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09-06-2009, 04:59 AM   #1
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Best film camera for a starter

Hi all,

After a year shooting digital with a K10. I'm seriously thinking about shooting film a long with digital but don't know enough about all film camera models and which one to choose.

I'm definitely will go with a K mount model so ME, K1000 or P30T are on the list. There are many more models but again I can't quite tell the difference and most of all which one is better?

I would dearly love to have a auto focus model like the *ist (any other?) but still worry that these won't last for too long and will be costly to fix. I've also read from somewhere that the colour produced by the newer camera won't be as "vintage". I haven't seen enough film photo to figure out what this vintage colour look like and still not sure if this is only a myth.

So an old mechanical model seems to be a better choice as it will last a lot longer, produce better colors, and save myself from battery cost (I'll just have to keep up with MF). But which model? Or any model will do? Are they that much different? With film camera, (correct me if i'm wrong) you don't have to deal with iso setting, white balance, sensor and resolution.... all you need is something to load film up, get it exposed to light through a lens and there come the pictures ). I'm just being sarcastic because I don't know much about film camera. Please enlight me.

Some film cameras offer shooting in Av, Tv which is great, I really need them. I also want to use my FA lenses so is compatability a problem? Can I use them on a ME?

It would be great to know what everyone would prefer to use and why.

09-06-2009, 06:37 AM   #2
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There are as many opinions as there are members here

I think there are four ways to start:

M42 Screwmount - a Spotmatic and some of the best glass around, at a really good price.
  1. You'll need to learn a lot about exposure because these cameras have nearly no assists - other than open-aperture metering on the later models
  2. Go Here - Asahi Pentax Index Here - Asahi Optical Historical Club and Here - Photoethnography.com (there's a pulldown box on the top right) to learn about screwmount
K-body mechanical manual focus K mount - the old Spotmatic body with the new bayonet mount installed. These are my personal preference because I have large hands, and include the K1000. I believe the KM or KX is a better starter camera than the K1000 because they have a few useful features such as mirror lockup and DoF preview.
  1. Go Here - Boz's K-Mount Webpage for everything about K-Mount.
  2. Here is a discussion of what some Pentax devotees thought were the best film cameras 6 or 7 years ago Top 8 Bodies
M-body mechanical / semi-mechanical manual focus K-Mount - the smaller bodies, many with more electronic helps
  1. M series - ME/MESuper, MX (some think this is the ideal fully mechanical film camera)
  2. LX - a truly professional mechanical film "system camera"
  3. A series - SuperProgram (first series to use the A contacts to communicate with the lens)
  4. P series
Autofocus era - with your FA lenses (although they will work on any Pentax K-Mount camera).
  1. SF-series
  2. PZ series (some here believe the PZ-1/PZ-1P is the best film camera Pentax ever made)
  3. MZ series - MZs is a true professional film camera and still runs in the many hundreds of dollars - when you can find one
  4. *ist series
My suggestions are bold.

Let the discussion begin!

Last edited by monochrome; 09-07-2009 at 08:00 AM.
09-06-2009, 06:46 AM   #3
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On the AF side, I have and like the ZX-L, and there's a lot of support for the ZX-5n also. If you check some of the threads in the film slr section you'll see the hierarchies. As usual, one step back from the 'absolute best' is a whole lot cheaper. With AF you get electric frame advance and all the auto exposure modes, and a pop up flash, usually.

A generation or two back, I recommend the Program cameras - Super and Plus - the Super having more features - as decent reliable and not too aged bodies, with program mode that allows the use of non-aperture ring lenses. Operation is via push buttons, which some dislike. These cameras I find very comfortable and reliable to operate. The ME Super has a lot of fans here - the view finder is large, the camera is tiny, and there's aperture priority automation.

Manual everything - there are loads of excellent cameras. Pentax has several models, each of which has something to recommend it... KX, MX, KM etc. The K1000 is like the VW bug, basic, tons available, but with a cult status that may make it more expensive than the other, more fully featured cameras.

With any of these, my advice is to go for condition and price, the precise model doesn't really matter as much... unless your heart / eye is in love with a particular one. Many of the AF bodies are cheap enoug that if they break, you just buy another one.

Re. picture quality - it has more to do with lenses than body - the newer cameras came with cheap kit zooms, many of which are really bad. Older ones come with a 50mm lens, which though 'old fashioned' and 'unexciting' are truly excellent lenses, every one of them.

With a film camera, the film takes the place of ISO, white balance, and resolution... you match the film to the setting... though the color print 200/400/800 films are pretty much general purpose. You have a lot more exposure latitude.

Scanning becomes the digital interface, and you run into all the digital issues there. Of course you can let the developer also scan, which usually works out fine.

Jump on in, check out the film!
09-06-2009, 07:30 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by anpqnguyen Quote
I've also read from somewhere that the colour produced by the newer camera won't be as "vintage". I haven't seen enough film photo to figure out what this vintage colour look like and still not sure if this is only a myth.
BS the camera is just a box holding the film, it is the lens and the film that gives you your look. maybe it would look vintage if the camera has a bad meter and gives you weird looking results.

check out Pentax Camera Bodies

09-06-2009, 07:36 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by k100d Quote
BS the camera is just a box holding the film, it is the lens and the film that gives you your look. maybe it would look vintage if the camera has a bad meter and gives you weird looking results.

check out Pentax Camera Bodies

this is due to DSLR's taking over in place of film SLR's....


yep with a film camera its just a light proof box. the film, lens and light metering is what gives you your results. well that and film development, but thats a separate thing. the only part a camera plays in how your photos will look is the meter, that is if the camera you use has a built in meter....
09-06-2009, 10:39 AM   #6
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Hard to add anything to the advice already given...

Here is my list of recomendations, from the most like a DSLR to the least:

PZ-1p - This is a film K10D
Super program/Super A - still has AV and TV, but no longer has autofocus
ME Super - no longer has TV, but has AV and manual modes.
MX - one of the most popular Pentax film cameras.
KX - Just manual mode, but has DOF preview, and shows aperture and shutter in viewfinder
KM - like the KX but no view finder information
K1000 - Like the KM but no timer and no DOF preview
Spotmatic SP1000 - Like the KM but M42 mount (you can not use K-mount lenses)
S3 - like the spotmatic but no light meter.

One of th challenges for someone starting out with a film camera, is trying to find a body in good functional condition. The body might look to be in great shape, but the internals could be hooped.

I would sugest you set a budget of say $150.00 for the camera. $75.00 to get the body, and $75.00 for a CLA. That way you will know that the camera is working the way it should, and any exposure issues are your fault, not the cameras.

The price of a used camera varies depending on your local market. In some areas a K1000 will go for +$200.00, just because of its cult status. Other places you can get one for less then $50.00.

I also think that the less electronics a camera has, the cheaper and easier it is to get the camera CLA'd.

So, from the above list I would consider the MX, KX, KM, and K1000. What ever I could find, that meets the budget.

Then, I would send it to Eric. He is THE GUY to CLA your film camera. He did my LX. he has worked on many of the cameras on this forum. Here is the link:

Home
09-06-2009, 11:51 PM   #7
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If you wanted to use the DA lenses (the ones with no aperture ring) most of the old cameras are ruled out
So you should start looking at the PZ or the MZ/ZX series.
I would check a Pz1p or a MZ6/L or MZ7

Now the color is not produced by the camera, but by a lens/film combination. Older lenses had different light transmission than newer lenses. But most of the Pentax lenses (from the 80s onwards) will produce "modern" colours.

[scratch]Since you want to use the FA lenses, and these do not have a aperture ring, that rules out most of the old cameras.[/scratch]

Last edited by titrisol; 09-07-2009 at 04:23 AM.
09-07-2009, 02:27 AM   #8
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Just to clarlify things, FA lenses have aperture rings; leastways my FA50 and FA35 do.

Best to all,
Kevin

09-07-2009, 02:45 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by KJon Quote
Just to clarlify things, FA lenses have aperture rings; leastways my FA50 and FA35 do.

Best to all,
Kevin
all FA's have aperture rings, yes.
09-07-2009, 05:10 AM   #10
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Wow, thank you all for your great responds. This is totally unexpected. I would like to especially thank KungPOW, Nesster and monochrome for your comprehensive responds.

I have now made up half of my mind. I think I should stick to AF models especially because they are quite cheap to trash and buy another if something go wrong. PZ and MZ series seem to be the most popularly recommended. I've actually own 1 PZ10 and 1 MZ10 (all very good copies) before I think about shooting film so sadly, I sold them all .

However, I did a search on ebay and the MZ series (MZ10-20-50) is largely available at very cheap prices. I wonder if these MZ10 or MZ50 are good cameras or only the MZs that is especially good and stand out from others?

Same story for the PZ series, is it only the PZ1p that is worth buying?

I would think that PZ10 ro PZ 20 and MZ10 or MZ20 are respectively belong to the PZ and MZ series. And the bigger the number is the later the model is. Is it advisory to choose the oldest version? Seem like the PZ1P is most preferred in the PZ series, and so is the MZs in MZ series.

Once again, thank you all.
09-07-2009, 05:49 AM   #11
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I quickly searched on ebay for MZs model and Zp-1p model and was surprised by the price of MZs. It's not cheaper than DSLR at all and some are actually more expensive than my K10 at current market price.

ZP-1p is rarely available, only 1 auction in the UK, so I don't know its price range.

Anyway, I found a great deal on a MZ50 with an ordinary sigma zoom lens for AUD50 and I thought I can't delay any longer. So it's sold and I'm waiting for my new toy to come home.

In the mean time, will keep an eye out for any ZP-1p on the market.
09-07-2009, 07:38 AM   #12
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If you are getting an MZ- series look for the single digits, 5(n); 6/L; 7
those are a bit better built, have metal mounting rings, and can use old(er) lenses as well.

Check this:

Last edited by titrisol; 09-07-2009 at 07:46 AM.
09-07-2009, 02:39 PM   #13
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One point to note with the MZ-50 is that it's a crippled KAF mount so you can't use certain older lenses which don't have a an 'A' setting. I'm sure someone here who is more knowledgeable will expand on this.

Other cameras with this mount are MZ-30/ZX-30, MZ-60/ZX-60, *ist

On your other point about the Z-1P, I've just recently got a Z-1 (PZ-1) and it's the business. The best film camera I've ever had.
09-07-2009, 02:59 PM   #14
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In the MZ serie, I think the MZ6 has the more potential : 1/4000 shutter, PTTL, AF-C...

And don't forget to buy a MZ-m split focus screen (your local Pentax service dept often has some lying around for ridiculous prices - I got mine for 4€ each)... That's one of the least known fact about pentax cameras : nearly all of them have interchangeable focus screens...
09-07-2009, 06:06 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by dlacouture Quote
In the MZ serie, I think the MZ6 has the more potential : 1/4000 shutter, PTTL, AF-C...

And don't forget to buy a MZ-m split focus screen (your local Pentax service dept often has some lying around for ridiculous prices - I got mine for 4€ each)... That's one of the least known fact about pentax cameras : nearly all of them have interchangeable focus screens...
wow, great advice. I will look for one. Since I have a lot of M42 lens laying around, I will definitely need the split focus screen
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