Blog – My favourite 35mm camera(s)

Photography has been my passion since I dropped my drawing pen many years ago. My camera has become my new tool to express myself and to convey my vision to the world. But my obsession does not end at pressing the shutter button, I love the tools too! I cannot afford to buy all the equipment I love but I have collected a few over the years, most of which classic and still functioning old cameras.

I have been a Canon man and my first ‘proper’ camera was a Canon EOS 50E SLR. I didn’t know much about different manufacturers or many brands in fact. I hadn’t any and I was simply influenced by my university friends. My 50E served me well for the next five years until I outgrew its capability. I started to shoot a couple of weddings of my friends but the camera failed to keep up with the set up. So I saved my money and got myself my dream camera, the flagship Canon SLR of the day, still is as a film camera, the Canon EOS 1v. This has to be one of my favorites of all time. It’s not only superbly built, but it’s very comfortably to hold and that mighty bright 100% viewfinder was definitely something any, I say it again, ‘ANY’ photographer will die for. I love it and I still use it until today.

But the 1V isn’t actually my favourite Canon EOS film camera. That belongs to its little brother, Canon EOS 3. It’s virtually identical to 1v but with smaller viewfinder and a lighter and no so solid plastic body cover. It still has a metal chassis but it’s no where near as tank-like as the 1v. The most attractive bit of the 3 is its eye-controlled focusing system. I actually love the idea of it. The camera will focus to the point of your eye sight. How cool is that? It’s a proven system as Canon had it on four cameras with various incarnations of this famous eye-control system. The original Canon EOS 5, Canon EOS 50E, Canon EOS 3 the the last one Canon EOS 30E. My 50E had only 3 eye control points but it was still perfectly usable. When I heard about the ‘3’, I was amazed just how many points it had. I wanted it. But as for my money, I would pay a little extra just for that durability for my future professional use and for that reason alone, I opted the EOS 1v.

So that’s my favourite Canon SLR. I could easily collect more Canon cameras but my wife wouldn’t allow it. As I turned digital, I have been using the Canon EOS 5D series. I sell the old one and get a new one as time goes by but I always have the 5D. It’s light and produces superb images. I am now longing the new Mark III but the current price just doesn’t do it any justice as my Mark II is perfectly fine for my work. Perhaps, when the day it becomes cheaper or I would just skip Mark III altogether and wait for the Mark IV instead. The latest 6D, forget it. It’s not better than my Mark II and it costs more. So in the digital era, 5D (or any 5D in the series) is my favourite Canon DSLR.

But Canon hasn’t always been in my bag. I have a Nikon manual SLR, the FM-3a. It’s the last Nikon manual SLR and a fine one too. I has to be one of the best looking SLR ever produced! Mine is a all black and it’s just as good looking as George Clooney, matured and sophisticated. It’s controls are direct and simple to use. If I have to pick one thing to criticized, it will be the rather small viewfinder. It also has a relatively low coverage too. The FM-3a is also a mechanical camera but its mechanical link only to a fixed shutter speed when the battery is dried up. But a capable photographer will still be able to shoot with a fixed shutter speed.

The next camera is also in my list of favorites. It’s also the most weird camera that I own. The Zenit Fotosnaiper (Photosniper). I have three of them in my collection. I first came across it back in 2005 when I was on holiday. I met a photographer who was ‘testing’ his gun shape camera in a local park. It had a huge tele lens and a normal SLR body bolted onto a riffle-like grip with a trigger. It looked odd and we had a little chat about it. But it left as a conversation subject until 2007, my girlfriend, now wife, and I went to Prague for a long weekend break and I strolled into a local camera shop and saw one lying around on the shopping window. It was huge, stored in a metal case, much like those you saw in world war 2 at a military camp. I was curious and my wife bought it for me as a present. That’s how I got my first one. Then when I got back to London, I Googled it around and found more information on it. I then discovered a few more models down the line from the one I had. I subsequently acquired two more of these unique cameras, one virtually identical to the one I had but with a white lens instead of a black one, and one with a more modern setup with built-in TTL meter. It might have been a novelty but I actually used it as a standalone SLR with the included 44mm lens. But I hadn’t taken the full setup out yet, fearing that I might get arrested by police in UK. You know how sensitive they are these days. So… the big 300mm Tair lens and the gun remained in the case. I truly love them, even they are not known for their advancements unlike the Japanese counterparts.

In manual camera, nothing beats what I am going to say. Any one who is into photography or cameras will know the holly grail of all 35mm camera. The Leica M. I am not talking about digital but film. The classic M rangefinder cameras. I have used M3, M2 and now using my favourite M6, the last mechanical camera, barred the modern version of M6 – the new MP. For sheer joy of photography and to learn about photography, there isn’t anything that will come close to a Leica. It’s simple, non-clutter design simply makes you focus on one thing and one thing only – shoot. Because my first camera was already a fully automatic SLR, I’d accustomed to matrix metering, super fast ultra sonic focus and big zoom lenses. A Leica is just an ancient museum piece if you are not use to it. It may present itself as a large point-and-shoot camera today but if you are not a photographer, you will not be able to operate it. That’s simple. I love it. Everything is handmade and calibrated and you’ve got to admire this masterpiece, even by just looking at it. Umm.. Like 007, James Bond. Well, the M rangefinder isn’t the gadget for James Bond but it’s James Bond himself. Classy, Gorgeous looking, expensive but reliable and never fails, providing it’s got the ladies 😀 These days, if you hold a Leica, you will certainly attract a few glances. I got asked by a few girls to take photos of them when they saw me photographing the street in Covern Garden last month. Ok.. that may be from my good look! Nah, it’s the Leica.

This kind of sums up my favourite 35mm camera lists, though it may grow over time but for now. I am a happy owner for the above. If I have more money and space, I guess I will have opened my own camera museum.

As a short note, I do have other cameras, including a few medium cameras that I still use for my portrait work too. Cameras such as the iconic Zeiss Ikon TLR, Lubitel 166+ TLR and an 80-year-old Agfa Billy folding camera!

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