I'm a student that has a photography experience of 5 years on my DSLR Canon XSi and t4i. I can really see the difference every time I see my pictures 5 years ago. I want to learn more about photography from the very beginning that's why I'm planning to buy a SLR camera within a budget of $50-$70. I don't mind spending money on films and on getting them develop and print, but I might even do the the developing and printing myself.

I want to have a SLR camera because I want a 100% manual camera. I can use the M mode in my camera but somehow I always switch it back to AV or TV mode. With a SLR I can take my time adjusting the settings. Right now I have SMC Pentax-M 50mm 1:2 lens.

What SLR do you guys recommend for a beginner?

What do you think about Canon AE-1, Nikon FM10 and a Pentax K1000?

  • 3
    Here is your answer: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/9810/… In short: go all the way, hand developing and printing. Just simply using a film camera gives you next to nothing if you let a shop process the film and make prints. Oct 17, 2013 at 6:42
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    Beginners should get a DSLR. What are you actually trying to achieve from using film?
    – Philip Kendall
    Oct 17, 2013 at 7:42
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    I have read your question; you can learn about photography "from the very beginning" without needing to go anywhere near film. Going in a darkroom and developing some film won't make you a better photographer - it just makes you a better film developer.
    – Philip Kendall
    Oct 17, 2013 at 11:11
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    I have to second what Philip Kendall is saying, you aren't going to gain much by going film, you'll learn to develop film, but your T4i is going to take better quality images and you can use M mode to learn the basics of exposure. All you will learn with film is historically what different films contributed to the image quality, but most of those films don't even exist anymore, so it's going to be very pricy just to shoot and probably won't really accomplish your goal all that well, certainly not if you only have $50 to $70 for an SLR, cause film is going to cost you more than that quickly.
    – AJ Henderson
    Oct 17, 2013 at 13:39
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    @fortran Thinking about each shot: definitely a good idea. Going to film to do that: overkill, in my opinion. Just set yourself a shot limit and stick to it.
    – Philip Kendall
    Oct 17, 2013 at 18:09

3 Answers 3


I would not advice any old camera that has electronics (like the Nikon FE) for the simple reason that it is really hard to find the batteries for them nowadays.

A purely mechanical one (like the Nikon FM) is more convenient, as they only rely on batteries only for light metering (and you can guesstimate it, use an external light meter, or use your DSLR built in light meter for that).

Another option that is typically advised for photography students is the Pentax K-1000. Simple, purely mechanical and sturdy (the MX is a lighter and more compact one, albeit more expensive). Plus, any lens for the K-mount that you get for it you can use in the newer Pentax DSLRs.

  • I have the SMC Pentax-M 50mm 1:2 lens. Can I use it on a Pentax K1000? Would you recommend the Canon AE-1 or the Nikon FM10?
    – baisun
    Oct 17, 2013 at 11:06
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    @baisun Yes, that lens will work with the K1000, and in fact if you find a K1000 it will almost certainly come with that lens. I suggest looking for the 50mm f/1.7 (also a manual lens from the same era), which can be had for around $50 and is a big step up despite the small numerical difference in the specification.
    – mattdm
    Oct 17, 2013 at 11:37
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    @baisun yes, you can use that lens; but I have to agree with mattdm. Try to get a Pentax-A glass if you can rather than the older Pentax-M. If you mount it in a modern DSLR you'll have aperture priority and what is more important: you won't need to do stop-down metering. I own a Pentax-A 50mm f1.7 and a Pentax-M 135mm f2.5 and I can totally recommend both (although I would love to have the 135mm in K-A mount!).
    – fortran
    Oct 17, 2013 at 12:14
  • The Nikon FE takes the LR44 kind of batteries. Those are among the most common coin cells. You find them everywhere, including local drugstores. Nov 23, 2014 at 12:39

It is my opinion that for film photography it does not matter which camera body you buy. Naturally it has to be in good working order, but that's all there is about the body really. What does matter is the lens you mount on that body, and the film you put in the body.

For your learning experience I'd suggest using manual settings only. There is not many: shutter speed, aperture and focusing. Can't be too hard, but in reality that is already plenty enough to keep in mind when your background is in DSLR photography. And I think it would be a waste to invest into more advanced SLR body when any simple model can do what you need done.

Asking for a good camera body makes much more sense when buying a digital camera, for then you are effectively buying the film (sensor) and electronics too - not just a simple body. In a film camera all you get in the body is shutter release button and a dial to set shutter speed, plus an exposure meter of course. Aperture setting is done with a rotating ring on the lens and focusing is done with another ring on the lens. Now, of course there are those fancier film cameras that work aperture from a dial on the body and they have auto-focus and bells and whistles. You don't need those, you already have it all on your DSLR body. Keep it simple when your aim is in learning photography basics with film.

  • There was a saying: light does not mind which shutter does it pass through... :)
    – fortran
    Oct 17, 2013 at 12:09

I would suggest look for a second hand (used) DSLR,, the cheapest you can fine and practice for few months and learn the basics, You can look for better stuff later.

  • 5
    S/He is not looking for a DSLR, but film SLR camera. Oct 17, 2013 at 13:23

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