New age fun with a vintage feel.
December 28, 2010 11:12 AM   Subscribe

I shoot film: please recommend 35mm point-and-shoot cameras so I can be cute and vintage and portable to boot.

I own an Olympus OM-1 manual SLR that I adore. However, I find myself using it sporadically because it's sorta cumbersome to fiddle with the fully manual settings on the move. Equally, I have a light and simple digital point-and-shoot which I use for social events, but I use it to capture moments rather than for the pure enjoyment of making pictures.

My understanding of vintage cameras and their mechanisms is tenuous (and I am a very amateur photographer). I basically want to get my 35mm kick without having to carry a separate bag and spending precious holiday seconds setting aperture and shutter speed.

So... quality 35mm point-and-shoots? I considered a Trip 35, because I've had good experience with Olympus 1970s models, but my photographer boyf recommended a rangefinder over zone-focus.

My budget is around £50. It has to be robust because it will be accompanying me on my travels. Small enough to fit in a largish handbag. The prettier the better (I must admit I was tempted by the Trip's pretty coloured leather). I probably won't be buying new lenses unless the body is very cheap, so I'd rather it included a good lens.
posted by dumdidumdum to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Olympus XA (rangefinder version) or XA2 (more automatic, zone focusing) are pretty much the best pocket 35mms ever. You should be able to get either with a flash for well under your budget.
posted by bradbane at 11:29 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Lovely, I'll look into it!
posted by dumdidumdum at 11:42 AM on December 28, 2010

I'm hoping someone can pop in here with the specifics!

The BEST point and shoot camera I ever used (to death, actually) was a Fuji from the mid to late 80's with a Zeiss lens.

I did a bunch of googles trying to find the exact model for you, but came up with nothing. The last time I saw this camera for sale, it was in an electronics shop window in Manhattan in the late 90's and I still kick myself for not replacing that fine fine camera I ruined clubbing back in the day.

Once, I had a big final project due in a college photography class that wasn't going well. Towards the end, I ditched my Nikon SLR in frustration and broke out the Fuji. Got an A+. Depending on the film speed I was shooting with, there was nothing that little wonder couldn't do.

I was a lot more creative and skilled with that tiny camera than any SLR, point and shoot, or digital I've owned since.

I'm sure you can still find it on Ebay (or at a camera show) if someone else can identify the model.

Sorry I can't be of more help, but I highly recommend tracking this down if at all possible. The casing was silver-ish with a bronze tint, if that helps.
posted by jbenben at 12:01 PM on December 28, 2010

Response by poster: Aaaww, I'll give it a go and memail you if I get anywhere.
posted by dumdidumdum at 12:08 PM on December 28, 2010

One point for the Trip 35. Yep, it's zone-focus, but that doesn't hurt it that much for the kind of photos you'll take. Here are some I've shot with mine. The big wins for me (and I have SLRs, rangefinders, etc), is that it's tiny, very sturdy, light, cheap and comfortable to use.
posted by tmcw at 12:12 PM on December 28, 2010

The Yashica Electro 35 is a nice vintage rangefinder with a pretty good lens that's usually easy to find at a cheap price.
posted by cazoo at 12:26 PM on December 28, 2010

I'm pretty certain the colored leather you see on the Trip 35 is an after market product. Places like cameraleather makes them.
posted by cazoo at 12:38 PM on December 28, 2010

Minolta Hi-Matic F, if you want vintage. Great camera.
posted by jgirl at 12:52 PM on December 28, 2010

I'll cast a similar vote for the Canonet QL17 GIII, which is a metal bodied, f/1.7 rangefinder with a convenient "Quick Load" system that is nearly foolproof, even one handed. It's also found used for $75 or less depending on condition.

It's not the smallest (bigger than a Rollei 35, Leica CL, Contax G, or XA) but it does take nice photos.
posted by a halcyon day at 12:59 PM on December 28, 2010

Along with the aforementioned XA (I'm not a fan of the XA2), Electro 35 (get the GSN model) and the Canonet, there's also the Minolta Hi-Matic. I also have a Rollei 35 and Contax G, but the XA, Electro 35 and HiMatic are my favourites. I think I paid $200+ for the Rollei and Contax, and XAs are pretty expensive too, but the Canonet and Electro 35 were around $50 about ten years ago.

(But the Electro 35 takes some sort of special mercury battery that I can't find any more.)
posted by phliar at 1:09 PM on December 28, 2010

Small and sensible: the Yashica T4
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:09 PM on December 28, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks y'all, I've got lots to go on now.

cazoo - you are totally right, the leather is new and added by the Tripman when he services the camera (another reason I was tempted by them - they are all spruced up and serviced unlike some ebay finds)
posted by dumdidumdum at 1:17 PM on December 28, 2010

DataPoint: I replaced that Fuji I mentioned above with a Yashica T4 after lots of research. It didn't match the Fuji.

I'll Memail and reply back to this thread if I can find out the model of that Fuji.

Thanks dumdidumdum for asking this question, and good luck in your search!!
posted by jbenben at 1:58 PM on December 28, 2010

I'll repeat what bradbane said: Olympus XA and XA2 are the best. Rugged as all get out, plentiful on eBay, cute and stylish, extremely simple to use, and excellent lens quality (it's frequently referred to as "the camera professional photographers take on vacation"). Also, its small size and near-silent shutter make it excellent for unobtrusive street photography if you're feeling like Elliott Erwitt.
posted by matildaben at 2:06 PM on December 28, 2010


Now I remember. The Yashica T4 had the silver-ish bronze case and the zeiss lens. The Fuji DL-150 was supposedly a lesser camera, and I always glared at the "zeiss" label on the Yashica in anguish. That's why those details stuck in my head. I was focusing on the disappointment of the replacement camera while thinking fondly of the DL-150. Ha!

Well, hope this helps.
posted by jbenben at 2:19 PM on December 28, 2010

when i started to get interested in photography (totally amateur) I thought "get a camera that helps you as much as possible", so I went with the Leica Minilux (there is also the Minilux zoom). This little pocket point-and-shoot is wonderful! Great lens which just seems to suck in all the available light. I've taken it everywhere and only moved away from it when I got the Panasonic Lumix (also with Leica lens). (again i'm not a professional so this is just personal opinion/experience)
posted by alchemist at 2:49 PM on December 28, 2010

I've got a Trip-35 and I'm very happy with it. I think it cost my mum about £20 on eBay, replacing one that had belonged to my grandma (stolen when left in a hotel lobby, no doubt because it was in a new padded case that looked like it had a compact didge in it). I'm not sure, though, if it's better than the µ-II that I used to have (not returned by an ex-girlfriend). I got some fantastic pictures with the µ-II, which was also elegant, robust, and reliable--a splendid lens and a very good, 'smart' light meter. Really, a high water mark for the portable compact 35mm camera just before digital came in. I'm not anti-digital, but I do think there was a lag of several years before digital compacts got near the same picture quality. Especially at the price of £80 for a new one.

In fact, now this thread had made me think about it, perhaps I'll get on eBay and buy myself another one.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 3:28 PM on December 28, 2010

The various XA models have an electronic hair-trigger shutter release that is always the first thing to fail in them, especially if they've ever got damp. Be sure to check it fires properly before parting with your cash.

Old pocket rangefinders like the Canonets, Yashica Electros, Olympus 35s and so on can be a lot of fun, but often need the light seal foam in the doors replacing, so run a film through it and make sure there's no fogging before using one for anything important. Similarly, old rangefinders more often than not have either hazing in the viewfinder to some degree, or rangefinder misalignment, so, again, approach with caution. Another issue is that many older compacts also take the now hard-to-find mercury cells to power their meters.

Personally, I'm a fan of the more recent electronic compacts in the used market - they're generally less worn and more reliable. The Olympus Stylus Epic with an excellent fixed-length 35mm f/2.8 is very small and well designed and they seem to keep going for ever. The Nikon AF600 Lite Touch is also a gem if you can find one. Small, reliable and with a sweet 28mm f/3.5 lens. And I agree with the Yashica T4 recommendation, above. It's got a lovely lens, but check the sliding lens cover still works properly and run a sacrificial film through it to the end - some of them had a bad habit of automatically rewinding part-way through a film.

If you're after something a little unconventional, you might like to check out the Rollei 35 or the various Minox 35s, but you'll be lucky to find either near your budget.
posted by normy at 10:16 PM on December 28, 2010

I use a Ricoh GR1. It's pretty awesome. It's got a fixed 28mm lens and a handful of shooting modes. It's what Daido Moriyama shoots (or used to) shoot with.
posted by chunking express at 9:46 AM on December 30, 2010

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