Film photography is a wonderful hobby, but researching which camera to start with can be intimidating. After all, there's more than a century's worth of film history to consider and figuring out which model is right for you might seem like a sisyphean task.
Luckily, we're here for you. Not only have we helped folks fall in love with photography for over 40 years, we've also seen which cameras have true staying power over generations of film shooters.
The following are our recommendations for beginner 35mm, medium format, large format and instant cameras. If you need further assistance putting together a kit, you can always give us a call at 1-800-DIAL-KEH and we'll hook you up with something specific for your needs and skill level.
Best Beginner 35mm Film Cameras
A few weeks ago, we published our list of best-selling cameras of the last decade, and if you cross-reference that list with the following one, you'll see some crossover. That's no accident. These film cameras are stone-cold classics—time-tested, simple to use and perform well. Plus, they're wonderful tools to grow with as you gain confidence as a photographer.
If you are new to photography altogether or have only shot on a smartphone so far, you may not know how to expose manually, so we listed some bodies that have helpful automatic exposure features. If you're comfortable with manual exposure and using either an in-camera or external light meter, we also listed some manual 35mm cameras that are great options.
SLRs With Automatic Exposure Features
Canon AE-1 Program - This is our best-selling film camera. Easy to use, classic looks and a great lens selection make this an all-time classic. See our AE-1 essentials for a complete kit.
Minolta X-700 - Lighter than most single lens reflex cameras of the era, the X-700 is a joy to carry around and use. See our X-700 essentials for a complete kit.
Nikon FE - A really affordable and popular camera for beginners, the FE is a great starting point into Nikon's historic F-mount lens system.
SLRs With Manual Exposure
Nikon FM2 - An all-mechanical performer—it can even function without a battery and is extremely reliable. See our FM2 essentials for a complete kit.
Pentax K1000 - A standard body found in photography classes all over the world. It doesn't get any simpler than the K1000—set your exposure, focus, shoot and repeat. See our K1000 essentials for a complete kit.
Yashica T4 - An exemplary point-and-shoot with a great lens and all-weather performance.
Olympus XA - Compact size but lots of manual features for when you advance in your photography.
Yashica Electro 35 GSN - This fixed-lens camera isn't as compact as the options above, but it's a great entry-level into the rangefinder world.
Best Beginner Medium Format Film Cameras
Medium format film is larger than 35mm, giving you better resolution, tones and smaller grain structure, making it popular with wedding, portrait and landscape photographers through the decades. Some medium format systems are modular, while others are all-in-one solutions. There are a variety of form factors to choose from, so let's go through a few.
Twin-Lens Reflex Medium Format Cameras
Single-Lens Reflex Medium Format Cameras
Mamiya RB67 - A more affordable option for those saving up for a Hasselblad, although Mamiya RB lenses give Zeiss a run for their money.
Pentax 645N - If you're making the jump from a 35mm SLR, this Pentax is an easy transition as the controls are nearly identical.
Pentacon Six TL - An absolute unit with a decent lens lineup for those who are budget-conscious.
Rangefinder Medium Format Cameras
Fuji GW690III - This Fuji sports a fixed lens which is renowned for its sharpness and wonderful rendering.
Compact Medium Format Cameras
Holga 120N - This plastic-fantastic, almost-toy camera is so fun to use that Holga has kept making them for decades.
Fuji GS645 - This foldable medium format kit is quite portable without sacrificing image quality.
Best Beginner Large Format Film Cameras
Large format photography is perhaps the purest form of the craft. The film is massive, giving you the ultimate resolution, clarity and depth of field. While these cameras can be a bit unwieldy to handle and mostly belong on a tripod, every shot will be worth it once you see the results. They mostly come in two form factors, monorail or folding view.
Monorail Large Format Cameras
Folding View Large Format Cameras
Tachihara 4x5 - Relatively lightweight considering it's wood, this 4x5 is great for practical outdoor landscape photography.
Toyo 45AX 4x5 - All-metal construction, but weighing less than 6 pounds, this 4x5 offers a great value for a field camera.
Best Beginner Instant Film Cameras
There's nothing more fun than instant film photography, and it's as popular now as it's ever been. Fujifilm and Polaroid are the main manufacturers of film in this field, and they're still coming out with new products all the time, including new film stocks and different formats.
Fujifilm Instax Cameras
Mini LiPlay - This hybrid instant film/digital camera is perfect for those who don't want to waste a bunch of film. It lets you perfect your shot before you print it, and comes with all sorts of cool features.
Mint Instantflex TL70 - This TLR-styled instant camera shoots Fujifilm Instax Mini film and offers timeless looks.
Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 - If you want the biggest format of instant film available, look no further.
Polaroid Instant Cameras
Polaroid SX70 - This classic SLR-style instant camera is foldable for portability and offers manual features for maximum control over your images.
Polaroid OneStep - A fun and easy to use instant camera that's sure to be a staple at parties, family events and holidays.
Whatever your needs or budget, give us a call at 1-800-DIAL-KEH and we can help you get started on your film photography journey.