How to buy a good classic camera – last updated 13/7/2015

Who still buys old analog cameras ?
Photography students, Lomographers, a few die hard real film lovers,
and not to forget : camera collectors.
These last one are a completely different buyers group, as for a collector other factors are important, like its state.
A real user needs a camera that just works.
The following tips are aimed at the first group,
and in particular to people that are relatively new in this segment of photography.

Things you should now before you buy a camera :
1) a camera is just a hull for film, but it has also a few important aspects like :
– viewfinder
– shutter
– light meter
– mount
2) the lens makes the pictures, it’s important aspects are :
– state of the glass
– state of the aperture
– mount

Notice that one thing keeps coming back, and that is “mount”,
that has to do with compatibility.
Compatibility is very important when it comes to value.
This is a very complicated segment and difficult to explain, so I will give you an example, and you try to see further than that.
Lets say you are a student photography or someone that has a digital camera, but wants to experiment with real film.
Many old manual lenses are much better of quality than today’s,
and in particular prime lenses – and reasonably cheap.
Even more, today’s prime lenses are very expensive.
So it would be obvious you would use the lenses of your analog camera on your digital.
Mount adapters are available to convert almost any brand/mount to another brand/mount, but they are not all cheap.
The cheapest ones are the ones of the mount that it is best represented of all.
And that is M42.
Also don’t think that if you have a Nikon or a Canon, that own brand lenses are best for you.
No, in many cases they are worthless on your digital camera.
A smaller group, but also good represented is PK mount ( Pentax )


A Tair 300mm M42 lens on a Pentax K5

In other words. a compatible mount has greater value than some exotic or outdated mount that is unusable in present or future.
A lot of explanation without even talking about the camera,
that’s because the rest is rather obvious.
It has to be good, and it has to work.
A very important part is the viewfinder, it needs to be clear, sharp, and preferably clean – or not too much interfering (dust ) particles in it.
I would prefere an electronic metal shutter above a cloth shutter – oh, and don’t forget to check the battery compartment for leaks from existing or previous batteries.
And when we are talking with compatible mount in mind, we are talking …
Yes, Pentax, but also al lot of other brands, you would be surprised.
Cosina, Praktica, Ricoh, Chinon, Exacta, Fuji, Petri, Zenit, Revue, Miranda, Vivitar, Carena, …
All used M42 at a certain point and also PK.
Not that they all stick with it, so be careful when choosing one.
Also note that Pentax has the best backward compatibility with its own brand.

That leaves us with the final part, the lens itself.
When you buy an old lens, please note the following things :
– the glass : preferably without scratches, though it is not always visible on the final picture – but it definitely has an impact on the price of the lens
– fungus in the lens -> makes the lens worthless – don’t buy
– dust in the lens -> preferably without, though also not always visible on the final picture – but also has an impact on the price of the lens
– aperture : stuck, oil on aperture blades -> don’t buy

I’ve been buying, testing, using and selling cameras for a long time now.
and although I have cameras that i like or prefer, in many cases its for other reasons than explained here above.
My Nikon F5 is one of them, very big, very heavy, one of the best cameras ever made, but try to walk around with one fore a few hours, it’s like dragging an elephant around.
And its also not the most inconspicuous camera, and expensive to buy and use.
But I just like it 🙂
If I have to choose a camera that has all the qualities a camera should have for a student or enthusiast film photographer,
I would choose a Chinon CE 4, Chinon has also other cameras that fits the picture, but the CE 4 is the one I prefer.
Its light, small, inconspicuous, full manual controls, but also aperture priority wich can be handy sometimes.
An electronic Seiko shutter, wich makes it very reliable.
Very manageable.
And you can find them not to expensive.


Chinon CE 4 with PK mount

I hope these tips help you to buy a good analog camera.

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