Help - first 35mm SLR for college freshman photo major

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by christen_ilacqua|1, Mar 14, 2006.

  1. 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..
  2. Almost any film SLR will work for beginning photography courses. You certainly don't need to spend $900 unless you just want to. If you really want to learn photography in detail get an old, totally manual SLR like a Pentax K1000 and a handheld meter or an old cheapy Nikon body, since the lenses for your D200 should fit on it. Something in the $100-$200 range should be about right.
  3. The expensive 45mm lens is not necessary for the FM3A but it's just available to make the camera compact.

    But the FM3A is back-ordered or out-of-stock...
  4. Why not wait till you actually settle on a school and know what the program requirements are before committing much money. It would be quite a shame, for example, if it turns out that large format cameras were preferred.

    If you really want to start right now, buy a used Canon body (since you already have some Canon optics.) Get an A2 for $100. If you want to spend a few hundred more, get an EOS-3 or EOS-1.
  5. Canon T-90. Perhaps the best manual focus 35mm SLR ever made by anyone, and with features many of today's high-end film or digital SLSRs still don't have.
    Mount a Canon 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.2 S.S.C. lens on the T-90 and you have the ideal manual focus 'kit' with good resale value.
    But no-one who ever owned a T-90 ever sold it-I think.
  6. The other suggestions are good, but I'd go for an Olympus OM-1 with a 50mm/f1.8 lens. Bulletproof camera, excellent glass....
  7. Christen,

    As one poster above suggested, wait until you get to school and see what the requirements are. Better yet, contact the department heads of the schools you've applied to and ask for suggestions. Then visit and make your purchase. KEH specializes in used equipment and has an excellent reputation.
  8. You will get many opinions so here is my $0.02. Go with a mechanical camera (batteries only required for the light meter if equipped and functional), good primes, and a light meter. Most of the major players have decent bodies and good glass (Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta, Olympus, etc.). My biased choice (because I own it and love it) would be a Pentax Spotmatic II with 35/2, 50/1.4, and 85/1.8 lenses. The F100 can't take better pictures than this, and will be more difficult to use with manual focus lenses.
  9. I would echo the comments above about getting an old Nikon body (FM2 would be my camera of choice) Start out with a normal lens (the 50mm f/2 is EXCELLENT and cheap).
    After "snapping" away with a digital camera & "seeing what comes out" you really should learn to be thoughtful and disciplined about what you do. That's why I would suggest starting with a non-zoom normal lens & use your "feet" to "zoom" in & out.
    Also -- definitely -- get a GOOD tripod. I would suggest a Leitz tiltall. -- even a new one is around a hundred bucks. It's light, but most importantly, it's sturdy.
    Once you've gotten your feet wet with 35mm film, take a plunge into medium format.
    Here I'd highly recommend a Mamiya c330 twin lens reflex camera -- affordable, built-like-a-tank, EXCELLENT optics. Plus working with the square format is a totally different experience.
    Good Luck
  10. Yep, wait until you know something about the school. Many schools will have a "library" of loaner equipment you can check out. You may want to buy a camera that is compatible with their loaner lenses.
    At an art school, as opposed to a journalism school, I'd expect an emphasis on quality over speed. You probably don't need the latest in autofocus technology or motor drives, handy as those features might sometimes be. For 35mm, any older mechanical camera should work well. The FM3a is a nice camera, but the FM2n is almost equally as good, giving up autoexposure but saving significant money.
    If you're going to pursue a photography career, this camera need not be a lifetime investment. It's one of many you'll be buying (and perhaps selling). I'd expect you'll soon want to try something in medium and/or large format, so don't blow your entire budget on 35mm.
  11. If you already know that you're planning on getting a D200, you'd be foolish to get anything other than a Nikon 35mm film camera. Similarly, if you were already sold on a Canon 5D or EOS 30D, you'd be silly not to get a Canon Autofocus film body. In either case, get a camera that will share the lenses you'll be needing for the system you plan on buying into.

    And, I would also strongly suggest that you take advantage of the buyer's market for fine USED 35mm film cameras, because the supply/demand imbalance means you can get a true pro-caliber used 35mm SLR like a Nikon F100 for under $450 in virtual mint condition, or for less than half that amount, get an excellent N90s or N80 camera.
  12. All the above comments are good ones.

    I think the point is that you can get a high quality "old" manual SLR with built in meter (or without meter) and an automatic 50mm lens in good shape for under a hundred dollars, which will take pictures of the same quality as a 2006 model if it is set the same.

    Also, nothing could give you better practice because you must make all the decisions and then quickly do the things you decide. Because the "interface" with such a camera is very simple and it is made to have the controls easy to reach, these cameras become part of you and your brain.

    I would say, start with that in mind as the minimum, and then think of the additional features you want.
  13. I agree that you should wait until you get to school, and see what you really need. Are you shure you need a film camera? Also, do you have any idea what type(s) of photography you want to do? What it makes sense to get depends a lot on what sort of pictures you want to take.

    But if you're really serious about photography, you really need film, and insist on having it now--especially in addition to a D200--and without knowing what sort of pictures you want to take, I would not be inclined to get a 35mm film SLR. Your sensible options would include a medium format SLR or a large format view camera.

    A medium format SLR kit such as a Mamiya RB67 (big and heavy, if you want to take pictures from a tripod) or Mamiya M645 1000s or Bronica ETSi (much more hand-holdable) might be had in acceptable condition but used from for under $500. By kit I mean / you need a body, a back (or insert, depending on model), waist-lever or prism finder, and lens.

    And for subjects like architecture, the flexibility of a decent view camera has a special allure. I'm guessing you could get a decent used view camera kit for $500 - $750.

    Or you could get an inexpensive but decent medium format TLR such as a Yashica Mat or Minolta Autocord for $50 - $200. Not nearly as flexible as an SLR, but lighter, quiter, cheaper, etc.
  14. Something is not right. You should be able to get an excellent condition F100 for much less than $900. I would think $300 or less for the body. The FM3a is an expensive camera and also not necessarily older than the F100. Mor expensive and newer than the FM3a is more like the F6.
    Besides if a Leica 35mm SLR is what you want then I don't think the price is $4000. Leica stopped making 35mm SLR quite a while ago and used Leica 35mm SLRs don't demand as much money as their rangefinders.
  15. Notice that this post is from 2006-when you could still buy the F100 and FM3a new!
  16. yes, 2006
  17. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Moderator Note - as mentioned, the OP was published in 2006: recently it was revived by a new member, whose post was spam. That member and the spam have been removed.

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