Best Film Cameras

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

  1. The K1000 was well priced when they are new. In the used market the price is too high.
    leo_tam|1 likes this.
  2. I like the K1000. But considering today's prices, I think you're better off getting an OM-1.
  3. Adorama ads in 1981 Popular Photography was selling the K1000 body for $94.95 and the Olympus OM-1 for $179.95. So the OM-1 was almost twice the price of the K1000 and it makes sense to get the K1000. Today I think both on the used market would be sold for about the same price and I certainly wouldn't pick the K1000.
    rodeo_joe|1 and leo_tam|1 like this.
  4. I was in a local antique mall the other day and ran across a K1000 with a 50mm f/1.7 for $45. I checked it all out and everything I could check was good-1 second was close enough, the self timer worked, the glass was clear, and the blades weren't sticky. I couldn't check the meter for obvious reasons.

    I nearly bought it with the intent to resell it before I checked Ebay and realized that a lot were bringing prices not much more than that...or at least were low enough that with Ebay+PP fees I'd lose money reselling it.

    When I went on my Olympus bender last month, I paid around $80 for my OM-1 with a 50mm f/1.8 and an off-brand 28mm f/3.5. From what I've seen, that's a typical OM-1+50mm kit price. Once you do that, you still have mercury battery worries-it doesn't bother me since I've been dealing with the issue since I got into photography seriously in the mid-2000s, but it is something that different people have different tolerances for. If I wanted to go the Olympus route for my one 35mm camera, after buying and using the OM-1, OM-2, and OM-4, if I had to pick one as a starter/only camera I'd go with the OM-2. It's as nice to handle and use as the OM-1 with the same big beautiful viewfinder, but aside from adding AE it gives you silicon metering cells and lets you use the readily available type LR44/76/SR76 cells.
  5. My favorite film camera is the Nikon FM2n.
    kklow likes this.
  6. Just to be sure, the Mercury II is not half frame, but closer to 9/16.

    I have had only one roll though the one I got a few years ago, and then managed to scan it on
    a Pakon F135 scanner. There is a place to put in the expected frame spacing, so it can divide the
    roll up into frames. And about 66 frames per roll.


    I am not sure which film this is, but it isn't very good.
  7. As for the original question, FTb go for very reasonable prices, tend to work well, and mine even
    has an alkaline battery. As well as I know, the meter is close enough for me.
    Fiddlefye likes this.
  8. The linked articles are an odd hodge-podge of plastic fantastic disposable P&S cameras, with sophisticated SLRs. More apples and oranges today than ever before: film is so expensive now theres really no "point" in a low-end 35mm P&S. Why pay silly film and processing money for mediocre results from a joyless uninvolving auto-everything plastic blob? Point-and-shoot 35mm has been utterly eclipsed by digital and phone cams: either go for premium 35mm or don't bother with 35mm at all.

    Fixed lens, I'd opt for a nice Rollei 35 Tessar, Voigtlander Vito B, restored Yashica GSN, or any Konica rangefinder.

    SLR, I'd recommend a Nikkormat FTn or EL any day. Nilkkormat bodies are cheap, built to last, and good pre-AI Nikkor lenses are plentiful at reasonable cost. The EL especially tends to be overlooked: it offers AE and full manual metering modes, and the meter usually still works well. The mechanical Nikkormats are a bit more hit-or-miss re functional meters, but can be picked up for less than $30 and their Copal Square shutters are indestructible.

    Olympus OM1/OM2 are beautiful, quiet, compact SLRs but the good (even some mediocre) Zuiko lenses are all scarce pricey collectibles now (odd, considering OM sold like crazy back in the day). I'd probably go with a Nikon FG: even smaller, with the same huge viewfinder as an OM (tho not as pretty or quiet). Most Nikon lenses in focal lengths below 135mm are about the same size as OM lenses (some like the 35mm f/2.0 are smaller). The Nikon FM and FE are also very affordable, with a more premium feel than the FG, but somewhat larger and a lot noisier than OM.

    Pentax K1000 at its current, suddenly rock-bottom price is a good deal, as well as the slightly more upscale KM and KX. Pentax MX was a cute small answer to Olympus OM, but the pastel LED meter display washes out in daylight becoming more difficult to use than the old-fashioned needle display in the K1000 or OM1. Pentax ME Super is really tiny and nice if you mostly stay in AE mode. Personally I prefer the earlier Pentax Spotmatic and ES series to K mount: they're the gateway to a universe of interesting M42 lenses (granted, other brands made nice M42 bodies as well, but Pentax is the icon).

    Pre-electronic Canon had some excellent bodies like original F-1, EF, and FTb. The Canon TX is a sentimental favorite, the K1000 of Canon FD bodies. I never liked the FD mount: something about it just always bugged me, in both breech lock and "New FD" guise, but there's no denying the glass is superb and many good FD lenses are still affordable.

    Minolta had a fantastic manual-focus Rokkor lens line, but the vintage bodies don't hold up quite as well. The newer electronic models are as blah as the Canon AE-1 (astounding when new, but boring as death today). Older SRTs can be problematic, and the lovely XE-5/XE-7 are hard to find in fully functional condition. The XK is a huge love-it-or-hate-it body. The XD-11 was arguably the nicest, most compact, most sophisticated body Minolta ever made, but very hard to find in good order today.

    Konica had an interesting selection of fully manual and fully electronic SLR bodies, with an incredibly good range of Hexanon lenses. But the premium mechanical T series bodies tend to have dead meters now, and the Hexanon lenses are scarce, pricey or both.

    Medium format, I'd go with an indestructible Mamiya C220 TLR, smaller Minolta AutoCord TLR, the original Mamiya M645 SLR, or perhaps an RB67 SLR. Anything else is too pricey or quirky for the neophyte unless they're quite sure medium format is their muse.

    My own most-used film systems are Nikon F2AS, Mamiya C220 and Hasselblad 500cm.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2019
    leo_tam|1, petrochemist and Ludmilla like this.
  9. Silent Street

    Silent Street Silent Street Photography AUS

    There is potential trouble lurking for any of those cameras on the list given their advanced age and useage. Canon's T90, a foretaste of what was to come with the next-gen EOS bodies, remains sought after, but today, prone to electronic irregularities, among them display driver faults and replacement of the internal button battery (if not corroded to boot) that maintains ISO and camera settings in the absence of batteries. It was one of the very best cameras I used in early professional practice, with a retinue of excellent FD lenses.

    The Olympus XA is a little gem; my first came along (bought from a newsagent's stand!) in 1981. I am using the fifth XA in day to day snapshots. One has to shop astutely for these, and suss them out carefully; failure of the shutter button is not something the camera does itself, but one caused by brute force operation of the shutter when only a very light touch is required. Replacement of rear door seals is routine, though fiddly. Some specimens I have seen have dirt/grit or something jammed behind the clamshell door and running over the lens — the result of which is entirely predictable.

    Nikon's F90X was a stalwart among rock climbers in the southern hemisphere, with reliability that was said to continue even after a long and heavy fall.

    Analogue is an entirely valid term for film photography.
    Ludmilla and Fiddlefye like this.
  10. Maybe hard hearted to say it but most film cameras are becoming disposable as repair resources dry up. Why pay 2-3x the purchase price to fix a wounded consumer-grade SLR when a functional example is available? I bought 2+ copies of favourites in nice shape when prices cratered a decade ago. It was no secret then or now which models were break-prone. For me, the best film cameras are working film cameras.
    julien_t and Ludmilla like this.
  11. Some people just like to shoot film for the way it looks and aren't too interested in the technicalities. For them, a decent P&S does the same thing it would have done back in the 80s or 90s - provide a way of getting good results with a minimum of fuss. Back in the 'film era' when was young, people here used to suggest choosing one with a prime lens rather than a zoom and loading it with ISO 400 so that the program would pick a reasonable shutter speed and stop the lens down a bit. That's still good advice, though 90s favourites like the Yashica T4 have achieved cult status and now go for silly prices. But you can still pick up something like a Sureshot Supreme for about the price of a film and battery, and get results that will at best be hard to tell apart from your SLR shots.
    leo_tam|1, Fiddlefye and Ludmilla like this.
  12. I've owned examples of many of the different systems mentioned (and quite a few not discussed), though I shoot mostly Nikon SLRs of late (F2, FE and F4s). The better film SLRs all represent amazing value these days as long as you have a good and reasonable service person available. I picked up my F4s a few years ago in near-mint condition (and as-new function) for the sum total of $68 - heavy, but what an amazing camera to work with!
    [​IMG]Siblings by fiddlefye, on Flickr

    The past while I've had the Leicaflex SL-2 out and about for a bit and we're having a little love affair...
    [​IMG]Leicaflex SL and SL-2 by fiddlefye, on Flickr

    I also have a pair of OMs, a OM-2n and an OM1 (in getting converted to modern battery type at the moment). Big and little in this shot.
    [​IMG]Nikon F4s and Olympus OM-2n by fiddlefye, on Flickr

    I also shoot quite a bit of 120 B&W, Rolliflex 3.5 Xenotar. SL-66 and Hasselblad 500C. The funny thing about the prices on these are that they are much more expensive these days than when I bought them back in the 80s.
    kklow and orsetto like this.
  13. I've had 3 out of the 20 film cameras they mentioned in the two articles along with a bunch of others. Two of those 3 I've kept through my various camera purges so I guess I agree, - at least about those 2. ;)
  14. SCL


    In many cases it has become a sellers market as newbies clamor to become "hipsters" wearing a film camera, which they refer to as "analogue". But there are many inexpensive bargains, of good solid working quality, out there. One merely needs a little patience, persitence in bargaining, and some knowledge in pre-purchase inspection to separate the wheat from the chaff.
    leo_tam|1 likes this.
  15. There's a few P&S cameras on the lists but really not that many. A couple that look like Point and Shoots are actually range finders. And those P&S cameras that are on the list have good glass and some notable features, - at least they were notable at the time of their introduction. They'll take good pictures without a lot of fuss.

    Digital cameras have eclipsed 35mm altogether by most measures whether it's a P&S or SLR. Still, some people have an interest in shooting film and I'm happy they do no matter what kind of camera they choose. It creates more of a market for companies like Kodak, Ilford and others to keep making it.

    My teenaged daughter wanted a Fuji Instax a couple of years ago. The film packs are expensive and the photos are small relative to the Polaroids of the past. I don't really get it, but she and her friends enjoy them nonetheless. Most people don't get why I shoot film at all, so who am I to judge?
    orsetto likes this.
  16. I buy film cameras because I like taking old things and making them work again. I can also afford to buy those same cameras that were out of reach when I was a kid dreaming of being an adventure photographer. ;)

    I shoot and process film because it's still kind of magic for me.

    There are those who look at us older folks with our film cameras and probably see it as an exercise in nostalgia or a way to hold on to our youth. And if I'm to be honest, that is part of the reason I got into this hobby. I wanted to recreate an event from 50 years ago that was shot on 8mm film, - my brother and I doing somersaults in front of our childhood home.

    That home is still in the family, so I bought an old Super 8 camera, got some film for it and had someone film my brother and I doing somersaults 50 years later. Not long after that I got into still photography. Is that a more legit reason for shooting film than why a hipster might? I'm sure some of them quickly lose interest and I might have another hobby in a couple years too. But for now I'm having fun with it and I'd guess some of them are as well.
    steve_gallimore|1 likes this.
  17. I'm all for as many people as possible using film in any camera they want to: the more film sales to keep mfrs going, the better. My phrasing perhaps muddled my meaning: I wasn't disparaging or criticizing anyone who might choose to use an old P&S today, I'm just utterly, completely baffled by the specific subgroup of younger people, who never previously held a film camera in their entire lives, who have no particular motivation to want to use film at all really, suddenly deciding in 2019 that they want to shoot film with an old P&S.

    Hipsters, whether poseurs or with a genuine interest in film, I understand. They either use the better-grade (or at least interesting) vintage cameras like normal film photography enthusiasts (for the love of old gear, creative expression or process), or simply use them for jewelry and street cred. Some will choose a P&S because they're consciously trying to emulate a certain aesthetic they associate with those cameras. Similarly, I get the Instax and vintage Polaroid kids: instant formats offer a unique shooting/sharing experience that can't be replicated with digital or standard film (depending on the Polaroid and available film, they can also offer artistic options unobtainable in any other manner). And I "get" seasoned film photographers (who know the difference) making an informed choice to use a P&S for whatever personal reason.

    What I don't get is the motivation behind randomly deciding to pick up a film camera for the first time in your life today, and instead of going all-in to explore the experience (artistically, mechanically, or even just for jewelry), choosing a charmless, nondescript, do-everything, auto-load, AE, AF camera. Other than the "experience" of shooting blind and having to wait out processing/scanning results, what exactly is to be gained over your cell phone, compact digicam or DSLR? How is using the film P&S at all different or exciting, esp given how many disappointing shots (and resulting money burned) most people will get from even the best film P&S?

    If it was 1999, sure: film was predominant for image making, and if you weren't a camera geek or dedicated photographer you would of course choose a P&S (as most people had done going back to the original Kodak Brownie a century earlier). But today? Why would anyone want mediocre 35mm images from a film P&S vs just about any digital alternative? I'm not being snarky, I honestly would like to understand: if one has no particular creative intent in mind, what it is the goal of using a film version of their cellphone that's actually less capable, and guaranteed to produce worse results that can't be easily shared?

    Pretty much everything else offers something distinct you can't quite get from a phone or other digital camera, be it quality of overall result or flexibility/enjoyment of the gear. 35mm compacts (RF or scale focus), 35mm SLR, any medium format variation (TLR, SLR, RF), Instax, Polaroid. But a 35mm auto-everything P&S? Can't think of a reason for a non-photographer to bother today.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2019
  18. I think it's pretty simple really. Some people just want to shoot film. It's not so much about the camera. They want something that works without fuss. The art is in the composition. Yes, they can do that with their phone camera but I think you have to agree that using film warrants a different approach. Street photography is all the rage. A P&S is arguably better for that than an old SLR or TLR.

    Consider the list of "best" cameras that started this thread. The few P&S cameras in those lists weren't just any Point and Shoots. Those were cameras with good glass that allowed people to get consistent results without knowing a lot about cameras or having to carry a bag full of equipment. Some even took filters.

    If you've got a good lens, the image is in focus, and the exposure is right, the picture will be no better from a 35mm SLR as would be from a 35mm P&S. It's still 35mm film. Plastic vs Metal is irrelevant. It's light, glass and film. Of course if you want some creative control over aperture, be able to change lenses, or want something intentionally out of focus, a P&S is the wrong choice.

    Wouldn't an easy to use camera like a P&S make total sense to someone new to film given the expense of inconvenience of processing if they just want to shoot film? They could certainly get an old heavy SLR that they have to focus themselves and set the exposure, but I think lots of them would get frustrated with that pretty quickly if they didn't get the results they were hoping for.

    From a quality perspective there is little reason to shoot 35mm at all today vs digital unless you want the "film look". This is true with you shoot film with an SLR or a Point & Shoot. In terms of creativity an old SLR gives you little in terms of manual control that you can't get with a specialized app on your phone.

    So if modern digital cameras and phones give you all the quality and creative control you'd want, why get an old camera of any type? Because for some people, it's about the film.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2019
    leo_tam|1 and orsetto like this.
  19. Thanks for the very thoughtful reply.

    I think the mental block for me is that while I totally agree with every point you made, I still can't fathom this sub-trend of "I'm not a photographer, have no particular artistic or creative motivations, I'm not interested in making pictures for any reason other than (like everybody else) I'm obsessed with documenting my life for social media, but I want the'"film look' (whatever that is), so would prefer a film camera as generic, automated and un-involving as my phone". To my perspective, this is essentially saying "I want the same random snapshots I get with my phone, but be able to say I used (woo-HOO) film." Nothing else whatsoever changes, you just want to swap the digital sensor for film. WHY?

    We're already years past the point when simply reverting to film made you stand out in social media posts, or bestowed meaningful hipster cred. Does anyone actually care anymore whether you used a generic robotic film camera or your phone to take that same beach or street photo that ten million other people have already posted? In a sea of Brooklynite humanity sporting ripped jeans and vintage Leicas (or Argus C3s, Holgas, Rolleiflexes, Spotmatics), who is going to think you "cool" for having a Nikon L35AF around your neck? Why the film, but no interest in understanding or exploiting it?

    As mentioned earlier, I do get how in today's context someone might make a considered choice to use a P&S film camera to emulate the '80s amateur aesthetic, or the past work of a revered deliberately-artless photographer. But aimlessly dragging around a bulky additional camera for random snapshots, just to say you used film for the heck of it? SMH: if it makes people happy, more power to them, I guess. Helps keep film viable for all of us. Me? I won't tote a film camera unless I get a real kick out of its handling, appearance or results (preferably at least two out of three).

    Much appreciate the feedback some of you have given me on this question, I'll drop it now because its straying afield from the primary thread topic. :)
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2019
    millard_thomas|1 and Fiddlefye like this.
  20. Film Point & Shoots are cheap. Young people on low budgets and with an interest in film can probably afford the $5 or up to $100 to buy one, much less money than a phone I'm sure. There may even be an emerging respect among young amateurs who have known only digital, for the history of film photography, and wish to give film it a try. An inexpensive P&S is possibly their starting point.

Share This Page