Diving into the world of film photography is incredibly exciting and overwhelming at the same time. And the first step to shooting film photography is choosing and buying a film camera. In this article, you’ll find a list of the best film cameras for every budget and skill level. Whether you are a novice or experienced photographer, you’ll find a camera on this list that you’ll be dying to shoot with.
Best cheap film camera
1. Canon AE-1
Let’s kick off our list of best film cameras with the best used and affordable 35mm cameras. One of the most widely circulated cameras and most well-known is the Canon AE-1. The classic camera was first introduced in 1976. It immediately became a hit with both consumers looking to make photography a hobby and professionals needing reliable cameras.
The build is rigid and sturdy despite having plastic parts making buying the used cameras cheaper. Its electronically controlled shutter makes shutter priority shooting easy for beginner photographers.
Best 35mm film camera
2. Pentax K1000
Many believe that the Pentax K1000 is one of the best cameras for beginner photographers because it is affordable and teaches you how to shoot completely on manual. Of course, this can be a dealbreaker for some looking for a more easy shooting camera.
Best 35mm camera for beginners
3. Olympus OM-1
Speaking of fully manual film cameras, let’s add the Olympus OM-1 to our list of best film cameras. As one of the most commonly used cameras of the 1970s, these cameras are so reliable that they are still commonly used today. The build is entirely mechanical making it more reliable over time.
Uniquely, the shutter speed is controlled with a ring around the lens while the wheel on top of the body sets the ISO. The Olympus OM-1 is compact and relatively lightweight making it a great film camera to bring anywhere.
Best 35mm film camera
The Nikon F2 was a bookend to Nikon’s production of all mechanical cameras. Like most fully mechanical cameras, the camera shoots only in manual mode. With a high shutter speed of 1/2000 and a detachable motordrive, the camera is a great buy for anyone looking to truly understand the tool of the craft.
Top film cameras
Sticking with Nikon cameras, let’s look at the Nikon FM2. The camera is called a workhorse by many because of its notoriously long life. It’s simple build of a mechanical shutter, lack of a battery, and high shutter speed of 1/4000 makes it a great camera for any scenario.
It’s reliability and ease of use has made it a popular camera among photojournalists, travelers, and professional photographers alike.
Best slr film camera
The Nikon F6 is the sixth generation in the Nikon F series. In many ways, the F6 is a bridge between classic 35mm SLR cameras and newer DSLR cameras. The design and interface will be familiar to many digital shooters. It allows photographers to utilize aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual modes.
Not to mention 11-point AF system as well as three built-in exposure meters. The Nikon F6 combines the complex functionality of a digital camera with the quality and characteristics of film photography.
All of this, of course, comes at a price.
Good film cameras
7. Canon A2/A2E
Made for the photographer who values a user-friendly design, the Canon A2 and A2E are versatile and built with quality. It’s most appealing function is an eye-controlled autofocus.
The A2 and A2E is the film grandfather to the Canon 5D series.
With specs such as a top shutter speed of 1/8000, decent built-in flash, and 16 adjustable custom features, the Canon is a solid film camera with digital-like functionality. A must-have for any avid photographer.
Best 35mm camera
Of course, not everyone who picks up a film camera wants to fuss around with manual mode and learn the ins and outs of the exposure triangle. Some photographers, especially beginners, just want to get out and shoot. For these shooters, I’d recommend the Minolta X-700.
The X-700 has automatic modes for both aperture and shutter speed allowing the camera to adjust based on the environment. When you do make the transition to manual mode, the camera can do that as well.
The best analog camera
One of the most retro film cameras on this list is undoubtedly the Canon Canonet QL17. Originally released in 1965, the QL17 is as compact as it is retro. The camera is able to operate at shutter speed priority and boasts an EE (Electric Eye) feature and viewfinder.
The QL in QL17 stands for “Quick Loading” referring to the camera’s ability to quickly load film in the back of the camera.
Best point and shoot film camera
10. Contax G1/G2
Made to compete with the next couple Leicas on our list, the Contax G1/G2 is a Japanese-made, electronic, high end range finder. The fully titanium-clad camera arguably has some of the best lenses to choose from.
The Zeiss lenses designed for the G1/G2 hold their ground against the best of Leica lenses. The Contax G2 is a revision of the G1 that improves upon the viewfinder and autofocus of the first edition. So why buy the G1 when the G2 is essentially a better version of the same camera?
The G1 is friendlier on the wallet.
Best film camera brands
11. Leica M-A
It would be outrageous to create a list of the best film cameras without mentioning one Leica, so we’ll cap off our list with two. Price aside, photographers cannot deny the brilliance of the Leica M-A. The sleek, yet functional design is minimalist in the best way possible.
With a focus on the fundamentals, the Leica M-A is manual in aperture, shutter speed, and focus. Despite it’s seductive design and build, it’s eye-popping price has made it a controversial piece of equipment. Some say it is grossly overpriced capitalizing on the nostalgic consumer, while others claim you get what you pay for.
Best film camera brands
12. Leica M6 TTL
Last, but not least, is the Leica M6 TTL. The rarity of the Leica M6 TTL is due to the fact that only 3,130 of them were produced. TTL stands for “Through the lens” light metering which makes for incredibly accurate shooting and beautiful film photographs.
The Leica M6 is arguably the most sought out camera by professional photographers who shoot film. They are undoubtedly one of the most durable cameras on this list which is also a reason it’s retained so much of its value over time. While not as outrageously expensive as the M-A, the M6 still boasts a hefty price tag that many argue is worth every penny.
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Different types of cameras
Now that we've reviewed the best analog cameras, you may still want to explore more options. In this next post, we'll differentiate the many different types of cameras out there — DLSR, mirrorless, medium format, 360 cameras, etc. We'll explain the pros and cons of each so that you can finally lock in a camera that fits your needs, your vision and your budget.