The Canon AE-1 and the AE-1 Program were both incredibly popular film cameras. They can be purchased off of ebay for less than $100 USD. The main problem with Canon's manual-focusing SLRs is that Canon discontinued the FD mount that all MF Canon SLRs used. This is only a problem if you should ever decide to...
Best answer: The Canon AE-1 and the AE-1 Program were both incredibly popular film cameras. They can be purchased off of ebay for less than $100 USD. The main problem with Canon's manual-focusing SLRs is that Canon discontinued the FD mount that all MF Canon SLRs used. This is only a problem if you should ever decide to get a DSLR. You'll need a mount converter to use any of the FD lenses on today's modern DSLRs or mirrorless cameras such as those from Sony.
If you're dead set on getting a manual-focusing SLR from Canon and the AE-1 is too expensive, then take a look at the Canon FTb. The FTb is fully manual, just like the AE-1, but it has a mirror lockup feature that is very useful in macro shooting. Mirror lockup is used to move the mirror up before the shutter opens so that you can wait the few seconds it'll take for the camera to stop moving. Generally the camera shake created by the mirror slapping the top of the mirror box isn't an issue. However, it is when shooting high magnification shots such as when doing a 1:1 macro.
If you want a fully manual camera, and you'd like the ability to use your lenses on modern DSLRs without having to resort to using mount converters (converters often work, but they're very finicky and often you'll loose all metering capabilities), then go with a Nikon or Pentax. Both Nikon and Pentax still use the same lens mounts so you can still use old manual-focusing lenses on modern DSLRs.
Since you're apparently on a very tight budget, take a look at the Pentax K-1000. The K-1000 is a no-frills basic SLR that was very popular among photography students simply because of its low cost and high durability. The K-1000 was originally manufactured in Japan, but near the end of its life Pentax produced it in China to save on manufacturing costs. Look for one that was made in Japan since they were better built than the late models that were made in China.
Other Pentax bodies that were very popular back in the day are the ME and the ME Super. Both were very well built.
Nikon SLRs are going to be more expensive because there's just more demand for the Nikon brand vs Pentax. This does not mean that you'll get better photos, but it does mean that you'll find a lot more used gear since Nikon was significantly more popular than Pentax.
Some Nikon bodies to consider:
FE or FE2
FM or FM2
Stay away from the EM which doesn't offer any control of the exposure; it's considered to be the worst manual focusing SLR Nikon ever produced.
If you're wondering which takes better photos, well...the answer is really neither. There is nothing but air between the rear element of the lens and the film plane which basically means that it's impossible for the camera to affect image quality in terms of sharpness, color and contrast. With film, the sharpness cannot be affected by the body. Instead, sharpness and image quality is all in the lens. Bad lens on million-dollar SLR will not produce as good image quality as a great lens on a $10 camera body.
6 days ago