Compact film cameras are a great thing for any photographer to be able to throw in their bag. More often than not, they’re more durable than digital cameras and they use good old film–which is bound to give you great results you cannot get with digital if you’re doing it right. Believe it or not, there are professional photographers who today still use some film cameras in order to get a different look from what everyone else is doing out there. The results are often fantastic and even the likes of VICE have done projects where they’ve given disposable cameras to photographers for special situations. Indeed, these cameras are still very good and if a professional photographer can create great results with them, there is no reason why you can’t.
Yashica T4/Contax T3
Who uses it: Terry Richardson
The details: The Contax T3 and the Yashica T4 both have 35mm lenses but the Yashica’s is f3.5 while the Contax is f2.8. Lots of photographers these days use them as every day cameras and for some paid shoots due to how incredibly sharp and beautiful the lens is on this camera. It’s simple to operate, low profile, and for a really long time they were pretty affordable. These days though, because of Terry and a few others, they’re very expensive.
What’s so special about it?: These cameras are in many ways, barebones point and shoots with damned good lenses. They don’t at all look professional–instead they look like sleek digital point and shoot cameras. Personally, I prefer the lens in the Hexar AF, but can’t deny there isn’t something magical about the lenses here.
Who uses it: Eric Kim
The details: The Leica MP is one of the most popular Leica rangefinders ever made, but a whole lot of photographers may reach for the Leica M6 instead. If you haven’t used a Leica or don’t know how to, then give it some time before you scoff at the price tags. You can use all the M mount lenses you want with this camera.
What’s so special about it?: These cameras are Leica’s latest film offering that uses a light meter. If you want something completely mechanical, then you’d have to reach for the Leica M-A instead for something brand new. Otherwise, many photographers still hold onto their Leica M2 and Leica M3 rangefinders. Most Leica shooters will probably zone focus and use Sunny 16 anyway.
Who uses it: Juergen Teller
The details: The Contax G2 and the Contax G1 use the same Zeiss lenses that are positively fantastic. They’re autofocusing rangefinder cameras bound to make you happy with the results you can get. With that said, they’ve got light meters built in, they can be difficult to repair, and many people aspire to get the Contax G2 more than its predecessor. However, the Contax G1 can be had fairly cheap.
What’s so special about it?: These cameras are the only autofocusing rangefinders on the market. Additionally, the lens lineup is awesome and they are just as compact as the Contax camera bodies are. From the same folks who made the Contax 645, this is basically on the same level.
Who uses it: Jamie Beck
The details: The Pentax Spotmatic is a camera that takes a battery to power its light meter. But in all honesty, it doesn’t need one if you’ve got the understanding of how light and metering works. It’s a fully mechanical camera with a beautiful and clear viewfinder that lets you manually focus a whole assortment of lenses from Pentax, Vivitar, Zeiss and others. Plus you can get a camera with two lenses for like $40 online.
What’s so special about it?: These cameras are built so incredibly, stupidly tough it’s almost like Pentax was never going to replace them. They’re super reliable and everything from the shutter advance to the body itself feels nice in the hand.
Who uses it: Seriously? Throw a rock and you’ll find a photographer using one.
The details: The Canon AE-1 is perhaps the most successful camera ever made commercially. Canon sold loads and loads of them and the majority of them still work today despite the fact that the bodies were made out of a type of plastic.
What’s so special about it?: These cameras are reliable and use the FD mount glass that included a number of fine lenses. Canon made some really high quality lenses with the FD lineup and they abandoned it all for EOS–which almost killed the company.