Good morning you guys! A friend recently asked me to recommend him a good film camera but before I could give any recommendations, he asked me “Should I get a Leica? Contax? Nikon?”
That got me thinking. In all honestly, especially for the beginner in film photography, I really don’t think you need an expensive camera!
So that’s how today’s article came about! Keep in mind, this is a lighthearted article. Part humor and part reality 😊
THE VIVITAR V3800N
The Vivitar V3800N is a 35mm single lens reflex (SLR) film camera. The lens mount is Pentax K. The actual year of its release is uncertain, but based on my research it appears to have been introduced and marketed by Vivitar in 2009.
The camera itself was apparently made by Cosina of Japan. To me, Cosina is the Yashica of today in that they can produce cameras and lenses of any type for any budget. From the very high end modern Zeiss Ikon (not to be confused with the original Zeiss Ikon of Germany) cameras to the Vivitar V3800N!
I am unsure however if Cosina made the 50mm f/1.7 Vivitar lens or if it was produced by a Chinese manufacturer. Cosina makes some very high quality Voigtlander branded lenses which are popular with the Leica community.
While the Vivitar V3800N is the star of today’s article, it is really NOT about the Vivitar specifically. It could be about any cheap camera!
For you folks who prefer videos, here’s my YouTube video on the subject. It’s about 6 minutes, much easier to view and much better for my sanity!
I’m doing it today on my new happy place, a place I call the “Lazy Couch” 🙂
Got tired of that old backdrop, so while waiting for a new backdrop I’m on the Lazy Couch! Somewhere in this video I accidentally dropped the F… Bomb 😂 Sorry about that!
OK, THE BENEFITS OF A CHEAP CAMERA!
- It’s Cheap! The Vivitar V3800N cost me $30 for both camera and lens! But again, it doesn’t have to be a Vivitar
- It’s a good conversation starter! Let’s say at a photo meetup your friends pull out their Leicas, Contaxes, Nikons, etc, etc, and you pull this out? Conversation starter!
- You can say you’re a student! The Vivitar V3800N is a camera that was used by many photography students in high schools and colleges.
- The V3800N doesn’t rely on batteries, except for the meter.
- If you use a 50mm lens, which I heartily recommend, and you stop the lens down a couple of stops, you may be quite surprised with your results. And your friends might be surprised too!
- And if you lose or damage the camera/lens or get it stolen, you will be out a bit of change but your Leica, Contax, or Hasselblad shooting friends will be out thousands!
PRICE, AVAILABILITY & OPTIONS
As I mentioned, I got the Vivitar V3800N plus 50mm f/1.7 lens for $30. You could find it for that price if you’re lucky or patient. More likely it will cost you $50-60 for both, still not bad.
The “ultimate” cheap camera to me, used to be the Pentax K1000. It was the original 35mm students camera but now prices have gone up quite a bit. Still, if you want higher quality than the Vivitar and all the benefits of the Pentax K mount, try to find one for under $100 with lens. Old Chinon cameras that use the Pentax K mount are also a good option.
As a fan of the Olympus OM series, the Olympus OM-1 can still sometimes be found for under $60. Get the 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko and you’ll get excellent results! That was one of my my favorite carry around combos when I shot OM exclusively for a while in the mid 90s.
A Nikon EM with old Nikon lenses are also a good bet! You know, the more I write this, the more I realize I could write a whole book with the options I could recommend so to cut this short I’ll say this…
It doesn’t matter what manufacturer you choose. Just try to choose these factors: 1) Purely manual camera, no need for batteries 2) Get a 50mm f/1.7 f/1.8 or f/2 lens 3) Make sure all this will not cost over $100 USD! Often, it should be far lower than that!
I hope this helps, especially for beginners or those wanting to try film. You DO NOT need to spend a lot of money to get started with film photography!
Feel free to leave a comment should you have an opinion on this! Thanks for reading and happy shooting folks!
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