Stan’s used film Camera Recommendations
Perhaps the best camera system ever made in terms of quality and durability, especially the lenses. Up to 5 years ago, you could buy the lenses cheap, but when Leitz started making digital bodies, the used lens market shot up. You might be able to get a good deal on a used Leica body, but are you sure you can afford the glass?
Camera Bodies to consider:
M4 made from 1967-1975
M5 Many of this model had meter issues.
If there is an “iron man” camera, Nikon and especially early F series Nikons are the ones that come to mind. Solid, heavy, all metal designs mean you could almost use them as hammers. With the models F, F2, F3, the year of manufacture is shown as the first two digits in the serial #. All Nikon lenses are of three types, non-AI, AI and AF, all will work in a fashion on all bodies, but it’s all about the meter coupling.
F, Totally mechanical, no batteries needed, they did make a FTn with a light meter head, but the meter was for the most part very poor. This camera used a unique method of removing the film back for loading that either you love or hate.
F2, also a totally mechanical body, improved meter system, traditional film back and the last hand assembled camera Nikon made.
F3, first Nikon with an electronic shutter, requires a battery to work, some say the best film Nikon ever made.
F5, The penultimate film Nikon, all the features and technology of a digital Nikon in a film camera, sold for $2,000 when new, you can still buy them for $250-300.
FM & FE (also FE2), both of these would make excellent cameras for the class, but are not considered “professional grade”. Both cameras are good choices for this class however.
Canon got into the professional film camera game late, making solid consumer grade cameras for years. Canon unlike Nikon has two distinct lens systems, the non-autofocus and the autofocus, and they are not interchangeable.
F1, this was Canon answer to the Nikon F, it’s a pro body, all metal design and very tough, not so many in used circulation.
AE-1, 1976-84 This was a prosumer body that had some nice electronics in it and a decent meter system, they made a boatload of them for years. Be aware the foam on the film door now is prone to falling apart and some of the older ones leak light.
The workhorse camera of the photo I class is without question the Pentax K1000. It’s a no frills take care of business camera. Nothing special about this camera and made as an inexpensive entry level camera. Made from 1976-97 and they made a lot of them. Buy them used for $75-150.00. Only limitation, not a lot of used lenses for them out there. The ones made in Japan have more metal in them than the ones made in China at the end of the production run.