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10-18-2010, 06:46 AM   #1
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Camera system advice for a cinematography student

Hi all,

I'm doing some research into a camera system for a friend of mine. He's new to photography and has just started a year's course in cinematography. His course requirements for still photography are film only, no digital (for better or worse). What I'd like to discuss here is the benefits of starting him off with Pentax, instead of say, Nikon or Canon. I hope this is the correct forum to do so as it was a toss up between the Pentax Film and Pentax Digital forums - since he needs to start with film, ergo this forum. The following are some of my own thoughts - perhaps people could discuss them with me... So, if I chose Pentax, I'd plan to start him on a film camera and if he wanted, he could eventually get a DSLR. Note that his budget is very low.

Why I think Pentax is good for my friend are as follows:
- He can use the old Pentax K mount lenses from a Pentax SLR on a Pentax DSLR. If he went with Canon / Nikon, because his budget is low, he couldn't afford to go down Canon EF route (similar for Nikon) with a film and digital SLR as the cost would be prohibitive.
- There's quite a few old and competitively priced Pentax lenses or compatible on Ebay.
- Pentax build quality, especially for DSLRs is great from what I hear.

Things I'm not sure about:
- What Pentax body to get him - I was thinking a P30 but am open to this. Subtle things like the fact that the Pentax P30 only recognises film with speeds up to 1600, so he can't use the light metre with Ilford 3200 for example, unless he has a portable light metre.
- Pentax and video on DSLR's and the future of this. Obviously this is an issue, especially since he's doing cinematography and you've got an episode of House being shot of a 5D Mark2. But then again, money is tight and he could always get a cheapter digital camcorder etc.
- Drawbacks to using old Pentax SLR lenses on the new DSLR system - do they require an adapter for the aperture lever etc? Are there any more subtle implications apart of the obvious - losing AF etc.
- Quality and selection of digital era lenses compared to the competition (Canon/Nikon). This isn't a big deal but I'd like to hear what ye think on this...

Any other advice would be appreciated.

As a side note, I use an old Pentax film camera - P30 with a Canon 30D and am very happy with both.

Thanks and kind regards,
Jason.

10-18-2010, 07:53 AM   #2
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QuoteQuote:
His course requirements for still photography are film only...
QuoteQuote:
I was thinking a P30... Subtle things like the fact that the Pentax P30 only recognises film with speeds up to 1600, so he can't use the light metre with Ilford 3200 for example, unless he has a portable light metre.
Baring any special film camera requirements by the instructor, any film camera will do. Presumably, the cheaper the better. And the cheapest route is for you or someone else to loan him their film camera.

So who cares if the camera won't meter 3200 speed. If he gets an assignment to shoot at that speed, he can just manually under expose a 1600ASA one stop; otherwise, just shoot with slower film. It sounds like the goal here is to find him a cheap, working camera that won't need a CLA to get him through the class. A cheap Pentax K1000 will go up to 3200ASA. And I'd think that since the class requires a film camera, the goal is to learn the basics of photography where getting automatic features on the camera is less desirable.


QuoteQuote:
Drawbacks to using old Pentax SLR lenses on the new DSLR system - do they require an adapter for the aperture lever etc?
If you are talking M42 screw mount lens old then, yes, you need a adapter; otherwise, all Pentax lenses will fit a modern Pentax DSLR. However, you'll get to utilize more automatic features with manual 'A' lenses the the manual 'M' lenses. And you're assuming he'll go with a Pentax DSLR. I wouldn't factor that in unless he ends up spending lots of money on lenses.


QuoteQuote:
Quality and selection of digital era lenses compared to the competition (Canon/Nikon). This isn't a big deal but I'd like to hear what ye think on this...
QuoteQuote:
Pentax build quality, especially for DSLRs is great from what I hear.
This doesn't seem related to finding your friend a cheap, working film camera unless you assume he'll be getting a Pentax digital camera. There is a healthy used market of older Pentax lenses with lots of choices. Plus there are 3rd party K mount lenses to pick from. As far as selection of modern DSLR lenses, a quick visit to Pentax's web site and to Canon/Nikon will make that clear. The build quality on most of the old manual cameras is good too.

Last edited by tuco; 10-18-2010 at 08:54 AM.
10-19-2010, 03:00 PM   #3
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Hi Tuco,

Thanks for the good advice... I'll be looking in the K1000 as, in addition to what you've typed, I've heard good things about that camera in relation to it being a students first. Probably the hardest part of all this is finding something on Ebay that doesn't need a CLA but that'll be fun too

Thanks again and kind regards,
Jason.
10-19-2010, 03:29 PM   #4
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If you want a really good film camera with lots of flexability, look at a PZ-1 or PZ-1p

it will use any lens youwant, in full auto full manual or anywhere inbetween, with AF capoabilities and up to 1/8000 shutter speed (something to think about with ISO 3200 film)

10-19-2010, 04:08 PM   #5
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I'd recommend an ME Super, for his film camera needs, lots of them out there looking for new owners and for cheap price, a small reliable slr.
10-19-2010, 04:31 PM   #6
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One thing that you want to keep in mind is whether your friend will be using bulk film. If so you may want to stay away from some cameras like the P30, where you'll need to get DX coded canisters to setup the camera right (if you're not shooting 100 iso). But as others have said, the K bodies are good, the m bodies are good, you can get for both the Super Program or Program Plus without going too wrong. I think that you have lots of choice.
10-19-2010, 04:59 PM   #7
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Usually photography course instructors are partial to cameras that allow full metered manual. DOF preview is a plus. The assumption should be made that DX encoded canisters may not be used.
  • Pentax KM
  • Pentax K1000
  • Pentax KX
  • Pentax MX
  • Pentax ME Super
  • Pentax Super Program
  • Pentax Program Plus
And since I am a Ricoh fan...
  • Ricoh XR 1
  • Ricoh XR 2 and 2s
  • Ricoh XR7

One should also note that the Cosina-made Vivitar V3800N is available new at a moderate price and is a capable, all-mechanical, metered manual K-mount SLR that is intended for students. LINK

Of all the cameras listed above the K1000 is a good, sturdy camera with excellent DNA (based on the mechanicals of the legendary Pentax Spotmatic). Good as it may be, it is probably the least capable of all the cameras listed above and is often priced at a premium because of the demand from students. My first choice of the above from the standpoint of value would be a KM. LINK Think of it as a K1000 with all the features the K1000 was supposed to have. It is truly a K-mount Spotmatic. Since it is not as well known, prices are usually quite moderate.


Steve
10-19-2010, 05:00 PM   #8
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K1000 or KM if you can find one.

Chris

10-21-2010, 01:42 PM   #9
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I've started watching KM, K1000 and Super ME's on Ebay...

I'll let ye know what we go with in the end... at the moment we're looking at some KM's.

@tonyjayice, ChrisPlatt, thanks for the advice...

@stevebrot - I've used kmp.bdimitrov.de to create a XLS of data for KM, K1000 and the Super ME for comparision - thanks.

@Simian Summit - good advice regarding the bulk film...

@Lowell Goudge - we looked into and discussed the PZ-1 but we concluded that, apart from the price being prohibitive, it's too good a camera for my friend : ) - he needs something simpler and more back to basics, since he has very little photographic experience to date...

Kind regards,
Jason.

Last edited by surfjungle; 10-21-2010 at 01:51 PM.
10-21-2010, 02:22 PM   #10
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Something to note about the K1000. The later version of that camera is made cheaper and does not have the Asahi name on it. They were produced up to 1997. That version is not as desirable to many people and consequently you may find it at a better price with possibly less competition for it. And one made in the final years in good shape should be ready to shoot without needing work.
10-21-2010, 06:39 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
And since I am a Ricoh fan...
  • Ricoh XR 1
  • Ricoh XR 2 and 2s
  • Ricoh XR7

Ricoh made some great products. I personally have one of their rangefinders, not an SLR, but I can vouch for build quality and optics. Certainly not as tack-sharp as pentax, but my Ricoh is older than my Spottie, and still functions PERFECTLY.

Also, the M42 cameras should've been mentioned. The Spotmatics and Spotmatic Fs are fine pieces of equipment.
10-21-2010, 07:28 PM   #12
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As a film grad, I confirm that full metered manual is important. I suggest avoiding anything with aging electronics, or anything other than a classic control layout. It will make it easier to learn, the camera will match what is in the textbooks and being demonstrated.

Though the K1000 is the most-recommended student camera of all time, I recommend against it. Because it is very difficult to find one for a fair price. Every student in the world buys them, and they spend what they have budgeted, not what the camera is worth. (Not their fault, they likely don't know classic camera values, and are buying what they were told to.) As a result, I see K1000's selling for $250, on the shelf beside more capable cameras for much less money.

What you want, however, is a K1000-like camera. That means my recommendations are for:

Pentax KM
Pentax KX
Pentax MX
Pentax MZ-M

with a heavy recommendation for either the MX or MZ-M.

The MZ-M is quite new, but it looks and acts like a classic K1000-style SLR. It can be used with simple Pentax K or M lenses, but supports automatic aperture with newer (Pentax A, F, FA, FAJ, DFA, DA) lenses.

The MX is a true classic. A camera that your friend will likely have for his whole life. It's an elegant miniaturization of the Spotmatic/K1000 design, with newer metering. It's fully mechanical operation will ensure that (with a little service) this camera will outlast all of us, and the discontinuation of all batteries! Works great paired with Pentax K, M and A glass, with nothing automatic to distract.

If autofocus is important/desired, then I recommend these cameras:

Pentax PZ1p or MZ-7
Nikon F100 or F75/N75

The PZ1p is a great camera, and has controls just like a modern DSLR. Ditto the F100. The MZ-7 and F75 offer 95% of the features and performance, in small lightweight bodies that often sell for $20 or $30.

Skip the crappy AF zooms that usually come with an AF camera, and get used older AF primes.

For Pentax, the F series is fine and usually cheaper than the FA. Unfortunately both can be hard to find for a reasonable price.

The F100 is a formidable camera, and gets your friend access to lots of good Nikon glass. Older-generation Nikon AF primes are plentiful and not expensive. An AF 28/2.8, 35/2, 50/1.8 and 85/1.8 would cover everything he needs, and also be a long term investment. Good lenses to have for a DSLR for filmmaking (like the D7000).

Will Pentax every deliver a "filmmaker's DSLR"? I don't know... I have bought a K-r for that purpose. It fills my needs for personal filmmaking (at least it offers 25 fps which is easy to retime to 24 fps, AE-L and aperture control.) But with Nikon's D7000 and Canon's DSLRs offering full manual controls over video, eventually Pentax will offer it too. I hope(!)
10-22-2010, 05:03 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by surfjungle Quote
Hi all,

I'm doing some research into a camera system for a friend of mine. He's new to photography and has just started a year's course in cinematography.
A year long cinematography course...that sounds like Ballyfermot to me

I bought a superA due to the same ISO issue with the my P30t.
Check out Pentax Camera Bodies for details as to which cameras can handle higher ISOs.

At the moment Pentax are very weak for DSLR video. They shoot the crappy Motion JPEG format, as opposed to the AVCHD of the Panasonic GH1 and H264 of the Canons.

I've shot a few shorts on GH1s with Canon lenses. Great setup as you can get a nice Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens for 50€ on ebay. The equivalent Pentax lens would be a little more pricey.

Last edited by RichyX; 10-22-2010 at 05:21 AM.
10-22-2010, 09:00 AM   #14
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Thanks again to Tuco, PGillin and RichyX. filmamigo - after reading that, I'm going to have a more indepth look at the other suggestions you've made. I'm off home for the bank holiday weekend (Irish) with no internet connection. Will hope to have settled on something with my friend by the end of next week. And yes RichyX, that's the course in Bally La-Fermot : )
10-22-2010, 05:02 PM   #15
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I got a Ricoh KR-10 (basically a more solid ME-Super) with a 50mm f/2 for $5... You set the aperture manually and the meter sets the shutter speed if you choose. Perfect for learning your stuff.

Having said that, I'd go with a SuperProgram if I were learning. It's as manual or automatic as you want (barring AF) and it has depth-of-field preview which is handy.

...so yeah, go for Pentax K-Mount if you want cheap, solid and capable cameras.
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