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I need to get a 35mm film camera for my photography class at school. Recommendations?
It has to be fully manual, and I need it in about a week and a half!
Does anyone have suggestions about what type of fully manual 35mm film camera would be good for a student? I'm looking for something as inexpensive as possible.
After about 10 years of shooting and buying and selling many different model 35mm SLR's, there are two which stand out to me as the most reliable, easy to come by, easy to resell and easy to find accessories for but also aren't too expensive for someone just starting out yet give professional results when used properly.
They are the Pentax K1000 with Pentax SMC-A or M 50mm f2 or 1.7 and the Nikon FM with Nikkor 50mm 1.8 or 1.4.
I have owned many of these cameras as well as other similar models but these served the functions I described the best, in my opinion. I feel completely comfortable suggesting them to a student and knowing that they will get their full value of both learning and enjoyment out of these models.
You can download users manuals for them for free and you'll want to pick up a basic photography manual also.
Buy your first 35mm camera from eBay and you will probably own a broken camera that you can't return. Don't fool around, buy cameras from camera stores. KEH.com, CollectibleCameras.com, Adorama.com and CameraRepair.com are all excellent used camera dealers.
If you are not comfortable buying vintage cameras, Nikon still sells the Nikon FM10 brand new, which costs nearly twice as much as the K1000 and original FM but may be less hassle in some ways than an old camera. Be sure if you get the FM10, you also pick up a Nikon 50mm 1.4 or 1.8 to learn on instead of the zoom lens they come with. The Vivitar V3800N is also a new all mechanical 35mm SLR. It's a bit cheaper than the Nikon FM10 and comes with a proper 50mm lens instead of the zoom. It takes Pentax lenses.
When you buy vintage Nikon and Pentax lenses, you can keep them for a digital camera you may buy later because they are compatible with new models. This makes buying into these brands a little nicer for the modern film shooter than other brands.
If $100-$200 is too expensive, you may also be able to find a Nikkormat FTn and 50mm lens on KEH.com for even less. These are also excellent cameras but have a few quirks to using them that the aforementioned don't such as a slower process to mount lenses, rarer battery type and and up-side-down meter read-out. They're fun cameras though.
I hope that whatever you choose to buy, you enjoy learning about film photography and do some work you are really proud of. Feel free to email me at any time for questions.
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