Back in the mid-seventies when I was first getting into photography most photographers would buy into one camera system and stick with it. For the most part lenses and accessories would only work within their camera system. So for most people it was too expensive or inconvenient to maintain more than one camera system. I early on bought into the Canon system and pretty much stuck with it even until now. In recent years however film camera prices have fallen so much that it is possible to experiment with cameras and lenses that wouldn't have gotten much consideration from me if I had to pay the original price. From the experience of trying out a lot of cameras I have found there were many cameras that would have met most of my needs. The three cameras here particularly surprised me because they were not from the big names like Canon, Nikon, Pentax, or Olympus. In fact I don't remember ever hearing about them when they were first sold. I think all three would be good cameras for someone wanting to get started in film again. They all are reliable durable cameras that can be purchased for very little. Like the more famous Pentax K1000 they have all the basics and don't need a battery for anything other than the meter.
I have used this camera fairly often for the last few years and still have a high opinion of it. It probably helps that the Sears Auto f/1.4 lens is one of the best that I have used. It appears that this camera was made by Ricoh and was rebranded by Sears. Unlike current day retail giants Sears did seem to value quality in what it sold. Although at the time being a store brand camera probably did cause some photographers not to take the Sears TLS seriously.
A couple of years ago you could find a Sears TLS with the f/1.4 lens for around $20 on Ebay. Now it appears that the same combination is going for between $40 to $60. Still a good bargain in my opinion since you are getting a solidly made camera with one of the best standard lenses made.
I wrote more about the Sear TLS a couple of years ago.
Here is a good forum post about the Sears TLS at Photo.net
I also made a gallery for the Sears TLS. The B&W images are from the f/1.4 and the color are with the Sears 28mm f/2.8. Sears TLS Gallery
Pretty much everything that I have said about the virtues of the Sears TLS can also be said about the Argus/Cosina STL 1000. I have encountered several of these in the past few years and have yet to see one that isn't still very usable. That is a rare experience for cameras of this age. Like with the Sears TLS the standard Cosinon f/1.8 lens is a big selling point for me with this camera. The Cosinon lens renders color with a subtle warmth that I enjoy. As a bonus the lens is one of my favorites to use with an adapter on digital cameras.
I just noticed that it was exactly one year ago that I wrote more about this camera. Argus/Cosina STL1000
The Mamiya/Sekor DSX 500 was one of the biggest surprises of the cameras I have tested in the past few years. One surprise was to find that the DSX 500 offers both spot and averaging metering. Another pleasant surprise was that it uses an SR44 battery. So having some versatility in metering powered by an easy to get battery is a big plus for me. Like the other two cameras the auto Mamiya/Sekor sx f/2 lens is very good. There is a DSX 1000 model which is pretty much the same as the DSX 500 with the exception of the top shutter speed of 1000 vs 500 for the DSX 500. On Ebay there isn't much difference in price between the two cameras.
I wrote more about this camera last summer. Mamiya/Sekor DSX 500
So if you are looking for a solid basic film SLR that doesn't cost much I don't think you would go wrong with any of these three cameras. And regardless of price all three can hold their own in the quality of images they are capable of making.
I would like to know of any other cameras that you have used that you feel are under-rated.