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The Best Film Cameras for Old-School Photography

If you are familiar with the growing trends in photography, you’re well aware by now that film cameras are all the rage. If you want to take your photography to the next level this summer, you need the best film cameras to capture the coolest old school photography.

Product FAQ

1. What Is a Film Camera?

Nowadays, we are used to snapping a photo and immediately being able to see the image on a screen. Before digital cameras and cell phones made this so easy, cameras used film to create lasting images.

2. Why Are Film Cameras Popular?

Film cameras fell out of style with the influx of digital options. As technology changed, people who weren’t especially interested in photography stopped buying digital cameras because their phones could take better photos! Now, more and more photographers are going back to film as a way to capture photos in a different way.

3. Where Can You Get the Best Film Cameras?

You can get film cameras at any arts or photography store, or you can make things easy and order one on Amazon or Ebay.

How We Reviewed

When it comes to finding the best film camera for you and your photography, there are plenty of great options out there. To help you make an informed decision, we’ve gathered some of the most highly rated options available and will compare them based on key characteristics.

Overall Price Range

Depending on the brand, quality, and features that you’re looking for in a camera you can expect to spend on the best film camera for you.

What We Reviewed

  • Olympus Pen
  • Olympus OM-1
  • Nikon F
  • Leica M6
  • Canon AE-1 35mm FILM SLR Camera
  • Canonet G III QL17
  • Pentax K1000

Olympus Pen

Features

Beginning in 1959, Olympus produced a series of half-frame cameras called the Olympus Pen. Other than the Pen F model, the cameras are fixed-lens viewfinder SLR cameras. The original Pen is a very compact half-frame camera featuring just a viewfinder, no meter, and fully manual settings. It has a 28mm f/3.5 Zuiko lens. It has shutter settings of 25, 50, 100, and has an aperture range from 3.5 to 22. The back completely removes for film loading and unloading.

Pros

  • Half-frame camera
  • Fixed lens viewfinder
  • Compact with only a viewfinder
  • No meter
  • Fully manual settings
  • 28mm f/3.5 Zuiko lens
  • Shutter settings: 25, 50, 100
  • Aperture range from 3.5 to 22

Cons

  • Some photographers don’t prefer half-frame cameras

Where to Buy

https://www.ebay.com/sch/Film-Photography-/69323/i.html?_nkw=olympus+pen

Features

This camera features fully manual settings and a 28 mm f/3.5 Zuiko lens. It offers shutter settings at 25, 50, and 100 as well as an aperture range from 3.5 to 22.

Ease of Use

Once you get the hang of using this film camera, it’s easy. But, getting the hang of doing things manually when you’re used to using a DSLR can be difficult.

Quality

This Olympus Pen is one of the first cameras of its kind, opening the path for other half-frame cameras.

Performance

Depending on how well this camera has been taken care of, it can be in great condition and give you astounding performance.

Design

The simplistic design of this Olympus Pen makes it an important camera in the history of film.

Olympus OM-1

Features

This is one of the best film cameras because the first model was presented at Photokina, a trade fair, in Cologne in 1972, beginning a trend in film cameras that made them less bulky, heavy, and noisy. It was created by the same inventer who created the Olympus Pen, and it takes after the compactness of the Pen.

The OM-1 is an all-mechanical SLR. It features a large viewfinder with interchangeable screens but a fixed prism. It has a through-the-lens exposure meter controlling a needle visible in the viewfinder. It has a compact body and a shutter speed dial that is located around the lens mount, allowing photographers to keep the camera at the eye between shots more easily than SLRs that feature a dial located on the top plate.

Pros

  • Began a trend of lighter, smaller cameras
  • Created by the same inventer as the Olympus Pen
  • All-mechanical SLR

Cons

  • Mounting a motor drive on the original versions requires a separate piece of hardware

Where to Buy

https://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/Film-Photography/69323/i.html?_nkw=olympus+om1&_frs=1

Features

The OM-1 has a through-the-lens exposure meter controlling that has a needle visible in the viewfinder. The shutter speed dial is around the lens mount, making it easier for photographers to keep the camera at the eye between shots.

Ease of Use

This film camera is extremely easy to use for beginners and professionals alike.

Quality

The OM-1 is of such good quality that it was introduced at Photokina.

Performance

If this film camera has been kept in good condition, it should still be a great performing camera.

Design

This film camera is recognized as having a newly sleek and compact design that influenced the design of future film cameras.

Nikon F

Features

The Nikon F is a classic, and definitely one of the best film cameras. It was introduced in 1959 and was Nikon’s very first SLR camera, and it was one of the most advanced cameras of its day. It was revolutionary because it combined camera concepts that hadn’t yet been combined. The Nikon F did a great job at showing the superiority of SLR designs as well as of Japanese camera manufacturers.

Pros

  • Nikon’s first SLR camera
  • 50 mm f/2 lens
  • Interchangeable prisms and focusing screens
  • Depth-of-field preview button

Cons

  • Entire bottom and rear plate have to be removed to reload

Where to Buy

https://www.ebay.com/sch/Film-Cameras-/15230/i.html?_nkw=Nikon+F

Features

It has a 50 mm f/2 lens, interchangeable prisms and focusing screens, and a depth-of-field preview button. The mirror has lock-up capability and it has a large bayonet mount.

Ease of Use

This camera was revolutionary for its ease of use due to the unique combination of features.

Quality

This camera is still considered to be of extremely high quality.

Performance

If the Nikon F has been taken care of, it still should be in great shape to get you the coolest vintage film photography.

Design

The Nikon F is truly one of the best film cameras; it has an innovative and revolutionary design that influenced cameras for decades to come.

Leica M6

Features

This is one of the best film cameras that was produced throughout the end of the 20th century. It was manufactured by Leica from 1984 to 1998 and it was a statement in its own right. The most impressive thing about the M6 is that Leica continued to produce new and improved models.

Pros

  • Features continuously improving
  • Off-the-shutter light meter
  • No moving parts

Cons

  • Early models used a cheap bottom for the camera

Where to Buy

https://www.amazon.com/Leica-M6/dp/B005XP6REA/?creativeASIN=B005XP6REA&linkCode=w61&imprToken=xGQSwNCro7FKI-HZZuYZJA&slotNum=2&tag=coolmaterial-20

Features

The M6 combines the silhouette of the Leica M3 and Leica M4 in a modern, off-the-shutter light meter with no moving parts. There are LED arrows in the viewfinder.

Ease of Use

The M6 is one of the best film cameras because it is a rangefinder.

Quality

This camera is of great quality because Leica continued to put out new and improved models for years, making sure that they had the best quality cameras possible.

Performance

If the M6 has been taken care of well over time, it should still perform well.

Design

The innovative design makes the Leica M6, and all the other M6 variants, stand out.

Canon AE-1 35mm FILM SLR Camera

Features

This single lens reflex film camera is one of the best film cameras for use with interchangeable lenses. It was the first microprocessor equipped SLR because of its astronomical sales that made it an unprecedented success in the film camera market.

Pros

  • Meant for use with interchangeable lenses
  • Electronically controlled, electromagnet horizontal cloth focal plane shutter
  • Shutter speed range of 2 to 1/1000 seconds

Cons

  • Slower than the bayonet mounts of competing cameras
  • Cheaper materials

Where to Buy

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001NPGEMY/ref=as_li_ss_tl?imprToken=qCEf6ce104lP6xLBPxPT-w&slotNum=1&ie=UTF8&tag=expertphotog-20&linkCode=w61&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B001NPGEMY

Features

It uses an electronically controlled, electromagnet horizontal cloth focal plane shutter with a speed range of 2 to 1/1000 seconds. It also has a bulb and flash X-sync of 1/60th of a second.

Ease of Use

The AE-1 has straightforward controls and automatic aperture that makes it an easy option for beginners.

Quality

While these are some of the best film cameras of their time, Canon found ways to reduce costs by using cheaper plastic materials.

Performance

If the Canon AE-1 you’re looking at has been taken care of for years, it should still be performing well.

Design

This camera is a very easy SLR camera and one of the best film cameras because of its innovative design.

Canonet G III QL17

Features

The Canon Canonet was introduced in 1972. It supports shutter priority and fully manual shooting modes. It’s the third generation of the Canonet line of range finder cameras.

Pros

  • Rangefinder camera
  • 40mm f/1.7 lens
  • Supports shutter priority

Cons

  • Viewfinder can be hazy

Where to Buy

https://www.amazon.com/Canonet-QL17-GIII-G-III-Canon/dp/B007W6N0NE/?creativeASIN=B007W6N0NE&linkCode=w61&imprToken=Xv8SNIV1tnIa95FaPO-w-A&slotNum=4&tag=coolmaterial-20

Features

The Canonet III features a 40mm f/1.7 lens.

Ease of Use

This camera is is extremely easy to use because it supports shutter priority.

Quality

This Canonet is known for being made with high quality materials.

Performance

This camera features rangefinder performance that stands out among the rest.

Design

The camera design is made to be intuitive.

Pentax K1000

Features

This is one of the best film cameras to purchase right now because there are super affordable options available. This camera is made to be used with interchangeable lenses. It’s a 35 mm film SLR camera that was manufactured by Asahi Optical Co., Ltd. from 1976 to 1997 in Japan. This camera is historically significant because it has an extraordinary longevity. The inexpensive simplicity of it gave it an unrivaled popularity.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Interchangeable lenses
  • Made in Japan
  • Known for having extraordinary longevity
  • Horizontal travel, rubberized silk cloth focal plane shutter
  • Shutter speed range of 1 second to 1/1000 second
  • Features bulb and flas X-sic
  • Almost all metal
  • Mechanically controlled

Cons

  • Sometimes can be hard to find

Where to Buy

https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_nkw=Pentax+K1000&_sacat=15230&_odkw=Hasselblad+500C%2FM&_osacat=15230

Features

This camera uses a horizontal travel, rubberized silk cloth focal plane shutter that has a shutter speed range of 1/1000 second to one second. It also features a Bulb and a flash X-sinc of 1/60 second. It’s almost all metal and is mechanically controlled.

Ease of Use

One of the reasons the K1000 became so massively popular was because it was extremely easy to use. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, working with this camera is an easy task.

Quality

The K1000 is known for being one of the best film cameras around because it features extreme longevity.

Performance

This camera is known for performing well for an extremely long time. While it’s always important to take good care of your cameras, this is one of the best film cameras when considering only the factor of performance over very extended periods of time.

Design

The design of this camera made it extremely popular because it was intuitive and easy for users not familiar with cameras to get the hang of taking great photographs.

The Verdict

When it comes to finding the best film camera for you, there are plenty of choices. And of course, not all the decision is in your hands. You may have your heart set on a specific model of a vintage film camera, only to find that there aren’t any available for sale, that the seller doesn’t ship overseas, or the price is just out of range.

But what’s so great about film cameras is that they each have something great to offer. Even if the best film camera produces a photo that is hazy or overexposed, well, that’s exactly why people choose film in the first place! Great photographers can make any situation work, and whatever you decide is the best film camera for you, you will in no time be taking amazing old-school photography. Find a film camera you like, and start shooting!

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