Im just dabbling in stop motion now,but im really enjoying it. I recently bought a web cam and it does me just fine for now,but it seems hard to get the lighting right,so I thought with a nicer camera with a bigger lens it would make a big difference between the two cameras.

Im thinking of buying a nice used camera to use with stop motion "mainly" but I'll also use it with the family too. So if you could recommend me a camera model so I can keep a eye on one locally and on Ebay. So im looking for a camera that will use it all things needed for stop motion,ac power,remotes using additional lenses easy to find parts etc. I would like to stay around $500,Is this possible for a good used camera?

Also I read that these cameras need to be professionally clean,whats is the usual price for something like this? I know very little about cameras so please recommend something that isnt too obsolete and wont be a big deal to find a lot of accessories for.

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You just described the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50. 

Well, except that it doesn't accept multiple lenses - at your price range I don't think you'll be able to get a DSLR or a mirrorless EVIL camera (electronic viewfinder, interchangeable lenses) and also be able to afford a lens for it. 

But the FZ50 is a favorite of many people around here (including yours truly, who introduced it to the forum many years ago).  (a moment while I bask in my own glory.. )

The problem with a webcam lens isn't just how small it is - they're usually made very cheaply of plastic rather than glass, and just aren't precision ground with good optical coatings like a decent camera lens will be. 

The FZ50 has what's called a fixed zoom lens - yes, it's only one lens, but it's an amazing one - a huge Carl Zeiss superzoom that's literally the envy of many more expensive cameras (I know, I checked). 

If you want one of these cameras, you'll have to get it used - they've been out of production for several years now. I bought mine used, and so have several other members of the board. This camera has one very cool factor going for it - it's actually not very good in low-light handheld situations (the way many people will be trying to use it), but as long as you have it on a tripod it's excellent. So a lot of people who own them are looking to sell them and get something that's better for handheld photography. Good news for us. 

Here's a search page on eBay:

Check to make sure the seller has a good rating, and also email them and ask why they're selling (if they didn't state that already in the description). Often it's because of the poor handheld performance, or some minor cosmetic issue (mine had a little scratch on it that I wouldn't have even noticed if the seller didn't tell me about it). Ebay sellers don't last if they're not honest, so anyone with a good rating will be glad to tell you anything that's wrong with the camera. 

This camera is very nearly as good as a DSLR, but it doesn't suffer from the overheating issue that plagues all DSLR's with live view - the view chip heats up and then the camera needs to be shut off to let it cool for a while - sucks if it happens in the middle of an animation session. Also, it costs like 1/10th what a decent DSLR does. 

Then just google Panasonic FZ50 _____________ (remote shutter, AC power adapter). They're still readily available, since they tend to make these accessories to work on multiple camera models. So even though the FZ-50 is out of production the accessories are still being manufactured and sold. You can find them on Amazon, eBay, many camera shops. 

One more accessory you'll also need - an analog/digital converter. That's because the live view signal is analog, meant to go into a TV or VCR. So you need an adapter to turn it into a digital signal and feed it through a USB cable into the computer where your framegrabber of choice can use it. These are readily available and nice and cheap - they're used mainly for digitizing old VHS tapes and turning them into digital files or DVDs. Here's one model on Amazon:

That's the one that seems to get the best ratings on Amazon, but it's also one of the more expensive ones. Look at the related items - there are many other models selling a lot cheaper. Just be sure to check the user comments under one before buying it - usually people rate these things poorly because they can't get the included software to work (for burning to a DVD) - you don't need to even import the software though, since you're just using it to get the live view signal into your computer. Oh, check also to make sure you're getting a model that works with your type of computer (PC or Mac). Some work on both, some only on one. I suspect actually all of them will work on either platform - it's probably only the included software that's platform-specific (but don't quote me on that). 

One other plus to getting this camera - you got me here to help you through any problems with it. I'm pretty knowledgeable about it since I own one and have talked several people through setting theirs up. And since I brought this camera here I feel responsible for it - I like to make sure everybody who gets one has a good experience with it. 

One question - where are you located? One person in the UK did get an FZ-50 that turned out to be some kind of early production model only sold there as far as we could ascertain, that does not provide a live view feed. Apparently some of the first ones sold in the UK (and possibly some parts of Europe?) just don't have that option, which makes them pretty useless. But if you're in the US you won't have a problem (as long as you're buying from a US seller). Though I suppose if you're in the UK or Europe you could still buy from the US and be assured of getting a fully working version. 

Ok - guess that about covers it. 

Oh, and I really don't know what you mean about cameras needing to be professionally cleaned? I've never heard of that before. Did a professional camera cleaner tell you that by any chance? 

That might be true for an interchangeable-lens camera with dirt on the sensor - somebody buying a used one would do well to make sure the sensor isn't all messed up (like if the previous user changed lenses a lot or left the lens off for a long time or something). But unless it has interchangeable lenses then that won't be a problem at all.

All my film cameras were used - Bolexe 16mm, Mitchell 35mm, Olympus OM still cameras, and 20 or 40 years old.  My Nikon lenses for the DSLR are used too.  But I have bought new DSLRs because only the new models did what I needed at the time.   Now, there are some older models with Live View, and even HD video isn't restricted to the latest cameras any more, so there may be some choices among the slightly superceded models, where some people have to always trade up to the latest thing.

The FX50 is one good option for a low cost animation camera that can give professional results.  

I suspect you can get a pretty good used DSLR too, because they change models so fast, and add new features.  

I would want Live View for a stop motion camera - older DSLRs without it require a separate video camera to use with the framegrabber.  It can be done,  as I did with my Nikon D70 and D50, but it's not worth the hassle when so many models have Live View now.

I suspect mid-range DSLR cameras like my Canon 40d (with live view) might go cheap by now, because they can't shoot live video and so many models can now.  It's excellent for stop motion, provided you get an adapter and manual lenses made by Nikon, Pentax, Olympus OM - but NOT Canon who don't put a manual aperture ring on their EOS lenses.  Trouble is, factoring in a couple of lenses, and an AC power adapter, will put the total cost up.

A DSLR like mine CAN need professional cleaning - mine does, there seems to be some dust o the sensor that I can't blow off.  That's the drawback with keeping cameras and changing lenses in the same place I use saws and sanders to build sets I guess.

So that panasonic camera would be ready to use only needing a $30.00 converter to hook it up to my pc? "not including remote and power input"

The dslr cameras even if I did get one with live view I would need to buy a Manual lens? Whats a decent manual lens cost?

Any of you guys have vids made with these camera so I can see what they look like?

Yea I read or seen a vid talking about cleaning the inside if you get dust in them,they say some are rather complex and only should be done by a professional. Im not sure if they meant to get it apart to get to the dirty mirror or just cleaning it itself might be a certain procedure /tools etc. But I dont think I would mess with it myself,I was just concerned buying used,you cant really tell where its been used or how its been taken care of or stored until get it and I was just trying to figure out the cost of cleaning from a shop into my price just to be on the safe side.

Here's something I shot with it - a bunch of clips compiled together:

(Make sure you're watching it in 1080p HD - click on the YouTube icon to go through to YT and then watch fullscreen). Isomer (Ron Cole) is also using an FZ-50 for his animation on Sinbad the 5th Voyage. 

Yeah, with the power converter, wired remote, and A/D converter you're ready to roll - of course you need a good memory card, but usually when somebody sells a used camera there'll be one with it. If not then you'll want one with good capacity - you can get by with a 2 gig card if you're shooting fine jpegs, but if you want to shoot RAW for best possible picture quality then you'll want something bigger - like 4 or 8 gigs. You want to get an SDHC card. They recommend using Panasonic cards with Panasonic cameras, they say some other brands might give you trouble. I've used several different brands though in mine and haven't had a lick of trouble with any of them. It doesn't really matter what class of card you get - they're rated in 4 classes for speed, class 6 and 10 being the fastest, but that's for if you're recording HD video to the card. Since we're just shooting stills that kind of speed isn't necessary (and is pretty expensive!). 

Ok, I can see where professional cleaning would be necessary for a dirty sensor or mirror. 

On getting used manual lenses - the price depends. I've got one for $50, and paid as much as a couple hundred. It depends on the value of the lens and if somebody happens to be selling one when you're looking. Some lenses like the basic 50mm Nikkors were made very inexpensively but happen to be great lenses and were also sold as kit lenses I believe with older film cameras (not sure about that? - but anyway they were very common and everybody and their uncle seems to have them laying around). 

But that's a fairly long lens for tabletop stopmo - you'll also want at the very least one good wide angle lens like a 25 or 28 mm. I'm not sure what kind of price on those - it depends on what manufacturer and who happens to be selling when you're in the market, the condition of the lens etc. - some people just have old lenses they want to get rid of, some people want to get every dollar they can for a lens. And now with the massive popularity of the micro four thirds format cameras (which can use lenses from just about any kind of camera) lenses that used to go dirt cheap have skyrocketed in price over the last few years. 

If you are interested in trying to find a DSLR for under $500 - I'd look at Canons. They're the top choice for stopmption - largely because they can take lenses form Nikon and Olympus (as well as a few other brands). Nikon camerashave one issue - the live view chips tend to overheat faster than the Canon chips do. Apparently Nikons have a better menu system than Canon does though - easier and more intuitive. But you want a Canon because Canon lenses aren't any good for doing stopmo. 

Stay with me here - this is a bit complicated. You need to use a lens adapter, which isolates the camera's electronic brain from being able to operate the lens (to auto-focus and auto-expose - things you don't want it doing). So you don't use the same type of lens as your camera - you get a different brand. And since Canon lenses don't have manual iris rings on them you can't adjust the exposure level on them - ergo they're no good for stopmo. That means if you get a Nikon camera you can't use Canon lenses (no iris ring) - leaving mostly just OLympus lenses to choose from (not sure what other types are compatible?). But if you get a Nikon camera then you can choose from the range of Olympus and Nikon (Nikkor) lenses. 

I don't know a lot about DSLRs. The names tend to be strings of numbers and letters that all sound almost the same to me - D40, 40D etc. I do know there are a couple of good Canon DSLRs at a decent price range that you might be able to pick up used for under $500 - I think one is called the 550D? There's also a T2i and a T3i - the 3 is probably way out of your range but the older 2 might have dropped considerably when its big brother came out. 

D'oh! Ok, the T2i and the 550D are the same camera! I think it has different names in different countries. I just checked eBay and most used ones are going with a buy it now price of a little over $500 - there's one for 399 (body only) that has a small crack in the body (cosmetic damage only, doesn't affect operation). Normally I'd recommend that one, but if you're going to be using it for taking regular pictures too then you'll want a kit lens (don't want to have to fiddle with manual lenses for regular photography). 

Wow - I had completely missed Nick's response above!! Ok, so Canons can also use Pentax lenses - good to know. Probably a few others too - I ought to look into this a bit. I've managed to pick up some DSLR knowledge along the way - might as well add a bit more to it so I'm conversant. 


Ok, looking at Canon EOS adapters on Amazon it looks like that's about it. The only other type of adapter I saw was for something called an M42 mount lens, which turns out to be a different name for Pentax mount lenses. According to an article I just looked at, the lenses are plentiful, excellent quality and pretty inexpensive, but I suspect the article was written before the big glut on micro four thirds cameras pushed lens prices up. 

Adding some info here for posterity:

You have to be careful - make sure if you're looking at Pentax lenses on eBay to include m42 in the search terms (or just use m42, no Pentax). Apparently Pentax also makes C-mount lenses. But once I got my search parameters adjusted properly the right kind of lenses started coming up - the 25mm ones are pretty expensive from what I saw - starting at around $210.  One of them ( the only one that's significantly cheaper than that) was some kind of crazy Japanese lens. It says automatic, but it looks like it has a manual iris ring, so I guess it would work.


Wow, things change drastically as soon as you step up to the 28mm range!! Lenses galore, at like $19 - some for less! 

Nice bit of info: 

The full framers have a much larger mirror, so with many lenses it will slam into the back of the lens (you don't want that to happen). Some lenses can have levers and other parts removed from their mount end to avoid that problem.

I haven't heard about anyone having this problem when mounting an old film lens onto a Rebel. I certainly haven't had any trouble mounting lenses ranging from 35mm to 400mm. There were lenses that required the mirror to be locked up even on a film camera, though, particularly ultra-wides like this one:

From here

That would be the way to do it if you are considering a Canon EOS body - see what adapters there are, then loo for that kind of lens.

Usually, fitting an adapter would move the lens out further and alter the focus, so you'd be able to focus a little closer but be unable to focus on infinity.  But Canon mount their lenses closer to the film plane/sensor than other makes, so the adapter's thickness actually puts the Nikon or Olympus lens where it was designed to be.   I'm not sure how it works with putting an Olympus OM lens on a Nikon body, it might not work so well.  

I mostly use a Nikon 28mm for wide shots and a Nikon 55mm macro (called "micro" by Nikon), it means it can focus really close.   On a Nikon body, I just fit a Nikon lens, and partly unscrew it so it stays stopped down like a cine lens, instead of opening up between shots like still camera lenses do.

Ah ok, you can do it that way too. I tend to forget about that - it makes me a little nervous to think about a partially unscrewed lens I guess. Though since you're not walking around outside with it or anything you should be fine. 

I was just reading up on using the M42 lenses on a Canon EOS body - it does allow for infinity focus. Apparenly only the Nikon AI/AIS, the Olympus OM, and the Pentax/M42 lenses will work properly due to the rear focal distance (distance from back of lens to the sensor plane). There are some issues with ultra-wide lenses on a full-frame Canon body because the mirror can hit them and break - but you don't have that problem with the smaller APS-C bodies like the Rebels (the 550D/T2i is a Rebel camera). 

Another good research point - it's a good idea to spend some time doing searches like this:

  • Olympus OM lens on Canon
  • M42 lens on Canon
  • Nikon lens on Canon

Scan over the names of the articles that come up and read some that sound proimising - it's a good way to learn about any issues or concerns you want to keep in mind when selecting lenses. 

Setting up a DSLR system is complicated - a far cry from getting a camera with a zoom lens already attached, and not recommended for the casual user - there's a pretty steep learning curve involved and it will take a good deal of time and research. You need to learn how to work with focal lengths, f-stops and depth of field (and most of that learning doesn't happen until after you've got the camera and lenses in hand). With a simpler camera you can either get into all this technical stuff if you want to or just say screw it and not worry about it - much easier to just focus where you want and set your iris to let in the amount of light that looks good and just start shooting. I suppose you could do that with a DSLR too, but then what's the point of getting a DSLR? It would be like getting a Cray Supercomputer and then using it only to play video games! 

Trying to post a lot of info in this thread relating to DSLRs and legacy lenses so I can add this to my ever-growing Link List and this can become a good resource. 

Good general info on various camera body systems and how they combine with lenses from different manufacturers:

Both M42 and your OM lenses can be adapted to mount, meter and focus to infinity with Canon. M42 to Nikon will require an optic element in it to focus to infinity. Some claim that this element degrades the IQ and that it is noticeable. I have never come across an OM to Nikon adapter, nor a Pentax K - Nikon. So the Canon system may be better.


From here. Also, from the same thread:

I use Pentax and can vouch for it's compatibility with old manual focus lenses.


I know nothing about Pentax cameras, and the thought of beginning another learning curve makes me groan, but it's something to keep in mind for the future. 

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