What cheap non-digital SLR for sis?
July 29, 2008 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Which NON-digital, cheap SLR should I get my sister for her birthday?

Hi all,

My sister is off to NZ for a year (heading from England). She's got a point'n'shoot digital for shots of her buddies and stuff, and she really enjoys taking snaps. She's pretty arty, and so I want to get her an SLR that she can use to take more hobbyish pictures of NZ's amazing scenery.

Due to limited funds, we're talking non-digital, and we're probably talking ebay (.co.uk). We're talking a camera that appears in multiple auctions a day, as I have to win one in the next five days.

So which are the classics of the SLR world? I've heard the Pentax K1000 is a classic (and the ~£50-75 finishing price is about my affordable limit).

There seems to be a world of Nikon F-series recommended, too. But the endless differnt types are pretty imtimidating. I'd like a camera that is as manual as possible, and will give her a great grounding in the key basics of manual photography.

Help me, camera gurus!
posted by Cantdosleepy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I used to use my Nikon N65 all the time. Seems like one of the more common and cheap ones around.
posted by sanka at 8:04 AM on July 29, 2008

Can't go wrong with Pentax. A good selling point for their older SLRs is that, should she decide to buy a digital SLR in the future, the Pentax dSLRs accept any Pentax lens ever made. You might want to look at the ME Super, also, as the camera can also handle aperture or shutter priority and I believe it also has a jack on the camera body for a remote flash.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:07 AM on July 29, 2008

Response by poster: The ME super doesn't seem to have a shutter-speed dial on it. Would that be a problem?
posted by Cantdosleepy at 8:15 AM on July 29, 2008

EOS Rebel. There are scads of them out there, so, you should be able to get one for cheap. Fully manually or fully auto, takes great pictures.
posted by trbrts at 8:21 AM on July 29, 2008

The Canon AE-1 is also a classic, and they sold scads of them so there are lots out there. I still have one languishing in my own basement. The only caveat is that you should either get a guarantee that its working or get a good price and have it checked out by a competent camera shop immediately. There's a lot that can go wrong with a camera they stopped making 20+ years ago. It's a terrific camera for learning the fundamentals of photography though. There is an auto mode, but you can do everything manually as well.
posted by rusty at 8:26 AM on July 29, 2008

The problem with the AE-1 is that you will never use those lenses on any other camera, other than maybe a canon T-90 (or was it T-70).

I'm gonna second the EOS line, since EOS takes most Nikon, Pentax, M42, Contax/Yashica, etc lenses with simple, cheap, non-optical adapters - as well as the full amazing EF line.

And then when she gets a bit more coin, she can move to digital painlessly.
posted by jedrek at 8:29 AM on July 29, 2008

The Canon AE-1 (Program or not) is a fantastic camera. I've had one for 20 years, and it was 10 years old when I bought. Easy to use, very reliable, tons of lenses available. It may be on the higher end of your budget. It's manual focus and manual film advance, but both of those functions are smooth and fast.

If you would consider something a little different, for less money, you might want to look into the Olympus IS-1. (Here's one on eBay.) I've used one of these for a long time as well. It's a true SLR with auto-focus, power zoom lens (35-135mm), automated as well as manual exposure settings, solidly built, fantatic lens. The down side: the lens is not changable, and since it's a zoom lens, the maximum aperture is 4.5, which means it's not as good in low light as a prime lens with a maximum 1.4 or 1.8 aperture. Depending on your sisters needs, it could be a good option.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 8:37 AM on July 29, 2008

K1000 all the way, it's a tank. or one of the older Olympus OM series, the Zuiko lenses still kick a lot of ass
posted by matteo at 8:46 AM on July 29, 2008

Ditto anything from the EOS line. I love my old, old EOS 650. Full-auto or full-manual. Heavy as a brick, though. The Rebels are a lot lighter.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:49 AM on July 29, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, guys!

The AE-1 also sounds like a good bet. I'm keeping my eyes peeled on the 'bay.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 8:56 AM on July 29, 2008

There are some great old German and Russian M42 mount SLRs. I've given several away to people. The beauty is the m42 mount is very common, with large variety of lenses available on the cheap. If you dig a little you should even be able to give a new-old-stock camera (complete with awesome Soviet packaging) with a couple of lenses and stay within budget. Prakticas and Zenits are both fairly common, fairly solid cameras.
posted by piedmont at 8:59 AM on July 29, 2008

In addition to my Canon AE-1 recommendation, I will agree with trbrts Rebel endorsement. It's likely to come with a moderate zoom instead of a prime (which of course has trade-offs), but will be auto-focus and have various auto-exposure modes as well as manual.

But you know... when shooting film, there's just something about an old-school, manual, built-like-a-tank camera, made with actual metal, that makes you feel like you are actually doing something.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:52 AM on July 29, 2008

Take a look at Pentax MX bodies as well. I had one; great camera, and you get the pentax lens benefits too.

It is made of metal.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:48 AM on July 29, 2008

I still have the Pentax K1000 that I learned on in high school. They're great starter cameras. But they are manual only, so if she's not used to that it could be frustrating at first. On the other hand, if she's really into it, having to learn that way will make using a fancier SLR much easier in the future.
posted by dnash at 11:01 AM on July 29, 2008

For completely manual, all metal, built-like-a-tank cameras, you can't go wrong with a Pentax K1000. Used lenses are cheap and plentiful, and can be used on nearly any Pentax 35mm SLR.

The Canon AE-1 is also an excellent recommendation, as others have noted.

Personally, I would also recommend the Minolta SRT series (The 101, 102, 201, or 202 models). I've got two of them, a 202 and a 201. Built in the 70's, I picked them up in the 90's, and both still work perfectly (and I still use them regularly, despite owning a Canon Digital Rebel XTi). The Minolta MC/MD mount lenses can be found cheap, and the optics quality is better than decent, and very good on some lenses (my 135mm MD lens has helped me produce some absolutely stunning portraits). Downside: The lenses won't be of any use on ANY newer cameras (without an adapter), not even Minolta / Konica-Minolta auto-SLRs.

If you're looking for auto-focus with manual and auto-exposure controls, then the Canon Rebel series is a great place to start. If you can find a used Rebel K2 (also called the EOS 3000v on your side of the pond), that would probably fit the bill. Lightweight body, 7-point autofocus, 35-zone metering with option for center-weighted metering, and settings for aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and metered manual. Uses Canon EF mount lenses, which can be used on a future Canon digital SLR, should you purchase one. I bought one brand new about 4 years ago for a friend of mine, for US$250 with a lens, and she adored it. You should be able to find them for a song now. In fact, I just spotted one on eBay.co.uk for £30 buyout + £6.80 shipping.
posted by XcentricOrbit at 11:28 AM on July 29, 2008

I throw my lot in with Nikon for the ergonics sake. There's much to be said that one likes what one grows up with, and ever since I got a Nikon F-301 any other SLR just didn't sit right.

Having said that, my first-first camera was a Minolta MZ-M which is plasticky, as simple as can be, and served me well for the 2 years and 1000+ rolls I exposed. Ought to be easy to find, and has a lot of old third party lenses.
posted by monocultured at 11:44 AM on July 29, 2008

Might I throw in a word for either the Nikon N8008S or N90? They use AA batteries, and will handle just about any Nikon lens save for the very old (pre-AI), or very recent (G). Should be available in your price range.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 1:21 PM on July 29, 2008

I don't know if you can arrange the shipping in time, but www.keh.com has numerous F801S (European N8008s name) and F90S between $50-150. Be sure to get the 'S' models as they have a spot meter, and are newer than the non-S. They do ship internationally.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 1:25 PM on July 29, 2008

I've had my K1000 for 10 years now. I'm not sure how old it was when I bought it used. It's still soldiering on. (And I have the later Made in China version. The Japanese ones are probably even more tank-like.) It's a great camera to learn with. The Olympus OM-1 is also awesome and well regarded. I would get one or the other. I suspect K1000s are easier to come by.
posted by chunking express at 1:47 PM on July 29, 2008

Response by poster: Fuzzy Skinner: But you know... when shooting film, there's just something about an old-school, manual, built-like-a-tank camera, made with actual metal, that makes you feel like you are actually doing something

Exactly. And as a present, the joy from opening it will be much increased if it's an old-school warrior with that classic old design.

She's already got a camera for taking photos when partying etc. I want this one to be a potential hobby starter thing.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 2:51 AM on July 30, 2008

Old-school warrior cameras: Nikkormat FTn. Everyone who's met mine has purchased one of their own.
posted by cmyk at 4:52 AM on July 30, 2008

Seconding the caveat about AE-1 lenses -- an EOS would use lenses she can export to most future cameras. The AE-1 shares a few lenses with other Canons, but isn't as compatible as most newer cameras would be.
posted by rusty at 8:32 AM on July 31, 2008

No votes for the Nikon FM-2? There's a tank. All mechanical, no batteries necessary.
posted by Lukenlogs at 2:14 AM on August 17, 2008

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