If you love the quality of photographs these classic vintage cameras produce or are fascinated by the history behind these old film cameras, check out my review of 15 best vintage cameras you can buy and take beautiful photos today.
You can't view the photographs instantly, transfer them to a computer or a smartphone. Old cameras aren't equipped with a variety of shooting modes. BUT these vintage cameras are so popular! Many photographers like the quality of shots and colors they get. If you are one of them, check out my list of 15 best vintage cameras.
Price: about $750
Usually photographers have problems categorizing this old camera. Someone calls it an autofocus rangefinder, fixed-lens, others - a point-and-shoot camera. Its 35mm F2 lens was completely copied from the Leica 35mm f2 Summicron for M mount models. Shooters like this camera’s sharp images with a sufficient amount of contrast and space for light. Together with its compact dimensions and fascinating autofocus features, it became one of the best vintage cameras. You may take it with you for a walk, as it easily fits into the pocket of your jacket, and take some pictures on the way. That's why, Hexar AF is one of the favorite models among street photographers. Its advantages are film advance, and noiseless shutter, which keeps this camera iconic. Nevertheless, it has a few noticeable drawbacks. The manual control is slightly inconvenient, while the highest shutter speed is only 1/250th per second.
Photo by Konica Hexar AF
Price: about $1250
This model appeared in 1957 and marked the change of direction in Hasselblad’s design philosophy. The camera features a shutter system designed to substitute the focal plane of the previous models. It has an opening speed of 1/500s. Additionally, the manufacturer provides a broad range of compatible lenses and viewfinders. Despite being more than 60 years old, it’s still one of the best vintage cameras that are in high demand.
This is a small, lightweight lens with a standard focus distance. As it is expected from a 645 model, the field of view is more or less similar to our eyesight. It’s very versatile and doesn’t cause any distortions.
Photo by Hasselblad 500 C
Price: about $5000
The M6 is widely considered to be the most progressive mechanical film camera ever produced by Leica. It offers a 0.72x viewfinder that includes frame lines compatible with 6 various lenses in the 28-135mm focal range. This old camera also has a big shutter dial and seamless film advance that ensure a straightforward and hassle-free shooting process. Moreover, the M6 is compatible with almost all Leica M-Mount lenses. The embedded rangefinder focusing mechanism enables you to compose the shot with frame lines instead of the typical method of looking through your lens. Additionally, the M6 has a TTL (Through The Lens) system used for light measurement that provides accurate exposure settings. The body is made of zinc and brass, so it both durable and visually appealing. These cameras still cost quite a lot and the high lens prices increase the overall sum even more.
This lens provides amazingly sharp, high contrast images and good performance regardless of the chosen focal range. Its universal design and broad functionality have made it a world-class model in the wide-angle high-speed lens class.
Photo by Leica M6
Price: about $280
The release of Nikon F2 vintage film camera dates back to 1971. The model appeared 12 years later after the launch of iconic Nikon F. Both cameras had almost identical design, while the F2's interior design was modified. They kept the lens mount from the Nikon F, but the highest shutter speed was increased up to 1/2000 in the F2. Besides, the new model was equipped with a more convenient and hinged swing film door. The F2 series boasts of a huge range of additional accessories: interchangeable focus screens, prisms, motor drives, and 250-frame cassettes, as well as a DS-1 automatic aperture setting device. Keep in mind that you might need batteries for the motor drive or extra metered viewfinders.
This small, super wide-angle lens is used if you shoot landscapes, architecture and weddings. Nikon 20mm f2.8D AF Nikkor has a remarkable optical design and picture coverage of 94 degrees (70 degrees with Nikon DX format). In addition, it is capable of producing pretty sharp images.
Photo by Nikon F2
Price: about $150
Canon AE-1 is one of the best vintage cameras to buy. Its release revolutionized the photography world and made a film camera more understandable for ordinary users. The shooting process now involves only pointing, focusing and pressing a camera button thanks to the integration of a full-program auto mode. Aside from the fact that its functionality was significantly simplified, the manufacturer released an ample variety of additional accessories and lenses. Professional photographers are still using this model due to the availability of FD mount lenses, for instance, the 50mm f1.8. These sturdy lenses have surely proven their reliability with time.
It appeared back in 1990 and is one of the favorite lenses for portraits. Its key features are the beautiful bokeh and fast speed. It is lightweight and rather cheap.
Photo by Canon AE-1
Price: about $150
Ukranian Arsenal factory produced the Kiev 88 TTL Medium Format SLR camera. It will let you take sharp shots thanks to the roll film of 61.5 mm width. This old fashioned camera lets you switch from color to black and white, and vice versa without any difficulties. The magazines make up for an array of film sensitivities due to the simplified selection process. With the camera’s manual controls, a photographer can customize the setting and take truly exceptional pictures. The camera is also distinguished by the hooded design which eliminated excessive light and makes focusing easier.
This lens for old school film cameras that has a full-frame exposure (not a circle spot on the frame) which ensures a very wide-angle view of 180 degrees.
Photo by Kiev 88
Price: about $900
The Yashica T4 is DX-code-reading, completely automatic and zoom model characterized by small dimensions. The most prominent part of this black and white film camera is the Carl Zeiss Tessar lens. Thanks to this lens, you can take really sharp images. Besides, it provides a rather shallow depth of field for the highest aperture of 3.5. The 35mm focal length is a good fit primarily for portrait and street photography. Nevertheless, the T4 device has a significant drawback – the speed. It isn't very fast, the highest focal ratio is f/8 at the telephoto end and f/4.5 at the wide end. These parameters are satisfying for a zoom camera but are disappointing when it comes to an SLR device. Despite this disadvantage, T4 is a user-friendly, small and more or less affordable camera. It is worth your attention in case you are in search of the model for photographing journeys and stay-over parties.
Photo by Yashica T4 Compact
Price: about $70
Nikon film cameras are known for complicate functionality and design. Its body made of alloy and quality build ensures that you get a reliable camera without spending much money. This model with exposure automatics appeared back in 1978. It impresses us not only with the manual settings but a user-friendly aperture priority mode as well. This is one of the best selling cameras of all time that features two MD-11 and MD-12 motors, an AE-Lock exposure lock button along with three types of interchangeable focusing screens. Its shutter has electronic regulation which is capable of producing exposures from 8 up to 1/1000 per second. These functions are typical for professional devices and made this camera a desirable model on the photography market.
This lens belongs to the Nikon AIS line of manual focus optics for vintage cameras. Its significant features are compact dimensions, fast operation and fantastic optics. This low-light lens is a perfect match for portrait and traveling photographers and for those cases when you need a very narrow depth of field.
Photo by Nikon FE
Price: about $90
In this 35mm camera, Nikon managed to combine all the indispensable functions of the best film cameras for beginners. As the model is completely mechanical, it ensures precise shutter speed from 1 up to 1/1000 seconds, and you don't even have to involve circuits or electric energy. Its main strength is an impressive viewfinder, so you may focus and examine the depth of field of lenses with your hands, setting the highest aperture of f/1.2.
This lens is characterized by a swift F/1.8 aperture and the 50mm focal length (corresponds to 75mm on DX-format cameras). It ensures that you take breathtaking pictures in which focus is concentrated on the subject and which have a shallow depth of field.
Photo by Nikon FM
Price: about $200
The F camera was the pioneer among SLR models from Nikon. It appeared back in 1959 and was referred as the most beautiful model of that time. Belonging to the list of the best 35mm film cameras, it has been produced for almost 14 years with a few insignificant updates. Due to its stylish design, outer meter-coupling system along with detachable pentaprism, photographers had a chance to take advantage of the high tech metering mechanism. The model's sturdy construction and F mount will be appreciated by photographers even nowadays. You will surely like the interchangeable screens and finders, a detachable back. A focal-plane shutter made of titanium foil producing speed from 1 up to 1/1000 seconds plus B and T. All in all, Nikon F is deservedly called one of the best vintage cameras and may be a noteworthy addition to the collection of your retro cameras.
This manual focus telephoto lens was designed specifically for Nikon old film cameras. It is well-built and boasts of the cheap price, a push-pull (trombone) design and relatively stable aperture over the whole range of focal lengths.
Photo by Nikon F
Price: about $400
The Nikon FM2 is a semi-pro 35mm film SLR camera that is valued by photographers for its reliability. The most prominent characteristic of this model is the completely mechanical shutter build. It supports an incredible range of shutter speed settings up to 1/4000s, and doesn’t require a battery to work. The camera has a durable metal case that ensures sturdiness and reliability. The FM2 is one of the most desired vintage cameras anywhere in the world. It has 60/40 Center-Weighted measuring that enables you to choose the aperture and shutter speed settings to take photos exactly the way you want to.
It is a wide-angle lens you can use with digital and vintage filming cameras produced by Nikon. The most interesting features of this lens are high sharpness, small minimal focal distance and complete lack of linear distortions. Another cool addition is the CRC (Close Range Correction) system that provides terrific image sharpness even when taking close-up photographs.
Photo by Nikon FM2
Price: about $180
Without a doubt, the Pentax K1000 is the best cheap film camera. It was used both by pros and hobbyists and even recently it was in high demand among photography students due to the camera’s low cost, durable design, high-quality light meter, and a compact body. Visually, K1000 is also quite appealing thanks to the chrome- and leather-decorated design. If you’re new to film photography, focusing this camera can be a bit tricky as you have to align two images while looking through a split-prism viewfinder. The manufacturer still produces several viable lenses for the K1000 including 31-, 43-, and 71mm models.
Photo by Pentax K1000
Price: about $2200
The W67 is one the best vintage cameras ever created. It allows taking photographs in the 6x7 format (which gave the camera its name) and comes with a fixed 55mm Nikkor lens that has proven to be the go-to choice for photographers. This model also has a LED viewfinder that offers unparalleled accuracy and manual focus levers that give you even more control over the shooting process. The W67 was initially designed for mass-media photographers and thus requires 120 film rolls. Its wide-angle lens excels at capturing architecture and house interiors without causing flairs.
Photo by Plaubel Makina W67
Price: about $300
The SX-70 was released by Polaroid back in the ‘70s and is considered an icon of the photography industry. Unlike the 600 series of plastic models, the SX-70 is a fully-fledged mirror camera made of steel and glass that features leather elements. The camera comes with a 4-component 166mm f/8 lens with a fixed focal distance. The shutter speed can be set in the 1/175-10s range. Focusing is completely manual and gives you unlimited creative possibilities. The SX-70 can become an amazing vintage camera for professionals and those who are madly in love with the art of instant photography.
Photo by Polaroid SX-70
Price: about $250
X-700 shows us that Minolta is a really good camera brand. This model was released in 1981 and was promoted as Minolta’s best manual SLR camera. Being the leading model of the long-lasting X-series, this camera offered a similar build and design of previous X-series cameras like the XG-M. However, even though it had a lot of similar core components, the X-700 set itself apart thanks to the revolutionary auto-exposure mode. Moreover, this camera supports three different shooting modes that make it incredibly flexible. When shooting in manual, you can choose the shutter speed and aperture settings to get the correct exposure.
This lens increases the picture quality by f/4. It offers impressive build quality and is perfect for portrait photography when combined with APS-C sensor mirrorless cameras or a black and white film camera as it provides a charming retro feel. 55/1.7s can develop an oily aperture, so it’s vital to ensure that it’s clear and swift before purchasing.
Photo by Minolta X700
|Konica Hexar AFOUR CHOICE||CHECK PRICE|
|Nikon F2FOR PROFESSIONAL||CHECK PRICE|
|Canon AE-1FOR BEGINNERS||CHECK PRICE|
|Kiev 88OLD FASHIONED||CHECK PRICE|
|Yashica T4BLACK AND WHITE||CHECK PRICE|
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Despite the numerous benefits that vintage cameras offer, using them isn’t always easy and convenient. What problems do you risk facing when using old film cameras? Here’s a list of the most common ones.
Similarly to how batteries in vehicles slowly amass acid, old cameras are prone to corrosion if the batteries are left in the body for years. Before you purchase a film camera, examine the battery for the presence of any white or green traces. If they are minimal, you can get rid of them with a q-tip and a bit of baking soda. If not, you should opt for a different camera.
When browsing through vintage cameras, you’ll usually encounter three kinds of shutters (cloth, metal bling, and metal blade leaf). Each presents its own set of potential problems you have to be aware of. That being said, if you remember those problems when examining shutters, everything should be fine. Just be sure that it’s in prime visual condition and that it doesn’t have any cracks or tears. If it’s a multi-bladed model, ensure they are correctly placed and aligned.
While most new DSLRs have loads of different modes (both auto and manual ones), a vintage film camera doesn’t offer such a luxury.
Nowadays, everyone is so used to viewing all the photos directly after a shoot on a PC or storing them all on SD cards or USB drives. That’s why it takes some time to accept the fact that old vintage cameras don’t offer such an option.
Finding appropriate film rolls is as difficult as a film camera itself. Thus, when you’re purchasing a vintage camera on the web or at an auction, remember to order film for it as well.
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.