If you could choose one manual camera...

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by irin_tisking, Apr 8, 2016.

  1. My minolta seems to have broken (shutter not working), planning to upgrade.
    So... if you could choose just one high end manual camera, what would it be?
    Criteria: under $1000 including lens + lens that is suitable for landscape photography
  2. A Sinar F2 + either a Rodenstock or Nikon SW 90mm f/4.5 lens.
  3. Rolleiflex 3.5E or better (2.8F?) in perfect shape.
    There's really no substitute for real estate, so large format if you are willing, medium format if you want rolls like I do.
    Then, for $1K, do you really need interchangeable lenses? I'd stick with the best possible single lens. The $1K excludes the Mamiya 7 ii which is often more. So now you're down to Hassys or Rolleis, IMHO. I know the Rollei and don't know the Hassy, thus my recommendation.
  4. C330 with 55 & 135mm? Significantly heavier than a Rollei but I am no big standard lens fan. It was a budged MF system during late film days but seems reliable. TLRs are nice to have when you are using oprange filters to darken your sky.
  5. First choice, my 5x7 Ansco view, and 300mm Ilex Paragon lens; second, my Nikon FG and 55mm micro-Nikkor or 50mm f1.4. I've gone months using one or the other almost exclusively. Next addition would be a 180mm for the big camera or 24mm for the small. That would suffice.
  6. 35mm manual cameras are plentiful but are now long in the tooth (= old) and prone to problems that often as not translate to expensive repairs. and the meters also go shonky at the drop of a hat. My Nikkormat ELs and FT2s still work like Sherman tanks but the metering is unreliable. Not unusual for 1970s cameras. I'm told it's somewhat of a miracle that my ELs are still functioning, being early electonic models. But they are.
    If you have Nikkor lenses, consider buying an F65 (aka N65) body in good condition, ideally with the battery pack. Use it til it konks out (it will). Then throw it away and buy another. The late Galen Rowell used N65s and if you want true inspiration, go OL and look at his work. It will stun you.
    Medium format can be fun and provides big quality bonuses. 1++ for the Rollei. I have used (among many other cameras, sigh) a Rolleiflex 3.5 E2 since I bought it new in the 1960s. I have it serviced every 10-15 years. It has never, ever let me down. You get 12 6x6 images per roll of 120 film, which discourages machinegunning. Accessories can be costly, but those I own, and have used over the years, fit in one pocket. A lens hood, a few filters, two close up lenses. If I had to have only one camera in life, the Rollei would be it.
    For quite a lot less than your stipulated $1K maximum, consider (if you want to go fully automatic) either a Fuji GA645i or the wide angle GA645wi. The 'i' models are newer and give you 16 6x4.5 images per 120 roll. I would avoid the 'non i' models as they only shoot 15 to the roll, and often have age-related problems.
    For utter simplicity, a Perkeo I or II with a Color Skopar 80mm f/3.5, a lens hood and a UV filter. You can get much more minimal than this. This to me is the ONLY reliable folder, and I say this with heaps of experience in this area.
    With the Rollei and my Perkeo, I use a Gossen Lunasix meter I picked up on THAT web site for A$50.
    My choices have the advantage of getting you off the photo consumer sucker threadmill, and in this I speak as one who was there and did that for many decades, and spent several fortunes keeping up to the Joneses with the very latest in photo toys. No more so. Simple is better. In fact it's best! Go out for the day, shoot two rolls (24 or 32 images), don't waste an entire evening on the scanner, make nice big prints, enjoy. With B&W nowadays, everything you shoot is considered art anyway.
    Hasselblads are beautiful machines but heavy, rather clunky for my tastes, and always seem to require maintenance, especially those darn film backs. Also the lenses are prone to jamming and the backs can be fiddly to load. The images are superb, however. Like the Rollei. Small engravings.
    You have a fun time ahead in looking around and selecting a new camera. Take your time. The workmanship that went into 1960s-1970s cameras is of an astoundingly high quality when you consider what they cost at the time (I paid C$195 for my Rollei E2 in 1966). By the 1980s planned obsolescence had crespt into the industry and the SLRs from the mid-80s were more consumables than hard-working equipment. A Nikon FG20 I bought in 1987 kicked the bucket in less than 18 months and I was told it wasn't worth repairing, but the wonderful E series lenses I also bought at the time are still going strong. Go figure.
    Above all, enjoy.
  7. If you mean 35mm, there is nothing wrong with Nikon F2 or F2A...either will likely outlast me. Lenses are fairly easy to obtain through B&H, Keh, etc.
    Also, a Yashi 124G (MF) in good shape will cost about 1/4th your budget.
  8. SCL


    If you like rangefinders - a Leica iif & red scale Elmar 50/3.5 would do the trick (or an M2 if you got lucky). If not your cut of tea - a Canon P & Canon Serenar 50/1.8 lens and you would still have plenty to get a 28, 35 or 90 lens to augment it.
    If you like SLRs - I think an Olympus OM2N (manual/aperture priority) would be my choice of readily available and inexpensive choices. I'm presently enthralled with a used Minolta XG-M (again you can choose - manual or aperture priority modes) - but here the advantage is that you already have a Minolta lens so you could add to the stable.
  9. Rolleiflex SL66 with Distagon 50/4 and Sonnar 150/4.
  10. If you have Minolta lenses consider the Minolta XE-7. Shares many common components with the Leica R3 (including
    the shutter). If lenses are not an issue it's hard to go wrong with Nikon. An FM-2 is full manual yet top shutter speed is
    1/4000 sec. If you don't mind spending more you can move up to medium format. The early Mamiya 645 is inexpensive
    now and lenses are widely available.
  11. Thank you for all these suggestions, will start searching based on them. I used to hire out a Mamiya RB 67 at university which was very beautiful. Though as mentioned most of these cameras require repairs at some point, and since the Mamiya has to be sent to Japan its probably unaffordable. I love film and think it has an unbeatable quality about it. Plus there is nothing like spending a good evening in the darkroom!
  12. Kodak Retina IIa. its compactness when folded makes it ideal for hiking, skiing, travel.
  13. I would choose a medium format or large format, maybe a Pentac 67 or Mamiya 67 as I like the nearly square format. If it had to be 35mm then a Nikon FM3a.
  14. If it counts as "manual", then my belovéd Nikkormat EL, if not, then my Nikon F.
    For rangefinder, probably my Contax IIa, though it's a toss-up. Those end-of-era RFs are so good in general.

    Most of these are available for considerably less than your budget.
  15. OP what is a manual camera? No auto exposure?
  16. +1 Rolleiflex. Any Rolleiflex with a Planar or Xenotar lens, and buy based on condition.
  17. Kind of depends on what you like.
    If you have Minolta lenses you like, get another Minolta. All manual lenses are compatible, many bargains available, and Minolta cameras can do as well as anything.
    If you want cheap and useable film, any number of things can serve depending on what lenses you like.
    If you want the prettiest classic manual cameras, then depending on how manual you want, there's the original Nikon F, which would probably be my choice, or an F2. If non-metered, they will take any Nikon F mount lens that has an aperture ring. If metered, compatibility with the meter varies, but the array of lenses is very large anyway.
    If you want a pretty film camera that also has some automatic features, there's the Nikon F3 which is very nice and can take a huge number of lenses, or the Minolta X700 which is also very nice and trim, and works well. If you don't mind getting used to somewhat quirky controls, the Canon A1 is a beauty.
    If you want a tremendous bargain in a more modern film camera that also looks pretty good, you might look at the Nikon F100, which is one of the nicest film cameras ever made, and silly cheap these days compared to what it cost new. It will shoot with any AI or newer manual lens, including AF and AFG and VR, with the exception of the latest E electronic apertures.
    And if you want a big modern flagship that does just about everything, there's the Nikon F4, which takes every lens there is, except for E aperture AF lenses (and does not operate VR). It's huge, heavy and versatile.
    But for pure mechanical goodness, I vote for a black, plain prism F.
  18. Nikon F2. Versatile, rugged, affordable now.
    My four still working after more than 30 years.
  19. Everything Matthew said, but I'll also add the Minolta XD11 (a compact but solid and capable beauty!), Minolta XE-7, the Canon F-1 (any of the three versions), and my favorite film camera of all, the Canon EOS 1V.
  20. A Pentex 6x7 would be my choice.As easy to use as a 35mm camera with high image quality and with the wooden grip a
    heavy weapon in a fight (grin)!
  21. If you're a heavy duty user or require interchangeable lens system then Nikon FM2/N. Otherwise Fujica V2 is a nice looking fixed lens camera that handles well and takes nice pictures for all casual photography purposes.
  22. most of these cameras require repairs at some point, and since the Mamiya has to be sent to Japan its probably unaffordable.​
    Oh? - Why? - I am not familiar with the Mamiya SLRs, but my TLRs and other MF gear go to independent local small businesses for CLAs or repairs and international shipping back and forth isn't that much more expensive than domestic. For unknown reasons its even way cheaper to order little bits of gear individually from Hong Kong or China.
    I'm not sure how deep you researched RB flaws and failures. I obviously didn't but would be confident that most issues could be solved here in Germany.
    As a side note: I hope your question wasn't too serious! - With Minolta I'd try to restock; maybe 2 SRTs (I like fully mechanical bodies. I don't mind if their meters need Mercury cells; my Lunasix F doesn't), an X700 and a Seagull x300. If you own just or mainly zooms, I'd add a line of primes.
    With aging highly portable stuff, I wouldn't like to rely on a single camera to last and appreciate the versatility gained by having 2 different lenses out & ready. - A 3rd & 4th body might be handy to switch from slides to B&W or from B&W to the odd roll of color during a family gathering. They also add the convenience of loose schedules in case repairs or even replacements might be needed.
  23. The XD-11 can also work at x-sync speed (1/100 sec) and B w/o battery similar to XE-7, but adds the option of shutter
    priority automation.
  24. Rolleiflex 2.8 FX
  25. Leicaflex SL2 with Summicron 50mm.
  26. "... if you could choose just one high end manual camera, what would it be?
    Criteria: under $1000 including lens + lens that is suitable for landscape photography"​
    Fuji GW670III with the 90mm f/3.5 lens for general photography
    Fuji GSW690III with the 65mm f/5.6 lens for landscape photography
  27. If money wasn't an object here, I would go for Hasselblad 500CM with 80MM Planar *. If I was on a budget, Yashica TLR MAT 124 G.
  28. I think most manual cameras with the same company's lenses perform similarly in the hands of an experienced photographer. The final print quality is dictated by one thing, the Kodak films.
    So buy any manual camera that you like.
  29. I think asking this question, you get the favorite old manual camera from each person who replies.
    We all have one that is just a little more special than the others.
    I have the Canon VI that was new when I was one year old, that I started using after my father bought a Canon Pellix, and mostly stopped when I bought my own SLR, near the end of college years. I have many negative from fifth through eighth grade taken on that one, and many when I needed black and white film after I bought my SLR and put slide film in it.
    There are some things that only you can decide. Rangefinder or SLR, 35mm or 120.
    There are so many out there for very good prices, though.
  30. Since the OP mentioned a Minolta specifically, then I'll set my first choice as a 35mm as well. And it would be the original Canon F-1, specifically the second version of the original Canon F-1, known informally as the F-1n. This camera has proven to be an extremely rugged photographic tool. Its meter is well known for its reliability and accuracy. I own two F-1n's -- I have one mounted to a Motor Drive MF and the other mounted to a Winder F. I shot thousands of slides with my old F-1s and would not hesitate to continue to do so now. In fact, my preferred type of 35mm emulsion is still slide film. There are a variety of excellent quality lenses that can be used, more than one even, and one will still be well below the $1000 limit.
    If I were to expand my choice to medium format, then I'd have to choose between one of the two MF systems I own: Bronica ETRSi or Pentax 6x7. The 6x7 gets the immediate nod because of its negative size, but the Bronica is also a very compelling choice because of its flash sync at all speeds and modularity with interchangeable backs and all. The Bronica will also accept a motor drive/winder option as well as provide TTL flash when using the Metz SCA 300 module and compatible Metz flashes, such as the 45 CT-4/CL-4. Tough choice. Both cameras take brilliant photos.
  31. I went through a period of buying, trying, and reselling quite a few medium format cameras after prices had dropped and
    everyone was going digital. My favorites were the Fuji GS645W and the Mamiya 7. Although the Mamiya produced larger
    negatives, which were easier to print, the one that I kept was the Fuji because of its small size; I could easily carry it on
    hikes. My favorite 35mm was my old Canon F-1, which I purchased new in 1974 and used until about 1990, when it was
    stolen. I still own a Canon T90, but I think that I would still prefer an F-1 (the new version). For large format, my Wista 45N field camera would be hard to beat. It is the only film camera that I still use occasionally. So, if I had to choose, it would be the one manual camera that I would keep.
  32. I'm not really recomending this but since it didn'T get mentioend yet.. A Kono Omega certainly fits the
    budget easily with alternate a second lens possibly. A one mentioned the question is MF or 35mm
  33. Nikon FM2n, solid, dependable, non-battery dependant and Nikon (prime) lenses are very, very good.
    Medium format is very nice and gives minimal grain, but do you really want to be hauling around something that heavy?
  34. To correct a point about Minolta SLRs: Lenses are not interchangeable across all series. I happily used SR-T 101, SR-T 102, SR-T 200 for about 35 years. However, when Minolta came out with the Maxxum, I found that I would need a whole new set of lenses. The SR-T lenses did not work on Maxxum cameras and vice-versa.
    I'm now using a Nikon F and F-3 (and digital D1 and D300) and, with few exceptions, lenses are interchangeable. Nikon got it right.
    I have a fondness for folding cameras, and use a 2x3 Linhof Technika IV, a Century Graphic and two Voigtlander Avuses.

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