If you’ve been researching about film cameras, you probably know that it’s pretty hard to beat the Canon AE-1. It’s affordable, versatile and has many things to offer. However, if for some reason you don’t want the AE-1, i have some other great recommendations you can take a look at.
Photography is one of the most engaging and rewarding hobbies you can ever take. It is just a super wide and large world out there. What you can do with just a camera and a lens. The moments you will capture will not be lost. When I first started photography I didn’t expect a lot, I was even skeptical if it would be anything interesting. A decade later I am still going strong and its the passion of my life. I can’t leave it and I am not alone with those feelings, there are a lot of people out there that are hooked. I can also say that it is one tight community and super supportive.
While digital photography is fun, for those that want a more analog experience, I would recommend film photography. Hear me out it is extremely fun to practice film photography, it has a thing that digital photography lacks entirely. The photographs come out excellent in the right conditions, and to know that you have limited shots makes you think more about the shot in question. You start thinking about it more, composing it properly until you get the photograph that you want. It is way more rewarding than digital photography and a little more difficult.
On top of all that it is harder to find a good camera for beginners in this category. That is also the biggest reason why many people don’t start film photography. However, there are a lot of film cameras out there that can deliver some excellent qualities for beginners in all the formats you may want, 35mm, medium, and even large format. So today we are going to take a look at the guide to getting the best film cameras for beginners. We are going to check out the best options in the market, which makes them excellent options for beginners, things you should know before buying a film camera and so much more. Now without further ado, let’s take a closer look.
Best For Intermediates
|Canon AE-1 35mm|
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Easiest To Use
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Best For Beginners
|Olympus OM-1 35mm|
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Best 35mm SLR
|Nikon FM 2|
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Best For Close-Ups
|Lomography Diana F+|
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The Top 5 Best Film Cameras For Beginners
5. Lomography Diana F+
We are going to kick off this best film cameras for beginners list with a compact point-and-shoot film camera, the Lomography Diana F+. This camera is a great toy and it will deliver some excellent photographs without much hassle.
This camera is also the only compact model that has interchangeable lenses, but in the most basic package, it comes with a 75mm f/11 lens that is the equivalent of the 38mm in the full-frame format. It is a medium format camera and it delivers some beautiful lo-fi results that are mostly unpredictable but extremely beautiful.
4. Nikon FM 2
Next up we have the Nikon FM 2, which is a single-lens reflex camera with the 35mm film format. It is a fully manual machine with no automatic or semi-automatic exposure modes. It has an excellent F mount and can use all the lenses in its lineup.
It has manual focus and uses some interesting through-the-lens light meter to deliver excellent exposure. the controls are enough to give you creative freedom, but not as much as to make you confused about how this camera works. Definitely one of my favorites.
3. Olympus OM-1
Moving on we have an excellent 35mm single-lens reflex camera, the Olympus OM-1. This camera has every feature you may want on a film camera. The shutter speed has a pretty useful bulb setting that spans from one second to 1/1000 which is perfect overall.
For what it offers the Olympus OM-1 is pretty small overall. On the top plate, you will see the shutter release, ISO dial, film advance lever, wind lever, and the on-off switch. On the lens, you will spot the focus ring and the aperture setting ring that makes things pretty much perfect overall.
2. Pentax K1000
The runner up on this list is a camera that is very deserving of the top spot, the Pentax K1000. The only reason, because this is in the second spot, is that the other model is more available.
The Pentax K1000 is a mechanical, manual 35mm single-lens reflex camera that has done wonders. It is one of the cameras that has been used for a long time from beginners to the most nitpicky professionals. It is a pretty simple camera that does its job perfectly without any compromise.
1. Canon AE-1
On top of the list, we have the Canon AE-1 which is one of the most popular cameras of all time. It is popular even today and it is one of the most essential pieces in the history of photography. If it wasn’t for this, we wouldn’t see other models.
The Canon AE-1 is pretty easy to use as it is a 35mm manual mechanical SLR camera that captures some beautiful photographs. It has just the right amount of controls and everything works so well. WIthout forgetting I should mention that the Canon AE-1 is also one of the most reliable cameras ever made. Definitely our top pick for this best film cameras for beginners list.
How to Choose the Best Film Camera for Beginners
You should first off know that some different qualities and features come with different film cameras. Meaning that not all of them are created the same and you need to know what you are shopping for.
The first thing you need to check and know about film cameras is that there are generally three different types of film cameras out there, SLRs, compacts, and rangefinders. What you will pick will depend on a lot of things, including the qualities you want, aesthetic preferences, budget, style, and much more. Let’s check them out one by one so you can determine which one is for you.
This is the most popular type of film camera and actually, when you say analog cameras, most people think of this kind of camera. They have some excellent features and qualities, such as the interchangeable lens mount in the front, a viewfinder that helps you compose the shot better, and lets you see exactly what the lens sees. It does this with the help of a reflex mirror, and that is actually where it gets the Single Lens Reflex name, shortly SLR.
There are some great advantages to these cameras. One of the most important ones is that SLRs are super durable and they also resemble closely to modern DSLRs, which operate in the same manner as these just with digital components. If you used a DSLR the experience is super similar and you will find your way instantly. There are manual controls on these cameras that help you learn about photography properly and compose the shot excellently. On top of that with the interchangeable lens body, you will get yourself into different scenarios comfortably.
One of my favorite things about film cameras, such as Nikon or Pentax, is that they are compatible with even the most contemporary lenses, due to the brand valuing loyalty of their long time users. The lens range is also extremely extensive and you can make use of different adapters to work with different lenses, it is the best thing about SLRs, they are super versatile and can be used in different scenarios.
There are some disadvantages though, such as the large body which can be quite heavy in some older models. You know what I am talking about if you have had an experience with DSLRs. On top of that, some older models don’t offer you any help in terms of exposure, so you will have to learn aperture and shutter speed perfectly.
Compact Film Cameras
This is one of the market segments that has risen significantly in popularity. These cameras look pretty simple like black bars of soap and are termed as point-and-shoots in the last few years. They are pretty simple to operate and don’t have a lot of controls for you to play around with.
These are some excellent cameras for photographers that can’t be bothered about learning a lot about things like exposure and different photography concepts. If you belong to that you need to check these cameras. They are also significantly smaller than other types of film cameras out there and use dirt cheap batteries that you might find everywhere.
However, some disadvantages come with these cameras. You should know that these are generally designed and build for the general masses, not for a professional or enthusiast crowd, and for the very same reason, they don’t offer the best image and build quality. Like I said the amount of controls in these cameras is pretty limited, so if you want to achieve better shots and compose your photograph properly this is a disadvantage. The lenses can’t be changed as well, so you are stuck with the same field of view, and they work with built-in flashes to get the proper amount of light for your photograph, which is more than annoying.
Next up we have the range finders which are pretty much in the middle of SLRs and compacts. With these cameras, you will compose your shots and focus by utilizing the viewfinder which doesn’t let you see through the lens like in an SLR camera. The lens through works in harmony with the viewfinder so you will know when something is in focus, which is pretty neat. To be honest, photographing with rangefinder cameras is pretty interesting and unlike nothing you have experienced so far, which may be a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it.
Rangefinder cameras have some interesting pros to them. For example, they mostly have interchangeable lenses, but then again you will find models that have fixed lenses and are tuned specifically for the camera. They are much smaller than SLRs though and offer much more in terms of controls compared to compact film cameras. I can also say that these cameras are very aesthetically pleasing overall, and are sure to turn some heads.
The biggest disadvantage with Rangefinder cameras is their focusing process, which is a bit difficult to learn and nearly impossible to master. The better ones that offer better autofocus are very expensive and the older models don’t even have a built-in light meter. So you will need to invest in an external one or use a digital camera for benchmarking, which is pretty annoying.
Other things to consider
After you choose the type of camera you want to buy, there are several other things you need to check out. As you might already guess there are not a lot of new film cameras and even the trusted sellers offer them as used models. If you are buying old there are some things you should consider and check out.
The first thing you need to check out is the shutter speeds. Especially the lower shutter speeds which tend to clog up earlier than faster speeds. So before you buy a camera make sure to check the slow shutter speeds if possible and work your way up. I usually test 1 second shutter speed and benchmark it with my phone to see if it is working properly if the lower ones work the faster ones will do just as fine.
The other thing you need to do is checking the light seals. As you might have expected the only light that needs to come when taking photographs is the one coming through the lens. A leakage in light could effectively destroy your images. So watch out for those and see if all the doors close properly and there is a seal. If not it maybe can be fixed but be sure not to pay the full amount for these problems.
Most sellers, try to push lenses with film cameras, which is pretty neat and beneficial. But you need to check out the lens properly as well, regardless if it is a swappable or a fixed model. One of the biggest problems is fungus and haze, so check out for them. These are problems that can be fixed however, it will require you to take the lens apart and without good knowledge, it can be hard.
Film photography might be a confusing world, and some don’t see the point of doing it in modern times with the ease of digital cameras. However, it has its own magic, it is one of my favorite pastimes. It doesn’t matter how much I shoot with digital cameras in my daily life, I will always try to make some time for film photography. Even if you are an absolute beginner you will have plenty of fun with film photography. I hope this guide helped you pick the best film cameras for beginners. Good luck.
Photographer & Writer
I specialize in landscape, street and portrait photography and I have been featured in various galleries and publications. I believe that photography is a way to tell stories!