Canon 35mm, manual or automatic? : LUSENET : Canon FD : One Thread

My grand daughter has been accepted into Antonelli Institute, which is a photography school outside Philadelphia, PA, for this fall. We are novices in photography and need to buy a manual 35mm camera for her school work. I have heard of the Canon quality and would like to purchase a good used 35mm outfit, however, it must be manual. Can you tell me which cameras are manual and which are automatic? We would like to spent under $500 for the entire outfit, including lenses.

Thank you. Frank

-- Frank A. Caruso (, March 28, 1999


If you're looking for an FD, and want a pure manual camera, your choices are TX, TLb, FT, FTb, F1 (certain models), AT-1 and I think that's about that. Others can be overidden. They are all old. I love the FD line, but there are a few new manual cameras out there with manual metering. Pentax just stopped making the K1000 which was made for years. There should still be new ones on the shelf at many places. If I HAD to buy a Manual Camera I take a serious look at the K1000. The older Canons might present a problem getting service since some parts are no longer available.

-- Dave Fultz, Jr. (, March 29, 1999.

Frank, as Dave wrote, there are some good used Canons out there but it's a buyer-beware situation. Other than the T60, which was actually made by Cosina, Canon hasn't made a manual focus camera in about 10 years. A perfectly good, little-used camera can suffer from gummy oils binding diaphragms, deteriorated light shields and mirror pads, inaccurate shutter speeds, etc., merely from not having been exercised regularly or stored properly. To minimize frustration, buy from a reputable dealer who will allow a reasonable inspection period (7-30 days) or stand behind what he sells (some will guarantee a camera to work for a period of time - up to six months in some cases).

Having said that, I'd heartily recommend a Canon FTb, a brick of a camera which was produced in enough quantities to be available in good condition from many sources and serviceable by any experienced repair shop; or a TX, a very similar camera with slightly fewer features, but missing nothing significant. If the school permits use of cameras having autoexposure modes - as long as the student uses only the manual exposure mode - the Canon AE-1 and AE-1 Program are even more plentiful. The AT-1 is very similar and is a manual- exposure-only camera, but is seen less often in the U.S. These "A" cameras are prone to a few problems, chiefly squeaky mirrors needing lubrication, and deteriorating mirror bumper pads. Unless the seller guarantees these flaws to be absent, figure another $85-$135 into the camera price for professional repairs and adjustments.

I mentioned the Canon T60 - some folks have claimed this model was troublesome. I don't know. I do know Cosina has used this same chassis to make cameras for Olympus, Nikon and others. So, while I'm a huge fan of older Canon FD gear, you might consider a brand- spankin' new Olympus OM2000 with 35-70 zoom for under $300; same goes for the Nikon FM10. Both are built on the Cosina body but take the Olympus or Nikon lenses. That could be a plus or minus, depending on your budget. Good used Olympus lenses are getting scarcer. Nikon lenses have never been cheap, but you can get third-party lenses from Vivitar, Tokina, Sigma, Tamron and others for less money. (By the way, Nikon still makes the all-manual-everything FM2N, a bulletproof camera if ever there was one, but the body and one lens would blow your budget.)

One more consideration. Minolta still makes new manual focus cameras with auto exposure and manual exposure - the X-700 and X-370N. Minolta also still makes manual focus lenses, and good used Minolta lenses are readily available pretty inexpensively. In addition to Canon gear I also have a Minolta XD-5 (now discontinued) with Minolta lenses and dedicated flash, and it's great stuff.

Whatever camera your granddaughter starts with, the lenses should include (besides the "normal" 50-55mm f/1.2-2 lens) a 28mm f/2.8 wide angle (I don't find 35mm wide enough to be useful, and anything wider than 28mm tends to get pricey) and a medium telephoto in the neighborhood of 100mm to the now out-of-fashion 135mm length. While zooms can easily cover these focal lengths, using prime lenses will force the photographer to concentrate on framing the subject, moving around it and viewing it from different angles. Zooms can lead to laziness (happens to all of us, however long we've been shooting).

Regarding flash units - it's getting harder to find a truly manual flash unit. Most of 'em have an auto setting that makes things really easy. I love 'em. But a student should use 'em on the manual setting and learn to calculate her own guide number, rather than believing what the manufacturer claims. But do get her a flash with thyristor circuitry - nobody likes waiting 20 seconds for old- fashioned units to charge up.

Sorry for the lengthy reply. Hope it helps, and best wishes to your granddaughter.

-- Lex Jenkins (, April 01, 1999.

Woops, correction. I wrote: "Canon hasn't made a manual focus camera in about 10 years." I should have written: Canon hasn't made a manual exposure only camera in about 10 years. The "T" series cameras were made right at 10 years ago, and the T-70 and T-90 included manual exposure modes. The classic F1N was made until fairly recently, but was a pricey pro's camera.

-- Lex Jenkins (, April 02, 1999.

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