inexpensive but decent P&S film cameras?

Discussion in 'Modern Film Cameras' started by tomspielman, Sep 15, 2020.

  1. My son's girlfriend is interested in trying out a film camera. She wants something compact and easy to use, - not an SLR. It seems like some of the better cameras of this type have regained popularity and are now selling for lots of money. Cameras like the Olympus mju ii/stylus epic come to mind.

    Are there any sleeper cameras in this category that people of fond of? Something compact, automatic, with a decent lens?

    I found a Stylus Epic zoom that I thought would be right up her alley but that has light leaks around the lens barrel. Otherwise it would be about perfect, - though not the fastest lens.

    Thanks !
  2. I was fond of (and in fact still own but haven't used in years) both the Rollei Prego 90 AF and the Pentax Espio 928 - IIRC those were the only two compact cameras that had lenses covering the range from 28 to 90mm. I also have the Olympus Stylus with the fixed 35mm lens and for a while also owned the Leica Minilux with the 40mm lens (there's also a minilux zoom with a 35-70). During clean-up at my aunt's house we discovered an apparently unused Leica C1 - I read good things about the lens (38-105) but not so much about the camera itself.

    I wouldn't consider the Olympus IS-10 compact - but I was rather fond of its 28-110mm lens.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2020
  3. There are dealers scouring charity and junk shops for exactly this type of camera. They then sell almost any old tat on for upwards of £45. Probably a lot more on line.

    Tell your son's GF to stick with her phone camera and save the money, grief and crummy picture quality she'll get by using 35mm film.

    I really don't understand why people think that using 35mm film in a point'n'shoot is any more like 'proper photography' than using a basic digital camera.

    If she's not convinced, show her all the "I've just started using film, and the results are really disappointing" type threads in the beginner forum.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2020
    SCL likes this.
  4. I think I wouldn't disagree with someone interested in film photography, including developing their own film.

    There are enough people giving away darkroom equipment, that one can start for very low cost.

    Otherwise a roll of film, processing, and commercial scanning gets close to $20.

    It looks like there are plenty of P&S cameras for reasonably low prices.
    There are some that seem to be overpriced, though.
  5. I can't speak completely for my son's girlfriend but I don't think it's about quality or cost. My daughter goes through about 4 or 5 disposable cameras a year. She just had two more come in the mail the other day. I've tried to steer her toward a compact too but no go. She likes the fact that it takes her weeks or months to finish one and that she doesn't quite remember what's on them when she brings them in to get processed.

    She's excited to see what she ends up with. It's like she and her friends that do the same thing have rediscovered delayed gratification.

    I'd guess for my son's girlfriend it's about the same. He was wondering if I had any extra cameras I was planning to get rid of so I asked her what she was looking for. She wants something that's simple that she can toss into a bag and carry with her. She doesn't want to process the film herself.

    And now that I think about it, a quality lens is probably more my requirement than hers. I think if the autofocus/AE works well and the camera is reliable and not ugly, it will be a winner in her mind.

    It's too bad the Epic didn't work out. It's a nice looking little camera.
  6. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    I have also used a Rollei Prego 90 (made by Samsung, I believe) and it has an excellent lens in a very useful range, as well as some handy features such as exposure compensation. However, I did not find its controls very intuitive to use, nor is it a very common camera.

    Have also tried a Stylus Epic zoom, and thought the image quality was not nearly as good as the mju II/Stylus Epic, which has an outstanding 35/2.8 lens, as well as close focusing, spot metering ability, and weatherproof seals. Unfortunately the latter has become overpriced, as have some of the other compact 35's.
  7. Any autofocus P&S camera from one of the known brands will be fine for your purposes. Try to avoid the zoom models, as they are close to useless at the long end for anything but bright sunlight - and the zoom just adds bulk and complexity.
  8. I suspect important is that the price be low enough that she doesn't feel bad if something happens to it.
    (Lost or dropped.)

    There are cameras that are about the quality of disposables, but aren't disposable.
    There are ones that are a little better, and still a good price.
    And there are, as noted, ones that seem to have a cult following and are overpriced.

    One of the usual places to get them is Goodwill, but I am not sure that they have
    reopened yet. (It depends on where you are.)

    The low-end ones are fixed focus like disposables.
    There are ones with a few choices, sometimes labeled with a single person,
    a group of people, and a mountain, for typical uses. And there are full
    auto-focus. As above, non-zoom might be a good choice.

    There should be enough in the $30 to $40 price range, or maybe a little more.

    One more thought. Instax, either mini or wide, are somewhat popular these days
    for the use you mention. Though not for delayed satisfaction. They are a little
    larger, but still light enough.
  9. It looks like the Kodak M35 is a brand-new camera from Kodak, meant for people
    used to using disposables, but not wanting one. It seems to compare its
    features to disposables. Fixed focus lens, switchable flash, manual wind.

    I think you can do a little better for the price, finding a used camera though.

    There are a lot from Olympus, Minolta, Canon, Yashica, and only a small
    number are the cult/collectible ones.
  10. If she can cope with scale focus, then it would be worth looking at one of the various Minox 35 style cameras (not the actual Minox 35). They mostly had good lenses and autoexposure, but scale focus (as does Instax...). Plenty of options and most are far cheaper than a 'real' Minox. They all fold and slip in a bag or pocket.

    I bought my mother a Mju II/Stylus Epic when they were being sold off by Jessops, £45, new, around 2005. I wonder if she still has it, could help fund a new roof for her house! Was a nice little camera.

    Glen - Instax Wide are fun, but not exactly 'compact', about the size of a MF rangefinder! They are light though.
  11. My daughter has an Instax mini, and seems to have fun with it.

    I got an Instax 300 (wide) from Goodwill (before Covid, so I could pick it up)
    and some film packs also from Goodwill. I brought it along on some recent
    family vacations. I keep it in a camera bag to carry around.

    Note also that there are many places, such as Walgreens, that will make prints
    from digital images pretty fast. It might be that the ability to hold prints in
    her hand is more important than that it is from film. Many might only
    think of digital images for viewing on a computer, and not for printing.
    (Well, some have their camera set for low resolution, only worth
    screen viewing. But camera phones are pretty good now, if you use
    the full resolution.)
  12. Cameras where the lens is motorized, and come out when powered on, often fail when that fails,
    especially when dirt and such gets into the gears. That suggests avoiding models like that,
    when buying used (or even new).

    Those do tend to be smaller/thinner, but the shorter lens that they otherwise have,
    is usually not so bad.

    There are plenty of "good enough", better than disposable but not so much better,
    available for reasonable prices.
  13. Both my son and his girlfriend are in college so I only see them, and especially her, sporadically. I did have a brief conversation with her about it so that's what I'm going off of, and I'm using my daughter's experience to help fill in some of the gaps.

    My daughter has both an Instax and a small printer intended to be used with a phone. Neither get a lot of use anymore. And I'm assuming that my son's girlfriend is already familiar with those options and wouldn't consult me if that's what she was interested in.

    The impression I get with Instax cameras is that the novelty wears off pretty quickly and that's why they are so plentiful at Goodwill.
  14. Simple zone focusing as found on some Instax cameras might be OK though originally I was thinking it would have to be autofocus. I wish I'd held on to one of the Olympus XA-2 cameras I had a couple of years ago.
  15. In that case, I'd definitely prioritise a fast lens and good autoexposure, for those dimly lit bars. Avoid zooms. Might be worth asking her wether or not she wants to use flash, Instax and some P&S you can't turn it off...
  16. You might try Steve Gandy's website at, he has a surveys of lots of various film cameras. Dieter had good suggestions as well. Also an inexpensive camera that has a nice lens is the Cannonette series. People seemed to like the Leica Minilux and the Context T series.
  17. A happy dilemma:

    Last evening a forum member offered to send me a P&S that they were no longer using for the price of shipping. Very kind! So I thought the search was over but then this morning I finally got a couple of responses from some craigslist adds I'd pursued. I was going to tell them that I'd already found a camera but they were cheap enough and I figured I'd just give her the choice assuming they all work.

    To be honest, one of them I got more out of my own curiosity because I don't think she'll like it. I picked it up over lunch.



    It's more chunky than it might appear from the pictures which is why I don't think she'll like it. With the clamshell closed it looks more like a Walkman than a camera. What's weird is that the part of the clamshell that covers the lens Is translucent, - though you can't see the lens from the outside anyway.

    An interesting thing about this camera was that it was made in the late 80's and had a pretty advanced AF system for its time. It was $350 camera. It also has a spot focusing mode and a button you hold if you want the flash to stay off. Other than that it has no controls other than a self timer and a mid-roll rewind button.The other thing that sets it apart from typical 80's auto everything cameras is that the motor(s) are relatively quiet.

    I have some 12 exposure film I'll run through it. This might be the quality cheap sleeper camera I was looking for even if it's ultimately not the one she picks.

    The other two cameras are zooms, one from Canon and one from Olympus. I know people have cautioned against them and I've already had a bad experience with one. The problem is that the market reflects your advice. Zooms are cheap. Good fixed length P&S cameras are not.

    So we'll see. The zooms do have their advantages, - nicer portrait photos being one. In fact if the one camera I had didn't suffer from light leaks it would have been great, - zoom related quality compromises and all. The casual photographer probably doesn't care too much about minor vignetting or softness at the edges.

    It's a Chinon Auto 3001
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2020
    m42dave and steve_gallimore|1 like this.
  18. I think Chinon are almost criminally underrated and overlooked.

    Happy shooting!
    tomspielman likes this.
  19. Thanks. At the moment I'm happy they're criminally underrated.

Share This Page