This is great news, film photography can be such a nice change of pace from the digital realm. Slowing down, taking your time, being more purposeful with your images…shooting film for fun can actually be a great help towards making you a better digital photographer in many ways. But first thing is first, if you want to start shooting film you need to pick yourself up a film camera, and lucky for you, there is no shortage of these available on the used market.
That said, deciding on a good starter camera can be hard. What features do you need? How much should you spend? These are all valid questions, so today we have our list for you of 5 great budget oriented starter cameras for those deciding to jump into the 35mm realm. So let’s get into it!
Affectionately known by many as the Honda civic of 35mm film cameras, the Pentax K1000 is one of the most common 35mm film cameras on the market. It doesn’t have a ton of features or a fancy design, but this camera is a solid learners camera that ‘just works’. It does have a built in meter (make sure that you test this, and if buying online confirm with seller that the meter works), which requires a battery to work, but otherwise this camera is 100% mechanical and can work with or without a battery. This is about as simple as you can get people, and they can also be found for incredibly cheap.
Canon’s AE-1 also fits nicely into the budget oriented, basic 35mm SLR category. Just as with the K1000, you can often find these 35mm film cameras for under $100 and many times that will even include a lens. There are several versions of the AE-1, like the AE-1 Program for example, which offer expanded or additional feature sets for those interested. But for just a simple SLR, the plain jane AE-1 is a great option.
Getting up into a slightly higher price bracket than the Canon and Pentax cameras noted above, the Nikon FM2 is another good budget 35mm SLR for those who want a basic camera. Just as with the other two cameras, this body has a meter and is otherwise mechanical throughout. The important thing to consider when choosing to buy a Nikon 35mm SLR is that Nikon film glass can still command a high (compared to the Pentax and Canon) price thanks to the fact that the lenses are still compatible with the modern Nikon digital cameras.
Looking for a 35mm film SLR with more than just the basics? Nikon’s F4 can be found for some really affordable prices and it has many of the trimmings that you are used to with your modern digital SLRs including Autofocus, and PASM modes! Another nice benefit is that if you shoot Nikon, many of your modern digital lenses will also work perfectly on the F4!
The Minolta 600si was an interesting camera in the early 1990’s that earned a reputation as the AF camera for those who liked the older style SLR with knobs and dials (similar to what Fujifilm is doing now with their digital cameras). Many people forget about Minolta because they were bought out by Sony, but for a time they were one of the most advanced and forward thinking camera brands out there.
So there you have it, 5 great cameras to consider as you begin your 35mm film photography journey. Any one of them could be the perfect choice for you based on your budget and needs, cheers!