When we think about classic film cameras we wish we owned, many of us will stare off into the distance, with eye glazed over, imaging another world where our everyday shooter was a Leica M6 rangefinder.
Unfortunately, reality is harsh. The body alone costs upwards of $1,000.
Although it may remain a pipe dream for years to come, I’m here with some good news. You can own a huge range of classic film cameras for less than $100!
Sure, brands such as Leica are famous for their quality and prestige, but so are many of the cameras on this list. Some of the sharpest images I’ve ever captured have been on a film camera that cost me less than $100.
In no particular order, lets have a look at some of them now…
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I love my Olympus Pen. The thing that makes this camera so unique is that it’s a half frame camera. That means that each photo only fills half a frame, so you can fit 72 photos onto a single roll of film!
It also means that when you hold the camera in landscape orientation, you’re actually taking a portrait photo.
It’s a 35mm camera that was produced from 1959 to the beginning of the 1980s, and it’s named Pen because of it’s size, as Olympus thought it would be as portable as a pen… which it almost is!
There’s tons of different models of Pen available, even an SLR version, and digital versions too.
The Canon AE-1 was produced by Canon for nearly 10 years, which sounds a bit absurd when you consider our throwaway culture these days, but that’s just down to how good, and how popular this camera was.
This is Canon’s first affordable TTL (Through The Lens metering) cameras, which added autoexposure modes as well as shutter-speed priority, which we’re all familiar with today.
Because of the low cost, huge advertising campaign, and added features, it became one of the most popular cameras of the time, selling over 1 million units!
When the Rollei 35 was released in 1966, it was the smallest existing 35mm camera on the market, and still today it remains the second smallest.
Like many film cameras, they were produced for a very long time so there’s a wide variety of models on the market, but something you’ll want to look out for is light leaks, as they can be quite common in older cameras.
Here’s a photo I took on mine recently:
Something interesting about this camera is that it’s so compact, the lens ‘folds’ into the camera, and the hotshoe is on the bottom as there’s no space on top. Check out this video I made of my one:
If you’re looking for bells and whistles, then look somewhere else. This camera was aimed towards the amateur photographer market, and it was first introduced in 1976.
It continued to be manufactured for over 20 years, even though it was out of date by the time it was released.
Why? Because there was no program mode, nor aperture or shutter priority, or even a self timer, mirror lock-up, or DoF preview… These were very popular cameras with students because they were cheap, a great way to learn, and lasted for ages.
If you were impressed by the sales of the Canon AE-1, then get a load of this! The K1000’s extraordinary longevity makes it a historically significant camera.
The K1000’s inexpensive simplicity was a great virtue and earned it an unrivalled popularity as a basic but sturdy workhorse and eventually sold over three million units. Super easy to get your hands one still, and very well made too.
Okay, so this one may be stretching the $100 budget ever so slightly, but there’s always bargains to be had on eBay. The Nikon F3 succeeded the F and the F2, two models which were already famous for extreme ruggedness and durability.
It was a very popular camera, and you’ll still find people shooting with them today as, just like Canon EOS film cameras, the lenses of newer Nikon’s will still fit on these old models.
Fun fact for you, Minolta is an acronym for “Mechanism, Instruments, Optics, and Lenses by Tashima”, and they’re one of my favourite film camera brands.
This is a camera close to my heart, and one that I’ve owned two of. The first one was dropped and damaged the light meter, so I replaced it while waiting for it to be repaired. It was first brought into production in 1966, and was produced for 10 years, with only very minor changes.
The easy-to-use light meter in the viewfinder makes exposure very easy, and the pin sharp lenses make for some spectacular images. I recommend the 35mm f/1.7. I honestly can’t recommend this camera enough.
The Diana is a classic cheap toy camera of 1960’s that were made in China, but very popular in the UK and US. They’re made entirely from plastic, which meant that most were given away as prizes, or sold for nominal sums.
It’s had a revival in recent years and Lomography has made a resurgence, and film photography has become more popular.
The Diana’s you’ll see on the market today are likely reproductions, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It houses 120 film, which can be a bit hard to get developed, and with the newer models you can get 35mm backs, or simply buy a Diana mini instead.
It just goes to show how much fun you can have with a bit of cheap plastic!
Thanks to The Impossible Project film for Polaroid cameras are once again being manufactured. You hardly need me to explain what makes Polaroid so special, as we all know them for producing hand-shake inducing instant pictures.
What makes the SX-70 so special though is the fact that it folds flat, which is no easy feat for an instant SLR film camera. And well, just look at that design!
Thank you for reading...
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