is not the only good option out there, but it is what i want right now, so please no electronic shutters. Also a meeter is not necessary as i have a hand held one that i can use. I do not want a camera that will brake the bank ether,so i will say i am aiming for under $500 (give or take) for camera and at least one lens. Other than that any brand, model, or style is fine by me.
    Thank you all very much for your time.
  2. Nikon F or F2, Nikkormat FTn
    (meters are likely not to work on early Photomics or the FTn).
    Canon F1 and other FD-mount Canon cameras before the AE series.
    A plethora of M42 models, especially including the non-meter versions of the Praktica L series.
  3. If you want to dabble cheaply, save $490 by picking up an Argus C3 for... $5-10.
  4. There are lots of fine fully mechanical 35mm cameras. If you want to limit it to SLRs, then the Nikon F, F2, and FM/FM2/FM3A are superb choices. Then there's the Minolta SR and SR-T series, the Pentax Spotmatics (except for the ES) and pre-Spotmatics (the SV being a personal favorite of mine), the Canon F1, FTb, and EF, the Olympus OM-1, to say nothing of various models from Konica, Fujica, Yashica, Ricoh, Topcon...
    But if you just want to pick one and be done with it, I recommend the Nikon FM. It's rock-solid, reliable, easy to use, and compatible with a wider range of lenses and accessories than most other brands -- and most of those lenses and accessories are easier to find and often priced lower these days than other brands, simply because Nikon's immense popularity in the mechanical SLR era means there's a large supply of components available in the used market today.
    Another good alternative is an M42 camera such as a Pentax Spotmatic F, but personally I don't much care for screw-mount lenses -- they don't slip onto a camera as easily or quickly as bayonet mounted lenses, in my experience. There's a reason the industry has adopted bayonet mounts almost exclusively.
  5. It's hard to spend your entire $500 budget on a fully mechanical SLR and one lens! They are selling used for far less than that. (The only exception might be Leicaflex or Leica R series, that might bust your budget.)
    Any Pentax K-mount camera with a broken meter should be dirt cheap, say $25 to $50. Say K1000, KM, KX, or MX. Pentax K-mount lenses before the Pentax-A series remain very cheap, yet are very fine lenses. The Pentax-M 50/1.7 lens should be about $40, and is superb.
    The Minolta and Canon manual focus cameras and lenses are also "orphan mounts", so they are cheap.
  6. Minolta SRT and SR series.
    The SRT series is fully mechanical (battery only required for meter), but offers the convenience of full aperture TTL light metering with meter coupled lenses of the MC and MD series. Both cameras and lenses tend to be cheap, because they are incompatible with all digital camera systems. I've always found the meters built into my SRT series cameras good enough even for slide film.
    The SR series pre-dates the SRT series, and has either no meter, an optional clip-on meter, or a built-in non-TTL meter (SR-7 model V).
    $500 in this system should easily buy you a body in excellent shape and a nice set of lenses, for example 28mm f2.8, 50mm f1.4, and 135mm f/2.8. Even excellent Minolta lenses like the 16mm f2.8 fisheye, 24mm f2.8, and 58mm f1.2, to give just a few examples, won't break the bank.
  7. FWIW, you can buy a brand new Nikon FM-10 with a 35~70 lens and Nikon USA warranty within your budget.
    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video
  8. I vote for the original Canon F1, I have had plenty other cameras.....but this thing is a tank.
    Great optics pretty cheap on e-bay.
  9. Here are a few to consider:
    Olympus OM1n: http://www.photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00XwuB
    Pentax Spotmatic F: http://www.photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00WQe9
    Sears(Ricoh) TLS: http://www.photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00VlUD
    Ricoh Singlex II: http://www.photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00T566
    Yashica TL-Super: http://www.photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00UNbJ
    And, of course, the Nikon with the Little, Black, Pointed Hat:
    All all fairly cheap, far below your budget (OK, a mint F2 and DE-1 finder is more than the others). Expect the cameras will need service so plan for that.
  10. The advantage of getting a Canon or Minolta is that lenses will cost less. Many old Nikon lenses are adapted for use with DSLRs while Canon and Minolta lenses might be found attached to MILCs with adapters. Even if you would settle for a camera without a meter or a working meter, yiu would want to know that the shutter speeds are somewhere near accurate. If they aren't then your hand held meter will not be very helpful. You can buy an old Minolta SRT camera body for somewhere in the $25 range. Another $50 will get you the needed service from Garry's in Niles, IL. That will still leave you more than $400 to spend on lenses. You could do the same thing with a Canon FTb, FTbN, TX or TLb. Repairing an EF or F-1 will cost more and will not leave you as much for lenses. Nikkormats are another matter. Some have meter problems which are not as easily repaired. If you do look for a Nikkormat I would recommend an FT2 rather than an FTN. The FT2 takes an MS-76 battery and works equally well with AI and pre-AI lenses. Any mechanical camera which is decades old will need some service to make it reliable. If you want to spend even less money you could look for a Vivitar V4000 or V4000S. These cameras have mechanical shutters and built in meters. They are in Pentax K mount and often sell in very good condition for $25. The popularity of Pentax DSLRs has made some Pentax and K mount lenses more expensive than comparable ones from Canon or Minolta.
  11. SCL


    If you want rangefinders (excluding Leica) there are plenty out there well within your budget...most don't have interchangeable lenses, however. One of my favorites is the Ricoh 500 from 1956-7, or even better (but harder to find and more expensive) is the Ricoh 519. Both models have a slightly wider angle lens than most cameras of the period and also the quick wind trigger beneath the camera body somewhat similar to Leicas of the period with a Leicavit winder attachment; they are very quick to focus with the finger knobs on the focusing housing, and best of all the lenses are really good. I used them for years along with my SLRs and Leicas. I've owned 5-6 of them over the years (bought most under $30, recovered them & sold them for around $80-125). They work with most of the older electronic flashes in the auto mode as well. Just a thought if you are contemplating a good but inexpensive rangefinder.
  12. An Olympus OM1 satisfies all your needs. Broken meter versions don't go for much and armed with the Zuiko glass you have a fantastic bit of kit for not much outlay.
  13. For a no frills mechanical SLR that will do anything you need for not much cash, it's hard to argue with the Nikon FM with a 50/1.8 or /2.0. Add a 24/2.8, a 105/2.5 and a CLA, and you have a compact and bulletproof kit will do anything you need, produce professional-level results and still come in under your $500 budget.
  14. For $500 you can get a Nikon F3HP with a 50mm f1.4 lens. Nikon F3's are plentiful and usually found in excellent or excellent plus condition for less that $300. They are relatively new as their production had a long run. Their meters will as a rule work and the batteries are readily available and inexpensive. Try for a 50mm lens in the 5xxxxxx range as it will be the 6th and best version of that model. Also, there are some very fine Nikon lenses, the 24mm, 28mm, 105mm as well as Zeiss should you continue in this direction.
  15. The Nikon F3 is indeed a very fine camera and is my favorite camera but it's not a fully mechanical camera as it has electronically controlled shutter.
  16. For $45.00 (Cdn) I got a Nikkormat FT2 with a Nikkor f2/50, f4/200 and a third party 4.5-5.6/70-200 zoom... You can experiment with a Yashica TLR (variety of models) and still have tons left over.
  17. lwg


    Olympus OM1 is a very nice camera. It's small, the lenses are small, and it's not expensive.
    A Nikkormat is also very nice if you want a larger selection of lenses. It's also much larger and heavier than the OM1, if that's your preference.
    You should be able to get a very nice 2 or three lens system in either for less than $500 if you shop around.
  18. Contax S2 or S2b.
    Somewhat newer fully mechanical 35mm film camera that is rugged and beautiful with a top shutter speed of 1/4000. The models differ only in that the S2 has a spot meter only and the S2b has a center weighted average meter. But you say you dont need a meter so no big deal. You will probably blow most or all of your budget on the body alone. The good thing is that you can outlay more cash for an entire line of world renown Zeiss glass or you can spend less to get the Yashica ML line of glass that in my opinion is 95.34% as good as Zeiss with a much cheaper price tag. Heck, you can even use the cheaper Yashica DSB and YUS lines of glass. All of these lenses use the same Contax/Yashica mount. With a very inexpensive CY/M42 adapter you can use almost all of the old M42 screwmount lenses of which there are some real gems out there.
    Here is good little write up from the photo.net archive. http://www.photo.net/equipment/contax/s2
    Remember, a body is just a body. Its the glass that really takes the pictures so once you have a camera body in mind do a lot of research on what you can expect from the lenses. Picture quality, sharpness, warmth, color tones, cost....the list goes on. This is where I really think the Contax/Yashica line of cameras and lenses offer outstanding bargains and performance. You have many, many options with this sytem and it can grow with you in many different directions depending on where your photography and budget takes you. And if you ever get into digital then the CY mount lenses are easily adapted to many popular formats, such as Micro 4/3's and Canon just to name two.
    Hope this helps.
  19. I would choose the Nikon FM, get it serviced and use the rest of your funds for lenses.
  20. Jay -
    Surprised no one has mentioned KEH. Probably the best selection and they stand behind what they sell. Plenty of Nikon F3s there last time I looked. Get BGN grade unless you're sensitive about brassing and scratches.
  21. There is a minor problem with your request is that the first one tends to multiply quickly.
    Some of the other brand cameras Miranda,Petri,Contax and Sears Tower and many others
  22. I'm currently playing with a Canon FTbn, a beautiful mechanical Canon slr that I bought for under $30 in complete working order from a trusted seller on the big auction site. It's one of my favorite mechanical SLRs. Other greats include the OM-1, Pentax KX and MX, Minolta SR-T bodies, and several Nikon bodies as well.
  23. Anything that takes a Canon FD lens.

    Zillions out there, excellent quality, and none fit current Canon digitals, so demand is way less than supply.

    Lots of body choices, from the mundane FTb to the exquisite EF to the best-selling AE-1.
  24. In the 1960s and 1970s, all the major manufacturers made models that will suit you. Any body you buy should be serviced properly, and so also the lens or lenses. A built-in meter is a great time-saver, although you must avoid cameras which use the now discontinued mercury cell for power.
  25. Thank you all very much. This has given me a lot of good information to work with, witch is exactly what i was looking for. I look forward to all of the "window" shopping i get to do now.
  26. My first thought was a Retina IIA. Fixed lens (interchangeable wasn't requested as an option by the OP)
    Excellent lenses, pocketable, reasonable cost.
  27. I really like my Minolta SRT 102 and Konica Autoreflex T, beautiful high quality cameras.
  28. I own and use Nikon F, F2, Leicaflex SL, Canon F-1n. All have all shutter speeds and all aperture functions along with only manual focus without need for battery power less you need TTL metering. I then install a battery or update same to silver oxide button cell(s) and working interior metering. I use handheld meters in many cases, also relying on f8 and 1/25O when lacking any meter and shooting ISO 400 print film.
  29. Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Olympus and Pentax all make excellent cameras and lenses. If you can get a chance to handle any of the cameras you are considering, by all means do so. Assuming the cameras and lenses you buy are in good working order, you still have to get a sense of how any one system will feel in your hands and, particularly, when you're holding it up eye-level, looking through the viewfinder and operating the controls. Any given person may have preferences on the "feel" of the system that you can't sort out by just comparing Brand A to Brand B on the Internet.
  30. A lot of good advice there but be careful, despite what people say, no camera is built like a tank. My Praktica which is supposed to be crap works flawlessly since I bought it used years ago. On the other hand, I bought last spring a Nikkormat FTN which died after 2 rolls...
    If I had to buy a manual camera now, I would certainly choose an Olympus OM1. It is small, light, obvious to use and Zuiko OM lenses are good and easy to find.
  31. So, as you can see from all of the above, there is, as I said earlier, a wide range of excellent choices. But I think Lauren made a good point: The one you buy will end up being only the first of many. There was a time, not too long ago, when I began to transition from digital back to film. My first camera was a Nikon FE, which I chose because Ken Rockwell said, "The FE does everything you need, and nothing you don't" (which is true). But now I have... let me see... six Nikons, nine Minoltas, four Pentaxes, two Konicas, two Olympuses, a Canon, a Mamiya, a Ricoh, a Yashica, a Hasselblad, and a pre-war German folding camera. And don't even get me started on lenses... Compared to buying modern autofocus equipment, old manual-focus systems are so cheap that buying them is like eating popcorn. Well, except for Leica. I still don't have a Leica. Someday...
  32. I vote for Yashica, and without intending any 'my marque is better than yours' wrangling, I say that as someone who also has Olympus, Canon and Nikon SLRs. Oh, and Contax.
    I recently tested the mechanical shutter speeds of my old (1980) Yashica FX3 with an electronic tester, and all speeds are within 10% (usually 5%) of nominal speeds, making it marginally more accurate across the 1-1000 range than my electronically controlled Contax RTS. The only servicing it's ever had has been light trap and mirror foam replacement.
    On the face of it, it's an uninspiring looking camera, but it's been in regular use for over thirty years now, and although the meter has finally stopped working (I hear a very slight rattle under the top plate), it just keeps on working. And it offers a cheap and easy mount for the superb Zeiss lenses made for the Contax range. It's a no-frills camera body, just a light-tight box with a shutter, but that shutter is accurate, as is my FX-3 Super's. Those lenses are easily adapted to a digital body, and when the occasion demands it (I'm primarily a film photographer), I just pop an adapter ring on and fit any Yashica/Contax lens to my Canon 10D. Best of both worlds.
  33. I own an example of nearly every camera mentioned here, F1, FTb, OM1, SRT, SP, F, F2, FM (2, 2T, and 3A), and
    quite a few which aren't. The best of the group is the FM3A, but an FM2N is nearly the same camera, and can be
    found with a lens in your price range. I prefer Nikon over Canon, though I have a couple Canon bodies because there
    are a few FD lenses which I love. The Olympus OM is the most compact, with the best viewfinder, and the basic OM
    Zuiko 50/1.8 lens is one of my all-time favorites. My favorite shooter of the bunch is my old black, eye-level Nikon F. I
    also shoot with the old SRT cameras from time to time; Annie Leibowitz was a fan of this camera, so it can't be all that

    Before taking the plunge and buying, you should try out a few different cameras and see which one "speaks" to you. If
    you are one of those bokeh-lovers, and want to use large aperture lenses shooting wide open, make sure your camera
    has a top shutter speed of 1/2000 or more. And, a built-in meter is a great convenience if you aren't good at
    guesstimating the light.

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