Looking to get into film but not sure where to start? Following on our Introduction to Film Photography post, we’ve have a few recommendations.
Here are several 35mm film cameras that are simple, fun, and finally, CHEAP. You can find all of these models on eBay, with lenses, for less than $100.
The OM-10 is the camera that I personally use, along with a 28mm 2.8 and a 50mm 1.4. It’s a manual focus system – so that puts a little bit of effort into your photography. There aren’t many options here, other than the aperture control around your lens. There’s no control over exposure compensation, shutter speed (but if you want to expose up or down by one or two stops, you could spin the ISO dial to achieve the same effect). It makes photography fun, simple, and the results are not bad either. Search for this camera on eBay.
Canon AE-1 Program
The AE series is a classic in the Canon film lineup. If you want a bit more manual control than the OM-10 above, this is a good choice. The AE-1 adds a shutter control dial, and the AE-1 Program adds program mode, which sets both shutter speed and aperture automatically. If you often shoot in P mode on your DSLR, then you’ll feel right at home here. But like the OM-10, this one is also only manual focus. It only takes Canon’s older FD lenses, not the current EF lenses. However, it has an absolutely huge viewfinder. Search for this camera on eBay.
The Nikon FE is another easy to use camera with a tough body and excellent manual controls, as you can see from the picture above. It has control over shutter, and exposure compensation. One good thing about this camera – it works with every Nikon lens ever manufactured (except for the newer G models). One nifty thing it has is automatic mirror lockup when placed on a tripod – if only DSLRs had this function. At right around $100 for the body alone, it’s one of the more expensive cameras on this list. Search for this camera on eBay.
Canon EOS 620/650
This is what you want if your requirements are a cheap film camera than can take your current EF lenses. The 650 is actually Canon’s first ever EOS camera, and the 620 is actually improved upon the 650, adding a faster shutter, exposure bracketing, multiple exposures, and more. If you shoot with current Canon DSLRS, you’ll feel right at home here, with similar controls. The viewfinder is bigger than even the 5DII, but not quite as big as the AE-1 Program. This camera started the EOS revolution with lighting fast AF, just housing it in a cheap, plastic body. Search for this camera on eBay.
You might be noticing a trend here – most of these cameras are tough, retro looking bodies from the late 70s/early 80s, featuring manual focusing lenses. Of all the cameras on this list, it is most similar to the Olympus OM-10. it also has no shutter speed control (except for 1/100 and B), and shoots in automatic exposures with control of aperture from the lens itself. If you need shutter speed control, go for the updated ME Super. Search for this camera on eBay.
Stay tuned for the next installment on film cameras – TLRs, rangefinders, and medium format…