These are our top picks for the best 35mm film cameras for beginners. We have something for everyone, from point-and-shoot cameras to SLRs. It doesn’t matter if this is your first step on your film photography journey. You’ll be able to pick up any of these cameras and start shooting.
The prices will vary from camera to camera. And the 35mm market is in constant flux, with prices going up and down. Although these days the prices are only going in one direction. And that’s up!
But don’t be disheartened. Now’s the time to find the perfect 35mm film camera to start your film photography journey.
1. Olympus OM-1
The Olympus OM-1 was the ‘Leica of the working class’. It is quality packed into a small size. Great for both beginner 35mm film photographers and more experienced users. It is also an excellent travel choice.
What is to love about this system is a shutter speed dial on the lens mount. This allows you to keep your eye on the camera without having to fiddle with a top-side dial.
Another quality benefit to this system are the OM mount lenses made by Zuiko. They outperform many other brands on the market, making this one of the best film cameras for beginners.
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One of the most underrated 35mm film cameras is the Minolta X-700. Throughout two decades, it stood out. A few of the reasons for this were the many exposure modes, TTL flash metering, and bright viewfinder.
The plastic body allowed it to be lightweight without being low quality. This is an excellent camera for hobbyists and professionals alike.
One of the problems you might face is with the shutter speed. The photographer must take their eye off the viewfinder to see the shutter speed setting.
Also, if a recommended shutter speed falls between two-speed settings, both will light up. You will have to select the one you believe is best.
3. Olympus XA2
Olympus have made a name for themselves by making some of the best point and shoot film cameras. And the Olympus XA2 is at the very top of that list. It’s an absolute classic 35mm camera.
The Olympus XA2 is equipped with a 35mm lens. There’s no autofocus, which is a downside. But you can change the focus distance with the switch at the front. The options are 1.5 meters, 3 meters, and infinity. You can do portrait, street, and landscape photography.
It’s durable and rugged, with a strong plastic shell. And it’s small enough to put in your pocket. The simple controls make it perfect for beginner. But the fantastic results give the camera a broad appeal.
Over the last decade or so, these type of compact has become popular with fashion photographers. Compact film cameras are really in vogue right now, so prices can be higher than you expect. But they’re the perfect gateway into film photography.
4. Nikon FM2
The Nikon FM2 is a great camera for hobbyists who want to bring their photography to the next level. It does this at an affordable price. Mechanical shutter? Check. Accurate light metering? Check. Fast shutter speed to 1/4000th of a second? Check. And, it is perfect for outdoors where you do not have easy access to batteries.
It is also easy to use, allowing beginners to get to grips easily and quickly. The best thing about this camera is that it does not need a battery. Everything works fine without one.
What you will like most about this beauty is its craftsmanship and the choice of bayonet lenses. It is a vintage camera that you can still use without worrying about breaking it.
5. Pentax K1000
This camera aimed itself towards the amateur photographer market and was first introduced in 1976. These were top-rated cameras with students because they were cheap. It allowed them to learn and lasted a long time, as they were built like a tank.
There are still many around, so finding one should not be a problem.
The Minolta HI-Matic F is a rangefinder camera. The rangefinder is an early type of point-and-shoot film camera, popular in the 1970s and ’80s.
The name rangefinder refers to the system used for focusing. There’s no autofocus, so you look through the viewfinder and turn the focus ring on the lens. There’s a small dot in the center of the viewfinder, which you use to find focus.
The Hi-Matic F has a fixed 38mm prime lens, making it perfect for street photography. The shutter speed and aperture are automatic, so setting the ISO is your only concern. Then find your range and start shooting.
The rangefinder can take some getting used to, especially for people unfamiliar with old cameras. But the Minolta Hi-Matic is a delight to use. It’s small and lightweight, perfect for everyday photography.
7. Nikon F6
The Nikon F6 comes from a long line of 35mm SLRs, such as the Nikon F and F4. The great thing about this beast is you can pick it up new.
The newer series SLRs of Nikon have an excellent lens and mount compatibility with the more recent DSLRs. It might be a perfect choice for those who own Nikon cameras to build up a solid gear of film and digital cameras using the same lenses.
8. Leica M6
We all know Leica well. Many legendary photographers valued this iconic brand and turned it into a sensation.
The Leica M6 was the first 35mm rangefinder camera in its class. It has a beautiful design. Compact and with a subdued shutter sound. Perfect for candid images.
The Leica M6 is a near-perfect 35mm film camera. But it comes with a very high price tag. And they’re not easy to find because owners rarely want to part with their Leicas. We recommend buying one from an authorized dealership or an established photo store.
Being a Leica owner means you’re part of a community. This comes with benefits such as this brand’s incredible repair and maintenance system, which still allows sending your film cameras to an official store to repair. No other brand does that.
9. Canon AE-1
Canon produced the Canon AE-1 for nearly ten years. When you create a fantastic camera, there is no reason to change. This camera was the new and improved SLR design that overhauled the way 35mm SLR cameras were made.
This was Canon’s first affordable TTL (Through the Lens metering) camera. It has precise metering, shutter priority mode, and later on the company added the auto-exposure feature.
Because of the low cost and added features, it became one of the most popular 35mm film cameras of its era. This means it’s not hard to find them today.
The Canon AE-1 is perfect for photographers with a keen appetite for film. It’s not as simple as a point-and-shoot. It does require input from the photographer. But that’s the best way to learn the nuts and bolts of photography.
Shooting film has lots of benefits. You have 36 shots, so you are more conscious when it comes to taking a picture.
You do not need to use special effects or post-processing for having a vintage look. Buying a 35mm film camera will open a whole new world in photography.
The prices of the 35mm film cameras are going up. It’s a smart decision to invest in one now before it gets more expensive. We hope our list helped you to find the best 35mm film camera for you!
In need of some more tips? Learn how to capture stunning images with the camera you already own with our Photography for Beginners course!
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