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Friday, 12 October 2012


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I fear you are going to get a landslide of competing best "second-hand" film cameras....... but I doubt you could beat the bargain attribute.

However, in the true spirit of post-hijacking, how about people wanting to add film to their repertoire go for something a little different from 35mm SLR paradigm.

Leica CL
Rollei 35
Olympus Mju II

All full frame and pocketable. One even has auto-focus and spot metering....

And if you get the CL with a Summicron-S 40mm, you'll have a perfect lens for your M9...

Or of course, a proper Rolleiflex (TLR) although these definitely aren't bargains

If you don't want to pay the price for the zeiss, have a look for a nikon 35mm f2 ais lens. Sharp but with smooth out of focus areas not the busy jumbled out of focus you get with the 50 1.8.


Ah, the pole man's F4/5, a camera at the time I could only dream of and so bought the f100. Trouble was (and is) I'm exposure challenged and would wind up with one or two keepers out of a roll of 36. As for me, is was nirvana when the D100 came out and I can confidently say, though I never like to say never, I'll never shoot film again.

F100 was my main camera until a few years ago. Excellent. I still use it sometimes even if when I'm in a Nikon film mood I prefer the all manual FM2. But this post pushes me to use the F100 more...

Near enough my thoughts, when I bought one last year. It works with all the latest full-frame lenses too, so optical stabilisation can be useful for those "#1 Problem With Film" moments.

Whilst I have the cheap option lens, my favourite full-frame lens is the tiny 40mm Voigtlander f/2.

Handling-wise - if you're used to a Nikon DSLR, it's familiar territory. It is not a lightweight camera.

Problems - take care of the (weak) plastic catches on the rear door. One of the two broke off recently, and a replacement door is on its way. A short Internet search reveals that this has affected a few users.

I remember that you recommended the F100 years ago. I bought it and it was my last filmcamera. I still like it and especially the viewfinder. Better than the DX Nikons I use these days.I'll not sell it. It was the best Nikon in filmdays. The zeiss lens would be great. But it's too expensive for an hobbyist.


Even more of a bargain, I think, are the late model plastic film bodies like the Nikon F80. I paid $35 for mine last year. The F80 is most of an F100, just with less sealing and magnesium. All my lenses, including VR lenses, work with it. I think these late 1990s film cameras are perfect for students. They are cheaper than the steel classics of the 70s, and the shutters are electronically timed and accurate, which makes a big difference as cameras age.

But then this year I became interested in medium format and looked at Bronica, which I only dreamed about in its time...

curiously I've just received my first prints from a roll of film in year.

The joys of the Olympus Trip!

Just as well to get the Nikon F6, much better camera with a 100% viewfinder image.

... just for people who are looking for a bargain in an auto-focus, auto-exposure, auto-advance, auto-rewind film camera where everything is controlled through buttons and a menu system. In other words, a thoroughly modern camera that just happens to shoot film. For that sort of thing, yes, the F100 is about as good as it gets, and you can get one cheaper than dirt these days. But if you want something a little less like a DSLR, may I suggest instead an F2 or its cheaper but no less capable relatives the FM or FM2? These are as cheap or cheaper than an F100 nowadays, and you get the fun of doing everything yourself using actual mechanical controls.

Why settle for a near-pro Nikon body when you can buy a working F2 or F3--the best cameras Nikon ever made--for the same money? These days, almost any older Nikon body, except the F6, can be had for not much money. The same goes for most of the lenses.

Those things are cheap because currently the primary problem with film cameras is ... film. Shooting with a good film camera is a real joy, but after finishing a roll, you start wondering what to do with it. And it is not easy to do something with your film nowadays. You can either find a good lab (good luck :-) or process and scan it yourself. And processing a small format film is challenging and requires a good scanner (as opposed to MF film, for which you can get not so bad results using a flatbed), which typically costs more than an entry-level digital SLR (not to mention e.g. SONY NEX-C3).

Yes, that is a glorious lens.

Yet, if I could have but one modern Zeiss lens, I'd rather have this one: http://www.amazon.com/Zeiss-Planar-Manual-Bayonet-System/dp/B002ZQE4XQ/ref=sr_1_2?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1350050776&sr=1-2&keywords=zeiss+50mm

as I always preferred a classic normal to the slightly wide normal.

For that matter, I want a manual focus 25mm f/3.5 Tessar for u4/3. If I had that, I'd probably never need another lens for my E-PL1. Not likely, alas, though the new 15/8 triplet gives me some hope. In the meantime, I have my 24/2.8, 50/1.4, & 105/2.5 Pre-AI Nikkors to play with and that's no small joy.

That was the camera I wanted when I bought the N90s that I carried on several climbing expeditions. I just couldn't afford it (or the climbing expeditions for that matter) back then.

So when I saw a NIB F100 on eBay a few years ago for $250, I bought it. And now it doesn't even get the honor of being stuffed in the safe with the valuable cameras.

The N90s with the 28-105 took a lot of good pictures though. You want a laugh, go see what an N90s is listed for on eBay. It wasn't cheap either.

Between it and the M6, maybe I'll go through the 25 rolls of Tri-X 400 and Fuji Provia 100 I have left, but after that, I'm done with film.

I should put the M6 and the Nikon scanner on eBay while they're still worth something. And I should shoot the film while there's still someone left to process it.

Had actually been looking for a good deal on an F100 to replace my n90s (also a great deal at the moment). Snagged the one you have pictured above, thanks for the heads up. KEH has some F100 bodies with sticky backs for around $150 if anyone is looking, a little baby powder and the stickiness is no problem.

And the F100 is my primary camera; which dropped in price the day before i purchased it when Nikon announced their first or second 0-series cameras...
Recall my first F100 purchased used was getting to be unreliable and Nikon Canada were reluctant to accept it for overhaul telling me to just wait.

Decided to just buy a new F100 and flog the old F100 which I eventually did. The new F100 now sees a roll or two a week of Fiji Provia slide film. And it still performs as new.

A few cautions about buying F100s, I bought and sold three to get one nice one... many F100s have issues with their rubbery-plastic covering becoming sticky or peeling off (actually many six-year old Nikon DSLRs have the same problem). The earlier model F100s had a triangular-shaped plastic rewind fork that is known to fail at inopportune times - look for later ones with the stronger "square" fork. And the plastic backs do crack. If the rear control dial isn't responsive, sometimes a cleaning with rubbing alcohol over the metal contact surfaces between the back and body can clear things up. Your best bet is buying an EXC+, easily returnable F100 from a reliable dealer like KEH - make sure you get return rights as most duffers on eBay are "unaware" of these problems.

I shot with a F100 with the newer 50/1.8 AFS-G lens and found it wonderfully responsive. The newer AFS lenses are quieter, more solid feeling, and less distracting than the old screw drive AF lenses ~ and I think Nikon finally started paying attention to out-of-focus rendering with the newer designs. True the AF is not as fancy as current Nikons but it is quite simple and hard to mess up.

Use the more expensive high-output Lithium AAs and once you get a good body, hunt down another for back up. Or pick up a $50 N80, another excellent shooter, albeit with a less satisfying viewfinder experience.

Use Ken Rockwell's tips for the simple custom programming shortcuts you only have to set-up once, forever. I think he also covers how to set up focus tracking - Thom Hogan's review is also worthwhile and full of tips.

If you can't afford a FX full-frame digital, a F100 is welcome relief from the squinting cropped sensor/compact world ;-p

I have one of these. Thought I'd gotten a bargain for $800.00, and it was at the time. I only ran a couple of dozen rolls through it before digital took over. So now it's on the shelf with my FM, FM2, FE, FE2 and a couple of N90s (that it was going to replace.) I just can't seem to part with these little jewels.

There is a guy on www.apug.org selling a minty Nikon F5 for $350 which I feel is a screaming deal.

How about a f90x/n90s for $35.00 ? Easy to do on Ebay, and for that price you really can't go wrong.

This was my unattainable dream camera of the nineties; today, it's almost a crime to be able to attain so much camera for $200. It still kicks butt...

Yeah, that was definitely a nice one. Oh, and thanks for the link to your old articles on LL - love those!

f100 and a nikkor 50mm 1.8 E lens with tmax will shoot the pants off 98% of the newest digital bodies.
I know this is a broad statement.

It's sold - perhaps the vendor should pay a 10% commission to TOP. But who cares when there is a brand new one at . . . $1600 http://tinyurl.com/95snndg

My favourite lens for my Nikon is the 35mm f1.4. It's radioactive (cool!), has a nice warm yellow tint which is great for B&W and it is solid. When mounted on the FM2 Photomic the whole kit makes a Leica combo seem like a Holga (weight wise).

Interesting. I've always thought that the best (autofocus) bargain in film photography was the Pentax ZX-5n. They're small, light, tough, fast to shoot, and pair nicely with the FA35/2 and 50/1.4 (which are among my very favorite prime lenses for any SLR). It's no pro body, but I wouldn't hesitate to use it as such.

Also: It seems to me that you can't go wrong with a Minolta CLE, with it's attendant 40 and 90mm lenses. The CLE is getting a little old, now. But by rangefinder standards, it offer a lot of bargain bang for the buck.

A couple years ago I thought that I'll keep my F100 since it's my only 35mm film camera left, it's the first camera I spent serious money on and the prices for used ones are low. This year I thought that I could sell it, since my film shooting is really medium format and shelf space is always at a premium, but as can be read from your post, it's a buyer's market.

It's an excellent camera though. But I've never had any special love for Nikon's different 50/1.8's... In manual focus the old 35/1.4 AI-S is special, in auto focus the budget 85/1.8 AF-D would actually be my pick, save for the latest 85/1.8.

I used the whole chain of Nikon pro film bodies starting with the F2; still have the F5, though I never use it anymore. But if you're talking Nikon film, and not Nikon bargains (and the F100 is a great one right now), I'd go for the F6, which you can get in minty condition from ebay for ~$1600. I would have killed for one of these when I was still shooting film, but I made an early transition to digital and by the time the F6 came out, I was gone...I handled one though, and it may be the most perfect pro film body ever made, IMO.

I went looking for a used F100 a few years back, but there was a barely-used F6 in the display case for half-price, so I stumped up the extra for that instead. It still runs like a champ. If you buy one that doesn't have a manual, Thom Hogan's CD does the job better. The 50 1.8 is a gem of a lens, especially for the price.

I'll second Richard Tugwell's comment: "how about people wanting to add film to their repertoire go for something a little different from 35mm SLR paradigm." Shooting with a rangefinder, for example, is a very different experience from an SLR and inexpensive fixed-lens RFs are widely available. Even older manual focus SLRs will offer a greater change of pace from digital. Larger film formats offer a more different experience still…

I paid $250 for a clean N90s about ten years ago. It was a bargain then, and the camera still works flawlessly. I don't know how Nikon's engineers figured out the autoexposure curves, but I've had fabulous results just letting the camera decide. With slide film, even.

But the decline in value has moved me to sell my D80 before it's completely worthless.

The absolutely best bargain in film cameras and lenses ever must have been the Leica R collection I was called to evaluate last week.

A deceased collector had just left to his bereft and clueless heirs a gorgeous assortment of 19 Leica R lenses, from the Super-Elmar R 15mm/3.5 up to the MR-Telyt R 500mm/8, and including the 180mm and 280mm Apo-Telyt, the 50mm Lux and Cron, and a Schneider PA-Curtagon shift lens for good measure. Two Leica R5 bodies and various Apo Extenders were part of the lot.

A local photo equipment dealer offered to relieve the heirs of the entire booty for the humungous total of, wait for it, USD 4900! Whereupon I was asked for a second opinion. It was not unreservedly flattering for the dealer in question. I hope they'll end up getting fair prices.

I thought long and hard about whether to get a medium format or a 35mm film camera when I decided to shoot film again recently.

I made my decision and bought a camera, and then this evening I started reading your column from the top, and came across the Bronica article first and immediately I was thinking of selling the F100 that I bought just a couple of months ago (yes, cheap on eBay).

So it is a relief to read more of your column and arrive at this article and learn that I did OK by getting an F100.


Thus far I've shot just one roll of Fomapan B&W.

I don't have a darkroom any more, but being in Edinburgh I have access to the darkrooms at Stills - Scotland's Centre For Photography.

For any photographer in Scotland who is not aware of what Stills has to offer - it's well worth a look. They run exhibitions as well as offering darkroom facilities and courses.

I believe the worst deal should go to this 1958 Leica MP with 50/2. It is listed at $131K.


Isn't kind of sorta mint like being kinda sorta a virgin?

I'd rather have an F4 than an F100, for not much more money. It's heavier and slower, but has a better viewfinder and focusing screens, changeable prism, more lens compatibility, and nicer control layout. I think it looks cooler, too. At these prices, I could buy both. If I shot film, I would.

I've never even handled an F100 let alone owned one, but I'm sure you're right. Back in the late 80s I owned an F801 (N8008 to you), and it was the nicest handling camera I've ever owned. This is probably the same.

I never had to read the instruction book. All the buttons and controls fell right where my fingers and thumb found them. I could change settings with the camera still at my eye. The viewfinder showed just what I wanted, where I wanted it. The whole feel of the camera in my hand was right. The shutter response was fast and solid (like the FE2).

I lost mine in a burglary, along with all my Nikon and Olympus lenses - a 300mm f4 IF-ED, a 200mm IF Micro Nikkor, a 55mm Micro, OM 18mm and OM 21mm, ... $15,000 worth all in three beautiful bags just waiting to be picked up and taken away. Of course, all the little extra items went too. It was covered by insurance, but I never recovered.

I replaced the F801 with an F601 (N6006) for a while and although I liked the pop-up flash (the auto fill-in worked well) it had a different shutter and wasn't the same. I sold it and went back to a second hand F801 again. I also bought another second hand 200mm Micro, but I never got back to macro work in the same way. I sold it on to a friend for $500.

Then digital arrived and in about 2005 I gave all this gear away to my 26yo niece who was an enthusiastic b/w film shooter. She has talent and although she's since bought a D4000 (I think) she can still use the Nikkor lenses, so I feel gratified.

James W. and Peter Croft,
You're taking me back. The F4 was my first pro camera and my girlfriend said I'd take it to bed if I could [g]. But I found it too big, too heavy, and on the slow side--not good for my kind of stuff. (And I used to joke that I'd never get lost in the woods, because I could just follow the trail of spent batteries I'd leave strewn in my path.) I ended up selling it and buying two N8008's that I literally used till they wore out.


Ha ha ha. Yeah, I like my bed partners petite .

You're game, using the b_mb word. In this age, I stop short at writing any word like that on the web. Obviously it's OK now.

I prefer Peter Sellers/Inspector Clouseau, berm.

Best classic Nikon - F2
True engineering magnificence, even competes with the Canon F1 and Zeiss Contarex. None of my five Contarexes (donated by widows) have ever failed.
Mark Layne -Nova Scotia

I think EOS-3 is really the best bargain. EOS1/EOS3 film cameras go for less money than F5/F100.

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