25 Best Film Cameras For Beginners In Every Format
Film or analog 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 impossible.
Luckily, we're here for you. Not only have we helped folks fall in love with photography for over 40 years, but 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, call us 1-800-342-5534, and we'll hook you up with something specific to your needs and skill level.
Best Beginner 35mm Film Cameras
There are many types of films, but 35mm has become the standard type and is readily available everywhere. Therefore, it’s a great place to start.
If you review our list of best-selling cameras of the last decade and cross-reference it 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 film 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.
SLR Cameras 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. During a period when most manufacturers preferred aperture-priority operation, the AE-1 stood out by providing shutter-priority automation and metered manual modes. 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. It offers three shooting modes: full manual, aperture priority, and programmed auto-exposure. See our X-700 essentials for a complete kit.
Nikon FE2 - A really affordable and popular camera for beginners, the FE2 remains popular today. Similar to the non-battery-powered Nikon FM, the FE2 offers rugged build quality, versatile exposure control, and compatibility with interchangeable lenses, making it a great choice.
SLR Cameras With Manual Exposure
Olympus OM-1 - An all-mechanical performer—its compact and lightweight design, high-quality optics, and intuitive controls make it an ideal choice for travel and street photography.
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. Some of the Pentax’s newer autofocus lenses can still be attached to the K1000 and used effectively in manual focus mode but at the cost of exposure control because they lack aperture rings. See our K1000 essentials for a complete kit.
Contax T2 - This powerful point-and-shoot camera provides a great lens, auto film advance, and all-weather performance. It competes with other high-end point-and-shoot film cameras, such as the Leica Minilux.
Olympus XA - Compact size but lots of manual features for when you advance in your photography. Believe it or not, the XA is the smallest rangefinder film camera ever made.
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. It offers a maximum shutter speed of 1/500 of a second and a maximum ISO of 1000.
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
Minolta Autocord - A solid and affordable TLR, perfect for 6x6 medium format photography.
Yashica Mat 124G - This classic TLR sports a sharp Yashica lens and is built like a tank.
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 - This camera is 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, 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
Sinar F2 - A classic monorail 4x5 camera offering multipurpose flexibility. The F1 is similar and slightly cheaper.
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 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 retro 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.
Lomography Color Negative 400/36 - A fun yet simple single-use camera that produces vibrant and unique images. With its built-in flash and pre-loaded film, it's perfect for anyone looking to try film photography without the hassle of loading their own rolls of film.
Shop High-Quality Used Film Cameras with KEH
We offer the best gently used film cameras for several reasons. Firstly, we are experts in the field of used camera equipment, with a rigorous inspection process that ensures every camera we sell is in excellent condition. This means that you can buy with confidence, knowing you're getting the best camera within your budget that will produce stunning results, backed by a free 180-day warranty.
Additionally, KEH offers a wide range of cameras and accessories from different brands and eras. Whether you’re looking for a modern digital camera with a top-of-the-line viewfinder or a roll of film for your first film camera, we cater to every type of photographer. Don’t just take our word for it – read some kind words from past customers.
Finally, our knowledgeable staff is always on hand to offer advice and answer any questions you may have, making the buying process as easy and stress-free as possible. Whatever your needs or budget, give us a call at 1-800-342-5534, and we can help you get started on your film photography journey today.