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How I chose my first film SLR

I'm a digital photographer. It's easy to shoot, once, twice, check later, tweak the exposure, shoot again. But I was always fascinated by film photography, nothing compares to the colours and the grain of a 35mm print. So a couple of months ago I went on a search for my first film SLR.How to choose a film SLRWe're talking about vintage cameras ok? So like 50-60 years old! Older than me cameras! Buying second hand was the only choice really and this works best if you're patient and do the research.

First film SLR: The Budget

I went to the website I thought had the best chances on: Ebay. After looking at prices for vintage SLRs, I decided on £70 as the maximum budget.vintage camerasI already have two vintage cameras which I got really cheap (£10) but film SLR cameras are a bit more pricey. In the same time, I know myself, and I know I can get bored quite easily so I couldn't invest too much and get a newer model.

First film SLR: The Research

I think I knew the style even before I knew the budget. I knew the look I liked, and there seem to be a large pool of cameras to choose from. There were many brands on offer from that period and each brand had many other versions. This was getting complicated .. the sleepless nights begun. (Did I tell you I hate too many choices?! I'm so indecisive!)Ebay research on IpadThere were a few things I went through to make sure I'm taking the best decision.

Talking to friends

My friend was Google, I asked it a lot of questions: Best film camera? Best budget film camera? 35mm SLR cameras? etc etc etc. I also asked some people I know ;) they recommended a 35mm first: "Disregard the medium format cameras until you are serious about film as they are more expensive".

Reading forums and reviews

After making a list of brands and versions I started to look more in depth into it by searching for samples images (Flickr is a great resource for this). Here's a list of my favourite articles on the subject:Camera guide from Curating Cuteness (she also has a great film guide with samples images)I still shoot film (what a great resource of articles!)Japan Camer Hunter From a long list of brands and versions such as: Nikon, Canon(I must admit my strong loyalty to Nikon didn't let me look at these much), Olympus, Minolta, Pentax, Nikkormat. I ended up with just a few that still tempted me: Minolta (SR-T, XD11/7 or X-700 series), Pentax (K1000 or MX), Olympus (OM1),  Nikon (Fm2n).

Asking people online

After reading all I could read online I decided to post my own question on a Flickr group and a Facebook group. My list was shorter and shorter and my heart was in between Pentax and Minolta. I needed help to finally decide. I must admit the answers there weren't different to what I've seen during my days of research .. but it was more for reassurance that I'm going in the right direction.

First film SLR: The Conclusion

Tips I gathered along the way:

  • Get the camera brand you own as you might be able to use the same lenses

Nikon flatlayGreat advice ..but in my case my Nikon camera is a cropped sensor and you can only use full frame lenses on 35mm film cameras. Also the vintage Nikon bodies have a different lens mount to the current ones.

  • Make sure you get a bright viewfinder (there is no screen on the back)
  • Make sure the batteries used for the light meter are still readily available in shops. Some vintage cameras use mercury batteries that are more tricky to find.
  • Get a camera that is working even without batteries especially if these are difficult to get hold of or replace.
  • Go for a prime lens, preferably from the same manufacturer. This was something I decided from my own experience with digital cameras. Wide aperture prime lenses offer a sharper image and faster shutter speeds.
  • Try to get a metal body instead of a plastic one - they tend to last longer.
  • Be patient and persistent, you can find new listings every day and you will find the perfect camera for you. I waited for a long time to find mine while searching each day: Minolta XD11/7 or Pentax MX on Ebay.

I know £70 sounds like nothing compared to the prices of the DSLRs these days, but these cameras are build to last and take great pictures, plus I can bet my children will inherit it and it will be just as good.I present to you my new baby: The Pentax MX (just arrived and can't wait to test it!*)Pentax MX*Review in a future post