What's a good starter Nikon film SLR to fool around with?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by aaron_d., May 21, 2009.

  1. My first SLR camera was digital, so I don't have any experience with film SLRs. I'm currently shooting with a d300, which I really enjoy. I also still use and like my d80. I'd like to try using some of my lenses with a film camera though, for an alternate look. My 105mm f/2 DC is the lens I'd most like to try with film. I also have a 35mm f/2 that would be fun to use as a wider angle lens.
    Coming from Nikon's DSLRs, what would be a good, basic film SLR?
    I'm a little baffled by the variety out there. Coming from digital, I don't always understand the pros and cons, even informed reviews.
    I'm ok with manually setting the exposure, but a reliable meter would be nice. Autofocus would also be prefered (it doesn't need to be lickety-split fast), but manual focus would be ok too. Ideally, I'd like to spend $200 or less. Any ideas?
  2. $200 or less? You can find a Nikon F100 for that price range, I bought mine on ebay for $152 with free shipping, and it's in mint condition. Or if you want to go really cheap, get a Nikon N80. Both would work with AF lenses (not DX lenses though) and VR and all that. The F100 is a classic, and I highly recommend it!
  3. The F100 is an excellent body. And the build quality is very high.
  4. like Dave said F80 or F100.
    At the current prices I'd look for a decent F100 as it allows for 1/3 stop aperture and shutter time increments. The F80 only does half stops but it has a build in flash.
    One word of caution tough the F100 can be very addictive.
  5. FM2n (if you don't mind manual focus and exposure).
  6. The FE or FM are excellent starter film cameras.
  7. The F801s (AKA 8008s in the States) is plentiful and cheap and will give you the best of both worlds between AF and MF lens compatibility. Except for the cheap bit, the same goes for an F4 if you can find or afford one. You might find it limiting to lock yourself into a purely MF body, or you might find it refreshing. You probably won't know until you've tried it!
  8. I love my F100. I can't say enough good things about it.
  9. I have two film slr bodies. I just at the end of last year got a new used FM & I have a N90s from before.
    For all manual - the FM is built like a tank & is a wonderful camera.
    The N90s is a nice camera as well.
    Lil :)
  10. There is no better deal on the used market right now than the F100. It is one of the best film cameras Nikon ever made. And with the MB-15 grip it feels great in your hands. The only major drawback to the F100 is the lack of mirror lock-up if that is important to you, it sometimes is to me which is why I also carry an F4s. If you own older manual focus lenses I'd get the F4s. If you have ANY G-type or VR lenses then go for the F100. F5's are very heavy and still about 3 or 4 times the price of the F100.
  11. Size, weight, features, and build the F100 is perhaps the best camera Nikon made.
    Alternately, the N90s is a pretty nice camera. I don't know I've seen an F100 for $200 often, those still sell for a decent price. But N90s go for almost nohthing (under $100 and as little as $50).
    IMO, the F5 is too much camera to "play around with", as is the F4. The F4 is a great camera though, some very nice features including MLU and 100% viewfinder. Plus, you can hammer nails or tent stakes with it if need be.
    So N90 or F100 with the F100 being the better long term investment.
  12. F100 or the N90s were/are both great cameras. I personally use an F100 and an F5 professionally and both work great.
  13. The F100 can fit, focus and automatically expose using any lens from the earliest AIS to the latest "G" AF-S. It is ergonomically superior to the F5, but the latter makes a better club (or paperweight).
  14. It seems your existing lens kit includes some FX (non-DX) lenses. While I agree with the F100 recommendation, for "playing around" (which I'm assuming means not fussing too much about all the features and primarily trying it out), almost any more recent consumer Nikon camera will work fine with your lenses and meter and autofocus. Find one that is cheap and in decent condition and shoot as much film as you can and don't worry about the body. Check the lens compatibility tables to get maximum overlap with your existing lenses; if they are mostly autofocus there won't be many issues. Almost any of the basic consumer AF Nikon bodies will work and they can be had for $50-100 without hunting too much. You could spend a lot of time on ebay or just run and find any old used body quickly to try it out. If you like it and want something with more awesomeness later, great, you'll have a nice backup body; if it turns out you don't like film, no great loss. Expect to spend more on film processing than the camera costs!
  15. Unless you're planning to do sports or other action-oriented photography, I think the F/N80 is a still better way to go over the F100. It can be had in great condition at rock-bottom prices (my basically mint condition copy checked in at $70 from Adorama with shipping). It features a very quiet shutter, and its main drawback is that it can't meter with manual focus lenses. AF-S works normally, however.
  16. Good suggestions above, but no one is adequately addressing the huge gulf between the recent highly automated and sophisticated film cameras such as the F100 and N80, and the generally much older manual focus cameras (FE, FM, etc., as well as the recent FM3a) with far fewer features but small size and simpler operation. The choice of one category or the other really comes down to personal taste though each category has its own advantages.
    For landscapes and still-life types of shooting in particular there is a lot to be said for the older cameras, as you really don't need autofocus and you have time to make manual adjustments for things like exposure compensation. These cameras encourage a slower, more contemplative sort of photography. The ergonomics are not as good but the cameras are lightweight and compact. Winding is manual. You can also pick up great manual focus lenses relatively cheaply in many cases.
    In contrast, the more recent cameras are a godsend for shooting on the fly and especially for action. They also make better use of the newer lenses and such features as VR. The camera bodies are contoured for a better and more comfortable grip, but the size is larger and the weight mostly greater (often much greater). Winding is automatic and you can shoot multiple shots quite rapidly.
    Shooting with each of these two categories of cameras is a very different experience. Ideally you'd be able to try both out before deciding. Realistically, the more recent cameras will be much closer to what you are accustomed to using. The N80 is lightweight and compact but the F100 has a better viewfinder and is more durable. Either would be an excellent choice. If you find that you like film then later on you might try an FE or FM (which can be obtained dirt cheap and which can still use your autofocus lenses) just so you can experiment with an older style of photography.
    In the end, use what works best for you... though you might just find yourself keeping several divergent types of systems around for different kinds of photography.
  17. Thom Hogan has a nice comparison of Nikon film bodies:
  18. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If your primary cameras are the D300 and D80, I think it is very unwise to get anything in the FM/FE family or anything manual focus. All new lenses in these days are G, and they are practically useless on those manual-focus bodies.
    Today, even the F100 is dirt cheap in the used market. Just get either that or an F80/N80 for better compatibilities with your DSLRs. They are also fully compatible with the VR feature.
  19. Shun, you are right. I did not think of the "G"-lenses. Foolish of me.
  20. Nothing like an FM2/FM2n and the sunny 16 rule to complement those auto focus D lenses. It also looks cool when entangled with the batteries and a plethora of cables that come free with the D300. I just wish my D200 looked as sleek as the Fm2n. Also, a few years from now the FM2n will possibly cost just as much as when I bought it 7 years ago, while the D200... I forget the deal with G lenses, but AFAIR they stop down to the smallest aperture when you click; kinda like a coolpix that gives you a shallow depth of field only if you're handy with gaussian blur.
  21. I have considered the same idea but have yet to take the plunge.
    My suggestion is to spend a bit for and get a lot more camera for the buck. I have not used a Nikon film body since the N80 so perhaps someone can evaluate this eBay setup: F4S, MB-21 battery pack, DP-20 viewfinder - $330 with shipping. Looks like a great deal on a great camera. I also saw a F3 for $260 with shipping.
  22. You´ll never regret buying an FM2. It´s a (manual focus) gem.
  23. " I also saw a F3 for $260 with shipping."
    KEH has F3HP's for $119 + shipping and I'd trust them over ebay any day!
  24. Although you cannot find one for $200, the F5 is plentiful on eBay these days (although KEH is safer by far).
    Starter camera? No, but why not start with what you might wind up with anyway, so that you do not buy twice? Many prefer the F100 or N80, but the "Big Dog" is out there, and it is arguably no more difficult to operate. Besides, you can grow with it, and it is capable of withstanding a lot of abuse.
    It's heavy, of course, but they all get heavy fast with anything much longer than the 50. If you should get one, try to get one that was owned by an amateur who did not put a lot of wear on it.
    Just a thought. . . .
  25. The N90S is very cheap these days and will meter and provide focus confirmation with manual focus lenses, something the N80 will not do.
  26. Aaron, this all depends on what you are looking for... If you want autofocus, I would highly reccomend an F100. I own one, and it is about the closest film camera to your D300 in that price range. I don't have a D300, but the controls on the F100 are just about identical to those on my D200.

    If you can live without autofocus (manual focus is easy w/ a split focus screen) then you might like the FM3A, which is an all manual camera that will meter (if you have batteries in it) but also works with no batteries.

    If you can live without autofocus and without metering, then F2 or F are good suggestions.

    Your 105 and 35 will work with any Ai Nikon. If you were to pick up any G lenses (say the 50 AFS) they would still work with the F100, but not an older AiS camera like the FM3A.
  27. If you really want to experience the classic analog film world, then get a Nikon FM2, FM, or FE2. You won't need autofocus because the view screens are incredibly bright compared to DSLRs. The FM2 are all manual but with an excellent meter. The FE2 has one semi-automatic mode-Aperture priority.The FE2 will do TTL metering with current Nikon strobes too.
    Skip the autofocus black plastic blobs like the F100 and such. They are great cameras but ugly designs with no re-sale value. The FM2 will likely last another 50 years if cared for. Most important you'll get the sensation of driving a manual transmission MG or Triumph sports car-no frills, but a superbly designed machine created for a singular purpose.
  28. Here is an infrared shot using the FM2 and manual focus 28mm F2 lens.
  29. Skip the autofocus black plastic blobs like the F100 and such. They are great cameras but ugly designs with no re-sale value.​
    Agreed about the resale value. The classic F-Mount cameras not only hold thier value, but actually appreciate value. Can't really go wrong, since you'd be able to sell one for at least what you paid for it (assuming you take care of it and don't over pay).

    You probably won't find a manual F-mount for under $200 (in very good condition)....you are looking more towards the $400 range.

    I also forgot to mention, if you want something really cheap to just play with, look at getting an FM10 made by Cosina in Nikon mount. It is cheaply made, but still a neat little manual camera.
  30. I don't understand all this talk about the classic manual cameras not depreciating in value. I have been watching their prices fall on ebay for the last 5 years. I paid $200 for an FM in 1996; in 2003 I bought another for $100. One of those broke so I replaced it two years ago for $30. Virtually ALL 35mm film SLR's are almost worthless on the used market. Buy the camera that you want and you want to keep because it will never be worth selling.
  31. Nikon fm3a! What else?
  32. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I don't understand all this talk about the classic manual cameras not depreciating in value.​
    Because a lot of this type of discussion is totally emotional rather than rational. It is like people bid on used products on eBay. Sometimes people want to win the bid so badly that they end up paying more than new prices.
    The only film cameras that appreciate in value are collector itmes. The FM3a is an example.
  33. "The classic F-Mount cameras not only hold thier value, but actually appreciate value." - Yeah, right! That's why my F2s, FE and FM are worth less than half now of what they were 4 years ago. Up until that time I could have got back as much, if not more, than I'd paid for them. I'd be lucky to get their scrap metal value today.
  34. Really Joe? I guess I was just thinking of the FM3A. Is resale on the older ones really that bad?
    Also..you must still admit that they hold thier value better than today's DSLRs. Take the D200 for example.
  35. $200 sets a high bar to find a good camera. I would recommend the Nikon f3HP. It was a professional camera with a long run and is plenitful. Ergonomics are excellent; it will take the newer lenses as well as Ai and Ai-S and the newest Zeiss line (2006). It is manual and will be more challenging.
  36. I've owned the f 80,which will support VR,however I've heard through the grape vine that the f 90 was one of the better nikon's made,it dosen't support VR though,an older nikormat 3 is also sweet, mirror lock up, solid brick of a manual focus camera!
  37. If a manual focus camera suits your needs, you can't go wrong with an FM2n ... brilliant manual camera, classic looks, very well made.
    On the auto-focus side... I've never used an F100, but it sounds like a camera that would work well for you. Inexpensive on the used market also. The F4 is a great camera too (my regular shooter). It's a little heavy, but if you get the smaller battery pack (MB-21), it lightens the load. In my opinion, an amazing and beautiful machine. Matrix metering with manual lenses, great ergonomics, and everything you need and no extra, annoying junk.
  38. The controls and layout of the F100 are very similiar to the d200/d300 cameras. They are also close in physical size and weight, so I think, the F100 should be a great fit, if you like the feel and layout of your d300.
    The N80 is lighter, less robust, but in reality, works just as well as the F100.
    If you want to spend less than $200, I think the n80 would be the best value. F100's in mint condition still go $250-$300. Check out the used listings at KEH, or completed sales at the auction site. They should give you an idea of the current market value
  39. let's see. you could get a decent one for less than $60. The n6006 is nice. it is not very sought after, but it takes great pics.
  40. Where I live, the price of an FM2n in Exc+ condition at a specialist dealer (not ebay!) has held up fairly well over the last few years, though it certainly hasn't appreciated:
    This is true for very few other non-collectible cameras (a Leica M in similar condition would be the other major exception) - I guess there's still some demand from actual users for small, high quality manual cameras.
    However, as suggested above, an F100 (which has lost about 2/3 of its secondhand value in recent years, making it the top choice at a bargain price) would complement a D300 very well, while an F80 (N80) would be comparable to Aaron's D80. The only other AF camera I'd bother with at this point would be the older F90 (N90), preferably the F90x (N90s) version. Though originally a semi-pro camera, this now goes for about the same price as the F80, and which one you prefer depends on your priorities:
    There are cheaper AF cameras, but F80 and F90 prices are already so low the saving hardly seems worthwhile.
  41. Nikon F100 features that I like:
    1) 1/2 & 1/3 stop increments in shutter speed.
    2) +|- 3 stops exposure meter bar in the viewfinder with 1/2 stop shutter setting.
    3) High-eye point (large) viewfinder opening.
    4) Uses AA batteries.
    Features that I wish it had:
    1) Matrix metering with AI & AIS lenses.
    2) 100% viewfinder view (has only 96%).
    3) Mirror lockup.
    4) Better autofocus like the F5.
  42. Wow! Thanks so much for everyone's fantastic response! It sounds like the n80 would be a great (and cheap!) start, maybe picking up a f100 if I enjoy the n80.
    I have two older all-manual, no meter film bodies (one 35mm, one 6x6) that I don't use much. I think it's the lack of metering that keeps them on the shelf. I have a decent light meter, but don't enjoy photography as much when using it. I do mostly portraiture, and slowing down to pull out a light meter always feels cumbersome.
    That's exactly the sort on info I was looking for - thanks again!
  43. FM2N, F100 or N90
  44. The F100 is so far ahead of the N80 that you will kick yourself if you go the N80 route. I don't think that you can even do a mirror lock-up on the N80.
    At the price the F100 is going, we are not talking many dollars--but a lot more camera.
  45. I cannot link to eBay here, but I encourage you to check it out. Right now there are some beauties.
  46. OOPS! The F100 does NOT have mirror lockup (MLU). I thought that it did. (The F5 does.)
    Does it matter? I don't know in your case, but I just found this thread, with both Bob Atkins (Canon moderator) and Shun Cheung (Nikon moderator), among others, weighing in on the issue of how useful/necessary MLU really is.
    I would also seriously inquire about auto-focus comparisons of the models you are considering as well.
    Let us know what you wind up buying, Aaron, as well as how you like it after you have used it for a while.
  47. jtk


    Original Nikon F, un-metered finder, 50 1.4. No zooms, no teles, basic. If you can't do good work with that you can't do good work with anything.
  48. Lots of good answeres but I didn't see my favorite - a Nikon F with an plain un-metered prism. Might as well go for the whole manual film experience. I am also partial to the FM/FE2/FM2n/FM3a answer. But then again, if you are used to digital and want that experience but with film, then you cannot go wrong with a F100 or N80 - depending on your budget.
  49. Argh - Jonh beat me by 1 minute!
  50. Autofocus...Nikon F100. Manual focus...Nikon F3HP.
  51. F5 prices are collapsing in value now. You'd probably get one in the $200 range by the end of the year.
    I've been watching them on eBay and in the local camera shops and even at $350, nobody's buying.
  52. And that's after seeing an F5 go from $954 down in the last few months. Mint condition, too.
  53. "I'm ok with manually setting the exposure, but a reliable meter would be nice. Autofocus would also be prefered (it doesn't need to be lickety-split fast), but manual focus would be ok too." Aaron D.​
    Perhaps these are the issues you need to resolve first. If you would like to try using an external, hand-held meter and manual focus lenses, then take John's and James' advice and go back to the real basics.
    On the other hand, you also say the following:
    I'd like to try using some of my lenses with a film camera though, for an alternate look.​
    If the "alternate look" of film is your first consideration, then perhaps you will indeed want to use the more convenient and more modern film cameras with good internal metering and auto-focus. You can always shoot in manual mode with such cameras--but you probably won't.
    A good compromise might be the FM3a, but I don't think that those have dropped much in price. I would sort of like to have one myself.
  54. I love my FM2n, shooting it with mostly with a 20mm f/2.8D, 55mm f/3.5 P.C. Micro-Nikkor, 28mm f/2.8 AI-S. Old glass mostly and only manual focus, but that forces me to slow down.
  55. In the last few weeks I've picked up an FM, an FE and an FM2, all in excellent condition for very good prices.
  56. I think the answer it totally a no brainer. If you are used to D300 size/weight then F100 is the obvious choice. I don't really understand why you would buy a consumer product (N80) when you can have a pro item (at least pro in its days) for a few dolars more. May be the autofocus is not fast, but the F100 was made to satisfy pro standars and that is something you will notice ever 20 years later. Things like shutter lag, weather sealing, better construction, exposure accuracy... etc don't age. Plus you can use AI/AIS lens with it.
    I have a FM2 and I love taking pictures with it, but If I had to buy a film camera today I would buy the F100.

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