You may be wondering why we’re talking about what the best film cameras for beginners are in 2020, when we now have a plethora of digital options. However, film photography is making a comeback in a big way. Plus, a 35mm camera can capture that distinctive vintage look that DSLR’s just aren’t able to replicate.
With that being said, there are a few things that you will want to consider before buying your very first film camera. With a huge range of new and used 35mm available, it can be hard to know where to start.
We recommend sticking to the 5 main tried and tested brands: Canon, Minolta, Nikon, Olympus and Pentax. To make things easier for you, we’re recommending the best beginner option from each of the main camera players:
- Pentax IQZoom
- Canon AE-1
- Minolata X-700
- Olympus OM-10
- Nikon FM-10
We’re starting our list off with the most beginner friendly 35mm camera. The Pentax IQZoom is a simple point and shoot film camera that requires no previous photography experience to get started.
As a point and shoot camera, it’s cheap, it’s easy and it’s transportable. The Pentax IQZoom will enable you to capture beautiful vintage-esque photo’s on film without any of the faff. It also benefits from a good auto focus system and built in flash mounts for taking pictures at night.
We couldn’t leave this camera off our list. Designed in the mid 70s for amateurs, the Canon AE-1 is widely regarded as one of the best film cameras for beginners.
Many may think of Canon’s digital counterparts as being slightly complicated in their usage and set up. This couldn’t be further from the truth for the AE-1. It’s simplistic design only requires you to insert the battery, load the film and shoot.
Shooting is easy with this camera’s shutter speed priority. Simply focus the lens, set your shutter speed and the camera will choose the aperture. You can also choose to shoot completely manually, meaning the camera gives you room to progress as a photographer and start experimenting as you gain more skills and experience.
The Minolata X-700 is another great beginner film camera. It’s one of the most affordable options with prices on e-bay ranging from £50 to £200.
The X-700 was one of Minolta’s first cameras to provide a programme option, meaning that the camera can set its own aperture and shutter speed. All you need to do, is point and shoot.
The Minolata X-700’s programme mode makes it even more beginner friendly than the Canon AE-1’s shutter speed priority feature. However, the X-700 also offers an aperture priority (set the aperture and the camera will set the shutter speed) option and a fully manual programme mode for more advanced photographers.
The Olympus OM-10 is another great beginner friendly 35mm SLR camera. Similar to the Minolata X-700 in price, there are plenty of second hand options available. This is because when the OM-10 was brought out in 1979, it was designed to be more accessible in terms of entry level and price, than the previous single digit OM’s and so a lot of people bought one.
The OM-10 is a manual focus, aperture priority camera. Just as we discussed for the Minolata X-700, this means that if you set the aperture settings, the camera will take care of the shutter speed.
Many professional photographers have criticised the OM-10 for its lack of manual settings. However, we don’t think that this is a reason to dismiss the camera entirely. Firstly, the camera was designed for amateurs, not professionals. Also, Olympus later came out with a plug-in adapter that screws into the front of the camera and allows for full manual controls – problem solved.
Overall, despite some drawbacks, the Olympus 0M-10 remains a lightweight, wallet friendly, beginner film camera.
The Nikon FM-10 is the most advanced camera on our list as it is a fully manual camera. However, it is very highly regarded in the 35mm SLR world and offers certain benefits that the other cameras on this list don’t. As the camera of choice for journalistic photographers in the 1970s, there’s a reason the camera is still available today.
What makes the modern Nikon film camera truly unique, is that it is compatible with digital lenses. It has the Nikon F lens mount, so you can set FX format lenses with the camera to get some truly unique shots that blend both old and new photography – just be sure that you can mechanically set lens aperture.
So, if you’re feeling ambitious, or you have some compatible lenses already, give the Nikon FM-10 a try.
Shooting and Developing Camera Film
Now that you’ve picked your camera, you’ll be excited to start shooting. And no wonder, shooting with film can really help to expand your creative range by introducing you to new photography techniques and unique aesthetics that just can’t be replicated from digital cameras.
However, as with any new skill, shooting with film will take time, patience and practice. Luckily, there are plenty of good resources in film photography out there that can help you.
Once you’ve filled your film roll with lots of beautiful photographs, you need to know how to get your shots developed.
You could cover your windows with bin bags and build your own dark room but seeing as you have just read an article about film cameras for beginners, we’re guessing this isn’t the right option for you. Instead, you will need to get your film professionally developed.
Photo Credit: Ethan Hoover