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The 7 Best Cameras That Will Get You Back Into Film

The 7 Best Cameras That Will Get You Back Into Film

News Flash: Film is making a comeback, and in a very big way. You watched it happen with vinyl, and now you’re slowly watching it happen with film. But is it really that shocking? Just as people learned that analog sounds better with music, it also often looks better with photography.

Your interest is piqued and you want to see what all the fuss is about, but you have no clue what you’re doing. You don’t know an SLR from a rangefinder, or 35mm from medium format.

Worry not, friend, here are 7 of the best film cameras of all time to get you started in film.

What Is a Good Film Camera For a Beginner?

If you’re used to shooting with a digital camera (or even just your phone), then there are a few key aspects that you need to know to find the best beginner film camera. The key is simplicity. After all, there’s no screen on the back of the camera where you can check how the photo went, adjust the settings, and retake the picture. With film, you only have so many tries before you need to invest in more film and development.

A good film camera for a beginner has the ability to automate certain core settings like aperture and shutter speed. That allows you to focus on learning one aspect at a time without having to jump into the deep end with full manual mode. Cameras with solid built-in metering (meaning how the camera interprets and adjusts to the light and other conditions for the right exposure) are most useful for beginners. Yet for people who want to learn the true ins and outs of film photography, cameras that are completely manual (or can be switched to a completely manual mode) allow for complete control.

When it comes to ease of use, 35mm film cameras are the gold standard.

What Film Do I Need For a 35mm Camera?

The number refers to the camera sensor size, and 35mm is the most affordable, accessible, and easy to use. Disposable cameras and point-and-shoot cameras are almost always 35mm. Medium format film and film cameras have a bigger frame (and also have fewer shots in a roll to account for the larger size) and therefore need a different film size. While you can get larger and sharper images with more detail with a medium format film camera, the best option for beginners is to master 35mm first.

As you can probably guess, a 35mm camera requires 35mm film. There’s a wide range of companies making film with various formats and styles.

The first thing to look for when buying film regardless of what brand you go with is the ISO. The ISO refers to how sensitive to light the film is. Unlike with a digital camera, you can’t adjust the ISO on the fly. Common ISO numbers for film are 200, 400, and 800. The latter two are preferred for anything done indoor or in lower light (but will result in a more grainy image), but if you’re shooting in bright conditions then 200 will do the trick. Opt for 400 if you’re looking for something that’s adaptable in multiple different situations. Note that, depending on the camera, you may need to set your camera to the ISO of the film that you put in.

The 7 Best Film Cameras for Beginners

Canon AE-1

One of the most well-known and widely circulated 35mm SLR cameras ever made, the Canon AE-1 has one of the most important seats at the table. Manufactured from 1976 to 1984, this camera helped bridge the gap between hardcore photo professionals and hobbyists. These rigs are sturdy and reliable, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg to get your hands on. Plus, Canon’s FD lenses are incredible and famous in their own right, and can generally be had on the cheap. Its younger brother, the Canon AE-1 Program, whose notable advancements include a fully automatic mode and shutter priority, is also a great option for people looking to get into analog photography.


  • Film format: 35mm
  • Weight: 17 ounces
  • Dimensions: 4 x 4 x 2 inches
  • Minimum/maximum shutter speed: 1/1000 of a second / 2 seconds
  • Controls: Manual, fully automatic, shutter priority

Buy Now $238

Pentax K1000

The Pentax K1000 is often referred to as a photography tank, and for good reason. The camera’s all-metal body gives it some healthy weight, and the simplicity of its functions — fully manual settings, no fancy extras or unnecessary buttons or levers — make it a dream to work with, so long as you know what you’re doing. If you don’t, this probably isn’t going to be your huckleberry. They’re relatively cheap to come by, and like the Canon’s, you can find lenses for them everywhere.


  • Film format: 35mm
  • Weight: 1.65 pounds
  • Dimensions: 6 x 2 x 4 inches
  • Minimum/maximum shutter speed: 1/1000 of a second / 1 second
  • Controls: Manual

Buy Now $242

Leica M6

Leica cameras are the crème de la crème of the photography world, and have been since Ernst Leitz first released the Leica 1 more than 100 years ago. That moniker still rings true today with the incredible digital Monochrom and legendary M-P series cameras. The M6, however, is special. And when it comes to film, it is one of the most highly sought cameras of all time. The M6 came in two distinctive models, the M6 and the M6 TTL. They both come with TTL metering, which makes them a breeze to pick up and use, even for photography novices. Though the M6 is probably the spendiest rig on this list, we’d happily argue that it’s worth every penny. These old Leicas are bulletproof, and there’s a reason why 30-year-old used ones still regularly sell for over a g-note on eBay or your local Craigslist.


  • Film format: 35mm
  • Weight: 1.25 pounds
  • Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.57 x 3 inches
  • Minimum/maximum shutter speed: 1/1000 of a second / 1 second
  • Controls: Manual
Buy Now $3,475

Olympus OM-1

Looking for incredible quality and compactness, but not exactly ready to hop into Leica Land just yet? The OM-1’s are often considered the poor man’s Leica because of the incredible quality and lightweight, compact bodies. In fact, they were first named the M-1, but because Leica’s signature camera series was also called the M series, Olympus was forced to change the M-1 to OM-1. Another inexpensive pick up, these cameras are almost literally dime-a-dozen rigs, with plenty of Olympus’ quality OM glass running around for extremely cheap. If you’re on a budget, this is the camera you should look for.


  • Film format: 35mm
  • Weight: 1.55 pounds
  • Dimensions: 5 x 6 x 4 inches
  • Minimum/maximum shutter speed: 1/1000 of a second / 1 second
  • Controls: Manual
Buy Now $227

Canonet G III QL17

This camera isn’t some kind of photography powerhouse. It can’t use a million lenses (in fact, it has a fixed lens). It won’t be the only horse in your photographic stable. But it is the best-selling rangefinder camera with a built-in light meter of all time — and it didn’t get there by sheer luck. From 1972 to 1982, Canon sold over 1.2 million of these little guys. The Canonet QL17’s come with incredibly sharp f/1.7 40mm lenses, and are frequently likened to their much more expensive Leica counterparts. In fact, when it was first released in 1972, it was marketed as a direct competitor to the more extravagant and far more spendy Leicas. The Canonets are incredibly good everyday carry shooters because they’re lightweight, super compact, solidly built with all metal shells, and really just look cool and take great photos. If you’re looking to delve into the world of street photography, a Canonet is probably going to be your best friend. Quick note: The Canonet QL17’s come with built-in light meters, but they’re never accurate. So either download a light meter app for your smartphone, get an external one, or start reading up on the Sunny 16 Rule, because you’re gonna need it.


  • Film format: 35mm
  • Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Dimensions: 4.72 x 3 x 2.4 inches
  • Minimum/maximum shutter speed: 1/500 of a second / 1/4 of a second
  • Controls: Manual, shutter priority
Buy Now $248

Minolta X-700

To put together a “best film cameras” list and not include at least one Minolta rig is almost criminal. The X-700 was Minolta’s best consumer market manual focus camera ever. Period. The X-700 has one of the best and brightest viewfinders in the business, which makes it great to shoot with. It also includes fully automatic and manual modes, which means everyone from complete novices to expert photogs will appreciate it. The only drawback of this camera is its lens selection. If you’re just getting started in photography and don’t already have Minolta’s MD or MC mount lenses, then you’d be better off picking up one of the other cameras on this list. But if you do have those lenses or can come into some of them for cheap, you’ll have yourself a very solid, very reliable shooter.


  • Film format: 35mm
  • Weight: 1 pound
  • Dimensions: 7 x 4 x 4 inches
  • Minimum/maximum shutter speed: 1/1000 of a second / 4 seconds
  • Controls: Manual, fully automatic

Buy Now $229

Nikon FM2

The final seat at the table fittingly belongs to the Nikon FM2. The FM2 is one of the biggest top-seat contenders on this list, if for no other reason than it is an absolute workhorse. Its incredible shutter speed versatility (as fast as 1/4000th of a second), accurate metering, and mechanical shutter (which means it doesn’t need a battery for anything other than its light meter) mean that it is basically the ideal camera. The Nikon FM2 will take any of Nikon’s massive selection of F-mount lenses made after 1977 (AF-S Nikkor, AF Nikkor D, AF Nikkor, Nikkor AI-S, Nikkor AI, Nikon Series E, etc.), which means the possibilities are damn near endless. The FM2 couldn’t be a more straightforward, clean-cut camera, and lacks a lot of the fat added on by other camera brands in the 1980s in order to appeal to the masses. It was used by photojournalists and professional photographers all over the world because of its reliability and no-nonsense ease of use.


  • Film format: 35mm
  • Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Dimensions: 5.6 x 3.5 x 2.4 inches
  • Minimum/maximum shutter speed: 1/4000 of a second / 1 second
  • Controls: Manual
Buy Now $336
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