Nowadays, the question of how to choose the best film cameras is quite popular among photographers. Film photography is coming back and more and more professional shooters prefer taking studio and street photos with the best 35mm film camera. If you want to try this kind of shooting, I recommend you reading my review of 16 good film cameras that are popular today.
Today you can add a film effect to all your photos while color correction in Lightroom. But it doesn’t allow taking so “lively” and natural pictures. The owners of the best vintage cameras can scan shots and print them in huge sizes with minimal quality loss. Got interested? In this review, I will show you top 16 best film cameras that will never be out of fashion.
Price: about $1500
Leica M4 is known as the best 35 mm camera. This perfect camera body has a redesigned, plastic-tipped film advance and a frame counter that automatically resets itself. As for the special features, I see a quicker and easier film rewind knob. М4 is great for shooting night street photography. Despite the age of this legendary model, I believe it’s one of the top film cameras that are popular nowadays. Wonderful photos that are taken with this film camera can impress even experienced photographers.
Photo by Leica M4
Price: about $3900
This is definitely the best 35mm camera that was created thanks to the collaboration of Hasselblad and Fuji camera brands. It’s a sturdy, well-designed model that automatically winds the film and has two modes: metered and auto. XPan allows taking both individual photos or using the panoramic mode. I adore this function and always use it when I want to capture landscapes or architecture.
However, if you’re taking the film to a laboratory, ask them to not cut it so that the panoramas remain complete. Similar to other best film cameras from my list, the XPan’s metering mechanism offers terrific performance, allowing you to have automatic exposure practically all the time.
Photo by Hasselblad XPan
Price: about $5000
It’s one of the best film cameras, which can work without a battery. I also like the perfect ergonomics of this device. Buy what could you expect for $5000?? It has almost an ideal size and weight ratio. The control of buttons is very convenient and the shutter works quietly. It is one of the best 35 mm film cameras that has an excellent viewfinder. So, the shots are clearly visible in any light. You can use this camera for portrait photography and for street shooting. As for me, it’s one of the top film cameras, which will help in many situations to get sharp images.
Photo by Leica M6
Price: about $180
This 35mm film SLR model was incredibly popular after its initial debut back in 1967. The Canon AE-1 was an important milestone in the history of photography gear as it was among the first inexpensive SLRs that had auto exposure functions. Thanks to the Shutter Priority AutoExposure system, taking photographs became simpler than earlier. The great number of AE-1’s features and intuitive controls make it the best Canon film camera of its time. This model should especially please hobbyists, photography students, and vintage equipment collectors. It has a pleasing design and the available range of manual settings that will help you master the art of film photography quicker.
Photo by Canon AE-1
Price: about $300
This SLR camera offers simplicity in design and user-friendly controls. Such specs make it one of the best film cameras for beginners, hobbyists, and students. This model offers reliable exposure settings, an accurate TTL exposure meter, and batteries that will last for years. Loading the film is easy and quick, and the shot meter automatically sets to -3.
The photos taken with the K1000 are clear and sharp even at the widest aperture while the lens ring moves smoothly. Judging by my experience, this camera works perfectly even at -25oC, meaning that unlike other good film cameras, you can use K100 to capture beautiful winter landscapes in excellent quality.
Photo by Pentax K1000
Price: about $2000
Plaubel Makina W67 is a small model that can easily fit in a pocket or handbag. It’s incredibly sturdy and the photos look amazing. This camera has a built-in metering mechanism that automatically changes the light levels. The included double-picture rangefinder allows measuring the distance for nature, street shots, etc. I’ve never used such a camera before so it took me a couple of minutes before I got used to it. Reading the metering is easy “+/0/-” and the focusing process is straightforward as well. If you’re searching for good film cameras that offer portability, solid functionality, and are perfect for traveling, W67 is a good choice.
Photo by Plaubel Makina W67
Price: about $1600
T3 is a point and shoot film camera that has a smooth, minimalist design that won the hearts of thousands of photographers. The camera’s compact size allows taking it with you everywhere and using it immediately without dealing with a dozen different settings. The folding telephoto Zeiss lens and titanium body ensure the high quality of this model. The flash has several settings including an early version of red-eye effect removal.
The reason why I call T3 the best 35mm camera is its set of automatic mods and a powerful flash, which is important for me since I like to photograph the evening city. Typically, when I use this camera, I set it to “P” mode so that the aperture and shutter speed is set automatically, and I just have to press the release button. If I need a flash, I simply use the auto flash.
Photo by Contax T3
Price: about $240
This film camera from Nikon is a lightweight universal device. It works perfectly without a battery. This model uses 35 mm film. It also has manual exposure control and a convenient viewfinder with LED display. I really like that I can study the details of the image with manual exposure. This feature works even in the dark. In general, the manual settings of this SLR film camera ensure excellent results regardless of the shooting conditions. The camera itself can be called one of the top devices both for professionals and for beginners.
Photo by Nikon FM-10
Price: about $4700
Being considered as the best film camera, Leica M-A has many useful features for creative photographers. I liked the possibility to adjust the shutter speed and aperture directly on the camera. The device allows controlling the shooting process and focusing on the object. From my experience, it’s the best 35 mm camera for taking beautiful, detailed portraits. The final images are very lively. Moreover, the classic, laconic design deserves special attention. As for the film, I recommend you to buy Kodak Tri-X 400 for reportage shooting.
Photo by Leica MA
Price: about $3000
Nikon F6 can be called the best SLR film camera from Nikon. This device is very easy to use. All the buttons are in their usual places, setting the parameters is simple and intuitive. I also like the durability of Nikon F6. In addition, it is protected from moisture and dust, so, you shouldn’t worry about the device while shooting in difficult weather conditions. People say that Nikon F6 has the best focusing system among all Nikon film cameras. I believe this is true.
This film camera is very responsive in terms of focusing. It has an instant response, a small shutter lag, and a short viewfinder dimming time. But the liquid crystal display on the back of the camera freezes while working in the cold temperature.
Photo by Nikon F6
Price: about $500
The FM2 is a small single-lens mirror Nikon film camera that has a semi-automatic exposure mode and was released in Japan. It’s compact, ergonomic, and has a bright and informative viewfinder. I especially like the overall build quality and the sturdy, nearly indestructible body. The silent and easy shutter release is also a great feature. Overall, FM2 is among the best film cameras thanks to the reliability and accuracy it offers. It’s suitable for all photography types and the broad range of exposure settings gives you unlimited control during shooting.
Photo by Nikon FM2
Price: about $200
Even a beginner can easily learn how to use it. QL 17 has a bright viewfinder, precise focus ring, and an accurate rangefinder that allow you to focus on the subject quickly. The light meter is very efficient in setting the exposure correctly, while the camera’s small size allows carrying it with you anywhere. Moreover, the quality of the photos I’ve taken with QL 17 makes it worthy of the best 35mm film cameras from Leica. I enjoy using this model for portraiture. The soft images have a moody effect and make the model’s face and eyes look lively and deep.
Photo by Canonet G III QL17
Price: about $400
This mid-sized rangefinder camera offers high quality, smooth images thanks to the integrated lens. It’s very easy to handle thanks to two release buttons, one of which is located at the front. The quality of the photos encourages you to bring this film camera everywhere and use it as often as you can. Focusing is done swiftly and accurately. The only drawback is the lack of a lock on the release buttons.
In the beginning, you’re likely to take some “black rectangle” photos by accident when dragging the camera out of the bag. Personally, I recommend GW690 to anyone looking for great film cameras suitable for portraiture and street photography. It offers a nice balance between sharpness, contrast, and detail, resulting in lively, eye-catching images.
Photo by Fujifilm GW690
Price: about $5800
Looking for the best 35mm film camera, you can try Leica M7. This device successfully combines the strong points of classic Leica quality and modern electronic features. As the result, you get fast and high-quality photo equipment. Despite its up-to-date functions, it still offers the main concepts of the legendary Leica brand. As for important benefits, I want to mention the convenient viewfinder, high-speed TTL synchronization, and aperture-priority auto-exposure. This camera works really quiet and suits for different shooting conditions. It’s a nice example of good film cameras that ensure cool results.
Photo by Leica M7
Price: about $90
Diana F + is a medium format camera. It requires a 120 mm film, which is much wider than usual. So, it’s the best film camera, if you want to get square shots. One of the main advantages of this model is its minimal weight. The case is made of plastic, so the device is comfortable to hold in hands. The possibility to take multiple exposure shots is another remarkable feature.
In addition, you can choose between automatic shutter closing and manual. The first one is suitable for taking pictures during the day or with a flash. The manual closing works better if you need a longer shutter speed or for night shooting. I also like its pinhole function. This is the best cheap film camera, which you can get for less than $100.
Photo by Lomography Diana F+
Price: about $4800
Next in the list of the best film cameras is Leica MP. This device has a metal body, which ensures smooth operation even in the most difficult conditions. Leica MP belongs to the category of photo gear that can be used for a long time. I am sure that it will reliably serve for 10-20 years. With features such as Live View and video recording, as well as new ways of focusing, the new Leica M camera fully satisfies the demands of modern photographers. I advise it to those, who want to use all the latest technologies in the field of camera design.
Photo by Leica MP
|Leica M4BEST 35MM||VIEW PRICE|
|Leica M7FOR STREET PHOTOGRAPHY||VIEW PRICE|
|Lomography Diana F+ MediumCHEAP||VIEW PRICE|
|Leica MPOUR CHOICE||VIEW PRICE|
|Leica M6FOR PROFESSIONALS||VIEW PRICE|
|The Canon AE-1BEST CANON||VIEW PRICE|
|Pentax K1000BEST FOR BEGINNERS||VIEW PRICE|
|Plaubel Makina W67 MediumVINTAGE||VIEW PRICE|
|Contax T3||VIEW PRICE|
|Nikon FM-10||VIEW PRICE|
|Leica MA||VIEW PRICE|
|Nikon F6||VIEW PRICE|
|Nikon FM2||VIEW PRICE|
|Canonet G III QL17||VIEW PRICE|
|Fujifilm GW690||VIEW PRICE|
|Hasselblad XPan||VIEW PRICE|
Top film cameras are still very popular to this day, mainly among photography enthusiasts. Using such photo gear is far more interesting than a regular digital camera, and the taken photos aren’t just high quality, but also have a soul. How to pick a good film camera? Here are some characteristics you should always pay attention to when choosing the best film cameras.
MIRROR – they have a movable mirror that allows viewing directly through the lens. Almost all models have built-in metering and automatic modes. They’re perfect for portrait shoots.
RANGEFINDER – the maximum focus distance of all rangefinder lenses is 135mm which is a small drawback but that is enough for most tasks: portraiture, weddings, and landscapes.
SCALE FOCUS – these film cameras have integrated optics in the 38-40mm range. Most of them had a manual focusing mechanism. These enthusiast-level models are very small and suitable for all situations. However, while the offered image quality is good, it’s not spectacular in any way.
The former allows you to adjust all the settings manually, which will simplify the process of learning modern mirror cameras. However, if you already have a specific digital system or plan to purchase one, it’s better to search for digital models made by the same manufacturers.
There are small-, medium-, and large format models. Each system works with a different type of film. Additionally, the format heavily affects the size and weight of the camera. While you can fit a rangefinder in your pocket or a medium-sized model in a backpack, a large format camera will require a minivan. You should also keep in mind that the price goes up as you increase the format.
The most common format is 135 commonly referred to as 35mm. There’s also 120, a medium format film that is wider, harder to find, and more expensive (the same is true for cameras compatible with this type). 4x5 and larger are suitable for large format cameras. However, such cameras rarely interest beginners because of their complexity, price, and low working speed. That’s why it’s better to choose one of the first two formats.
Even nowadays photographers keep arguing about what is better: film photography or digital photography? The former praise the unique colors and grain of film photos, while the latter state that you can make a digital image look any way you want during photo editing and that people’s film admiration is pure nostalgia. After spending quite some time shooting with film, I can confidently say that it does have its fair share of advantages.
Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a photographer, photo retoucher and of course, journalist. Here on FixThePhoto blog you can find all of my reviews, photography and photo editing tips, pricing guides, and photography experiments.