What's the Best Film Camera For You?

film camera
mamiya rz67

Gear Focus

Sep 3, 2021

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What is the best film camera for you? Getting into film photography can be daunting. It can be expensive, there are tons of different types of cameras that all do some things a little different, where do you even get film? Well that is exactly the reason Gear Focus was created; to get the right gear into the hands of creatives. Read below for a complete guide of the different types of film cameras, the pros and cons of each, and recommended film cameras for different budgets.

OPTION ONE | Disposable

Disposable cameras are probably what most people think of when they think of film. The cheap throw away plastic cameras that your parents shot at your 5th birthday party and I'm guessing some of your most cherished photos were taken on one of these. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nsgr718_7qc And disposable cameras are still around and are absolutely a valid option for creating photographs. You might not have any control over the camera's settings, but what you do get is an amazing way to capture organic and "in the moment" photos. I think most people view disposable camera's as almost toy cameras and not for serious work. When in reality they are still very capable cameras and in the right hands can create amazing results with a great mood. They are also cheap and available. Not something you can always say about other film cameras on the market. Disposable cameras aren't perfect by any means. When you want total control over your image and the absolute best quality then a Kodak Fun Saver probably isn't want you are going to want to reach for.  

OPTION TWO | Point & Shoots

The next step up from disposable cameras are "point and shoot" cameras. These cameras are still extremely small and portable, easy to use, but usually have a much higher build quality and you can reuse it over and over. 5 years ago these cameras could be found for pennies on Craigslist or random garage sales. They did not start to gain popularity again until celebrities like Frank Ocean and Kendal Jenner were seen shooting their own lives with these tiny film bodies. Point and shoots vary quite a bit when it comes to the level of control that you have over your settings. If you're looking for a camera to just take to parties or trips and don't want to fiddle with shutter speed or focusing, then choose an Olympus Stylus Epic. They can be found for around $100 or less. The best part is that they are fully automatic, and have some of the best image quality in the segment. For a point and shoot that has the compact form factor but offers you a bit more creative control, then take a look at an Olympus XA. These tiny cameras are great. Again they can be found around $100-150. The different is that the XA allows for manual focus and are purely aperture priority. They're a perfect in-between! Something else important to point out is that all of the camera's on this list except for the last category use 35mm film. You can buy these rolls of film for about $7 and usually is around $5-10 to develop and scan depending on your lab.


Now we're stepping our toes into the world of more professional level cameras. 35mm's are extremely common. They're scattered around garage sales and grandparents' attics all across the country. Even though most of them are decades old, the photo quality you can get out of these things is top notch. 35mm film is the exact same size as a full frame sensor'd digital camera. The benefits of 35mm cameras compared to the previous 2 categories we've talked about, is that these are the first cameras that allow you to choose what lens you want to use. Unlike digital cameras where the sensors have a large impact on the quality of the image, the film stock in analog cameras can't really be upgraded. It is what it is. This means your glass and focal length is even more important towards your final image. There are a lot of reasons to choose a 35mm SLR or Rangefinder for your first film body. They generally have the second highest image quality on this list. Depending on the exact camera and lens of course. But it truly is hard to go wrong when buying a nice, CLA'd 35mm camera. It's a great call to lean towards a Canon AE-1 for your first camera. They are tried and true and are built to last. Thousands of photography students over the decades have learned on these and they are one of the most popular cameras of all time.

OPTION FOUR | Medium Format

Medium format has become extremely popular in the last few years. Especially with creators on YouTube. And this is for good reason. These cameras use 120 film which is quite a bit larger than 35mm film that the other cameras on this list use. This means the grain in smaller relative to the final image. A good thing if you care about resolution and sharpness. There are some downsides to medium format cameras. In most cases the cameras are much larger and heavier. And not ideal for traveling or going on long photo walks. The film is also more expensive to purchase and develop. Plus you only get 8-15 exposures depending on the format, so it is quite an investment if you want that extra quality. For the novice stepping into medium format for the first time we recommend Mamiya TLR's. These offer equal or greater image quality than the competition. And for a fraction of the price. You might not gain tons of "cool points" with one of these, but your prints will look amazing.   If you're looking for your next purchase and want some of the best prices and safest buying experience on the internet, head over to GearFocus.com.  

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