Projects and ponderings for film photographers

Archive for November, 2015

SLRs you *do* want, part 2: Autoexposure models

After warning you about some SLR lameness you ought to avoid, a couple months ago I ran a post about desirable 35mm classics with manual exposure controls.

Today we’re back for the autoexposure models. Again, this isn’t some list of “the ultimate” in 35mm SLRs. These are just some decent, compact, accessible models that offer a solid value today. Click on any camera for a closer look.

Because camera meters can be fooled by backlight or contrasting surroundings, enthusiast shooters always wants the option to set exposure manually, based on their own judgement and experience.

But negative films have forgiving latitude in most routine situations. Autoexposure metering usually works just fine—letting you quickly grab the shot without a lot of fumbling. And here in 2015, even if the original exposure isn’t 100% perfect you can often work miracles afterwards using a scanner & image-editing software.

Adjusting the f-stop is what allows you to refine which areas of your photo are sharp versus blurred. So I’m pretty violently opposed to “program” or shutter-priority autoexposure, where the camera wants to take that control away from you.

All the models listed below use aperture-priority autoexposure (with manual override possible). Each has a viewfinder display to tell you what shutter speed the camera will use if you click the shutter, varying as you move from shadow to light.


Olympus OM-2N camera

A radical new metering scheme to update the classic OM-1

Model name: Olympus OM-2N
Introduced: 1979
Why it’s great: For quite a few years this model was my own camera-technology sweet spot: a small and rather minimalist SLR, but one with impressive aperture-priority autoexposure. Once the shutter opens, the meter cells actually measure off the film: They’re accurate for anything from a 2-minute time exposure to instantly throttling the output of Olympus flashes (one or several). By a smidge, an OM-2 offers the largest viewfinder image of the whole group here. Olympus made many sweet OM-series lenses (like a 24/2.8 and an 85/2.0) all harmonizing with the compact and elegant styling of the body itself. (more…)