Compact film cameras are a big thing more so now than they have ever been before. But one of the biggest problems with lots of them has to do with the fact that the electronics in them break down after a really long time. In a case like that, it’s sometimes just best to use an all mechanical camera with much better reliability.
So with that said, here are a number of (mostly) mechanical cameras that you’ll surely want to get your hands on.
Editor’s Note: This isn’t a definitive list, but instead one with cameras that we recommend.
The Leica M3 and Leica M2 are some of Leica’s first rangefinder cameras. They’re all mechanical, can still be serviced pretty easily, still use the Leica M mount, and are also very affordable when you’re speaking in terms of a Leica. These cameras shoots 35mm and are primarily designed for photojournalists and street photographers.
The Canon F1 is a pretty awesome camera that uses the Canon FD mount. There are loads and loads of lenses available for the mount and the these cameras are pretty simple to use. It shoots 35mm film and for years was the choice of many professional photographers.
Mamiya RB67 Pro S
Though it’s not as envied over as the RZ67, the Mamiya RB67 Pro S is all mechanical and built like a tank. You’re best off using it proper photography style: camera on a tripod, shooting landscapes or portraits.
One of the largest format Fujifilm cameras shoots a healthy 6×9 medium format negative and has a rangefinder. The camera has a plastic exterior, but it’s also always been touted to have an overall very durable body. Because of its lightweight, it’s great for a variety of uses. But because it’s a rangefinder, it may not be perfect for landscape photographers.
There’s the Pentacon 6, and the Pentacon 6 TL; the only difference is that the TL can take a TTL viewfinder. But otherwise, the Pentacon 6 is an all mechanical camera that shoots a 6×6 negative. Watch out for some of the problems with it though! It’s called an SLR on steroids for great reason.
Olympus Pen F
The original Olympus Pen was an interesting camera. It shot a half frame of 35mm film and used a vertical shutter. They’re built well and still work even today.
Yashica GSN Electro 35
With a battery, this is a fully aperture priority camera. Without the battery, it is always locked to 1/500th or set to 1/30th when in flash mode. While it can still work without a battery, note that you won’t get all shutter speeds.
This 67 medium format camera was designed to be handheld by fashion photographers. It’s great. Plus, Pentax has fantastic lenses.
The only reason why you’d ever need a battery in the Leica CL is because of the light meter. But honestly, the meter is pretty crappy. You’re best off just using Sunny 16 with this 35mm camera.
As one of the few interchangeable lens TLR cameras, the Mamiya C330 shoots 6×6 square format medium format images. That, and the lenses are fantastic.
Canon QL 17 III
Like the Yashica, this camera only really needs a battery for the meter and the shutter priority option. Otherwise, you’re really not going to need it. Years ago, it was easy to get one of these for under $100. Now though: that doesn’t happen any more.
Olympus’ cameras were really oriented for the enthusiast; and the Zuiko lenses are really nice. If you want something with a nice ergonomic profile, go for the OM-1.
This is a really weird camera due to its design. The shutter speeds and apertures are knobs on the front and then the film advance is on the left side. So you’ll be loading this film in a different way.
Canon 7 Rangefinder
The Canon 7 rangefinder series are pretty great; though you may want more from a camera and therefore go for the Voigtlander Bessa R or something. These screw mount 35mm rangefinders are built well and overall very nice.
Of course, the Nikon F series of cameras are going to be on this list. One of the favorites of many photographers is the F2; but the other F series cameras are also great and can still be used with Nikon’s current F mount lineup.
One of the longest made cameras in history, the Pentax K1000 is very reliable and was used as a camera for students for a really long time. They’re worth it; and the Pentax lenses are very beautiful too.