The Audience Speaks: Beginner’s Cameras

Just over a week ago, we released Episode 35 of the Pdexposures Podcast, with stories of our first cameras and our suggestions and recommendations for new film shooters. We also asked for listeners to send in their experiences and recommendations; what follows is some of our favourite responses.

Jim Clinefelter:
Personal opinion (from someone who’s been a photographer for nearly 40 years, and has been selling cameras for over 32 years): Stick with Nikon cameras. The FE and FM models are superior in metering, build quality, viewfinder brightness, ease of focusing and (at least here in Portland) selection of used lenses. The big problem with Pentax cameras is getting the MX/ME/ME Super/LX models repaired. The biggest problem with the K1000 is the dumb on/off switch, better known as the lens cap. Weak!

Pretty good choice right there. The Nikon cameras are solid as a rock – if you can get them for the right price. And yep, I totally forgot about the fact the K1000 doesn’t have a shutter lock to prevent accidental light metering. I guess you could use entire batteries metering the inside of your bag that way.


Vintage Konica Auto S2 35mm Rangefinder Camera, Made In Japan, Circa 1965
Vintage Konica Auto S2 35mm Rangefinder Camera, Made In Japan, Circa 1965 by Joe Haupt

I started in highschool with my dad’s Konica TC SLR, which are nice, inexpensive cameras; though my friends Minolta SLR seems better on most accounts. Presumably the Konica lenses are better, but I have difficulty noticing the difference.

My recent foray into film has been a Konica Auto S2, which is a fantastic fixed lens RF, though maybe a little large. It’s the best lens I’ve ever used, and the RF style suits me much better than the SLR. I particularly enjoy the bright & clear viewfinder, focus patch & parallax/focus adjusting frame lines.

I’m hesitant to move into an interchangeable lens RF for fear of having to downgrade my viewfinder to do so. Soviet RFs are the only ones I’d want to afford at the moment, and they don’t seem to meet that expectation.

I think this was the only person we heard from whose first camera – or first camera since returning from digital, at least – wasn’t an SLR. I’m genuinely still of the belief that – especially now that so many people are shooting mirrorless cameras in digital – rangefinders would be a good introduction to film for most people. I probably wouldn’t give them a Soviet RF, though; not having on-board metering puts them into my “cruel and harsh” teaching method.

I listened to the episode yesterday and just wanted to mention that there were other makers who did Pentax K-mount cameras as well, just in case some beginner comes looking at the comments.

The Chinon CE-4 is nice, but turns into a brick when the batteries die.

My first camera was the Ricoh KR-5, which will still work without batteries. And it makes a very satisfying KLANG! sound when you press the shutter. Match needle metering.

Both cameras use LR44 batteries that are still commonly available.

The reason I didn’t mention other K-mount cameras is the same reason I didn’t mention M42 cameras – there’s a lot of companies who used that mount, which makes it particularly useful for the beginner/cheap camera hoarder. I’d stay away from the Chinons (I’ve never been impressed by them), but I’ve never played with the Ricoh. Could be a good shout, especially considering they use readily available batteries. Messing around with mercury cell replacements isn’t fun.

The NEW Ricoh XR series XR-1 XR-2 - 1978

Tony Kwong:
Ricoh XR-1 SLR, K-mount, modern sr44 battery for cds meter.
Canon EF SLR, FD-mount, easy battery modification for non-mercury battery, shutter works wo battery.
Fujica STX-1, Fujica-X mount, LR44 battery for meter

Another nod to the Ricoh KR series; maybe I should check these out. Of the other two, I’d never recommened the Canon for a beginner (mercury battery woes) and the Fujica-X mount is so rare I had to ask Tony Kwong what lenses were available. His response? “lenses are not that easy to find as that camera line did not last that long only 5 years as Fuji stopped making 35mm SLR in the early 1980s, about 30 lenses from fuji, there are a few third party lenses available. Many people use adapters for these cameras right from the start.”

Pat of Butter (@Patofbutter):
I think my first film camera was a pocket Instamatic that took 110 film. The good old days. My sister had a Disc camera

You – and your sister – have my utmost sympathy.

Special credit has to go to Patrick J. Clarke, who went above and beyond the call of duty and put together a spreadsheet with the prices for some of his choices. Quite why the Contax G1 and G2 are on there is beyond me, but it’s still an interesting comparison. Find it here and then send him thanks on Twitter at @patrickjclarke.

Anything you think we missed? Drop us a comment and maybe we can add to this list!


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