AF Portrait Camera?

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#1
So if I were looking to do portraits, what would be a good camera?

- AF is a must, I'm slow as a tortoise with MF, so good AF is the top priority.
- Auto film advance so I can just shoot and not think about winding on.
- Hotshoe for connection to lights.
- Full manual exposure control required
- Exposure meter not critical as working with lights would be about 80% of the use.
- I have no Canikon cameras so no lenses I can re-use and no bias to any manufacturer.
- Quality portrait lens (90mm is my preferred, but a 70-200 would be fine)
- No need for a range of lenses or functions that cover other areas (landscape/documentary etc) as I have other cameras I prefer to use for those things.

Any suggestions?
 
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#2
If you're using studio lights about any modern camera will be fine (from my experience).

I've had great results from full frame, crop sensor and M43.

The world is your oyster as they say.
 
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#3
Canon EOS 1 or 3 would fit the bill I think, but there would be many more less expensive options in the Canon EOS film line-up I would imagine (EOS 5, EOS 30, etc.). I have the EOS 3 and it has eye-controlled focus, which is a feature that actually works.

I'm sure there will be lots of Nikon and other options as well but I'm less familiar with those.
 
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#4
Nikon F100 and 85mm F1.4 AF-D
 
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#5
Nikon F90 too, a great camera for peanuts.
 
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Fraser White
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#6
Hi ian,

sorry, several questions back at you!

What type of portraits? I can assume formal if studio lighting is going to be used?
What budget?
Unfortunately Medium Format is the way to go for this - what are you struggling with MF - There is no rush with formal portraits & getting focus shouldn't really be a problem; have you had your current camera checked properly to ensure it is focusing correctly; the mamiya you have should be perfect - what focusing screen is fitted to it?
 
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#7
There's a Mamiya 645 with AF and auto advance I think; played with @robhooley167 's one at the Bristol meet, and accidentally took a photo of him with it... which, come to think of it, he's never publicly revealed!
 
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#8
Thanks all!
So I didn't put budget because I wasn't sure. I'm thinking an upper limit of about £500-£600 I guess including lens.

@Fraser Euan White the problem I have with the RB67 is that it's so terribly slow. Focus, compose, refocus, shoot, cock shutter, wind on film... I want something for studio, but I tend to work less formal, more interactive with the subject looking for the "that's so them" expression which is often fleeting and quick. I've got great results from the RB, but only with very formal stuff. Annie Liebovitz I 'aint.

@ChrisR I hadn't considered that. Looking at eBay though, the 645 AFD is well over a grand. I might set up a search for the Pentax 645n though.

Canon EOS 1 or 3 would fit the bill
I used to have an EOS650 back when I had Canon DSLRs, so my 70-200 went nicely with it. That's all gone now and I guess the problem with Canon is that EF lenses aren't cheap - especially a nice portrait one like the 85 f1.2 or the 70-200 f2.8. Having said that, I guess I don't need that "super" quality on a tiny negative. Don't know really.

Nikon F90 too, a great camera for peanuts.
Nikon F100 and 85mm F1.4 AF-D
I know nothing about Nikon or their lens lineup, so I'll take a look at the F100 & F90. Is it the same issue there in that the lenses for these cameras are the same as used on digital thus they aren't cheap?
 
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#9
I used to have an EOS650 back when I had Canon DSLRs, so my 70-200 went nicely with it. That's all gone now and I guess the problem with Canon is that EF lenses aren't cheap - especially a nice portrait one like the 85 f1.2 or the 70-200 f2.8. Having said that, I guess I don't need that "super" quality on a tiny negative. Don't know really.
The Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 is a pretty good lens and is also pretty affordable. If you don't want to spend a lot of money this would be a good setup.
 
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#10
Thanks all!
So I didn't put budget because I wasn't sure. I'm thinking an upper limit of about £500-£600 I guess including lens.

@Fraser Euan White the problem I have with the RB67 is that it's so terribly slow. Focus, compose, refocus, shoot, cock shutter, wind on film... I want something for studio, but I tend to work less formal, more interactive with the subject looking for the "that's so them" expression which is often fleeting and quick. I've got great results from the RB, but only with very formal stuff. Annie Liebovitz I 'aint.

@ChrisR I hadn't considered that. Looking at eBay though, the 645 AFD is well over a grand. I might set up a search for the Pentax 645n though.


I used to have an EOS650 back when I had Canon DSLRs, so my 70-200 went nicely with it. That's all gone now and I guess the problem with Canon is that EF lenses aren't cheap - especially a nice portrait one like the 85 f1.2 or the 70-200 f2.8. Having said that, I guess I don't need that "super" quality on a tiny negative. Don't know really.



I know nothing about Nikon or their lens lineup, so I'll take a look at the F100 & F90. Is it the same issue there in that the lenses for these cameras are the same as used on digital thus they aren't cheap?
Just one point, the “tiny negative” is full frame so the detail requirement is the same as any digital full frame camera.

I’ve had a few Canon EOS 30’s and they handle pretty much the same as any Canon DSLR. The autofocus is similar performance to the 5d mk1/40D bodies I used to use, along with the button/lcd layout.

For lenses, I’d second the Canon 85/1.8 as a good long portrait lens but if your budget is £5-600 you should be able to get a body (EOS30) for <£100 and 70-200 f4 for £350.
 
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#11
My Minolta Dynax 5 + 70-210mm 'beercan' is a great portrait combo. It's small and light, has an excellent meter and fairly quick autofocus, even with the big zoom. I paid about £50 for the two off eBay.
 
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#12
Nikon F100 is not costly, it's also a nice camera..
The Pentax 645n MF is lovely(loud shutter though), not the quickest auto focus, but yes it does do what you want.
 
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#13
Just one point, the “tiny negative” is full frame so the detail requirement is the same as any digital full frame camera.
I don't understand this comment bud, care to explain what you mean?

But back to the OP's requirements, my Chinon cameras from 40 years ago did all that you're asking for, so anything since is pretty much a certainty too and all dirt cheap now; so yes the lens is going to be where the money goes, and unless you're wanting tiny DoF, in which case an 85 f1.8 is likely to be your budget lens, then I'd go for an older non-stabilised 70-200, you could even get an f2.8 within your budget

Dave
 
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#14
I don't understand this comment bud, care to explain what you mean?

But back to the OP's requirements, my Chinon cameras from 40 years ago did all that you're asking for, so anything since is pretty much a certainty too and all dirt cheap now; so yes the lens is going to be where the money goes, and unless you're wanting tiny DoF, in which case an 85 f1.8 is likely to be your budget lens, then I'd go for an older non-stabilised 70-200, you could even get an f2.8 within your budget

Dave
I was referring to the comment from the OP;

“Having said that, I guess I don't need that "super" quality on a tiny negative. Don't know really. “

And correcting the idea that the negative in a 35mm SLR is “tiny”. I assumed they were comparing to a digital SLR so just stated that It’s the same size as a full frame digital sensor. I was a bit tired when I wrote it (jet lag!) so may have misunderstood if they were comparing 35mm to medium format :0)
 
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#15
Thanks again to everyone who's replied.

I'd go for an older non-stabilised 70-200, you could even get an f2.8 within your budget
So I've been looking at older 70-200 f4s. I don't need tiny DoF and the lowest I generally go (with my X-T2 & Fuji 50-140) is f5.6 or occasionally 4. Also, I don't need IS or VR as the studio stuff is all shot at 1/125 anyway. I guess it's the "older" part of that sentence I'd be interested in as the "older" Canikon 70-200s tend to hold their value well. Getting lots of glass for little money is every photographers dream I guess. Just a brief look over the last 24 hours would indicate that a "brand new" Sigma 70-200 f2.8 would give me decent results.

I'm not after perfection (I've got Fuji digital for that), and don't have the means to digitise 35mm well enough to give me acceptable prints at anything larger than A4, so spending vast amounts on a lens wouldn't sit well with me, so Steve - yes.
they were comparing 35mm to medium format
That was me :). I can get great resolution out of my 6x7s (and 6x17) but 35mm is still a challenge. I totally understand how film 35mm is not comparable to digital full frame, because for me, 35mm is digitally smaller than my APSC camera :)
 
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#16
Thanks again to everyone who's replied.


So I've been looking at older 70-200 f4s. I don't need tiny DoF and the lowest I generally go (with my X-T2 & Fuji 50-140) is f5.6 or occasionally 4. Also, I don't need IS or VR as the studio stuff is all shot at 1/125 anyway. I guess it's the "older" part of that sentence I'd be interested in as the "older" Canikon 70-200s tend to hold their value well. Getting lots of glass for little money is every photographers dream I guess. Just a brief look over the last 24 hours would indicate that a "brand new" Sigma 70-200 f2.8 would give me decent results.

I'm not after perfection (I've got Fuji digital for that), and don't have the means to digitise 35mm well enough to give me acceptable prints at anything larger than A4, so spending vast amounts on a lens wouldn't sit well with me, so Steve - yes.

That was me :). I can get great resolution out of my 6x7s (and 6x17) but 35mm is still a challenge. I totally understand how film 35mm is not comparable to digital full frame, because for me, 35mm is digitally smaller than my APSC camera :)
Sorry, I misread your post :)

Another option is to let someone else scan your film for you to get higher quality results. I've recently picked up an Epson V750 but have always used FilmDev for my 35mm developing/scanning before then. Their results have always been very good and offer a quick turnaround.
 
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#17
Nothing to apologise for Steve, I should probably be less flippant.

Filmdev are great but for large prints from 35mm I'd need their "large" scans which at £8 a go is a bit pricey. I also do my own black & white.
 
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#18
Nothing to apologise for Steve, I should probably be less flippant.

Filmdev are great but for large prints from 35mm I'd need their "large" scans which at £8 a go is a bit pricey. I also do my own black & white.
No problem. I've just come back from holiday with 8 rolls of 35mm to dev/scan so they're going off to FilmDev today. I'm just getting their smallest scan as previews then will rescan the ones I like the most myself.
 

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#19
@ChrisR I hadn't considered that. Looking at eBay though, the 645 AFD is well over a grand. I might set up a search for the Pentax 645n though.
The 645 AF should be a bit cheaper than the AFD as it is less widely compatible with digital backs, yet has the exact same functionality as the AFD for film use.
 
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#20
Thanks all!
So I didn't put budget because I wasn't sure. I'm thinking an upper limit of about £500-£600 I guess including lens.

I know nothing about Nikon or their lens lineup, so I'll take a look at the F100 & F90. Is it the same issue there in that the lenses for these cameras are the same as used on digital thus they aren't cheap?
You’re correct in thinking that the lenses are the same, so potentially some of the lenses are going to be expensive. The good news is that they don’t HAVE to be, there’s plenty of good “budget” options available too.

The F100 is more modern and refined than the F90, DSLR-esque and I believe it can use the G series of lenses seamlessly (not sure on VR etc though) The F90 is an early 90s camera, noisy and less refined but a good workhorse. Don’t let the liberal use of plastic on the outside fool you either, it’s a tough beast and a good weight :LOL: You can use G lenses on them but only in P or S modes. If you use AF-D lenses you have full control.

If an 85mm is required, the F100 and 85mm 1.8G could probably be had on budget, or the F90 and 85mm 1.4D. The 1.4D May be getting on in years buts it’s still a good performer with beautiful out of focus areas but sharpness where it counts :)
 
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#21
Nothing to apologise for Steve, I should probably be less flippant.

Filmdev are great but for large prints from 35mm I'd need their "large" scans which at £8 a go is a bit pricey. I also do my own black & white.
Have you thought of investing in a dedicated 35mm scanner? Doesn't have to be expensive, something like a Plustek can give you some very good high-res scans.
 
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#22
I guess I don't need that "super" quality on a tiny negative
I've always thought the opposite: you should worry more about the quality of a lens on a 35mm camera because it needs to squeeze every ounce of detail out of the small piece of film. The opposite to a 6x9 folder, where you have so much negative to work with, you can still capture an amazing amount of detail with a crappy 90 year old lens.
 

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#23
I've got a nice Nikon F801 and a few lenses you could have a play with, just to see if you like the form.
 
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#24
Have you thought of investing in a dedicated 35mm scanner? Doesn't have to be expensive, something like a Plustek can give you some very good high-res scans.
I shoot a fair bit of 120 so need a scanner for that. Having another scanner for 35mm isn't a road I want to go down. If the Plustec OpticFilm 120 scanner ever gets rebuilt I'll definitely go down that road.

I've got a nice Nikon F801 and a few lenses you could have a play with, just to see if you like the form.
You should be barred from these types of threads Andy. Baddie :)
 
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#25
I shoot a fair bit of 120 so need a scanner for that. Having another scanner for 35mm isn't a road I want to go down. If the Plustec OpticFilm 120 scanner ever gets rebuilt I'll definitely go down that road.
Fair enough, I assume cost isn't the limiting factor here as they can be had very cheap! And they take up barely any room.
 
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#26
Probably your best 'bang for buck' would be a Canon EOS 30 (compact and light with fairly quick AF even by today's standards). The metering system is great and it's got 7 point eye controlled AF (which can be turned off and 'normal' AF used if it doesn't suit your eyes). As I've said before, I really miss ECF when using modern DSLRs; the ability to select an AF point just by looking at it really was a great invention - so quick and easy when you get used to it.

The EOS-3 has 45 AF points (and several more bells and whistles), but you'll pay a lot more for a mint EOS-3 these days than you will for an EOS 30, which will mostly do the same job, although the build quality isn't as robust and you've not got as many AF points - so you'll have to use the 'half press, lock and recompose' technique, which isn't too much of a hardship really.

Choosing either of those EOS cameras will give you access to a wide range of Canon EF lenses (not the EF-S ones, which don't fit 35mm SLRS or full frame DSLRs). So perhaps around £70 or so for a mintish EOS 30, and the rest of your budget for some second hand EF IS lenses, which opens up access to the 'L' range such as the 24-104 L IS or the 24-70 L IS, etc. Plus the 50mm f/1.8 EF STM, which can be had for well under £100 for a mint used example, or the 40mm STM pancake lens, which makes for a very light and compact set-up when fitted to the EOS 30.

If you'd like to see the EOS 30 or the EOS-3 with some of the above lenses then let me know and we could probably arrange a 'locals' meet up one evening or weekend now the lighter nights are here. I'm not selling any of this kit though, as I enjoy using it too much! :)

As for the 'tiny' image that a 35mm negative allegedly gives , here's a high res scan of a shot taken with an EOS-3 and EF 24-105 L IS f/4 lens on Kodak Ektar 100 (click on the image to view at large size). Use a fine-grain film, get the exposure right, and how big do you want to go? Yes, a medium format negative taken on similar quality kit (assuming you could focus as quickly and take a hand-held shot in a crowd like that) would give more detail, but how often do you actually need that additional detail, particularly for a portrait?



Here's a shot from the EOS 30 with 40mm EF STM f/2.8 pancake lens on Kodak Gold 200; how much more detail would you reasonably want from a portrait shot on film (once again, click on the pic to view in Flickr and zoom in)?

 
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#27
So far... (and this is for my own reference)

- Nikon F100 and a suitable 70-200 f4: Probably the most expensive option. Sold listings for body only are £120 - £200. Could probably pick up a 2nd hand Sigma 70-200 2.8 for another £250-£300 as the Nikon branded 70-200 f4s are around £500-£700. This is at the limit of my budget. Replacing the F100 with the F801 or F90 as suggested above would save me £80-£100 which is more reasonable.

- Canon EOS-3 is again around £200 and the 70-200 f4L can be picked up for around £300. Lowering my expectations to an EOS-30 saves about £150 which is looking pretty slap bang where I want to be financially.

- Minolta Dynax 800si with the 70-200 f4 is very reasonably priced at around £150 all in (would have to buy separately). My ex girlfriend had a 7000i that I used to "appropriate" so I might get one of those just for the nostalgia.

- Medium format (645) is out of my price bucket really.

- Canon T80 with the 70-200 f4. Added bonus I can use my FD lenses on it if I want. I have no idea if it's any good, but it's reasonably priced (a couple of hundred for camera + lens). It's fugly too which I quite like.

Or I could just "get good" with MF and pick up something like a T70 or T90 for auto winding.

Thanks again to all who have added ideas.
 
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#28
Best of luck choosing and, as I said, if you would like to see and briefly try an EOS-3 or EOS 30 before you make your mind up, then let me know and we could meet up. Something else I forgot to mention about the EOS 30, it's very quiet for an auto wind 35mm SLR, which can be a bonus in some situations.

Also, if you shop around and buy right you could perhaps get two mint-ish EOS 30 bodies for around the £100 to £120 mark. Always handy to have a spare when using old film cameras, and also gives you the option to use two different films during the same shoot (fine and coarse grained B&W or B&W and colour, etc.).
 
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#29
- Nikon F100 and a suitable 70-200 f4: Probably the most expensive option. Sold listings for body only are £120 - £200. Could probably pick up a 2nd hand Sigma 70-200 2.8 for another £250-£300 as the Nikon branded 70-200 f4s are around £500-£700. This is at the limit of my budget. Replacing the F100 with the F801 or F90 as suggested above would save me £80-£100 which is more reasonable.
You mention good AF as a top priority. The F100 certainly qualifies, but in this department the F801 doesn't. The F90 is somewhere in between - better than the F801, but still only single point. Neither the F801 nor the F90 are properly compatible with 'G' lenses, since they don't have a means of manually changing the aperture from the body (G lenses have no aperture ring). The F801 also doesn't work with AF-S lenses (those with their own motors, i.e. most modern lenses), though I believe the F90 does. The F100 works with most things - AF-S, G, VR, etc. Only the recent stepper motor AF-P lenses and the 'E' lenses with electronic apertures aren't compatible. The F80 is a cheaper, smaller and quieter option with the same lens compatibility as the F100. It has decent multi-point AF (though not up to the F100 standard). The F80 viewfinder isn't as good as those on the F100, F90 and F801, which were all second tier 'semi-pro' bodies in their time. The short answer is - get the F100 if you have the budget. And close the back gently - you don't want to break that plastic catch. Other lenses to consider include the modern 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G (fully compatible with the F100 and F80 only) and the wonderful 105 f/2 DC, which will work on all these cameras and is one of the best portrait lenses made by anyone.
 

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#30
The F100 certainly qualifies, but in this department the F801 doesn't. The F90 is somewhere in between - better than the F801, but still only single point.
Not sure I entirely agree with this. I had an F100 and it was a truly brilliant bit of kit, I now have an F801 and, yes it isn't in the same league however the AF is entirely adequate.
This was one of a roll taken at the Black Country Living Museum on a wet, grey, dark afternoon and it never missed focus once, this shot was taken under cover with very little light and it looks ok to me.

The-Conductor1
by Andy, on Flickr
 
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#31
Perhaps I'm spoilt by the F100, which has AF that's still competitive with modern dSLRs (though with far fewer focus points). I also have an F801 (somewhere) - it's a nice, solid camera with a decent viewfinder, but I'm afraid I find the AF rather frustrating to use, especially for anything that moves - it's slow and tends to hunt (I think it doesn't have a cross-type sensor, so it needs vertical lines to latch on to). The F100 has multiple cross sensors and you can use the multi-selector to focus on an off-centre subject like the one above without recomposing. The lack of compatibility with AF-S and G is also a significant minus, reducing your choice of lenses by quite a lot. None of this means you can't still take excellent shots with the F801, of course (especially if you are taking posed portraits where speed is less important) - it's just that the F100 makes life easier, and will sometimes help you nail a shot you might otherwise miss.
 

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#33
Perhaps I'm spoilt by the F100, which has AF that's still competitive with modern dSLRs (though with far fewer focus points). I also have an F801 (somewhere) - it's a nice, solid camera with a decent viewfinder, but I'm afraid I find the AF rather frustrating to use, especially for anything that moves - it's slow and tends to hunt (I think it doesn't have a cross-type sensor, so it needs vertical lines to latch on to). The F100 has multiple cross sensors and you can use the multi-selector to focus on an off-centre subject like the one above without recomposing. The lack of compatibility with AF-S and G is also a significant minus, reducing your choice of lenses by quite a lot. None of this means you can't still take excellent shots with the F801, of course (especially if you are taking posed portraits where speed is less important) - it's just that the F100 makes life easier, and will sometimes help you nail a shot you might otherwise miss.
I agree, the F100 is probably the best 35mm camera I've ever owned, and I've owned a few, just does everything well. But for a posed portrait you don't really need all the bells and whistles, actually Jan has an F80 and it is a very good camera, a bit lightweight and plasticky but the AF is very good.
 
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#34
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#35
Not sure I entirely agree with this. I had an F100 and it was a truly brilliant bit of kit, I now have an F801 and, yes it isn't in the same league however the AF is entirely adequate.
This was one of a roll taken at the Black Country Living Museum on a wet, grey, dark afternoon and it never missed focus once, this shot was taken under cover with very little light and it looks ok to me.

The-Conductor1
by Andy, on Flickr
I'd say your Nikon had the focus bang on the nose there Andy. However, With the EOS 30 you could choose the focal point in that shot just by looking at it and pressing the shutter button half-way to confirm your selection. In addition to the nose, you could choose the tram driver's eyes (well, his sunglasses anyway!), his lapel badge, or the side of the chap on the right-hand side's head just by looking at the focal point, press the shutter button half way to confirm focus and shoot. Job done.

With the EOS-3, pick any one of the 45 focal points and look at that to select the focus point, and that would cover everything from approximately the peak of the tram driver's hat to his ear, his tie, the background, to the arm of the spectacles on the chap to his right. Just look at the AF point, press the shutter button half way to achieve focus and shoot. Spend a bit of time to learn how to use the system and to calibrate it to your eye and it's as simple and handy as that. I really want this system back! :sorry:

The 45 AF points on the EOS-3 didn't suit everyone (some spectacle and contact lens wearers for instance), but the 7 AF points on the EOS 30 seemed to work with most people. Besides, you can always turn eye controlled focus off and use the camera conventionally... in which case, according to Retune, the EOS 30 has 6 more AF points than the F801, and the EOS-3 has 44 more. Then there's the multi-zone matrix metering system on those two EOS cameras, which I've found to be very reliable indeed.

I suppose it depends how modern Ian wants to go, but if it's an autofocus and auto-wind 35mm SLR he wants, I think it makes sense to go as modern and advanced as the (affordable) tech at the time got. In which case, personally, I'd avoid the earlier AF cameras and go for one of the models produced at the end of the 35mm film SLR era. Particularly the ones the work with modern auto focus lenses and ETTL type flash units. After all, if he wants to add difficulty or faffage to the equation he can stick with his Canon AE 1, manual focus lenses and thumb lever winding, and bloody well work for his photos! :LOL: When it comes to AF and auto wind, as the saying goes... in for a penny.
 
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#37
I can lend you one.
If you want to go down the MF route... I could lend you the Pentax 645n
Very generous of you guys. I'm most grateful of the offer. Thankyou.

I'm leaning heavily towards the EOS30 & a used 70-200 f4. When the EF mount dies a death in a couple of years I can pick up the 2.8 & a nice 16-35 too. [/dream]

With Nikon, I think an F100 would be over budget by the time I've got a lens. The other Nikon stuff requires me to read up on what lenses are compatible with what (thanks @Retune for the brief explanation) which, as @Mr Badger states above = "faffage" - which is what I'm trying to avoid. An auto focus, auto wind SLR is what I want. Something that I can react with. I've also used Canon in the past so the lens lineup and quality is known to me (not vs bad Nikon, but vs unknown Nikon). I did try and get my head round Nikon lens naming conventions once, but it's a thing I think you probably have to live with for a bit before you understand it.

I'm not terrible with the AE-1, but I do miss focus
Example (AE-1 + FD135, probably shot at f8): https://flic.kr/p/2drRerA View: https://flic.kr/p/2drRerA
 
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