Educational

A Love For Photography Need Not Break the Bank- Part 2

Hello and welcome to Part 2 of my post on a group of film cameras that I feel perform well above what their price might suggest. Many believe that to get a great piece of a kit it will cost a fortune, but if you are not scared away by film (and why should you be) you can capture wonderful images using gear that costs as much as a clearance rack pair of name brand sneakers or less. If you have not yet, check out Part 1 . I have personally used all the cameras listed and I will share my experiences. But, spoiler alert, if they are on this list I like them!

Olympus OM-10

How I got it:

  • Walked in to local camera shop. Talking with Alex and noticed an attractive pristine camera on the counter. Asked if it worked and if it was for sale. Yes and yes for $50.

Why I think it is so inexpensive:

  • Can only assume that it languishes in the shadow of the more upscale OM-1.

What I don’t like:

  • Did not come with plug in accessory shutter speed wheel.

What I like:

  • Accessory plug in shutter speed wheel was $15 off of eBay.
  • One of the handsomest cameras I own. Almost rangefinder small and very light.
  • One of the best performing cameras I have used with a fantastic lens. I was so comfortable with it I tried and succeeded at zone focusing which I do use often.

One favorite sample image from it:

Pentax ME Super

How I got it:

  • Bought many, but my most recent personal copy (borrowed my Dad’s for decades before buying him another when his original packed it in) was an ebay find.

Why I think it is so inexpensive:

  • It is not a K1000 or other more popular model.

What I don’t like:

  • If I shot full manual more on this the odd up/down buttons shutter speed adjustment with the only indicator in the viewfinder would bug me.

What I like:

  • I am heavily biased. My father taught me SLR photography on his original copy many, many years ago, so it is not easy to be objective.
  • That being said it is not significantly better or worse than any other camera on this list.
  • Great lenses available. I cheated by giving the ,very nice standard issue 50mm meets the price point, lens to my Dad and I upgraded a bit to Pentax screw mount adapted Takumar 50mm f/1.4 and macro lenses along w/ a Helios 44-2.

One favorite sample image from it:

 

Pentax SF10

How I got it:

  • Gifted to me by Chris at Southeastern Camera in Carrboro because he is a great guy.
    • Knows I am a fan of Pentax film cameras (and digital for a season).
    • Knows he will make it back in film development services.
    • Not his motive really, I don’t think, but true nonetheless.

Why I think it is so inexpensive:

  • Distinctly 80s in form and function.

What I don’t like:

  • With a tired, but capable 50mm f/1.7 it is quite the noisy beast. AF sounds like a demi pecan grinder and the shutter and film wind will alert all within your immediate space that you are taking photos.

What I like:

  • SLR w/ very accurate metering, autofocus and autowind. A nice break from the full manual SLRs with no compromise in image quality.

One favorite sample image from it:

 

Zenit E

How I got it:

  • Had a Helios 44-2 that I have adapted to the Pentax ME Super and mirrorless so I found one for $15 on eBay when I wanted the camera it originally came with.

Why I think it is so inexpensive:

  • A few bazillion were made.
  • This camera is an acquired taste. Usually this means awful until you get used to it, but I genuinely like this camera.

What I don’t like:

  • Finicky. For example, it would seem that if I ever forget to cock the shutter before adjusting the shutter speed I will have a $15 brick on my hands. For this and other reasons reading the manual is a must. Heck I almost wrecked it and a Takumar lens when I thought “Hey. I wonder what would happen if I put the also M42 screw mount Takumar on this?” Don’t do it. Don’t ever do that.
  • Fiddly and not very intuitive at times. Not helped by my being on a walk in afternoon July sun during my first attempt, but rewinding the film is an interesting experience unlike any other camera I have ever used. Made the bone basic Argus C3 seem intuitive by comparison.
  • Would say no lugs on the camera requiring the case with neck strap as the only option to hang this camera off of your body. I say, ‘would say’ because I dislike neck straps greatly and I would not recommend hanging a camera of this size off of your wrist.

What I like:

  • Surprisingly large and bright viewfinder. No matte focus patch, but the viewfinder is so big and bright it does not matter. Focusing anywhere in the frame is a breeze.
  • Teamed with the Helios 44-2 this camera is capable of some amazing results. Sharp and bright.
  • Unique look. Out of focus bits are amazing even when the storied Helios swirly bokeh is not in effect.
  • Way more consistent than any $15 camera has a right to be. Not one single lost frame on the first roll.
  • Lastly, I will note an item that I thought would go in the demerit column. The built-in exposure meter. Thought I would hate it, but once you get past the fact that it is not linked to anything so it is essentially an onboard solar powered light meter there is little to complain about. Had little confidence in it so I shot half the roll with back to back shots using the meter and half using sunny 16 and there is a slight difference in the results. Perhaps owing to the forgiving nature of Fujifilm X-Tra 400, but all exposures were usable. Especially odd since I read that selenium cells tend to fail after 20 years or so and this camera was made in 1983.
  • It came with a case so basic and homely I love it.
  • This camera coming last is a coincidence of the alphabet. This initially seemed apropos since I bought this as an oddity to hang off the back of my Helios and fully expected this camera to come in dead last going in. But, I am glad I ran a roll through it. It is now one of my favorite film lenses and will not be a dust collector.

One favorite sample image from it:

This list is by no means meant to be definitive. There are online camera Encyclopedias like Camerapedia, and even Wikipedia comes in handy for research on nearly any camera. This is a list of cameras I have used and enjoyed. Some I have found by searching KEH.com for 35mm cameras and sorting by lowest to greatest price then researching anything that looks interesting. In some cases, a fascination will develop like a certain make, type, or genre of camera. The Zenit has inspired me to look at Russian cameras and there should be more on that soon. Have run across a few not listed oddities that I still own and enjoy for various reasons, but I could not recommend them to the non-camera geek afflicted like myself with a clear conscious. These listed here I can personally recommend and believe would fit the bill for many budding photography enthusiasts and novices alike.

Sum up.

A love for photography need not break the bank if you do your homework and pick up an underappreciated and/or mass-produced film camera.

Have a money to buy better? Think of this. As an option to one penultimate, storied film camera that would wow them in the streets and put out the best possible look, but would be so precious that fear for its loss or wellbeing would be a reality what about for a fraction of that cost a shelf full of perfectly good cameras that you could rotate through at your whim where the demise or theft of one would be no great hardship.

Either way is a perfectly valid way to go. But combined with an aversion to spending large sums of money at one time I chose the latter.

Happy shopping and shooting!

 

 

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