2nd Tier Superstars: The Setup

I announced 2nd Tier Superstars (2TS for short) last Sunday. It’s a new column about those cameras that aren’t talked about endlessly in forums, photography shows, and on blog posts as being the very best cameras for film photography.

Some Choices, Perhaps?

Second Tier Superstars is, instead, about those that are often neglected. Cameras that are less desirable than others, either because they do not carry the cachet of having been a professional’s choice, or because they don’t have the bells and whistles one expects after having become accustomed to modern digital SLRs and mirrorless wonders. This column seeks to make sense of a world of options. It is an opinionated review, and will in the end present you with exactly one choice. One camera, one lens. There are so many possibilities in this world of film photography that I feel there needs to be a place where you can come and where you don’t have to think about every little detail for a change. A place that picks a camera for you that you’ll be happy with, and that you can grow with.

This will not be a weekly, maybe not even a monthly column. It will come out whenever I have gathered enough information, both in the specs and in the handling department, to be able to be of some help regarding a camera. Better a few good choices than many random ones. My criteria for which cameras are included here are not set in stone, but they fall along certain guidelines:

  1. Must be less than €50, with lens and functioning. Make that roughly $50, £50 or equivalent where you are. For a camera and one useful lens, before shipping or import taxes. The point is not to lock in a hard upper limit. This would be impossible anyway, considering used prices depend so much on where you buy something, from whom, and in what condition. The point is to give you a rough idea of what you can get for €50. For some, this is chump change, for others a substantial amount of money. But for anyone, it is a reasonable amount to be spending for a working camera with a working lens that will serve you well.
  2. Will not be the top model of the line. If you can get a Nikon F2 or a Minolta XK or an EOS 1n in good condition with a lens for fifty Euros or less, count yourself lucky. Most people won’t have access to deals like that so easily. And this column is about the second tier anyway. About those cameras that informed, discriminating amateurs would have bought, and that professional photographers might have used as a backup, or as a camera for specific needs.
  3. Should be a system camera. That is, a camera that will allow you to change lenses, buy a second body, and buy accessories such as remotes, releases, dedicated filters or flashes to round out your kit. So you’re not stuck in a dead end and have to decide all over again what’s right for you when your needs change.
  4. Should be easy to find. Admittedly, this is a tricky one. Maybe your part of the world is awash in one camera brand and not another, maybe you can go to flea market and see only Canons but have your heart set to Yashicas. But eBay and the like have made buying cameras even from the other end of the world possible. It will surely add to your budget to have it shipped from Ukraine to Australia or vice versa, but it won’t quadruple it. (This is also why my magic number is €50 rather than €100; even if you pay another €50 in shipping, you’ll still have a working machine for a hundred Euros).
  5. Should work right out of the box. This disqualifies many wonderful cameras that are just too old to not typically need repairs or a good cleaning. You want to jump into film photography, not spend your days searching for someone who can repair the paperweight from 1957 that you just acquired. It may make sense to have even your well-working newer camera overhauled (CLA’d – for clean, lubricate, adjust, is the term) down the road. But right now, you just want to create some images!

So that’s the setup. These are the general criteria I will be following when assessing the future superstars. Stay tuned for episode 1, which will publish this Sunday, January 31, 2016!

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