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OT: vintage SLR advice
Old 02-25-2006   #1
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OT: vintage SLR advice

I'm someone who has never owned an SLR or any interchangeable lens camera in my life. I'm been toying with the idea of getting an old SLR for a while now, nothing concrete yet as budget is really tight (need to find a job first!), but I've been looking around and researching so I can have an idea what to set my eyes on. I've been looking at the older Nikon F series, Olympus OM series and Minolta SRT series.

While I've heard great things about Nikon, I must admit I'm leaning away from it now because I think it's the most expensive. I think Minolta is the cheapest, but I'm not very familiar with the quality of their camera/lenses, my only experience with the brand is a digicam. My only experience of an Oly is the RC, but it gave me a very good impression.

Does anyone have any input on these cameras--size & weight ("the feel"), features, common problems that I might encounter in "unknown condition" auctions, and quality/ease of finding compatible lenses?

Last edited by Kat : 02-25-2006 at 07:01.
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Old 02-25-2006   #2
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Canon FD lenses and bodies seem to be dirt cheap these days. My TX is a trusty little camera with an easy-to-use meter, the body's pretty much adaptable straight to 1.5v cells, and it's got a nice, bright finder in it.

I've heard good things about Olympus OMs, but never used one.

I would wholeheartedly reccomend an M42 SLR to you, as lenses are plentiful AND cheap. The Pentax Spotmatic is a fabulous little beast.
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Old 02-25-2006   #3
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I would get the old standard, the Pentax K 1000. Actually any of the "K" series would be fine. They last forever and the Pentax lenses are probably IMHO the best made.
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Old 02-25-2006   #4
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I would second the advice on Pentax. The M42 will give you the widest choice of lenses and the Takumars are some of the best lenses made. If you go for one of the K series, I wouldn't go for the K1000 as they tend to be overpriced because of their "cult" status. Go for a KM or better still the KX which have more features and are generally cheaper.
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Old 02-25-2006   #5
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I've owned them all but kept the Pentax.

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Old 02-25-2006   #6
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I like the good old Pentax spotmatics..the SMC lenses are excellent and very well built.
I just sold a Minolta Srt-102 Kit here recently, it was nice but I liked the Pentax better.
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Old 02-25-2006   #7
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http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Spotma...guid=197689023

check out this group of M42 guys and gals I also say Pentax M42 [screw mount] the Thread lenses have a much higher regard than the K mounts, I personally use the H1a [no meter and NO batteries] but I also have a warm spot for my Black ME Super, so much so that 2 of my son's were given Black ME supers for B'day's. The youngest is using a spotmatic as he and I shoot together alot so we are compatable.

If you go for a Pentax let me know as I can hook you up with very inexpensive CLA guy who does great work and stands behind it.
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Old 02-25-2006   #8
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I'd advise you to look at the OM series. I recently got back into them after a 25 year absence, and enjoy the heck out of them. Very "Leica-like" in their handling, and the optics are fantastic. The OM-1(n) and OM-2(n) viewfinders are a sight to behold. They're much quieter and lighter than my Nikons (I've been shooting F2s, F3s, an F4 and a FE since the '70s) or my old Pentaxes (I have a small collection of H2a bodies and SM Taks).

Most lenses are very reasonably priced - the well-regarded 50 f/1.8 is usually $20 or less, and I picked up two other great lenses - a 24 f/2.8 for street photography ($140 in great shape with case and hood) and the wonderfully tiny 135 f/3.5 ($50!). A clean OM-1n body is a good starting point, and will set you back around $100. Send it off to John Hermanson at Camtech for a $100 overhaul and battery conversion, and it'll be good to go for another 25 years.

I have two bodies - an OM-1n and a OM-2n, both in black. I usually dislike automatic bodies, but I have to tell you the OM-2n is proving to be both reliable and fun to shoot!
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Old 02-25-2006   #9
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I picked up a Spotmatic last year, and it's really a beauty.

Mechanically, the K1000 is almost identical to the Spotmatic -- just a couple of minor differences once you take the lens mount out of the equation.
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Old 02-25-2006   #10
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Hey Dan, are you talking about Eric Hendrickson [email protected] ?

He's definitely THE Pentax man!

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Old 02-25-2006   #11
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Just to be pedantic, the K1000 was the bayonet version of the SP1000. The bayonet version of the Spotmatic was the KM which sell for half the price. The M42's are good as are the Takumar lenses but, and it is a big but, the range at a sensible price is fairly limited and the lenses are quite slow, typically F3.5. They used to be incredibly cheap but the lenses are less so now many people have woken up to the fact that they give fantastic results on a DSLR and most can take an M42 convertor. Many of the views on the Yahoo Pentax Spotmatic group can be somewhat narrow minded and dare I say heavily biased.

Kim

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeissFan
I picked up a Spotmatic last year, and it's really a beauty.

Mechanically, the K1000 is almost identical to the Spotmatic -- just a couple of minor differences once you take the lens mount out of the equation.
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Old 02-25-2006   #12
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I am a Minolta SRT fan. Overall, I think the Minolta SRT and MC lenses are excellent and the least expensive of the "classic" SLR lines. An SRT 101 with 58/1.2 is a dream kit.

Overall though, all of the SLRs offered in the 1970s are generally very good, Canon, Minolta, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax. You really can't go wrong, and truth is, they are all pretty comperable in function and quality.

Here is a very good ebay seller who repairs and sells cameras. I sent the two SRTs that have been in my family since the 1970s to John for repair and have bought from him. His prices are not bargain basement, but the quality is excellent.

http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQfgtpZ1QQ...sZtitterington

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Old 02-25-2006   #13
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I'll second Ken Ford's advice. If I had to start all over again with manual SLR's, I'd go for the Olympus OM series. Their design philosophy truly placed compactness and functionality as priorities...as a result the OM lenses are small but still optically great, and the bodies are great to use, quiet, small and light.
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Old 02-25-2006   #14
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Another vote for the Canon AE-1 or AE-1 program, you can find them everywhere cheap, the FD SC or SSC lenses for Canon are at thier best a little stopped down. You can get an FD to M42 adaptor if you want to get into some of the screw mount SLR lenes by Zeiss or Pentax.
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Old 02-25-2006   #15
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Nikon F is also rather heavy. The unmetered verisons are classic and not so expensive. The metered versions are big and weird looking and usually even less expensive.

Many Pentax and Olympus bodies are both remarkably small and light. Depending on what you want to do, a bayonet mount makes the lenses change much faster.
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Old 02-25-2006   #16
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I do like the F and F2 Nikons but they are heavy. I would look at the FM/FE series of Nikon cameras. They are smaller and lighter without giving anything up anything in the reliability department in normal use. More info can be found here http://www.mir.com.my/rb/photography...ries/index.htm . My most used Nikon SLRs are from this group. Very satisfying to use and comfortable to carry all day. I have little experience with other brands but most would do a good job from what I can see. It is just that Nikon is my preference from years of use. YMMV. Have fun deciding.

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Old 02-25-2006   #17
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All of the above is very good advice / suggestions. Here's another thought: new (or at least current-model) low-end film SLRs are running pretty cheap these days. The advantage here is that if you decide to stay with it, your lenses will likely be useable with better bodies of the same brand, and even with digital bodies of the same brand. I feel that when you choose an SLR you should think of the system it is part of. Otherwise, why an SLR?
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Old 02-25-2006   #18
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I cut my teeth on K1000 and it's just the thing for a person learning photography. Great camera!

Never used a M42 Pentax, but I've never heard a single bad thing about them.

I'll second Nikon Bob's suggestion of an FE. I own one and you'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands to get me to give it up. They've got a great mix of features, are fairly lightweight (in comparison to a K1000 & and the F series) and are fairly cheap nowadays. KEH has some in bargain condition for at or under a $100.
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Old 02-25-2006   #19
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Great point about lens mount compatibility with digiSLRs...

Nikon DSLRs will mount any of the AI or AIS lenses; only the pro bodies will actually meter with them. I use my Nikon manual focus lenses on a D1x I bought used - works a treat.

Pentax's DSLR has adapters available to mount dang near any lens mount Pentax ever used - a friend uses his Pentax DSLR to shoot a 1952 Schneider 85mm that's M42 mount.

Canon's DSLRs are not compatible with their manual focus lenses; 3rd party adapters are available that allow used of Leica R glass, Nikon lenses, and some other stuff.

Olympus' DSLRs are like Pentax in that they offer adapters - this option is so popular that it's driving up the prices of certain Zuiko manual focus lenses.

I was shooting this week with a 1959-vintage Nikon F and 5.8cm/f1.4 lens - the negs are drying right now but boy they look great. The basic mechanical goodness of that camera is still impressive...
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Old 02-25-2006   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisPlatt
Hey Dan, are you talking about Eric Hendrickson [email protected] ?

He's definitely THE Pentax man!

"Excelsior, you fathead!"
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you betcha, I have sent him like 10 Spotmatics and another 5 or 6 ME Supers
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Old 02-25-2006   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CZeni
Great point about lens mount compatibility with digiSLRs...

Nikon DSLRs will mount any of the AI or AIS lenses; only the pro bodies will actually meter with them. I use my Nikon manual focus lenses on a D1x I bought used - works a treat.

Pentax's DSLR has adapters available to mount dang near any lens mount Pentax ever used - a friend uses his Pentax DSLR to shoot a 1952 Schneider 85mm that's M42 mount.

Canon's DSLRs are not compatible with their manual focus lenses; 3rd party adapters are available that allow used of Leica R glass, Nikon lenses, and some other stuff.

Olympus' DSLRs are like Pentax in that they offer adapters - this option is so popular that it's driving up the prices of certain Zuiko manual focus lenses.

I was shooting this week with a 1959-vintage Nikon F and 5.8cm/f1.4 lens - the negs are drying right now but boy they look great. The basic mechanical goodness of that camera is still impressive...

hey they even have mounts to use those M42s on Nikons and Canons
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Old 02-25-2006   #22
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The Nikon non-AI lenses are going cheap and are first rate. I picked up a Micro-Nikkor 55mm F3.5 for $25 on Ebay.

The Nikkormat EL or ELw will use all of these older lenses, and the Ai and AIS lenses. It offers aperture preferred automatic. It is heavier made than the FE, especially in the film transport area. The Nikkormat FTn and FT2 are also worth looking at.

The Canon lenses are also 1st rate and going pretty cheap.

I have had Minolta SRT meters just stop working and Pentax K1000 meters do the same. The Nikon/Nikkormat meters can get jumpy, but can usually be corrected with a cleaning.

The Pentax and other M42 mount cameras go cheap, and get you lenses even cheaper. I picked up a 135/2.8 Vivitar for ~$5 at a show. Perfect glass. Stop down metering. RF's can spoil you.

So many out there.
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Old 02-25-2006   #23
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You pretty much can't go wrong with anything mentioned in this thread. I'm a Canon person and the only SLR I've kept is an AE-1. Because the FD glass isn't directly compatable with Canon's DSLR's they have stayed quite cheap, very nearly at giveaway prices.

Check out your local thrift stores. My local St Vinnies often has Spotmatics and other M42 cameras for ~$30 to $40, including a 50mm lens.

Good luck with what ever you get.

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Old 02-25-2006   #24
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Lots of good thoughts and advice so far. Not the least of which is a camera that has lenses that can be used on newer bodies. Surely something to think about.

Some of my personal thoughts and experience: Olympus, Nikon, Canon Pentax and Minolta were in the 70's, the pro cameras. Part of that was quality and part was marketing. There were some other brands that would have been just as good for pro work, that never got marketed or were never recognized and touted in the press like those that got accepted as pro level.

Minolta and Pentax never got the acceptance of the other three, and Olympus lagged behind the other two. Nikon and Canon were certainly good cameras but marketed better and were more expensive. Minolta was slow to keep up with new trends until the 80's with their autofocus and then targeted the amature market more. Pentax pretty much did the same, but lagged on autofocus. Strange considering they owned some of the autofocus patents used by Minolta.

The Pentax M42 cameras were quite good, and still are. The SV1 is the same as the H mentioned above. The H was sold in the US. Two other sleepers in M42 mount were the Fujica and Yashica SLRs. Bayonet lenses were heavily marketed and touted in the magazines as better. Simply not true. They are just another type of mount. Some do prefer it. Others like me prefer screw mount. I don't need to look at a screw mount camera to change lenses. Try matching a button or red dot in the dark!

As to Fujica and Yashica, some of the best lenses out there are in their Fujinon and Yashinon lines. (For that matter, the Konica's were loved by some pros for their optics as well). The Fujica ST series tend to be superior to the bayonet cameras. The Yashica TL Electro X cameras are still inexpensive and in good working condition are good. They are stop down metering, which the Fujicas are not.

Just my long winded two cents. Good luck in your quest. You will not go wrong with any of the systems mentioned so far.
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Old 02-25-2006   #25
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Wow, so much great advice! Thanks guys, I'll check out the prices on the evil place, see which ones I can afford, and go from there.

I'm located in SE Asia, so if possible, it will be more convenient for me to have any work/CLA done locally.

Last edited by Kat : 02-25-2006 at 22:55.
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Old 02-25-2006   #26
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You might want to find a photo show or used camera shop where you can handle a few of them. Weight can become a big issue over time. In SLRs, I always used Nikon Fs and F2s and Nikkormats, but my wife just loved her FMs and FM2s because they were so small and light. Smaller size and less weight was one of the main reasons I switched to RFs.
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Old 02-25-2006   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stu W
I would get the old standard, the Pentax K 1000. Actually any of the "K" series would be fine. They last forever and the Pentax lenses are probably IMHO the best made.
I would add a recommendation for the Pentax K1000. I've had it for over 20 years now and it's still my main camera for serious work, although I do use RFs for my primary low-light cameras.

I had the Spotmatic before and traded up, mainly because it was clumsy changing lenses. I also like setting esposure at full aperature. The Spotmatic stopped down for that.
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Old 02-25-2006   #28
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That sounds good, Vince, I'll do that. You're right, size, weight and the plain feel of a camera in my hands are bigger issues for me than I initially thought. I would not be using much a camera that is just too big/heavy for me to lug around (which was why I never got into SLRS to begin with).

PS. Do all these suggested cameras/lenses have good macro and telephoto lenses?

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Old 02-26-2006   #29
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Vintage SLR's tough one, the other side of my camera collection is SLRs that mattered from the 1960's and 70's, I have Nikon F's and F2's, screwmount Pentax's and an OM-1. If you are looking for just one vintage SLR and a couple of lenses. I would look at the Olympus OM-1 MD a 35, 50 and 135 lens and that would not bust your bank account. They have a copal shutter that does not get sluggish in cold weather if you have that issue where you live, its small and the optics are really good. I love my Nikons and Pentax's and would not hesitate to recommend them but in your case I would suggest the Olympus.

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Old 02-26-2006   #30
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I use a Pentax ME Super. The great thing about that SLR is it feels right in your hands. It's a tough little camera, too
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Old 02-26-2006   #31
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Support for OM added... and a long email sent!
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Old 02-26-2006   #32
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Another vote for the OM -- good gear and low prices on the used market. Hard to go wrong with anything that's been suggested, but if I were starting today with your criteria I'd be looking hard at Olympus. Good luck!!!
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Old 02-26-2006   #33
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Get a Nikkormat FTN--handmade and bulit like a tank w/ super old lenses.

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Old 02-26-2006   #34
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There are still brand new Pentax K1000's about. I've seen one for about 200 within the past few weeks. Also Nikon FM10 for a little more.
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Old 02-27-2006   #35
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If I needed to get into a vintage SLR now and couldn't go with the OMs, I'd probably go with the Nikkormat. Not only built well with lots of good, inexpensive glass available, but it should be fairly easy to get good servicing.

Older Mamiyas would be an option, too. Didn't the 1000DTL have spot metering of a sort. And Mamiya glass is not too shabby!
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Old 02-27-2006   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kat
I'm someone who has never owned an SLR or any interchangeable lens camera in my life. I'm been toying with the idea of getting an old SLR for a while now, nothing concrete yet as budget is really tight (need to find a job first!), but I've been looking around and researching so I can have an idea what to set my eyes on. I've been looking at the older Nikon F series, Olympus OM series and Minolta SRT series.

While I've heard great things about Nikon, I must admit I'm leaning away from it now because I think it's the most expensive. I think Minolta is the cheapest, but I'm not very familiar with the quality of their camera/lenses, my only experience with the brand is a digicam. My only experience of an Oly is the RC, but it gave me a very good impression.

Does anyone have any input on these cameras--size & weight ("the feel"), features, common problems that I might encounter in "unknown condition" auctions, and quality/ease of finding compatible lenses?
If TTL metering would be useful, then as others mentioned look for a Pentax KX that will use any of the numerous very good K mount lenses made over 3 decades. Shutter and aperture setting are easily read in the finder, the match needle meter is quite good and the camera comes with DOF preview if you have a need for that feature.

Even less expensive would be Pentax SV (H3V) that uses screwmount lenses. No built in meter, but Pentax offered an extensive range of screwmount lenses for that camera. Look for lenses with SMC designation.
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Old 02-27-2006   #37
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If TTL metering is something you want, be aware of battery availability. The old SRT's, Konicas, and perhaps oythers use the PX-13 mercury battery which is close to impossible to get in the US. The Spotmatics were made for the mercury battery, but designed with a Wheatstone bridge circuit that allows batteries of other voltages to be used. The battery compartments can be easily modified to use available batteries.

Life can be a little less frustrating if you pick a camera that uses an S-76 size battery.

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Old 02-27-2006   #38
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You might also bear in mind whether the lenses will be compatible with a current digital SLR line, either directly or via an adapter. Digital SLRs will only be getting cheaper and more capable, and mounting classic top-notch prime-focus lenses removes one of their weak points ... heavy, less than top-quality kit zooms.
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Old 02-27-2006   #39
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Olympus OM-1(n)MD. Small (barely larger than my Canonet QL17 GIII), quiet, superb lenses, fully manual (battery only required for the meter), and has mirror lock-up. A truly affordable, professional camera.
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Old 02-27-2006   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kat
I'm located in SE Asia, so if possible, it will be more convenient for me to have any work/CLA done locally.

Kat

Where are you based? If you're in THE capital, you could visit my place and see some of the cameras firsthand. I've got the Nikon F, a couple of spotmatics and plenty of M42 slrs whose name begins with a "Z" and rhymes with 'enit'...

I'd agree with the rest of the guys who've posted so far. M42s are the way to go, and you could easily draft them to digital use when needed.

Jay
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