Educational

A Love For Photography Need Not Break the Bank: Part 1

While digital can be reasonable and in the low 3 digits to gain entry, one perk of film is that a great camera can be had for peanuts. Sure, if you get caught up in the ‘mystique’ or ‘look’ of certain vintage film brands you can quickly deplete your life savings. There is more than one path. While there are cameras that are so awful or rudimentary that they are fantastic (looking your way AiBORG and Argus C3) there are some truly phenomenal film cameras out there whose only crime is not having the proper badge affixed to it or living in the shadows of more popular siblings, competitors, predecessors or successors.

Some of my favorite moments captured from these cameras. All of them, whether gifted or purchased, are 35mm I have personally used, and have a running value of $70 or less with lens. This is great news for anyone looking to get out there with a camera. There are pricier 35mm cameras, like the Nikon FE in the center of the main photo, but I would be perfectly happy using the cameras listed here exclusively. (Links to more detailed blog posts or sample galleries linked to camera names.)

Canon AE1 Program

How I got it:

  • Fell into my lap practically free as part of a bundle to get another camera I was after.

Why I think it is so inexpensive:

  • Evidently, they made and sold a bazillion of these.

What I don’t like:

  • At this price point? Nothing. Some kvetch about this and that, but I cannot remember what, and do not feel inclined to go comment diving to rehash it.

What I like:

  • Very small and light.
  • Easy to focus and use in general.
  • Accurate metering.

One favorite sample image from it:

 

Canon FTb QL

How I got it:

  • A kind co-worker aware of my love of film cameras was cleaning out the house and this was in a box of vintage gear they asked me to take off of their hands. Gladly.

Why I think it is so inexpensive:

  • Not the most handsome of cameras.

What I don’t like:

  • Weighs like a Buick and only slightly smaller.

What I like:

  • As with the Canonet I am a big fan of the QL, quick loading film feature. Makes film loading on the fly a breeze.
  • No muss, no fuss great images.

One favorite sample image from it:

 

Konica C35 AF2

How I got it:

  • Walked into the camera store and on a whim asked Dennis what they had with a built in lens for $50 and walked out with this.

Why I think it is so inexpensive:

  • The word Hexanon has the respect, but not the cachet it deserves.

What I don’t like:

  • No AE lock or any other means to dictate exposure.
  • No ability to choose focus area or even to focus and recompose. Whatever you want in focus must be center of frame.
  • My copy has an ISO/ASA dial that I find impossible to move, although some have the magic touch, so 400 film it is because that is where it is set

What I like:

  • Small, silent in operation, takes AA batteries, and unassuming in appearance. Would be a great travel camera.
  • Has a flash built in that you can turn on and off?
  • Exposure is dead on with or without flash.
  • If it is in the center of the frame and there is reasonable light it will be in focus. I average one or less out of focus shots a roll.
  • When you see the pictures, this thing produces you will not care about the three bullets listed above.

One favorite sample image from it:

Minolta srT-MCII

How I got it:

  • Saw it on a few visits to the camera shop with a swanky red velvet lined pleather zip up case I could not resist as much as I tried. While the kit surpassed the $70 limit for this article just camera and lens would easily fall below this price point.

Why I think it is so inexpensive:

  • Not 100% sure, but this model did sell exclusively at the not so exclusive K-Mart store chain and it is not a particularly attractive beast.

What I don’t like:

  • Of this list it is the weakest IQ performer, but I suspect that has more to do with the low spec’d lens my sample came with.

What I like:

  • It had me at swanky red velvet lined pleather zip up case I could not resist.

  • In this grouping of strong performers weak IQ is relative and it is a fine performer judged in isolation.

One favorite sample image from it:

 

Minolta X-700

How I got it:

  • Friend showed it to me. I assumed he wanted me to give it a once over for him so I obliged. Once I took a look I told him he had himself one fine film camera. That is when he told me that he was giving it to me. Friends rock.

Why I think it is so inexpensive:

  • Guessing the lack of a storied name attached to a still operating corporate interest.

What I don’t like:

  • Had a minor light leak, but that was fixed for peanuts at the local camera shop with a new/used back. Oddly I kind of miss the light leak.

What I like:

  • I think all black 35mm SLR film cameras look cool.
  • Cannot put a finger on it, but I find this camera a joy to use.
  • The Minolta lens this came with is so good when adapted to a Sony A7 that it put a much more expensive, brighter aperture manual focus lens on a trailer.

One favorite sample image from it:

Well that concludes Part 1 of this post. Please stay tuned for Part 2 next week where I discuss the second half of this list covering Olympus to Zenit.

Happy shopping and shooting.

 

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