Let’s Roast – We Pick Our Most Hated Cameras

Let’s Roast – We Pick Our Most Hated Cameras

1600 900 James Tocchio

Get ready for some grumpy, burnt out bitching about camera stuff from writers who possibly spend a bit too much time shooting them. You’re still here? Wow. Well, let’s do it.

In our Desert Island Cameras series, I ask the guys here at CP to write a bit about their absolute favorite camera from a given brand. We’ve picked the crème de la crème from brands like Nikon, Minolta, and more.

Today we’re doing something different; instead, we’ve picked our least favorite cameras. The ones that really get our goats. The cameras that annoy us to death even as everybody else seems to love them. Here are the cameras that leave us scratching our heads and wondering why.

Jeb’s Pick – Olympus Mju II

I was only a few rolls into my $15 Mju when I started to feel pangs of regret. The photos looked good, but not amazing. Later, I spent just $10 on the Infinity Zoom, the zoomy version of the same camera, and strutted the streets feeling a bit better. That is, until I noticed the looks of disgust leveled at the sight of my beautiful Mju with its comically long zoom lens protruding from the legendarily slim frame. Plus, the pictures still weren’t amazing. Why had I heard so many amazing things about these Olympus compacts?

Then it hit me. What I needed was a Mju II. And to get one I’d only have to spend ten times the amount of money as I spent on the oldie. For $200 (or more) I’d gain one stop on my maximum aperture and that sweet, sweet fixed lens. Finally I’d be able to take decent photos! More importantly, I’d be able to spend my time doing what really matters; taking Instagram photos of my new Mju II placed neatly next to a lit cigarette, cup of coffee and the Sunday Times. If I’m really feeling it, some avocado toast.

Like with most things everyone seems to universally love (The Beatles), I’m somehow inclined to recoil from the Mju II and the hype surrounding it. I’m not quite willing to spend hundreds of dollars on one in great condition, and yes, I might roll my eyes at people that do. Seriously, this point-and-shoot revival is getting out of control. These aren’t mechanical tanks that could theoretically last forever, or at least be repaired if they do break. These point-and-shoots are bound to start breaking, and when this tech fails, good luck finding a Mju specialist. And let’s be honest, the photos they make aren’t that special.

Did we learn nothing from 2008? We’re in a point-and-shoot bubble, people, and the Mju II has Lehmann Brothers written all over it!

Josh’s Pick – Canon AE-1

Sure, the Canon AE-1 might be the most popular 35mm camera in the world and one that’s introduced countless folk to the wonders of film photography. That’s great. But it doesn’t stop me from hating its guts.

Part of my repulsion comes from just how popular it is. Everywhere you go it’s AE-1, AE-1, AE-1. Find a cool camera at the thrift store? It’s probably an AE-1. Googling for the best 35mm camera for beginners? Oh look, it’s the AE-1. Poke the Instagram hashtag for 35mm film? Guess who. Spend long enough doing what we do here at CP and you might understand how we could get tired of this camera.

But all that over-saturation could be forgiven if the AE-1 lived up to its reputation as one of the best inexpensive cameras for beginners, but it doesn’t. Not only is the AE-1 a bad choice for beginners, but for the money the AE-1 commands there are many other, better cameras to choose.

Its choice of shutter priority over aperture priority auto-exposure is just silly. Aperture and depth-of-field are about the most important concepts in artistic photography, concepts novices sometimes find difficult to comprehend. It would make sense for an amateur camera to have an aperture priority auto-exposure mode to teach them these concepts, right? Right. Well Canon decided that wasn’t very important and stuck the AE-1 with shutter priority mode. What’s the difference? Think of it as art versus math, and Canon chose math.

Shooters who wish to practice manual exposure will find no quarter with the AE-1, and that’s because the AE-1’s manual override mode is absolutely dismal. Unlike almost every other camera with a light meter, the AE-1’s light meter display doesn’t tell you whether or not you’re over or underexposing; it only tells you what the recommended aperture is at your chosen shutter speed. No lights, no arrows, no needles, no nothing. Just a solitary black bar telling you that you better be at this aperture value, or else. Or. Else.

It doesn’t help that AE-1s have more issues than National Geographic. Battery doors are always broken, the electronics are fragile, and all of them eventually develop the dreaded Canon squeal that results in half-exposed shots if left unchecked. Every classic camera has quirks, but this one’s fussier than most.

To top it all off, the Canon AE-1 is overpriced. When an inferior camera consistently sells for more than its far superior, better looking, and more capable successor, something’s wrong. And if you look at all of the other cameras available at or below the AE-1’s price point you’ll find cameras much more suitable for beginners who wish to learn and grow with their cameras. There’s the Minolta X-700, XD-11, and XE-7; the Nikon FG, FE, and FM; the Pentax ME Super, MX, K1000, Spotmatic… you get my point. It boggles my mind as to why people choose the AE-1 over all of these great cameras.

I don’t discount the fact that the Canon AE-1 is one of the most important cameras in the history of photography. I don’t even argue the fact that it’s a good camera. But for the love of God, let’s stop putting this thing on a pedestal.

James’ Pick – Every Leica M

Strip away all the nonsense and I like Leica. Don’t get me wrong. They make nice cameras. But the problem is you can’t have Leica without an ample helping of pretentious bullshit. Lenny Kravitz special editions? The 0.95 lifestyle brand? An $845 pen? Come on.

“The Leica is an extension of my eye.”

“It helps me see the world differently.”

Let’s be real. Leica Ms aren’t as amazing as everyone says. Much of their allure comes from the artificially high price point, and many people who buy them after a long time pining are left let down. Sure, they’re heavy. And yeah, they’re made out of brass, or whatever, but that’s not a selling point for normal humans. You know what else is made of brass? Those disgusting brass testicles that overgrown man-babies hang from their repulsive pick-up trucks.

And why do people care if their Leica came from Canada or some probably-fictional town in Germany called Wetzler? Wetzler? Yeah, I’m sure that place doesn’t exist. And if it does, has anyone who’s ever boasted the superiority of Wetzlar-produced Leicas actually been there? I suppose some have – probably house-sat in a castle for some lord, or whatever you call lords in Germany. Meisters, I guess. I don’t know. I’m just a normal person. Even so, I’ve shot every M that takes film and a couple of those fat, digital ones. They’re okay. Just okay.

Personally, I’d pick the CLE. It’s smaller and stealthier than every M, can shoot in aperture-priority mode, and has the best light meter in the classic camera world. Oh, and those Minolta lenses are amazing (and a fifth the cost of Leica glass).

Leica Shmeica, I say. If you’ve got to go German, go Zeiss.

And that concludes Camera Bitch Fest 2017. What a weird post, but hey, they can’t all be winners. Guys. Why’d we write this?

I guess if you reader people hate a particular camera, let us know about it in the comments. Maybe it’ll take some of the heat off of us.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • Very entertaining article! I’ve owned a Mju-ii / Stylus Epic ever since they first came out in the 90’s but I agree that they’re overrated and not worth what they’re going for. I use mine for a very specific purpose: to shoot in bad weather. The Mju-ii has come with me on trips to England, Scotland, and Ireland and I’ve gotten good landscapes from it on rainy days. About a year ago I got another weatherproof camera, the Nikon Action Touch, which I think is vastly superior in spite of its bulkier size, so I don’t think I’ll be using the Mju-ii very much going forward.

    Yes, the whole Leica mystique is incredibly annoying. I have an M6 with a 35mm f/2 Zeiss Biogon and I love how it handles and the photos I take with it, but are the results really better than from my Nikon FM2n and Nikkor 35mm f2 AF D?

  • The popularity of the AE1 baffles me, its a total plastic turd throwaway. A spotmatic or FE2 are hands down better machines, never mind an FM.

  • Must agree with your overall sentiment. I have never liked the Canon AE-1 for exactly the reasons you suggest. I prefer the the black only Canon A1 (and I am a Nikon shooter?). Yes it is fiddly, however, it is a beautiful example of industrial art, at least to my eyes. I do own a Leica M, however, it is the most disparaged one (possibly after the M5) the M4P and it was made in .Canada – yay! with an Abrahamson made in Canada exquisite Rapidfinder – yay again (or should I say eh! Whatever! Ha Ha. I shot a roll with your described Olympus and was not impressed. However, it was just one roll I must try again. I on a Zeiss Zi, which is like the M7 but it is all but impossible to see the camera settings in the viewfinder unless it is extremely, extremely overcast. Even with that I have come to love it, however, at times frustrating. What were they thinking? That’s it for my thoughts. And thank you so much for yours.


  • Francisco Taborda June 12, 2017 at 10:20 am

    I always really enjoyed this unpopular opinion articles. There’s not perfect camera. I bought an mju ii and after a few rolls I couldn’t understand why the focusing was often off. It felt unreliable. A year later I found an XA2 for half the price and I fell in love. I just needed something simpler and the lens in the XA2 kicks ass.

  • Agree about the AE1. IMO the glass also really isn’t what it’s hyped up to be. Looking through the viewfinder, there’s a very clear difference between a canon FD 50mm f1.8 and a nikkor 50mm f1.8 Ai.

    About the point-and-shoot craze, I was given a yashica t4super. Was a fun little camera but nothing special, even more so, I never got a photo I was proud of from it. I would say it’s me, but I didn’t exactly have control over the camera settings. I guess that next we need a sheet film craze!

    • Yes! I was never fond of the FD 50/1.8. I’d take a Series E 50/1.8, the Pentax 50/1.7, or the Minolta 50/1.7 over the FD any day of the week.

      • Merlin Marquardt June 12, 2017 at 4:48 pm

        What’s wrong with the Canon FD 50mm f/1.8? Many people seem to like it.

        • It ‘s just… okay. It’s can do the job, but it’s lacks in sharpness and resolution, especially when pitted against its contemporaries. Every time I see a photo from that FD 50/1.8 I find myself wanting a little more detail resolution and for a little more definition across the frame. The FD 50/1.8 also breaks down quite often and suffers from oily aperture blades more often than other lenses in my experience.

          The FD 50/1.4 SSC, however, is a entirely different story….

  • Interesting. Cool article.

  • the6millionpman June 12, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    Much prefer to read about what people don’t like instead of what everyone likes. I would disagree with the AE-1 as I love mine but……I happen to agree with all the points, and I probably only love it so much as I didn’t have to pay for it (thank you Grandpa 6MillionPMan).
    Agree totally with the whole point and shoot bubble analogy though. I love a camera as much as the next geek but no point and shoot is worth the crazy prices they’re being sold for nowadays, especially the Olympus’ and especially not 80’s/90’s technology filled ones that are going to break not long after you’ve forked out a million bucks on it. (Disclaimer: I love Olympus and actually do quite like a point and shoot just not bankrupting myself for one).

  • I’ve not been able to properly evaluate the AE-1. I have been given two and both were DOA and no amount of first aid has been able to revive them. I have shot the F-1n though and it is a fabulous camera.

  • I agree for the most part with all of this! The stylus epic is a fragile, overpriced piece of garbage. I’ve owned three and all of them either broke or had a light leak from a poor design around the barrel of the lens. I paid no where near $200 for them and for the life of me can’t understand why anyone would. (I sold of one of the light-leaked ones on eBay after fully disclosing the issue along with sample images for $115!!!).
    No experience with the AE-1. My first film camera was an FE and it was a superb entry level SLR.
    I think the main issue with the Leica M series is that people want them because they’re cool or exclusive without understanding what they really are. I fell victim to this when I was first starting out and bought an M6 because it was ‘the’ camera to have, but I was too inexperienced in photography to be comfortable with it so I sold it. Now I own another M6 and will never sell it, but in that time in the interim I became comfortable with manual exposure and manual focusing and understood a Leica is a compact, stripped-down mechanical and simple camera that doesn’t get in my way and allows me to focus only on the basics. I shoot Zeiss glass and have no intentions of spending the money on Leica lenses (or pens!)

    Great article!

  • “Leica Shmeica, I say. If you’ve got to go German, go Zeiss.”

    Out of the four photos your link leads to, 3 of them are items made in Japan. The German Zeiss is from the 1950s?

    I got to agree about the Olympus Stylus/Mju. I took it out of the drawer just now to give it another, albeit brief, chance. Put a battery in it, saw how long the delay was from pushing the shutter button to it taking a pic. Took the battery out, put it away again..

    My all time most hated camera is the Pentax K1000. The default response to what camera for beginners. That may have made sense at the time, because it was a bargain priced camera for students. But now you can get a much better camera like a Nikkormat – which was a pro camera at that time – for less (often much less) than a K1000. ‘Experts’ are still telling beginners to get a K1000. Perhaps because that’s what they used when starting out back in the day, even though if they were offered a Nikkormat back then they would have tossed that K1000 into a bin.

    • hi
      if you don tuse your mjuII anymore i would like to buy it to try this little camera that is crazy hard to have. Thanks

  • Randle P. McMurphy June 13, 2017 at 4:53 am

    We all are on a journey and first we stand before a moutain blocking our view
    When we get on top our sight just reach to the next higher one
    Looking what´s after it is the journeys challange

    There is nothing like a useless, ugly, stupid camera to hate in my opinion
    Find the one you can handle and take pictures
    If the tool fells wrong try another one

  • Madis McLembrus June 13, 2017 at 5:42 am

    Canon is popular mainly because Millennials think its the biggest and best brand. Leica stopped being a practical tool for taking photos somewhere in the 1960’s and became a photographic equivalent of jewelry.

  • Always been a nikon shooter, from back when you had to decide what system to sink your money into. Now prices are so low that you can sample different systems for not a lot of money. But I also don’t get the point & shoot craze, those cameras were not great when new: they’ll all for soon, with no hope of repair.

    Leicas are good cameras, but I don’t see the point of spending the price of a used car on one when one can buy a Canon L1-2-3, P or even Model 7 for less than a c-note if you’re patient. And the matching lenses are just as good as anything from Germany. I found a Canon L2 for $54, with a Jupiter 8 lens I have a fantastic camera for the price of a Leica lens hood. I don’t hate Leica, but the prices irritate me.

  • Tobias Weisserth (@polarapfel) June 13, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Nice article.

    The greatest mistake with analog cameras I’ve made: buying overpriced, hardly working, over-hyped toy cameras from Lomography. All of the products they self-developed are crap and overpriced. All of the products they simply resell are also highly overpriced.

    As to the Leica rant. I can follow, I don’t necessarily agree 100%. And by the way, Zeiss is not German (anymore), it’s essentially Japanese as most Zeiss lenses are made in Japan. There’s nothing wrong with that of course. I prefer my Contax G2 with its Japan made Zeiss lenses over most Leica bodies most of the time.

    • I agree with you about Lomography. The LC-A isn’t such a bad little camera, though not worth the crazy price tag. I made the mistake of buying their medium format panoramic camera, The Bel-Air. What a piece of junk. The film wouldn’t even wrap properly around the take up spool, so parts of the roll would be fogged. Lomography did get me back into analogue photography. It take a while, but I eventually realized there were much better and cheaper analogue cameras out there so I drifted away from it and never came back. Now I’m back to using my Nikon FM2n which I’ve had for over 20 years!

  • Got my dad’s Spotmatic c/w Super-takumar lenses for free. Got my Stylus Epic from my sister for free. Both take very nice pictures. I’m content.

  • The entry on the Stylus is essentially just a thinly veiled hipster hate piece with no real content relating to the camera. The Olympus is a fine camera that has many limitations in trade for a tiny size. The price is inflated because people want a small camera to take to parties, not everyone lugs a mechanical SLR everywhere they go, even if they should. I totally agree about the AE-1 though, it’s a bit of a dog compared to the other offerings. Finally the Leica, while I agree that the hype is just that, hype, the M mount bodies are the best 35mm rangefinders ever made. There might not be such a thing as the best SLR but there certainly is with rangefinders, and that’s a Leica.

    • I’m interested to hear why you think the Ms are the best rangefinders ever made? Best is a very vague term. The kind of adjective that you’d find in a Yelp review. “The best chicken nuggets everrrrr.” Well, if the person writing “best” loves spicy food, those nuggets might be a bit burny for me.

      Keep in mind I’m not arguing. Just looking for a conversation.

      • In terms of handling and build quality they are superb. Brightest RF patch, nicest shutter feel, they hang around the neck well. Obviously the camera has short comings like the top shutter speed and slow film loading but of all the M mount rangefinders I own it’s the one I always want to take with me.

        • I owned some M´s and R´s and both series made me some trouble.
          Leica´s are not undestroyable or free of fail in my experience – but this is what this brand seems to “sell” us with it´s overpriced gear.
          Love the M3 the most from all M´s but the R8 really is the best universal photography tool (for me) !

          But which camera do I hate ? Hard to say but I think that I didn´t like any of Pentax´s cameras build anytime.
          Dont like the design – dont like the lenses. No film or digital camera even made me try it once……..

    • I’d probably say the Contax G2 is the best rangefinder ever made.

  • Sx-70! The last article baffled me; That viewfinder is deal-breaking….and the Impossible Film- I’ll bite my tongue on that one before I say something rude.

  • The Leica guy should have written about coffee table pictures! Look up the Instagram hashtag for any Leica M and you’ll be convinced more people buy them to take pictures of them than to shoot with them. Sure they’re pretty and well built, but I’ll take a $30 Minolta over a Leica any day. I can’t tell the difference in the photo quality and my wallet sure is a lot happier for it.

  • I disliked to dislike the Yashica Electro 35. Lovely lens, terrible terrible ergonomics. Nothing to hold onto and painful to grip. I got rid.

    If you’re talking about bandwagons such as Leica, you have to talk Hasselblad as well. Silly expensive for what they are. (I don’t have one… sux eggz.) I have the perfectly cheap enough Bronica though with many lens, probably for a similar price to a Hass’ 500 body.

    • I assume you mean the GT, GSN, GTN etc…? I have a GSN and agree about that one. However, some of the subsequent Yashica Electros, such as the CC and GX, are smaller and have greatly improved ergonomics.

  • Check on the Olympus mju, or for that matter any other point and shoot from the film era. These were the cameras to buy your mom if she needed snapshots of the family, or if you just could not afford a 35mm SLR. There is nothing special about them. MAYBE the Olympus XA would be…but just because it is so small. I’d rather a point and shoot digital.

    Check on the Leica. They are nice cameras. They make great pictures. But the price is just ridiculous. Just think of the old SLR film gear you could get for that money. I do plan to get an M2 at some point. And a 35m lens. But that’s it. And really just so I can try it.

    Now, the Canon AE-1. Just hold your horses here. Yes they break. What old camera doesn’t? So maybe you’ve seen more broken ones than any other model? Maybe because there were more AE-1’s sold than any other model? (Maybe not the k1000, but a totally different animal there) Yes, they were a consumer item, and are a really minimalistic consumer product at that. And yes, ABSOLUTELY they are overpriced. What the market will bear….

    But complaining about shutter priority? Because aperture is so important? Dude, APERTURE IS RIGHT THERE IN THE VIEWFINDER. Shooting one while putting a priority on the aperture is a cakewalk. You have ONE control. Just move it until you see the aperture in your viewfinder that you need. Shooting a true aperture priority camera and you must remember where you set the ring unless you have a camera with a full information viewfinder. I’d rather have aperture in the viewfinder than shutter speed if I can only have one…and all the shutter priority cameras from Canon and Konica give you that info.

    And the single coated 50 f1.8 FD is a respectable lens. Not the best, but it will get the job done. The FDn 50 f1.4 or FDn 35mm f2.8 is what I would choose, though. If you really want to try a stellar lens on a shutter priority camera go for a Konica with the Hexanon 50 f1.7.

    The AE-1 is a minimalistic camera, and a properly serviced one will be a great camera to learn film photography with….in my mind better than a manual exposure camera. I mean, if you are relying on the meter in the camera anyway, why shoot a manual exposure camera? And if you are using the creative aspects of different apertures, wouldn’t you want that information in your viewfinder?

    But, I don’t fully worship at the feet (baseplate?) of the Canon AE-1. I’d rather have the AE-1 Program for it’s extra features and better quality. Or the A-1, which is still, to this day, better than any other Manual Focus PSAM camera made (hint: there were only four). Or the friggin’ big daddy of Shutter Priority badness, the Konica Autoreflex T (or T3).

    I love reading the articles, you have a great website! I just gotta step up for the little old Canon AE-1. It is a legend in photography.

    • Thanks for your thoughts! You bring up a lot of good points, but I think I should fight my corner on this one!

      I’ve heard lots of folk cite the fact that the AE-1 is a vintage camera and is prone to problems just like all other vintage cameras. That’s like saying the Ford Pinto’s exploding gas tank can just be chalked up to the fact that Old Cars Have Problems Sometimes. The issue is that AE-1’s specific problems are so consistent across the range that it deserves scrutiny. The fact that the “Canon Squeal” has become commonplace when talking about the AE-1 (not unlike the Yashica Electro 35’s ‘Pad of Death’) is pretty damning.

      You sound like a shutter priority kinda dude, and that’s great! I prefer aperture priority. Different strokes for different folks. I just think it’s counterintuitive to adjust aperture with a dial meant for… shutter speed. I have the same issue with all-purpose dials found on DSLR’s. The act of adjusting a certain value feels more distant when you’re doing everything with one dial. This mode also makes it easier for folks to completely ignore what that aperture ring really does and end up never touching it at all, which i have seen happen in the past with a few of my AE-1 owning friends. It’s nitpicky, but I think it’s a valid concern.

      And while I do hear what you’re saying when it comes to manual exposure, I don’t completely buy into the “if you’re using a meter anyway, why manually expose” argument. Sometimes you have to compensate for exposure and ignore what the meter says. Sometimes you want to intentionally under or over-expose using a very particular aperture or shutter speed. The AE-1 makes it incredibly hard to do any of that because it lacks the tools you need to determine manually-set exposure values, tools which are found in nearly all of the AE-1’s contemporaries and forbears in the same market segment.

      The AE-1’s a wonderful camera and I wouldn’t fault anybody for loving it. It just doesn’t jive with me!

  • When the AE-1 was all the rage in the late 70s, I went for its cheaper, less-popular sibling, the AT-1. Full manual control with match needle metering, just like the Minolta SR-T 101 and variants. I never looked back, and it serves me well today.

    • I’ve got an AT-1 also. The only thing I don’t like about it is the complete lack of information in the viewfinder. No shutter speed, no aperture. But, I’d choose it over a K1000 any day….as long as it has been serviced, the shutter will be far more accurate than the K1000….it’s electronic. And it weighs less. And you can use a motor drive. And it has a self timer….

      But the fact is I can shoot faster with the same metering system with the AE-1.

  • Oh yes, let the hate flow through you. There’s so much to hate now in film photography as people without any background in it start to get acquainted. They seem to be awful ready to throw down huge chunks of money without doing even a cursory amount of research.

    My personal hate object are the T2-T5 (both the Yashicas and the Contax). Not that they’re bad cameras, they aren’t, but people seem to be under the illusion that they aren’t buying something that could turn into an attractive (or ugly, in the case of the Yashicas) paperweight at literally any moment. There’s so many internet instagrammer articles hyping these particular models to the absolute exclusion of all else, including camerass that don’t cost as much as a used car, that the noobs flock with fists of cash in hand the minute they see a T followed by a number greater than or equal to 2.

    If I showed you the latest pictures from my $30 Inifinity Stylus (mju i) and told you it was a $400 Yashica T5, how would you prove me a liar? They’re all blown out flash shots of my friend’s cat anyway. Craigslist and Ebay are littered with decent point and shoots available for peanuts, but nobody seems to care. Goodness forbid your shots looked a bit different than everyone else’s (or Terry Richardson’s…) as well.

    Ditto the AE-1…it just seems so….bad compared to like all of its contemporaries. Worse than the OM-2, the FE and FM, the ME and MX, hell even the Autoreflex TC and Nikon EM. Why anyone would buy one nowadays is utterly beyond me. FD glass is good sure…but why not get an F1 or T70?

    • Instagram has been both really great and really terrible for people who have loved film cameras for a long time.

      • I have a love/hate relationship with Instagram. I love getting my photos out there and communicating with people around the world, but I hate viewing photos on a phone, especially my own, since I do a lot of landscapes.

    • I’m amazed ANY point and shoot camera is even bought for more than $5 these days. Well, maybe some are worth more, but there are so many better options….

      As far as the AE-1…realize that of those contemporaries you mention only the OM-2 was released the same year as the AE-1, all others were later, and all of them except maybe the EM were in a higher price bracket. Like it or not, the AE-1 was a groundbreaking consumer product.

      As far as buying one today…I agree, there are much better options for the same money. What the market will pay for this old tech is silly sometimes…but good for us if we have them to sell!

      But when serviced properly they still take great pictures….

  • I like this post. I love my Leicas, but spent so much money buying and fixing them they seldom leave my house. I worry about them too much.
    My vote would be the Pentax ME series. I have several and have never seen one that worked.

    • I’ve had a good number of ME Supers come through the shop. They’re nice machines but I think you’re probably right, and if I had to guess I’d say many of them have had rough lives with entry-level owners who don’t care to much about being gentle. Maybe?

  • Agreed. Tried Leica M3 and M6, loved to hold them, loved to push the button and listen to it and hated to shoot them. I like shooting wide open so zone focussing is not an option. Focussing on he mall patch and then recompose is also not an option, if your subject is moving. I came to realize: I have rangefinders.nsold them both, made profit. Good.

    Grabbed an AE-1 and realized it had light leaks and some mechanical problem, but when shooting the test rolls I realized that I hated the manual mode and shutter priority…… Pffffff. Might be ok if you need fast speed to capture something fast and don’t care for background. So it is great for 0.3% of my images. Lovely.

    I still had it fixed and paid three times it’s worth to keep it working. Why? Because it wasn’t a stupid eBay purchase. It was the camera my dad bought weeks before I was born in 77 to document my growing and 100% of the pictures of my and my younger brother’s childhood were shot with this idiotic machine. So it has a sentimental value no matter how utterly stupid it is. Dad to!d me some time ago that he wanted to buy an Olympus OM-1 instead but the salesman explained him that this me marvelous gem of latest technology with it’s microchip controlled shutter priority was so much greater than this obsolete lump of mechanical stuff called OM-1. Oh my. An OM-1, next to an F2 currently is my favorite camera, if only the old man has grabbed the right thing 39 years ago, I could have my favorite camera with personal history instead of an ugly paperweight.

  • I think that anyone can use whatever camera they want, and the camera has little influence on a good picture.

    That said…

    I can’t stand Leica cameras, and that’s mostly from the price and the snobbish image that comes with them. I’ve held a couple of models and thought they were nice, well made cameras. They feel like you can take them anywhere, photograph anything and they’ll come home and want to do it all over again. However, at the price, are you really going to take a Leica into India, or the Amazon rain forest? And if you want a tough as nails camera, what’s wrong with the Nikon F4, or a Minolta SRT 101? Since the camera doesn’t make the image, why spend several thousand dollars for one? For the same reason people buy an Aston Martin; “Look at ME!”
    It would be one thing if Leica was pushing the boundaries of photography technology, but they’re not. So the price kills my desire to ever own one.

    My dad has owned an Olympus Stylus Infinity Zoom since I was maybe 13. Someone just gave it to him. I remember what she said; “It’s film, so it’s useless.” I’ve used it a few times and I think that for what it is, it’s a great camera. Go to Kings Island, bring the Stylus. Cram a roll of Kodak 400 or Gold 200 in it and walk away with great pics of a great time. Our has never not worked. Would I go around and take it with me to make artsy pictures? No. That’s not what it was made for. It’s a family companion and it excels at the job. The problem with the cost of these machines, though, is that the Canon Sure Shot 76 Zoom my mom got in 2001 works just as well. It’s not waterproof, but the pictures look just as good. So I don’t get the obsession, except that maybe the world is getting tired of cold, digital iPhone family vacation pictures that get lost every time you upgrade your phone.

    Now. The Canon AE-1. My grandfather’s last camera.
    I love this camera. I bought one after shooting my grandpa’s once out of curiosity. It feels good in my hands, the weight is nice, and the lack of violent shaking during shutter actuation is a lovely experience over my Nikon FE or EM. Yes, the model has problems. Shutters will stick, battery doors (like mine) are often broken, and the plastic top is prone to cracking. It’s kind of like having a puppy or a kitten. Really annoying a lot of the time, but if someone tried to take it or hurt it, you’d kill them. It also doesn’t hurt that it is a truly beautiful machine, either in black or white.
    I admit that family legacy plays a large part in my love for the AE-1, but still. I love it. I also have to wonder if the AE-1 is really any less reliable than another similarly aged system: the Olympus OM series. I come across many OM models and many AE-1’s in my browsing at my local camera shop and I’ve noticed that more OM’s are broken and missing parts than the AE-1’s that come through. Maybe the Olympus owners are rougher on their machines; the previous owner of my OM-2 smoked so much in close proximity to the camera that the inside smells like Marlboro and has tar I just can’t clean out on my own, but sadly it seems like the OM line is either just as problem prone, or badly mistreated by owners.

    At the end of the day, judging cameras just on their camera-ness, I don’t think there’s one I hate.


    The Minolta Freedom Dual 60. That utter piece of s……….

  • The argument against Ae-1 doesn’t make sense to me. I use any camera in manual mode. I would particularly dislike an aperture priority camera because the camera might select such a slow shutter speed that picture comes blurry, now THAT is what is not good for newbies. Ae-1 also has a needle in the viewfinder which tells the aperture to select, you select that aperture and it’s done, what’s the fuss about it. Also I got it for under 30 dollars and FD lenses which I can use on it are one of the best lenses of the age. I have a few others too but the only one that looks as beautiful as AE-1 to me is Olympus OM-1, a small SLR with a big viewfinder, only gripe is that it used mercury batteries not available anymore.

  • I’d just like to make one argument in favor of “shutter priority” – I needed 1/60th of a second to photograph my daughter’s violin concerts. 1/60th was all I cared about, LOL. Shutter priority would have worked for me in that instance. 1/60th or bust !!!! The lighting was really crappy. But once I figured out 1/60th I was in business.

  • As for the AE-1, you forgot to mention the battery door that always breaks. For that reason alone I dislike the AE-1.

  • Ha! funny xD, I really started to dislike old SLR cameras that require exotic batteries in order to meter and in compact cameras the option to not turn off the flash.

  • I had a Mju II that always underexposed by 1 stop.

  • I would agree about the Canon AE-1 only insofar as it was the beginning of a decline in the build quality of Canon cameras. I used to be a Canon person and had an all-mechanical Canon FT, which was built like a tank and could give anything Nikon made a run for its money. Unfortunately, the plastic, electronic cameras beginning with the AE-1 were just not as durable and reliable as the trusty FT or FTb. Shortly thereafter, Canon also reduced the quality of its lenses compared to the old FD breech lock lenses. The AE-1 is not a bad camera for what it is. It made Canon number one in sales but the quality of Canon cameras has not been the same since (except for the professional F-1). I had to move on to a Nikon FM2n to get something comparable in quality to my old FT.

    • Well as you said the AE-1 saved Canon from getting bankrupt and most companies tried to produce more cameras
      and reduce cost´s the same time so mechanics suck and metal was changed into plastic.
      Last usable SLR Canon ever made is the old mechanical Canon F1 (old) and Canon FL optics – craftsmanship masterpieces !

  • I have a Mju II (aka Olympus Stylus Epic) and have always enjoyed for what it is but I cannot believe people are paying $200 for this camera. I paid a little over a $100 for mine new in 2003 and it was a good value at that price. It has a decent lens, sharper and faster than the zooms generally used on point and shoots. However, it has some serious drawbacks, most notably the complete lack of manual control of focusing or exposure. It takes good pictures with color print film but I certainly would not want to shoot slide fiilm with it. I have always seen it as a glorified snapshot camera. Perhaps the Olympus XA and the Rollei 35, both compact cameras with manual control, are more worthy of cult following.

  • Hmm, I’ve owned all the cameras ranted about. Do I hate them? No. Did I find some other camera to replace them with? Yes.
    Bought my mom a Stylus for her Bday one year and she loved it, small, easy to use and she brought it along on every family outing or gathering until it finally died after ten years of minimal care–she’s decidedly not a “camera person”. After her experience with that camera (before it died) I bought myself a new Stylus Epic. And just didn’t like it very much. Had to remember to turn the flash off every time I slid the cover open, the shape was not easy to hold onto, and that f2.8 lens rarely was. Replaced it with another similar P&S camera that I am still using, the Pentax UC-1 (Espio Mini). Very similar specs, same annoying always on flash default. But, the shape is much better for me and so I’ve kept it. After 8 or 10 years now, it still just works.
    The Canon AE-1 was a camera I really wanted when they originally came out but I couldn’t afford a new camera then. Got one a few years ago in very good condition–no mirror squeal!–and, meh. I like Canon lenses, mostly, but the camera just didn’t click with me. Replaced that camera with a T90. I thought about an Elan IIe but didn’t want to try to replace the pile of FD mount lenses I’d ended up with and so I’ve been happily using the T90.
    Leica. I’ve owned and used a couple of those, an M4 and a Leica IIIa. Have shot with M2 and 3, have handled a CL. Then I started to look at lenses. And realized that if I went with LTM mount lenses rather then M-mount, I could build a much broader stable of lenses to use for significantly less money. So, I’m using a Bessa R when I want a metered camera and a Zorki 3m when I want something pretty basic and battery free.
    I suppose if I wanted a camera as jewelry, I’d have to start looking at a nice Minox B in black finish with the correct neck chain…:)

  • I hate Leica’s but I do love the Canon AE-1

  • Renato F Valenzuela February 28, 2018 at 6:26 pm


    I have a hugely unpopular recommendation. Nikon F3. I own one like many other people. I don’t necessarily hate it but I do believe it is somewhat over-hyped by newer generation of photographers who are trying out film for the first time. Call me a heretic, but I’d rather have an FM2n. #flamesuiton

    • I actually agree. It’s a bit too big and clunky.

    • Agreed. I have an F3 and an FM2 and much prefer the latter. The F3 is a nice camera but that LCD display is a joke and it’s a big lump of a thing. I’m still trying to decide whether to sell it and pick up an FE2 instead.

      • Is the LCD display similar to the one on the FA? I didn’t like that one, it was too small and hard to see. The FE2 is great, the metering display is harder to see in low light than the FM2 but that’s my only complaint about it.

        • I’m not sure. I’ve never used an FA but from the images I can see online it looks very similar. The other issue with the F3 apart from the size of the display is the size and location of the button than illuminates the display. It is tiny, so hard to push, and badly located. I prefer the simple LED readout in my FM2.

    • There is nothing wrong with a FM2 of course but be honest you can´t compare it in build and universality
      to a Nikon pro camera like the Nikon F3 !
      I own a Nikon FE (which I prefer over any FM by the way) myself too which I like to use if I want to travel light
      and dont need a motordrive.

  • Perhaps i’m in the minority, but i much prefer the Leica m6 to the Minolta CLE and I own and use both. I’m also a massive Minolta fan, but in my opinion the Leica m6 is so much better, build quality, finder, ergonomics. I don’t own a Canon AE-1, but I do own a Canon A-1 and I don’t like that either. I’m not sure where all the hype about them comes from?

    • You cant compare the Canon AE-1 to a Canon A1 seriously. The Canon A1 is build like a tank and offers (+costs) a lot more !
      For me the crappy Canons start with the T-Series altough a lot of people say the Canon T-90 is the best film camera Canon ever made.
      Still hate the plastic and the design……..

  • AE-1? Yeah, it sucks!

  • Great article chaps, agree and disagree though.

    Can’t find anything to argue about with the contentions over Olympus compacts, I have four and they all have built in failure points/features which will one day force me to throw them in the bin.

    I bought an AE1 for my daughter and she never uses it because it rattles and she keeps snapping the film at the end (twice), I have to unload it in a changing bag.

    As for Leicas’, I have had them all, I still have five of them, I have the x1 which is a brilliant little digital compact, a CL and a T (I can’t get rid of the T), which are the benchmarks for digital, both have access to digital zoom lenses… the wide and the normal range (kit) and they are sublime.

    I also have an M4 which has one lens permanently fixed to it, the Nikkor 50mm F2, which is a masterpiece and £200 (better than the f1.4 Nikkor too), forget f0.95, summi this and summi that.

    Finally I have a Leica iii, not just nostalgia, it is a truly pocketable masterpiece, I have only just bought it, it was very cheap, mind you it is 85 years old, it has a shabby Elmar, but I have also bought the 25mm Voigtlaender Snapshot, which will keep it pocketable but give me film landscape options to go with the digital x1 in the other pocket.

    So where I disagree is that you cannot argue with Leica when it comes to some of their manual bodies, they are sublime, they work like a knife in butter, even when they are 85 years old, they have heft and gravity. Incidentally, my M4 is 50 years old and utterly perfect. Neither of them are collectibles, they are both for using.

    A collector wouldn’t give either shelf space.

  • Best film camera ever is the FE…nuff said. (I own two FE’s, an FM2n, an F2 Photomic, and an F60, along with numerous digitals)

  • I absolutely love my M’s. That being said I hate everything about the Leica mystique. When your camera is more jewelry than a tool, sell it and get the hell out of photography once and for all please. The field is way too crowded, and your presence is just irritating. Even worse please don’t wear your Leica under a scarf (I can name some uber famous photojournalists guilty of this). Then there’s the people who hate cameras post M5 because they have electronics and batteries in them, yet they embrace wholeheartedly digital Leica Ms. Is there not a glaring inconsistency here? And then Leica (as much as I do love their cameras and the way they work) itself; Shame on them for promoting themselves as the holy grail of photojournalists yet they price themselves out of reach for 99.9% of photojournalists. The editorial field has collapsed, we’re all struggling for a penny. They’d be more honest to market themselves as the retired dentist’s camera company. I wish we could see what percentage of pictures taken by these current digital cameras with their beast sized prices were actually in focus. Something tells me the overwhelming majority of Leica users are dentists and lawyers who have money to spend and the lack of knowledge on even focusing a rangefinder properly. They’re pricing and marketing themselves into a cliché. I had a Leica salesman in NY the other day jokingly tell me he’d only give me his keys for my M2. This is the company vested in its own history and one of their monkeys speaks derisively of the M2? Leica’s becoming a joke. So be it.

  • Jacopo Abbruscato May 24, 2019 at 8:06 am

    I just despise point-and-shoots with a passion, so I’m totally on board with Jeb. But the other choices are solid as well, both tremendously overrated.

  • The AE-1 was Canon’s effort to expand the small SLR market by making a camera that was cheap and easy to use. Thereafter, every Japanese camera maker was forced to come up with a similar product to compete. The gorgeous and durable cameras of the late 60s and early 70s were long gone by the early 80s, largely replaced by crap such as this (and Nikon EMs, Olympus OM-10s, etc.).

  • no love here for any Leica’s and the Olympus Mju II is just too small for my fat fingers both are not worth the prices being paid for them.

  • Your unnecessary slander of Truck Nutz is disappointing.

  • Oh I may as well weigh in, rather late, since I only just read this in the first week of 2020. So if you’re reading this and its still 2017 or whatever, hey! we’ve just travelled through time! cool! But anyway: I had an AE-1 and the thing stopped working in the heat of a Greek island summer when the girls were so beautiful and, you know, I was a lot (a lot) younger…and I had a Leica, and it was okay, I mean, it was fine, but I didn’t want to take it out because it might get damaged and it was so expensive, so anyway I ended up selling it to pay for university tuition for a couple of semesters. And what else didn’t I like. Oh, the worst camera I have owned was, actually come to think of it it’s a tie between the tiny Rollei, 35 something, the one with the winder on the bottom of the camera and you have to guesstimate the focus?, and the other one was a Mamiya TLR that I could never ever get the hang of panning LEFT to go RIGHT, if you know what I mean. The Nikon F4 was a pig, I should have kept the F3, at least it LOOKED good.

  • I’m very late to this party. I have run a lot of cameras through my hands. The absolute worst camera is the Exacta Varex. The controls are mind-numbing for slow shutter speeds and self timer. The shutter cloth is made of swiss cheese. It is rare to find one that works. Even the rewind process is easy to screw up especially from lack of practice. One allure is the good selection of Zeiss and Myer Optik and Schneider lenses, but without a camera that works the lenses are useless. Another good quality is the interchangeable finders, including waist level. The camera looks awfully nice as a display piece, and this is its best use.

    • No reason not to keep the party going. I’ve not tried a Varex but I do have its downmarket sibling, the Exa IIb, in this room as I write. It’s the one my parents bought in 1965, presumably because it was what they could afford. That was, after all, the era of the Spotmatic, the Nikon F and numerous competent Canons and Minoltas, but those, I imagine, were beyond their budget.

      It’s awful. It sets itself modest targets and still misses by miles. No meter, OK, but the viewfinder offers no information of any kind, has no focus aid and is too dim to focus by eye – it’s effectively a zone-focus SLR. Top speed of 1/250, a film counter you have to set by hand and a shutter release on the wrong side of the camera. It’s not even a nice thing to look at. Some here would no doubt approve of it because it doesn’t need a battery. What it really needs is a very big hammer.

  • Love these posts. Takes me back to camera club in the 70’s where medium format was for serious hobbyists and I was just considered a snapshot amateur daring to bring along my 35mm SLR! As a kid I fell in love with cameras and photography. Uncles of mine had Rollei and Yashica TLRs, Yashica and Canon rangefinders; they developed their own films and so the bug bit. After my russian Zorki 4 (my first serious camera), and the earnings from a steady full time job, all the fashionable cameras I could now afford were a disappointment to me. I suppose, my preference for manual cameras coloured my judgment. My least favourite camera (that I’ve owned) being the Minolta Dynax 7000 – too many buttons, too many lights, too much automation. So plastic. So uninvolving. So precise! Fabulous technology when it came out but, I felt thoroughly unfulfilled and traded it after 6 months for an utterly compelling old-school Olympus OM-1 (faithful still to this day) I totally get what others say about how precious cameras have become especially “red dot” Leicas and the Contax T’s; they’re supposed to be tools not trinkets! When all is said and done, the worst cameras are those that get little else done than take “snaps” and my photography club would definitely not have approved of those!

  • I got my MjuII as a gift, and it was practically new in the box. It works great. Well, that roll of Cinestill 50 was a disaster. But, as another poster said, a roll of Fuji200C or even the Ilford XP2-400, and it’s terrific. It’s a great camera to stuff in a pocket. Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass to have to turn off the flash and set it to spot metering every time you open it up. But, so what. It’s got a fast 2.8 lens, and I think I have fooled the autofocus maybe twice.

    I love my FE and FM, though as much as I love the FM (it was my dad’s and I used it in high school photography), it’s +/- metering is lame. The needle in the FE is awesome, feels compact, and takes amazing pictures with my Nikkor 105mm f2.5. And, even though I absolutely love the results I get with my Pentax645, it has to be one of the dumbest systems ever created. LCD? Come on. Welcome to 1980. Awful.

  • Well, gents, I hope you had fun writing that. I admit that it was refreshingly different (too many camera/photo pundits keep on telling us everything they touch is marvellous), but I do wonder whether we need any more hate and rants – they tend to provoke others to do the same (Case in point: your replies).

    Anyway, you really struck a chord with the AE. Josh, spot on, man.

    If anyone today reads accounts about how camera pro’s in the 70’s/80’s were appalled at the increasing automation, they’ll never understand it until they pick up an AE-1. I’ve had an F-1 an A-1, A number of FTb’s even an AV-1 (which is just as crippled, except – it being aperture priority – in a better way), but the only way I will ever get an AE-1 is if it comes attached to a lens I really want.

    That thing is such an abortion, that I can really sympathise with all the old-timer pro’s rolling their eyes as they see photo boutiques selling AE-1’s by the truckload. At that stage even I would have thought the end must be nigh.


  • My first ever brand new camera was a Canon AE-1, back in about 1980. Marketing convinced me to ditch my “old”, “clunky” Nikkormat FT2 for this new wonderful elecrtonic marvel. That was the worst photographic decision ever.

    It was tempremental (just stopping working for a few seconds for no reason), required hard-to-obtain batteries to work, and as for the idiocy of sutter-priority… where to begin? Everything about it was just horrid.

    In over 40 years of camera ownership, the AE-1 is the only camera that I have actively *hated*. At the time, I did not have the money to just get rid of it and buy somehing better and had to live with it for a torrid couple of years. So bad a taste has it left, forty years on I will still not even consider buying a Canon camera.

    I eventually managed to save up and trade it in (at a big financial loss) for another Nikkormat, an FTn which was not as nice as my previous one, but all I could afford. I then jumped ship back to Olympus (having had an OM-1 in 1976) and have used an OM-1 ever since.

    My advice for people new to film photography is that if they are offered a Canon AE-1, ‘just say “no”‘ and walk away.

  • I will pick all actual gears made in China, especially the lens.
    I don’t buy things from a bully dictature which has pushed us to go nuclear, which does not respect any laws, any rules, which does not respect human rights, which creates problems to all his neighbors, which creates artificial islands on the sea which is not belong to her, which is the first country for pollution, and his the biggest liar on earth, and the most dangerous country for all. Before I had respect and friendship for them, since they new leader, it is over. I will never have all these artisan lens and all products from them.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

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