PhotoNet Classic Content

Founded in 1993, is the internet's original photo community

What about an old 35mm SLR?

by Philip Greenspun, 1998


  1. Top
  2. What do you lose stepping back 20 years?
  3. Film Loading
  4. Handling
  5. Taking a Picture
  6. Flash
  7. Nifty features on the F2 in particular
  8. Things that suck about the F2 in particular
  9. Helpful things to remember when using old SLRs
  10. The Bottom Line
  11. Buying a Classic Camera System
  12. Where to buy an older SLR system
  13. My Personal Choice
  14. Readers Comments

Do you need a modern SLR? Ive written so much about Canon EOS versus Nikon AF that sometimes it is possible tolose sight of the fact that many folks have perfectly functioning systems fromthe 1970s. What is it like to step back in time?

For my evaluation, I borrowed a Nikon F2A from Jon Robichaud. The F2A is what aworking photojournalist would have had in 1977.

What do you lose stepping back 20 years?

Stepping back 20 years from a modern SLR to the Nikon F2A, you lose thefollowing:

  • low-contrast low-sharpness slow cheap zoom lenses; I used a Nikkor 50/1.4 onthe F2A, allowing me to take pictures in light that is 1/8th as bright as thelight required by a modern yuppie with his f/4 zoom.
  • surprises at the photo lab; the F2A shows you 100% of the image in theviewfinder and has a convenient depth of field preview button
  • fun getting down on your stomach for low-angle shots; the F2A lets you removethe viewfinder for wasit-level composition (you also have a choice of viewfindersfor different kinds of work/metering)
  • vibration from mirror slap; the F2A has a mirror lock-up button
  • the terror of running out of battery power; except for the meter, the F2Awill function perfectly without batteries.
  • ...

Well, you get the idea. The F2A has a lot of useful features that most moderncameras do not have. There are some who think it is the best camera that Nikonever made.

Film Loading

The first thing you notice is that the F2A holds your film like a vault.Nobody ever opened up the back of one of these guys by mistake. You turn abeautifully machined flip-out key on the bottom to flip the back open. You pullthe leader out and slip it into a take-up spool which has a small grabber for theframe notches. It is the most positive film loading system that Ive used on a35mm camera, not counting modern autoloading systems. If youre completelyinexperienced with the camera, this could take you an extra 30 seconds overloading a modern AF SLR.

Old cameras dont have "little windows" in the back so that you can see whatkind of film is in there; the F2A has a metal holder for the cardboard edge of a35mm film box. So if you want to be reminded that youve got Tri-X in there, youjust insert the Kodak box top.


Luke Hunsberger in Harvard Yard. Cambridge, MA 1998. With any 35mm camera,there are only three settings that affect the picture you get on film: shutterspeed, lens aperture, and focus. The F2A has three easy-to-find wheels to controlthese settings. In the DP-11 viewfinder, you can verify that all three are setcorrectly. The camera shows you the lens f-stop (optically piped through from thetop of the lens), the shutter speed (mechanically coupled from the shutter speeddial), and you can see whether or not your image is correctly focussed. A meterneedle with +/- markings shows you whether or not your exposure agrees with thecenter-weighted meters recommendation.

Note: Compare this to my review of theCanon Rebel G in which I discuss the misery that comes from Canon cheapingout and giving you two wheels to control the three important settings.

You turn the meter on and off by pulling the film advance lever out a bit(almost all old Nikons work this way). Oh yes, the film advance lever. You getinto the habit of winding the camera after every picture. It takes aboutone-third of a second.

The camera is heavy but not really bigger than my EOS-5 wonder bodies. It is big enough thatyou dont need a vertical grip or winder to hold it comfortable horizontally orvertically.

The controls are simple and direct. If you want to use the self-timer, youdont look for icons and leetle buttons, you pull the self-timer down and pressthe button that is revealed when you do so. If you want 2-seconds, you only pullit to the 2-second mark.

Taking a Picture

Rhya Fisher and Alex in Harvard Yard. Cambridge, MA 1998. With an F2A anda 50, heres how you take a picture... You think about how big your subjectshould be on film. Because you dont have a zoom lens, you deliberately move yourbody back and forth until the subject has the right size in the viewfinder. Youlook for something that is close to 18% in tone and in the same light as yoursubject. You point the camera at it and set shutter speed/aperture based on

  1. the meters recommendation about how much light is available
  2. your idea about how much depth of field you want (the aperture will affectthis; at f/1.4 the background will be out of focus, at f/22 it will besharp)
  3. your belief about how fast the subject and the camera will be moving (youneed a shutter speed of 1/60th or faster to handhold a 50mm lens). The shutterspeed is selectable from 1 to 1/2000th seconds plus B and T. An amazing thingabout this mechanical horizontal-travel shutter shutter is that you can setintermediate speeds between 1/80th, the flash sync speed, and 1/2000th.

After making these decisions, you try to work with your subject withoutrevisiting them for awhile. You concentrate on the composition, the expression(if your subject is a person or a dog), and maybe bracket your exposure a bit ifyou want different moods on slide film. You can periodically glance at the meterto make sure that you havent knocked the exposure way off.


Alex and Sammmy. Harvard Yard 1998 Using flash on an old Nikon F isabsurdly painful. There is no hot shoe on top. In fact, there is no shoe at all.You generally have to stick an adapter (AS-1) over the rewind knob and plug theflash into that. You can also use the PC-cord socket, for which there ismercifully no X/M switch to get stuck on the wrong setting (M for flash bulbs);this is an easy way to lose pictures with an old camera. Fastest sync speed is1/80th of a second, so the F2 isnt a great camera for fill-flash.

Once youve got a Vivitar 283 or similar auto-sensor flash hooked up, how easyis it to use? Trivial. You use a wheel calculator on the flash to determine thecorrect aperture for your film speed, set the lens to this aperture, and thensnap away. What about fill-flash? Just set the calculator wheel on the flash asthough you were using faster film (for fill that is 1-stop below ambient whenyoure using ISO 100 film, tell the flash the youve got ISO 200 film).

How are the results from these old-style flash systems? Many people think thatthey work better than modern cameras that meter flash exposure through-the-lens.Neither is really as good as the way P&S cameras calculate flash exposure orthe way the new Nikon D system works (these get subject distance from the lensand use the fact that the flash is of known power output; they dont rely onlight returning from a subject and hence work equally well if the subject iswearing dark or light clothing).

Nifty features on the F2 in particular

Things that suck about the F2 in particular

Helpful things to remember when using old SLRs

The Bottom Line

Play the Chessmaster. Harvard Square. Cambridge, MA 1998. The autowinderincluded in a modern camera is simply useless in most situations; after a fewshots, you dont even notice that youre winding film in an F2 (you can attach anaccessory winder if you like, but they are heavy and bulky). The fancy metersystems in modern cameras are OK, but if youre doing a serious photo projectthey arent of much use. Autofocus is great for sports, dogs playing, etc., butyou can do quite well with an manual focus system if youre willing to pick yourbattles carefully. Prefocus and then wait to trip the shutter when the subjectscross the plane of sharp focus.

Prime (i.e., non-zoom) lenses from the 1970s can be of excellent quality. Ifyou have or inherit an extensive manual-focus system, you should get the bodiesprofessionally cleaned and adjusted and then enjoy the system for another decadeor two. After that, well all probably just be using high-resolution videocameras and picking out interesting still frames.

Buying a Classic Camera System

Rhya Fisher at Harvard Bookstore. Cambridge, MA 1998. Definitely the bestsystem to own is Nikon. Thats because they havent changed their lens mount. Youcan use all the new lenses on old cameras and old lenses on new cameras. Also,because Nikon was the market leader among professional photographers, there is awide selection of used gear available. The downside of Nikon is that used geartends not to be especially cheap. A lot of those old lenses will work fine on thelatest N90 or F5 so why should people dump them?

A friend of mine worked for National Geographic for many years on assignmentin Japan, South America, etc. He used and still uses his Canon FD system.Supposedly the best bodies in this line are the T70 and T90, which have a lot ofmodern AF body features minus the AF. Old Canon gear can be moderately cheapbecause none of it works on the EOS system.

The Minolta system was more of a consumer favorite (I think in theearly/mid-1970s their SRT-100/101/102 line was the most popular SLR produced).They made some excellent MD lenses, though, and these again can be cheaper thantheir old Nikon equivalents because MD lenses wont work on Maxxum cameras.

The Olympus OM-1, OM-2, and OM-4 cameras plus Zuiko prime lenses areexcellent. Olympus seems to have given up on the SLR system business, but someretailers still have new Olympus MF lenses and bodies to sell.

Where to buy an older SLR system

If you want an F2, probably your best bet is to send email to Jon Robichaud. He seems to havequite a few and buys and sells them frequently. You can try the retailers on my "where to buy" page. You can trythe classifieds. You can scoutyour local want-ads. Budget at least $150 for each body and $50 for each lens ifyou are going to have stuff cleaned and adjusted.

My Personal Choice

Boykin Spaniel in Harvard Yard. Cambridge, MA 1998. My personal choice ina classic 35mm SLR camera system? Brand-new Canon EOS bodies and lenses! Imshort of time and long on money and I cant afford to have a camera or lens failon me in some subtle mechanical way that doesnt become apparent until 20 rollsof slides come back from the lab. If I drop a body, I want to be able to buy anew one in a medium-size town or have B&H Photo FEDEX me one.

Does that mean I dont have any mechanical cameras? Sure I do but they aremostly weird medium and large-format items like myFuji 617 camera and a Linhof MasterTechnika.

The photos on this page are all from two test rolls that I burned with theF2AS that John lent me. For authenticity, I put a roll of Tri-X through thecamera. To test the 50/1.4s color rendition, I used a roll of modern slide film:Kodak Elite 100. The images shown were the best of the lot.

Readers Comments

Walther Adler , April 01, 1998; 08:23 A.M.

I agree with you in general; but why haven4t you mentioned Leica and Contax/Zeiss? Especially older bodies (e.g. Leica R4 or Contax RTS II) aren4t that expensive; the same holds for used Zeiss lenses.

Mark A. Brown , April 06, 1998; 10:52 P.M.

I beg to gently differ to the list of what you "lose" in using an older manual SLR system - the list is highly specific to this particular camera and not generally applicable, and besides some modern SLRs address some of these issues too.

- "low-contrast low-sharpness slow cheap zoom lenses" Nothings stopping you buying prime lenses with a modern SLR. Canons EF50/f1.8 lens is really cheap but delivers the goods when it comes to sharpness.

- "surprises at the photo lab; the F2A shows you 100% of the image in the viewfinder and has a convenient depth of field preview button". Not all old SLRs have 100% image viewfinders, and not all modern SLRs dont - the professional ones such as the EOS-1 series certainly let you see 100% of the image.

-"fun getting down on your stomach for low-angle shots; the F2A lets you remove the viewfinder for wasit-level composition". Buy the Canon angle-finder - theyre not expensive. However, admittedly youll be squinting down a little ole instead of viewing directly.

What is lacking in modern SLRs is the interchangeable viewfinders - a sports finder would be a useful addition to the Canon EOS range for a start - curse the meagre exit pupil of Canons viewfinders!

-"vibration from mirror slap; the F2A has a mirror lock- up button" And the EOS-5 has mirror prefire. But the downside is that you have to remember which custom function it is, and it gets devoted to that CF button which you were probably using for something else... Possibly the most useful feature is that it will keep working without battery, which is reason enough to carry a spare manual Nikon body if youre a Nikon AF user, since the mounts are compatible.

Paulo Bizarro , April 07, 1998; 06:31 A.M.

Hey, how about Pentax? Far as I know, they used to make the best "school cameras" around, with properly placed controls and all the nice features you need (DOF button, for instance), together with excellent prime lenses. The K1000 and P30T were wonderful cameras, and high quality Pentax gear can be found cheap second-hand. The new MZ-M with 50 1.4 or 50 1.7 will take vastly better pictures than an F50 or EOS 500N with a lousy consumer zoom.

Doug Herta , April 07, 1998; 11:12 A.M.

As an owner of a Nikon F2A, I agree with most of the review. One thing not mentioned that may be of interest to readers is the Achilles Heel of the F2A. The ring resistor in the DP-11 is prone to failure (after 20 years or so). After the ring resistor starts to go, the dreaded "jumpy needle" problem begins and the meter is on its way out. According to my sources the ring resistor parts are no longer made.

I really dig my F2A, but the needle is jumping intermittedly and the camera repair guy says he "may" be able to find parts and fix it. He has warned me that the longer I hold out, the harder it will be to find the parts to repair it.

Kaimo Korhonen , April 08, 1998; 09:11 A.M.

One forgotten classic is Pentax LX - light but quite rugged (I have used mine for only 17 years so who can tell). No other camera lets you bracket your autoexposures with mirror up and even with special viewfinders - great for macro work.

J Greely , April 09, 1998; 02:35 A.M.

About old Nikons, Phil says: "You can use all the new lenses on old cameras and old lenses on new cameras."

While technically true (for Nikon-made lenses only!), doing so is neither obvious or easy. A while back I purchased a Nikkormat FT2 as "the camera I wont cry over if I drop it while hiking down a cliff". At the same time, I purchased two lenses, a 50/1.4 and a 35/2.8.

The 50 is non-AI, which means that it is roughly of the same vintage as the body. The 35 is AI, which makes it slightly newer, but still compatible. I wanted a telephoto, but the only ones on-hand were AIS or AF, which lacked the indexing prongs to interface with my bodys metering system.

So, while its technically true that I can use newer Nikon lenses on my old body, to do so I must use stop-down metering or retrofit the lens with prongs. Old lens/new body requires jumping through similar hoops, except that you are unlikely to find someone who is still capable of reliably "AI-ing" a non-AI lens.

If you went out to a store with the assumption that any F-mount lens is compatible with any F-mount body (or worse, mail-ordered the pieces), youd be in for a rude shock, and you might even manage to damage the camera body if you found just the right (wrong) combination. The Magic Lantern books on classic Nikons will save you a great deal of trouble in assembling a system.

Something else no one has mentioned is to be careful to find out what type of battery the meter uses before you pay for it. Buying an SRT-101 might look like a great deal until you find out that it uses now-banned mercury batteries.

Stanley McManus , April 10, 1998; 12:46 P.M.

Dont forget Pentax and the K-mount lenses. The mount has remained the same for 20 years. The LX and MX bodies were both offered with very complete systems to back them up. Nikon is probably the way to go with an older system if you must have the more exotic lenses and equipment. But if you simply want lenses in the 24-400 range and dont need fancy extra gear, Pentax can be perfectly acceptable and sometimes cheaper.

Tim Hobson , April 11, 1998; 09:44 P.M.

The Konica SLR system offers great value and probably the highest quality/price ratio of any used photographic equipment available. Hexanon lenses, in their time, were at least on par with those of Canon and Nikon. I only stumbled upon this system by accident, and I was more than pleasantly surprised when I found that I could buy 3 Nikon caliber lenses for under $150 (28mm, 50mm, 135mm). In talking to other users of Konica SLR equipment, I have found similar experiences. And if you must use an expensive Nikon lens, you can get an adaptor for $15 that lets you mount them on your Konica.

Rick Saunders , April 13, 1998; 05:11 P.M.

As the owner of an F, an F2 and (recently) an F3HP I LOVE my manual cameras. I looked at the F5 and decided that they take all of the fun out of the hobby. I find that the feel of the old Nikons is nicer and that I have more latitude to mess up a shot... I look at the F5 as just being a super-expensive point and shoot. Mind you, who am I anyway.

George Pang , April 14, 1998; 05:13 P.M.

Ahem.. No one has mentioned the old Canon FD mechanicals yet so Ill unearth them..

Yes Nikon cameras will take the same lenses from the F through the F5 which will give you flexibility if you wish to use your old F era lens on an F5, but BECAUSE of the compatibility, old Nikon equipment is much more expensive.

$150 for an F2A with a working light meter? Maybe but not unless you cheat some poor fool. $50 for a Nikon lens? Not likely even from the most gullible fool. Youll pay around $200 for each good old lens. and MUCH more for legendary lenses.

Might as well just go buy an Elan IIe with a 28-105..

On the other hand consider Canon FD. TOTAL system incompatibility with current EOS systems means REALLY inexpensive prices. A Canon A-1 will cost you maybe $180 and get you a beautiful great working camera. If you dont need no stinkin program modes then go with a Canon AT-1 for a grand total of $90. Both these cameras are admittedly less rugged than Fs or F2s but also dont have meter heads so large that they look like they belong on Medium Format SLRs.

Lenses? $50 for a standard Canon 50/1.4. Legendary lenses? $65 for a Canon 50/1.4 SSC. Both in mint condition. $75 for a 28/2.8 $75 for a 100/2.8.

admittedly all the lenses out of the range from 24 to 135 or so are more expensive, but oh well.

What you lose of course is any real zoom lenses from Canon or any other maker in those days. Of course you could buy new from the 3rd parties, but whats the point..

My system: Canon AT-1 $90 28/2.8 $75 50/1.4 $50 50/3.5 MACRO $150 (yeah yeah but I HAD to have it) + 25mm auto extension tube $0 135/3.5 SC $60 2x auto teleconv $20

And all these items are MINT or near mint.. (the macro is like new I cant imagine what the original owner did with it..) So with stuff so cheap that will depreciate little if any in the future (unless you break it) why BOTHER with system compatibility??

Christian Becker , April 16, 1998; 01:43 P.M.

What about an old 35mm SLR? What about durability of mechanics or electronics? What about spare parts? Sooner or later both electronics and mechanical parts will fail. Many electronic parts are build to last 10 years, maybe 20 years if used seldom. One of the first things prone to failure are LCDs. Mechanics will possibly last longer than electronics, dependend on usage (all-mechanical cameras seem to hold up better if exercised often). However, if problems occur, the camera can be repaired only as long as spare parts are available either from the manufacturer or ripped from other bodies. Nikon and probably other japanese brands tend to keep spare parts for up to twenty years (at least Nikon SAYS so). Of cause some models need more care (e.g. the Nikonos I,II...) and spare parts will be out sooner. To my knowledge Leica is the only 35mm brand supporting mechanical cameras older than twenty years, offering the possibility to rebuild or convert even older items. No surprise these repairs cant be cheap, but who wants to own a Leica doorstop? Only the future will tell if Leica is able and willing to support electronic models as well. Currently they still have spare parts for twenty year old R3s. Maybe only small manufacturers like Leica can offer service for old models. But if one thinks about keeping this planet for future generations (not a bad thought, or?) the best camera is the one that can be repaired.

Many photographers use older mechanical cameras as backups for their F5, EOS or whatsoever. Seems they doubt the reliability of their electronic equipment. But anyway, most byuers seem to believe in making improvements as a photographer by consuming and dont seem to expect/want a N90 or EOS to last more than twenty years. An really expensive hobby.

Vaughan Bromfield , April 23, 1998; 11:27 P.M.

Ideal systems depend on personal photographic style, and requirements.

My style is for ultra wide-angle lens, available light -- usually early morning or evening -- and hand held. The ideal system for me was an Olympus OM2n with the unique and superb Zuiko 21mm F2 lens. Still no manufacturer makes a lens in this class so fast, and what with the technology going into zoom lenses, nobody probably will. Leica might if they felt fast lenses were something more than a gimmic.

Add onto the body the motordrive MD-1 with ni-cad pack, and you have a system that is fast, compact and solid.

Auto-focus is completly unnecessary with a system that provides depth of field from around 1 metre to infinity at f4!

This lens is sharp enough to cope with the rigors of b+w photography too. Its subtle handling of colur is remarkable even wide open. And, it is still available new. Pricey, but available.

Olyumpus have not left the SLR market: they still make about 75% of the OM range and have even released a new model, the OM2000!

Ron Shaw , April 29, 1998; 05:07 P.M.

I regularly use an F and an F2. These are the only 35mm cameras in my bag, and they really are wonderful old cameras. The F is about 30 years old, and the F2 is 25. When I pull them out of the bag, I know they will always work. The meters worked last time I tried them, but I hand meter now (I shoot LF also, so use hand metering for all my photo work). You can indeed find Nikkor primes for 50 bucks (and less). Usually for the older non AI lenses. I snagged a 135 f3.5 for 40 bucks. The mount showed some wear, but the glass is perfect (and sharp as a razor). Ive seen 50mm f2s for under 50 bucks too.

J Greely , May 03, 1998; 09:21 P.M.

After a fair amount of window-shopping at used dealers, mail-order catalogs, and a few camera shows, Id say that the average price difference between Nikons used manual SLRs/lenses and most other brands is pretty consistent: for non-AI, youll pay $75 extra for the body and $25-50 extra for each lens; for AI, add an additional $75 for both bodies and lenses.

As with most rules, there are exceptions; 50mm primes have less variance across brands, and in many cases more than one lens of the same focal length is available from the same maker (budget lines include "Series E" for Nikon and "Celtic" for Minolta, and there are less-obvious cases).

In practice, I think purchasing a used manual Nikon is more of a stylistic choice than a financial one. There are good bargains in other brands (and even Nikon, if you look at the Nikkormats (I paid $115 for a recently-CLAd FT2 at a local dealer)), but unless youre a savvy shopper (or have one working for you), youre probably better off with a Minolta X-700 or a Pentax ZX-M. New product warranty, plenty of good affordable glass, and reasonable pricing.

Carl Rosenvold , May 04, 1998; 06:24 P.M.

I have been in and out of auto-focus several times. I am basically a MANUAL guy. Back in the 70es I used to have an Olympus OM1 and I have also been using various Hasselblads for more than 20 years. In the early AF years I then decided to buy a Nikon F-301 for my wife, but I changed it for the F-501AF, because there was one less parameter to confuse her. I obviously should have bought her a simple P+S camera, because she only used it a couple of times anyway. One day I part exchanged it for a nice used F3 for myself, but unfortunately it got stolen together with all my MF prime lenses. In a moment of dispair I replaced it with an F-801s with new AF prime lenses. Funny enough I never really felt happy about my new equipment, but I could not figure out what was wrong, until one day when I brought my old El-Nikkormat home from my work where I used it attached to a Medical-Nikkor 120 for dental shots. There was something about the "feel" of the old metal Nikkormat difficult to discribe, but best of all no more howling noise from the motor advancing the film or the focusing of the lens. From now on the F801-s became my dental camera, which was in fact much better because it had a brighter focussing screen and it was easier to hold stedy with the heavy Medical lens, and the El-Nikkormat became my private companion. I think the simple and mechanical cameras from the era of the 70es are unsurpassed for no- nonsense photography - all major brands can be considered - by I obviously prefer Nikon. I still use the El-Nikkormat a lot, but I have added an F2A, which I found in almost mint condition a year ago - and that is without any doubt the best Nikon I have ever used. It was love at first sight and now I am considerering buying another one - just in case.... and because they might be difficult to find in "near mint" condition after you all have read this article.

So if you do not really need AF for action or wild-life shooting I can only recommend you to buy a good old Nikon or Nikkormat or perhaps the newer FE2, FA or the manual FM2n which is still available as new. With the FE2, FA and FM2n you have flash-sync. to 1/250 sec. which makes them more suitable for fill-in flash.

Get back in control - and take better pictures!

adrian tyler , May 12, 1998; 04:59 A.M.

Ive only ever used manual older systems, a cheap Canon RC rangefinder for many years, and got a lot of satisfaction from comments on my work like wow these snaps are great, what sort of camera have you got? Like it really mattered.

Well anyway I eventually decided on moving to Spain that I would upgrade, Nikon F3 and FM2 35mm 1.4, 55mm macro + 85mm f2, the content my snaps did not improve, what these new machines presen ted were a new set of challanges: to understand how each lens reacted under different circumstan ces, which to use and when, learn to focus fast, manualy, to effectively use the meters to achive given results etc...

Now after more years of experience for the first time I feel I am ready for one of the newer machin es.


I am not in a prefessional situation, photography has grown with me, the experience I have gained has made me a mature (albeit amature) photographer capable of producing professional quality 35mm work in many different situations. I dont think a fully auto camera woud have given me this learning opportunity.

Eugene Crumpler , May 20, 1998; 05:17 P.M.

My vote is the F3 with an MD-4 attached. I owned an F with photomic F and it was(is)a great camera. The F3 of course is still being made. I also have a FE and FM which are very compact cameras. I can pack two bodies and three-four compact(28E,50 f1.4,55 micro and 75-150E)lenses in an old small bag and carry it all day and almost forget I have it with me. The F3/md4 is a little more formatable with a 80 to 200 f2.8 AF and B&L Bracket. I love nikons but must now admit I have the MF bug with pentex67. The p67 reminds me of the old F a lot. Thats my two cents worth! I have never had any nikon equipment fail in 29 years!

Greg Palman , May 30, 1998; 09:02 A.M.

Any true pro who uses old gear professionally should be on a suicide watch! However since I am a rank amateur, I use oly and mostly Topcon. The Topcon system was tops in its day and the rugged bodies and great glass and full line of accessories makes this line great to own and use. And, super d and re super bodies are available at half Nikon prices. Ditto for the re auto topcor lenses except for the long focal lengths such as the 300 f/2.8 and the 500 f/5.6 and the thinly produced such as the 20 f/4 and the 85 f/1.8. That said I recently acquired a 300 f/2.8 for about half the price of a comparable Nikon. I know, I know, Topcon doesnt produce 35mm anymore and Nikon does, so thats a + for the older Nikon user. Topcon parts and quality repair services are still available like Nikon...and you cant beat the used prices.

Rudy Leui , June 28, 1998; 09:45 P.M.

Many of the comments I read today were very good and informative, however, one good reason to use a manual camera is because you want to. I get so tired of cheap plastic cameras with plastic lenses sliding through cheap plastic barrels! I admit that some of the glass now-a-days may be as nice as anything that preceded it, but it doesnt feel as nice. My brother Ralph who is a very accomplished photographer reminds me that the ends justifys the means and the photos are the real treasures. That, as true as it may be, doesnt make me feel better about using affordable modern cameras.

Bill Schaffel , July 06, 1998; 04:19 P.M.

After 10 years of not having an 35m SLR (use Hexar), I decided to get one. I found I had to put on my reading glasses to see all the buttons and LED readouts on the newer cameras so I started looking at older, less automated designs. I wound up getting a used Minolta X-700 with 3 prime Minolta MD lenses, a dedicated 280-PX flash,and miscellanous goodies for under $400.The camer uses a combination of manual focus and film loading with Program, Apature Priority, or manual exposure controls. Used Minolta MD and MC lenses are plentiful and very reasonably priced. Since this camera is still being manufactured, spare parts or service are no problem.

Milton J. Gil , July 17, 1998; 02:02 P.M.

I recently bought a 1972 F2 w/50 1.4 w/dp-1 finder for under $300 in mint cond. I just got back a roll I shoot in our back yard, and boy was I impressed. This camera was perfect and flawless. The exposure was perfect and really sharp. I also have an N90s, and the pictures came out the same if not better than what I have taken with my N90s. This is a great F camera and every Nikon users should have one as a mechancial back up or as a great learning tool. You can learn a lot more and have more fun with a manualy camera than a automatic modern camera. Just my two cents. TKS

Dave Jenkins , July 22, 1998; 05:33 P.M.

FWIW, Ive owned two F2s at different times. I respect the camera as a fine, durable piece of equipment, but did not keep either very long. I kept banging my fingers against the prism housing every time I rewound film, usually causing my fingers to slip off the rewind crank. A small nuisance, perhaps, but one I did not care to live with. I used Olympus OMs with great pleasure for 13 years until aging eyes dictated a switch to autofocus. Tried Nikons AF for about a year with increasing dissatisfaction, then learned about Canons wonderful Custom Function 4. Made the switch to EOS in 93 and have never looked back!

Steve Mills , July 23, 1998; 09:28 A.M.

I agree, mostly. Not experienced with Canon systems, but I really dont trust the autos so I dont have any. I can focus faster than what I have seen any auto do. They tend to want to think about it when I want to hear a CLICK.

From my perspective, the Nikon FM2 is one of the most overlooked bodies around. Its nearly unchanged in 16+ years (except that its faster than the original 2000 that I bought in 82....its now 4000 and synchs at 250...used to be 200) and guess what....its STILL MADE. Any other nominees for the Continuity Award? My favorite portrait lens is an old 200.

I have used mine for all my wedding candids since I bought it. I have at times gone 2 years without batteries in it. It has had one repair: I dropped it and had to have the titanium shutter replaced.

Above this system, I use Mamiya M645 stuff. Very antiquated by some standards, but very practical equipment. Shutter synch is the only drawback I see. The lenses are all still usable on the newer Mamiya 645 system, so you wont find any bargains there, either. I do plan to upgrade the bodies and viewfinders within the next 2 years. The two 645 bodies I have are getting very tired and need repairs at least annually. But YES....I gladly get to keep all my lenses.

David Gabbé , August 02, 1998; 02:05 P.M.

Gosh, another quite reasonable article; Ive only been reading this site for a week! I cant really agree with the recommendation to get a new Canon. Heres some experience from years of taking pics. Note I have a Nikon F3.

Canon vs Nikon: In my travels through the world, I have consisently found an F3 in every city I have been to. Tai Yuan, China had F3s and no Canons.

Reliability: My experience is mechanical cameras are just a reliable as the new cameras. Mechanical cameras make a certain kind of noise and if that noise changes, be suspicious. Otherwise, I almost always have a few rolls of film developed while travelling. The biggest problems with the new cameras are switch failures, bad contacts, and battery unavailability. All of these failures tend to be fatal; in other words, you need a new body.

Batteries: As far as I can figure, AA batteries are the only ones with 100% world wide availability. Any other battery is dicey, esp. the funky lithium ones. Many people with p&s found this out in China. To reduce battery problems, a camera with a separate battery for the flash is a great asset.

Nikon tips: If you are going to get an older Nikon, get one with works the AIS lens. These lenses dont use the external f-stop coupling.

Other tips: Manual focusing speed and accuracy can be much improved with a different focusing screen. I have the 45deg oriented split image surrounded by a micro-prism. The F3 screens are still available and quite cheap.

Manual focus is great for copy work and shooting through glass. Esp, since the front of the lens doesnt rotate which is important for polarizer use.

The older bodies generally have more metal in them and that makes them IR proof. If you are not going to shoot IR film, ignore this.

Size: The older bodies tend to be more compact and lighter (no motor drive and huge battery packs) so they are more reasonable to carry around. I think this point desires careful consideration. If you travel to hot/humid places, its really wearing to lug something around. And you will soon start thinking about a place to sit down or the next refreshment stand.

Will I get the picture?: Many people I run into want motor drives so they are sure they will get the picture. Heres a test for you. Review all your contact sheets (or slides) and see how many pictures of a scene you take. I take 2 or 3, not 10. The first picture is a warm up shot and the next one is nailed.

Lets face it, every camera has its own personality that make it suited to some situations more than others. The important thing is not to concentrate on the photos you are missing, but to work on the ones you can get.

Ritz -- , August 10, 1998; 07:16 P.M.

About Nikons acccording to you: "You can use all the new lenses on old cameras and old lenses on new cameras."

Its only true for PENTAX(except ZX-50) not Nikon. I dont know how youre going to use the new AF lenses on old cameras if they dont have an aparture ring.

Ritz -- , August 10, 1998; 07:29 P.M.

In my last message I meant open aparture metering... not aparture ring. Sorry for the mistake.

Bob Patterson , August 13, 1998; 12:41 P.M.

I personally prefer a Leica Thread Mount Rangefinder like my Canon 7sz as a classic 35mm camera. It has numerous LTM lenses that can be used on it (ones made by CANON, Leica, Nikkor & Zeiss), is lighter, quieter and more compact than a SLR. One of my favorites is a Carl Zeiss 21mm Biogon that was made for Contax (in 1955), but mounts on the Canon with the aid of an adapter. The Canon 50mm/ 1.2 lens is fast, sharp and produces excellent results.

Marty Johnston , August 14, 1998; 12:13 A.M.

Whilst it is true that Nikon have maintained the same bayonet fitting over the years, the notion that all lenses will work on all bodies (give or take some functionality) isnt strictly true. Some later Nikon bodies dont have a retractable AI lever meaning that fitting a non-AI lens could damage the camera. This point is well documented in an online article by Ross Alford in a comparison of the FE & FE2 bodies - - Apart from reducing production costs, why on earth did Nikon take this reverse compatibility feature away?

Karsten Eig , August 17, 1998; 06:35 A.M.

I use an Olympus OM2s and love it. The camera body is solid, it has a nice spot meter in manual mode, the shutter speed ring is placed around the bayonet (easier to move than those on top of the camera), aperture priority mode with exp. compensation....a classic tool with modern electronics. I use it with a winder. Its a very good macro camera, and good for learning. It really has the right "feeling".

The bad things? Oh, yes. the depth of field button is situated on the lens barrel and a bit tricky to use. No double exposures. (To press down the rewind button when advancing the film never worked.)No AF compatibility. Difficoult to get original lenses. (Not expensive, but few of them). The camera sometimes doesn`t work in cold weather.

Probably, I will sooner or later switch to an AF system anyway, so then the choice is between Nikon and Pentax - because I want a manual camera in addition, for macro and landscape work. (see also discussion on this at the N90s site.) Probably I will choose Pentax because: - The Nikon manuals have a STUPID feature: you must have the film advance lever arm helf way out to be able to press the shutter=hopeless to see in the wiewfinder with the left eye, which I use. - Used Pentax lenses are lower priced, and the compatibility problems are, IN CONTRAST TO NIKON, almost nonexistent. - The AF body Z1p is cheaper than N90s, but has more usable features and fewer unusable gimmicks. On the other hand, the AF is quite slow. The XZ5n is much faster.) -Pentax LX has interchangeable wiewfinder.

Scott M. Knowles , August 17, 1998; 02:28 P.M.

Ive owned many Minolta SRTs for nearly 3 decades and currently use a SRT-101, SRT-303 and two-700s with about 16 MC/MD lenses.

I do quite a bit of hiking-photography and the X-700s are excellent cameras for that work. Theyre compact, light weight and have a lot of features. I especially like that the peripheral equipment (motordrives, flash units, etc) are available but not in the camera itself, reducing its size and weight, and especially improving its durability and reliability.

The X-700 has the basics of what a good 35mm photographer would want in a camera, manual mode, aperature priority and full program mode, EV-control, exposure lock, etc. These cameras easily do 95+% of what I need. I keep my original SRT-101 for mirror lockup (some lenses still need it), and the SRT-303 (recent acquistion) for macro work with mirror lockup.

Minolta has develop quite a bit of peripheral equipment for the X-series and especially the X-700 camera, such as ring flash, powergrip-flash control, wireless flash sync., two decent powerful flashes with TTL metering and program mode operation, bellows, etc. Add the MD-1 motordrive and you have a pretty adaptable, capable camera.

You also get the full range of Minolta pre-MC, MC and MD lenses, from 7.5mm to 800mm including some excellent to outstanding lenses from the 1960s, 70s and 80s, such as the 35mm f2.8 shift-CA lens, 50mm f3.5 and 100mm f4 true macro lenses with 1:1 extension tubes, 7.5mm and 16mm wideangle lenses, 85mm f1.7 lens, and one of my personal favorites, 58mm f1.2 normal lens.

Karsten Eig , August 20, 1998; 12:05 P.M.

Well - I have learned a lesson today: FIRST try ALL cameras - THEN write about them. I found that the film advance lever problem is very little if you use a rubber eye piece. And F3 has not that problem at all. As old lenses are easier to get for Nikon, I probably will change my mind and go for Nikon.

Ron Stecher , August 20, 1998; 04:00 P.M.

Having owned and used cameras from Canon (AE1-P -- stolen!!!), Minolta X-700 (traded) and Nikon (FG, F, FM2n) I can honestly say that they all took comparable photoss and you would not be able to tell them apart from prints I have made (8x10 being the largest).

However, I feel that Nikon offers the most durable system of the three. I also appreciate the fact that they have not changed their lense mount over the generations of cameras theyve produced (I was heartbroken when the Canon FD mount was discontinued). My primary camera is the Nikon FM2n. This has to be the most reliable camera Ive ever owned. As far as lenses are concerned , I will only use Nikon. Ive tried Tokina and some other off brand zooms and I was very disappointed. Now I shoot 80% with Nikon primes and the rest with Nikon zooms. Flash is a Sunpak 383 super wich I am extremely pleased with. Next month I will be picking up a mint condition FE-2 for the aperture priority.

As for autofocus, I feel it is very useful, and considering my eyesight is not what it used to be I am considering autofocus more and more. Possibly a 6006 or N90s. I just dread the day that "film" will no longer be available in the wake of the digital revolution!

Jeffrey Goggin , September 24, 1998; 01:50 A.M.

If youre considering a manual-focus system, dont overlook Minoltas XE and XK series bodies. For a start, they use batteries that can be found almost anywhere (as compared to the SRT series, which you have to buy across the border in Mexico); they are reliable (I own two of each and have never had one fail), as well as readily available and relatively cheap. Minoltas MC & MD lenses are usually good, if not great (although there are a few gems hidden throughout the product line) and they can likewise be found cheaply and in good condition if you shop carefully.

Of course, you wont earn as much "street cred" if youve got a Minolta slung around your neck versus a Canon or Nikon but that has its merits, too (and if youre a confirmed manual-focus "dinosaur" like me, who cares what other people think, anyway?).

Alexey Merz , October 01, 1998; 07:00 P.M.

*******Begin quote: However, unless one is an extremely quick thinker, and consquently fast with the hands .. by the time all the various aperture, speed, and focus settings are ready, Nessie would have already sunk back into the depths of Loch Ness, and Elvis would have piloted his UFO up up and away.

For however much we love the "basic" approach to photography using mechanical cameras, the fact remains that in todays fast paced world many striking and stirring photographs would not have occurred had the photographer not been using a newfangled AF-Auto-Everything camera. One pic comes to mind, that of the Fireman carrying Baby Allie (-5sp?) after the Oklahoma City bombing. *******End quote.

*******Begin rant:

Horse poop!!!

This may be the case for people who are not skilled photographers. Indeed, it may on occaision be the case for seasoned pros. Hence the brisk sales of 5-8 FPS autofocus, zoom, etc. cameras targeted to the pro market.

Nevertheless, a look at any of the last twenty photojournalism annuals, or at a compete collection of Pulitzer photos (or any other collection of photojournalism) reveals that photos with the immediacy of the OK City photo have been made since before the advent of the 35 mm format - and made with great regularity ever since the intro. of 35 mm.

The fact is that the average quality of photojournalism has NOT improved dramatically over this period (sports and wildlife photography - essentially similar games, requiring long lenses and fast film, have benefitted from such advances more substantially).

There is a simple reason for this: small cameras today are not substantially better - for the expert user in the field - than when the Leica M3, Nikon F, Pentax Spotmatic, and Rolleiflex were introduced. Most award-winning photos - I would add, most great photos of people, and most great landscapes - are made in the 35-50 mm range of (35 mm) focal lengths. The 85-180 mm range would follow in importance (and its worth adding that it was specifically the Nikkor 180/2.8 lens that extended the range even that far).

Improvements in film have had MUCH more impact than imporvements in cameras.

But for what its worth, when I am walking around with a camera - a Nikon FM or FE2, or a Leica M6, its ALREADY set at or near the correct exposure (sunny 16 or an incident reading, taken periodically by habit), and at or near correct focus (infinity or hyperfocal for a chosen aperture). I can therefore react IMMEDIATELY and get a decent frame. And if Im looking for pictures, I will almost invariably have at least a few seconds to react, because Im paying attention.

Do I want an EOS5+grip and an 80-200L? Of course I do. But the money is spent instead on a Leica M6 with 35 and used 50 f/1.4 lenses. These will go with me when the Canon never would, that is, nearly all of the time. They work without batteries, in light 2 stops dimmer, and with greater sharpness and contrast than the EOS equivalents. Oh, and the Leica viewfinder lets me see OUTSIDE the frame area, which allows MUCH swifter and more certain composition in changing situations. And the shutter lag is 10 milliseconds, compared to a typical SLR lag of 60- 100 ms.

Im not saying that my choice is the best choice. I am saying that there is NOT a single best choice, and that a careful person can take great pictures with any of several cameras. One more time, folks, THE ONE WHO *CARRIES* A CAMERA GETS THE SHOT. Even in "todays fast paced world", whatever the hell *that* means.

*******End rant.

Paul Benson , October 15, 1998; 10:22 P.M.

What about a new manual SLR? As nice as the old classic stuff is I worry about it being worn out. Sure, a Nikon FM or FE can last 20 years and shoot a 1,000 rolls of film, but the used ones have already. Besides, a good used camera is as expensive as a new one. Why recommend an old camera? If you want a good manual camera it seems to me the way to go is a new Nikon FM2n or Minolta X-700 for full manual or manual focus/auto exposure respectively. These cameras are as functional as any of the classic cameras, and not really any more expensive. The Minolta is especially nice if you dont plan to (upgrade?) to auto focus since Minolta seems to be the only major manufacturer still making a basic selection of manual focus prime lenses for very reasonable prices.

jacque keiser , October 30, 1998; 09:37 A.M.

i use a canon/pellix from 1963. there arent many around now. the light meter has been broken for the last17 years, and so everything is manual. i have a 70-200 soom that i use with it also. It has won me awards, contests, peoples choice awards, etc, and has never failed me. there isnt any battery to go bad. It makes terrific double exposures. I also have a minolta sx-5 ( think) because every time i go to use it, it ends up in the shop for repair. It is TRASH!!!! The canon is heavy to use, but once you get used to it, you wont want to go to a point and shoot camera again .

Terry Danks , November 07, 1998; 09:12 A.M.

As the oroginal purchaser of an F2 back in 1973, I enjoyed the article. It is still my favorite camera and, until very recently, has served without any problem. However I recently encountered the problem with the DP-1 meter mentioned by Paulo. I posted to the 35mm NG about it and Robert Decker in Utah responded that he fixes these things. I have sent my finder to him for repairs and am hoping this works out. I also inquired of a shop in Toronto about the availablity of functioning DP-1. They informed me they do indeed have one and I have ordered it as a "spare". In case others are interested in getting a DP finder repaired, try contacting Robert Decker at I dont expect mine back until the end of Nov., 1998. After that time I will be willing, or unwilling, to recommend Mr. Deckers work depending on how my meter functions. I share Miltons complaint with the rewind crank on the F2. It is a pain but I am willing to put up with it. I just love the camera. I originally had 2 F2s but traded on in on an F3 back when the F3 was introduced. Bad move on my part. I know many love the F3 but I prefer the F2 and regret the trade to this day. Incidentally, Bill was VERY fortunate to get a "mint" F2/DP-1/50mm f/1.4 for "under $300"! I wish I could find deals like that too.

James Cameron , November 19, 1998; 10:48 A.M.

Im thrilled to see so many remain passionate to the "less is more" ideal, at least the idea that bells and whistles dont always get one closer to the finish any faster. Id be willing to bet that those intent on maintaining the older models see the photo before their eye makes it to the viewfinder. Ive used 2 Pentax KX bodies, at one time professionally and am continually amazed at what theyve edured over the past 20 years and will miss their familiar feel should regular maintance ever fail to prolong their lives. Thanks for the original article that induced such vibrant responses from your readership-the passion continues!

Bruce Thomas , November 21, 1998; 02:02 P.M.

I read here and elsewhere folks saying "The Konica Hexanons are at _least_ as good as the Nikkor lenses". Well, let me tell a life long photographer, I can assure you that the Hexanons are far better lenses than the Nikkors! I used Nikons for 22 years when I too stumbled across an old Konica outfit. I kept noticing the konica stuff seemed much sharper than the Nikon photos. I set out and did the ultimate tests with same film, tripods and subject matter etc. Low and behold the Hexanons were far sharper than any of my Nikkors. I was an instant convert. I sold all my Nikkor gear (save for one F body w/plain prism and 55mm micro-nikkor) and bought all used Konica SLRs and Hexanon lenses. I have never been sorry. There is one caveat to the Hexanons however they are not as heavily multi-coated as the Nikkors and you can have flare problems if your composition includes strong backlighting and you are not careful to compose around this problem. I have often had fellow photographers look at 11x14 portraits I have made with the Konica Autoreflex T2 with an old 85mm f1.8 lens and ask "Which Mamiya RB 6x7 do you use?". The Konica Hexanons - as good as NNikkors...or far better? I say far better, you can see the difference in wallet sized prints! -=[ Bruce ]=-

Piaw Na , January 11, 1999; 09:31 P.M.

My boss loaned me his Olympus OM-2s for a week. What a pain. Loading the film cartridge took about twice as long as loading my EOS. You first have to thread the bloody leader, make sure it catches, and pull it through. Even so you have to watch to make sure that it takes up. With the EOS, just slap a cartridge in, pull to the green line, slap the camera back close, and youre ready to shoot. If theres a problem, the camera will tell you, and it wont shoot. The manual cameras will happily keep shooting blanks even though nothings properly loaded.

Then theres the metering. With the dim LCD displays of yesteryear, you can barely see the meter move. And dont forget that all of these old cameras are center-weighted, so if you want a spot meter, better carry a long lens with you. Ah, and the joy of rewinding that cartridge when youre done. No DX coding means you get to play with the exposure compensation knob for each new roll.

Then the battery on the OM-2s went out, turning the meter off, forcing me to guess exposure. Because it was one of those tiny button batteries, and the OM-2s had a bug that drained those batteries regardless of whether the camera was on or not, I didnt have a spare. Even if I had had one, it wouldnt have lasted 3 days. My EOS batteries last 60-90 rolls, and stay in the camera for months with no ill effects.

Oh, did I forget to mention that I really prefer to have all my controls accessible from my right hand? The EOS has nice thumbwheels that let me control the camera all without taking my eyes off the viewfinder, giving me feedback through the viewfinder. With the manual camera, I had to use my second hand for aperture selection, and could never tell whether that stiffness in the aperture selection ring was because Id reached the end of the aperture range, or because it was just stiff. And the exposure compensation knob in aperture priority mode is a joke. You end up taking your eye off the viewfinder and fumbling with the bugger. This camera didnt have a mirror lock up, while my EOS at least had a mirror pre-fire.

I returned the camera, glad that I got a whiz-bang EOS camera, and certain that my pictures *are* better for it---with a manual camera, I would have given up SLR photography for good within 10 rolls and stuck with point and shoot cameras. The automation on film loading, if nothing else, would have gotten me to "trade up" to an all-electronic model if I was using one of the antiques. The fact that I got fancy program modes (hey, shutter priority is cool, and the program mode is useful sometimes), a built-in fill-flash with 1/125 sync that popped up at the push of a button, and a sane user interface that lets me place a reflector with one hand and have full control over the camera makes the modern EOS so much more compelling than an Olympus OM-2s that it is not even funny. I hope more people who read this article will use manual cameras, because that way, Ill have less competition to contend with.

Costas Dimitropoulos , January 15, 1999; 07:45 P.M.

Piaw Na wrote amongst others: "I hope more people who read this article will use manual cameras, because that way, Ill have less competition to contend with"

I hate to burst your bubble dude, but if you believe that people using manual cameras are at a disadvantage you are mistaken. You just need to know how to use your equipment in each sistuation. In your case, the fact that you became admitedly so aggravated loading film in the OM-2s makes me wonder whether you should try APS. It beats the heck out of 35mm in loading convenience. Not to mention that weird roll-film stuff. ;-)

By the way, why are you still using EOS? If you want the ultimate auto camera get an F5 (too bad it isnt APS). You will be surprised at how inferior your "competition" will become in this case. ;->

Laszlo Horvath , January 18, 1999; 05:13 A.M.

You didt mentioned old Pentacon made Practica cameras between 70 and 80. These cameras hav shutter speeds from 1s to 1/1000s and B. They all have vertical travel, metal leaf shutter, with flash syncronization of 1/125s. Non of the Canon cameras made in this period has a flash syncronization of 1/125s, and only the top of the line cameras has vertical travel metal curtain, shutter. And what about the lenses? There is a range of Pentacon and Zeiss made lenses from 20mm super wide angel from 1000mm super tele lenses. Nice isnt it? The lenses are multi coated, and they offer excellent performance. The cameras are very reliable, there was Practica wich did 100000 shuts. Thats not o common thing for a consumer camera isntit?

Sam Macomber , January 21, 1999; 02:26 A.M.

I own an old Nikon F2 and DP-1 viewfinder. I usually use a Nikkor 55mm micro lens. Ive had it since my freshman year in High School, Ive traveled all over dragging this guy with me. I love it, and it has never failed me. Its been banged around a bit too, to the point there are dents. Id take one of these over a new SLR, I tried an EOS, ewwww, plastic. I also didnt use the automatic settings. Ive gotten accustom to the F2, for the most part I dont even look at the light meter. I frame all my pictures in the viewfinder, Ive never had to crop a picture (I like printing with a filed neg carryer) The only thing I dont do with the F2 is keep it in my cars glove box, dont want it stolen (besides I think its too big) so I keep an old Cannon AF35M in there good for those "I wish I had my camera" situations ;) oh BTW, Im a Photo student now, and I want a medium format camera, or a large format... money is such a problem....

Cam Era , February 01, 1999; 11:33 P.M.

Greenspuns account of his foray into the world of 1970s era mechanical, manual cameras (great mechanical 35mm cameras are still available new: Contax S2, Nikon FM2n, Olympus OM3-Ti, Leica M6, Yashica FX-3, more from Ricoh, Vivitar, others) provoked a lot of comment. This was the comment that finally made me decide to add mine:

For however much we love the "basic" approach to photography using mechanical cameras, the fact remains that in todays fast paced world many striking and stirring photographs would not have occurred had the photographer not been using a newfangled AF-Auto-Everything camera.

How true: in the old days of World War II, Weegees New York, the Korean War, the Vietnam war, the Hindenburg disaster, Cartier-Bressons Paris, and the wilds of Nature before the lions and the zebra had booking agents hurrying them up all the time, life really did roll along slow enough for that basic approach to photography using mechanical cameras to be feasible.

Back in 1969, when photojournalists were more respected, and life more genteel, it was possible for Eddie Adams to ask General Loan and his North Vietnamese prisoner to please redo that bullet through the head, over and over, until finally poor Eddie was able to catch the decisive moment with his primitive, unresponsive, unreliable mechanical equipment. If he had just had multi-pattern autofocus- middle of the photo was at infinity and the two close-range subjects at the far right and left, one closer than the other- he might even have gotten it right on only the second try. Im pretty sure he wouldnt have run out of batteries that day, or had to have a replacement "wonder body" FedEx-ed in from B&H. And how many times ill-equipped Nick Ut had to ask Kim Phuc to get napalmed, and run naked screaming along the road! Those were things people would still do for you back in mellow 1973. Thank God photographic equipment has advanced enough to allow todays great shots- without idiot-friendly cameras, who would we hire to take a full 36 exposure roll of Princess Diana hiding her face behind a covered tennis racket, in under 5 seconds, each shot a winner?

George Schroeder , February 05, 1999; 01:41 P.M.

I was/am using a Pentax 645 and recently (to celebrate my financial meltdown in the speculative stock markets ;-)), bought an N90S with a 28mm 1.8, a 50mm 1.4 and an 85mm 1.8. I just cannot bring myself to buy a zoom lens since my style is available/night photography. So far the quality of the shots is fine, but not as good as the Pentax. I also am avoiding the dipshit canned "modes" that Nikon seemed to go to a lot of trouble with.

Still, most of the time I have the Nikon on full manual, unless there is a candid opp. and I have no time for the meter, etc...

Bob DeAndrea , February 07, 1999; 03:07 P.M.

My bread and butter camera is an Olympus OM-1 with Olympus Zuiko 85mm/f2.0 lens. Camera is bulletproof and the lens can shoot under low light. Recently took a 41 state tour in my Jeep Wrangler and the OM-1 took the trip in stride. I use an Olympus Sylus Epic (non-zoom) for severe dust conditions when off-roading in my Jeep.

Jim MacKenzie , February 10, 1999; 04:49 P.M.

Very interesting. :)

First of all, I am a Nikon fan. I own a Nikon F90 and F601 and a Nikkormat FTn, along with lenses ranging from the 200/4 from 1963 to the AF 28/2.8D from 1994. I use all this equipment with varying degrees of regularity.

I agree with some of the comments here. There is a certain pleasure involved with using older cameras. My Nikkormat feels silky smooth, beautifully well-made; its a true pleasure to use. It is heavy, huge and relatively devoid of features, but it is truly enjoyable to photograph with it.

The obvious advantage of it being a mechanical camera is the reason why I bought it. (Having battery difficulties while photographing Comet Hyakutake on a -25 C night made me aware of that issue.) Since I had the Nikon system, I had the option of adding old equipment. I took advantage.

Dont get me wrong: I love my AF gear, too. The F90 is the finest camera I have ever used. It is a joy to use as well, but in a different way. I would be loath to be without either of these two cameras.

First, about Nikon lens compatibility: it is nearly total. Dont believe what you hear about the incompatibilities. With a few exceptions (such as the 21/4 from 1959 that needs bodies that have mirror lock-up, because it intrudes into the mirror box), all Nikon lenses mount on all bodies. YES, YES, YES, some older lenses (the non-AI ones) have to be modified to work on most post-1977 Nikon bodies, but this is cheap and easy to have done. My 50/1.4 and 200/4 were purchased as non-AI optics and I had the modifications done.

Autofocus lenses DO work fine on older Nikon bodies. They all have aperture rings and focusing rings. A very small number of cheap, consumer zooms have very narrow manual focusing rings, and may not be wonderful to use on MF cameras, but they will work. My 35-135/3.5-4.5 and 28/2.8D are perfectly useful as manual-focus optics. They must be metered in stop-down mode on really old Nikon bodies (those pre-1977) or a metering crown can be added to the aperture ring. I use stop-down mode; Nikkormats are not fast cameras anyway.

I have had many people argue about the compatibility being moot, but it is not. Suppose you are on a trip and your trusty F90x dies. If you can rent ANY Nikon body (even an old F2 or FM), you can use ALL your lenses. Yes, you could bring another body (and you should), but its nice to have this flexibility. I also often use my Nikkormat in conditions where theft is a concern - it doesnt look modern, so nobody would want it.

Durability has been brought up. There is no question in my mind that modern SLRs will not last as long as the older mechanical ones. Plastic is not as durable as metal. I think they will last long enough, but not as long. Furthermore, liquid crystal displays exist in nearly all modern cameras. They have a FINITE life span. They start deteriorating after only seven to ten years. That is not a long time. Sure, you can replace the displays now, but for how much longer? Does Canon still sell the displays for the 620 & 650? Does Nikon for the FA? I dont know, but I have my doubts.

If you havent tried one lately, go shooting with an old camera. It is very different from using a modern SLR. It is true that you can slam a 50/1.8 or 1.4 on a modern AF body, but that defeats the purpose. (Incidentally, you can throw Nikons newest AF-S 80-200/2.8 on the F2 and F also, so it works both ways. :) )

An interesting article, again! Thanks for writing it.

Gerry Siegel (Honolulu) , February 22, 1999; 05:59 P.M.

I suppose this could be labeled In Praise of Older Cameras, with the same pros and cons as one titled In Praise of Older Women. ( reliable, plentiful on the used market, tried and true, etc) Seriously, I think that a lot of us still use older manual equipment and early design lenses because we realize that todays hot item is tomorrows inventory closeout and that some stuff right out of the box has been not so much improved, just styled up. I bought into the Canon FD system ridiculously cheap because at the time Nikon was the real hot pro seller. Friends laughed," so you are a Canon user, eh?" Patronizing look. Some cameras, like the Canon F1 and A1 just two examples, are so reliable I guess I secretly hope they will break so that I can justify a new EOS system. I use, but tend to coddle mine. I think I have learned to fall on my ribs in a stumble, while cradling the camera in safety. The thing I deplore most about the older bodies is the fumbling in loading them,( Canon had some reels that wound in reverse on takeup spool for a while) and the weight of the old winders vis a vis modern micro -motors. I use whatever is a hand, and dont worship any vintage or level of automation.( Hand it to me and show me the On switch, please.) Some cameras have a special feel to them. A je ne sait quoi. Some dont E.g.The Elan IIe doesnt and I cant explain the lack of chemistry. Like selecting a puppy from a litter I suppose. Updated viewpoint as of 2/99: Having stumbled on a fine working model of the sturdy T-90 recently, Its almost like an organ transplant(a$500 one,but worth it IMO) and will extend the life of my manual FD system for several years if I choose. Do I covet an EOS 3 and an L series zoom set? Sure, but I think it wont improve my photography enough to offset the costs. That day will come I know,just as I will probably be driving a gas/electric hybrid car too. No turning back the clock in the real world.

Michael Edelman , February 23, 1999; 12:41 P.M.

Most of my shooting is either magazine illustration for article I write (generally tabletop), portraits and some travel photography. I used to do astrophotography. None of this really requires any automation at all, and as often as not I use a meterless F2 for critical work with a hand-held meter. More automation often just results in faster shooting. I find the older manual cameras are cheap, reliable and of higher quality than their new automated cousins. As for photojournalism- cameras have nothing to do with photojournalism. Its all f/16 and be there, right?

dave lawson , February 26, 1999; 10:26 P.M.

I have been using a Practica MTL 3 camera, which I purchased new in 1979. This uses the screw mount lenses which, although they are hard to find, are quite reasonably priced if you are careful. I am blessed by a local camera shop that does manage to keep a small and ever changing stock of lenses. This camera has never failed me. Although I truly rank myself as an amateur, I cant complain that the camera has ever caused me to miss a shot. I suspect that there is much to be said for using such a fully manual camera, but I must admit that if funds were more plentiful, I would be sorely tempted to upgrade. For now, I will be happy to continue to use the camera that has taught me more than I could ever hope to have learned from a fully automatic model. I currently have Mamiya 50mm/f2, Pentax 135mm/f3.5, Pentacon 29mm/f2.8 lenses, along with extension tubes, which give me an amazing range of capabilities, on a very modest budget.

Christian Becker , March 03, 1999; 05:41 A.M.

I think using MF or AF cameras results in different pictures. Namely in situations where you have to act fast (people, wildlife). With MF you have to preset the camera or use aperture priority and rely on DOF. The more DOF the better. With AF you can use the lens wide open and isolate the subject by sharpness (if you know how to use it). Though with MF wide angle lenses should be preferred, while AF excels with tele lenses. With MF you can compose pictures at will, with AF you set focus and recompose or keep objects covered by one of the AF sensors and therefore place them in a certain region. None is better, but indeed different.

William Duggleby , March 08, 1999; 12:31 P.M.

I finally succumbed and bought an AF camera. (No need repeating what I had to say about the Canon Rebel - the letters on Phils Canon Rebel Page.) I still use my Olympus OM-1MD, principally to carry bigger glass or B/W film. Its a beautiful camera that Im still crazy about after all those years. And heres why.

I know that this sounds like advertising hype, but the OM was designed as a SYSTEM from the ground up. By way of contrast, the Nikon (and Canon, to a lesser degree) grew like Topsy. If a new feature was added, it was pasted on the previous model - and the camera LOOKED like it. (This is an entirely separate issue from how the Nikon WORKS. After all, can all of those photo pros be wrong?) In addition, the Zuiko lenses were (and are still) superb, e.g. the 85mm, f/2.0 mentioned in a previous note.

To me, the key word about AF is CONSISTENCY. I can get more quality photos per roll, i.e. more bang for the buck! When you spend all that money, time, and effort to get to, say, Lake Solitude in the Tetons, the cost of film and processing is NOT the big factor. What you see may be a once-in-a-lifetime situation and you want to grab it. (If youre not in a hurry, you can always bracket the exposure to CYA.) I am NOT trying to be a National Geographic photographer on the cheap or be another Elliot Porter without paying my dues.

If you think that Im going to try to teach my wife how to zone focus, use exposure compensation, or about the virtues of a circular polarizer - think again. For HER purposes (which are perfectly legitimate), a point-and-shoot camera is the way to go. (And, BTW, the Olympus "transition" point-and-shoot is a dynamite camera!)

When I am traveling, there are other people to think about whose interest in photography is significantly less than mine. Thus, although I have an excellent Bogen tripod, I dont generally have time to do an Ansel Adams-type setup. And both the OM-1MD and the Rebel will allow me to shoot manually - IF I wish. Hey - this is the best of both worlds! (BTW, always have a spare battery for the OM too - nothing worse than having no light meter, even though I do carry my old Weston Master II just in case!)

****RANT*** I must add my two cents to the remarks made by "Cam Era". The pure fact of the matter is that Ansel Adams (for example) could take a better picture with a pinhole camera than 95% of the techno-dweebs who try to stay at the crest of the latest wave of "features". It remains the person BEHIND the camera that principally determines the content of a photo. Of course - right time and right place DO help. Some "photographers" remind me of an "audiophile" friend of mine. He is more concerned with SNR and a flat response up to 100 kc than with music. Why buy several thousand dollars worth of audio equipment to play Flatt and Scruggs! Similarly, there are "photographers" that are more interested in their photometers, Macbeth color checkers, and optical resolution charts than in pictures. ****END OF RANT****

Again, thanks for a fine photo resource.

William Duggleby , March 08, 1999; 12:32 P.M.

I finally succumbed and bought an AF camera. (No need repeating what I had to say about the Canon Rebel - the letters on Phils Canon Rebel Page.) I still use my Olympus OM-1MD, principally to carry bigger glass or B/W film. Its a beautiful camera that Im still crazy about after all those years. And heres why.

I know that this sounds like advertising hype, but the OM was designed as a SYSTEM from the ground up. By way of contrast, the Nikon (and Canon, to a lesser degree) grew like Topsy. If a new feature was added, it was pasted on the previous model - and the camera LOOKED like it. (This is an entirely separate issue from how the Nikon WORKS. After all, can all of those photo pros be wrong?) In addition, the Zuiko lenses were (and are still) superb, e.g. the 85mm, f/2.0 mentioned in a previous note.

To me, the key word about AF is CONSISTENCY. I can get more quality photos per roll, i.e. more bang for the buck! When you spend all that money, time, and effort to get to, say, Lake Solitude in the Tetons, the cost of film and processing is NOT the big factor. What you see may be a once-in-a-lifetime situation and you want to grab it. (If youre not in a hurry, you can always bracket the exposure to CYA.) I am NOT trying to be a National Geographic photographer on the cheap or be another Elliot Porter without paying my dues.

If you think that Im going to try to teach my wife how to zone focus, use exposure compensation, or about the virtues of a circular polarizer - think again. For HER purposes (which are perfectly legitimate), a point-and-shoot camera is the way to go. (And, BTW, the Olympus "transition" point-and-shoot is a dynamite camera!)

When I am traveling, there are other people to think about whose interest in photography is significantly less than mine. Thus, although I have an excellent Bogen tripod, I dont generally have time to do an Ansel Adams-type setup. And both the OM-1MD and the Rebel will allow me to shoot manually - IF I wish. Hey - this is the best of both worlds! (BTW, always have a spare battery for the OM too - nothing worse than having no light meter, even though I do carry my old Weston Master II just in case!)

****RANT*** I must add my two cents to the remarks made by "Cam Era". The pure fact of the matter is that Ansel Adams (for example) could take a better picture with a pinhole camera than 95% of the techno-dweebs who try to stay at the crest of the latest wave of "features". It remains the person BEHIND the camera that principally determines the content of a photo. Of course - right time and right place DO help. Some "photographers" remind me of an "audiophile" friend of mine. He is more concerned with SNR and a flat response up to 100 kc than with music. Why buy several thousand dollars worth of audio equipment to play Flatt and Scruggs! Similarly, there are "photographers" that are more interested in their photometers, Macbeth color checkers, and optical resolution charts than in pictures. ****END OF RANT****

Again, thanks for a fine photo resource.

William Duggleby

Bruce Tiemann , March 11, 1999; 11:38 A.M.

In 1973, I began shooting seriously in 35mm with the typical manual metered cameras of the era. In 1992, I "went autofocus" and acquired several zooms to replace my old-fashioned prime lenses. While preparing a slide presentation in 1997, I had the opportunity to closely compare my slides from the 70s and 80s to those I had taken with my newer 90s "whiz-bang" system. The difference was alarming -- not from a technical standpoint, but from a composition and content standpoint. I realized the auto-everything system had made me lazy! I had gradually learned to let my equipment select the focus, exposure, perspective, proximity (just zoom in or out, after all) when shooting, and my shots had suffered for it! I immediately sold my autofocus gear and bought a used Nikon F2A and several ruggedly-built used Nikkor prime lenses. Ive never looked back. The moral of the story for me is that it wasnt the equipment that helped make me a poorer photographer -- it was the convenience factor. I simply shoot better photos when I have to actually do the thinking, focusing and framing for myself.

Bjorn Meyer , March 15, 1999; 02:51 P.M.

Ive been quite happy with my Nikon F801s for the past 7 years, but when I recently had a chance to borrow a friends FM2, I was reminded of the pleasures of working with such a simple and classic body. Its almost inevitable to spend more time contemplating composition and exposure when working with the FM2, which probably results in a higher rate of good pictures. On the other hand, I would not want to miss some of the 801s advantages, such as a much brighter viewfinder image, spot meter, and aperture priority automatic. I also used to have an FE-2 and continue to think of it as one of the best cameras ever made. The most fun I ever had with a 35-mm camera, however, was with a Contax 159 mm, which I believe was discontinued after only a few years in the late 1980s. The Carl Zeiss lenses were superb, in their optical performance, durability, and overall feel. Unfortunately, theyre a bit expensive, theyre harder to find 2nd hand, and the system is much more limited than, say, Nikon.

John Bert , March 15, 1999; 05:10 P.M.

Like many of the previous respondants here, I grew up with manual focus SLRs and only time and a little presbyopia (age aquired inability to focus closely) prompted me to experiment with autofocus. It was with no small amount of misgiving then that I packed up my old manual focus Nikons and traded up to autofocus bodies. Now, after some time with the new equipment, I have formed some definite philosophical opinions. So rather than extol the virtues of one brand over another, I thought I would go in a different direction and share some of them. To begin with, to call any modern autofocus SLR a camera is misleading - let us be honest here, these are computers that expose film. Comparing them to older manual focus equipment is truly "apples and oranges". Like many of you, I have owned every F professional series manual camera that Nikon ever made as well as sundry FAs, FMs, Pentax and Minoltas. Do any of you really miss calculating fill flash compensations in your head? Do you really miss discarding multiple slides from that long lens sports shoot due to minor focus problems or losing the peak moment because you just didnt feel like carrying the motor drive today and couldnt thumb the film advance fast enough? Do you really miss fussing with settings and trying to remember if that last bracket shot was the two stops over or under? Finally, do any of you really miss the weight of say two bodies and four lenses hanging off you for eight hours on a summers day. I hardly think so. Modern autofocus bodies and lenses are marvels. Having said that, I invariably advise anyone who represents himself as serious about photography and who asks me what to buy as a first camera to buy a good manual focus SLR. Modern autofocus bodies are marvels indeed but they can only be used effectivly if the photographer behind the machine has an understanding of what the machine can or cant do for him. Manual focus equipment remains unsurpassed for teaching that. In addition, older manual focus systems offer a level of durability that I wonder if the newer systems will never match. Some of my old Nikons were 25 years old and still functioning perfectly despite a quarter century of benign neglect - I often wonder how many of our newer auto everything cameras will still be going 25 years out of the box? Modern autofocus bodies and lenses are fragile. Finally (a pet peeve of mine) - why is it that camera manufacturers feel that I only need to see 92% of what will be on the final frame? In the final analysis though photography is about making images and the bottom line is that a good quality older 35mm SLR and lens system can produce anything its newer cousins can - its just that the photographer may have to use a little more of the one accessory he cant put in his camera bag - his brains.

Timothy Breihan , March 17, 1999; 11:34 A.M.

I live in St. Louis and, during the recent visit of Pope JP II, decided to sieze the opportunity to take some photos of the parade. I was standing along Lindell Boulevard with my camera bag on my shoulder and my Minolta XG-7 around my neck, with a 200mm, f/4 telephoto, not particularly fast, but very sharp. On my left stood a "petulant yuppie" (as Phil so succinctly put it) with a Nikon N90s and a Tamron (!?) zoom lens, which appeared to be a 28-200mm, f/very slow! I overheard his incessant bitching to his wife regarding the fact that his AF wasnt working, and laughed inwardly to myself. I know that my pictures are superior to his, despite the fact that my camera and entire bag of lenses, including the bag, cost less than his frivolous little toy!

Timothy Breihan , March 22, 1999; 08:21 A.M.

In addition to the above comment, may I say that the gentleman to my right, with the Nikon F, was probably taking better pictures than I was.

Eric Chong , March 24, 1999; 10:20 A.M.

hi all shutterbugs

I started off with Canon EOS 50, then as I shot more and more.. I got more ambitious... I upgraded from EOS-50/28-80/540EZ to EOS-5/28-105 then to Eos-5/28-135.. then EOS-1N/28-135/540EZ

while I love the ergonomics and AF features of Canon... i felt that Im missing a lot of stuff. Pics are looking clincal sharp with no mood.

So I tried medium format photography.. by using a Seagull TLR and a light meter. I discovered that manual photography wasnt that bad and all the satisifying.

Then I took a deep breadth and sold off my entire Canon gear.. incl my priced used EOS-1N.

I bought used Nikon F3HP/Nikkor 50 f1.4/135 f2.8/28 f2.8 and metz 40. Ive since then got back pretty and nice portraits. I love the imperfection of pics and I get to learn a lot from each roll. My confidence rose with every roll I took. I gradually know each step I take and can change setting intuitively.

Of course.. this manual bug bites me hard. I saw a minty Nikon F2AS on the shelf.. and I bought it later. Now as I fiddled my way thro F2AS, I found that it is much more solid than F3HP. My huge hands could spread out comfortably. Adding a soft shutter release... helps to take stable shots. I like the feel of this camera very much. Im using my F3HP less nowdays. Ive also acquired Nikkor 105/1.8 lens. This lens is great for portraiture. IT is so sharp and contrasty.

Recently i saw a used 85/1.4 on the shelves. I was tempted to sell off something to get it. I could not let go my F2AS and 105/1.8 ... therefore I thinking of letting go my minty used F3HP.

What do u guys think?

anyway.. I love my Nikon Manual system.

Ed Nicholson , March 24, 1999; 12:05 P.M.

Reading Piaw Nas comments about a borrowed Olympus SLR reminded me of my first foray into AF SLR. I got a ***** and loaded it up with film and $12 worth of batteries. After shooting 20 frames, that was it. I rapidly found I needed $12 for batteries to shoot 20 frames and then another $12 for batteries to rewind the roll. On top of this, I found if the tongue of the film wasnt extended far enough, I could hear "Bzzzz, slap, slap, slap..." until it died and I replaced the batteries. After two trips back to the factory and being advised that "The camera is fine; you need to try a different brand of battery" I trashed the ***** and went back to my Konica T3n. Since then I got another AF SLR (Pentax), slapped a 28-4/f2.8-4 zoom on it and happily use it for my snapshooting and tourist stuff. The Konica is still my main squeeze and I expect to continue so for my lifetime.

Scott Jaworski , March 29, 1999; 05:04 P.M.

I swear by a 1958 Nikkormat FTn and my collection of Nikkor lenses... (24/1.8, 50/1.4, 105/2.8 and 200/4) no AF camera Ive ever touched gives me quite as much creative freedom, in virtually any situation. Newer cameras are best for convenience as the downside to the FTn is that if I were to spot a UFO or some other "blink and its gone" moment, thered be no chance in hell of capturing it based on the fact that its fully manual. My only other complaint is that it only rates film up to ASA 1600, but the 50/1.4 lens can usually compensate for the loss of the extra stop (I would still point out that for a 1958 camera, 1600 is pretty good).

I will also note that no camera shop has ever had trouble repairing this (its over 40 years old, it certainly has needed work on occassion). Just last year it needed a new meter: had the camera back in less than a week. Several other mechanical problems have been resolved, as well, quickly and efficiently.

In all, a great SLR body. Forces you to learn how to take real photos.

Doug Herr , April 02, 1999; 06:04 P.M.

Scott, the Nikkormat FTn was first produced in 1968, not 1958. Your Nikkormat is 30 years old, not 40, still an impressivly durable piece of equipment.

Kevin Connery , April 04, 1999; 03:34 A.M.

In all the comments, I didnt see mentioned one thing: some features arent present in current cameras which were present in the older ones--or are markedly more expensive.

The one which comes to my mind is Canons Speed Finder, a eye- and waist-level finder in one, with eye relief sufficient to use the thing 2-3" away from your eyes.

The only modern cameras Ive seen which permit this are the Nikon F4 and F5, but the viewfinder itself costs more than a Canon F-1 and the finder, and the camera bodies arent particularly cheap either.

As someone who has to wear glasses *and* contact lenses to see, this isnt a luxury item--but the current cameras make it cost like one.

Sure, Id love auto fill-flash; thats something I hate calculating on the fly, wondering if I got it right in the fraction of a second semi-candid portraits take, but if I cant *see*, I cant get anything.

Peter Tower , April 13, 1999; 01:48 P.M.

I have owned a Canon AE1-Program for a long time now. When I want to think about what I am shooting and composing, I use the AE1. DOP, lock down, etc.. My wife likes her Canon Owl, which has a huge viewfinder and takes very nice pictures. I prefer the heft, control and deliberateness of my AE1. As far as reliability, my camera has never been cleaned, I replaced the focus screen with something more to my liking in 5 minutes 11 years ago. Ive never had a problem of any kind. I shoot roughly 5 rolls of film per month. Thats approximately 1200 rolls with nary a failure. Im keeping it till it dies, then my, now 9 year old, son will learn on it. I doubt that any of the new cameras will be cross generational.

John Lind , April 15, 1999; 01:15 A.M.

What About an Even Older 35mm Rangefinder?

I was quite taken with the article describing your experience with a Nikon F2. Try dropping back yet another 20 years into the mid to late 1950s. Forty years ago, one of the photo journalists cameras of choice was the Contax IIIa Color Dial (or IIa Color Dial without light meter). No mirror or prism, but it does have a superb rangefinder.

The "Color Dial" refers to the shutter speed dial which is coded in red, yellow and black to indicate which flash synchronization would be switched in. The 1/50th second is yellow for X-sync and allows use of electronic strobe. In addition this version also had a standard PC connection. Prior to 1954, the Black Dial only synchronized for flash bulbs and the sync was accomplished with an outboard adapter that plugged into a proprietary connector. Aside from an odd sync method on the Black Dial, the Contax IIa/IIIa BD and CD were still ahead of their time in spite of a basic design dating to the mid-1930s. The original Contax I was created to compete with the very first Leicas. Obviously development and growth of the Zeiss Ikon product line was sunted by WWII and the partitioning of Germany into East and West that became permanent a few years after the war ended.

The Contax was the flagship of the Zeiss Ikon line. It featured a rangefinder integrated into the viewfinder versus separate ones on its primary competition, the Leica screwmount rangefinder. The vertical, metal focal plane shutter allowed a top shutter speed of 1/1250th second and on the CD versions it would X-sync for a strobe flash at 1/50th second. This is old hat now, but it was considered blistering speed 45 years ago. Most of the lesser focal plane cameras today have a top shutter speed of 1/1000th with X-sync at 1/60th. Only top end models are faster. All this was done with a single shutter speed dial compared to two dials on its competition. The pre-war III and post-war IIIa featured a built-in selenium meter. Albeit uncoupled from the shutter speed or lens aperture settings, nearly all the rest of its era had no meter (most notably the Leicas). The rangefinder windows are sufficiently separated that one can easily distinguish between 100-150 feet and infinity while focusing the lens. The viewfinder is small by todays standards, but was considered bright in its time. After 40-plus years many are dirty now making them somewhat dim. If it is clean, it is sufficiently bright to focus accurately under normal indoor lighting. Lenses are bayonet mounted. Changing one is not very difficult and easier than a screwmount.

Film loading was immensely easier compared to the Leica screwmount rangefinders and many other cameras from its era. The entire back and bottom remove as one piece. Film loading is similar to todays manual load cameras except the take-up spool is not permanently attached to the fork that winds it. While this may be a drawback today, it was designed that way to allow photographers who loaded their own loaded film cartridges to use cartridges on both sides of the camera. By being able to remove the spool and use a cartridge on the takeup side, you could unload film for processing partway through a roll, replace the takeup cartridge with another and continue shooting. This wasted less film for those who had loaded the supply cartridge with a long roll and needed to immediately process images.

What Do You Get with a World-Class Professional Rangefinder from the Mid-1950s?

a. Superb world-class lens(es). The standard lens found on most is a coated (post-war) Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar with seven elements in three groups. Still a world-class lens, it is razor sharp in resolution, has excellent contrast, and is noted for its flat field.

b. Mechanical shutter and self-timer (with no less than three timing positions), and on the IIIa a selenium meter. NO BATTERIES REQUIRED. This means you never have to worry about the dreaded shutter lockup when youre shooting in sub-zero weather and your batteries poop out.

c. The viewfinder does not go black when you press the shutter release. This is helpful when panning to capture a race car going by 180 MPH and other action photography. You can see your subject before, during, and after taking the photograph. Being able to follow through and stay with a fast-moving subject with an SLR when the viewfinder goes blank for 1/60th second is not an easy task. I find this much easier with a rangefinder.

d. The rangefinder does not care how fast or slow the lens is mounted on the camera. This means you do not have the SLR problem with split-images and micro-prisms going black with slower lenses. You can quickly adjust the focus turning the lens itself and fine tune if you want to (and have time to) using a wheel near the shutter release (all but the longest telephotos engage this wheel). There is also an infinity lock missing on most modern cameras.

e. The focus helical is on the camera body, not the lens. What does this mean? Your lens is better sealed against crudmium showing up inside the lens. A lens that has been cared for and not abused will be cleaner and clearer on the inside than some of the ten year old manual SLR lenses considered to be in 9++ condition.

f. The body is built like a tank. There is nothing flimsy about it. The body and caps are heavy gauge over a massive die cast frame. No fake leatherette either. This has the real McCoy and if not abused will last longer than the man-made stuff. Foam seals cannot rot after 20 years because there arent any. Not that someone should bounce a camera around unnecessarily, its sturdiness will easily survive minor bumps and jolts and is less likely to take a visible dent.

g. You get to experience a little of what professional 35mm photography was like 40, 50, 60 and nearly 70 years ago, before the Japanese SLRs (notably Nikon) took the professional 35mm market away from the Germans. You must know more about the science of light and capturing it on a photograph as everything is manual operation. *You* make all the decisions about focus, shutter speed and aperture. If you like to blame your camera for the poor shots, then one of these is not for you. If you like the comfort of knowing you will never encounter an odd depth of field or lighting situation that will drive a pre-programmed microprocessor into the wrong settings, then its a real benefit. Then again, I believe one of the great secrets of better photography is turning all the automatic stuff off.

What Dont You Get?

a. You dont have a huge battery of interchangeable lenses to choose from; there arent any super long telephotos or zoom lenses. The telephotos are slower than the more expensive ones for a modern SLR, but still as fast, or faster than the cheap ones. Finding ones in excellent user condition other than standard lenses can be difficult also. For other than standard lenses you need to use a separate viewfinder on an accessory mount. Nothing but primes also means you get to use your feet instead of a zoom to frame a subject.

b. Old rangefinders have knob winders and knob rewind instead of levers and cranks. This takes a bit longer. There is no such thing as auto-wind or auto-rewind. However, there is a long-lost technique of two-handed winding that can advance to the next frame quickly using two twists if youre willing to pull the camera away from your face. If youre not, you can wind the Contax with one hand while looking through the viewfinder with the thumb and forefinger. It just takes a little longer. You also have to remember to reset the film counter when loading the film. Its easy and fast, but you do have to remember.

c. These cameras are not light. All the sturdiness without the benefit of petroleum-based man-made materials (a.k.a. plastic) means they weigh more, but only perhaps twice as much as a modern SLR. If thats a consideration, then look elsewhere. However, remember when you bolt that 9x one-lens-does-all-focal-lengths zoom onto your SLR, you will undoubtedly be back up to the weight of an old rangefinder with a prime. The balance on the SLR will shift to out in front of the body requiring you to hold it by the lens and you wont be as steady for that 1/30th second shot.

d. One of the few things missing on the Contax IIa and IIIa is parallax correction found on some current rangefinders and older accessory viewfinders for other older cameras. You must remember with close subjects (closer than about 10 feet) that you are *not* looking through the lens. You are looking a couple inches away from the lens. This means you need to remember to compensate for this when photographing close subjects. It is a particular problem, but not wholly insurmountable, for macro-photography using close-up lenses.

e. You can run into more scrutiny going through airport security checkpoints. The guards are the best money can buy at not much above minimum wage level. Few have ever seen these old cameras and some have been known to call for extra help to give very old cameras a thorough examination. Ultimately pointing out it *is* a camera by virtue of lens, viewfinder and shutter release will get you through, but I take mine through without film loaded so it can be opened to prove nothing nasty is hidden inside. Just remember to be nice about it and be patient. They do *not* have to let you through and have the long arm of the law to back that up.

f. Im certain given enough time someone somewhere will think up one or more items to more than fill this paragraph.

I consider my Contax IIIa CD a phenomenal camera. Do I use it for everything? No, I have a MF aperture priority (with manual exposure mode also) electronic shuttered SLR and a number of lenses for it. I do use the old Contax regularly though. It produces photographs technically as good (focus, resolution and contrast) as the best lenses for the SLR which is very nearly professional class. If I could get just as world-class with subject and composition then it would be a wicked combination. The problem is me, not any limitations of the old Contax, but Im learning and getting better with each roll.

-- John

Jeff Jonsson , April 22, 1999; 04:41 P.M.

No one has mentioned the Pentax ME and A series cameras on this page. I have used a Pentax ME Super for 13 years, and have loved it. It is an extremely compact unit, compatible with all Pentax K mount lenses. It has manual and aperture-priority exposure modes, and flash sync at 1/125th. It has a coupling for a winder, and the Winder ME II which is still widely available will drive it at 2fps.

I recently picked up a used Pentax Super Program body, or Super A as it is alternately known, for only $160 on eBay. It has a few more features than the ME Super, adding shutter priority and full program exposure modes, as well as DOF preview, and TTL flash metering with Pentax T series compatible flash units. It is also compatible with all K mount lenses, but needs the K/A mount lenses to operate in shutter priority or program modes. It also uses the Winder ME II, or can use the faster Motor Drive A.

Both cameras are extremely well built, using metal frame components throughout, and the leaf shutters both go up to 1/2000th. Both have 1/125x flash sync, and Bulb modes. As far as I can tell though, only the ME Super will fire the shutter in bulb mode without battery power. ME Super Bodies can always be found on eBay for ~$130 and Super Program, and Program Plus, bodies are frequently found for ~$160.

At any rate, both of these cameras are fairly inexpensive in the used market, and the range of lenses and accessories for each is extensive and affordable. Pentax will never enjoy the cachet of Canon or Nikon, but for my money, they are up to the challenge of any serious amateur, and even some professional work.

Nathan Kornievsky , April 27, 1999; 10:44 A.M.

Although The K1000 is a great camera, My first in fact I wouldnt reccomend it to even a modest student. The camera is rugged and a great buy, but the available lenses stink, if you plan never to buy any lenses other than a 50, buy a used nikon. for the price of a new K1000 your 70s era lenses will fit on the snazzy new bodies, and if you really want a AF system you can buy new AF lenses first use them on your manual machine until that new fangled F something or another comes out.

Mark Zanzig , April 28, 1999; 07:56 A.M.

Last year I had some spare time to fill, so I reactivated my interest in photography, digging up my old Canon AE1-P from 1982 with its Canon FD 2.8/28 lens. The results were great (with 100 ASA slide film) and encouraged me to spend some money on two further lenses: a FD 1.4/50 und the legendary FD 4/70-210, both original Canon equipment, condition like new. The results were equally impressive: True colours, crispy sharpness, full control.

These days I found a reliable source for used bodies in Munich/Germany ("Sauter" near Stachus, for those of you who are in Munich). I will go and get a second AE1-P body so I can use two films at the same time.

All I can say is that I really do not care about those modern cameras, as I could always take the pictures I wanted using that "old" manual camera. I must admit that I never tried a modern camera, though. I simply cannot imagine what I would win using that new stuff.

Just my $0.02.

Jeremiah Lee , May 15, 1999; 07:14 A.M.

One footnote regarding the use of new Nikon lens on the F2 series cameras. I purchased a 180mm/f2.8 EDIF recently and was assured by the dealer (B&H) of its compatibility with my F2. When I received the lens in Switzerland, it was a royal pain to have the small metal shoe intalled on the lens in order to use the meter on the finder. The Nikon distributer here wanted $30.0 ca. to do it. Because of the cost effective and not too precisely molded plastic aperture ring used on this new ``professional nikon lens, I had to make two trips to the distributer to get it done. They told me that they spend hours trying to fit the metal shoe on, but it did not work with the cameras mechanism that sets the lens aperture on the light meter. They finally figured out the rings dimension is off and had to replaced. I find it misleading to use the term compatible in describing the relationship between new nikon lens and their old bodies.

Dave Culver , May 19, 1999; 08:12 P.M.

Previous comment:

"First of all, I am a Nikon fan. I own a Nikon F90 and F601 and a Nikkormat FTn, along with lenses ranging from the 200/4 from 1963 to the AF 28/2.8D from 1994. I use all this equipment with varying degrees of regularity."

I used my Olympus OM-1n and OM-2n with varying degrees of regularity until I discovered Metamucil. Now I use them both with very consistent regularity.

Anyway, I used both OM cameras every day for nearly five years while I was working as the staff photographer for a small magazine publisher. Most of my work was in the studio doing small b&w product shots. I also used medium format (Mamiya 645) and large format (Sinar F) in the studio for color cover photographs. My workhorse lenses for the OMs are a Tokina AT-X 35-70 f2.8 and a Tokina AT-X 80-200 SD f2.8. To the scoffers I must say that the Tokina lenses are optically excellent and nearly bullet proof with all metal bodies. However, theyre big and heavy (as one would expect from a constant aperture zoom) so it is very helpful to mount a winder or motor drive on the diminutive OM bodies in order to hang on when these lenses are attached.

I have shot many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of rolls of film through my equipment. I cant recall missing a shot because the film wasnt loaded properly, the subject was out of focus, or the center-weighted metering was off. In other words, I dont believe an auto-everything camera would have yielded more or better photographs.

My only complaints about the Olympus OM cameras are: (1) Now that I wear glasses I cant see everything in the viewfinder without shifting my eye around, (2) the OM-1n uses the discontinued 1.35v mercury oxide battery, so Im faced with replacing a zinc/air battery every few months or buying an "adaptor" for a 1.5v MS76 battery, and (3) having to frequently replace the plastic hot shoes at $30 each because they crack and fail under the weight of my Vivitar 283 and Sunpack 383 electronic flashes.

I have been tempted a couple of times to trade in my Olypus equipment for an auto-everything EOS or Nikon F series, but Ive always talked myself out of it.

Joe Toole , May 24, 1999; 07:38 A.M.

Photographers, both amateur and pro love to talk about their gear. We are always searching out new information to help us take better pictures, or to further our understanding of the equipment that we already own. Unfortunately, with the myriad choices available, seemingly endless options, and high prices for new (and used) quality equipment, the decisions that we make must be well thought out. Heres where the trouble starts. What the photographer needs to do, is to take a long hard inward look at what he or she really wants to shoot, and to try to choose the best method from getting from point "a" to "b". Sure, were proud of our equipment, and will expound the virtues of our individual systems, but what too many of us are forgetting is that we all have different needs. Saying that one system is better than another is kind of redundant when one doesnt know what is expected of it. You wouldnt take a manual SLR with a 50mm lens out to shoot birds with (although Im sure Ill hear from somebody who does), expecting to be able to fill your frame every time. Then again, you wouldnt expect your F5 to........... well, what cant they do? The point Im trying to make here is that great photos can be made on all kinds of cameras,-manual, and auto everything. Me? Ive been through both types, of various brands, and have finally settled on an old Nikon F3. Its sort of half way between the old and the new. I like to photograph moving freight trains, and to be able to freeze the action, while still retaining as much depth of field as possible. Sure, an F5 with really fast prime lenses would be great, but I dont have that kind of dough to shell out. And besides I ENJOY taking pictures and thinking about all the variables of available light, depth of field, shutter speed etc. For me, taking the picture, is as equally as entertaining as viewing the final results. Improvising new ways to get the most out of my system is a lot of fun, and I hope is teaching me to take better pictures. Gathering as much imformation as possible will undoubtably make you a better photographer, as will checking out other systems. Swap gear with a friend with a week, and see what kind of shots you get working with a different system. Go out and buy a couple of those cheap disposable cameras, where all you can control is composition.... You might surprise yourself!

Timothy Breihan , June 03, 1999; 03:00 P.M.

I think that the best lens Nikon has ever made is the 180/2.8. This is truly a "do-it-all" lens. I find that it replaces the 135/2.8 and the 200/4 that I was using previously because it combines the best features of both. It is very sharp and, when stopped down to f/4 or 5.6, is very contrasty as well. (The newer ED model performs better wide open, but is also considerably more expensive.) This lens is superb for regular telephoto work and also makes a great portrait lens. It is easy to hold, though somewhat heavy, and used ones can usually be purchased for obscenely little amounts of money.

Andrew Moore , June 16, 1999; 01:00 P.M.

I discovered an advantage of some of the older SLRs (or is it a disadvantage of the newer ones?) when trying out a new model. The new camera, like many of them now, lets you simply lay out the leader and close the back, without wedging the leader into a slot first. When you close the back, the camera automatically catches the leader and winds the film to the first frame.

This is fine for flat leaders. But it doesnt work so well when the leader has been reshaped such as when you partially expose a roll and rewind it to change film types. The slight curl in the leader was enough to interfere with closing the door on the body. It wouldnt stay flat enough, and if forced, it would tend to fold back on itself (cant imagine what the auto-loader would do in that situation!).

The older manual system has never failed me here. It would be nice if the newer systems at least gave you the *option* of wedging the leader into a slot. (but I think Id still prefer the manual loading)

Chuck Fry , June 16, 1999; 01:12 P.M.

Im a Canon FD fan. I started with an AE-1 Program in 1984, and graduated to a (then-new) T90 in 1986. I sold the original AE-1P, cycled through a T70, bought another AE-1P (all between 1987 and 1990!), am in the process of acquiring another T90, and at some point will probably grab a New F-1 and/or A-1. Canons best FD lenses were as good as anyones. And Ive never heard anyone complain about the longevity of Canon FD gear.

IMHO the T90 is the best of both worlds, combining appropriate automation, manual control, and intuitive ergonomics. It has more in common with the EOS series than the T or A series, and was ahead of its time in a number of respects: 1/4000 max shutter speed, 4.5 frames/sec winder built in, offers multi-spot metering (which the EOS-3 only recently reintroduced!), etc. The 300TL dedicated flash lets you do TTL auto-exposure with bounce flash, among other things. But you can also use it as a fully manual camera (except for film wind). Even when automated to the limit, the T90 always tells you what its doing.

Despite paranoia about running out of batteries in the middle of a shoot, I have never had this problem. And Ive been known to run through 20 rolls of film in a weekend. If I do run out, AA batteries are available everywhere.

Aside from weight and bulk, the T90s biggest problem is that its an orphan, and I dont know how long I will be able to get it serviced. But given that Ive owned mine since new, and it has not needed service to date, its hard to say if that is a real problem.

The only other downsides are that its a little noisy, theres no PC connector for external flash (just the hot shoe), and the remote control is an oddball electrical connector, with no provision for a traditional cable release.

Im as happy with my T90 today as I was the day I first digested the owners manual, if not more so. It is an excellent camera for most any situation that doesnt require a smaller, lighter, quieter camera. In those situations, the AE-1P or a point-and-shoot fill the bill.

As for the other T-series cameras, frankly the T50 is oversimplified, offering little or no manual control, the T80 was an orphan autofocus camera that was overshadowed by the Minolta Maxxum (Dymax) series, and while the T70 was a competent, compact model, I prefer the A-series cameras to it.

The A-series was a towering achievement in its day, and still offers several excellent choices for folks who prefer a manual camera, or one with modest automation. In my opinion, the A-series was so outstanding that it overshadowed the T-series, with the sole exception of the T90.

Sidney Tam , June 17, 1999; 11:50 A.M.

I used Nikon since 1970, my first one of course, F with 50mm f1.4, then, I grew my nikon series to F2, F3, F4 and most recently F5. I still have all nikon and lens..... But I switched to Leica 4 years ago started with R6.2 with 180mm APO f3.4. I do agreed that nikon 180mm f2.8 is the best len in nikon series in term of price / performance. However, after I used leica. I dropped my old 20 years friend,nikon. Does anyone try to enlarge your 135mm negative or slide to 80" without losing the contrast and sharpness. Other than the skill you have, you need to use leica. This is my answer.

Ellard Gann , June 17, 1999; 06:31 P.M.

I bought a black Canon FTBn new in 1973 and had it serviced for the first time this year. I am so happy with it that I bought a second used near mint chrome one from the shop that serviced my black one. I have and have had other cameras over the years including a Nikon S that I picked up used around 1962 for $39.00 as a knockaround camera to "save" my good one, and it too has been serviced for the first time this year. I have 3 primes and a 70-200 Tamaron for the Canons and just the 50 f2 collapsible on the Nikon. All I can say for these old jewels is that they are a delight to have and use. I also have a Konica Hexar Silver that is with me ALL the time for those "grabshots" we all dream of and it too is a delight but when the others are set up beforehand they are as quick or quicker in the case of the Nikon.

Michael E. Berube , June 21, 1999; 11:06 A.M.

I like this article and prefer manual cameras myself. I have several SRT 102 Minoltas (1973) and an XE-5 Minolta (designed in partnership with Lieca in 1976.)Several folks have mentioned that the batteries for the SRTs cannot be found any longer as Mercury Batteries are banned. I wanted to mention that if the meter is important to you, it is a simple matter for most good repair shops to recalibrate the match needle to use the newer non-banned non-mercury button batteries. The folks I use (Apex Photo in Amherst, NH) recalibrate the meter as part of the Clean Lube and Adjustment process on an SRT. For about $150 CLA you get a practically new workhorse.

No need to give up on these venerable (and affordable) tools just because we also want to take care of the environment. They prove yet again very adaptible to the situation.

-Michael E. Berube

Thomas Hofhuis , June 24, 1999; 12:04 A.M.

You know, the one most basic thing that really controls the quality and nature of the pic is the person behind the camera. If you are a real photographer, you can use the different characteristics of any camera to get what you want; As long as you know the camera well enough.:)

J Viray , June 26, 1999; 03:16 A.M.

Another plus. About a week ago, I thought Id do some low light photography. So I arrogantly walk into a bar with my A2e (with VG-10 grip to impress) and my 14mm 2.8 (with red ring no less). It got banged up. Had I just brought an ugly 3 pound FD mount camera I would be fine. I dont care if that camera gets banged. It would probably do more of the banging. But my precious 14mm gone. I didnt even get any shots. Thats what REALLY pisses me off.

James D. Richardson , July 10, 1999; 09:48 P.M.

I recommend that any beginning photographer spend a few years with an old manual SLR and a handheld light meter. I still prefer them after using them for 40 years. In my opinion, you will learn to be a much better photographer because you will be thinking about what you are doing and why youre doing it. There are very few shots over the years where I would have had any real advantage with more modern, automated equipment. The second thing I would say to a beginner is to soon move into taking slides. This will force you to be more precise in your exposure measurement, because slide film is less forgiving as a rule than print film. Also, its a real joy to see your work on a large screen with details that youd otherwise miss...James D. Richardson

Jurgen van der Pol , July 11, 1999; 06:30 P.M.

Indeed, an old SLR system. Just adding to the colour here: after only just 20 (twenty) years of service, my trusty Yashica FR1 with a Yashica DSB f1.9/50mm lens and Contax RTS winder (dont you just love the grip?) is developing film winding problems: once in a while it skips a picture giving me unexpected double exposures... (with the winder off, I darent use that one anymore) Hmph. Should I go back to the shop and complain?

A Yashica FR1? Its a classic (sic) black all-metal (use it for anything including banging in nails and stopping cars on slopes from rolling backwards) all-manual. Was marketed as a low-end option for those that could not afford the Contax RTS. The FR1 does have (pah, such luxury!) auto-exposure time setting to go with the selected aperture if needs be, the meter driven by a small battery that is hugely expensive and lasts 5 years. On manual exposure this nice little mechanical lip with an M on it pops up in the viewfinder. Viewfinder shows the exposure needle and a mechanical aperture-indicator. Has that holder at the back to place the top of your film box in to remind you whats in there when the ASA wheel slips. Does -1/4, -1/2, +2 and +4 stops through a separate ring. Has a depth-of-focus button (which I thoroughly -love-). The good thing is that this body takes those wonderfull Carl Zeiss T* lenses for the Contax cameras. The bad thing is I somehow never got around buying them... Never stops me from drooling over the f1.4/85mm or f2/100mm, though, which are still outrageously expensive even 2nd-hand. However, I never use anything but the standard (all-metal) f1.9/50mm. The Contax RTS winder sits there for grips only now with the film trasport problem, gives it a nice balance. Maybe I tore the winding mechanism using the winder in the first place, shaving off another 10 years of service, who knows?

This camera taught me all I know on photography which, granted, is not much being an amateur. The good old days with Ilfords HP-5 and self-development in the closet... However, it did teach me the basics and what you need to get a good picture under all circumstances (have light, will photo). When I compare this to a friend whose got the whole Canon EOS IIE (the amazing eyeball-tracking thing) shabang to begin photography with, hes still RTFM-ing how to use this-and-that feature to take such-and-such picture when Ive shot 10 pictures on the topic. And, he talks a lot on the thingamajigs features, but hasnt grasped the basics of exposure/aperture etc fully (sorry, Willem). Neither are all those features used (bloatware). Seems to me, you either take the P&S way and never fail to enjoy yourself, or learn the finer points using an old manual SLR, a fixed focus lens and a lot of film. Here I am talking like an old geezer, and that at 34!

Now, for REALLY old cameras, Id consider my grandpas early-1930s Contax. I have one including an f2/50mm Sonnar, an f4/135mm Sonnar and an f8/28mm Tessar and a whole paraphernalia of nice little gadgets in a nice leather box. Pity the exposure setting wheel has worn, rendering the body almost useless. Repairs are worth the price of a nice modern wozzitbangunwhistledoanyway-SLR.

Sigh. I know I need a new camera in a while. I know tech is the way and Im all for it. I wholeheartedly agree with the bit on on P&Ss overtaking SLRs pretty soon: tech makes these things into genuine wonders-for-the-masses (next well see an AF P&S with image stabiliser and an optional digital hookup that interfaces your Psion through your message watch?) But I somehow feel to be stuck with the simplicty of a manual SLR. Maybe now I go and buy that RTS... Or a G2?

Choices, choices...

Cheers from The Netherlands, Jurgen.

ken kassin , July 12, 1999; 06:17 A.M.

3 years ago , pure coincidence, my nikon fm and my sons new cannon eos, had battery failure. his was a short which was repaired, mine was stupidity, i forgot to check for backup batteries and had left the md 11 drive on which drains the battery. while i ended up with 5 rolls from the day including a numbr of 8 x 10s for my parents walls he had noting.

the old, if you will, cameras, and i still use my 25 plus year old nikon f, nikkormat ftn, and yashicamat 124 once you learn the basics, you can alway shoot. with the electronic ones, you never seem to learn the basics in photography and spend more time playing with dials than anything else to be creative. with the old mechanical style, it takes a bit longer under normal conditions, but under adverse, conditions you cant top them. I also own an elan IIe, which is wonderful, but i always bring a backup just in case.

Maxx Hogan , August 01, 1999; 06:46 P.M.

I use the Minolta MC/MD system. It has some great lenses, and most of the bodies are built very well. Lenses can be bought for VERY low prices (such as a 50/1.7 for around $25) and are great optically. MC lenses are cheaper than MD lenses (usually) because they do not engage the program features of the more modern cameras. I own the Minolta X-70 (a European, I think, model of the XG-M).

Roger C. Parker , August 02, 1999; 12:42 A.M.

Last year I purchased a Nikon F5 which Ive been generally happy with, but find I leave at home more than I take it with me. Its size is just too big for comfort. Its too heavy and the expensive leather case that Nikon sells for it is an unprotectve, ergonomic nightmare, complete with zippers and snaps.

Yesterday, I purchased a Nikon FM2 (black) and am overjoyed with the beauty, simplicity and ease of use. More important, I was extremely pleased with the quality of the first pictures I took with it. Its a very easy came to live with. I can take it with me anywhere. I consider it a "poor mans Leica" with SLR framing and composition.

Just like with my old Hasselblad, with the FM2, I found I concentrated more on framing and taking the picture rather than snapping away. Settings didnt change when I moved a little bit. The diode metering was far less intrusive than I anticipated. The FM2 is small enough and light enough to go everywhere with me. If it continues to please, Ill trade it in for another (one black and white, one color) and a Hasselblad XPan.

It looks like the only thing that is sacrificed is automatic compensation for fill flash. Plus automatic low-light extended time exposure capabilities, i.e. moonlight photographs that the F5 flawlessly handled.

Roger C. Parker

Paul Darman , August 16, 1999; 12:23 A.M.

In 1997, I took a work-related trip to Asia and Athens. I am physically challenged, and wanted something easy to carry but better than an f/12 P&S zoom-matic. I was also afraid that expensive-looking gear would get stolen out of taxis or hotels. So I brought an OM-1 MD, a 24mm Zuiko, and a 75-150mm Zuiko zoom. The OM-1 was well worn and dinged, but functions perfectly. Total value of all the stuff was maybe $300.

After crawling up 550 stairs with a tour group to the top of the Acropolisp, we are all snapping away. Guy next to me has EOS of some kind, and made a snippy comment about my 30 year old camera. I replied tongue-in-cheek that since the Acropolis has not moved in 3000 years, I did not see the need for AF.

After two more frames his camera stopped whirring, and he began cursing because his battery died. They do not sell CR123as on top of the Acropolis. It was a long way back down and he was very annoyed. Obviously, he could have planned better and taken some extra batteries, but there is a lesson there.

OM-1 was great choice. At night, I got some great shots of the illuminated Acropolis from my hotel balcony by bracketing around 8 seconds and f 5.6 with agfa 50, and this would not be possible with a P&S. Camera fell out of a tuk-tuk (cab) in Bangkok, landed on its prism (which got dinged), but kept working. After the trip I went out and bought an Old Nikon F and FA, and recently a Canon FTB. Whichever brand people like, it really does not matter: all of them are superb blends of mechanical, optical and electrical engineering and a joy to use. Especially when your subject has not moved in 3000 years.

Paul Darman (

Gerald Donaldson , August 18, 1999; 01:49 P.M.

I scanned the submissions, but failed to see anyone note another chronic problem with Nikon F2s, i.e., the battery compartments which, with age, almost always begin to loosen and cause battery contact failure for driving the meter. Precision Camera in Chicopee, Mass. noted that this was a very common problem with F2s and, unfortunately, is very expensive to fix and, to boot, can only be achieved by pirating the entire compartment from another, less-used F2. Also, the repair is timeconsuming and fairly complicated. My 1972 F2 has a loose compartment, I chose not to repair it, and it still functions okay, but it seems inevitable with constant use that the time will come when either the repair will have to be effected or the alternative will be finally to gaze regretfully at this old friends retirement. It has NEVER failed me and exposures with any lens have always been flawless. If this isnt one of the greatest 35mm cameras ever built . . . well, finish this for yourself. BTW, one of the most valuable additions to the basic body I made after only a year of ownership (in 1973) was the extended shutter release button which is a tremendous boost in shutter "feel" and ease of use. These still can be had on the used market. So the bottom line is that "they" will get my F2 when they pry my cold, dead fingers from . . . As an afterword, I also have an early seventies pair of Olympus OM-1 bodies. The shutters have never been recalibrated and they take flawless exposures after 27 years. Also, my 1971 Konica T2 with its 85mm f/1.8 portrait tele also takes flawless pictures. However, do NOT put alkaline batteries into your F2, OM-1, or T2 -- the meters will no longer be accurate. Use silver oxide batteries or Wein Zinc-Air with the adaptor ring.

Charles Mackay , August 21, 1999; 12:15 P.M.

The problem is that the stuff dies, and is not supported by the manufacturers. 30 year old cameras have problems, just like 70 year old people, and they dont get better :-(. I love my OM2 and Nikomat, but nothing is forever. Plus these items cost because of the nostalgia factor. By the time one pays for a CLA on the used F2, one could have had an N90 new. The older Nikons are also very heavy.

Tim Devick , August 22, 1999; 04:36 P.M.

I own a Canon-F1 and a Canon F1n, and have used them for a number of years (I bought them used), and I use Canon FD lenses. These cameras are probably 30 years old, and I love them. I like the solid feel of the cameras. I am not the most careful guy, and these cameras are so rugged that they can withstand a two week vacation with me and still work fine. They can get banged around when I get excited, they have accidently gone "swimming" before, yet they still work fine. So, one of the things I admire about the older cameras is the all-metal construction - they are incredibly durable. I have been looking at some newer auto-everything cameras over the past couple years, and they feel light and they seem to use a lot of plastic. They dont have the same "feel" of the older all-metal cameras like my F1s. I dont have to worry about running down the batteries because there are none (there is a battery for the meter, but I use a manual, incident light meter usually, and it requires no batteries either). These cameras operate simply - theres a shutter speed dial and a depth-of-field preview (mehanical) button. You set the lens exposure manually also. I found that this gave me a lot better understanding of how to shoot photographs and get proper exposure, since I have to do it all myself. There is no computer with 65k stored light settings to choose for me.

That being said, if you want a quick photo of a person or animal that is moving and youre not prepared, forget it. By the time I get everything set and focused, the moment has passed. I usually shoot still objects (landscapes, etc) so this isnt generally a problem for me.

The other problem is that parts for cameras like this are becoming more difficult to find. So far, no problems, but the local dealer has said Canon has stopped making parts for the older cameras so those parts will become harder to find.

Fin Finlay , August 24, 1999; 06:04 P.M.

I enjoyed reading through some of the comments and views of various photographers here, particularly as I am a big fan of manual cameras myself. I have used and owned quite a few auto cameras in the past, but found them to be largely unreliable and unpredictable in the way that they focus. Now I use 2 Nikon Fs as my main cameras, plus a Pentacon 6 (medium format beast). I also occasionally use a Kodak Brownie (seriously) with re-spooled 120 film.

True, with manual cameras, you need to use your brain but this can also force you into taking better pictures.

Ive seen some comments questioning the reliability of some of these old relics. The way I see it is that most of the time, you can pick up an old classic at a good price if you shop around. If you buy a well used one, you can get it cheaper still. This is the way that a friend of mine works. He has a mint F2, and an Old dented Nikkormat as a backup. And whilst on the subject, both of my Nikons have had a great deal of use during their life, with absolutely no reliability problems.

Oh and dont you just hate that shutter lag thing?

Robert Cook , September 03, 1999; 03:50 P.M.

This is a fascinating page. I have an original SRT101 bought used in 1971 and 2 SRT100s (1978). Made of metallic substances known to withstand the punishment I doled out, they bare the scars of many trips up mountains, down canyons, across rivers and motorcycle racing on the Isle of Man and they still work!!. The meters have all died but with todays film a couple of bracket exposures usually works. Unforunately I dont use the cameras very often and my current ability to judge an exposure is sadly lacking . In my youth I vary rarely used the TTL metering except to confirm my suspicions. A couple of years ago I thought a new Minolta body would be useful. So do they work with my old Rokkors and my original Vivitar series 1 70-210????...NO. You need the XYZ outrageously expensive body and also a new set of lenses with dubious optical characteristics. But I like to use two cameras, a wide and a telephoto. That will cost you double the outrageous cost of one outfit, but it will take the photos for you; all you do is press button A or B or whatever. And will Sir be needing a second mortgage for the supply of batteries to run these machines?

However, you can still buy a Minolta X700. I did and am very pleased. I still dont understand or care for all the complexities of the electronics but just let me focus and set the aperture and I can usually get a good shot. The secret to good photographs is the photographer not the equipment. It also helps to understand how to produce a good shot with the right combination of film (FP4 at 3200 ASA: do they still make FP4?), lens, aperture and shutter speed. That doesnt seem possible with fully automatic cameras. And you can use one of the old mechanicals at low shutter speeds if you take a deep breath, brace yourself and press the shutter slowly. The wieght of the old bodies and those huge lens make them much easier to hold steady (inertia) compared to the plastic lightweights of today.

Many years ago I had thought to trade the Minoltas for a Nikon F2 but Im glad I kept the SRTs. Having used old mechanical verions of Pentax, Olympus, Canon and Nikon I can say the Minoltas were ergonomically superior. They will come in very useful for my kids when they do photography courses in High School. They may even learn how to use a hand held meter and how to shoot correct exposures.

Timothy Breihan , September 04, 1999; 07:45 P.M.

Just a clarification on the old Nikon/new Nikon compatibility issue: be mindful of the "AI" status if the camera and lens that you are trying to mate. Non-AI lenses, the oldest, feature a triangular pin on the top of the aperture ring that couples with the meter pine on the cameras prism. Only old Nikon cameras (F2 and earlier) interface in this manner. AI lenses feature a notch cut in the rear of the aperture ring that couples with a small ring that surrounds the bayonet mount. All Nikon manual focus cameras from the FM onward synchronize in this manner. Why is this important? A non-AI lens will not mount on an AI camera because that coupling-pin on the camera will prevent it. The only exception to this fact is on a select number of bodies produced around the time of the AI lenses introduction, including the FM, FE, and certain Nikkoromats. These have coupling pins that fold up to facilitate the mounting of non-AI lenses.

What about new lenses on old cameras? All Nikon manual-focus lenses have non-AI coupling pins on them, which means that any AI manual-focus lens can be mounted on any manual focus body. Some AF lenses also feature this pin, and this can be used on any bony Nikon ever made. AF lenses without this pin can be used on any body, AF or MF, with AI coupling.

All Nikon bodies, including the latest AF, have mechanical aperture-coupling, meaning that any AI lens will fit and stop down properly. Furthermore, all Nikon lenses do in fact have aperture rings. However, the N90s, F5, F100, and all other current AF bodies comunicate metering information electronically, meaning that an N90s with a MF 28/2.8 does not have any metering capability. Therefore, be sure to check about any compatibilty issues and dont assume that everything works with everything else.

Cody Todd , September 06, 1999; 05:18 A.M.

I think it all depends on the photographer as to what camera suits him best. If an old Nikon F works well for you and you never have any problems getting the shots you want that great. If you like playing with all the gadgets on the new SLRs then use one. As for myself I started out with a couple of Pentax cameras. The ME and MX, both with winders. They suited my needs at the time and really helped me learn the fundamentals of photography. I just recently upgraded to a Nikon F70. I found that the camera fit well in my hand and the functions easy to use. Its got everything I will ever need or want in a camera(manual and auto everything) and will hopefully give me years of service. It is also compatible with all of the new lenses and accessories from Nikon as well as most of the older lens which gives me the ability to expand and adapt my system to my needs.

One last note. The new SLRs may have a lot of bells and whistles but at least they still use film! Down with digital!

Timothy Breihan , September 07, 1999; 08:14 P.M.

A rather belated comment on Piaw Nas posting regarding the inferiority of manual-focus SLRs; first of all, if you run out of batteries in the middle of a shoot, you are an incompetent moron. Two reasons for this; ALWAYS carry spare batteries. If this is too hard for you to remember, then carry a light meter. I would argue that any photograher on an important assignment (i.e. one in which the opertunities are irreplacable) should carry a light meter "just in case." The rest of Nas comments simply help to reinforce my belief that photographers are getting lazy. I find it embarassing to hear someone say that it is too hard to load film into a manual-focus camera.

richard newton , September 09, 1999; 12:58 P.M.

Have used all sorts of cameras since 1966 and am presently using Contax for the Zeiss lenses. Just received a mint F2 in trade and it was like picking up an old friend. The size, weight, and feel of the camera is incredible (going back to my youth perhaps). I plan on using the F2 as my primary camera and may sell my Contax equipment. Richard Newton

Rich Jacobs , September 13, 1999; 05:03 P.M.

Having started taking pictures about 1970, its good to see an iron horse revisisted. I have and still use my plain jane F2, with a Nikkor 50/1.4 and a 35/2. The hell with the new zooms that need so much corective glass and coatings the old lenses were designed to give the best possible images. You said the F2A didnt have a hot shoe, actually the shoe was made as part of the frame and placed over the rewind to give proper lens to flash distance. Having the shoe as part of the frame also meant that no matter how you twist or turn the camera the chances of damaging the camera were greatly reduced. To be more blunt, youd have to bust the flash before anything happened to the box. By the way you forgot Pentax, at one time they actually made some of the best lenses. If anyone is looking for older equipment on the cheap that delivers execllent images, Nikon is still pricey, try a Pentax Spotmatic with Takumar lenses. Almost as good as Nikon, but you can do a body and some lenses for a few hundred.

Brian Legere , September 17, 1999; 10:33 P.M.

I have owned an older Nikon FM and numerous old TLRs.The older cameras have a great mechanical feel and simplicity which is beautiful. I sold my FM and bought a F90.The things I truely miss with the F90 are: multiple exposures,and the ability to lock up the mirror with the self timer.Today I bought a mint(maybe never used)nikormat FTN. for $120.This camera has a mirror lock up and dof preview,the meter works and it will take any of my lenses.The construction is something to be hold.My next purchase will be an Fm2 also a manual camera. Happy shooting.Brian.

Dave Cruikshank , September 23, 1999; 03:30 A.M.

Having had my Nikon 8008 break down twice this month with the simple problem of not being able to advance the film ( very frustrating), I will review this thread for sage advice on a manual backup. For now I have fell back to my first real camera my old reliable Minolta SRT-101. I gave it to my daughter, but took it back when the 8008 started to act up. Since I already own both a Minolta body and the Nikon one solution I am looking at is a collection of Tamron lenses with adaptall mounts. I would like to hear from anyone about which of these manual lenses are sharp, and which ones to stay away from. Also Im not sure why I feel lost without my auto Nikon. In and out of my studio I shoot all day long with manual medium format equipment Mamiya and Bronica and rely heavily on my Seikonic meter with great results. Just spoiled by the Nikon I guess. Thanks, Dave

Mike Johnston , September 28, 1999; 09:52 P.M.

This is a great thread and Ive really enjoyed reading a lot of these comments. Just my two cents: I think that photographs in general and photojournalism in particular are getting worse as the cameras get more automated and complicated (and as color becomes more prevalent. Walker Evans: "Color is vulgar.") This is a generalization and it is of course subject to exceptions. However, it is a comment based on looking at a huge number of photographs and many photographers work--studying archives, historical societies, museum collections, even masses of personal snapshots.

I used to make my students--purely as an exercise--clip out one short strip of film and load it in their 35mm camera, then go cover an event. They got (guess what) one shot. You talk about your eye openers...this exercise changed a lot of peoples outlook in a hurry. And yet it _literally_ isnt even very far from the old boys who used to go out to cover a news story with a Speed Graphic and three film holders.

AF cameras arent intrinsically bad. But mastery of the camera is what counts. Sometimes when you have to work a little harder at something, you do a little better. (Gee.) Incidentally, today at the office I received one of the best books of 35mm photography Ive seen in an awful long time...its called _Ground Time_ and its by a guy named Kent Reno. Look for it on Hes really just a down-to-earth photo guy like all of us, but hes really got the right stuff. Its as good as the old days. Highly recommended.

--Mike Johnston, _PHOTO Techniques_ magazine

Paul Rowan , September 30, 1999; 12:16 A.M.

In praise of the x700. My father taught me how to take pictures with some forerunner, and my wifes father taught her same on a similar manual minolta. At one point we took one of those non-credit photog courses. First assignment was "red." We each came up with attn-grabbing photos. I cut the word "Coke" out of several aluminum cans, laid them in a brown tupperware thing with a quarter inch of Coke. Something about the aluminum, red, and bubbles grabbed the attn of our classmates as they tried to figure out how to work the computers resting in their cameras. And each computer is different, so I admire the instructors ability to program and teach about so many. Meanwhile...with the basics, I can use any manual slr. At a wedding a few years back, the photographer/father-of-the-bride was having that traditional dance with his daughter. Imagine his pleasure when, upon developing the film, he found a well composed, well exposed image of this moment. I saw his camera, recognized that the manual camera (I dont know which kind) worked the same as mine, and shot a few frames. Would you attempt this with one of those computers? I shoot action now mostly--supposedly the forte of af/computer cameras. My ultimate frisbee teammates always shower compliments on me when I show my photos, captured with the x700 (any photos at with a "rowan" credit, and many others, are by me or my wife). Yes it is the photographer behind the lens. And I agree with those who have noted that the "features" get in the way of the photography.

Nick R , October 04, 1999; 10:48 P.M.

Just a somewhat belated response to a point by Timothy Breihan, who claimed that manual focus lenses on the newer Nikons means loss of metering capability, which is false. AI Manual Focus lenses work fine with my N90s, you get Center Weighted Metering, Spot Metering and Aperutre Priority operation. Matrix metering is lost, but that is hardly all metering.

Luis Pinar , October 21, 1999; 09:00 A.M.

After doing the mistake of buying two cheap zooms, I finally decided to restrict myself to a minimal equipment for travel - Pentax MX body, 28/2.8, 50/1.4 & 120/2.8 lenses (all 49 mm), polarizer, lenshood, tripod, cable release. Thats enough for 95% of the photos I would want to take. If I need to go really light, I carry only the MX body with 40/2.8 lens or an Olympus Stylus Epic, plus table top tripod. Where I live, a Nikon or Canon last generation body with 3 top quality lenses costs about 1 1/2 years salaries. For my old equipment, though it may be "junk" for some snobs standards, I paid only about 1 1/2 months salaries. Its fun to use and image quality is as good as any 35 mm Ive seen so far. By the way, did you notice how Pentax equipment did in the poll?

Kent Liles , October 22, 1999; 10:21 P.M.

Everybody seems to have forgotten one important thing. You can use BLACK&WHIT film in your old slr. the depth and contrast are un-believeable!!I still use my old AE-1, but added Tokin 35 to 105 lens , it seems to be the perfect combo.I too, have a Olympus full auto but its not as mnch fun to shoot.

Paul St.Pierre , October 24, 1999; 03:41 P.M.

Glad I found this thread! I got here by chance after looking for information on just what an "AI" lens was. Ive owned Nikkormat since 74 but became detached from it after I found it needed to be resealed. Well after 10 years...Im getting it done because the equipment out there just dosent measure up to the old Nikkormat. Im selling a 135 Nikkor Q- f/2.8 which I received from a friend and Ive no idea what the value is but after reading these comments...I may just keep it. Its NAI and I love the lens but just couldnt use it until now. Thought Id sell the lens to help cover the cost of the body repair, now Im not so sure. My first camera was the Hanimex Pracktica Super TL and Ive been using nothing but my Nikkormat since 74. Glad I decided to invest the funds intended for a new model on an old friend. As far as mounts go... back in the old days... (you get the point). Thanks for the education.

Mike R , October 30, 1999; 03:06 P.M.

I bought a Nikon F2AS new back in 1979, and it still functions beautifully today, even despite a heartstopping crash onto some rocks while sitting atop a tripod a couple of years ago. The drop caused a hairline crack in the pentaprism (which couldnt be fixed) and damaged the back, which I had repaired. Im quite sure few other cameras would have survived such a fall. I also own a 6006, which I like but find myself using less as time goes on. Ive gone back to the F2AS for a lot of my landscape work to take advantage of its mirror lock up, something I dont get with the 6006. Most of all, however, there is the feel of precision and control that you just dont get with todays do-everything-for-you cameras. I think that this translated into a special bond between the camera and the photographer. At the same time, Im sure there were those saying these same basic words back in the 70s, about the cameras of the generation before. And 20 years from now, we will be talking about how much better it was when cameras used film and how solid those cameras were built. So is the price of progress.

Richard Jepsen , December 09, 1999; 07:53 P.M.

Why I love my SR-T 101. The match needle display, impossible to get confused. The mirror lockup, not available on many 1970s small bodied SLRs. The large viewfinder allows me to see the entire frame when wearing glasses which only lower mag finders like the Nikon F3 offer. The feel of the leather case attach to the body. The 24oz of metal, much lighter than current pro cameras but providing a solid shooting platform. The new screen upgrade which makes my 30 yr old viewfinder as bright as a XE-7. The incredible value priced optics which match any glass from the 80s and provide Leica quality out-of-focus effects. The value priced lenses... the value priced lenses... Oh yes, the incredible MC 58mm f/1.2 optic!

Bud LaMonica , December 13, 1999; 02:51 A.M.

One thing I did not see addressed was the macho-factor, kinda like the old barrel chested guys you see in oil fields who still weld with old Hobart welding machines, you know, the kind with engines that can be found in any number of Ford cars from the same year. The point is, old cameras are cool, and they will continue to be used by people who enjoy being cool, just ask my wife, I carry a Canon A-1 everywhere I go, and chicks constantly start talking to me out of the blue about the camera and about are you a photographer and, also I think plastic looks ugly when it gets scratched and metal looks cool when it gets scratched.

Don West , December 18, 1999; 10:53 A.M.

I wouldnt say that autowinders are useless by any means. Im a Canon FD fan, shooting with an original F-1 and an A-1 as backup (whoever posted that an A-1 costs $180 today may be talking a highly used body. I found a completely mint A-1, didnt look like its ever been used, for $295 about 3 years ago. I was happy to pay that for a mint body to back up my F-1).

Anyway, I know I missed some shots while in Yellowstone 4 or 5 years ago due to not being quite fast enough in shooting, moving the F-1 from my eye, winding the shutter, recomposing, and firing again. Ive since sought out a Motordrive MF for the F-1, and while moderately heavy, its allowed me to get some nice shots of bicycle races I never could have done otherwise (with the camera on a tripod I just panned and fired a dozen shots in a matter of moments). Not going for the full motordrive on the A-1, I nonetheless added an Autowinder A2 to it.

While Id like to try out the modern autofocus gear to see how it feels, shoots, etc., Ive been using FD manual gear for nearly 25 years and would never part with it.

jack goldsmith , December 18, 1999; 10:31 P.M.

at work still using my old prime minolta lenses(now sadly matched up to a made in china x-700) but at home for my own uses my 3 30 year old topcons with an array of prime and older zoom lenses.cant improve on image quality unless i switch formats.the only reason i use newer epquipment is for work demands,if im in no rush(and a good student should never be),you cant beat the older cameras and lenses.

Alasdair Mackintosh , December 23, 1999; 10:25 A.M.

To err is machanical. To fail totally and abruptly without prior warning is electronic.

No doubt I exaggerate somewhat, and no doubt there are members of this forum who have experienced the opposite, but in general it is in the nature of mechanical devices to degrade gracefully, with occasional warning signs, rather than to fail abruptly. (Especially if we are talking about a Nikon F2.)

In this context, I find Phils closing comments a bit odd. When youre out in the field with your F2 I find it unlikely that its going to fail in "some subtle mechanical way that doesnt become apparent until 20 rolls of slides come back from the lab". I suppose its conceivable that the shutter might get so badly out of adjustment that the exposures are all badly wrong, but I have never heard of this happening. (Has anyone?) Theres less to fail mechanically on an old manual Nikkor than on a modern autofocus lens, and if you drop an F2 body it will probably bounce. If not, B&H can just as easily Fedex an FM2 or an F3, and youll be able to use it within 5 seconds of picking it up, even if youve never handled one before.

In the end, though, its a simple matter of personal preference, and I wont argue with anyone who says that they prefer their modern autofocus equipment. (Especially when theyre a better photographer that I am...) But I think that it should be expressed as simply that - a preference.

Tom Thompson , January 06, 2000; 03:32 P.M.

I came across this page while searching for MF links. There are some very interestng comments on using older SLR cameras. I purchased a Nikon F2S and a FM in the mid-1970s. Both cameras were constant companions until 1996 when someone broke into my house and took all the photo gear (bodies, a number of lens, etc). I particularily grieved the loss of my F2S as it accompanied me on many parachute jumps, was used in -20 degree weather for days on end and also served me well in hot, humid climates (read jungle). The meter went belly-up one day so I replaced it with a meterless viewfinder and happily went shooting with a Luna-pro.

After the theft, I rationalized the purchase of a N90S primarily for the autofocusing (the age toll on my eyes in dim light). I used the camera for 2 years generally growing more dissatisfied each day I used it. I realized after a while that it was being used primarily in the manual focus, spot meter reading mode. Shortly after that I walked into my local camera shop, spotted a F3HP in the display case and asked to see it. As soon as I picked it up I had already made the decision to trade my N90S for it. I have not regretted the decision since! The F3HP viewfinder is huge and allows easy focusing even with glasses. The feel is solid, the metering flawless. I kept the AF lens I purchased with the N90S and they work like a charm. I replaced the standard prism with one without a split focus and am extremely happy with it.

An Olympus comment...I bought my wife a used OM-4 and a non-OM varible medium zoom. The camera is light, absolutely great metering (love the metering display in the viewfinder), and wonder of wonders, it has an adjustable diaopter in the viewfinder. My wife is legally blind without her glasses and to able to see through the viewfinder without her glasses was a miracle to her. Nikon didnt include this feature until the F4 came out. A positive benefit with the lens is that it takes 52mm filters...same as my Nikon lens. Dual usage and saves money.

This is a good site. Excellent comments so far.

Tom Thompson - Washington State

Alan Magayne-Roshak , January 07, 2000; 05:16 P.M.

A few weeks back I covered a dance assignment(natural light in the dance studio). I took a Leica M4 with winder and a Rebel 2000(because its the only Canon in our equipment cabinet with multiple focus points). I got nice sharp photos with the Leica, but was disappointed in the focus of the Canon shots. Days later I had to take pictures of a stage fighting class in the same room, so I again used the M4, but supplemented it with a Nikon F2 that doesnt even have auto wind. Both cameras gave me wonderfully sharp pictures. With an RF or a bright SLR focusing screen and fast lenses, I seem to get better shots of action. I like the fact that the shutter releases much faster on these older cameras, especially the Leica; I can nail the exact moment much easier when covering the performing arts. And I dont have to worry about batteries; I never even keep any in the Nikon. Id like to also add that long ago I used screw mount Pentaxes and the lenses were fabulous, both optically and in their physical design. I always liked the shroud around the lens that only allowed the footage numbers to show on the topside; this was elegance.

Alan Magayne-Roshak Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Bill Sorok , February 03, 2000; 11:03 P.M.

I have had a Canon FTB for lord knows how least 20 years or more, this camera has gone through some very gruelling times and just keeps on ticking and ticking. The body is almost as heavy as my Hasselblad 500cm, and just as indestructable! You just know there is something solid behind that black and metal exterior. I have heard this camera refered to as the F1s little brother! Kind of funny, but overal a good comparison.

I must confess that I have been looking into buying an AF camera, but I will never sell my manuals for many obvious reasons, for me mainly cold related issues. Some of these being- their non-dependency of batteries, although not a big deal at reasonably cold tempuratures, try using an AF camera at -45F! 2- Using a power winder in cold tempuratures can cause static electricity on the film..not good!

There are of course other reasons, but for me, these are my important arguments on keeping and using manuals. My advice is dont be afraid to grasp the AF generation, but dont let go of the oldies. You might need them one day, and you will kick yourself in the butt for getting letting them go!

Ken Roth , March 02, 2000; 08:32 A.M.

Back in the late 60s, as a college student,I purchased my first Pentax Spotmatic with a 50mm Takumar lens. This was a great camera to work with. After a few years, and being conned into taking several weddings on the side, I decided I would add a second Pentax body as a backup. I found Pentax, in their infinite wisdom, decided to change to a bayonnet mount instead of their screw mount design. I decided to change to a system noted for the upward and backward compatability.

After a lot of research and pondering between choosing Canon or Nikon, I chose the Nikkormat ELw with the AW-1 winder(1976). Best decision I ever made. Since then I have had the Nikkormat FT3, Nikon FE, EM, F2A(modified to F2AS), F3, and N70. About 2 years ago I sold the ELw, which still worked great and recently sold the F2AS. I still maintain the F3 and N70. By far the greatest camera was the F2AS. It was the most durable and dependable camera Nikon developed. The major reason for finally selling this gem was the fact it was not getting used enough to justify keeping it. I also had to depend on autofocusing more frequently, due to lowlight focusing difficulty. I sold the F2AS instead of the F3 because I had the MD4 motordrive. I also invested in additonal equipment to utilize the TTL Flash metering in the F3.

For any daytime outdoor event I will take my F3 without hesitation, knowing I will get some great shots. Indoors, I will grab the N70, requiring the AF features.

If you find a vintage F2AS, grab it. You will not go wrong. The second choice is the F3. KC Roth

Chris Casquilho , March 25, 2000; 06:20 P.M.

I inherited a Nikomat FTN from my step-father about 7 years ago. It is the only SLR I have ever owned, though I have since used an old Minolta and a Ricoh belonging to a friend. The FTN had a few age bugs which I recently had repaired, and the arcane "click-click" apperture indexing had me stymied until this afternoon (the camera did not come with a manual). The only feature that I would like that the camera does not have is an optical window that shows the f-stop on the aperture.

I think the strongest reasons to use mechanical SLRs are not aesthetic or pragmatic. Understanding the physics of light and the mechanical and chemical reproduction of images is a pivotal link to the reality of your subject. If all one requires is a P&S and serendipity to be a photographer, then many of you reading this may as well consider yourselves obsolete.

I was visiting Pike Place Market in Seattle and a man was displaying some photos he had taken with some old SLR (I dont recall the brand), a 50mm lens, and natural light. He advertised the method on a piece of cardstock on the display table. The pictures were subtle and sublime. When I told him that I found his method refreshing, he said, "Sure, but just because its my way doesnt mean its the only way."

Perhaps the only reason to take pictures with an old mechanical is for the badge of honor - "See that, I took it with a home-made camera obscura and a negative plate I made myself with household cleaners and window glass from an 18th century carriage house in Somerset that was torn down to make room for a shopping center."

If simply hitting the target were the goal of the archer, he could just walk up and stick the arrow in the bullseye.

Lan Tu , April 01, 2000; 12:26 A.M.

Aaahh...old, brassy Fs and F2s. Samurai swords. Mauser 98. Maggie Smiths in stainless steel. Cookie cutter wheels and Targa tops. Driving the point home and locking shut with the solidity of bank vaults. Who cares if the plastic brigade knows? Why even explain?

Dave Kaup , April 02, 2000; 01:32 A.M.

I make my living with my cameras and have since 1980, mostly newspaper photojournalism and now editorial freelance. For eight of those years I carried two F2s with motor drives. I carried four or five manual lenses in my Domke bag, nothing slower than a f2.8 and many faster. Being a purist, I would only use the ground glass "B" screens. I picked up five or six extra bodies dirt cheap when people switched to the F3. Zooms and auto-exposure were for wimps.

After I grew tired of seeing my chiropractor twice a week, I too switched to the F3 to shave some weight out of the bag. I added an FM2 when I got tired of not being able to fill flash outside with the F3. The F3s became F4ss and now I shoot mostly with an F5 & a F100, I carry two f2.8 zooms besides the long MF glass and thank Nikon for the SB 24,25,26 & 28 (I currently use the last two). 8-pounds of cameras is always lighter than 15-pounds and autofocus allows you to shoot one handed as you hold your flash off camera. Technology aint all bad.

I still have my favorite beat-up F2S---in my display case with my F with a blown-out shutter, a couple Nikkormats and my Speed Graphic. I just regret selling my last F2 motor drive.

Ray Moth , April 27, 2000; 06:53 A.M.

Another belated response to Piaw Nas comment.

You obviously didnt bother to find out much about the OM-2S you borrowed before you went out and used it, did you?. It HAS spot metering (thats what the S stands for). It also has mirror pre-fire (but I forgot - you didnt bother to find out).

I agree that the OM-2S is a devil for batteries and you really should carry spares, but a pair of new silver oxide batteries would last a lot longer than you borrowed the camera for.

Film loading and rewinding are not big deals for most people but they do require a bit of patience and dexterity. You cant just *slap* the film in and *slap* the back closed. Most of us prefer not to *slap* or otherwise abuse our cameras anyway. Loading may not be as easy as it is with todays convenience-oriented cameras but its not that difficult either. Rewinding also is quite easy and not much of a chore, and takes only a few seconds for most of us. Still, if film loading and unloading pose that much of a challenge to you, Im sure were all relieved to know youve been able to find a camera that you can handle.

Stefan Mazur , May 01, 2000; 03:54 P.M.

Im still rather new to photography. The first SLR that I have use is a Minolta SRT-101 (is it true that you cant get batterys for it anymore?). I must say that this is one of the greatest thing to happen to me. I learned a lot about photography with it. Most important, Ive learned to love photography and made it my hobby.

Since this camera belongs to someone else, Ive just acquired a new one: the Nikon F60 (N60), hey, were not all millionaires :). Its just great, I appreciate most of its features. And, God have mercy for my soul, I sometimes even use it in full automatic mode! I am most of the time using it in A or S mode. Since Im not the most confident person on this planet, I like the camera to validate my choices (Im still smart enough to know when its not doing what I want) and to make the focus in situations where I know it wont be a problem for the camera. As much as I love it, I dout that my love for photography would have been this great having started out with this camera. The temptation of letting the camera do all of the work is too great. I can resist it because I know that Im often better place then the camera to know what I want.

Bottom line, starting out with an all manual camera forced me to learn a lot about photography. Im glad that I had that chance. Photography as become a passion for me. Something Im not sure that would have happend had I started out on a automatic camera.

I still use the SRT-101 because its still available to me. If I ever have to give it back (I probably will), then I will most likely go out and buy a second hand manual camera.

Stefan Mazur

Michael Graham , May 03, 2000; 05:27 A.M.

Working as a childrens portrait photographer back in 1979, I used an F2A for upwards of 10.000 sittings - reckon six or eight shots per sitting, and that will give you an idea of the kind of mileage this camera is capable of! Not one single failure. Handling the F2 is still a pleasure even twenty years later - and I can still change the film in an F2 with my eyes closed...

A sad fact about todays autofocus SLRs is that nobody can repair them. Plenty of companies will fix your old F2 or Nikkormat, or bring your broken Canon F1 back to life. But what happens when an EOS fails? I tried to get a new battery compartment door for my father-in-laws Canon T-70, and got a polite letter back from Canon apologizing for the fact that they no longer carry parts. A death sentance for an otherwise very usable camera...

I accept that autofocus cameras work well and are here to stay. But its counter-productive for manufacturers to design any camera to last more than 3 to 5 years. Why? because theyd never sell you their latest products if the "old" ones still worked. I see this every day - people bring their non-functioning SLRs in to dealers, to be told that the repair will exceed the price of a new camera. Fortunately for us, Nikon, Canon & co only figured this out in the early 1980s, so cameras built before this time were built to survive.

I dont own an F2, but I have an F3, an Nikkormat FT-3 and an EM as a third "dont-care-if-I-break-it" body. I will never own a camera with autofocus, and I hope enough folks will stay enthusiastic about older cameras to keep them alive for generations to come!

Thanks for reading my comments!

angel simpson , May 04, 2000; 09:27 A.M.

Michael Grahem wrote: I see this every day - people bring their non-functioning SLRs in to dealers, to be told that the repair will exceed the price of a new camera.

Yes, and THIS is the moment of decision. If more people would take the plunge and have their old faithful repaired instead of utterly believing newer is better - well, repair prices would drop, spare parts would be longer produced, camera models would have longer life cycles. It is up to you whether you act as a consumer or as a photographer. Read some questions on the Q&A section like >camera purchases - do you plan for your photographic evolution?< and you know WHO is responsible for the miseries.

George Bailey , May 23, 2000; 01:41 P.M.


Will M. , May 25, 2000; 11:36 P.M.

I am a photography student in the summer after my high school graduation and looking forward to college, where I will study photography. Currently, I own a Pentax K1000, three prime lenses (50 f/2, 28 f/2.8, and a 135 f/2.8) and one zoom (80-200 f/4.7-5.6), and am looking to buy a ME Super. I must say that I love my equipment. Recently, I purchased a Nikon N4004s, and hated it. I hated the slow, low contrast zoom that came with it. I hated the automation. Since the camera read only DX coded films with no manual option, I could only use the exact ISO the film was rated at, thereby not allowing me to push or pull film! I couldnt even under or over expose by anthing more than one stop, because the shutter wouldnt fire. And while I realize that I could purchase prime Nikon lenses, I would have to by autofocus lenses, because without them I feel the only even remotely positive virtue of the N4004s is lost (autofocus). Also, manual focus lenses do not work on the N4004s, or so Ive been told. They mount, but do not meter. When you are 18 and making close to minimum wage, Buying a fleet of prime Nikon autofocus lenses becomes less of an option. And finally I hated the plastic. It made my photography feel like less of a craft and more of something any idiot could do. I noticed my photographs started to turn from carfully composed and exposed shots into poor snapshots, each one with the subject planted dead in the middle where the autofocus sensor was. I have since sold the camera. I must say that there are just PILES of old prime Pentax K-mount lenses lying around that are cheap when compared to more sexy brands such as Nikon or Canon. Dont get me wrong, I will admit to the supieriority of Nikon lenses to Pentax, but, once again, It all comes down to what I need (or want), and what I have money for.

Yes, I am sure that if I owned a more elaborate Nikon autofocus body, such as a F5, there is a chance I would have liked it better. But, once again, this is not an option to most students.

Manual cameras let you take the picture instead of having it taken for you.

By the way, I was thinking of purchasing An old, manual, inexpensive Nikon body and a normal lens. What would someone who knows suggest? My dad owns a Nikkormat, and I was looking at some of those on ebay.

Nick Merritt , June 07, 2000; 05:50 P.M.

Will -- Nikkormats are great cameras, and I have always thought they handle really well despite some of their quirky controls (Im thinking about the film speed and shutter speed settings). It seems, though, based on the eBay prices, that they are in demand these days and so its hard to get a good deal on an FT2 or FT3. Those are the two models Id recommend, since they dont take the 625 battery but instead the 76, which you can still buy. But I think overall Id dissuade you from getting one, simply because the meters on these, if not jumpy already, will start getting that way, and once that happens I think they are very hard, if not impossible, to repair. Its inherent in the design, and unlike the F and F2 where you can swap out the meter head, you dont have that choice in the Nikkormat.

Instead, Id suggest you seek out a used FM or (even better) an FM2 or FM2n. As many of the comments in this thread have already stated, these are wonderful cameras, still made currently so parts arent a problem. I also find the LED meter readout very easy to use, and very clear in low light (which is a problem for non-illuminated match-needle readout cameras).

I use an FM2n and FE2 as my main everyday SLRs, though I also own and enjoy using manual focus Minoltas, Konicas and Canons, all 70s vintage. Some of them are needing overhauls at this point, and I will have that done, since theyre well worth the expense. From where I sit, the cameras of that period represent the peak combination of durability and features. Ill admit, when compared with the cameras of today, these old campaigners are woefully limited, but frankly I dont have the need for all the custom functions the new models have. And I dont have the patience to try and memorize all of them, or tote a thick, poorly written, instruction manual along with me to consult. (I suspect younger, more computer-literate photographers may be more at home with keeping all the features straight.) Some day I expect Ill want or need to add an autofocus SLR body to my kit, but what bothers me is that I may find myself without the patience to really learn how to use it, and just leave it on Program. And I dont like the feeling of getting lazy like that. With my manual focus cameras, I know how they operate, and theres not much to have to fiddle with, so I can concentrate on taking the pictures. I know Ill miss some, but I can chalk that up to my lack of skills and experience rather than any inherent limitation of the cameras. After all, great photos of all genres were taken before cameras had meters, autowind, or autofocus.

melvin bramley , June 19, 2000; 01:02 A.M.

I too have fought the new camera old camera fight..My first decent 35mm camera was a Mamiya DSX500,the camera was not too hot but the 50 & 135mm lenses were very good.I upgraded to a Nikon FE. This lasted many years along with a used F2S. Finally the FE shutter packed in & the F2S shutter became lazy & innacurate..(At the same time my Bronica SQA lens/shutter failed). My wife in her wisdom bought me a new F70 with a short zoom.I was not impressed by the plastic lens mount but the exposure accuracy was excellent as were the flash pictures..I traded in the short zoom & bought a 24-120 which is better made & all in all a decent lens.I then added a 180 2.8 ED in auto focus,Another winner..The BIG problem was I did not dare to take the plastic wonder camera on hikes in the bush..To rectify my problem the FE was repaired at a greater cost than it was worth & then the F2S. I now have no fears of going into the bush with a camera around my neck;the FE & F2S are indestructable, & if attacked by wild life the F2S & 80-200 4.5 zoom will ward off all but the biggest bears??? I would also like to add that in my oppinion the F2S has a better viewfinder display than the F2AS which I have added to my collection as an investment.

andy todes , June 27, 2000; 10:34 A.M.

bride kissing groom. shoot! shoot! shoot! bride throwing bouquet -- shoot! shoot! shoot! my point? you have to be quick. you need a camera thats easy to handle. that you understand intuitively. personally, canons ae-1 and f1n are so damn easy to use its laughable. i LOVE these cameras. i love the fd lenses. cheap! and work like a charm. i have people coming up to me all the time asking how i take such beautiful shots, and i tell them (modesty aside) that the key is in REJECTING all this new-fangled technology. and before you dismiss this as the rantings of an old man -- im not!! im 29 years old. my photo buddies (my age!) shoot on pentax k-1000s. great camera! but my heart is with canon. they are super reliable, rugged and built TO PUT YOU IN CONTROL. how many camera owners LOVE their cameras like lovers? its funny, we canon people are all the same. a devoted little brotherhood.

Christian Deichert , July 11, 2000; 10:39 A.M.

Finally, a Phil Greenspun compliment to Minolta cameras.  Now I can write off that "lingering cheesines" slight in the buying guide as a bad experience with Maxxums.

I primarily use a Minolta X-570 (which, by the way, I find even better than the X-700) and SR-T 101, and have been pleased with both cameras.  I also cant compliment the MC/MD lenses enough; its gotten to the point where I have at one time or another owned lenses from 16mm fisheye to 500mm reflex and many in between.  Id like to think the results have been good, but judge for yourself:

As Phil says, MD lenses are cheaper because of the change in lens mount.  And thank goodness they are; I on my students budget would own less than half of my current stock of equipment if I had to buy Nikons. Especially my 58mm f/1.2!

As for batteries for the SR-Ts, fear not. You can still find mercury batteries on the market; check eBay. You can get Wein air cells at photo stores. Or, you can get a converter to use new batteries in the old cameras; again, check eBay.

ravi pankhania , August 06, 2000; 12:30 P.M.

hello everybody... Let me start first by saying that in my opinion photography has the potential to be a very fine art and that is the way i look at it. Therefore the equipment i use is only a tool to capture what I need it to. It wouldnt matter if it was a Nikon or Minolta. There have been and will be better photographers than me that have used both better and worse equipment.... Just a page from my personal experience scrapbook: I started taking photos about a year ago, and was introduced to the manual OM system from Olympus by one of my friends. I purchased an OM10 and a couple of lenses...28mm, 35mm, Vivitar series 1 70-210(beautiful lens). Well about 6 months later it was all stolen, I dont remember being too thrilled. Now at this point let me say that I am not rich, I didnt know too much about cameras and or equipment and I really wanted a good camera that i could grow with. I love Manual cameras, but I also love bells and whistles...hmm tough choice... or was it? I began to think that having a new NIKON or CANON would make me a better photographer. But really I would have to sacrifice a lot to own even a basic AF system from these companies. And you dont need to tell me that if I want to play I have to pay etc,I Heard that enough times from a LOT of "pros". Ultimately I settled on a Minolta x-700 w/ a 50mm lens. Since then(apr 2000) I have added the following... 28 2.8, 58 1.4, 135 2.8, 70-210 4.5, 28-85 3.5, macro rings, tonnes of filters, teleconverters and a flash. All this has cost me about $900 cdn. Alot of money in my world. The equipment I have allows me to take lots of very beautiful and interesting pictures, many of which have earned me scores of praise from, friends, family and lots of other photographers(they always want to know "how did you do that"). I look at most of the pictures I find interesting, those are the ones I try to emulate, portraits, places, etc. Most of these pics were taken years and years ago...on manual focus cameras. So i try not to be too elitist (like many NIKON AND CANON users who I am sure will on the average probabaly get 37 or 38 perfect shots for every roll of 36 that they shoot! And sell them to a magazine for big bucks[they are probably married to supermodels, drive ferraris, and are perfect parents too!!] ) and remind myself that if anything will make me a better photographer (or writer, or upholsterer, or chef, or brother, or person) it is learning how to make the best of what I have and using it to the best of my abilities, learning from my mistakes and sharing my discoveries with others so they too will learn and understand. Well I better run along. Have a good day people.

Mark Mitchell , August 14, 2000; 09:18 P.M.

To me, this is rather humorous (not the thread, its great), but that so many want simplicity, yet so many buy the newest, latest/greatest whizbang AF body to come along, only to ask where the simplicity went. I have been quite fortunate to buy a good bit of equipment, and am lucky enough to enjoy it, but recently I decided I just wanted something very simple, a nonAF body and a couple of lenses. Equipment solid enough to hold up well, light enough to take anywhere. I wound up getting a Contax RX with a 35 2.8 and 85 1.4 lense. All fits in a very small bag, and their capabilities astonish me, as it forces me to focus, forces me to slow down a bit, burn less film, but engage a cerebrial process to make each exposure count. May wind up dumping the AF stuff, who knows, but my message here is to take stock of what you want to accomplish photographically, find the appropriate equipment, be it an F2a, FM, or whatever, and really think about what you are trying to put on film.

Carlos Fdez. , August 30, 2000; 03:28 P.M.

Whats the difference between an AF and a Manual camera? Well... do you like photography...? ...or just to deal with a handheld computer instead?

(off topic): is the same that happens with archery: do you want to make arrows fly (use an old recurve or longbow) or to use a machine (use a compound bow then)?

Im proud owner of a Minolta SR-T 101 with a great 58mm f:1.2 lens. Can you find any simmilar lens in the modern AF market?. Next step will be a Minolta XD7/11 for sure. Minoltas are great but their marketing & advertising is not as good as that from Cannon or Nikon. Thats the only reason why Minoltas are under-rated in the market... but that keeps prices low and us minolta users happy.

(again off topic): Of course I am also an archer, shooting Yamaha recurve bows. What makes japs so good? Why they make the best from guitars, pianos, bows... to cameras as well? Just thinking of it...

Carlos from Spain

Gregory Rogalsky , August 30, 2000; 07:04 P.M.

I was a working pro shooting MF nikon for 10 years. Switched to canon auto focus. Thinking it was a step up . Boy was I wrong. Now Into a FD Canon system. F1n with drive A couple of t-90s an a 15 2.8 fish, eye 20 f2.8, 24 f1.4L, 50f1.4, 70-200f4, 300f2.8L and about to purchace a 851.2L and a 8005.6L . Here is why I switched back to Manual focus. The auto foucus never worked. I shoot action photography , in low light with fast moving subjects. Under those conditions Auto focus sucks. A good example was a wrestling tournament at the university. My superduper autofoucus 70-210 2.8 L was unable to foucus in the low contrast light. So what the point in having autofocus. Your better off going with fast prime lens and moterdrives and burning film. Its interesting if you look at the 1n brochere and go to the photo of all the pros with big canon glass , all of them have there fingers on the focusing rings. So I guess Im not the only one. Anyway, I really like shooting with manual cameras again and feel kind of silly for trusting the auto foucus hype to begin with with. When it comes down to it, under real world conditions I trust my instints and skill over the camera makers hype.

Aaron Taylor , September 12, 2000; 05:48 P.M.

Will, you should be able to find a good deal on a Nikkormat EL or ELW and maybe a Nikon EL2 which is actually a Nikkormat.

These cameras have mirror lock-up, depth-of-field preview, electronically controlled shutters (4 sec. to 1/1000, 8 sec. for the EL2), Aperture priority auto-exposure, ... All the features a student could ever need and then a little extra.

These should not be too expensive because they are not mechanical cameras like the Nikkormat FT-xs so collectors are less interested in them. Great for a student!

Michael Goode , September 25, 2000; 01:26 A.M.

The one system that hasnt gotten much fanfare in this discussion is the pentax spotmatic (screwmount) system. No, I cannot use newer pentax bayonet mount lenses on it, but who cares? The system is cheap as hell, and a lot of really good lenses were made for it. In fact, I have put together a large system really cheap:

28mm f3.5: $40, 50mm f1.4: $30
85mm f1.8: $200, 100mm macro: $170, 135mm f3.5: $50
200mm f4: $90, 300mm f4: $150

And bodies are under $100. That makes for a damn good system for under $800. Hmm, and that is what someone could pay for just a Nikon N90 body?

and how about ruggedness? My spotmatic has survived cold down to -30 degrees F , heat to 120 F, snow, pouring rain, plus heavy use. If the battery runs out, I can keep shooting, loosing only the meter. Also, because the system (especially normal lenses and bodies) are so cheap, I am willing to take it to places that I would never take a more expensive camera.

Last spring I bought a used Contax 167mt, enthralled by the auto features (everything except AF) and zeiss glass. And what did I get? the damn autowind did not work properly, so I lost 2 rolls that I thought were loaded properly, and just a month ago I dropped the camera and despite only minor cosmetic damage, the computer is broke, so I cant take any pictures with it . . . Ill be sticking with mechanical for a long time.

Jack Skinner , October 17, 2000; 09:40 P.M.

As a person that has worked in the photo industry since 1973. I have had occasion to work not only on the 35mm Sales end. But also in the photo finishing area of a major lab in southwestern ontario here in Canada. When I speak of cameras and alike, its coming from 500 to 700 rolls of consumer film daily and sales in excess of 5 million yearly.

When the HUGE 35mm Boom took off in the late 70s and everyone went out and bought their AE-1s and EMs. The world of photography did it self a huge favour.... And a HUGE disservice.

All these people that took that HIGH road and continue to do so with AE exposure control, AF etc have lost the love and joy that truly comes from "understanding" your image information. Knowing why its suppose to be the way it is.

Ive had more CANONs come back for service than any Nikon Ive ever seen. Although I do own an A-1 and love it. My first grab will always be for my F2-DP11/MD2. It has been working every weekend since 73 and has never failed whatsoever.

John Osadnick , October 30, 2000; 10:23 P.M.

I started to read some of the above comments on the F2. If you have a jumpy or non functioning meter, you most surely can have it fixed. I just got my DP-1 back from Robert Decker ( He restored it and put in a new resistor, $75. He does Nikon F meters too. I have had him do 3 for me, including conversion to silver batteries. There is new life for these classics! These are the finest manual SLRs for most people. The stuff is available and can be resold easily. Buying quality pays. John O

Image Attachment: old soldier.jpg

Mark Hoffman , November 10, 2000; 02:13 A.M.

Old SLR - I think the difference between those love and the hate groups is down to how much you want to be involved in the picture making process. AF,AE - take away the satisfaction that YOU made the picture beyond the composing of it. With the auto everything SLR, the battery slurping,whirring plastic gizmo decides the creative elements of focus, apeture and shutter speed. Its like the difference between driving automatic or manual cars. If youre a real driving enthusiast you want the control of a manual - there isnt an auto transmission that see a corner coming up to know to change down... Anyway- Ive owned OM1,OM10,Pentax spotmatic,FM2 and enjoyed them all. The only camera ive never regretted getting rid of was a Canon EOS 500 - the plastic barrelled lens was lacking in sharpness and contrast and focus accuracy! It ate $20 battteries for breakfast! I sold it and bought a Nikon FG - a wonderful under dog with a nice viewfinder that is easy to focus, compact and has enough exposure options to allow snap-shot or manual. And it works if the battery dies on 1/90th speed. The modern AF SLR is basically to lure the AF compact buyer into a bigger dollar purchase with the illusion of becoming more creative while still not having to know squat about photgraphy. Heck, even monkeys take picture with them in National Geographic! When I see my photographs i want to take the credit for the end result, not share it with some computer chip.

kirk morrison , December 27, 2000; 12:01 P.M.

Having a couple of new autofocus Nikon bodies and a good collection of manual Pentax (M42)Spotmatic and Chinon clones and a Nikon FE, I find 90% of the time I grab either the Spots or the FE I get the picture with them quicker and easier. I either have to switch modes with the autofocus to get the exposure and grab the manual to find where to go in the programing or spend a few seconds fiddling with them. The New autofocus camera are great if you are shooting in a "push here idiot mode". I am considering sell the autofocus ones and buying either a couple of F3s or similar cameras,to make my life easier. I have also gotten tired of the slowness of the new super zooms and I have replaced most of the focal length with various primes. The new Cameras and super zooms have a lot of promise, but the fail to deliver it, im my opinion. They might be great for sports photographers, or similar use but for landscapes and flower and similar photos the arent worth the hassle to me, buy primes and add to them with zooms seems to me to be the way to go. The Spots are being retired to fun use now that I have rebuilt most of my Nikon collection the way I should of done it to start with. Personally, I have more faith in an old Argus C3 where I use my mind with the old rangefinder, to bring home a photo than trusting my N80 or N70. The best tools to fit your style is a great asset to photograhers most important tools, his mind and eye, be it a Nikon, classic or auto, MF Bronica, Hassy, 8X10, or whatever. New and Classic Cameras have advantages and disadvantages, use what works best for you.

Richard Teasdale , January 23, 2001; 09:18 P.M.

As I scanned the comments here, I see Im in good company regarding older SLRs and rangefinder cameras. My first decent camera was a Fujica ST-701 that I purchased new back in 1971. It got me through high school (I had it with me much of the time), two years in France and Belgium, and several years after that.

I eventually purchased a Canon A-1 which has both automatic modes as well as fully manual modes, and manual focusing. It is still my "good" camera.

My youngest daughter, a senior in high school, is taking a photography class and needed a good camera, so I dug out the old Fujica, checked it out, and it seems to be as good as ever, except for the meter batteries. As mentioned elsewhere, they are no longer available, and the closest replacement battery is 1.5v instead of 1.3 volts. I bought a couple of them anyway and well see if it still works. If not, well revert to the hand-held light meter.

Some of the old, great cameras were indeed great. But I have learned that many of the lesser-brand cameras also did a much better job than simply "acceptable." This little Fujica with its Fujinon EBC lens takes pictures that are as good as from any other camera. Having sold Canon, Nikon, Hasselblad, Mamiya, Pentax, and many others, I feel I should know.

I also have an excellent Olympus C-2020 Zoom digital camera, which takes excellent photos. But, despite its fine quality and excellent image quality, it feels like a cheap toy. You guys talk of shutter lag on the SLRs? Try one of these digitals! By the time it focuses and meters, it can delay a half-second or longer before it fires! Talk about confusing at first! You compose, press the shutter, and nothing happens. You start to bring the camera down to see what you did wrong, and it fires! It took a couple of days to get used to that!

Whatever camera you choose, whether a Minolta, Canon, Nikon, Leica, or some lesser brand, whether SLR or rangefinder, it wont help you take a better picture. It may help you take a picture better, but it is up to you to take the better picture. One of my daughters friends took a photo of my daughter with one of her other friends as they hugged following a soccer victory. She used a cheap point-and-shoot camera. Its one of the better candids Ive ever seen! Its just a matter of being there and being ready when the good shot happens. If youre ready to snap it, you win.

Your expertise will help make more of them happen, and hopefully when you want them to happen. If you have a good camera, you are more likely to get a better photographic image. But the good pictures are taken by people, not necessarily by good cameras.

My advice? Buy any of the older, decent SLR or rangefinder cameras in good working order. Learn how to use it. Learn about depth of field and shutter speeds. Learn about bracketing exposures. Learn to push and pull film. Learn to manually focus on the fly. You may still choose to use an automatic SLR or point-and-shoot for family fun activities, but what you learn with the old mechanical will help you take better pictures with the fully automatic model.

Remember, making good cameras, lenses, and film is a science. Making good pictures is an art.

Alexander Sverdlov , February 02, 2001; 05:57 A.M.

When I lived in Russia, used chambers of the Russian manufacture - chamber of Zenith. They were hopelessly bad. But once in a case I have bought Pentax Spotmatic the second hand and removed by him(it) almost ten years. Then I for the first time have gone abroad and has bought there Nikon F the second hand. Then has got Nikon F2 with the motor MD2, and after some years has collected a ruler of lenses from 7 mm up to 210 mm. I photograph in different climatic conditions from 40 degrees of a frost till 50 degrees of heat. I have also auto focal Nikon F401 but I use it(him) very seldom. Also I consider(count) that the mechanical chamber without auto focus and computer forces the photographer to think of the staff - both about a composition, and about an exposition, and how to reach(achieve) art effect by change of an exposition. One of the factors of purchase by me of mechanical bodies was absence of service in Russia. Now I five years live in Israel but mechanical bodies I do not refuse - because they best. Especially F2!!! The very light view-finder, heavy body allowing of long endurance, impossibility of failure(refusal) of rewind of film, complete manual control! I never use TTL, always I use flashmeter. Also I laugh above the complaints those who shouts, that there is no hot boot. It(he) needs to be bought separately and it(he) will be perfect to work, dressed on a roulette of back rewind. When I should remove the reporting, I dress the heavy motor and I am glad. When I use 200 mm, the heavy body compensates a shiver, and I am not afraid of earthquake. And I want to advise everyone, who begins to be engaged in a photo - it is necessary a little years to remove by a mechanical body and then already to think, whether the camera - computer with auto focus is necessary. Those who removed by a mechanical body, will understand, that is not necessary. For the professional only mechanism, instead of computer. When I lived in Russia, used chambers of the Russian manufacture - chamber of Zenith. They were hopelessly bad. But once in a case I have bought the second hand and removed by him(it) almost ten years. Then I for the first time have gone abroad and has bought there the second hand. Then has got Nikon F2 with the motor MD2, and after some years has collected a ruler of lenses from 7 mm up to 210 mm. I photograph in different climatic conditions from 40 degrees of a frost till 50 degrees of heat. I have also auto focal Nikon F401 but I use it(him) very seldom. Also I consider(count) that the mechanical chamber without auto focus and computer forces the photographer to think of the staff - both about a composition, and about an exposition, and how to reach(achieve) art effect by change of an exposition. One of the factors of purchase by me of mechanical bodies was absence of service in Russia. Now I five years live in Israel but mechanical bodies I do not refuse - because they best. Especially F2!!! The very light view-finder, heavy body allowing of long endurance, impossibility of failure of rewind of film, complete manual control! I never use TTL, always I use flashmeter. Also I laugh above the complaints those who shouts, that there is no hot boot. It needs to be bought separately and it(he) will be perfect to work, dressed on a roulette of back rewind. When I should remove the reporting, I dress the heavy motor and I am glad. When I use 200 mm, the heavy body compensates a shiver, and I am not afraid of earthquake. And I want to advise everyone, who begins to be engaged in a photo - it is necessary a little years to remove by a mechanical body and then already to think, whether the camera - computer with auto focus is necessary. Those who removed by a mechanical body, will understand, that is not necessary. For the professional only mechanism, instead of computer.

Image Attachment: 006a.JPG

Ian Baker , March 01, 2001; 03:16 P.M.

I used a friends Nikon FE2 for a shoot once, and it taught me, among other things, that I hold the camera upside-down for vertical shots (ie. right hand down, left up). I learned this because, as Philip says, the meters turned on by pulling the film-advance lever out a click, and I kept sticking the damn thing up my nose.

My Minolta X-7A (from the 1980s) has a nice big switch on top, but it also has an electrically operated shutter, so it wont work without batteries (though it also has a battery meter). My girlfriends Pentax K1000 has a 100% mechanical shutter, but theres no way to turn the meter off at all. If you leave the lens cap off, the battery dies pretty quickly.

Chris M , March 07, 2001; 12:48 A.M.

Ive found with my F4 that I have the best of both worlds. I cant use it if the batteries die of course but at least I can still rewind the film. (something non of the Canon EOS cams can do) cm

Stephen Asprey , April 04, 2001; 01:23 A.M.

Well, having taken ages to read this whole tome, its appropriate that I make a comment. I have owned an OM1md since new in 1978. Its still unmarked and gradually I have added lenses: 24, 35, 50, 85, 100,135, 200...mostly primes and I love this outfit. I ve got it all in two foam moulded alum cases and its looks a million dollars. BUT....its not going anywhere. Olympus are focussed on digital. The fast glass is expensive and rare. So I have been debating whether to go to AF with either an EOS30 or F80. Oh, the pain and anguish, not to mention the cost and time doing the research! But I have decided to keep to manual focus. Here is my decision: I am going to buy a late FM2 with fast 50,85,100 fixed lenses. I do portrait and dance work in available light. I will also buy a really good 1% spotmeter for the tricky situations. Thats all I will need. At the end of the day I need simplicity and quality optics. An M6 and its fast lenses are just too expensive. AF might be nice, but I am going to purcahse AF glass for the FM2 and maybe change the body in time. Then the investment in AF lenses will be retained, and at least I will get a good price for the FM2. I think this will be the most sensible progression for me.

Dave Ramirez , April 13, 2001; 06:02 A.M.

If you are interested in collecting Nikon cameras then take a look at my Nikon Collecting discussion group:

Richard Cooper , April 18, 2001; 06:58 P.M.

In Viet-Nam in 1965 I heard that we could get expensive Japanese electronics, (stereo and tape decks) and cameras. When I went to the PX in Long Binh they had only one camera in the store, a Canon Pellix. I bought it and ever since I have used it, until it died recently. I didnt use the camera very often but I admired its obvious quality and heft when I did. With the birth of my first grandchild in November, I pulled out my F1.4 "Fifty" and my 2.8 135mm and began a long search on E-bay for what has been going on in the world of Canon SLRs. I have been picking up cheap, fast glass: 58mm F1.2 and another 50mm F1.4 with "super spectra coatings". I also picked up for $100 a near-new T-60. I am wondering if I missing out on something. Before I buy an EOS Rebel or even get a digital SLR is there any hope of using these fine antique glass on the newer stuff? I used to use my Pellix for Astro-Photography. Will these new Canons help me get back in with these cheap fast lenses? If not, I would probably search for another Pellix, (it has a stationary mirror) and stay manual. I guess I could take better photos of my grand daughter with a Rebel. Any thoughts on my old vs. new Canon obsessions?

Alan Cheong , April 24, 2001; 01:20 P.M.

[To Richard Cooper]Ill think the Canon EOS RT is more suitable for you since it has a "Pellix" fixed mirror like your old Canon Pellix camera (no mirror vibration) but youll have to re-invest in EOS AF lenses. Of course, try not to break the fixed mirror, spare parts are hard to come by, this is true for the EOS RT as well.

If your eyesight is still OK try to look for old used workable Canon Pellix cameras to compliment your existing MF lenses when you go to Japan for your next vocation-you may just find you old pal at the used camera stores there.

BTW Ill think that it is pointless debating about new vs old but rather if your camera complements your kind of photography now.

My armoury of Olympus OM-x series of MF SLR camera are my best choice now because they satisfy my "control ego" when it comes to making pictures, they suit me fine for now. But if my eyesight deteriorates in 20 years time when I retire then an AF or even AF digital would be the right photographic tool for me.

Michael Dorman , May 11, 2001; 07:40 A.M.

I want to respond to Alexanders comment above about zenit.

I came to Israel from russia too, with a Zenit camera (ZENIT-E). I think the camera is great and the quality also. Its too bad that I didnt find anything about Zenit-E because it is also all manual camera, all metal, and the lenses for it are very good. I read comments of people in Israel that bought new cameras instead of Zenit and now they are very sorry.

I do mostly wildlife photography, so I have a 300mm/4.5f lens. of course it is made of metal, it is large and heavy, bet the quality is great. The prise for used one is 100$ !!! and the russian factory prices are funny too: manual camera Zenit-122 + 50mm/2f lens + 300mm/4.5f lens + fotosniper rifle + filters + case is 150$ (New!).

Zenit can compete with Nikon thats sure, the fact that Nikon is a Western camera doesnt make it better.

Doug Nelson , June 18, 2001; 11:10 A.M.

Ive been shooting 35 with Canons since 68 when i acquired my FT in Nam. I now use an F-1. I love holding the big old black metal monster in my hands. The 12% metering rectangle in the middle of the screen (also in the FT, and FTb) works so well for me I seldom get a bad exposure any more. My brain has conditioned itself to do what these multi-matrix thingees do. Im 54 and cant focus all that well any more,, which doesnt matter, since I do a lot of landscape and travel shots with my 28, and just set up for the hyperfocal distance. The sharpness and lack of distortion I get with my 28-mm f3.5 FL-series lens have me hooked. The only way Id use a zoom is a manual focus L-series FD lens, which costs enough to buy me another plane ticket to Europe. Im told there are a lot of really bad consumer-level zooms out there. My other workhorse lens is an 85-mm f1.8 FD. Canon has disappointed me only in the chintzy foam stuff that damps the upward travel of the mirror. It dry rots big time. If youre starting out, try an FT (can use only FL-series lenses, but theyre really cheap), FTb,(uses FD lenses AND FLs) or, if youre really lucky, an F-1. Batteries are a little hard to come by. Make the effort and get the Wein battery, available where people know cameras. My only departure from geezerhood is that I scan my negs and slides on a Nikon LH-2000 and archive em to CD. Now I gotta pay a 13-yr old to help me make a web page. Whoops. The photo wasnt what I thought it was. It was taken with an Instamatic, and serious damage fixed in Photoshop (not too expertly, as it turns out).

John Bald , July 30, 2001; 03:22 P.M.

Thanks, everyone. I have loved this thread. "Old school" SLRs are wonderful. Its just amazing what you *cant* do with modern, automated cameras.

I still use the Honeywell Pentax SP1000 that my father bought me in 1974. It shoots 1 sec. to 1/1000 and uses screw-mounts. It came with a Takumar 50mm, which is all I use. It was my learning camera, and it still shoots the best photos I have.

Alas, there is one problem: focus. Any opinions on this? I have to roll the focus bar a bit to pull the focus in -- i.e., I have to focus about 1-2 feet in the foreground ahead of my desired point of focus. Ive met 2 other people who told me they had chronic focusing problems. When I do that wacky focus procedure, the focus is correct and the photo is great. If I simply focus on the desired spot, its a bit blurry and the background is in focus!

Im tempted to buy another SLR (used, vintage), maybe a Nikon, but I really want superior optics. The foreground focus trick required by my Pentax/Takumar lens is getting a little ridiculous. Never the less, that old gem is a dear old friend.

Borek Lupomesky , August 02, 2001; 11:03 A.M.

I use a 15 or so year old Praktica MTL5 35 mm SLR (full manual) and it works flawlessly, has flash sync hot shoe, times up to 1/1000 s and B (I used that for stellar photography), TTL metering and more. The nice thing is the original Carl Zeiss lenses (you cant buy Zeiss for most modern 35 mm SLRs). Switching to modern Canon/Nikon/Minolta/... would cost me a substantial amount of money (lenses are expensive), so I rather stick with my Praktica. And I dont think I miss all that much. (Of course, Im just a hobby photographer).

Lee Shively , August 06, 2001; 09:36 P.M.

I cannot let this thread pass. In 1973 (more or less), I bought a couple of used Nikon Fs and 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm lenses. Finally, a year later, I bought my first new Nikon--the F2. It was a plain meterless body in black (I couldnt afford the F2 Photomic). This began a long love affair with the Nikon F2 which, despite my ambivalence of the current Nikon models, continues to this day.

I took a job in 1975 with a small weekly newspaper and in 1976, was hired by a large daily paper. I used Nikons daily and found the F2 model to be more dependable than any of the other models I used--the original Fs, Fm and the F3.

When I quit that job in 1991 to pursue another career course, the newpaper paid to have all my personal cameras repaired, cleaned and adjusted by Nikon Professional Services. I sold most of my equipment but I did keep an F2A and that original F2 meterless body I bought in 1974. I also kept a 24mm, 55mm Micro and 80-200 zoom. These cameras I used on occasions over the next few years but I soon got the bug for autofocus, etc.

I now use Canon EOS cameras and I have several Canon lenses, including a couple of the L series. I can appreciate the technology of the EOS system and the lenses are excellent. I have no desire to switch back to Nikon currently but I still have my old Nikon F2 outfit and I have no plans to get rid of it. There are too many memories and good photos which passed through this equipment to ever let any of it go.

The Nikon F2 was the finest manual 35mm camera ever made. It was easy to use, dependable as hell and as close to a hockey puck as any piece of photographic gear could hope to be. My cameras were used daily and abused beyond all reason. On numerous occasions, I have taken the prisms and backs off these cameras and put the the pieces in a film drying cabinet to remove the rainwater. I have dropped them and had them smashed by everyone from high school football players to indicted politicians. About the only things about the cameras which could go out were the meters and the indexing prong on the pre-auto indexing models. If this happened, you just guessed at the exposure and went ahead with your assignments. We used Tri-X back then for everything and I got really good at judging the correct exposure. The older F models were known to occasionally get the mirror out of adjustment and this would throw off your focus. The Fm was a pretty good camera but the motor drives had a habit of just stopping in the middle of an assignment. This became so common, I left my last Fm motor smashed in the middle of the street following an assignment. I would not own equipment which was not dependable. The F3 had a lot of good features but mine would not work in damp weather. Not a good camera to own in Louisiana humidity. The F2, of course, worked no matter what.

The older Nikkor lenses were excellent as well. My 85mm f/1.8 was actually a sharper lens than my 90mm Summicron. Yes, I did use a Leica for a while but sold the outfit because I preferred SLRs. I have some Kodachromes that show how remarkable these old manual focus Nikkor lenses could be.

If anyone is in the market for a classic 35mm camera, they would do well in obtaining a Nikon F2. There appears to be quite a few of them in super condition out there. Since they are so plentiful, the prices are not out of sight. My old F2s, however, are not for sale.

Mirek Langer , September 06, 2001; 06:44 A.M.

This article looks very familiar to me, because just now Im moving to older Contax MF bodies from EOS EF. But some basic questions are missing both in it and the comments.

Preface: I found the Zeiss glass great, I can buy new lenses fitting the same mount back to RTS I, and even the old Contax bodies are of great engeneering. Canon prefers to sell more slow plastic zooms and if I want really good lens, it will cost me as Zeiss or more.

What I loose shifting from EOS 50E (Elan IIE) to used 159MM -- almost half of the 50E price? AF. Eye control :-) Bracketing. Auto rewind. Custom functions. Display with many pictograms and numbers. OK, so there is a plenty of features. Will I miss them? Its all about the question what I technically really need to take a great snap:

  • good lens
  • film
  • aperture
  • shutter
  • focusing

My answers are also pretty simple: Zeiss lenses are great without dubt. Good 35mm film can be fitted in any 35mm camera. Aperture ring is on the lenses. Shutter range of 159MM is even better than the one on 50E. And viewfinder covers more picture area, is brighter and more magnifying. Ive bought used RTS II body for my girlfried, and it is also great. Point.

AF vs MF: Im not against AF, but I have still good eye and its bothering to check if focus is right where I need it to be (do you blindly trust your camera if you can check the process?). Is the AF more intelligent than you? However, if you wear glasses, AF can be very significant help.

Zoom vs. primes: I didnt see as great pictures from zooms as from primes, even cheap ones. Do you really shift your view on subjects five times in an hour so you need to change the lens focal length? Im very happy with 50mm or 45, for portraits I use 100 or 90. I dont shoot portrait, a minute later scenery, in another minute flying bird and -- to fill the four minutes -- house inside with wide angle. So where is the point in buying expensive 50-500 zoom? For me it adds one more variable to set up and no advantage.

Im not against more body features. But -- taking pictures has to be simple. If you struggle with metering systems and programs, AF setup, custom functions, you can miss the point -- taking the picture. I can compare this very easy, because when I take picture (159MM) and my girlfried takes picture (EOS 50E) at the same time, its not the same time. She has to adjust many things and decide which feature to use, take a look at this and that, frame and finally press the shutter. By the time she is starting to compose the picture, Im relaxed with my camera already back in a bag. Note that Im using also Contax G1, which is made in a very modern way, but its simplicity is great. Maybe this is a point why some people are able to take nice pictures (only) with P&S?

As for the "slow vs. fast action cameras". This is the opinion like "you really need quiet camera to do this". Answers are very different person by person, guess why. My is this: all is possible, and depends on your abilities and personality much more than on camera features. If you want to take pictures on street, you need to know how to dissapear among people. Is your camera bigger than you? If you want to take great portraits, you need talent to open peoples soul. If you want to take good sport pictures, you need to predict a lot. Camera can make it technically possible, but possibility is far from reality. Is you camera really slow or it is you? Do you portrait someone in five seconds? How long you spend to learn the feeling of interesting place? Did you miss the fast action because you were not prepared?

Judging from my comments above, you can bet Im not missing EOS matrix metering, nor beeping after succesfull focus. And yeh, feeling of RTS II is really much nicer than the one of plastic.


Nigel Villaverde , December 07, 2001; 05:34 A.M.

Wow what an interesting thread! As many of you I have owned several (many) cameras thruout the years. Currently I have cameras ranging from an old Leica M3 ds with Summicron 35mm F2 and Elmar 135mm F4 to modern digital cameras and everything in between. I find myself going back to my mechanical marvels! Theres just something about a mechanical shutters sound that cannot be duplicated by auto everything, do everything modern SLR (electronic marvels in their own right). For a student of photography I would certainly recommend an older Nikon F2a, F3 etc. These I recommend for their professional construction and great features and specs. For the purest pleasure of photography nothing beats my Leica M3 DS, shutter smooth as silk and sooo quiet and unobtrusive. Recently I have had a new favorite, the Nikon N70. The reason for this is the ease of operation (once you conquer the infamous rainbow dial), but mainly the spot meter. I just finished studying a book called "The confused photographers guide to on camera spot meters" by Bahman Farzhad. What an excellent publication! In essence it simplifies the use of the zone system in laymans terms. This opened up a whole new world of control over my exposures and using my older cameras once again. My trusty F2AS has never failed me although there are times I am glad for autofocus and matrix metering. I use a Sekonic L-718 for my Leica. I am currently in the market for a Nikon F100 (I also love new toys). As far as lenses are concerned I favor an old Aid by cutting Nikkor 105mm 2.5. Outstanding portrait lens (that I use with the N70 beautifully). Each genre has is pros and cons. My philosophy is this for business, always use modern equipment. Some of these hi tech features may save you from missing irreplaceable moments for lack of speed (ie: weddings, sports etc.). Now for fine art, portrait, black and white use a manual camera and a spot meter and read this book I mentioned. You wont regret it. Well thats my two cents (for what its worth.)

Aaron van de Sande , December 13, 2001; 01:44 A.M.

One thing that I didnt see mentioned is that some of us like photography but dont like gadgets. Yes, my vcr blinks 12:00. I dont want to spend weeks learning to use a camera, and the knowlage isnt even tranferrable. It was about 5 minutes for me to figure out how to use my old SRT, and the techniques that I learn can be used on any other manual camera.

Hubert C.M. Janssen , March 28, 2002; 02:27 P.M.

After reading the comments left so far, I have learned two things: 1. there is no universally right equipment, there is only the equipment that is right for the person involved; 2. there is a difference between manual and mechanical cameras.

I use Minolta bodies (SRTs, XM, XD-7 and X-700), all which have some specifications I "need" for certain situations. All are manual cameras, but only the SRTs are mechanical cameras, that function without battery power. Battery power is only needed for the metering system, and I dont care about mercury cells being banned; there are adaptors available that make it possible to use the LR44 alkaline cell or the SR44 silveroxide cell (which I prefer). Some of my SRTs are recalibrated to use these cells without adaptor. Since modern handheld meters use batteries too, I always carry a Weston meter for back-up when taking my SRTs with me. My XD-7 bodies do have the advantage of offering mechanically controlled shutterspeeds in case the batteries are down ("O" and "B", were "O" is 1/100, being the sync speed). The Minolta brand is not as "fashionable" as Nikon or Canon, but just as good and reliable. Minolta has some really premium lenses in the MC and MD range, like the MC 2.5/28mm, MC 1.8/35mm, MC 1.2/58mm, MC 2.5/100mm, MC 4.5/300mm and MC 5.6/400mm APO. The MD version of the 300mm offers IF as well.

For me, my Minolta manual focus system is the best; but if I had had the opportunity, I might just as well have bought into the Konica system. The T3 is a reputedly fine camera, especially the T3N; the difference only known to "insiders" of the Konica system. Others will be satisfied with their Olympus OM system or Pentax K system; every system is the best, if it suits your needs.

n/a n/a , July 05, 2002; 09:39 P.M.

Get serious guys, cameras are not toys, leave these nice cameras to the serious photographers. Common sense - cameras and lenses are only tools, as if you are interested only on the mechanical and electrical or extra bells & whistles of a camera - point is - photography is having a good composition and a good exposure time - if you rely heavily on your automated camera meters - then your camera is your latest "big boys toys" for you. Advanced metering is for paparazzis who have no time thinking of what exposure time to use - they compose and shoot quick - thats for them! What do you do with a $3,000 camera if you dont earn 100% of your income using that tool? Its your brand new toy! Im so tired reading your comments about cameras - WHY dont you talk about ART itself and proper pictorial compositions. Read and research more about getting and obtaining saleable photos - you have to get money out of your expensive hobby - whether fulltime or part time. Photography is all about ART and DOCUMENTATION of our generation for gods sake - not showing off to the public that you pretend to be a professional or a news photographer by carring a huge camera on your shoulder. REALIZE THAT!!!

Gaetano Catelli - New York, NY , July 31, 2002; 08:42 P.M.

imo, you wont go wrong with a nikon n2000 mf as a starter or backup camera. therere always a few on sale on ebay. but, you wont find mine there, because i dont ever intend to sell it ;-)

John McMillin , August 05, 2002; 06:16 P.M.

I sense Im right on the cusp of this question. Maybe its no coincidence that Im almost 50, approaching the pass between the old young and the young old (!) Ive bought two slrs this year: a new Nikon F80 and an Olympus OM-1 from a pawn shop. The Nikon was an attempt to embrace the future, but the Oly tempts me to luxuriate in the past. To hold a chrome OM-1 is to remember the days when cameras were sold in jewelry stores. Its a mechanical works of art. And oh, the viewfinder! So bright, so detailed, so right. It almost matches a Contax I sampled, as I breiefly considered that system (and contemplated financial suicide). In contrast, the F/N 80 is a picture-making machine of awesome talents. It packs so many capabilities in an affordable package. Its not quite as small as the OM1, but seems to be lighter, thanks to the apparent absence of any molecules of metal. The flash is perfect for daylight fill and intimate indoor shots, with simple but effective controls. The OMs shutter was considered quiet and smooth in its day, but the F80 s release is less a seismic event than even my two rangefinders (Fuji & Bessa, both noisy). A TV crew happened to film me while I was photographing wildfires here in Colorado (watching the PBY that peeled its wing and crashed three weeks later). Despite his best efforts, the cameraman couldnt pick up usable audio of my shutter & motor! The viewfinder lets you down, though- it seems small and dark, even considering the slower lenses Im using. Still, theres something special about OM, and all old cameras. Its an edge for film-based photography over digital that the real picture-making technology is in the software (we called it "film"), instead of the hardware. Thats why a 50-year-old Rolleiflex is a viable pro tool, but a five-year-old digital is almost obsolete. As an old camera, the OM is an artifact to love. The F80 is a power tool to respect. In the first few rolls, its given me shots unattainable with the OM. Since the F80 made my MF lenses obsolete, I see no disadvantage in keeping two slr systems: Nikon AF, with zooms and teles, and Olympus for wide-angles and fast primes and the joy of focusing. Handling the two is a challenge, but simple, really. Everything works in reverse, from focus directions to lens mounts. On Olympus, every control is left-handed, on the lens. Nikons make your right hand do all the work, with thumb wheels, etc. Im glad that this old vs. new debate hasnt been settled so far. Both design concepts, minimalism and elaboration, can produce great results!

Mike I. , August 21, 2002; 10:45 A.M.

What a snob! By the same reasoning, if you are not a software developer, you shouldnt buy a computer, a typewriter would suite you just fine, after all, why do you need a $2000PC if you dont get 100% of your income from it? besides, the writing is ART and electronic bells and whistles are... you get the idea, mr. serious photographer! <p> <br>> Get serious guys, cameras are not toys, leave these nice cameras <br>> the serious photographers. Common sense - cameras and lenses are <br>> only tools, as if you are interested only on the mechanical and <br>> electrical or extra bells & whistles of a camera - point is - <br>> photography is having a good composition and a good exposure time - <br>> if you rely heavily on your automated camera meters - then your <br>> camera is your latest "big boys toys" for you. Advanced metering is <br>> for paparazzis who have no time thinking of what exposure time to <br>> use - they compose and shoot quick - thats for them! What do you <br>> do with a $3,000 camera if you dont earn 100% of your income using <br>> that tool? Its your brand new toy! Im so tired reading your > comments about cameras - <br>> -- n/a n/a, July 5, 2002

Kevin Dermot Miller , August 21, 2002; 05:44 P.M.

Minutes after this blaze started OM-1

As an owner of a Pentax SP1000, OM-1, Om-G, Ziess Ikon and others I feel semi-qualified to speak of WHY use an older camera. An old, manual 35mm requires thought, planning and the ability to move quickly. Even us older guys that have been shooting since the 60s can move fast enough and think quick enough to forget about meters, forget about electronics and just do the job. These older OMs and Nikons need someone who wants to use the artistry that should come with owning a camera and using it to reflect the vision the eye sees at that moment. If money comes in to play as to why own and use a camera, then forget putting one in front of your eye, buy an auto focus unit, a winder and pull the trigger. One of the photos may be good enough to get a buck for it, but where is the talent? I am usually happy with 1 picture for every two rolls. Thats a critic, but also what I expect from every photo I see in books and magazines. If theres no art, theres no thought; and that is exactly what an old 35mm (especially with a Zuiko lens) will give you, if you have "the eye", the artistry, and subjectiveness without cash on your mind. Care about what is in front of the lens no matter what the subject or object and youll see how important it is to think about what the camera will do, how it will do it and what you want everyone else to get out of the photo. I bet there are people out there that can set speed, aperture, focus and frame in there mind, in less than 3 seconds. Are there that many moments we cant capture in that amount of time? I think not. Get an old 35mm out of a shop, through a reputable dealer or even do what I do; go thrift shopping. Usually if theres something really wrong with a unit, it will be evident.

patrick thibodeau , August 22, 2002; 10:49 P.M.

I bought a Nikkormat FTn in 1974 and its been my only camera all these years. I worked as a reporter and for a time, many years, my job required photo work. My Nikkormat has always performed faithfully. Sure, Id love to own an F100, F5, and maybe try out some of the "D" autofocus lenses and SB28. The balance fill flash capability on the automatic SLRs is a thing to behold. But my Nikkormat and my lenses are part of me. Their responses, capabilities, and controls are all second nature. I can pull this camera out of the bag, set my speed, aperture, and know my depth of field before its reaches my eye. I am ready. Theres no five frames a second shooting and every shot has to count. Thats ok with me. Someday my old Nikkormat may break down beyond the point of repair before I do and maybe Ill move on and buy that F100 or F5. But then, someone may be selling a E+ Ftn somewhere. So we will see. If I was a young guy again, I probably wouldnt be working with a Nikkormat. But theres some advantages to getting a little long in the tooth.

Jason Antman , November 28, 2002; 09:47 A.M.

About the Minolta SRT line, I own, use, and love my SRT 100. The manual camera is a great thing, and I am battery dependent only for metering. Also I have some really good lenses for it. There is an energizer alkaline cell that works fine in the camera. Also, I use a breand called "Wein Cells" which are a replacement for mercury batteries. They cost about $10 each, but the one I have in there now has been in the camera since July (its now November) and has served well for the 60+ rolls Ive shot since then with the Minolta. GREAT CAMERA. Mines not going anywhere. In fact, I am thinking about expanding my system. Theyre reliable and inexpensive. Not a Nikon (I favor the FM2N except for the LED metering) but it works well.

Lou Korell , December 01, 2002; 12:24 A.M.

An F2A in good condition for $150 - sign me up! I think realistically, the ones in great shape are running anywhere from $500-750 and up. In any case, I use my manual cameras almost all of the time. I still use my 500cm and all the old Hassie C lenses for weddings. In my opinion for 35mm, the FM2 & F3HP are unbeatable. They are more consistant than the Energizer Bunny & Timex watches. And, compared to handling most of the newer, plastic cameras, they feel like real professional tools. I use my old Nikon lenses - 85 1.4, 180 2.8, 35 1.4, 55 2.8, etc. all of the time. I have dropped them in streams and sold the pictures that followed! I would not be as brave with todays goodies. The new stuff does some spectacular things, but the older machines are still worth every penny you originally paid (in some cases lots more!)and will never be obsolete for making great photographs. That said, my F4 sees a lot of action too - I like the focus light for shooting in darkness. But even the most current autofocus models can be fooled by tricky lighting situations. The essence of photography is light. Its better left to the photographer to make difficult lighting decisions over a computer that may be running low on batteries. My $.02


Image Attachment: Beach Games.jpg

Ben-Ami Spectorman , January 15, 2003; 11:33 A.M.

I own 2 Pentax cameras, a MX and MZ-5N (ZX-5N). The MZ-5N is very easy to use, light and compact. With a normal lens it is super light. In manual focus, one can rely on the in-focus indicator, in addition to using the screen. What I miss in MZ-5N is double exposure.

ken schroeder , January 26, 2003; 07:05 A.M.

I used a Nikon F2 for several years. I did not like the "improved" auto synch mechanism for flash. If the shutter speed dial gets bumped the slightest bit from 1/80 to 1/125, chich can easily happen, the camera switches from X to another mode. (I think it was M, but dont remember exactly). This happened to me twice, resulting in totally blank negatives. I sold the F2 and went back to using my F, which requires a definate effort to switch synch. Regarding the lack of a hot shoe, I think on camera flash is generally terrible light, used only as an expedient. A stroboframe bracket improves it somewhat. I have used the stroboframe with a 283 with good success for years. I dont worry about the F shutter failing. If I was taking 20 critical rolls, I think I would use a second body to split the risk. Neither of me Fs have a built in meter. I have taught myself to judge light by eye. Thats quicker than using a meter and requires no batteries. I also believe being able to quantify light helps me feel the quality of light better. In 1980 I was convinced I could do better work with a Nikon instead of my Pentax Spotmatic and H2. In hindsight, I would have been much further ahead to have invested my resources in film and paper. I dont think we outgrow out equipment; we just want new toys.

Greg Chappell , March 08, 2003; 01:15 A.M.

I have seen one or two comments regarding Robert Decker and his ability to repair F2 meterheads. Well, I am here to tell you he does, and they work GREAT when received back! I have a DP-11 he brought back to life by installing a new needle and recalibrating it for the new needle. It is now super accurate. I cannot recommend him enough. Total cost- $100 plus $6 for shipping back to me.

rudy pospisil , March 17, 2003; 09:09 A.M.

I recently had my digital go off somewhere. Before that my film SLR upped and found a new friend. Now I was cameraless and I wasnt going to handle that well for any great length of time. As I was only able to properly commit (both financially and attention span) to one I spent the next four weeks debating film vs. compact flash. A large part of this involved going through the two piles of photos that I had achieved through the two different formats. I found my digital shots lifeless and nothing more than snapshots. It had made me lazy. I would just look, point, and shoot. Now that I was comparing the two systems side by side, I began to reawaken to the manual. With it I have to understand at LEAST the basic concepts and, in fact, I had to relearn some things because the digital had been thinking for me. Digital had been spoiling me by making its own committee fed preprogrammed decisions. I wanted those decisions back in my hands where they were held and perculated and constantly thought about. And come on! Im a young man. I can handle the rigors of manually advancing my film.

We all shoot for different reasons. For me, I like to TRY and create stories and using a manual camera allows me unfettered access to the creative process.

Now regarding the scientifics demonstrating superiority, or tones besting the other, or which image is most dimensional Id have to say that film captures a romance that digital tends to consistently oversharpen. Kind of like watching Citizen Kane versus Die Hard.

I love the advantages of digital though and trust me... when Im able to afford it, I will eagerly go back to working with it because there are some parts of the process where it leaves film behind. But as far as creating expressive art for myself, shooting manual keeps me constantly questionning and trying to better the shot. Its basically bonding with a piece of machinery and yet reinstills passion and intimacy. If you were a hunter youd probably liken it to the relationhip with your dog.


xxxx xxxxx , April 10, 2003; 05:47 P.M.

Definitely include the Pentax LX. It has all the features of the Nikon F2 that you mentioned, plus gasket seals to keep out dust and moisture, ball bearing film advance, and multiple exposure capability to any frame on the roll. Also, the Pentax A* series lenses are of extraordinarily high quality, such as the 85A* 1.4, 135A* 1.8, etc., and still fit todays Pentax bodies. The only disadvantage for some photographers might be its shutter speed of 1/75 compared to the F2s (I think) 1/250.

Dan Lindsay , April 19, 2003; 03:01 A.M.

This review was obviously written by someone too young to have ever owned a new Nikon F. Also, the review is comparing the F2 to modern cameras. If thats the case, compare it to the F5. That is the modern day equivalent body to yesteryears F2. The F5 also has 100% frame viewing, depth of field preview, as well as interchangeable viewfinders and mirror lock up. So, are you better off or not with the F2? The F2 takes you back to when life was a lot simpler. When your F5 battery pack is running low youre still yards and yards away from battery failure in the F2,--particularly when it comes to simply running the F2. The biggest detractor today for the F2 is that some parts are not readily available and some repair shops wont take them anymore for repair. (Even Nikon wont be able to repair the F2s motor drive anymore). But, if you have a low mileage F2, keep it and USE it! It will outlast your grandchildren.

Joe Garrick , June 01, 2003; 01:06 A.M.

Heres a few thoughts to put automation features into perspective.

I worked for about 5 years doing weddings and portraits (Ive since left the photo business and after years away have again picked it up as a hobby). When I made a living doing photos, about 90% of the work that I was paid for was shot from a tripod with me standing beside rather than behind the camera, so obviously camera features werent a big issue. Anyway, for weddings I used entirely manual Mamiya twin lens cameras. I carried no meter and a manual flash. All exposure information was provided by my most useful accessory - my brain. Of the thousands and thousands of shots I did at weddings, I may have missed a handful because of technical problems (exposure, improper paralax correction, etc.).

Ive youve shot 120 film, you know that even older manual 35mm SLRs are a cake-walk to load by comparison, so loading convenience to me seems a bit silly. Theyre all easy. The 120 film, of course, is a walk in the park compared to loading 4x5 sheet film using a small changing bag on a semi-flat rock or tree stump in the wilderness.

And what did I gain with those simple twin lens cameras? First, simplicity and, oddly enough, speed in many cases. The waist level finders allowed you to compose while still being able to see the setting in your peripheral vision, so it was actually easier to move around while shooting. The fully manual exposures forced you to learn what worked in what settings, so eventually you would reach a point where you could walk into a room and set the aperature and shutter speed without really thinking much about it and generally be as accurate as most through the lens metering systems. Finally - and this is a twin lens thing - quiet. The little "click" of the shutter was far less intrusive a sound, especially during a quiet part of a wedding ceremony, than the "ker-chunk" of a 35mm SLR or the frequently seen and very expensive Hasselblads at weddings.

Mainly, however, I think the benefit of all this manual stuff is that youre forced to learn what youre doing. Personally, I have nothing against autofocus and advanced technology. If Im doing snapshots Id rather just point and shoot. But if Im trying to do serious work, sometimes the technology gets in the way and Id rather just have two big easy dials than a lot of little buttons that do stuff I couldnt care less about.

Heres my advice to someone who wants to learn to shoot great photos: Spend your money on lots of film, not lots of gear. I see these same crazy "this gear is better than that" debates in one of my other hobbies - astronomy - and the best advice I ever heard there is this: The best telescope to buy is the one youll use the most. The same applies for cameras. I think youll learn more shooting with the simplest manual equipment, but thats only true if youll actually use it. Think about photos, not cameras. A PHS camera out of the bag is far, far superior to the best equipment money can buy still in the bag.

Andrew F. , July 10, 2003; 11:12 A.M.

This brought back a lot of memories. I was an advanced amateur photographer as a teen and young adult, then got distracted by jobs, wife, child and the other adult pleasures. Believe it or not, my photo outfit, which had once included a pair of Minolta bodies (XD-11 and SRT-200), five prime and one zoom lens and a very nice Metz flash, was reduced to nothing more than a little Olympus P&S and a Canon Digital Elph.

That all changed last week when my wife signed up for a photography class as part of her art degree coursework, and told me she needs a "manual" camera. After hopping all over the net and finding this article, I remembered the pleasure I used to get from making, rather than taking pictures, and how in my photographic heyday, the XD-11 tended to stay in the bag while the SRT was my constant companion.

So what did I buy for my wife? Well, she can use it for the class, but once shes done, that Nikon F2 with DP1 finder will be all mine. Now to find a camera shop in the Los Angeles area with a pay-to-use darkroom.

One thing about automation that Ive noticed, it is terrific for when you dont expect to be taking pictures. That little digicam (smaller than a deck of cards) is always with me, and thus I never have to wish I had a camera with me. That said, when I look at the folders full of digital photos, I find that my "good shot ratio" is nowhere near what it used to be with the old manual equipment. I imagine some people really do take the time and effort to make perfect shots with the modern plastic marvels, but for me the temptation is just too great to burn through lotsof film or megabytes. Manual cameras force you to slow down and think about composition, depth of field, motion and lighting. This is a good thing.

Robert Remington , February 19, 2004; 12:15 A.M.

The Nikon F2 system rocks! After 10-20 rolls of film, youll understand why, and after 100 rolls you will be on your way to an advanced degree in photography. You might even sell your AF-AE-digital-motorized treasures after discovering the special effects manual cameras offer ... quality and flexibilty, with the ease of totally automatic and digital cameras.

Going backwards to precision cameras designed for NASAs 1960s - 1970s Apollo manned lunar expeditions is an awesome experience. Enormous volumes of Nikon information are available on the internet. Nikon equipment is inexpensive on eBay, and you can always sell these treasures on the internet!

David Cassidy , March 26, 2004; 04:38 P.M.

The debate of old versus new has literally raged for years on this page. My two cents will not be the last, Im sure. Having said that, and being an EOS and Olympus OM user for several years, I can say without hesitation I (personally) prefer the simplicity of my (gasp! old, manual, aging) Olympus system. Why? It is the great teacher. I learned to slow down; to take time to read the light with my eyes *BEFORE* I meter; to use sharp primes and use MYSELF as my "zoom" to get the right framing and perspective; TO *SEE* MY IMAGE IN MY MIND FIRST. This is a learned skill that no auto-everything system can impart. Like others, Im sure, I have long struggled with "out with the old, in with the new", especially "going digital", and I will ... but I will *always* stick with the old (I can even get an EOS adapter for my Olympus lenses!). This is not to put down my modern EOS equipment; it does what it is designed to do and my images are just as succesful as ones made with my OM system. The keyword here is "MADE". That is what photography is about, not which system has this feature or that, film versus digital, what have you. Automation has not made me a better photographer, but rather learning the art of photography through the tried and true method of trial and (mostly) error. I have no hesitation telling people to buy "old, aging" equipment. I have no hesitation telling people to buy "new, g-whiz" equipment. And I have no hesitation telling them to slow down, read the light, learn composition and exposure ... no matter *what* system they use. Weve all seen great photographs and weve all seen horrible ones, and thats the bottom line. For me, there *IS* no debate.

Lorraine Freehoff , May 12, 2004; 04:55 P.M.

I own a Nikon F2 Photomic and a Canon EOS. I havent used the Nikon since I stopped wearing contact lenses years ago because I cant focus it properly, being manual and all. The original instruction manual I have says there are eyepieces available with presciption lenses, but I have never been able to locate a place to get one. I use my Canon all the time because it has automatic focus, but I miss those real close-up pics I took with my macro lens and the Nikon.

William Lanteigne , May 23, 2004; 03:49 A.M.

I have a few more cameras than I actually need. Its hard for me to pass up a great deal on a classic camera, so Ive got lots of them. Of course I have a couple of P&S wonders that I carry if theres a chance I may take a tumble or get a soaking, I even have an APS camera (figured I may as well get one while they still make them, just so I can say I have one; Ive only used it to shoot one roll). I shoot with a variety of equipment- from basic 110 and fixed-focus 35mm "cheapies" to a Yashica 44 and to a Kodak Duaflex, from Argus C2s and C3s to a Minolta SRT-101, from a Kalimar K-90 to a Canon A1: They are TOOLS, all of them, some make the job easier but they all make it posible. Some people are better at using these tools than the rest of us, all of us can learn to be better at using whatever tool we have in our hands. I happen to like the heft and the feel and the sensations associated with using a mechanical SLR or rangefinder or TLR, probably because those are the kinds of tools I learned with. My first "very own" camera was a Kodak Instamatic 104 (I no longer had to borrow my mothers Kodak Duaflex). When I discovered cameras with adjustable apertures and shutter speeds (Kodak Pony 135, Argus A-four) I was amazed how easy it became to make good pictures, even with "bad" lighting conditions; finding a camera (Minolta Autocord CdS) that allowed me to focus without estimating the distance to the subject ("scale" focusing, similar to "zone" focusing) opened a new world of possibilities, encountering TTL "match-needle" metering in a quality SLR (Minolta SRT-101) was like finding Heaven. My absolute favorite camera from the 1950s is the much-maligned Argus C3 "Brick." Fine, I agree, its not a Leica or a Nikon, but how many Nikons still function (without a major CLA) after being left in a closet unused for 30-50 years? I have a handful of Eisenhower-era "Bricks" that see regular use, and require little maintenence. Im sure my Minolta SRT-101s will both outlive me, my Canon A1 may need another CLA in my lifetime; on the other hand, Ive burned up 3 or 4 brand-name "autoeverything" AF cameras in the past 10 years. Photography is about capturing the image you see in your mind and putting it in a tangible, permanent form for others to share, not about brand loyalty or trendy, "fashionable" equipment. If I snap your picture on a crowded subway, its most likely going to be done (depending, truthfully, on the size of the pockets on my pants) with either a Canon 110 ED (small pockets) or an Olympus Stylus Epic Deluxe (with the 2.8 lens, not the zoom). Both excellent tools, easily pocketable, and both severely maligned by "serious" photographers. If I really want to savor the photographic experience, Ill load up an Argus "Brick" with efke ISO 100 B&W print film or Kodak Gold 200 or Ilford XP2 Super... and shoot with the "sunny 16" rule and no light meter.

Image Attachment: Old%20Barn%20006.jpg

jukka vatanen , November 27, 2004; 03:48 P.M.

I am a Nikon addict, for sure! I have used all the pro Nikons, but now I only have ( and use) 2ea Nikon F from seventies, F3 and the great F5. They all have their good features, I am using the F5 with "old" manual lenses 20mm:2,8-35mm:2 50mm:1,4 and 105mm:2,5 I have 2 zooms, but after a years use they are better as "samba shakers" the barrels are "spongy"-bad fits. I am recommending all Nikon users to check the used market (and Ebay) for great old manual lenses. If you find one in a good condition, take it to a service guy to lube it and clean the inside elements. They will outperform the new stuff hands down! YES, there ARE good modern Nikkors 28mm 1,4 aspherical and the 85mm 1,4 are great... but the price?? One good advice : The reason old manual Nikon bodies look so trashy when viewing thru the finder, is that the focusing screens have improved enormously. You can have a F3 focusing screen changed to a F or F2 screen holder frame. Big improvement in the image!

If I would be a young photog with a limited budget, I would shop for a good F2 with a normal pentaprism finder ( new focusing screen!) buy a couple manual lenses like 28mm:2 or 35mm;2 and the great 105mm:2,5 Have them all professionally serviced and then just go and shoot ( edit later)

Talbert McMullin , December 24, 2004; 06:05 P.M.

I have both a Nikon FM and a Nikon FE2 in addition to my digital SLR system. I also have another "old beater", a Hassy 500c. Yes, I shoot digital most of the time. I have also run out of batteries when the digital went "battery dead". I pull an old manual shooter out of my pack and continue where the digital died. And everyone wants to know why I wont sell those old camera bodies. They havent a clue.

John Falkenstine , April 01, 2005; 09:35 P.M.

In high school in the Sixties, I dreamed of a Nikon F...just too expensive...but the other day at the photo shop, there was an F2 in the showcase, with a pricy tag on it and no lens. It looked brand new, except for the leaking light meter battery. Because of this I made a lowish counteroffer and it was accepted with a telephone call to the owner (consignment sale). We quickly cleaned out the battery gook, put in a new battery and a used lens. Just a very nice and heavy camera. (And it takes great pictures)

John Laughlin , October 30, 2005; 05:11 A.M.

Been using Nikons since 1986, when my father gave me his beat up Nikomat FTn. Prior to then, I used a Pentax H3v that was getting rather long in the tooth... Ive had four other Nikomat/Nikkormat bodies since that FTn, as well as three FM2ns, a FM2, two FMs, three F2s, a couple F3s, and an F4. I have used AF lenses before on a Nikkormat FT2, and have used a 50f2 Nikkor-H that had been converted to AI on a N90s. Works fine. Ive also used Minolta cameras before, as well as an Olympus OM-PC. Theyre all good cameras. So, shoot what you like.

Anyway, I still have one of my FM2ns, one of the FMs, sold off my F2 Photomic (kept the F2As), my F3P, which happened to be my first F3, and my F4. Just recently added another Pentax H3v to my bag. Burned a roll of Agfachrome RSXII 100 through the Pentax today... Also got out the F3 and my "new" 105f4 Micro-Nikkor to get some phots of the fall color and the stormy sky this afternoon.

Needless to say, I felt at home using both cameras. Only thing I would change, is to get a later 55f1.8 for my Pentax. The newer lenses have the aperture ring going the right way, instead of backwards, like on this early 55f1.8 that I own. I might also add the -4 diopter that I need to see clearly w/o glasses while shooting.

Good debate, but I think we should go out and take some photos with our favorite piece of equipment, instead of dwelling on whether or not Pentax is better than Canon, or Minolta is better than Nikon.

Alan Rockwood , January 26, 2006; 02:13 A.M.

Why not go back even further and consider an Exakta VX iia? I love/hate my Exakta, and I love/hate my Canon Rebel 2000, but for different reasons. Actually, I love both of these cameras more than I hate them.

The Exakta is sort of the ultimate in an old manual camera. Everything is manual, and on some of the lenses (the classic 58mm f/2.0 Zeiss Biotar for example) you even manually cock the automatic diaphram for each shot. Add to this some really neat quirkiness, like the left handed film advance, the left-side front-mounted shutter release, a built in film cutter for part-roll shooting, shutter speeds up to 12 seconds, and easy double exposure capability and you have about all the manually operated gadgets you can stand in a camera. Plus, there is lots of chrome, and a nifty trapezoidal body. Instant return mirror or coupled through the lens metering? Who needs that kind of sissy stuff anyway? In fact, who needs a meter at all? Just use the exposure guide that comes with each box of film to estimate exposure and you will be fine 90% of the time. Oops, I forgot - they dont give you the exposure guide insert with film anymore do they? Next thing you know someone will tell me that Kodak will get rid of Kodachrome 25, possibly the greatest film ever made! (Oops again.)

As for the Canon Rebel 2000, its so common that everyone here probably knows more about it than I do. I will say, however, that I think it is vastly under-rated by camera equipment snobs. It will do most everything you really need to do with a camera and some things you dont need to do, although the cheap zoom lenses might not be quite up to, shall we say, the highest professional standard.

Michael Blum , February 26, 2006; 09:34 P.M.

I started using a digital camera in November 2004 ( I think ) and quickly got fed up with all the bells and whistles on it. I used a Canon F1 for many years professionally and for fun. @ months ago I bought a used F1 on ebay. I also have some adaprors to use russian lenses with it although I do have some FD lenses. I think the F1 is the best camera ever built. It has a meter which requires a battery but if the battery dies you can always use "the rule of 16" to get exposure. I bought my daughter an EOS 630 and it is so complex she gave up on it. I dont need Auto focus, I can follow action and focus on the fly and get sharp photos. I did it before any auto focus were on the market. I feel there are lots of alternatives to the auto cameras of today and they arent expensive. You can pick up a Minolta SRT on ebay cheaply also all kinds of lenses for it. I could go on naming camera brands but you get the message. Seek and ye shall find. ;-)

Michael :P

Arjun Mehra , June 16, 2006; 12:02 A.M.

Hear, hear: Alan Rockwood! I love my Exa II; I somehow (probably just out of sentimentality) prefer it even to the technically "superior" Exa 500/Exakta 500. Sure, the Exa IIs minimum shutter-speed is 1/250 of a second (the Exa 500s, 1/500 of one), but, with slow enough film, I quite seldom find myself demanding anything much faster. Do I need to take a hand-held shot of a distant animal with a Meyer-Optik 400mm lens? ...Well, I just have to try to be really still, I suppose. I love the way the Exa II fits in my hand, and Im utterly fond of its layout. The downside: The camera has a reputation for being a bit unreliable. The solution: Get lots and lots of them. Metering indoors? If you cant "guess" it, just carry along the equally lovable Weston Master IV (or V, or the Euro-Master [the Euro-Master II is just a bit too far out of my price range]). Pardon me, but Ill take a manual-focus Exa II over a shiny new Nikon F6 (almost) any day of the week ? :-D!

Bill MacLane , July 03, 2006; 04:32 P.M.

I just found this site searching for information about digital cameras. Howd I arrive at this article? Well, so far this is a great website with many great articles that I roamed off-wubject and found this article. I too use old, I mean OLD, photographic gear and love it. Thanks for the fine article. What any system boils down to is that of understanding what you are using and the result you want then one does not need the newest fancy super-techno gadgets brought to us by the photographic equipment companies. Ill take my old manual Minolta, Nikon, or Leica anyday over the new digital cameras or automated 35mm gear which needs the display replaced every few years (if the display is still available, and yes the LCD display in your camera will need replaced after a few years especially if it is continuoulsy exposed to the sun and / or cold.) So thats my small comment for now. Hopefully I will soon upload some photos taken with not only a digital camera, but also with some gear 20 or more years old using various formats.

Dave Whoami , July 15, 2006; 05:08 P.M.

Beginners (defined as someone new to concepts such as ASA, F stops and depth of field and/or shutter speeds), in my opinion, shouldnt waste money on a top of the line 35mm system. Yup, I acquired a Nikon F recently, since I already had the 28, 50 and 135 lenses for it (non AI). Otherwise, I would have never bothered. So far I am not experiencing any photography that my (far cheaper when new) Ricoh system with Q-Ray lenses cant match. Of course the 90s era Ricoh has a meter capability the 60s era Nikon F lacks, and is compatible with the Pentax K mount lenses as well, and it has a lighter body. Speaking of which my Pentax ZX-5 with its SMC auto lenses can probably run rings around the Nikon F and non AI lenses as far as just point and shoot goes in widely varying light. All of the 35mm gear cited falls down when compared to cheaper digital cameras such as the Sony Cybershots, or the waterproof Optios, etc., for point and shoot purposes. No need for lenses, no need to learn about shutter speeds, or ASA, just plug it into your PC at the end of the day to see what you want to keep and if you want to print it, a standard color printer (and maybe even fake photo paper) prints it all just fine, no need for Fotomat and it all fits in a pocket too. All that being said, 35mm is good retro fun, but for my money, buying older gear is definitely smarter than laying down megabucks for a new system that will go on ebay for $100 complete five years from now.

Stephen Masiello , August 04, 2006; 06:50 P.M.

As far as film goes, Ill stick with my F4s. Will be 20 in a couple years and has a foot in both the old and new camps. Works as well with my manual 50 1.4 and my series E 70-210 as with any of my af nikkor glass. Unless it blows up (yeah right) or they stop selling film, Ill be using it. As far as condition, it looks like its about a month old. Lets see if you can say that about your D70 in 18 years.

Jason Withers , August 15, 2006; 06:59 P.M.

Kodak Retina Reflex III

Im suprised that no one has mentioned the Kodak SLRs of the 1950s to mid 1960s. I currently have the Retina Reflex III with a Schneider Kreuznach lens and Ive used it to take wonderful pictures. In its day, I beleive these cameras were on par with any Nikon or Pentax camera. The Retina and Retina Reflex cameras are quite intricate pieces of work and require precise handling and one must understand how to use the camera before "tinkering" with it. The Retina Reflex line did not have extensive lenses available when the cameras were introduced in the 1950s and were only available up to 200mm when the Retina Reflex III and IV were introduced. But aside from that, Kodak deserves a mention with its Retina and Retina Reflex line of cameras. They were and still are superb cameras and works of art!

It seems that a lot of individuals have commented on the robustness and construction of cameras and how some are made more solidly than others. IMO, cameras are not meant to be tossed around and they must be used gently and cared for constantly in order to perform as they were intended to.

Again, this is just my opinion :) Are there any other Retina Reflex users out there??

Ed Yuen , December 06, 2006; 10:51 P.M.

I just wanted to add a comment on the latest reference to the old Kodak Retina cameras. I have the pleasure of using and owning a Retina IV with the 50 mm lens and will admit that inspite of the age of the camera and that its all manual its a great learning tool. I wont go so far to recommend it to beginners but it goes to show that whatever you choose to use you should learn to use it in as many situations as possible. I still occasionally use it to shoot B&W, and have had excellent results with colour films. If youre interested you might still find one of the Retina model cameras and associated lens on Ebay, but the usual buyer beware still applies.

Ben Ballard , December 20, 2006; 11:45 P.M.

I just bought a Kodak Retina Reflex III, although it will need a shutter CLA before I can use it. Its an incredibly well-made camera, with a Schneider Kreuznach Xenon 50mm f1.9. I really look forward to using it. I love the way the red depth-of-field tabs move when you change the aperture. I also love the way the aperture and shutter rings are coupled, so once you set the aperture, you can move the shutter ring and the aperture ring moves in the opposite direction, maintaining the current EV setting. Not many cameras that I know of have such a feature.

I also have to echo the sentiments of many of the earlier postings -- that there is a lot of value in older manual-focus 35mm SLRs. My main system is Minolta. I have an XE-7, SRT-Super, and XG-SE with mostly MC lenses as I prefer the heavier things made of metal. Also, many of the 60s Japanese rangefinders are excellent.

Gary Miller , January 21, 2007; 08:26 P.M.

In spite of the fact that I have an old Nikon F and an Olympus OM-1, I find that a #1 pencil seems to be the best for quick sketches. I use a Chinese brush for watercolors, and I recently upgraded to a computer to replace my old IBM Selectric for writing. Golly, tools are great. I wish ideas were treated by universal standards, but alas consumerism is more important. Wait! Let me turn on my 52-inch flat-screen TV. Maybe it will improve the quality of the garbage that comes out of Hollywood. Or not.

John Levin , May 23, 2007; 11:53 P.M.

I put together an OM system a few years ago on the cheap, buying lenses through Ebay and scouting used gear departments...but it sat in the closet for the last few years as I went digital.

I recently acquired a Nikon film scanner, and dug out the OM gear. What a revelation. Focus, speed, aperture and exposure are all I need to worry about. I dont have to remember a whole menu tree, or battery life or ISO noise issues. Put the film in, set the ISO and go. Todays negative and positive films are excellent -- even if positive transparency film has become a major pain to buy and develop.

Since I am now scanning to .tif files, photoshopping and printing on a Canon bubblejet, Im still doing digital, but on my terms.

I dont need to worry about the disaster that happened today...when I accidentally bumped the ISO button on my Canon S3 IS, resetting ISO up to 800 and ruining a whole bunch of shots with extra noise. Thats something that never happens with film. (Sure, theres always lab errors, negative scratching, light seal failures, dust, airport x-ray machines, and film loading but those are analog issues, not digital).

Plus, with a nice little 100mm/f 2.0 prime lens and ISO 800 film I can wander around without a flash and do all kinds of interesting available light stuff that is still fairly challenging for all but high end digital gear. (And it doesnt look like Im pointing $10K worth of gear at people, which makes a difference, believe me.)

Dan Paris , June 02, 2007; 11:03 P.M.

Oh, my god! What a blast from the past! I read almost everyones comments, spanning from 1998 (I think) to 2007. A lot of great comments, opinions & memories, many of which I share. At the risk of being drummed out of this thread, Ive gone completely digital and now shoot a Nikon D50 and various Nikon DX lenses. But until Fall 2006, I was a film man through and through. It all started with a meter-less Pentax SP-500 (late 60s, I think) that I bought in high school in 1977 or 1978. I loved the simplicity. It had an external prism-mounted meter, the highest shutter speed was 1/500 and the thing weighed slightly less than a VW Bus.

My love for manual cameras grew tenfold when I bought my first Olympus OM-1MD and a few prime lenses in 1981, including my all-time favorite: a Zuiko 24mm f2. God, what a fabulous lens. Sharp, great resolution; it always came through for me. Later, I added an OM-2S. Its spot meter perfectly suited my interest in sports photography, but it was also helpful with portraits and anything subject to tricky lighting. I once estimated I took nearly 10,000 images with these two beauties over 10 years (including 4,500 during Summer 1986 when I worked as a photojournalist for a small weekly paper in Quesnel, BC).

All that came to an end recently when the last of the bodies finally kicked the bucket. At the time it happened, the 5 fps motor drive was still humming away, the lenses were still aching to be used and abused, and my ancient camera bag looked like it had been holidaying annually in Beirut, but they were all faithful servents. It was a sad day when the silky smooth OM-2S shutter release didnt release anymore. I miss that camera a lot.

The Nikon D50 has its benefits and its performing well enough but it doesnt allow me the same feel & control I came to love with the Olympus. Its easy-to-use functions are also causing me to be a bit more lazy with my images. What I wouldnt do for a depth-of-field button or an aperture ring! Hopefully one day, the brilliant digital engineers will revisit the old ways and well get back some of the simplicity, feel and quality that now seems lost.

Ive completely converted and am sticking with digital, so Im not going to lead you on and suggest that Im going to switch back, but its good to know that others out there feel as passionate about the old systems as I once did. And still do, I guess. Thanks for sharing some of your thoughts, memories and passion. Cheers.

Jose Angel Navarro Cortes , July 10, 2007; 07:59 A.M.

I have almost 30 years without a fault a Canon A1 and a F1 with old FD lenses 135/F2.5, 50/F1.4 and 20/F2.8

The only repair I have made to them is the change of new light foams in the backs, and I made it myself.

I still use them with shots that are almost imposible to make with a digital one. The only thing I need now is a good slide scanner to be able to share them.

Film cameras an digital ones are like vinile and cd music, some people see the diference and some do not see it.

I hope that they will keep manufacturing films for long time.

Escuse my english. Regards.

William Barnett-Lewis , August 05, 2007; 03:07 A.M.

The OP is now 9 years old. That we are still commenting on this posting at this point should tell us something to begin with...

Im a Canonista. I started with an AE-1 back in 1983 from the PX at my post in the BRD. Today I own EOS & FD cameras & lenses & its the FD ones I turn to daily. I bought an exquisite A2E the other day, used it daily for a week & turned back, happily, to my T-90. If you can not understand why, Im not sure I can tell you why... :(

I use just about every kind of camera & format that currently has film available for it. Yet when I go out the front door, 90% of the time, of late, that old T90 is the camera over my shoulder. When its not that one, its my Bessa R rather than, say, my A2E... ;)

Thank you for listening,


Jan Roodt , September 03, 2007; 04:29 P.M.

After all had been said and tried, I can just thank my lucky stars that I started off with a Pentax K1000 and some really great lenses, working mostly in black and white for a long time. I am a techno junkie, but when it comes to really thinking about a shot, I pull out my K1000. And when I go into some rough places, youll find the K1000 and one or two lenses with me. Modern film works wonders and the fast lenses make it simple to get pics when other people worry about water, heat, dust, falls, etc. If you really want to get to grips with the basics, just get an old K1000, a 50mm and 28mm, play and have fun. What you learn there will work with the modern technology and youll get a good work horse into the bargain. Long live ANALOGUE!

Oliver Smith , November 18, 2007; 08:08 A.M.

Started reading up on photography a few months ago, getting fed up with taking crumby snapshots. Bought a Leica D-Lux 3 which Im really pleased with, and then two weeks ago bought an OM-1 for ?40 ($80), bit of a steal! Really love the old school camera, Im not distracted by lots of buttons and features. And being film it makes me concentrate a lot more on what Im taking a picture of. Digital just lures me into firing off loads of shots and then selecting the best one when I get home. I think the OM-1 will be a better teacher than the D-Lux 3. I also think the OM-1 will live longer too, 30 years old but still good as new, I doubt many digital cameras will last that long. Regarding Jose Angel Navarro Cortes comment, I wonder how many people who are into film photography are also into vinyl over CD/MP3?

Image Attachment: CNV00008.JPG

Mick Peirson , December 22, 2007; 11:54 A.M.

Hiya to you all...

I am a new member. I live 3 miles from Dungeness in south eastern England, and find this website the best of them all. I have spent hours reading other members very interesting questions and answers, and have learned a lot. I have a Pentax KD10 which I am very pleased about, and also a Canon Ixus V which I use for sending pics by e-mail. The Pentax is a really great camera. If I won the lottery I would upgrade as I suspect we all would. I also have 3 Pentax Spotmatics, and a Pentax Spotmatic F, and also a Pentax P50. I also have quite a few SMC and Super Takuma lenses. I am probably wandering off line a bit here. I have used my spotmatics since the sixties and they have never let me down once except that a light meter went on the blink last year on one of them. I have a couple of Weston V exposure meters so I use one of them. I use all of the Spotmatics (dont want to favour just one the others would get upset). The problem is that for the last couple of years I am getting backache in the darkroom. That is why I bought a digital camera in the first place. Digital is as fine as the old SLRs were in their day. Digital of course is the future and if I had to choose then it would have to be the digital. For one thing I am one of those unfortunates that just have to take the kitchen sink with me when I go on a photo shoot. My camera bag weighs a ton and I am getting too old to cart all that stuff around. I did once go out on a shoot with just a Spotmatic and a 35mm wide angle and it was great. If I could get out of the house with just one camera and one lens I would be happy. Thats where the digital comes in, so light and easy. But what about all those beautiful lenses?. I have photos I took when the kids were little with a Brownie 127 which I blew up to 12"x16" and they still hang on my wall at home. The light was just right and the focus distance was just right despite the lens being from the bottom of a milk bottle. All I will say is digital..... or old SLR.....I have fun with all of them and that is the point, fun with your photography. I love the website. A peaceful time to you all. Old or new we all love photography dont we?.

Best wishes

Mike Peirson-UK.

Doug Nelson , January 27, 2008; 01:40 P.M.

Having read quite enough about digital SLRs pixel areas dying, sensor dust, and the crop factor on those within my price range, I stay with film. If I have to carry batteries, cords, digital storage devices, no to mention these HUGE lenses to get any decent optics, I may as well carry film and scan the best shots at home. For serious photogs or students on a budget, the Canon F-1s, a pro SLR 35 years ago, combined with truly great (and CHEAP) Canon FD optics, are reliable and predictable photographic tools. All of my oldies have had a CLA to the tune of about $160, and they may well last me the rest of my life, or the rest of films days (Im 60). My Leicaflex SL is an underrated SLR with a very bright viewfinder, even in its ancient yellowed state, with the added bonus of the Leica R 28mm f2.8, 50mm f2 and 90mm f2.8 lenses. I dont use zooms. For me the convenience does not justify the optical compromises involved. Sure, Id love a Canon 5D and Canon primes, and an adapter to use my Leica R lenses. I just cant justify a cost equaling my entire lifetime photo investment for a camera that will not give me the durability of these oldies.

andy colla , February 28, 2008; 11:38 A.M.

Wow! What a great thread! Lots of good memories, to boot. I still own a OM-1 + Zuiko 1.4 50mm. I love it. I was looking at my camera bag for the digital stuff and comparing it to my film camera bag.

Film bag: 1 Olympus OM1 1 Zuiko 1.4 50mm 1 lens shade 2 or 3 film cartridges

Digital bag: 1 Sony R1 or Nikon D50 1 75-300 2 spare batteries 1 charger 1 charger cable Several CF/MS/SD cards 1 USB cable 1 CD (camera drivers/software) 1 pack of Pac*ped 1 bottle of eclipse/Zeiss cleaner Camera manual(s) etc...

You get the idea... :)

Jim Baker , March 16, 2008; 12:57 P.M.

I would like to echo the comment of the previous contributor. I have owned an OM-1n for 30 years and carry 3 Zuiko lenses: 24mm f2.8, 50mm f1.8 and 85mm f2 + a T20 flash. I have always shied away from digital because it seems so complicated. So may buttons! With my old camera, I just keep in mind shutter speed, aperture and focus. Of course, theres more, particularly when I use flash, but basically I find the operation of the camera simple and instinctive. The difference between a mediocre picture and a great picture (or at least a picture Im pleased with!) is often tiny: a slight change of perspective or, if shooting a person, some exchange that changes the mood. In pursuing these elusive factors, I like to keep equipment handling to a minimum, while having the control I need. Of course, digital is here to stay and of course you can take great digital photos. But in my case, my pictures would not be any better if I were to go to all the trouble and expense of changing over to digital.

Shane OKeefe , October 12, 2008; 12:21 P.M.

I inherited an old (76-78) Minolta SRT 201 with various lenses (1.7 50mm, 3.5 135mm, 4.5 85-200mm zoom, and a 2.0 28mm and a macro lens that I dont understand lol). This is my first camera ever, and I am hooked. Ive read a couple reviews on it, and it seems like a good beginner camera. I have no intention of ever going digital.

I read quite abit of this thread, and didnt see much about this body. Just wondering if anyone had any thoughts about this camera.


Grig Montegrande , December 05, 2008; 04:52 A.M.

i love my fm3a with nikkor 50mm 1.8 lens and md12 motor drive, very dependable as ever.

grig montegrande

Mal. Stevens , January 14, 2009; 11:16 P.M.

I have several Nikon cameras...F2, F4, and a N70 I am now using a Nikon D-40 with a 18-55 and 18-200 Nikon lenses, I find it easy to compose and shoot with this camera with all the various settings I can use or set it on automatic and let the camera do the all the work while I concentrate on my composition of the photo. Digital is here to stay and I like it as I have been photographing with various digital cameras for about 10 years or more and, also using my film cameras once in a while to keep them in good working condition. Its hard to let go of my original film cameras.

steven crichton , May 19, 2009; 10:09 A.M.

After all the discussion of which nikon lenses work on the non AI compatible cameras. I would like to inform everyone I have just recently purchased a nice Nikon F2s and have found that for £10 and a day without my lenses I now have full open aperture metering on a 50mm 1.8 AFD 24mm 2.8 AFD and 85 1.8 AFD by simply calling a camera repair store and enquiring if they had any non-AI coupling pins.

After receiving my 3 sets of pins and screws. A carefully drilled 1mm hole in each lens where the pre-drilled marks are and hey presto lenses that will meter successfully from the original F photomic right through to the very latest DSLRs so a much reduced kit bag for me to cover all occasions.

In another note if I was starting from scratch I would be tempted for a Canon RT as they are totally cheap as chips, no SLR handling issues with the great canon mount that allows any lens to be slammed in front as long as you can cope with stop down metering. Even Nikon G lenses!!

Larry Miller , February 17, 2010; 05:47 P.M.

Got no interest in digital and never will. LONG LIVE "THE OLDIES".!!!

Larry Miller , February 17, 2010; 05:48 P.M.

Got no interest in digital and never will. LONG LIVE "THE OLDIES".!!!

Zapata Espinoza , January 19, 2011; 03:35 P.M.

Well, thirteen years after Philip wrote the article, I have gathered sufficient experience with various old 35mm SLRs to fully answer the question. Too bad, no one seems to care about the question anymore. 

Douglas Munsinger , July 27, 2011; 11:25 A.M.

I have and love my Canon 60D and 24-70mm f2.8 lens.  If I had to settle for one camera, that would be it.  

Well, with the nikon prism/split-focus screen installed to validate AF and to manually focus...

...Olympus OM 50mm, 28mm and 135mm manual focus lenses with an adapter from Fotodiox.  These lenses have a different quality of light, and even on the digital sensor there is a nice feel to the images. 

From that lens setup came two (not one but two... sigh) Olympus OM2 cameras, which are just a joy to look at, and in use are like holding a fine watch.  They are light, responsive, and once you get used to the steps, very quick to use.  

That shoots 35mm, which with I can get about 30 Megapixels when they are scanned.  But I needed 70 Megapixels, and I found a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II and 110mm f2.8 lens.  In black and white film these produce a level of detail and sharpness and gradation of shadow and highlight which is stunning.  And in color and scanned I can get full size images of 30" x 40" paintings in print with close to perfect detail. 

The Nikon scanner is no longer made, and there isnt a replacement in the horizon.  I will likely drop back to an Epson flatbed with the glass adjustable platen...  Or step further into the deep hole of photographic equipment and find a used drum scanner...

I wanted to learn on a 35mm SLR and had to settle with a Kodak Signet 35mm when I was 12 years old, with which I struggled.  The Olympus is a simple but effective and elegant photographic tool, a joy to learn with and is washing away that Kodak moment.   

Bela Laszlo Molnar , August 17, 2011; 06:03 P.M.

For Douglas,  and the many others. Im a Nikon user since I seriously started  photography. That was long time ago. First Nikon F  and then all the  serious models to the F5. Years now, using digital bodies, and started experiencing, using all those  prime and some good quality and not so good quality lenses, like the legendary bad Nikkor 43-86/3.5. Legendary, the first version, the silver nose, but  the second version, the black nose,  wasnt so bad, as the legends  claiming. To make short this comment, I figured out, the old  lenses as good  optically as any new, plastic, and half  plastic  bodied consumer  or  expensive pro zooms. Then I dusted of  and CLA ed  my old Nikon F, Nikkormat, F2,FA, FE, etc. witch ever I needed. Not many. And loaded  them with Velvia, T-Max, and  out  to shoot. First the Nikkormat, then F2, and now, the F, no  meter prism. It was a joy to work with them, and 15 rolls, all of  them properly exposed, noticed, after I picked up them from a lab.  Recently, I inherited a couple of Olympus OM-1 and 2, OM-2 s all of  the with motor winder. I discovered a Swiss watch in SLR camera, and  wandered of the precision and logic, how those cameras  was made. They are really a precision swiss  watches, solidly build, and  the  lenses,  super  quality, specially mechanically, I would compare them to any Zeiss  lenses. Even with  the  motor winder attached, those cameras  are so small and so enjoyable to use them, it is amassed me  greatly. Compared to my D700+battery grip, never mind the D3, they  are  monsters. And of course  with  them, DSLRs, to going out  with a lots of  additional  equipment, like cables, chargers, extra spear batteries, etc. With the Nikon F, or the Olympus OM-1,-2, you  had all the film in your packets  and a couple of  lenses in the second packets and  you can go  very light, no  headache, no battery, no laptops, etc. Olympus view finder? I never see a big view finder in my life, when I looked trough,  on any other  cameras so big and clear, regardless, from the outside the  little pyramid  half a size like other pentaprism view finder on other  similar class of cameras. So, Im getting out  more and more time, with the two or three film cameras and shooting  with more  joy,  then I do with my digital bodies. For the last, I was kinda smiling, when I read this  article, thinking  to days young photographers, including some of my younger photo friends,  using a digital camera with aperture priority, most of the time or all the time, would  panic if the had  to use a total manual camera, some of them, dont even know, they  have a light-meter in they cameras. Yes, discovering forgotten joy of  real photography, when you has to  learn the real things, and  use your knowledge and experience to create beautiful images, full frame,  high megapixels.

Lee Shively , April 07, 2012; 07:13 P.M.

So, here we are again, over a decade after my previous comment.  Lots of water under the old photography bridge since the original article was written.  I havent been hanging out at Pnet much in the last few years and, when I read comments made by newer members, Im reminded of how the current generation of photographers believe theres nothing they can learn because theyve grown up in the digital age.  Its amusing and its sad.  Film is dead.  Well not totally but, hell, its on a downhill slide with teflon on the slide surface.  Kodak is on the way out, Minolta and Konica are dead and Leicas are now so damned expensive the only people who buy them are stockbrokers, Hollywood celebrities, mainstream newsmedia talking heads and the odd plumber (yeah, well, see how much it costs you to have your next plumbing job done and you will fully understand that one).  So, the question of "What about an old 35mm SLR?" is virtually a moot point.  Who the hell uses 35mm film anymore?  Not a lot of people.  I you?  But the great thing about reading old stuff is remembering (or, if youre a youngster who has never experienced using film cameras, being informed about) how things were done in the days before 0 and 1 became the norm.  While I have no intention of returning to those days, it was a helluva ride.  I had a great time.  If youre reading this and you are the least bit interested in shooting film, give it a try before the party is really over.  Those old cameras were jewels.  Today, several film cameras decorate the shelves of my home.  In the 21st Century, as photographic tools, they are anachronisms but their history is something for which any and every serious photographer should feel a kinship. 

William Lanteigne , December 04, 2013; 02:04 P.M.

I began taking pictures when I was about 12, using my mothers Kodak Duaflex. My first "serious" camera was a Minolta Autocord CDS, which is the camera that taught me about exposure values, and the relationship between aperture and shutter speed. Did someone mention bright viewfinders? Nothing beats a TLRs 2" square ground glass viewfinder for brightness, not even a brightly lit LED screen... I began getting a sense of depth-of-field, stumbled upon hyperfocusing quite by accident, when I began using 35mm- first rangefinders, like my Yashica Electro 35 G, then my brothers Minolta SRT 101, then my own Sears KSX (in the 1970s, Sears was selling quite serious, quality cameras, most made by Ricoh). In the past decade, as pros and consumers have stampeded from film to digital, Ive picked up a lot of quality film cameras and related equipment (as well as buying my own digital cameras, most recently a Canon T3). My flagship 35mm SLRs are a Canon A1 and a Pentax Program Plus. To be sure, the camera thats constantly with me, and thus most likely to be used, is my cell phone!

Image Attachment: fileBRYOIS.jpg

Michael McBroom , April 02, 2015; 06:04 P.M.

So this threads gone a little stale, so what? If anything, the title, "What about an old 35mm SLR?" is more apropos now than when the OP started this thread. I mean, back in 1998, digital cameras were few and far between. Everybody was still shooting film, albeit with autofocus cameras, for the most part.

These days you can just about remove the word "old" from the title and it makes it even more relevant. But because the thread began in 1998, we can safely assume what Phil meant was "What about a manual focus 35mm SLR?" Or even better -- based on the camera he selected as an example -- "What about a mechanical, manual focus 35mm SLR?"

Lemme tell you something about me. I caught the photography bug back in about 1982. My first interchangeable lens camera was a Canon AE-1. (My second was a IVSb rangefinder, but thats another story) I decided after a while that the AE-1 didnt have enough automation because back then I felt that the more automation a camera had, the better picture taking tool it was, so in 1984 I bought a Canon A-1, which was Canons advanced amateur top model back then. But within a year of the A-1s purchase, I began to feel like I was missing out on something.  I began to crave control of the camera, instead of the camera having all the controls. And I found that using the A-1, when set to manual, was not a very satisfying experience. So I took a big step backward and bought an FTb. And fell in love. The FTb taught me about photography. My next camera was the original Canon F-1, and I was hooked. I became a prolific photographer, shooting slide film only, sometimes as many as a dozen rolls a week.  Doesnt sound like all that much in these days of digital, but back then a dozen rolls a week was a lot. For the next several years my F-1s and I were inseparable. Anything that could be done with a 35mm camera I was able to do without too much difficulty with my F-1s.

 Circa 1984: Canon FTb, Sigma 600mm f/8 mirror, Kodachrome 64

Some years later, I also branched out into Nikon, picked up an F2A and an F3 and a bunch of lenses, and enjoyed using Nikon just as much as Id enjoyed my old Canons. I never once felt the desire to rush out and buy the latest and greatest AF wonders that were available by the early 1990s. In 1990, I also bought an EOS Rebel for the wife, and slowly added stuff to it, such that by the time Phil wrote the opening post in this thread, I had a couple of EOS bodies and four or five lenses, plus a good flash.  The Af gear was used mostly for snapshots of the family, social get-togethers, etc. I was still lugging around my MF gear when I wanted to do any serious photography.

Nikon F3, Tamron 300mm f/2.8 LDIF, Fujichrome 100, circa 1990:

Here it is, almost 17 years since the original post in this thread, and I have more "Old 35mm Gear" than ever. I have somewhere around fifteen manual focus 35mm SLRs, most of which are mechanical, so that, should the battery go dead, the only thing lost is the meter. And probably 50 or more manual focus lenses.  All told, I have six AF lenses.  Yep, Ive been moving in reverse, you might say, for the past several years.  In fact, I recently bought a better digital camera -- a Sony NEX -- and one of the main reasons why I did is because I can mount just about any lens youd care to name to it. Especially manual focus lenses. Old manual focus lenses. And given that its a NEX 7, Ive got plenty of megapixels available too.  You know, its quite amazing just how downright sensational many of the old lenses are when used with a good digital, like a NEX.

My collection has expanded well beyond 35mm now. I have two folder 6x6s, a 6x6 TLR, a 6x4.5 SLR and a 6x7 SLR. I love shooting medium format. One of these days Ive got to get a 4x5.

Bronica ETRSi, 75mm f/2.8, Portra 160:

These days, Im very concerned about the future of film, so Im doing my part and buying it whenever I can. Im also doing all of my own developing now -- B&W, E-6, C-41, the whole enchilada. Its much cheaper this way. I have a hybrid darkroom these days. I still develop film the way its always been done, but I scan or dupe my images to digital and only print out the ones I desire having hard copies of. Many of the rest get put online or stored in local digital archives.

 Canon F-1, Canon 85mm f/1.2 SSC Aspherical, Kodak Elite Chrome:

So I guess what Im getting at with this long diatribe is that Old 35mm Cameras Are Alive and Well, at least over here, but also in lots of other places. I am of the view that there is very little that a digital SLR can do that a film SLR cant and that there are things that a film SLR can do that a digital SLR cant. For example, whens the last time you tried to take a double exposure with your digital SLR? Whens the last time you tried recording an image when your digital SLRs batteries were dead?  How about shooting B&W that really looks like B&W?


There is a rebirth in interest in film and its happening for solid good reasons. And it isnt happening too soon, if you ask me.

Larry Miller , May 19, 2015; 11:08 A.M.

I agree with you Michael. Film is making a comeback. Ive been shooting it since the late 60s and will continue to do so as long as they still make it. Never got into digital. No interest!