Analog SLRs as Cheap Full-Frame DSLR Alternatives

It’s been a while since we’ve shared some DigitalRev tomfoolery, but the most recent question posed by Kai and his buddies is an interesting one: given how expensive “entry-level” full-frame DSLRs are, would a dirt cheap 35mm SLR be a realistic alternative?

The three cameras up for debate are the Nikon F65, Canon A2e (EOS 5), and Minolta Maxxum 7000. The age range represented runs from the ’80s all the way into the 2000s, with each camera offering its own interesting feature set.

The Nikon, although it was the newest, offered a simple, stripped down experience; the Minolta, although it was the oldest, used an impressive touch-sensitive shutter button complete with shutter-speed alarm; and the Canon EOS 5 came with an AF system that used your eye to pick the focus point.

If that last one sounds familiar, that’s because (rumor has it) Sony is looking to introduce a similar feature sometime soon — hopefully it’s not as finicky than Kai’s Canon.

We won’t spoil the results for you, but the pictures turned out well, the conclusions they came to were justified, and, as usual, the humor didn’t hurt.

  • Daniel Lin

    I really wish people would stop calling film cameras “analog”. I’m not sure when this picked up as quickly as it did, but I’ve never heard anyone in real life call it an “analog” camera, and I’m surrounded by fellow photographers.

  • Eduardo Tello

    Oh yeah, more DIgitalRev on PetaPixel! :D Gotta love.

  • Jake

    That’s why I ditched my iBook and started using my Mom’s 1966 Brother typewriter. :D

    Seriously though, from my experience digital cameras taught me how to use a camera, and mechanical film cameras have since made me a better photographer.

  • kyoshinikon

    I disagree that Kai always downplays sony Fx cameras to the lowest denominator just because their feature set is not status quo (ie whatever canon does) The a99 in terms of functionality and usability is on par with the 5dmk3 and D800 only it has some different tools to work with…

  • Chris Newhall

    You’re saying people shouldn’t call them what they are? Times change and with them language. A new digital technology takes on the digital moniker for a while until it is the norm then the old analog technology takes on the analog moniker.

  • Stephan Zielinski
  • BetterImages4U

    I think he’s saying people should call them what they are. Not all analog still cameras are film cameras (e.g., Canon RC-701). In my opinion, “film” is easier to say–requiring fewer syllables–, causes no confusion, and more often correctly reflects the intent of its use. Calling them “analog” just comes across as trying to sound learned, when in fact it implies just the opposite.

  • E

    I’ve actually found that referring to something as a film camera (which I still do) does cause confusion today, for many film equals moving pictures.. movies.

  • Robert Cruickshank

    People use “analog” as lazy shorthand to mean “opposite of digital”. “Analog” actually means “a system in which one continuously varying quantity is represented by another continuously varying quantity. In analog computers, quantities are represented by continuously variable voltages. In photographic film, light intensity is represented by negative density, and so you could consider a film camera an analog device, although there are those who will, after a few beers, argue that this breaks down at the level of discrete silver grains. As pointed out above, it’s possible to make an analog camera that is not film based. Television, up until the advent of CCD cameras, was an analog medium. Personally, I prefer “chemical photography”.

  • G

    …but.. but.. you can already watch it on youtube.. *stumped*

  • Alex Szecsi

    Thats hurt!….

  • Alex Szecsi

    2 types of camera exist film and digital.

  • Eduardo Tello

    Yeah, I know that. But it’s nice to see that people from PetaPixel like DigitalRev TV and share the awesome new videos with a post.

    I’m a subcriber of DigitalRev’s videos since 2010.

  • Richard


  • iowapipe

    Analog = Relating to or using signals or information represented by a continuously variable physical quantity such as spatial position, pressure or voltage. Soooo, to take your train of thought about sliver particles and apply it here; electricity is made up of the flow discrete electrons, the measurement of pressure is the measure of the force exerted by particles of gas, liquid, solids or photons. The definition of Digital relates to the measurements made using discrete values (digits). Having pointed this out, and having first used film and then moved into digital, I can easily say that the use of ‘analog’ is not lazy in my opinion. It is a very good term to describe the mechanism of film, to a very good approximation.

  • 3ric15

    Good point, but that probably fits under both film and digital. My first project in my photo 1 class was where we made a pinhole camera that exposed photo paper to the light (would count towards film); But I know that Photojojo sells a pinhole lens for both Canon and Nikon DSLR mounts.

  • Jake

    Oh, I was serious about using the typewriter (I didn’t really toss the iBook). It’s just fun to use, and actually paper doesn’t hurt my eyes after long periods the way computer screens do.

    I’m curious what those 2 down-votes are for though…

  • Mansgame

    The opposite of digital is analog. When there was only one type of camera, they called them cameras, but now that digital is out, it’s time to call them what they are.

  • Ralph Hightower

    First off, I do not consider myself a hipster. DigitalRev produces interseting videos and I can relate to using film because that’s what I use; even though my camera doesn’t have autofocus, autoload, or autorewind.

    Wow, the average lifespan of a DSLR is 3 years according to DigitalRev? Having to spend $1800-$1900 every three years would suck!

    My camera, a Canon A-1, is 30 years old and it still works. A 6V battery lasts for a year without recharging. I have the MA Motor Drive which allows 5 fps shooting. I have definitely realized my ROI with this camera.

    Yea, I do want a DSLR, but it’s an “Arms Race” with megapixels, autofocus points, and features. This “planned obsolescence” by the camera manufacturers is one reason why I haven’t settled on what DSLR to buy.

  • E

    ..and then there’s wet plate, one, among a few other, early type of photography that some people people still use.

  • Mark N

    Just because manufacturers WANT you to upgrade doesn’t mean you HAVE to. Plenty of canon 20D still making wonderful images. Use what you got to best effect. Upgrade when it’s right for you.

  • Robert Cruickshank

    By “lazy”, I mean only that people use it without actually thinking about what it means. I actually agree with you that the silver grains are analogous to noise in an analog electrical circuit, or brownian motion in a fluid.

  • Richard

    Depends on how you’re using the word “film.”

    Of course, then there’s a camera obscura… where the wall is the film.

  • pganja