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Best 35mm Film Camera to Start Out With

If you are planning to get into the wonderful world of analog photography, you’ve come to the right place. The first thing you’ll need is a 35mm film camera.
Below we have some of the best 35mm cameras you can still find today. One of these will start your journey into the world of film photography.
 street photographer holding a 35mm film camera
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What Is a 35 mm Film Camera?

Within film photography, there are a great many cameras, but they all fall into a few categories. A large format camera uses sheet negatives of 4×5″ or 8×10″ film.
Medium format cover negative sizes of 6×4.5″, 6×6″ and 6×7″, among others. This leaves small format, or the size best known as 35 mm.
These cameras take the 36×24 mm film. Single lens reflex cameras, rangefinders, and disposable film cameras all take these films.
Digital SLRs are the digital versions of the 35 mm film cameras. So are mirrorless interchangeable-lens digital cameras.
Full-frame DSLRs and mirrorless systems are also known as 35 mm or 35 mm equivalent cameras. This is due to their digital sensors being 36×24 mm in size.
The 35 mm format originated with Oskar Barnack’s introduction of the Leica camera during the 1920s. The name comes from the total width of the film used by this small format.
This format is still widely used because of its convenience. There is still access to 35 mm film. Larger formats tend to be more difficult to find and process.
A minolta film camera on a yellow background - best 35mm film camera

What to Look for in a 35 mm Film Camera

Unlike digital cameras, 35 mm film cameras rely on the film for the quality of the image. Saying that, there are many reasons you might choose one analog camera over another.
My Canon A-1 makes a beautiful sound when I press the shutter. That’s enough for some people. If you enjoy working with your camera, you’ll use it more.
The camera’s light meter can uprate the film inside to 12,800 ISO. This is great for experimentation. The way it is built looks amazing. The placement of the buttons makes sense.
It even came with an exposure value meter, allowing you to add or subtract 3 stops of light.
The camera you will choose will have the features you like. Perhaps you prefer a fixed lens, so you don’t need to lug around other lenses. Or, being in control is your thing.
Some of these models have an inbuilt light meter. Others have aperture priority  or shutter priority. Maybe you prefer the quality of one manufacturer’s glass over others.
At the end of the day, the images implant themselves on the film’s negative. Choosing the right film is just as important, so choose wisely.
If you are looking to buy photographic film, we have the perfect place for you to start. Everything you need to know about film photography.
A Canon and a Nikon 35mm film camera on a table

Olympus OM-1

The Olympus OM-1 was the ‘Leica of the working class’. It is quality packed into a small size. Great for both beginner 35mm film photographers, and the more seasoned of users.
This camera began its manufacture in 1972.  Models 1-4 came out over the following three decades. Nighttime photographers loved this camera more than any other field.
What you might love about this system is a shutter spedd dial on the lens mount. This allows you to keep your eye on the camera without having to fiddle with a top-side dial.
Another quality benefit to this system are the OM mount lenses made by Zuiko. They outperform many other brands on the market.
The Olympus OM-1 - best 35mm film camera

Minolta X-700

One of the most underrated 35mm film cameras is the Minolta X-700. This came about in the late 1970s and brought with it a bunch of SLR advancements. This camera made a name for itself.
Throughout the two decades it was manufactured for, it stood out. A few of the reasons for this were the many exposure modes, TTL flash metering, and bright viewfinder.
The plastic body allowed it to be lightweight without being low quality. This is a great camera for hobbyists and professionals alike.
One of the problems you might face is with the shutter speed. The photographer must take their eye off the viewfinder to see the shutter speed setting.
Also, if a recommended shutter speed falls between two speed settings, both will light up. You’ll have to select the one you believe is best.
The Minolta X-700 - best 35mm film camera

Leica MP

In the early days of photojournalism, the Leica MP was the all-manual classic that ran on a tiny battery. This rangefinder has a fast shutter and a durable all metal body.
The MP stands for mechanical perfection, and there are many who believe it to be just that. It features a sophisticated shutter click. The minimal controls keep everything necessary and useful.
If you find a way to get this camera fresh from the factory, you can ask for custom features. Motors and winders can be added.
One of the best things about it is the depth of the available M-mount lenses.
The Leica MP beside a camera lens - best 35mm camera

Nikon FM2

The Nikon FM2 is a great camera for the hobbyist wanting to bring their photography to the next level. It does this at an affordable price.
It is also easy to use, allowing beginners to get to grips easily and quickly. The best thing about this camera is that it doesn’t need a battery. Everything works fine without one.
Mechanical shutter? Check. Accurate light metering? Check. Fast shutter speed to 1/4000th of a second? Check.
Perfect for outdoors where batteries are rarer than Unicorn glitter.
What you will like most about this beauty is its craftsmanship and the choice in bayonet lenses. It is a vintage camera that you can still use without worrying about breaking.
Nikon made these between 1982 and 2001, so you’ll easily find them on the vintage used market.
The Nikon FM2 - 35mm film camera

Pentax K1000

If you’re looking for bells and whistles, then look somewhere else. This camera aimed itself towards the amateur photographer market, and 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?
Well, there was no program mode. There wasn’t 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. It allowed them to learn and lasted a long time, as they were built like a tank.
There are still many around, so finding one shouldn’t be a problem.
The Pentax K1000 35mm camera

Canon Canonet GIII QL17

This has to be one of my all-time favorite Canon cameras, if not my favorite 35mm film camera. It is a workhorse with a fixed lens and the best-selling rangefinder of all time.
This beauty was manufactured for ten years starting in 1972. There were 1.2 million units created, so you are sure to find some knocking around.
It shines in street photography. Its compact design allows discreetness and lets you carry it anywhere.
Full manual control, plus a shutter priority mode were the standard for more expensive cameras. This affordable camera has them too, making it a sensation among amateurs and professionals alike.
The Canon Canonet GIII QL17 - best 35mm film camera

Nikon F6

The Nikon F6 comes from a long line of 35 mm SLRs, such as the Nikon F and F4. The great thing about this beast is you can pick it up new.
Released in 2004, the features of this camera brought the F series back into the professional arena. It has everything a pro photographer needs.
From program mode, shutter priority and aperture priority through to manual. It also has automatic film loading and auto film advancement, saving valuable time during the capture.
It’s not cheap, but nothing this good ever is.
The Nikon F6 classic 35mm camera

Leica M6

We all know Leica well, and as photographers, these are the holy grail. Many legendary photographers valued this iconic brand and turned it into a sensation.
The Leica M6 was the first 35 mm rangefinder in its class. It was designed beautifully. Compact, and with a subdued shutter sound. Perfect for candid images.
A perfect camera, however, comes with a very high price tag.
It was manufactured between 1984 and 1998. If you manage to find one, snap it up. Everyone is on the search for this beauty.
The funny thing is that the only competition this camera has is its own digital version.
The Leica M6 classic 35mm camera

Canon AE-1

The Canon AE-1 was produced by Canon for nearly 10 years. This sounds a little absurd when you consider our throwaway culture these days.
But when you create an amazing camera, there’s no reason to change. This camera was the new and improved SLR design that overhauled the way 35 mm SLRs were made.
This was Canon’s first affordable TTL (Through the Lens metering) camera. It added autoexposure modes as well as shutter-speed priority, which we’re all familiar with today.
Because of the low cost and added features, it became one of the most popular cameras of the time. This means it’s not hard to find them today.
The Canon AE-1 best 35mm film camera to buy

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