Buying a film camera can be very confusing. After all, you can’t really ask questions about the megapixels. Further, the autofocus doesn’t have things like face and eye detection. Film cameras let you do things much differently from digital. They’re fun! In 2022 though, it’s nonsensical to ask yourself the same questions folks did back in the ’90s and prior. You could say that your camera took good pictures, but it would be the film that did it along with the lenses. We’re diving into the questions you should ask yourself about how to buy a film camera. And I’m sharing my experience from buying them for over a decade.
Choose the Right Shops (eBay, Blue Moon Camera, and More)
First off, choose the right shops. If you’re wondering how to buy a film camera, don’t get it from an awful source. You can’t always trust Craigslist. And so let’s dive into this a bit more:
- Some retailers do nothing to prep the camera for resale. Some will buy it straight from a buyer for a stupidly low price, and then sell it straight to you for more than they bought it for. I wouldn’t go with any of the big guys unless it’s a really big purchase of a camera that’s also very rare.
- Even the people I know who work at the big camera shops don’t buy their used film cameras there.
- Some retailers go as far as revamping and refurbishing the cameras. Blue Moon Camera, our partner for the Rare Camera Store initiative, does this!
- eBay can have good shops, but be sure to check the ratings.
- Etsy can be an awesome place to buy cameras if you can get them at the right price.
- Look around at prices on the market. Don’t be afraid to be confrontational. The truth is that you’re not going to be sitting there one day when you retire regretting you were confrontational. Hold them accountable. If the store you’re looking at is charging more, ask them what’s justifying the extra cost. Good shops will be transparent with you.
Point and Shoot, Rangefinder, or SLR?
There are lots of tough questions you need to answer as far as how to buy a film camera. One of them is about the camera type. A point and shoot will keep things simple. A rangefinder is one of the smallest and most versatile. Plus, they can transition easily into digital if you’re reaching for something with Leica M-mount. An SLR can transition into digital too, though a bit poorly these days. SLRs show you what you’re getting in the viewfinder, while other cameras give you an approximation.
Personally, I reach for point and shoots and rangefinders. There are affordable SLR film cameras, but I’ve got a good enough experience with modern day mirrorless!
Medium Format, Large Format, or 35mm?
Here’s another big question! What format are you intending to shoot? 35mm is a small format, but if you think about how to buy a film camera and what you’re buying it for, it could be the tactile experience. If you’re going for 35mm, get it because it feels good, the film you want is easier to get in 35mm, or it’s just fun. Otherwise, just go medium format or large format. Most digital cameras can outdo what 35mm film does these days. But medium format can outdo digital in many ways.
Your Best Bet Is All Mechanical
THIS IS A BIG ONE!!! Cameras with electronics are prone to failure. Some cameras are a combo of both mechanical and electronic. For example, look at the Leica M6 or Leica CL. They’re mechanical cameras but the meter uses electronics. If anything, your Leica M6 will just become a Leica M4! Mechanical cameras will also mean that they’ll keep working pretty much no matter what. If your camera needs a battery to power the shutter, buy with caution.
Check Out the Lens System (If There Is One)
Some film cameras don’t have a lot of lenses. So that means they may not do what you want. Other cameras have tons of lenses that are first party and third party.