The best film cameras in 2024: recapture the magic of film in the digital age

Once thought dead, film photography has made a big comeback in recent years, largely buoyed by Instagram and sites like Analogue Wonderland, as more and more photographers discover the addictive pleasures of analogue shooting, an alchemical thrill that can't be replicated in digital megapixels.

Why do people still shoot film? There's a lot to love: the physical permanence of it, the excitement of trying different film stocks, and seeing how different they look. And there's also the delayed gratification, which may seem a strange thing to say, but there is something exciting about the unknown quality of shooting film, and the delay between pressing the shutter and actually seeing the image you captured.

It's exciting! Then there's also the fact that many film cameras simply look cool, and are built with metallic durability that's arguably superior to the disposable plastic of today.

Sebastian Oakley
Sebastian Oakley

For nearly two decades Sebastian's work has been published internationally. He is familiar with and shows great interest in medium and large format photography with products by Phase One, Hasselblad, Alpa, and Sinar. He has used many cinema cameras from the likes of Sony, RED, ARRI, and everything in between.

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The best film cameras in 2024

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Best Nikon 35mm film camera

(Image credit: Lauren Scott)
A Nikon classic film camera still beloved today

Specifications

Type: SLR
Film format: 35mm
Year introduced: 1978
Availability: Used
Lens: Nikon F mount
Viewfinder: Optical
Modes: Aperture-priority, manual
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Compact and affordable
+
Gorgeous retro aesthetic
+
Easy to use

Reasons to avoid

-
Max shutter speed not the fastest
-
Needs a battery

The Nikon FE is an icon of the film era. So much so that it has helped inspire Nikon's current range of retro digital cameras – bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Nikon Z fc. The camera has a design I can't help but fall for, with little touches of copper in the dials, and faux-leather cladding on the pentaprism viewfinder, the Nikon FE is still a beauty today that draws me to it. 

The build of this camera is also renowned for being reliable, so some 30 years later these cameras should still be going strong (although might require some minor repairs like light seals). Our reviewer loved the viewfinder, finding it clear and bright, and the depth of field preview very effective.

Now looks aren't everything, and thankfully the Nikon FE has the skills too. As an advanced semi-professional 35mm SLR camera with manual or aperture priority shooting modes, it should suit anyone with a little camera know-how. Its shutter has a range of 1/1000sec to a maximum of 8 seconds, while Bulb mode is mechanical and unlimited. Flash sync speed is 1/125th of a second, while the ISO/ASA ranges from 12 to 3200.

The camera can also be paired with Nikon's F-mount lenses, and luckily, this is one of the widest and best-selling lens ranges of all time, so you certainly won't have any trouble picking some up second-hand, and there is a lens to suit everything from wide-angle street scenes to telephotos for wildlife and sports.

The Nikon FE is still a very capable SLR with a lovely design, and perhaps the perfect model for those wanting to delve into film photography. Manufactured by Nikon in Japan from 1978 to 1983. Today, it's possible to pick up the Nikon FE secondhand for under $150 / £150.

Read our full Nikon FE review

Find used Nikon FE deals on eBay (US)
Find used Nikon FE deals on eBay (UK)

Best iconic Canon film camera

(Image credit: Gareth Bevan / Digital Camera World)
An icon from Canon's film era

Specifications

Type: SLR
Film format: 35mm
Year introduced: 1976
Availability: Used
Lens: Canon FD mount
Viewfinder: Optical TTL
Modes: Shutter-priority, manual
User level: Beginner/Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Classic status
+
Electronic shutter control

Reasons to avoid

-
Plastic construction
-
Needs a battery

The Canon AE-1 and AE-1 Program are perhaps two of the most well-known 35mm film cameras ever made – unsurprising then it was the prestigious title of the first camera to sell one million units. This was certainly no fluke as the AE-1 was a groundbreaking camera for the time being the first camera to include some of the electronic components that paved the way for digital cameras. 

The Canon AE-1's plastic construction was also a first, as new manufacturing processes meant the camera could be produced on scale or less, which kept the price affordable for novices and enthusiasts. However, this hasn't affected its reliability, as there are plenty of cameras still going strong (including my own copy) decades after release.

The AE-1 features an electronically controlled cloth focal plane shutter offering a wide and repeatable shutter speed range. This meant it needed a battery to power its operation but offered more potential consistency than mechanically operated shutters. Metering was carried out by a single silicon photocell offering a center-weighted meter. The AE-1 was unusual for offering shutter-priority automation at a time when most makers favored aperture-priority operation. 

The AE-1 Program was a later variant that added a fully automatic exposure mode. So if you are a bit more of a novice when it comes to film photography, the Program version is a great camera to start with.

The AE-1 uses Canon's FD breech-lock bayonet mount, and also Canon's 'new' style FD lenses, and there are plenty of these to pick up secondhand for cheap. It has since been superseded by the EF and RF lens mounts, though adaptors are available for mounting these modern lenses, although you won't benefit from any new technology like autofocus and image stabilization.  

Read our full Canon AE-1 review

Find used Canon AE1 deals on eBay (US)
Find used Canon AE1 deals on eBay (UK)

Best film camera for simplicty

(Image credit: Gareth Bevan / Digital Camera World)
The best option for novice film photographers

Specifications

Type: SLR
Film format: 35mm
Year introduced: 1979
Availability: Used
Lens: Pentax K Mount
Viewfinder: Optical TTL
Modes: Manual / Aperture priority
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Aperture priority mode
+
Full manual controls
+
1/125 backup mode when batteries fail
+
Big lovely viewfinder

Reasons to avoid

-
Some dials and buttons feel a bit cheap and flimsy

The Pentax ME Super never had the same kind of cultural impact as the legends of the film era, but where a lot of those cameras didn't endure, the ME Super is still a reliable go-to camera today. I inherited mine from my grandfather's attic, and with minimal cleaning – it is still going strong 40 years later.

The Pentax ME Super is a real crowd-pleaser and will suit almost every film photographer from beginner to pro, but where I think this camera really hits the sweet spot is for simplicity. There are full manual controls for seasoned photographers to get creative, but the camera also has excellent semi-automatic modes for those just getting into photography. The controls are also incredibly easy to understand, with a balance between mechanical and electronic settings. Responsive LEDs in the viewfinder also make dialing in the correct exposure quick and accurate. 

The ME Super is super lightweight, the body is metal, although the dials are a little plastic-y. The viewfinder though is dreamy to use, with a big clear picture, it is very easy to compose shots quickly.

With Pentax’s incredible legacy of lenses, you can rapidly expand into all areas of photography, Pentax glass online is also often cheaper than some of the more "popular" brands, so you can grow your collection quickly.

Read our full Pentax ME Super review

Find used Pentax ME Super deals on eBay (US)
Find used Pentax ME Super deals on eBay (UK)

Best film camera for students

Boy using Pentax K1000 film camera

(Image credit: Alamy)
The best camera to learn photography with

Specifications

Type: SLR
Film format: 35mm
Year introduced: 1976
Availability: Used
Lens: Pentax K mount
Viewfinder: Optical TTL
Modes: Manual
User level: Beginner/Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Stripped down simplicity
+
Reputation for reliability

Reasons to avoid

-
Manual control only
-
No self-timer

The K1000's reputation has developed through what must have been seen at the time as simple cost-cutting. It was the cheapest of Pentax's DSLRs and even had the self-timer and depth of field preview on other models removed, just to save money. It's an entirely manual camera, and although it does need a battery for its meter, the mechanical shutter will operate without one. 

Generations of students have come to love this camera for its low cost, simplicity, and durability, while generations of lecturers have chosen it for its purely manual controls and the way it forces you to learn exposure theory. 

The K1000 uses the Pentax K bayonet mount still in use today (though with some revisions for autofocus and electronics). This means that the K1000 has decades of glass to choose from, giving a huge range of focal lengths and price points. Secondhand Pentax glass tends not to be overly pricey, so this adds another string to the K1000's educational bow, as you can easily try out lots of different lenses without breaking the bank.

This might not be the film camera you carry through your whole life, but it is certainly one of the best cameras you can buy today to learn all about shooting film. The K1000's reputation and hipster desirability means the price has not sunk as low as some of the others on this list though, although you should still be able to pick up a decent copy for below $150 / £150.

Read our full Pentax K1000 review

Find used Pentax K1000 deals on eBay (US)
Find used Pentax K1000 deals on eBay (UK)

The best film camera you can buy new or old

(Image credit: Leica)

5. Leica M6

One of the only film cameras still being made

Specifications

Type: Rangefinder
Film format: 35mm
Year introduced: 1964
Availability: Used
Lens: Leica M mount
Viewfinder: Direct vision rangefinder
Modes: Manual
User level: Enthusiast/Expert

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing build and finish
+
Compact and durable

Reasons to avoid

-
Hefty price tag

There is no denying that Leica knows how to make a stunning and iconic camera. Leica's M rangefinders are perhaps the pinnacle of that, with a world-renowned design that has proved so popular that in 2022 Leica decided it was going to start producing M6 cameras all over again.

Since then, it has proved challenging to even get hands-on with one, as they are flying out of stores. The M6 was first introduced in the Sixties, and there are still a lot of old models on secondhand markets. While Leica prices have always been inflated, the bad news is that old secondhand models still demand a high price, and a new model will certainly set you back as well to the tune of $5,695. 

For that money – why is it so popular? Well, the quality of the build is deniably special, with the body being made from brass that weathers beautifully, and the image quality from Leica's (also very expensive) lenses has their own unique 'Leica look' to them that has inspired a cult following. 

The M6 is a rangefinder camera, rather than the SLR-style camera that have been featured on this list so far. Rangefinders can take some learning, but once mastered can produce some fantastic results, with fast and precise autofocusing. Rangefinders are also more discreet snappers than bulky SLRs, so if you are keen on going unnoticed while out on the streets then this is the film camera type for you.

Find used Leica M6 deals on eBay (US)  
Find used Leica M6 deals on eBay (UK)

Best medium format film camera

6. Mamiya RZ67

The best medium format film camera for studio work

Specifications

Type: SLR
Film format: 120/220 (medium format)
Year introduced: 1982
Availability: Used
Lens: Interchangeable
Viewfinder: Various
Modes: Manual
User level: Expert/Professional

Reasons to buy

+
6 x 7cm images
+
Modular design

Reasons to avoid

-
Big and heavy
-
Quite expensive even now

An evolution of the RB67, introduced in 1970, the RZ67 keeps the revolving back that gave the earlier system its name, and the just-off-square 6 x 7cm image area.

 Just to put this in context, this is far larger than the 6 x 4.5cm area of the largest medium format digital models today. Like the Hasselblad 500 C/M, the RZ67 is a modular camera with interchangeable lenses, viewing systems, and backs.

It's a bit big and heavy for extended handheld use, though, and it's best used on a tripod. High-quality medium format film cameras are holding their prices pretty well at the moment, and you might have to shop around to get a good working, affordable example.

Find used Mamiya RB67 deals on eBay (US)       
Find used Mamiya RB67 deals on eBay (UK)

Best affordable rangefinder film camera

(Image credit: Gareth Bevan / Digital Camera World)
The best affordable rangefinder film camera

Specifications

Type: SLR
Film format: 35mm
Year introduced: 1972
Availability: Used
Lens: Fixed 40mm f1.7
Viewfinder: Optical rangefinder
Modes: Manual / Shutter priority
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Optically superb
+
Looks gorgeous
+
Very well built

Reasons to avoid

-
Light meter performance is unpredictable
-
Original batteries illegal
-
Focusing is fiddly

One of the best-selling cameras of all time, the Canonet G-III QL17 found huge success by being simple to use, offering superb image quality, and a stunning high-quality build for a reasonable price. All two of these still hold true today.

In my opinion, the Canonet G-III QL17 is one of the prettiest rangefinder cameras out there, with a classic design in a small compact body, but still, it is built like a tank. But rangefinders aren't for everyone, they are notoriously trickier to focus on with their smaller viewfinders, but the more compact size has the benefit of being a more discreet camera when out shooting on the streets, or slipping into a bag more easily for traveling.

The image quality from the fixed lens on the Canonet G-III QL17 is simply superb – and lives up to its reputation as the 'poor man's Leica'. The lens is a fixed 40m lens, which limits the camera's versatility compared to interchangeable lens cameras – but 40mm is a useful length for day-to-day photography including travel, street, and some environmental portraiture. The wide aperture of f/1.7 also means you can achieve some nice background blur and better low-light images.

Where this camera falls down today is with its ease of use – since the camera was released the original batteries have been deemed illegal in most countries for containing mercury. There are workarounds using zinc hearing aid batteries, but this has led to an unpredictable light meter, requiring a bit more knowledge and practice to ensure your images are properly exposed. 

Read our full Canon Canonet G-III QL17 review

Find used Canonet G-III QL17 deals on eBay (US)
Find used Canonet G-III QL17 deals on eBay (UK)

Best point and shoot film camera

(Image credit: Gareth Bevan)
The best point and shoot film camera

Specifications

Type: Rangefinder
Film format: 35mm
Year introduced: 1983
Availability: Used
Lens: Canon fixed 40mm f/1.9
Viewfinder: Rangefinder
Modes: Manual
User level: Beginner/Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Still quite easy to find
+
Relatively inexpensive on the second-hand market
+
Wide aperture
+
Uses AA Batteries

Reasons to avoid

-
Very loud
-
Small viewfinder
-
Max 400 ISO

The Canon AF35ML is a cheap and cheerful 35mm film camera for taking some quick snapshots without having to do all that much work. While this isn’t the coolest camera to come out of the film era, it has a unique following of its own. 

The camera is fully automatic, including the focus, so you don't have to worry about any settings except if you want the flash on or off. I think that this camera is best described as the ultimate reloadable camera – the perfect camera for handing around at a party, on holiday, or even passing to a child, and knowing that you are going to get good results (providing they do a good job of framing that is). Framing is made somewhat easier by the optical viewfinder, whilst it isn't the clearest viewfinder, it gives a good enough idea of the scene.

Other point-and-shoot cameras in this class also can't hold a candle to the AF35ML's lens. With a f/1.9 aperture lens, it is much wider than is common, so can perform better in low light as well as getting some nice subject separation. The lens is also higher quality than the plastic-y build might suggest and outputs clean and consistent photos. With built-in flash, it makes it great to take out at night as well. 

This isn't a camera for capturing great artistry, but for capturing memories with ease, this is certainly a fantastic option. The AF35ML can usually be found for under $100 / £100 although sometimes decent copies can be found for half of that price.

Read our full Canon AF35ML review

Find used Canon AF35ML deals on eBay (US)
Find used Canon AF35ML deals on eBay (UK)

Best film camera for big negatives

9. Fuji GW690

The best film camera for big negatives

Specifications

Type: Fixed lens
Film format: 120/220 (medium format)
Year introduced: 1978
Availability: Used
Lens: 90mm f/3.5
Viewfinder: Direct vision
Modes: Manual
User level: Expert

Reasons to buy

+
Huge 6 x 9cm images
+
Relatively portable

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive even now
-
Manual operation only

The great thing about film, and especially medium format 120-roll film, is that it's so flexible – both literally and metaphorically. The film rolls are 120mm wide, but it's up to the camera maker how much width they want to use. 

6 x 4.5cm medium format cameras shot rectangular images 'sideways' on a roll, whereas regular 6 x 6cm cameras shot square images so it didn't matter which way you turned the camera, but other cameras like the RZ67 above and the Fuji GW690 shot extra-wide images. 

You got fewer exposures on a roll, but extra-large negatives and transparencies. The GW690 is a no-frills fixed-lens manual exposure camera that offers huge images in a comparatively portable package.

Find used Fuji GW690 deals on eBay (US)        
Find used Fuji GW690 deals on eBay (UK)

How to choose the best film camera

Film cameras come in many different shapes and sizes and some are fully mechanical, while others rely on electronics to function, while some film cameras are a more viable solution than others just because of the lens choice on offer for the system.

The most typical route into film photography is the form of 35mm cameras, these are the bread and butter for the analog resurgence and are popular with everyone from beginners to pros. Most come in the form of SLR-style bodies, rangefinder cameras, and let's not forget the humble disposable point-and-shoot.

Medium-format cameras are often the next step in an analog photography journey. Thanks to their bigger negative than 35mm, it opens up possibilities to enhance your images, as the bigger negative means higher resolution images with greater detail and sharpness. You are also treated to different format cameras that can shoot different dimensions on a roll of 120 film. 

For example, the typical and most commonly used ratio in medium format cameras is 6 x 4.5, or 645 for short, however, if you want to double or even triple the size of a 35mm negative you can get medium format cameras that shoot 6x6 square format, like the popular Hasselblad 500 system, or other ratios of 6x7, 6x8 and the highest you can go on a roll of 120 - 6x9 when using a camera like the Fuji GW690. But bear in mind that the higher the ratio, the fewer images you will fit on a roll of 120 film. For instance, 645 cameras can produce either 15/16 shots on a roll, while 6x9 can only expose 8 - so choose wisely.

And if the medium format is too small for you, then you of course have large format, which is referred to when a negative is anything over 6x9, but you usually find these cameras in a 4x5 or 8x10 configuration. They offer the most micro adjustments possible when taking an image, however, due to their sheer size and the weight you expose your image onto a sheet of film, rather than a roll. Due to this and their impractical portability, you will only be able to take one image at a time, or two images per film holder.

What to look out for when buying a used film camera

Buying used film cameras is a bit of a minefield as you can't rely on warranty and digital retailers, and instead have to become a savant at sorting the deals from the dross, using eBay and other second-hand sites, and perhaps even rummaging through a yard sale or flea market. 

Be on the lookout for reputable sellers and dealers, if someone has a good reputation online (through reviews or customer feedback) then they are probably a safer bet to buy from. Dealers who sell exclusively in used cameras will also likely have better stock, as they will know exactly what to look for (and what not to) in a camera. Don't be shy about asking for more details or photos, especially if it is an expensive purchase.

The key thing to avoid is fungus. This is a type of mold that grows inside cameras when they are kept in damp or humid environments. While it is not necessarily dangerous, it can have some nasty effects on camera and lens glass, leaving spiderweb-like etchings across the glass and ruining image quality. Inside cameras and lenses, it is nearly impossible to clean effectively without dismantling. Ask to see close-up images of any glass parts of a camera or lens as this will help you detect fungus.

Overall it’s best to look at the cosmetics of the camera to judge how it has been used, another way is to inspect the film plate and see if it has any marks or fine scratches, these will be caused by friction from the film advancing and rewinding into the film canister when shooting – if there are a lot of visible marks, the camera has had a lot of rolls through it if no marks can be seen then its had a lower use. 

Which usually means it had not been used that much, another tip is to always ask to see sample images taken with the cameras in question, if you can see they take images and you're happy with the results, then congratulations you've found a film camera to add to your collection.

Sebastian Oakley
Ecommerce Editor

For nearly two decades Sebastian's work has been published internationally. Originally specializing in Equestrianism, his visuals have been used by the leading names in the equestrian industry such as The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), The Jockey Club, Horse & Hound, and many more for various advertising campaigns, books, and pre/post-event highlights.


He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, holds a Foundation Degree in Equitation Science, and is a Master of Arts in Publishing.  He is a member of Nikon NPS and has been a Nikon user since the film days using a Nikon F5 and saw the digital transition with Nikon's D series cameras and is still to this day the youngest member to be elected into BEWA, The British Equestrian Writers' Association. 


He is familiar with and shows great interest in street, medium, and large format photography with products by Leica, Phase One, Hasselblad, Alpa, and Sinar. Sebastian has also used many cinema cameras from the likes of Sony, RED, ARRI, and everything in between. He now spends his spare time using his trusted Leica M-E or Leica M2 shooting Street photography or general life as he sees it, usually in Black and White.

With contributions from