Best Film Cameras

Discussion in 'Modern Film Cameras' started by Ludmilla, Jun 10, 2019.

  1. Last edited by a moderator: Jun 18, 2019
  2. There are some good performers on both lists, but too many point & shoots for my tastes. Also, the author states at the outset that cameras that take mercury batteries would not be included. This shows either inexperience or stupidity, since most everyone who has one of these cameras knows the 675 hearing aid battery works very well in these cameras.

    There are many that were left out that I would have included (which includes those that take the old PX625 mercury battery). Cameras like the Canon FTb, original and New F-1, EF, A-1, T-70, and T-90. Nikons, such as the Nikkormats FTn or later, Nikon FE, FM, FM2, FA, F2, F3, Pentax KX, KM, K2, LX, Minolta XD-11, X-570, SRT-101, Olympus OM-2, OM-3, OM-4, Bronica ETR-series, SQ-series, Hassy 500 C/M, and more.

    All of the above are excellent to superior film cameras, most of which have lens lines that are also every bit as good.
  3. Interesting choices, of course there are plenty more. Many of these have characteristic issues which need watching for, such as the Canon "squeal", the EEE error on the T90, and dirty prisms on the OM1 and Pentax K1000. I can understand them avoiding Mercury battery cameras. I would also avoid anything using the expensive 2CR5 and other photo batteries, that's why I'd prefer the AA powered F90X over the EOS5. One camera I've got a liking for is the Nikon F301, the manual focus version of the early Nikon AF range, which can be found very cheaply and is surprisingly capable. The one I'd avoid is the totally basic Pentax K1000, which goes for silly prices due to its cult status.

    It's a shame that the ugly and inaccurate term "analogue" for film cameras has become so prevalent.
    ben_hutcherson likes this.
  4. As MWMCBROOM states, there are too many point and shoots included for my taste. I own all the Nikons he mentions, and they're among the best film cameras ever made. I'd also add the F4, perhaps the best "manual focus SLR with autofocus stuffed into it" ever produced (LCD bleed aside). I also own the Canon T90, but haven't suffered the "EEE" error. There are a number of Pentax SLR's out there (ME Super, KX, KA, and others). I like the Olympus OM-2n, and I'm also a fan of the Yashica Electro 35 GS(N/T). While the Electro 35 has "Spiderman" cult status, they're great cameras, and you can get a battery adapter which allows the use of silver oxide batteries without juicing the meter circuit.

    I like the inclusion of the Mamiya 645. Those are great cameras, and have tank-like construction. And the medium format should include the various Yashica TLR's, along with Rolleiflex, Rolleicord, and even the Minolta Autocord.

    They also omitted the Pentax IQ cameras, which were great P/S models, with a variety of zoom options.

    It's virtually impossible to limit the list to ten; the writer recognizes this, but I'd still like to see at least a "Top 25".
  5. I'd suggest that anyone who hasn't, try a fully manual, mechanical camera, no electronics, no meter, no battery, nothing.

    SLR or rangefinder, doesn't matter, just keep it simple.

    Otherwise, more in line with the article's suggestions, how about a Konica FT-1?

    Electronic, but still simple, AAA batteries. Shutter priority AE or fully manual, motorised loading and advance, and the Hexanon lenses are among the best.
    Ricochetrider likes this.
  6. It is hard to beat a nice Nikon F2.
  7. Hmm.
    My recommendation: Borrow, don't buy!
    Most likely something providing a nice enough toes into film dipping experience should rot somewhere within the outskirts of your socialization.
    Aye! - Yes, I have one and like(d) it, since back in 1990 prices were still reasonable. The MX recommended in the 2nd list is cuter and could be had for less money now.
    But anyhow: Why spend what might buy you a still nice, just no longer awesome DSLR on a film camera kit, that will generate significant(!) operating cost?
    (Please don't get me wrong. - Film was fun; so it can still be fun, assuming your wallet permits or you like darkroom work. But getting a "been there done that" t-shirt into your closet will keep you warmer than a shelf queen camera.)
  8. I did a whole series of reports on the early AF cameras, and almost any of them are still very inexpensive (we're talking the cost of a pizza or two).

    Most of them did very well right out of the eBay wrappings.

    For pre-AF, and a truly basic camera, the simplest model Praktica L is M42 lenses, terrrific metal shutter, one of the best to learn on, and a lot cheaper than the Pentax. The original meterless one is great, and the later ones still work fine, but the meters (like so many old ones) have often shuffled off.

    I would also say that the "analog" selections don't seem to have decided just what need they are serving. Learning cameras (like sail) are one thing, point and shoots another.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2019
  9. SCL


    Nice article - but there are soooo many other beauties out there to enjoy. I won't attempt to enumerate them, as some of my favorites are already covered above. But I'll add a couple to the list for those contemplating "giving film a try": All sorts of inexpensive Yashica & Contax model SLRs - taking those magnificent Carl Zeiss as well as Yashica lenses; the Asahi/Honeywell Pentax Spotmatic SLRs with the Takumars, and, of course lots of Leica rangefinders. Building a small collection of "casual shooters" is almost as much fun as going out and using them.
    Fiddlefye likes this.
  10. I've been accumulating cameras for almost 40 years. Here's what I have: Canon AE-1 Program (my first SLR), Canon A-1, Olympus OM-1, Olympus OM-2n, Olympus OM-4, Olympus OM10, Nikon FM2n, Nikon FM3a, Nikon FE, Pentax SV, Pentax Spotmatic, Pentax K1000, Canon Canonet QL17, and Olympus 35RC. A few of those are recent acquisitions that I haven't tried out yet. I've started to 'shoot through' the collection as I have time (which I'm chronically short of). I really, really love the OM-1 (my 3rd SLR). I've shot most of a roll through the FM3a. (I was going to shoot the OM-4 -- my 2nd SLR -- after the AE-1 Program, and have it all loaded with Tri-X; but my wife wanted to go to the zoo, so I took the FM3a loaded with Fuji.) If I could only keep one of my cameras, I'd keep the FM3a. But if you're just getting into film, that might be a bit expensive. My invoice says I paid $640 for it in 2005, and I'm sure I could get at least that for it now. The OM-4 has been a great camera too, but maybe a little pricy and have too many features for a first camera.

    I like the FM2n, but for getting into film I'd say a less-expensive OM-1 or OM-1n would be a good one. If you want automatic exposure, I'd like to suggest a Nikon FE or FE2, or the Olympus OM-2n. I haven't shot with mine yet though, so I'll let someone else answer about those.
  11. Mostly solid choices. I'd probably skip the Nikon EM for lacking a manual mode - the later FG fixes this. The F90x/N90s in the first list is nice enough, but has more limited lens compatibility than the F5 and later - no A or M mode with 'G' lenses (which most recent lenses are), no VR. The F100 in the second list fixes this, The F80/N80 is a lower tier camera, but with better compatibility with recent lenses, and can be had very cheaply. They might have added a classic rangefinder or two - maybe a Leica IIIa/b/c/f or a Canon P. It would be nice to see a Contax/Yashica SLR - the 167MT is pretty cheap, and doesn't have the self-destructing leatherette fitted to some of the earlier models. How about a P&S with a nice lens that hasn't had its price inflated by cult status? - you can spend more on film and batteries than a Canon Sureshot Supreme, but it has a sharp f/2.8 lens.
  12. I have to admit a strong preference for the Olympus point and shoots (based purely on aesthetics) . Living in a humid climate, the waterproof stylus epic sounds great but I doubt it is still waterproof.
    Fiddlefye likes this.
  13. I too share a HUGE distaste for the use of "analogue" in reference to film.

    With that said, my inclination would be to avoid a P&S and instead go for an SLR. While there are some good film P&Ss on the list, my issue with a lot of them comes down to focusing. P&Ss tend to either be fixed focus(avoid) or have "active" focusing. The latter uses either IR or ultrasonic to determine the camera to subject distance. It works fine for simple scenes, but it can be off(without you knowing) in situations like shooting through glass or between holes in a fence, or also if your subject isn't vaguely in the center of the frame and there's something else large-ish that's closer(or at a dramatically different distance). Basically, you just kind of don't know-and back in the day when these cameras ruled the roost, most consumers just accepted that as taking the good with the bad. Film and processing are also both expensive now. The good stuff always has been, but at the same time I can't go into Wal-Mart, pay $7 for a 5-pack of Fuji Superia 400(24ex), and have it processed at a send-off lab for $3/roll with 3x5 prints.

    A manual focus SLR requires you to actively participate in focusing-it's not at all a problem with static subjects, and is not difficult with a bit of practice as long as subjects aren't moving like crazy-I use to do some sports photography with manual focus, and although I relied a pre-focusing where I expected action to happen, I also got pretty good at tracking. Even with simple AF, though, you have some idea of what the camera is focusing on.

    Now, for specific suggestions-all of the SLRs on the list are good with their ups and downs. I currently own an N90(same as an F90) and X700, and have in the past owned an AE-1 and K1000. The AE-1 and X700 give you access to the manual focus range of lenses from those respective brands, which are NOT the same mount as those brands used for their AF cameras and there is no direct line to digital. What that means is that manual focus lenses are relatively inexpensive, and at least the FD system is quite comprehensive in terms of available lenses.

    I'll throw in a current favorite of mine for a mention-the Olympus OM-2. It's manual focus, but gives full auto-exposure and has a big, bright, crisp and beautiful viewfinder. Unlike the OM-1, which is very similar in size and construction, the OM-2 is not dependent on mercury batteries for correct meter readings. The OM range of cameras(I have an OM-1, OM-2, and OM-4-the OM-3 is too pricey for someone casually dabbling in the system) are wonderful smoothly operating jewels and are quite small. Olympus lenses are excellent, and the common focal lengths are inexpensive.

    Even though the Nikon F2 is my favorite SLR of all time, objectively it has its downsides and I'm not sure I'd suggest it to someone wanting a single film camera. With that said, I don't think you can go wrong buying into the Nikon system, and I'd consider the FM, FM2, FE, and FE2 as sweet spots to be. The difference between the FM and FE cameras is that the FMs are fully manual with simple +/0/- LEDs to indicate exposure with the FEs have aperture priority in addition to manual. The "2" versions of both cameras offer a higher maximum shutter speed and a faster flash sync speed, although on the FE2 this translates into worse battery life. These cameras are bigger and heavier than "consumer" SLRs like the Canon A series or the the Nikon EM/FG/FG-20, but are a lot smaller and lighter than full blown "pro" cameras like the Canon F-1(all versions) and the Nikon single digit cameras.

    While I'm talking Nikons, I'll also put in a mention for something of an undersung favorite of mine-the FG. It's smaller and lighter than the FM and FE series, and offers both aperture priority and full program auto exposure(one of only a small number of Nikons to do that with manual focus lenses). The meter read-out uses what I call a "match LED" system in manual mode, where there is a shutter speed scale along the side of the viewfinder along with a row of LEDs. A steady LED indicates the shutter speed currently set, while a flashing one indicates what the camera "thinks" you should used based on the meter reading/aperture/film speed. If only one LED is lit, you have the exposure "correct" according to the camera, although the same principles of intentional over/underexposure vs. the meter reading apply with digital as with film. I like the FG LED system because it's easy to see in any light and doesn't intrude on the display area like the needle and flag system on the EL/EL2/FE/FE2/FM3a.
    Fiddlefye likes this.
  14. +1 on the FG. They don't have as good a reputation as they deserve, so they often go cheap. Now I'll be contrarian. Digital is so good today, I don't think 35mm film has that much to offer. Consider a medium format camera, be it a TLR, RF or even an old folder. Get basic mechanics and a good lens, then find a light meter.
  15. While I certainly won't disagree with you, I do think 35mm has its place. I enjoy it a lot as someone who shoots 120 and 4x5, and I think it has even more of a place for the beginning photographer.

    35mm is easy to load and pretty much idiot proof to handle(aside from opening the back before rewinding). You don't have to worry about loading the film backwards as many people do on their first roll through an SLR, or about lining up the dots as you do on virtually all "modern" cameras, or even worse peeking through a ruby window to either start the counter or even advance every frame as on some slightly older cameras and a lot of folders.

    Even more importantly, though, it's a lot more economical to shoot. Usually the same emulsions will run $1-2 less per roll in 120 than in 35mm-36, or about the same price as 35mm-24. Around here, the labs charge the same to process 35mm as they do 120. What that means is that you can get 36(or often 37) exposures for the same price as 8-15(depending on the format) in 120.

    This is less of a concern now as even our small local labs here can do 35mm and 120 both, but even 5 years ago many drug stores could still process 35mm on site while 120 required a trip to a dedicated film lab or possibly a good camera store.
  16. OK, if I have to argue with myself, I learned on my dad's Mercury II half frame camera. 72 exposures per roll and no automation at all. I didn't have a light meter so learned to judge light pretty well. Plus the handy guide in the film boxes. Can't remember, but I think the camera had a circular slide rule on the back to help with exposure too. That was followed by a Yashica TLR. Once you can reliably load 120 film on a stainless steel reel, you can probably load anything. Only then did I get a 35mm.
  17. I have a Pen FT...I loaded a 36 exposure roll in it when I got it back in October, and I'm still working on it. 72 exposures is a LOT of film. I keep meaning to pick up a Mercury to add to my collection.

    Funny enough, I actually use to find 120 easier to load on reels than 35mm, but then I realized that my single 120 reel was a Nikkor and my 35mms were mostly no-name. I've since standardized on Hewes for 35mm, as they seem to almost load themselves-in fact despite the fact that I really don't need any more tanks or reels I bought 3 tanks and 14 reels at the local camera store the other day for a little of nothing purely because 8 of them were Hewes. Unfortunately, Omegas, Nikkors, and no-names all load about the same-which is badly-if they've been dropped, and sometimes that's hard to see. The Hewes reels are a bit heavier(more like my 120 Nikkors) and don't seem to bend like other brands-I've yet to have a bad one.
  18. I am not sure they throw in the affordable term in there and I don't know the current going price.
    I would not use several of the cameras listed there. The Canon AE-1 and the Pentax K1000 are the 2 I wouldn't use. I wouldn't care for any of the P&S either (I like the XA but it's not a P&S).
    I also dislike the term analogue for film cameras. Actually it's the digital cameras are analog. Film is not analog.
  19. The Pentax K1000 is a camera that was found all over the place, classrooms, newsrooms, you name it. It was well priced and easy to use. If you want to spend just a little more money and have some of the best, I would get Nikon. Canon is good also but I grew up on Nikon. The F2 is one of the best ever made in my opinion. The F3 is excellent but I never warmed up to it. The F4S is a favorite, I have only used the F5 a little and never even seen an F6. If you get any of these or the Nikkormats, the FE and FM series, you can't go wrong. The N90s and F100 are very good. That gives you access to a huge number of good lenses also.

    Rick H.
  20. My own prejudices, nothing with a mirror/prism and AA batteries only.

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