Inexpensive Manual SLR

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by jakegagne, Jun 14, 2008.

  1. Hi everyone,

    I've a birthday coming up soon, and my parents have asked if there's anything in
    particular I want. I've always wanted to try film photography, so I said perhaps
    a film camera. They then said I could get one body and one lens. So I'm looking
    for a fairly INEXPENSIVE (i.e. less than $250), Nikon manual SLR, and a good
    lens to go with it, since the only lens I currently own that will work with such
    a camera is my 50mm f/1.8. Suggestions?

    -Jake Gagne
  2. The best buy is a Nikon FM2N. Second best would be the FM2. I highly recommend these because they're less likely to need any servicing. While you can buy an older FM or Nikkormat even cheaper, the older models are more likely to have deteriorated light seals and mirror rebound foam and possibly need servicing to bring them up to shape.

    An FM2N is likely to be good to go for years to come without any servicing. And it's one of the best models Nikon made, rugged and dependable enough that countless pros, including photojournalists, used 'em for many years. Between my FM2N and F3HP, I can't say I have a favorite.

    BTW, you might also be able to find an F3 in your price range, altho' it may be cosmetically battered. Mine was ugly as a junk yard dog when I bought it years ago and has always worked perfectly. The FM2N was like new when I got it and still looks great, with a little brassing along the edges.

    As for a lens, it'll be hard to squeeze one into the same budget. The best bets in a budget zoom, if that's something you might be interested in, would be the better third party zooms like the Vivitar Series 1 or Kirons.

    For versatility in addition to a normal lens, I like a moderately fast, moderate wide angle, something like a 28mm or 35mm. These can be very good buys too.
  3. I would try to find an FM2n on Ebay. You should be able to get a good condition used
    one for $250. It should work fine with your 50mm and give you a nice, minimalist set
  4. Concur with the above posts. You might surf over to and scroll thru their Nikon manual focus bodies (and kits) listings for a ballpark idea of prices. I've always had good luck with them, and they have a good return policy. Happy B'day--HWD
  5. I'd have to agree that the FM2n is one of the best. It's meter is very dependable, and wearing one out will take some doing. Tha attached pic is for Lex. This is brassing! I bought this camera used, and it already was starting to brass. I then took it to 30-40 weddings a year for 5-6 years and beat the hell out of it. The irony is that the meter, and shutter, and the entire camera still work correctly. It takes a lot "thumb rubs" to remove all that paint. The 50/F1.8 is a decent lens, depending on which version you have. The only really so so 50/F1.8 was the series "E" lens. As for lens choices. What do you like to shoot? There are many bargains out there in manual focusing Nikkor glass right now. The classic kit would be to add a 24MM and a 105MM to your 50MM. Of course there are many decent Nikkor manual focusing zooms for cheap now days too.
  6. The Nikon models that are very popular and could be had for about $250 or less are the F3 (manual or A priority), FM2 or FM2n (manual), FE2 (manual, A priority). I would not buy a camera from ebay. When you get it you will probably have a defective camera and no return option. will cost a bit more but you can send it back for a refund if it is not up to your expectations. It is a fine rugged camera and you can still buy focus screens and viewfinder diopter eye pieces. The body for $189.00 is the one I was thinking of. This camera takes the AI or AIS lens. If your 50mm is an AI type then you are good to start taking photo's.
  7. Wait a second, manual film SLRs won't take AF lenses?
  8. Nolan:-
    "When you get it you will probably have a defective camera and no return option"

    A bit of a sweeping comment there - there are plenty of decent eBay sellers - OK,
    for a present and a first film camera at that, KEH may well be the place to look,
    but please don't damn all of us eBay sellers out of hand. Like most small time
    sellers I would always refund on a faulty camera, and I do check all of my stuff
    before I sell anything, I think anyone who cares about their feedback rating does at
    least as much. EBay has provided a way of selling and buying kit across the
    world, usually at fair prices, and when one has learnt a bit about film cameras (ok
    not in this case perhaps) it can be a useful source, if you are prepared to take a
    bit of care.
  9. I bought my FM from ebay from the original owner in near mint condition with a Nikon 50mm f2 AI lens for less than $100. You can still find bargains like these if you shop carefully. I've since sold the 50mm f2 (for $50) and bought a nice Nikon 50mm f1.8 AI for $27 and have enjoyed using the camera very much for the past nine months. I loved my F3HP but it sat unused most of the time so I sold it for $300 to a fellow in Gdansk, Poland.

    So don't discount older Nikon bodies like the FM or FT2 or FT3. The F2A is also a good body.
  10. To illustrate my point there was just a near mint FM2n sold on ebay for $95 plus $15 shipping. Auction number 230259928747.
  11. I bought an FM as a backup, and it did need a full CLA, but the result is a really nice, tight and compact body, and I'm very pleased. I suspect any of the FM series are similarly tasty cameras. It's more compact than either the Nikkormat or normal F series cameras, and particularly nice to carry around.
  12. First, your Nikkor AFD 50mm 1:1.8 will work fine on any Nikon SLR, even
    back to an Nikon F (though with stop down metering for such a pre-AI body). So
    I wouldn't think
    that you'd want to get another 50mm manual focus lens. Some might think
    that manual focus is smoother on manual focus lens, but it's not a big deal.

    There are many manual focus bodies that might work well for you. In addition
    to the ones mentioned above, a Nikon FG at the low end will come pretty
    cheap. It's not entirely clear why you are only interested in manual focus
    bodies, however, if the idea is to try film rather than digital. Autofocus bodies
    that you might want to look at are the F70/N70, F90x/N90s, and F100/N100,
    in increasing order of price.

    As for one lens to get, it depends on what you're interested in. You might be
    able to get a body plus any of the following in your price range: Nikkor AI
    24mm 1:2.8, Nikkor
    AI 135 1:2.8, micro-Nikkor AI 55mm 1:3.5. Of course an AIS version would
    be fine as well (slightly better, for a Nikon FG), and you could also get an AF
    of the 24mm. Note that you shouldn't get a non-AI version of these lenses,
    unless it's been converted to AI.

    A 24mm lens on film will give you the
    field of view of 16mm on a DSLR with 1.5 crop factor, which may be wider
    than you are getting now with the lenses you have for your DSLR. So that might
    increase the
    interest in using film.
  13. Wait a second, manual film SLRs won't take AF lenses?
    This gets a little complicated. I think you own a 10-20 already? Not good for film for two reasons - 1) the image circle isn't big enough unless the lens is zoomed to maybe 15mm and 2) no aperture ring. No way to control the aperture. You're effectively stuck at f/22 (or whatever the min is).
    You also seem to have a 50mm f/1.8 AFD. That lens has an aperture ring, and it has the little coupling ridge that the "AI era" cameras (like the FM series and F3 series) need for metering.
    A few folks have mentioned cameras that predate the AI era (most of the Nikkormats, for example). Those cameras require the presence of the old metal 'crab claw' prong on the aperture ring in order to meter easily. No AF lens has that prong installed, unless it has been specifically modified by the user (many of the better AF lenses with aperture rings actually have dimples to indicate where they should be drilled out for the prong).
    Most of my 'paid' work was done with FM and FE bodies years back, and I agree that the FM2 makes a good choice. Having said that, I *enjoy* using the F2 and F3 bodies far more. Really good viewfinders, nice ergonomics, and the removable finder is a fabulous feature (poor man's waistlevel finder). Some of the F2 bodies are going 'collector' and are out of your price range, but F3 bodies are cheap. For the same amount of money, I'd take the F3 over the FM2.
    And one of my F3's had less paint than Steve's FM! Stolen, sad that it's gone.
  14. Just a thought Jake.

    I hope you don't wear glasses. If you do you may well find that you can't see all the frame on an FM series Nikon. I can't see anything like all of it on my FE2 with glasses on - much worse than either my F90x (N90s) or my D40.

    Other than that the FM2 and FE2 are both great and the FE2 makes a an excellent manual camera as well as an automatic one. You do need batteries but they last well and are small and light.
  15. Personally, I really love the Nikon F2 Photomic 35mm SLR, the first model with the
    DP-1 finder. The F2 manual body truly represents the pinnacle of Nikon professional
    camera build quality, in my opinion. The F2 is an absolute classic. You can easily
    find chrome F2 bodies on eBay in excellent+ condition or better with the DP-1 finder
    for $200 or less. The F2/DP-1 finder combination uses Nikon non-AI lenses which
    can also be found on eBay for almost nothing. Most people are looking for AI or AIs
    lenses. All the non-AI lenses are overlooked. There are a lot of great non-AI lenses
    on the market selling for almost nothing, especially non-AI zoom and telephoto

    The Nikon F2 has become collectable, but interest by collectors is mostly in the
    black or later F2 bodies with DP-2, 3, 11 or 12 finders.

    Treat yourself to what is arguably the best truly manual SLR camera body ever
    made by Nikon: the Nikon F2 Photomic 35mm SLR.
  16. Not much to add to the already good advice.

    The F Series such as F2 and F3 are larger (and heavier) while the FM Series is smaller. I would try to find and hold each. You want the controls to fall comfortably in place. Also the F Series has a higher eyepoint which (already mentioned) is important if you wear glasses.

    My vote would be for an FM2n/F3 or N90s based on your comments.
  17. @Todd: I knew that G-series and Sigma's DC lenses wouldn't work properly, but Nolan made it sound like no AF lenses would mount.
  18. I did not mean to insult any reputable ebay sellers. I am sure there are some good folks out there. I just have had very bad luck myself and plan on not using ebay again, but if a person knows of a reputable dealer then by all means do business with them if you wish to.

    I think that an AFD nikon lens will work on the FM2n. of course it will not auto focus and the manual focus may have such a short throw that it may prove to be less then desirable but i am pretty sure people are using the auto focus lenses in just that way.
  19. AF lenses will mount on FM and F3 series bodies, for sure. Sounds like you have a grasp of the traps, which for the most part is "no aperture ring means no control of your aperture."

    As Nolan alludes, most folks who have choices in the equipment they use prefer the old manual focus lenses for use with manual focus bodies. But that doesn't preclude folks mixing and matching to meet their needs.

    I have owned large amounts of gear, manual and autofocus, film and digital. One of the few AF lenses I can recall using regularly on a manual film body was the 80-200 f/2.8 AFD with a tripod collar. It's a solid lens that doesn't have any direct peers in the manual world (technically, Nikon made one in manual focus, but it's enormous, rare and expensive).
  20. A Nikkormat FT2 might go for $75 but you would need to spend $100-$115 to get it overhauled. That would leave you enough for a lens like a 50/1.4 or a 50/2. The 50/1.8 AI and AIS lenses are usually more expensive than a 50/2. I bought two FE bodies earlier this year for very little money. If you find a camera like an FE and it has good seals then you should be able to use it right away. Mechanical cameras like the old Nikkormats will work almost ineefinitely but will go out of adjustment over time. With electronic cameras they either work or don't work. The FE needs to have an AI or AIS lens unless you want to use the ens in stop down mode. With an FE you can use the camera with aperture priority automation or you can set the speeds manually. Another nice thing about the FE is that is has interchangeable focusing screens. The standard K screen can be changed to a plain matte (B) or grid (E). This is handy if you take an interest in close-up photography or use a slower zoom lens. Any of the 50/1.8 lnses should work with an FE. The FE2 is also nice but usually much more expensive.
  21. Not to confuse the issue, but why not an F100? Or an N90s?

    You don't need to use the autofocus.
  22. Just browsing at

    They have a "Bargain" grade F3 for $144.
    They have an "Excellent " grade FG for $99
    They have a "Bargain" Fm2n for $149

    Then for a lens, it depends on what you want to shoot. Do you need the shallow depth of field or would a zoom fit the bill better ?

    The AIS 35-70mm f3.5 "macro" is going for $119 in EX condition.
    The 28-85mm AF f3.5-f4.5 in EX condition is $133. A bargain one is $105.

    Just some food for thought.
  23. I've purchased 3 FM2n's off of Ebay. The two black ones are going strong and in
    excellent condition. I sold the excellent condition silver one on Ebay to finance a
    different camera. Check seller feedback and look for a return policy.
  24. There are substitutions for mercury batteries that work. But before you buy an older camera, I suggest you look at the battery requirements and have a plan before you buy it.
  25. All AF Nikkors (and all screwdriver autofocus third party lenses) I've owned or tried work fine on my FM2N, F3HP and N6006. No problems with mounting or metering. Manual focus feel is usually good, tho' not as good as a well damped, properly greased manual focus helical.

    AF-S Nikkors with aperture rings (such as the 300/4 AF-S, 28-70/2.8 AF-S, etc.), will mount and meter fine. I don't care for the manual focus feel of most AF-S lenses but they will function.

    Non-AI'd Nikkors and third party equivalents will fit on the F3 by flipping the little hinged metal auto-indexing tab out of harm's way. You get stop-down metering only but it works.

    T-mount lenses, such as the typical third party mirror lens, and certain "other than AI" types will function with the FM2N. Too many variables to summarize here, tho'.

    Skip the "G" types without aperture rings and DX types, at least for the manual focus film Nikons and several older AF Nikons.
  26. Batteries won't be an issue with the FM2, FM2N or F3. All use commonly available silver oxide button cells. If you add the motor drives they use AA batteries.

    Size 675 zinc air button cell hearing aid batteries are a reasonable substitute for the old 625 mercury buttons. Output and discharge characteristics are very comparable, making them suitable even for accurate metering with slow slide film. The zinc air batteries won't last long, usually only 2-6 months after the air vents are exposed by peeling off the tape, but they're cheap. Stick with the ordinary hearing aid buttons - you can buy a pack of 6 or more for the price of a single overpriced Wein equivalent, which is nothing more than a zinc air battery fitted into a metal collar to equal the size, shape and polarity of a 625 button. Wein would be better off selling just the empty collars for reuse with generic 675 hearing aid batteries.
  27. A short answer from me:

    - Practically ALL manual film SLR's are cheap now!

    - Having basic automation at hand when you need it is very nice to have. I am thinking: [A] aperture priority exposure automation. Like what a F3 has to offer. And the FE2, FA, FM3a.. It is the fastest way of working with such a camera (for me), with a good amount of control over the exposure. When more consistent lighting is required, [M] works fine and mechanical functioning can be an advantage with extreme long exposures and/or very cold weather.

    Choose wisely! ;-)
    But at these prices, don't be afraid too much.

  28. With that much budget, you could get a near-mint condition pro-model Nikon F. "Nuff said.
  29. Oh, yeah...not 'nuff said: That is WITH a 50mm 1.4 lens.
  30. Does it HAVE to be a Nikon??
    I mean there are plenty of excellent film slrs out there that will give you just as good results for less money,,Have a look at afew of the yashicas on e-bay you could pick up an fx-d or an fr1 for fairly cheap and still have plenty left over to get a couple of lenses,for 250 dollars you could get a body a 28mm wide angle a 30-70 zoom and a 80-210 and still have enough change for a roll of film......
  31. Steve: It certainly doesn't HAVE to be a Nikon. That would just make things easier, as I'd already have a lens to start out with.
  32. Jake,

    as you said that you wanted a film slr I understand that it doesn't have to be a
    manual one. One option that not has been mentioned here is the N80/F80. It's
    reasonably rugged, can handle the newer AF-S and G lenses an could be found for
    around 150 to 200$. Contrary to the F70/N70 it doesn't do funny things with its
    meter. It also doesn't have the programmed settings like portrait, landscape....
    Just plain simple Manual, Aperture priority, shutter priority and program.
  33. As for "off" brands, they are fine, but with how little Nikon and Canon pro bodies go for, IMO there is no point in getting anything other than a Nikon or Canon. This is because they have the most complete systems, however. If you doubt you need a whole system, anything will do. Minolta, Olympus, Pentax, etc. are all good.
  34. Minolta, Olympus and Pentax are "off brands?" Without "complete systems?"

    Sometimes I forget whether I'm reading or The Onion.

    And that really *is* "'nuff said."
  35. They are brands with far less system-wise than Canon or Nikon. That was my only point. "Off" brand doesn't mean "bad". It was, of course a bit of an exaggerated term, but I put it in quotations in order to show that! I only meant it to mean brands other than the big two. Relax. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go read the Onion...

Share This Page