Recommend me a good film camera

I’m interested in getting more into photography. I have a good Sony digital, but I want to play with film more.

I don’t want anything too fancy (meaning expensive), but I’d like to produce decent shots. One thing I’m specifically interested in is shooting musicians on stage in a club atmosphere, because the magazine I work for will be opening their own club in September, and I’d like to be able to shoot for the mag myself. If that affects your recommendation, or if there are specific types of lenses or whatever I’d want to consider, please keep that in mind. Used is fine, if it’s something that’s reasonably easy to find on eBay or somewhere.

So, photo-dopers, what can you recommend?

I use a Canon EOS that has treated me very well for the past eight years. Simple, lots of optional accessories and available just about everywhere. It’s got a good auto mode for the snapshot moments, and fully manual functions too.

I have only one lens I use, the 25-80 (?) zoom that I got with it. I’ve done just fine in my photo classes.

You have to give us more to go on. SLR? Point and Shoot? What’s your budget?

For your chosen application (indoors, stage photography), digital may actually be your best bet. The lighting level is usually pretty low, so you have to use fast, grainy films. Furthermore, you’re usually pretty far from the performers, so you have to use a longer (slower) lens. At least with digital, if you have to increase the ISO, you can use noise reduction later on to minimize the grain. Not to mention the ability of digital cameras to automatically white balance. Because of the low light and grain, I don’t see that you’re going to realize any of the benefits of film; specifically finer resolution and ability to get larger enlargements.

That said, the camera body barely matters – any of the well-known makers (Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, and so on) will do. But if you’re going the SLR route, you’re going to be making an investment in lenses, so you’ll want to plan ahead. (I don’t know if 35mm SLR lenses are compatible with the new digital SLRs, but if so, you might look into those, just so you know what family to lock yourself into.)

The most important thing for your use is a set of fast lenses. For your primary 50mm lens, 1.8 or even 1.4. Then you’ll want a short telephoto, again, as fast as you can get it.

A lot of people are converting to strictly digital, so you probably can pick up used equipment on EBay for relatively cheap right now.

I have a Sony 4.1 megapixel camera now, and while it’s great and easy to use, the pictures it takes are a little sterile. It’s pretty point-and-shoot, though, so if there are good digitals out there that take pictures with a little more character, that would be a possibility. The idea of film has a little romance for me, though. I want something that produces pictures with some character to them.

I guess what I want is a direction to go in, so I can do some research on what to get with a small degree of focus, and less stumbling around. :slight_smile:

One thing to consider is that autofocus SLR camers are not well matched to low light conditions. The autofocus either won’t work at all or uses a bright lamp to illuminate the scene while focusing - this could be annoying for both artists and club-goers alike and make you unpopular, so make sure you buy either a manual focus camera or can turn off autofocus. Some autofocus SLRs such as the Nikon range can still use older manual-focus lenses which may be cheaper second hand - though not all models can use the built in meter with these lenses. I don’t think Canon retained backward compatibility when they developed their current autofocus range.

Consider buying a monopod (one legged tripod). They enable you to use a slower shutter speed than hand-held but are not so clumsy as a tripod.

Actually, “sterile” and “lack of character” are pretty hard to quantify, so your best bet would be to look at samples of digital pictures on sites like dpreview (and various photographer’s archives) and see what you like. Without examples, it’s hard to say what quality you’re not seeing in your photos.

One suggestion is that you modify the built-in sharpening in the camera – you may have it set to too high or low a degree.

My reccomendations would be any of the following;

Manual focus, manual exposure;
Nikon FM2, all mechanical, the only thing the batteries run is the lightmeter, you have to truly learn to take pictures with this one, and that knowledge will translate well into whatever camera you use in the future, plus, it’s a great camera to have as a backup body
Pentax K-1000, same as the FM2, all mechanical, just uses Pentax’s lens mount

Automatic exposure, manual focus
Nikon F3 (actually, any of the F series), the F series are Nikon’s proffesional series, the F3 is a very rugged, reliable camera, built to take the beating of a proffesional, and since the camera has been around since the 70’s, you should be able to get a decent used one at a good camera shop, it shoots in manual mode and Aperture Priority (you pick the aperture, camera picks the correct shutter speed)

Automatic exposure, autofocus
Nikon N6006, 8008, N90, or F4s
the first 3 are Nikon’s consumer AF cameras, the F4s is the Pro model, i have this one myself, i love it, it’s built like a tank (aircraft aluminum frame, body alone weighs 3 LB), it can shoot up to 5.7 frames per second, it’s an awesome, rugged beast, you could probably use it to bludgeon a competing photographer out of your way, and still use it to take pictures… ;), all the above cameras can shoot in Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority (you choose the shutter speed, camera chooses the aperture, SP is better for action shots, AP is better for landscapes and shots where you need control of the depth-of-field) and Program (camera does the thinking for you :wink: )

one thing to keep in mind about these old AF Nikons is that they’re based off Nikon’s old single-sensor AF, the newer Nikons have the newer multi-sensor AF

personally i’m partial to Nikon, primarily because the F-mount has remained largely unchanged since 1958, it’s been adapted to Autofocus, but i could still take an old, classic Nikkor made back in '58, slap it on my F4s and use it, i’d be limited to Aperture Priority or Manual, but the fact remains that it would still work

try putting a Canon FD mount lens on an EOS, or a Minolta MD lens on a Maxxum, it ain’t gonna work (at least not without an adapter)

if you truly wanted to learn photography the correct way, you’d get a FM2 or K-1000 and start from scratch, that’s the best way to learn, automation is for the lazy (says the guy who primarily shoots AP, and refuses to use Program :wink: )

I learned to shoot the old fashioned way with an SLR before internal light meters. I recall when the Pentax was the new hot camara.
With that said, I have discovered that my Cannons will take better pictures in one of the auto modes than I do in manual.
Bottom line is I can spend more time taking pictures and less time with the mechanics.

A lot of people have excellent film cameras sitting on closet shelves these days. Ask your family and friends if you could borrow a film camera for a week or so. Borrow a diverse selection including an SLR, a newer autoeverything point-and-shoot, and maybe even a Polaroid. Consider buying a cheap pack of those disposable cameras as well–you are just experimenting. Buy a stack of print film at Costco. Then go out and play and learn how to use the tools. I bet that one of those borrowed cameras could be yours very inexpensively.

I love both print and digital photography, but think that the richness of film (especially transparencies–slides) cannot be equaled by most under 6 megapixel cameras.