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Best 35mm SLR Camera for Beginners? 812

TibbonZero asks: "I've been thinking of getting into photography, but want to stay with 35mm film instead of going digital. Used 35mm SLRs seem to be the best bet, but which ones should I seriously consider? I would like to spend less than $200 on the camera itself, and start off with some cheaper lenses. It seems to me like there's still a lot more bang for your buck in film vs digital cameras at this point, even with film processing costs (I have almost a whole darkroom setup that my father used to use). I think I want a manual focus camera." Don't forget, a 35mm camera (film or digital) would make a nice Christmas Gift for that budding photographer in your life!
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Best 35mm SLR Camera for Beginners?

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  • Pentax K-1000 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:31PM (#7674513)
    That's the prototypical student camera. No auto-anything, no motor, no
    electronics. Just a meter to help you out with exposure. They don't make it
    any more but you can find them on eBay, and there are plenty of similar
    cameras. Built like a tank and many pros still use them. Or at least that's
    what I've heard, I haven't seen a pro use anything but medium/large format
    and/or digital these days!

    If you learn on a camera like this, you will *understand* photography better
    because you will have to make every decision yourself. You have to learn to
    constantly keep in mind the following: composition, shutter speed, aperture.
    Once you learn to juggle those variables and "think" in photograph terms you
    can switch to any other camera with manual capabilities.

    Don't worry too much about the type of body though. Just make sure it's an
    SLR with minimal "automatic" stuff. Then spend the rest of your money on the
    lenses, or tickets to far-away places where you'll take lots of cool pictures.

    Think about this: when you press the shutter on the camera, it is just an
    empty box (a well-aligned box, but still just a box). So don't waste your
    money on the camera body. I see people blow big bucks on the camera and then
    with "money left over" they buy some crappy Sigma lens.. don't do that.

    Also, you might want to consider a medium-format camera or something where you
    have to individually load sheets of film. I personally never liked 35mm
    because of the small size and the annoying canister and was glad to dump it in
    favor of digital.

    Good luck, remember to shoot as many shots as you can afford and never be afraid that you're "wasting" film.
    • Re:Pentax K-1000 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vondo ( 303621 ) * on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:37PM (#7674596)
      Yes, a K-1000 is a good learners camera, but it may not be the best choice for something to grow with. I started with an all manual Olympus camera. Added more lenses, replaced some lenses, added another body, etc. Then I decided I needed AF and something reliable (the Olympus stuff was finicky). I had to scrap everything and buy a new, modern system.

      I'd suggest something that can be a seemless upgrade to a modern system. I stuck with my manual equipment far too long because I had too much invested in it.

      • Re:Pentax K-1000 (Score:5, Informative)

        by elvum ( 9344 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:23PM (#7675123) Journal
        Well, a Pentax would be ideal then, since (with a few exceptions) all Pentax-compatible lenses and cameras made since the mid-seventies are interoperable, with each combination allowing the use of all features common to both cameras.
        • Re:Pentax K-1000 (Score:4, Informative)

          by Kompressor ( 595513 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @02:26AM (#7677702)
          Not only are pentax lenses and bodies massively cross-compatible within their own timeframe, but most modern pentax bodies are backwards compatible to their older lenses, as Pentax kept the bayonet mount when they moved to autofocus lenses. This means that you can take almost any Pentax lens on the market, new or used, and make it work on most modern pentax bodies. Can't say that for Canon, can we?

          I have mounted the 50mm stock lens from my mother's K-1000 (older than I am!) on my MZ-5n [pentaxcanada.com] (ZX-5n for you americans in the house) and it worked just fine.

          For someone who wants manual focus, I would sugest the MZ-M [pentaxcanada.com] (ZX-M in the states). It is basically a modern version of the K-1000, but it can be used in automatic exposure modes (aperature priority, shutterspeed priority, or full on automatic).

          Seriously, I wouldn't recommend buying a new manual focus SLR, unless you're really strapped for cash, or have an asshat professor that insists on it. Almost all SLR bodies can turn the autofocus off, and revert to manual focus. I was considering the MZ-M myself, as I just wanted a new K-1000, but I decided that having the ability to leave it in autofocus might be the difference between capturing a moment, and wasting a frame.

          In regards to the ask slashdot, I seriously suggest that you check out your local camera shops. Hit 3 or 4 of them, and talk to a salesgeek. Everyone has their pet brand and favorite camera (I, too, am guilty of reaching for certain brands in our showcase automatically.) There's nothing wrong with that, as long as you end up making a well-informed decision. Any serious retailer should be willing to teach you a bit about how a 35mm SLR works, and break down the differences between the brands and models without expecting you to buy on the spot.
      • Re:Pentax K-1000 (Score:5, Informative)

        by phidipides ( 59938 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @09:29PM (#7675726) Homepage
        I'd agree with the parent on this one -- I started with a K-1000, which was a great camera to learn with. However, when the camera finally died my upgrade options were a) buy another Pentax (and have fewer accessories to choose from) or b) replace all of my lenses (and be broke). It seems that the selection of bodies and lenses are far greater with Canon and Nikon, and these cameras offer more "professional" features. In addition, you can find a lot more nice used Canon and Nikon equipment on eBay.

        Long story short, I bought a Canon Eos Elan 7 and I'm thrilled with it. It has a few more of the features that I wanted (bracketing, remote shutter release) and the number of lenses and other accessories now available is awesome. The obligatory shameless plug: Photos are here [dyndns.org].
      • Re:Pentax K-1000 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by firewort ( 180062 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @10:33PM (#7676239)
        actually, the lenses are compatible with the new digital pentax SLR body.

        So start out with film, graduate to digital and take the lenses with you from one to the other.
    • Re:Pentax K-1000 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Apro+im ( 241275 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:38PM (#7674613) Homepage
      The parent makes excellent points - only thing is that if you get a manual-everything camera, even with a lot of practice, quickly getting a picture is nigh impossible. I might get a low-end camera which has the option of manual everything, but even with my Canon A-1 (as old as I am!), I'm often frustrated by the need to just *focus* before I take a shot. (Maybe if I used it more, that'd come a lot more naturally to me.)
      Also, if you're developing your own, of course you can always try to compensate for bad settings at development time.
      • Re:Pentax K-1000 (Score:4, Informative)

        by ncc74656 ( 45571 ) <scott@alfter.us> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:53PM (#7674811) Homepage Journal
        The parent makes excellent points - only thing is that if you get a manual-everything camera, even with a lot of practice, quickly getting a picture is nigh impossible.

        I'm not sure the auto-everything cameras are that much faster. Once you have something like a K1000 dialed in to where you think the action will be, you can get a picture from it as soon as you stab the shutter. With nearly any auto-whatever camera, the camera will spend a second or more making sure the focus, exposure, etc. are correct before it finally takes the picture. You might be able to speed things up by overriding stuff you know won't change (when taking pictures at an airshow, for instance, you can leave the focus locked at infinity), but then you're not doing things any differently than you would with an all-manual camera.

        (I need to have my K1000 looked at sometime...the film-used counter resets by itself, and I think the pictures it's taking now aren't as sharp as they used to be. That last bit might be my imagination, though, or maybe it's the film processor...I should probably run some slide film through it and see how those pictures turn out. Most of my picture-taking has shifted to a Coolpix 995, but it'd be nice to have the K1000 as a backup. Besides, I have wider and longer lenses for it, as well as filters and other fun stuff.)

        • Re:Pentax K-1000 (Score:4, Insightful)

          by WNight ( 23683 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:41PM (#7675316) Homepage
          Most modern SLRs with auto-focus are blinding fast. Just today I fired off a four-shot burst at a crow that flew about ten feet over my head. At my first shot it was about 25' out, at the third shot is was straight above and half the distance, at the fourth shot it was already getting farther away.

          This was with the Canon EOS 300D (Digital Rebel).

          My old Canon Powershot G2 was a nice camera, but its autofocus was slow. With the rebel I can focus and shoot in about the same time (125ms) as the G2 took to shoot from focused and metered.

          All you need to do is keep the focus point over the subject and your shots will be clear. And, if you can't, you turn off AF and do it yourself. With a manual camera you can't turn AF on, so you'd miss all of the fast-moving shots.
          • Re:Pentax K-1000 (Score:3, Informative)

            by (54)T-Dub ( 642521 ) *
            I hate autofocus cameras!

            Maybe this is because I don't own one, but I have yet to find a an auto focus SLR that will switch to manual and give me as much control as my K-1000. The feautres may be there, but inevitably you have to use some stupid lcd or nob with some icons that I don't recognize. Maybe I'm too stupid to figure it out, but I always find myself wishing for a light meter, an apeture dial and a shutter speed nob. That combined with the depth of field lines on the lens give me a whole world of
      • Re:Pentax K-1000 (Score:5, Informative)

        by Cerebus ( 10185 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @10:04PM (#7675980) Homepage
        You're too dependent on your gear, sir. I've shot plenty of (IMHO) quality sports work with my K-1000. There's more than enough exposure latitude in the film you should be using for fast work to allow for snap shooting. That's part of photography that's overlooked by more casual amateurs-- film selection should reflect the intended subject.

        The unmentioned advantages of an all manual camera:

        1) Better performance at climate extremes. I don't have to concern myself with anything other than fogging in cold weather. How are your lithium batteries at -10degF?

        2) Fewer failure modes. In fact, the K-1000 has no electronic failures. I don't think I've had a battery in mine for ... 10 years? I shoot mostly nature work these days, and use a handheld self-powered meter. When your battery dies, you're SOL unless you brought a backup-- and every ounce counts when you're three days from anywhere and carrying everything on your back.

        A poster above complained about the 1/60 flash sync. That poster is forgetting that 1/60 is the *standard*. Anything higher than that is a *bonus*, but all cameras default to 1/60; this allows for dumb flashes (rather than electronically synced) to be used to control the exposure rather than using the camera's shutter or aperture.
    • Re:Pentax K-1000 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by monadicIO ( 602882 )
      Unfortunately, they're difficult to come by. I'd suggest the close substitute that I have, the Pentax ZX-M. I've been using it for quite some time now, and other than the "infinite time exposure", I pretty much get most of the things that I want to experiment with. It does have time/aperture priority modes which I used earlier to help me, but soon you will be happier just experimenting with the fully manual mode. Given the fact that it cost much lesser than most other cameras, it's a great deal for a stud
    • by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:44PM (#7674690) Homepage
      ...are not necessarily so bad.

      Sigma has a pro (EX) line, and Tokina does as well (AT-X). Some of Sigma's EX lenses are very highly regarded these days.

      I think the previous poster may actually commit some of the sin that he spoke of when he recommends a K-1000 before asking what the person intends to shoot...

      Each lens line is different. Canon has certain options that may be useful for sports/wildlife shooting that Nikon does not, etc. So rather than just decide on the "cheapest manual body," take some time to find out whose lens lines most closely match the things that you intend to take pictures of.

      Then buy the cheapest body that works with that lens line. Some of the classic families include the Nikon lenses (all one big sort of happy family), the Canon FD series, the Canon EOS series, the Olympus OM series, and of course the Pentax series already mentioned.
    • Re:Pentax K-1000 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sideswipe76 ( 689578 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:45PM (#7674717)
      I completely recommend the cannon rebel 2000. new, the rebel is about in your price range. Used, it's easily in your range. The rebel series has served me well, and they use the EOS lenses -- which there are about n^n lenses out there that are compatible. The other great news is that those same EOS lenses are also completely compatible with the Digital Rebel should you ever go that route. Dear santa: All I want for Christmas is a shiiny new Digital Rebel. Can the elves make me one?
      • Re:Pentax K-1000 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by WankersRevenge ( 452399 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:32PM (#7675231)
        I'm using a Canon Rebel 2000 and its a great camera allowing me to score some nice pics [jezner.com] (work safe stuff). I played around with the Digital Rebel, and quite honestly, it's just the same body as the Rebel. Same pre-sets and switches. Except its digital. Pretty neat, though expensive. The film Rebel is very affordable. My only dissatifaction is with the lens. It takes nice sharp images. I just don't like the range. It's very middle of the road.

        I must say, I disagree with the parent's parent. He states the best way to learn is by being overwhelmed by all the photographic variables like shutter speeds, exposure setting, focus, framing ... what's great about the Rebel, is that it takes care of that for you. So, first you work on just your composition. Then you notice - hey my exposure is off. So you start doing it manually. And as you start playing with your iris, you get involved with your your shutter, which gets you into depth of field. It's a step by step process.

        In my experience photography comes from the gut. You develop your gut by shooting and making mistakes. If you are swamped with variables, you will be making a gazillion mistakes and not knowing what to correct. You'll probably chuck the camera. It's better to start dumb. And evolve with time.

        Also, keep a photo log with you. Helps to record your measurements. A great place to get supplies is at Hunts Photos, but being in LA, I get my stuff through Film Tools (www.filmtools.com).

        Closing this rant - don't think digital or film. It's all just a tool. In the end it's what you capture; what you are trying to express with your image.
    • by Avihson ( 689950 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:46PM (#7674723)
      If not the Pentax get an old Minolta XD-11. The XD-11 had a full manual but also has aperature and shutter priority.

      Enjoy, and don't let them go in a divorce! I should have fought for the cameras instead of the kids... the Judge gave her both! The kids came back to me full time a few years later, the camera equipment she sold!
    • by DaveJay ( 133437 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:58PM (#7674863)
      I have a Pentax K-1000 from college. I'm 32 now, and the camera has survived bad packing from apartment to apartment to apartment and across the country, has survived being thrown in the bottom of a backpack, etc., and works beautifully to this day.

      This is, I believe, a direct result of the metal body. I do not believe a plastic-bodied camera would have stood up to my abuse to this degree. My digital Canon A60 certainly wouldn't (I keep it in a nice padded case.)

      So, yeah, don't throw good money at useless body upgrades from a functionality perspective (all manual is a great way to learn) but spending a little extra for a metal-body camera is something I highly recommend.
    • Re:Pentax K-1000 (Score:3, Informative)

      by qtp ( 461286 )
      I'll second that. The Pentax K-1000 is an incredibly sturdy metal-body camera, and the Asdahi Optical lenses are (were) relatively inexpensive.

      I you already have a Nikon in the family, you might consider a Nikkormat or a Nikon FM-2 (or whatever its succsessor might be), which are also dependable metal-body cameras, and you can use any Nikon lenses that you might already have.

      I you newbie photog is just starting out, and has never handled a camera, you might want to consider buying a "thow-away" fixed-foc
    • Re:Pentax K-1000 (Score:3, Informative)

      by Alan ( 347 )
      A similarly nice one is the Pentax P-30. It's a bit newer than the K1000, all manual, but still very good. Personally I think that *any* SLR from a company that you can still get lenses for is good. Remember that if you get a P30 at a swap meet for $25 or a brand new canon rebel for $400, the quality of the pictures comes from the photographer, not the camera. A better camera will *not* make you a better photographer, even though some of the features on the newer ones can make your life easier.

      I'm a bi
    • Build the System (Score:5, Informative)

      by mesach ( 191869 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:11PM (#7674998)
      Remember to think to your future, Do you want to be Re-Buying the lenses you have when you want to get a new body, If you like nikon but cant afford a Good Nikon, Dont go and buy a canon with hopes of buying a Nikon in the future...

      Buy a low end of what ever system you want, then when you get a new body that has alot more features you can still use the lenses that you have.

      and spend the money on the glass, thats where the picture really matters. If you get slow glass you will really be frustrated with having to search out something to steady your camera on in low light.

      look for an older Nikon Not too old because they changed the mounts, and get yourself a 50mm 1.4 or a 1.2 lens if you can find one, start with that.
    • Re:Pentax K-1000 (Score:5, Informative)

      by mph ( 7675 ) <mph@freebsd.org> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:11PM (#7675003)
      I agree with the parent. I've done most of my photography with my dad's old Canon TLb, which is very similar to the K-1000 in its capabilities (it's a match-needle metering, completely mechanical, manual-focus SLR). I've got about four fixed-length lenses.

      I've taken a non-intro photo class at a top-notch art school, and I can assure you that the camera was not the limiting factor in my work, and there were plenty of talented students doing great things with equally primitive equipment.

      One thing that's worth noting about old cameras and lenses is that they've already done most of their depriciating. Start with one of the good old systems mentioned here, and if you decide in a year that you'd be better off with autofocus, or digital, or a view camera, or whatever (based on your actual experience with the camera), you can sell your kit and get about as much as you paid for it.

      I would recommend Ansel Adams' series The Camera, The Negative, and The Print for learning the big picture of how your camera, lenses, meter, film, and paper work together, and how to get them to meet your creative vision. Even if you don't plan to do darkroom work yourself, it's good to have an understanding of what's going on. I am a technical person, and find Adams' writing to be very clear and satisfactorily detailed with a strong grounding in physical principles. His contributions to photographic education and technique are at least as important as his images. This series is pretty light on the creative aspects of photography, so you'll have to look elsewhere for that.

    • by morgue-ann ( 453365 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:17PM (#7675060)
      I started with a K-1000, but when it was $130 from K-mart in 1984. They aren't made anymore and are more expensive than warranted due to (overblown) reputation.

      Yes, they're tough (mine still worked fine 4 years ago with no CLA (clean, lubricate and adjust) when I traded up to a Super Program), but they're lacking:

      1) Crappy meter. Slow to react and wierdly non-linear at low light levels, so not good for existing light photography with an f/1.4 50mm lens & 400ASA film.

      2) No depth of field (a.k.a. depth of focus) preview. This is a hard feature to learn how to use, but control of DOF is a big part of learning photography and one area where 35mm kicks the crap out of point-and-shoot digicams (which have small sensors, short focal lengths and deep DOF so hard to knock the background out of focus for portraits).

      3) Slow flash sync (X) speed. 1/60th, right? Once you learn manual existing-light photography, you might want to try manual (guide number/focus distance) flash photography. For fill-flash (lighting up a face shaded by a hat brim or eyes shaded by brow), faster sync gives you flexibility.

      [I actually don't recommend trying to learn to use bounce & other tricks to make flash look more natural on anything but digital unless you have a darkroom. Too much lag between exposure & result to figure out what you're doing]

      4) rubberized-cloth fully mechanical shutter. This means the battery only powers the meter & the camera will work with no battery at all. However, it isn't as accurate as quartz-controlled metal blade shutters like in the SuperProgram.

      That said, the Pentax line is nice because the lenses work on the new bodies (including their digital *ist), though sometimes metering doesn't work. Nikon is the only other mfg. that kept the mount the same when they went autofocus-- Canon & Minolta changed. Minolta still makes their manual focus cameras, though. Canon manuals are orphaned with parts getting harder to find.


      Make sure you get a "fast" lens. 85mm or 100mm f/2 or 50mm f/1.4. It's damned hard to focus an f/2 50mm lens (which came on my K1000 originally) because the DOF wide-open is too deep to give you a "snappy" focus.


      Oh and KEH [keh.com] for mail-order used.
    • Amen, brother (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kzinti ( 9651 )
      The K-1000 is great for beginners because it simplifies the task down to its essential controls - focus, shutter speed, and aperture. No fancy modes, auto-this, auto-that. By learning to use a fully manual camera, you'll improve your technique on an automatic camera, because then you'll know when it's better to turn off some of that automatic stuff.

      I bought my K-1000 back in '86, and it's still one of my favorite cameras. My only (minor) complaint is that I'd rather have a split-prism focusing screen; I fi
  • Centon DF (Score:3, Informative)

    by Organized Konfusion ( 700770 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:33PM (#7674528) Journal
    Centon make great beginner cameras, they are part of the jessops brand who are the largest photographic company in Europe.

    Nearly every school recommends their cameras when students sign up for photograpy degrees.

    Check out some of their models here [jessops.com]
    • Re:Centon DF (Score:3, Informative)

      by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) *
      Centon make great beginner cameras, they are part of the jessops brand who are the largest photographic company in Europe.

      Jessop's are very expensive compared with online retailers, tho'. A little while ago I bought a Canon Powershot G5* on Amazon for GBP 478. The other day, I went into the local Jessop's to buy a tripod** and noticed that they had the same camera for GBP 628. By all means browse in a Jessop's store, but make a note of what you want to buy and get it elsewhere!

      * I wholeheartedly reccomme
  • Several good options (Score:5, Informative)

    by vondo ( 303621 ) * on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:33PM (#7674532)
    You want to make sure you pick something you can grow with. From that viewpoint, a manual focus Nikon body and a couple of lenses might fit your budget. Then later you can slowly upgrade to auto-focus. A used (or even new) Canon Rebel body and lenses might also be a good choice. (Nikon kept things compatible when moving from manual to auto focus, Canon did not.)

    Both Canon and Nikon offer digital SLR bodies for when you are ready, and used equipment is easy to find (unlike some of the other manufacturers).

    Keep in mind a few things:

    1. When buying used equipment, cosmetics are very important to the price. So, if you just want something to use but don't care about resale value, a scuffed up, but otherwise mechanically perfect, camera or lens may be a great deal.
    2. If you start with an older manual camera, you will learn a lot more about photography than with a new, auto-everything, camera. You will also waste a lot more film.
    3. Unless your father had an amazing darkroom, you'll be limited to black and white prints and maybe developing slides. Color prints are very difficult. But you'll learn tons regardless.

    For what it's worth, I recently replaced an old Olympus system with a Canon system. Rebel 2000 body, Elan 7e body, 28-90mm lens, and 100-300mm lens. It's been great. At some point I will buy a digital body too.

    • Don't forget Pentax (Score:3, Informative)

      by nano-second ( 54714 )
      When I was 16, my parents gave me a Pentax K-1000 which is a classic student camera. Everything is manual, so you can have complete control. Yes, this offers more room for bad pictures, but that's part of the learning curve. It has a split-focus which is really great and makes moving to manual focus a pretty straightforward change.

      If you're concerned about how much you will spend on film, buy a bulkloader. It's not to hard to use and way cheaper than buying individual rolls.

      Pentax has a variety of dif

  • Go Canon or Nikon (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dr Reducto ( 665121 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:33PM (#7674538) Journal
    35mm photographers use mostly either Nikon or Cannon. There is an ongoing flamewar between them. But I really like Nikons better. However, Canons can be had quite cheaply on the low end, though the plastic lens mounts will restrict lens use in the future. Go to a camera store, and try out both Nikons and Cannons. Go with what feel more natural to you.
    • Nikon all the way... (Score:5, Informative)

      by interactive_civilian ( 205158 ) <mamoru.gmail@com> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:48PM (#7675404) Homepage Journal
      Just to stir the flames a little...

      Get a manual Nikon (the FM-3 is REALLY nice, or try for an FM-2 or even an older FG...if you were in Japan, I would offer to sell you my FG as I rarely use it in favor of my FA). There is one main reason why Nikon is better:

      Nikon has not significantly changed their lens mount since the F-mount was created.

      What does this mean for you? Well...let me tell you my situation. Right now, I have a Nikon FG (ca.1983) and a Nikon FA (ca.1984) as my camera bodies. I have a new auto-focus 50mm Nikon lens from 1999, a 70-300mm Nikon autofocus from 1998, a late 1980s (I think) Promaster 28mm, a 27.5mm extention tube (2000), and a bellows/slide duplicator from the 1960s. They all work with both bodies perfectly well (except of course I cannot take advantage of auto-focus).

      The point is that you can use almost any F-mount lens with almost any Nikon camera (though you may have some small problems with early lenses, but then again, maybe not...do your homework). Canon, IIRC, has changed their lens mount a few times, so you don't really have the option of chosing an old body and new lens to start with and then perhaps upgrading the body in the future or using old lenses as well...

      IMNSHO, that is why Nikon is better. ;-)

    • Plastic mount won't restrict anything, just make you more cautious on changing lenses often, which low end users are unlikely to do much. Very low end Canons have plastic mounts. Anything above the (discontinued) Rebel 2000 has metal mount, just like the Nikons do. I agree with "what feels natural". If you don't like the cmaera, you won't use it, no matter Nikon, Canon, Mamiya, Leica...
  • used Nikon FE-2 (Score:2, Informative)

    by odenshaw ( 471011 )
    tons of them around.
    tons of lens' for them around.
    proven to last.
    Photography is expensive.
    • Re:used Nikon FE-2 (Score:3, Informative)

      by aheath ( 628369 ) *
      Another option is a new Nikon FM-10. The FM-10 is a completely manual camera that accepts a wide range of Nikon lenses. A Nikon FM-10 body with a Nikon 35-70mm f3.5-4.8 is about $210 street price.
  • Canon (Score:4, Funny)

    by Lordofohio ( 703786 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:34PM (#7674544)
    I started with the Canon Rebel 2000 and I really liked it. I think the controls are intuitive and its got more focusing points than the higher level cameras like the Elan.

    I saved money at first by going with Tamron lenses and I was also satisfied with that. And of course whether they're canon or Tamron, the lenses can be auto or manual focus.

    Being an amateur photgrapher is also a great way to get girls to undress for you :-)

    • Re:Canon (Score:4, Funny)

      by Afrosheen ( 42464 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:57PM (#7674850)
      It helps if you shout 'work it girl!' and 'the camera loves you!' while you take pictures. That way they assume you're some fruitcake that's not going to go home and wank to the pictures. Which you are, of course, but they don't need to know that. ;)
  • Nikon EM (Score:4, Informative)

    by Compact Dick ( 518888 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:34PM (#7674547) Homepage
    One of the most rugged budget SLRs ever made, and great value for the money.
  • Why not digital? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rueger ( 210566 )
    Honestly, why not start 'em with a digital camera? They can bang off hundreds of pix with no cost while they learn basic composition and not spend hundreds of dollars processing bad pictures.

    Once they've mastered basic photography you can move them up to a "real" camera.
  • Go for a low-end used or new Nikon SLR body and buy either their 50mm f/1.8 ($90 or so) lens or their 50mm f/1.4 lens (about $300). The f/1.4 is very expensive, but it takes photographs in very low light. Definitely start off on the fixed 50mm, because it will force you to think about composing the frame; you can just zoom it away.
  • by Qweezle ( 681365 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:36PM (#7674566) Journal
    Why not just get a digital SLR? Digital has so many advantages over film, and especially going into the future...I could be naive in saying that "film is dead", but I believe that's pretty much the truth. Especially for someone like yourself.

    A good site to check out for reviews of Digital cameras(including SLRs) is Digital Photography Review [dpreview.com].

    Also, to make the "search", easier for you, I'll go ahead and recommend the Canon EOS-10D. One of my good friends(amateur photographer) has one, and swears by it.
    • Well, a cheap digital SLR with one lens is $1000, for starters. Plus, there is still something to be said for learning with film.
    • by KilobyteKnight ( 91023 ) <bjm.midsouth@rr@com> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:47PM (#7674740) Homepage
      I could be naive in saying that "film is dead", but I believe that's pretty much the truth. Especially for someone like yourself.

      It may not be dead, but it has certainly moved into the catagory of "not practical for most cases". Most professionals are moving to digital because the quality is now just as good for most situations.

      Digital is the best choice for a beginner because you can do a lot more experimenting without spending a fortune on things like film and developing. It also allows to to see the results immediately along with saving all the camera settings information. For someone just getting into photography, I'd recommend skipping film. Just buy a 3+ megapixel digital used on EBay. Buy something more expensive when you've figured out exactly what you want.... which you will.
      • by EvanED ( 569694 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [denave]> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:08PM (#7674966)
        "Most professionals are moving to digital because the quality is now just as good for most situations."

        Note you said "professionals". People who want to start photography don't have the resources professionals do. If I want to take great photographs, in many cases that rules out most point-and-shoot cameras. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten a bad shot from one of these because the aperature is set for your average shot and isn't adjustable, and I take a picture in low light and it has to keep the shutter open forever leading to a blurry shot. (BTW: anything 1/30th sec. or more is "forever", and 1/60th can be if you don't have somethnig to brace against.) Yet I've taken pics with an SLR in much less light that came out dandy because I could set the f-stop to 1.7 and speed up the shutter by a factor of 4 or so. I could *never* have taken these [psu.edu] pictures [psu.edu] of the aurora with anything but an SLR.

        "Digital is the best choice for a beginner because you can do a lot more experimenting without spending a fortune on things like film and developing."

        You just spend a fortune on the initial camera. Amazon's store (Electronics > Camera & Photo > Categories > Film Cameras > SLR Cameras > Manual SLR Cameras) has cameras centered about $250, with one $161. The least expensive digital SLR I've seen is I think ~$800. The difference then is about 50 rolls of film. I don't think I've shot that many in my life.
        • "You just spend a fortune on the initial camera. Amazon's store (Electronics > Camera & Photo > Categories > Film Cameras > SLR Cameras > Manual SLR Cameras) has cameras centered about $250, with one $161. The least expensive digital SLR I've seen is I think ~$800. The difference then is about 50 rolls of film. I don't think I've shot that many in my life."

          50 rolls? 50 rolls? That's only 1,800 shots. You'll never learn to shoot on a budget like that.

          If you want to get good at photograph
        • 50 rolls?!?!? (Score:3, Informative)

          First off, 50 rolls of film is nothing. I can easily shoot two or three rolls a week and that's between working full time, taking a night class, and spending time with my wife. That said, a 36 exposure roll of Kodak Tri-X is only $2.

          Besides, the camera body isn't the expensive part of photography. Quality prints and lenses are the expensive part and that doesn't change between digital and film.
        • The least expensive digital SLR I've seen is I think ~$800.

          SLRs are a necessary evil for film-based cameras because of the idiosyncracies of film. For digital cameras, the SLR design makes much less sense. A non-SLR digital camera will easily give you a bright, sharp 28-110mm zoom. So, just get a 5 Mpixel camera with a good lens and don't worry about SLRs for digital.

          The difference then is about 50 rolls of film. I don't think I've shot that many in my life.

          If you haven't, you should. And digital
        • I just sold my old digital. A Canon Powershot G2 that was 18-months old. I'd taken 19,500 photos with it. The equivalent of 540 rolls of film. About $6k worth by your calculations.

          Before I'd gotten it I'd shot maybe five rolls of film. I was always wondering if a shot was worth it ("Girlfriend's cute, but I already got a picture last week.") Then, they'd sit around months or years until I got around to getting them developed. I didn't know anything about photography because what little feedback I had was s
    • Argh, this is the kind of statment that really frustrates me because it's impossible to argue, especially with a technical crowd like slashdot. but there are really things that make this statment completely false.

      First of all the cheapest digital SLR i know of, the digital rebel, is way out of his price range.

      Second, there are a lot of good reasons that film is not obsolete. The misconception is that amatures should go digital because that's what professional photojournalists do. The problem with this sta
  • I'd just cruise around eBay and buy something cheap. At the risk of sounding like an old man, they don't make cameras like they used to. A friend gave me an old SLR (Minolta XG1) that was 'taking up space,' along with some decent lenses. I'm not sure of the value, but if you cruise around eBay, you'll probably find a ton that will suit you just fine.

    I've found photo.net [photo.net] to be chock-full of discussion about any camera you can imagine; if you find a good deal, see what the people there have said about it.
  • While a little more than the $200 you would like to spend, the Canon Rebel line is an excellent choice. You can adjust the camera to do anything from fully automatic everything, to fully manual, and everything in between. I've had a Rebel G for several years now and it has never disappointed me. The pictures are always excellent and the autofocus (should you choose to use it) is the fastest I have ever used.
    • And though the OP was stating 35mm, the Canon Digital Rebel [canoneos.com] is an excellent SLR Digital Camera. For under US $1000.00, it delivers a very high end package, with gads of features, 6.3megapixel res and 18mm-55mm zoom lens. I picked mine up 2 months ago, and have yet to be dissapointed. Plus, it takes any Canon EF Lens [canon.com].

      So if the poster went out today and bought a brand new EOS series Camera, he could go out later and get the Digital Rebel and use the same lenses for both cameras, if that doesn't kick ass, I
  • Wrong Forum (Score:2, Insightful)

    by blunte ( 183182 )
    You are SO on the wrong forum.

    There are many places where you can get intelligent answers to this question, and somehow I doubt /. is one of them.

    I'd bet most of the answers here will be, "get a digitial". Just because you see Philip Greenspun's amateur stuff [greenspun.com] here periodically doesn't mean this is a good place for tips :P
    • Re:Wrong Forum (Score:5, Informative)

      by thefluxster ( 541597 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:55PM (#7674830)
      /. really isn't the best place to go to find answers about this question. You may want to try the following websites:

      Photo.net [photo.net]
      THE professional photographer's website with TONS of information about different cameras, tips, whole articles on how to get that perfect picture, and learning how to get the most out of whatever camera you have. I've found it to be the diffinitive starting point for any information about photography.

      Digital Photography Review [dpreview.com]
      If you plan on getting a digital camera, this site is considered the digital camera authority.

      Hope these help you and any other would-be amateur photographers out there.
    • Thats Funny, ... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mooncaller ( 669824 )
      ... all the posts befor you seem to disprove your assertion. It should not be a big suprise at all that a large number of /. regulars are into photography. I, myself do some photography, mostly for collecting matterial for artwork these days. Though I do periodicly take photos for their own sake ( always B/W). Hey, geeks need artistic outlets too!
  • Nikon N65 (Score:4, Informative)

    by nosse_elendili ( 147250 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:37PM (#7674593)
    I recently went through this issue myself and ended up settling on the Nikon N65. My reasons were somewhat arbitrary, but I have been happy.

    I preferred it over similar Canon models becuase it has the ring that holds the lens is made of metal instead of plastic and it just feels sturdier. Also Nikon tends to make slightly better lenses than Canon.

    I preferred it over the N55 becuase it has a depth-of-field preview button, which I come to deeply appreciate.

    But mostly I picked it becuase it was around $100 (without any lenses) and I read lots of good reviews.

    Hope that helps!
    • Canon Rebel 2000 has a plastic ring, Rebel Ti and Rebel K2 (if it ever gets released) have metal. The new bodies have vastly improved ergonomics and give the N65 a run for it's money.

      Best thing to do is hold the camera and feel it. My choice of E7 over N80 was basically about how it felt in my hand. I have to be comfortable holding it if I want to take pics.
  • The last time (October) this was asked: here [slashdot.org]

    Weird how both people asked about "Digital 35mm".

  • by wackybrit ( 321117 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:39PM (#7674616) Homepage Journal
    Don't forget, a 35mm camera (film or digital) would make a nice Christmas Gift for that budding photographer in your life!

    Really? I thought a bag of hammers would have been a much more useful gift to a photographer.

    I guess this is why I'm spending Christmas alone. Again.
  • Check Pawn Shops (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    You can find a TON of manual cameras in pawn shops. I was doing research on a good student camera about a year ago and narrowed it down to 3 or 4, with the Canon AE-1 and Pentax ME-Super being the top of the list. Then I found the ME-Super with 4 lenses, flash, and a bag in a pawn shop for $180. They gave me a guarantee that it would work, so I could return it if there was anything wrong. The price on the whole kit was what decided things for me.
  • $200 USD at B&H (or pretty much anywhere), solid body for a sub-$200 camera, nice construction, can meter a lot of lenses (D, G for sure, AIS maybe), can be used full auto, (mostly) full manual, and everywhere in between. It's a lot of fun. You might want to spend another $100 or so and get an N75, but after a long time of speculating and pricing out my options I decided it wasn't worth the extra cash.

    BTW, if you live in Canada, it's STILL cheaper to get the camera from B&H in NY and have it shi

  • Pentax (Score:3, Informative)

    by Snowspinner ( 627098 ) <philsand@u[ ]edu ['fl.' in gap]> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:40PM (#7674629) Homepage
    I got a Pentax Asahi off of eBay, and have loved it. Very nice camera.

    The reason not to go digital, incidentally, is that digital cameras still come nowhere near the resolution of regular film. Also, if you have access to a darkroom, there's lots of stuff you can do there that's just not the same done on photoshop.

    It's the same reason not all artists grabbed their styluses and switched to the tablet PC.
  • Lens (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:40PM (#7674637) Homepage
    Get a good lens, then find a camera body that matches it.

    Many camera manufacturers and dealers promote packages with a body and a zoom lens. While they may have improved over the years, zoom lenses are a compromise. I would get a nice 50mm lens as a starting point.

  • Learn, then buy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rjstanford ( 69735 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:41PM (#7674648) Homepage Journal
    I strongly recommend that you read http://www.photo.net/making-photographs/ . Not only does it contain some good general photographic advice, it also has some pretty good recommendations about equipment (not specifics, but enough to teach you how to pick your own).

    On the other hand, IMO your budget is way low. If you're looking for an SLR, presumably you're pretty serious. Which means you'll be taking many, many pictures (the only way to get better). And buying film and having it developed.

    My recommendation? Up your budget quite a bit. Check out the Canon Digital Rebel [photo.net]. Yes, its about $1k with a pretty good generic lens. But that may be less than you'd spend over a year with a $200-300 film camera, plus decent film, plus developing. Think TCO not just initial purchase price.

    If you do go with film, then pick up a simple camera (Canon/Nikon) and a good, solid 50mm prime lens. And lots, lots, lots of film.
    • by rhombic ( 140326 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:37PM (#7675281)
      Digital is NOT the way to learn photography. It encourages you to take way too many pictures, and has way too much error correction built into the systems. Slide film is the only medium where no post-processing is applied to the film that was in the camera after development, so there's no correction for poor exposures. What you shoot is what you get.

      If you want to learn how to shoot, cheaply, get a K1000 (old metal body, if you can find it), a good 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 lens (older SMC-Pentax lenses are incredible). If you have the budget, an older Canon or Nikon body will do as well.

      Buy yourself 10-15 36 shot rolls of ISO 100 or ISO 50 SLIDE film, and find a decent place that will develop and mount the rolls for ~$5/roll. Preferably a place with a friendly and helpful staff. Come in during off-hours. If you're really serious, buy yourself a tank developer and a dark bag, and do it yourself.

      Go out and shoot one (1) roll of film. Take a notebook along, and write down the exposure you used, as well as the suggested exposure (centered needle in the K1000) for every shot. Develop the film. Look at it, carefully, on a lightbox with a loupe. If you don't have a lightbox, hang around the developers shop long enough to look at your shots. Are they over or under? What does the composition look like. Is there detail left in the shadows & highlights? Look at it very carefully. Once you've figured out what went on, load up the second roll and repeat. By the time you finish up the 10th roll, several weeks later, you're gonna be a pretty good photographer. Then consider going to black and white film, which will force you to learn a lot more about how light works than you've ever noticed before.

      Re: the digital rebel-- it's ~$1000k, with an 18-55 (35-70mm equiv) f/3.5-f5.6 zoom. That has got to be the worst possible lens to learn photography on. The zoom lens teaches you nothing about how focal length works, it just encourages you to stand in one spot and zoom until it looks right. The tiny aperature (compared to a f/1.8) severly restricts how you learn about light. And the fact that it's so gawd awefully difficult to operate in full-manual (I'm assuming it's no easier than on my elan 7e) means that you'll be sliding into full auto long before you know enough about exposure to understand what you're doing, or catch the computer when it sets a bad expo.

      Learn the craft honestly, then go get the best lenses you can afford, and a decent body to hang them on. You'll be taking great shots within a few months.

      • I don't think this is entirely fair to digital. I don't see how taking lots of pictures is a huge impediment to learning. In fact taking lots of pictures is exactly what you need to do.

        If your camera has a RAW mode the only processing it will do is white balance. Most of the better digitals will let you adjust your white balance manually. Is it different then film? Yes. But if you're manually adjusting the white balance you're learning.

        Digital offers some additional help in learning that you can't g
  • pentax me (Score:2, Interesting)

    I bought a Pentax ME, used, for a girlfriend years ago; maybe 8 or so. She upgraded to something fancy, so I inherited the Pentax. Works great, and is rather durable; it survived a 6 month hike hanging from my neck every day & took great pictures the whole time.
    • I bought a Pentax ME, used, for a girlfriend years ago

      Really? I wonder how much you'd get for a girlfriend now? Does she have to be in really good shape, and can you negotiate well with the camera seller?
  • I have a Canon EOS Rebel 2000 that I bought for around $400 but used it only twice.

    Instead, I use my digital camera which gives me preview option and no cost of film.

    I would sell my Canon EOS Rebel 2000 for about half the price if I could find a buyer!

    • I just checked Amazon.com and it is selling new for $239.80. Who would give me 200 for mine!

      I recommend getting a digital camera instead of SLR unless you wanna get a cheapo SLR just to practice various manual options and then switch to an advanced high megapixel digital camera.

  • by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:44PM (#7674696)
    Though this probably should be asked elsewhere...

    Most cameras are competitive with each other. The big boys always introduce cameras that more or less compete directly with cameras from the other companies. Witness the Elan 7 and N80 coming out at right about the same time.
    And also, with SLRs, you buy into a system. Remember that lenses and accessories are not compatible across marques.

    This leads me to: if you have a close friend or family member with an SLR, get one in the same family. The ability to share lenses and gear with them will generally override any small differences between cameras.

    If you don't have anyone, then I'd say pick up a cheap Nikon or Canon. My opinion (flame wars begone) is that the greater ability to rent and borrow matching equipment negates any differences in bodies. Every 3rd party lens has Nikon and Canon EF mounts available.

    Don't think of the body. The body is just a lens holder. You may go through multiple, or want a backup body. Get a 50mm lens, preferably as your first lens. Good for low light, good cheap lens so spend more money on film. Lack of zoom makes you move around instead of cheating with the zoom. You'll get different pictures as you learn to move and change angles.

    Right now, I'd probably pick the N65 or N55 if you like Nikon, or the Rebel Ti or the Rebel K2 (don't hink the K2 is generally available yet) if you';re a canon guy. A Rebel GII with 50MM lens should cost you around $200, fairly low technology, but about as much as you'd pay for a low end point and shoot.
  • Why no try alt.rec.photo or something? /. is hardly the place to come to for advice on the best begginer 35mm film SRL cameras.

    Besides? What's wrong with digital? It's much more fun learing with a digital than with a film camera IMHO, you get instant feedback etc. Film stuff still costs a fair bit even if you have your own darkroom.

    My 2c anyway.

  • by dr00g911 ( 531736 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:44PM (#7674708)
    The beginner's camera is (and has been for years) the Pentax K-1000 [photoimagenews.com]. It's pretty much the defacto standard for students and beginning photographers.

    It's been discontinued recently -- but you can pick 'em up at photo, pawn shops or ebay [ebay.com] very reasonably.

    You won't find a better or more sturdy camera for a beginner (I did photography professionally for quite a while, so I have *some* knowledge in this realm.)

    Failing that, go Nikon over Minolta and Canon (in that order).
  • These cameras were considered to be amateur grade when they were new with the result that most used ones are still in good condition. Compare this with most of the pro-grade used cameras that are pretty much clapped out when they hit the used market.

    The Mamiya/Sekors have a very nice spot meter, a good, bright finder and surprisingly good lenses.

    There are millions of used lenses available for the Pentax style screw lens mount.

    I have a shelf full of old cameras and the Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL is the one

  • I think you should get a used Contax. These can be obtained for under $200 from an outfit such as Kenmore Camera. [kcamera.com] If possible, go to a big used camera store to look at several models.

    Contax cameras are nice because they have Zeiss lenses available, which are quite stunning. Lower priced Yashica lenses will also fit. My starter was a 50mm Contax lens and a 30-200 Yashica zoom.

    Using Contax will impress other photographers and doesn't cost an arm and a leg like Leica.

  • I've been doing serious photography for about 7 years now and honestly I think digital is the way to go. It costs more for a comparable camera, but you don't have to pay for film over and over again (and chemicals and paper if you're doing your own processing). Plus you have the pictures immediately, you don't have to wait for them to be processed or a bunch of time in the darkroom.
  • I work for a professional photo lab and I see lots of crappy digital images. I think you are making a great choice by choosing film to learn with. Your results will be good as film has tons of lattitude and will be forgiving. Nothing more discouraging than realizing the picture on that little LCD does not accurately represent what is in the camera memory. Before shooting digital, we would like to tell our customers (of course we can't) to shoot a roll of slide film. If they can meter properly with the slide
  • Buy used (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cybermace5 ( 446439 ) <g.ryan@macetech.com> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:48PM (#7674756) Homepage Journal
    If you go to a camera shop that buys and sells used cameras, you can find some excellent deals. This can be better than eBay, because they will let you handle the camera, open all the little doors, push all the buttons, etc. You might even find a shop willing to let you shoot a roll of film and develop it right there.

    Good cameras are Nikons and later Canons, but Minoltas aren't bad either. I've had good results with a Minolta X-700 which can be purchased for less than $200. Watch the light seals on the backs of older cameras, the foam rubber ones can get sticky, and velvet ones can wear down.
  • Canon Rebel-2000 (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jester99 ( 23135 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:53PM (#7674816) Homepage
    It's a bit out of your budget (I think it runs about $250-275 in most places), but it's a good beginning camera - I and many of my friends have one each. You might be able to pick up a used one for $200 or less. I'd strongly urge scrimping together the extra cash and laying out for one, though.

    The lens it comes with stock (28-80mm zoom) isn't one of Canon's higher quality ones, but it still gets excellent shots when used properly - very good on the bang/buck ratio. I've taken some great pictures with it.

    The camera has several modes, some of which are fully automatic (which I find useful at family gatherings or whenver I just want to take pictures of friends, etc, quickly), but has plenty of semi-automatic and fully manual modes that allow you to do more artistic stuff when you're into that too.

    Plus, whenever you're ready to get more serious, all Canon EF-mount lenses will fit it. (A very wide selection is available.)

    Frankly, though, this is the wrong place to ask -- look around on Google for "camera reviews"; there are many websites that discuss photography as or more in-depth than people here discuss linux distributions, and you'll get a better feel for what serious photo enthusiasts and professionals use/like/dislike/etc. photozone.de [photozone.de] is a good place to start.

    (For what it's worth, most reviews I've read of the Rebel-2000 only ever had complaints when they were comparing the camera to something like the Elan, or another camera that cost twice as much. Well, no crap it doesn't have as many features -- you're not paying to get them! ;) When compared to other entry level cameras, it's certainly a heavyweight contender, despite its light body (it's only about 6 ounces). Many people are kind of turned off by this, claiming that it's fragile, but again, if you're an amateur, you're not taking this thing rock climbing with you, are you? If you actually want to do sports photography, or want to bring it into other situations where it needs to be pretty sturdy, you should be looking at pro-level cameras, like Nikon F-series anyway.

    By far above anything else, however, the most important factor of a camera is: how does it feel to you? I took the Rebel over the entry-level Nikon because I just felt more comfortable with it. Most camera shops will let you shoot a roll or play with cameras they've got for sale -- you should only go to camera shops that will let you play with the merchendise. If you like a used Pentax over this, then go for it. If you'd prefer the Nikon, that'd be fine too -- you're the one who has to hold it and position it and line it all up: you better like doing it!

    Good luck!

  • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionar ... m ['oo.' in gap]> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:14PM (#7675037) Journal
    for a good flash and some filters. If you will be shooting landscapes you will want a polarizing filter and a yellow haze filter. Later you might want to add a tripod and a cable release. You'll want to buy a couple more lenses before long: a wide angle and a zoom. Then there's the bag to carry all the stuff. And don't forget the ROLLS AND ROLLS of film and the processing costs. Photography is fun, but expect to take a lot of lousy pictures even after you get good.
  • by nuggz ( 69912 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:23PM (#7675127) Homepage
    I got a Canon Elan.
    I think that the Canon 620/630 and Elan just feel right in my hands.

    The camera is just a dark box that holds film anyway, just make sure it is comfortable.
  • by wazzzup ( 172351 ) <astromac@fas[ ]il.fm ['tma' in gap]> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:28PM (#7675189)
    These are great all-manual no auto anything cameras and the best way to learn and understand concepts like exposure, bracketing exposures, light conditions, that will apply to any serious student of photography - film or digital.

    Your're correct when you say there is great bang-for-the-buck in 35mm cameras now as well because only the most expensive digitals ($5000+) begin to even approach the "resolution" of 35mm film.

    If you happen to be an amatuer astronomer, these cameras are highly sought after in the amatuer astronomy community because the all-manuals are the only cameras capable of keeping the shutter open for hours at a time. The new camera shutters are battery powered (and thus fails before the proper exposure has been achieved) and the digital SLR's aren't at all suited for deep-sky photogrpahy for a number of reasons that only very, very expensive CCD cameras address.

    With having your own darkroom, you're ready to enjoy what I find is a really rewarding and fun hobby.
  • Canon AE-1 (Score:3, Informative)

    by LoRider ( 16327 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:34PM (#7675246) Homepage Journal
    I have used a Canon AE-1 for about 10 years and it's a great camera. You can pick one up for about $150 and there are tons of aftermarket lens to purchase (Canon lens' are expensive). I just had an overhaul done to mine and it's like brand new.
    AE stands for Auto-Exposure, and you can also set the camera to full-manual mode. You can't wrong with this camera.
    Canon AE-1 Program is the same camera with the ability to program it (don't know what you can program, I assume settings).
  • by MadCow42 ( 243108 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @09:08PM (#7675577) Homepage
    The lens makes MUCH more difference to image quality than the camera body does.

    Unless you need all the fancy auto-exposure, TTL flash, and auto-focus features, you're much better off buying a cheap body and good lenses.

    - buy a camera body from a major name-brand maker. Ensure that your local camera shops or Ebay have a good supply of used lenses for that body type.
    - zoom lenses are ALWAYS worse than fixed ("prime") lenses
    - "pro" level zoom lenses are pretty decent, but still not as good as a good prime lens... you'll spend at least $900 on a decent zoom.
    - buy name-brand lenses if you can afford it (i.e. Nikon, Canon, or whatever your body is). 3rd party lenses are sometimes pretty good, but more often than not they're crap. Otherwise, do some serious homework before buying a 3rd-party lens. (a good example of a decent 3rd-party lens is the Tamron 90mm/2.5 macro... but a lot of other Tamron lenses SUCK!).

    My $0.02 (Cdn).

  • by jdreed1024 ( 443938 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @09:52PM (#7675901)
    "What are you trying to do?" Seriously, that famous tech support quote is very appropriate here. What's your end goal? Learn about photography? Take B&W shots? Color? Slide? For personal enjoyment? For a future exhibit? Planning to go pro?

    First, go pick up the Complete Kodak Book of Photography. Some of it is a little basic, but it's a good source of tips, and a great comprehensive book. Unfortunately, it seems to be out of print on, but Amazon does have it used. It may have renamed itself or something. Go to a brick and mortar bookstore and browse.

    If you're doing developing and printing, you'll want to build your own enlarger. You learn a lot about the process, and you get geek points. For more geek points, build your own timer with a relay that times the exposure on the enlarger.

    As far as a camera goes, you want a simple one to start off with. A good SLR will cost a LOT of money, so be prepared to either buy used for your first time, or have some really really nice relatives, or befriend someone who works for Canon. The manual vs automatic debate is -1, Overrated. Any decent "automatic" SLR camera will have a full manual mode. Just because you have the automatic feature doesn't mean you have to use it. As a beginner, you will want to stay in manual mode the whole time to play around, but automatic is useful for quick shots if you're also using it for snapshots. Don't get anything that doesn't at least have an automatic mode. (basically, automatic:manual::emacs:vi. Subsitute the relevant religious arguments)

    My first SLR was a used Canon AE-1. ("So simple, anyone can use it!") This was Canon's first automatic exposure (guess what AE stands for) camera. Focus is completely manual, but the f/stop can be set manually or automatically depending on the mode. So it can be a full manual camera if you want. It's a great camera, and you could probably pick one up for cheap these days, though they're getting old enough that they're collectors items, so they might be more expensive. A great, great camera.

    If you buy a new camera instead, it may have a built-in pop-up flash (like the Canon Elan series) It'll be crap for anything except snapshots and some indoor photos. If you want to play around with lighting and the like, you want a real flash (sold separately) that attaches to the camera shoe. And a reflector, probably.

    For vendors, you'll want to find a local one for most chemicals (since shipping those is a bitch due to regulations). Check your yellow pages. If you have a local photo store (the old fashioned kind, not the kiosk in Wal-Mart), they might be able to point you in the right direction. For equipment, B&H Photo and Video in NY is the way to go (www.bhphotovideo.com). Their catalog is the size of a phonebook and they have a good selection and the BEST customer service I have ever dealt with. 42nd Street Photo is ok, but their customer service folks are surly.

    You'll also want to play around with good quality film. Kodak Tri-X pan is still the standard for B&W, especially for entry-level. For slide film (slides are a must if you're taking nature shots - you can't appreciate a sunset over a mountain range in 5x7 foramt), Kodakchrome 64 is still a classic, except it has to be sent back to Kodak for processing. (Although people have told me that's no longer true, and some larger labs can do it, but I didn't think Kodak had licensened the technology - it's a different developing process). I like Fujichrome Sensia and Velvia (The latter is a little better). If you're traveling at all, get a lead pouch or request a hand examination of your film. I had some 400 speed film ruined by the new TSA x-rays recently (despite the claim that they don't effect any film below 1600). Pro films will need to be kept in the fridge until you use them. As will paper. Playing around with high-speed film is fun too, for shooting in the dark with no flash. It'll be very very grainy though.

    Oh, and if you plan to take pictures of

  • by ya8282 ( 731399 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @10:00PM (#7675940)
    Advantages over film SLR:

    1) Running Cost Effectiveness
    Fixed costs (purchasing the digital camera body, memory card, and printer vs. purchasing film camera body, developing tools, scanner) will be different, but the total costs of creating a final print for film SLRs will soon exceed your cost total for the digital SLR because the film SLR has a higher running cost.

    You'll want to take pictures of everything and setup your own tests to improve. It's essential to test your lenses as well to make sure that you didn't get a defective copy.

    Many of your film shots you will regret having developed whereas taking a digital shot will allow you to conveniently preview them on your computer before deciding to make a print out of it.

    The cost of a decent dSLR body like the Canon 10D or crippled Canon 300D will run you between $750-1300 (non-gray market) whereas the film equivalent Canon EOS bodies cost around $100-300. The lenses cost the same since you can use them on either digital or film body...

    2) Instant Development/Feedback
    With digital, you can view the histogram immediately after taking the shot to see if you overexposed, underexposed, or blew the highlights. You can also view the picture to see if you framed the shot properly, and most importantly, chicks (or whatever gender-orientation you may prefer) dig it when you show them the shot you just took of them.

    Time is money, so I'd rather save a lot of time than a little bit of money.

    3) High resale value
    Check eBay for used prices on dSLRs. The ones that still function are very close to the price of a new one. Most film SLRs don't retain their value quite as well.

    4) Limitations
    Limitations of digital photography will probably cause you to encounter more issues in which you will need to be careful about. It is advantageous to learn about these in advance. For example, blown highlights is a common problem in digital photography. You will learn methods of avoiding blown highlights and become particularly conscious about it, while film photographers mostly ignore the possibility.

    This being said, I would recommend the Canon 10D ($1300) and 28-135mm IS lens ($400) to start with. It's a great combination You can judge for yourself if you made the right decision, and if not, you could sell off the equipment for close to the price you paid for it.

    I would also recommend the site dpreview.com [dpreview.com] -- the forums are especially helpful for getting others' opinions.
  • by Rick.C ( 626083 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @10:32PM (#7676230)
    I would like to spend less than $200 on the camera itself, and start off with some cheaper lenses.

    Dude, you have it so backwards. You pick the lens first, then find a camera that will fit it.

    This may sound odd, but it's true. Assuming you know a bit about photography, you know what kind of aperature you'll need based on the kinds of pictures you'll be taking - low light, flash, outdoors, etc. You also know what focal length will suit you best. Look at the major brands - Nikon, Pentax, Cannon, Olympus, etc. and find a lens (or maybe two lenses) that will be your workhorse. Then choose a body you can afford with the idea that it will be your backup body later when you can afford better.

    Back in the '70s I fell in love with the Olympus 100x2.8. I didn't like the "big nose" effect of a 50mm or 35mm when doing a head shot. A 135mm is big and too long to use indoors. Most 100s and 105s were f4.5 at the time. The 100x2.8 is the same size as most 50mm lenses, so it fits in a regular camera case. Shucks! What's not to like about it? So anyway I got a dealer to substitute the 100x2.8 for the normal 50x1.8 on an OM10 body. It's still my main 35mm camera today.

    Based on your personal preferences, pick a lens first, then find your best deal.

    BTW, the zoom lenses are OK unless you want to do enlargements. Then they seem a bit fuzzy.

  • Canon EOS (Score:3, Informative)

    by Christian ( 1272 ) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @10:46PM (#7676335)
    Two pieces of advice:

    - Spend more money on your lens than on your body. In fact, don't get a cheap kit lens that comes with a camera. Buy a decent body that has the features you need but don't throw away money on a poor quality lens. If you can't afford the lenses you need right now, save. But don't waste money on a poor quality lens. I was given this advice when I bought my first 35mm SLR. I ignored it (on grounds of cost) and now I've had to replace the lens anyway with one that produces decent image quality. While zooms are flexible, primes are often great value for money in terms of image quality.

    - When you buy a 35mm SLR you aren't buying a camera. You're buying a system. While there are good arguments for all the systems, IMO the Canon EOS system is the one with the best options for the future. A big part of the reason for this is Canon's current dominance of the digital SLR market. If you buy into the EOS system, you have a clear upgrade path to a DSLR. Yes, Nikon 35mm lenses will work with their DSLRs but Nikon seems to be headed down the path to sub-35mm digital sensors as a standard and is therefore bringing out lenses which will not work on your film SLR. (Canon have done this too but not for any serious lens, just as a way of selling cheap cameras.) Canon's clear intention is towards full-frame DSLR sensors and ultimately that's what most photographers want. Anyway, it's a complex issue and my overall point is, be careful what system you choose. It's not the body that matters but the lenses and there are really only two big 35mm system at the moment (Canon and Nikon) and Canon's EOS seems like the one with the best future. All the people who've bought into the other systems will now flame me but look into the facts for yourself. One opinion:

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/whither -n ikon.shtml
  • My Nikon N70 (Score:3, Informative)

    by salmo ( 224137 ) <mikesalmo@h[ ]ail.com ['otm' in gap]> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @02:07AM (#7677597) Homepage Journal
    Ok, I'm not going to claim to be a photography guru or anything. I leave that to my girlfriend.

    But I've had my Nikon N70 for 6 years now, and I wouldn't give it up for anything. It's like a trusty weapon. I know it inside and out. I can handle shooting bands playing live in bars and couples playing in a park with it.

    Now the body cost more than $200 at the time and it has some fancy feautres, which I never use. I'm mostly spening my time in Apeture or Shutter Speed priority mode when shooting moving objects or in Manual mode when I have the time to compose a shot. I've used a few SLRs in my day. Older model Pentax, Nikons and newer Canons. Not to slag the older models, I took some beautiful shots with them, but the built in light meters were worse than guessing in my experience.

    The Canon EOSes I've used felt very... well... plastic. The physical interface, placement of buttons and knobs, was unnatural, and I was less than impressed with the quality of the lenses that were available to me for use with them. I assume there are better out there, but they weren't sturdy and a little flakey when zooming too far in or out.

    My Nikon I love and take pretty good care of. I've used lenses from a few manufacturers, but I've only been happy with the Nikon lenses I've actually purchased. Be careful, though. Some of the newer models are pretty poorly manufactured, ie. mostly plasic. But, the older AF Nikkor lenses are still built the same way and are a pleasure to shoot with. They've just introduced a lower end line intermixed with with the mid-level line they had. You'll know because they will encompass a much greater X mm. range and be cheaper.

    As for the digital vs. film debate, there's a lot more to it than just price, etc. My girlfriend just got to borrow the Cannon digital Rebel, and although it was the nicest digital I'd ever used, it still was an overpriced piece of crap. F-Stop, shutter speed, etc. are located all on the back of the camera, which is unnatural and causes the phtographer to have to pull the camera away from their face to get their fingers in there entirely too often. The quality was good, but it still had that digital effect that I can't stand.

    Ok, I'll go more into this. For certain things I'll pick a nicer Fujii film. It picks up those greens and blues so well, and for others I'll go with a Kodak, to get skintones, etc. Sometimes I like shooting black and white (like a nice 1600 or 3200 for shooting bands or photojournalism style work). I like being able to choose whether I want clear/grainy, black+white/color, slide/negative, etc. I just don't have that flexibility with a digital camera. And my scanned negatives work (usually) better than any digital photo, for when I want to play in photoshop. I often get my girlfiend to just develop the nagitives (she works in a camera shop if you haven't picked up on that) and scan them to a CD for me. Then I may print one or two off a roll. Overall it would cost me about $7-$10 per roll.

    But anyway, it almost doesn't matter so much about what is a "good" SLR. Run around to camera shops, talk to your friends. Borrow a few and shoot a roll with them. See which one feels good to you. You'll get to know and love the camera over time. You'll know all of its quirks and then you'll get to know how to handle different films. Technical shit only matters so much in the field. 2D cameras are, by nature, limited. It's what you do with those limitations that makes a snapshot a photograph. I've taken great (and horrible) pictures with a Kodak I have circa 1930something.
  • by NeedlessVoyager ( 570219 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @02:57AM (#7677872)
    Camera: buy a Canon G III QL17 or a Yashica Electro 35 GSN.
    Take the $150 you saved from your budget and buy Black & White film by the brick (thats 20 rolls at a time.)


    Print proof sheets in your darkroom. Print the pictures you like as straight as you can. Look at them for a good long time and then go out and...


    Go look at the work of other photographers at the library and then on the way home...


    The world is full of people who take pictures and most of them aren't worth the paper they are printed on. You have to SHOOT pictures in order to develop an EYE for the pictures that really are all around us. You will learn this for yourself if you SHOOT lots of pictures. You will see a very few that you really like in your first proof sheets. But the more you SHOOT the more you will find pictures that you like. In about a year you might have 4 or 5 pictures that you are really pleased with. (You get harder to please as your EYE develops.) You will see pictures in print and most of them will go by unnoticed but once in a while you will say to yourself, "Wish I'd shot that."
    Your EYE is the most important tool! Don't think that equipment is what matters. The world has plenty of people who own great stuff and shoot crap!

    Remember what is important.


Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.