BetterPhoto Q&A
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Photography Question 
Sarah Borroum

I need a 35mm SLR that's affordable - but not junk

Hi everyone.

I took two photography classes a couple of years ago to fulfill reqirements for a journalism degree that I was working for at the time. I ended up switching my major to English, but the photography classes were still worth the investment because, wow, it turns out that I really enjoyed taking pictures.

Anyway, I used the college's cameras when I took the classes, so when the second semester ended, so did my camera privileges.

Now I'm thinking, "Hmm. I'd like to get back into taking pictures again," but don't have very much money to spend on camera equipment.

Any suggestions? Keeping in mind, of course, that I don't really want to go with a point-and-shoot sort of thing.

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1/16/2006 10:18:21 PM

  I'm guessing that you're interested in an slr. Film or digital was not mentioned. If you're looking for manual or autofocus film cameras, you may want to start with camera shops. I bought a Praktica MTL 3 at a camera shop for twenty dollars. Most used camera prices are based on the condition and age of the camera. The condition is rated on a scale of 1-10. You can get a good condition manual focus slr outfit with lenses and flash for as little as $300 depending , again, on age and condition. Autofocus cameras can be substantially higher. Another factor in price is make. A Leica is going to sell for substantially higher than, say, a Pentax. Another good place to try is pawn shops. Most of the cameras they take in are used until the time they are pawned. Good luck in your search.

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1/16/2006 10:44:31 PM

doug Nelson   There are many 70's-80's manual focus SLR's out there, but some aged better than others. Among the hard core group are the Canon TLb, TX, FTb; Minolta SRT-series; Pentax K-1000, and Nikon FM2 and FM2n. I do not work for, but I can tell you that they are honest and have a 14-day no-questions-asked return policy. In addition, even their Bargain grade cameras have had the door and mirror bumper foam replaced. This foam is a likely problem in sight-unseen online auction purchases.

A second possible problem with the Minolta and Canon oldies is the no longer available 3.5 volt mercury battery. If you run into this situation, go to and buy an adapter that lets you use much cheaper batteries with the same voltage.

Get yourself a 50mm lens and a 25mm extension tube for close-ups. Add a 28mm wide angle and a short telephoto in the 85-135mm range. Stick to lenses made by your camera manufacturer as they are cheap and of excellent quality. The camera and 50mm should come in under $150. Add the other items as you are able.

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1/17/2006 6:16:55 AM

Craig m. Zacarelli
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/3/2005
  e bay, you can get some not so old 35mm rebels for around $100.00 or less.

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1/17/2006 9:47:36 AM

Will Turner   Yeah, I have a few. If you're willing to roll the dice, you can go for the riskier markets like pawnshops or Goodwill. Sometimes you can get a nice deal. Just keep in mind that you may 1) get a clunker; 2) get a model that needs a complete overhaul at $100 or more; 3) get a model that can't be repaired at all because of lack or parts or complexity.

If you go autofocus, definitely get a newer mid or high-end model for which there are still parts and support. Otherwise you may end up with a doorstop when it breaks. Consumer-level (low-end) AF SLRs tend to break early, many don't last much past 2 years or so. And these days, new doesn't necessarily mean problem-free when it comes to low-end cameras.

Also, if this is a SLR camera that you are going to depend on, get one that's well built and for which there are available lenses, accessories etc. On the used market this is easy to do, just go to ebay and see how often your brand's camera lenses, etc. pop up for sale.

You can improve your chances of getting a reliable used manual-focus SLR camera by looking for a sturdy mid or pro-level body, especially one that's been recently serviced. Simpler is usually better when it comes to features and program modes, especially on older cameras - less to break. For reliability, it's not so much the outside of the camera or its features that count, but how it's built internally.

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1/17/2006 1:48:30 PM

Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  Everybody's idea of "affordable" is probably a bit different.

I started with the Canon Rebel G which I got in a kit (body, lens, strap, film, batteries, case) for $269 brand new. Of course that was a few years ago. But it's held up nicely, and I learned all of my manual shooting skills with it. I shot a wedding with it last Dec (with a much better lens than what came with it though!) And the great thing was that I was able to upgrade the the digital rebel XT and use all of the lenses that I'd acquired for my 35mm!

I know you can get used ones out there (the rebel 2000 maybe?), I'm an ebayer myself but you do have to be careful. Check pro shops for used stuff in your area if you can.

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1/17/2006 6:10:05 PM

Larry T. Miller   My suggestions are the Nikon FM-2N, possibly a Nikon FE-2, if you like both manual and automation of a sort. Both are rugged. Then there's always the Nikkormat FTN (made for war).

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3/27/2006 12:46:56 PM

Craig m. Zacarelli
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/3/2005
  I recently got a Canon Elan7 off ebay for $175.00 I also got the grip for it for like $60.00 still in the box!
look around, youll find something.

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3/27/2006 4:59:55 PM

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