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Classic vintage SLR camera - which is the best?

Alison Ward , Sep 03, 2009; 01:51 p.m.

I've been looking into buying a manual vintage SLR camera and I'm not sure which one is the best. At the moment it's between the Minolta X-300 and Canon AE - 1. Does anyone know if these are good cameras or have any other suggestions? I want it to be easy to carry around while also take good quality photographs. Thanks.


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Fred Haeseker , Sep 03, 2009; 02:16 p.m.

The compact-size Nikon FE and FE2 are worth looking at. Both feature aperture-priority automatic exposure with an electronic shutter -- the FE with a top speed of 1/1000, the FE2 with a top speed of 1/4000. The cameras can also be used manually (pick your own shutter speed). The depth-of-field preview is a handy feature, and both models use the still-current silver oxide button cells. The Minolta and Canon models you mention are also fine cameras with excellent lenses. It really comes down to which one feels best for you -- try them out if you can.

Luis G , Sep 03, 2009; 02:17 p.m.

There is no best. Buy something that fits what you want to do. Be careful with the AE-1 shutter. Listen carefully to see if you hear a slight squeal. It could mean a somewhat expensive shutter CLA.

Cesar Gomez , Sep 03, 2009; 02:20 p.m.

Chose what lenses you like, then buy a body for them.

Bruno Galler , Sep 03, 2009; 02:24 p.m.

Hi Alison, both are good cameras, and the lenses are fine and unexpensive in both cases. But you own a digital SLR? In this case, you could choose a camera that allow the use of your lenses, if possible (Nikon, Sony-Minolta, etc.)

Alison Ward , Sep 03, 2009; 02:35 p.m.

Thanks for the advice :) No I don't have a digital SLR. I have used them but I don't have my own, I only have a point and shoot camera and I am unable to get a DSLR at the minute due to lack of funds. I prefer film cameras and when I studied photography at school I used an older model, I think it was a minolta but not sure. It had a chrome and black body. I like the older cameras instead of the newer ones.

John Liberty , Sep 03, 2009; 02:48 p.m.

You're right. The older cameras are much nicer to shoot with than the new plastic cameras. They just feel good in your hands. The two cameras you mentioned would be excellent cameras to start with, although my preference would be for the AE-1 only because that's the camera that I have experience with. They are generally very reliable and the 50 1.8 lens that usually comes w/ one is a good lens. I would think $100 would get you a good camera & lens.

Geoff Sobering , Sep 03, 2009; 03:32 p.m.

Alison, what is your definition of "Manual"? Both the X-300 and AE-1 have electronic shutters and pretty sophisticated auto-exposure systems.

Personally, if you're looking for the "best" vintage mechanical SLRs, I would think the Nikon F and F2, Canon F-1 series, Olympus OM-1 (and 3) would have to rank at the top.

If you want something with more electronics (and specifically and electronic shutter), the Nikon F3, Olympus OM-2 and 4 would be my top choices.

If size is important, I've always liked the OM cameras.

Patrick Mont , Sep 03, 2009; 03:39 p.m.

I have a Nikon Nikkormat FTn and I absolutly love it!

Andy Collins , Sep 03, 2009; 04:26 p.m.

A great choice for a mechanical camera is the Minolta SR-T series cameras. They are very reliable, pretty straightforward, and help you to take excellent pictures. They only require a battery to power the light meter. The SR-T 102 is a full-featured camera with depth-of-field preview, mirror lock-up, aperture and shutter speed in the viewfinder, and of course the meter readout in the viewfinder. Its CLC metering system does a superb job of metering most situations. Plus the lenses for the Minoltas are exceptional. Fred mentioned the Nikon FE2. I'm currently using one and I love it! It's a superb, compact SLR with a lot of features as well, one of those being a top shutter speed of 1/4000s. If you can afford one, another awesome camera is the Canon F-1, a professional level camera from 1971. It tends to be more expensive though, whereas cameras like the SR-T can be found for well under $100. I've had a couple of AE-1s, the plain AE-1 and the AE-1 Program. Both were great cameras. For a very nice, even more compact camera there's the Pentax ME or ME-Super, also available at reasonable prices, usually under $100. If you want to go really old-school with features such as stop-down metering, take a look at the Pentax Spotmatic or Yashica TL-Electro. They require a little more work than the later SLRs, but more work often translates to more thoughtful compositions and better results. So many cameras, so many great choices, but these are just a few I thought of.

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