The best film cameras are the perfect way to ride the wave of analogue popularity in 2022 and beyond. Once thought dead, film has made a hell of a comeback in recent years, largely buoyed by Instagram, as more and more photographers discover the addictive pleasures of analogue shooting, an alchemical thrill that can't be replicated in 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 a metallic durability that's arguably superior to the disposable plastic of today.
- We've been kicking off a series of retro camera reviews for those who can't get enough of analogue shooting. We've already examined the ground-breaking Canon AE-1 (opens in new tab), the mechanical Nikon FM2 (opens in new tab) and the students' favorite, the dependable, no-nonsense Pentax K1000 (opens in new tab). These cameras were popular on release, but have since become legends in the film community, and you'll see them deservedly feature in this guide.
Buying used film cameras (opens in new tab) is a bit of a minefield, but like film shooting itself, is a lot of fun for its unpredictability. 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 car boot sale or flea market. We've kicked off our guide with a section all about the best used film cameras, to give you some pointers on what to look for.
Of course, you aren't limited just to buying second-hand. There are relatively new film cameras (opens in new tab) being made, and while they can be a little specialised and come at high price tags (the people who make them know they're the only ones in the business), if you're willing to spend a little, you can get a truly modern analogue experience. The modern Leica M-A hearkens back to classic rangefinders, and gives them a contemporary touch.
Beyond 35mm film, there are also large-format 'view' cameras. These take larger film formats like 120 and sheet film, and though they're slower to shoot and more expensive to prove, they deliver image quality that's pretty much unrivalled, with astonishing depth of focus and gorgeous latitude.
Some manufacturing have also been focusing on ways to synergise old and new. We're talking in particular about Hasselblad here, who have made something of a splash with the Hasselblad CFV II 50C (opens in new tab), a modular system that can fit directly onto the classic Hasselblad 500 c/m (one of the cameras on our list below). It uses digital technology to give these old film cameras a new lease of life, and is an exciting glimpse of the ways analogue and digital might continue to meld in the future.
Read more: The best 35mm film, roll film, and sheet film to buy (opens in new tab)
Another contemporary player in the analogue space is Lomograpghy, who produce a tonne of old-style cameras, lenses and films all based around recapturing an analogue experience. We've included a section dedicated to the best Lomography cameras (opens in new tab) which includes loads of resurrected old camera designs as well as newer models, using different film types. These aren't the cameras you want if you're hunting for technical perfection, but they're huge amounts of fun.
In that vein, remember disposable cameras (opens in new tab)? Single-use cameras are still fantastic for holidays, family time, parties and more, and these days you can get cheap disposable cameras loaded with full 35mm film, giving you real quality at your disposal. One is even underwater, and however good digital may be, it can't give you an underwater camera for $15/£15.
We've collected it all for this list. One thing to note though is that if you're looking for the knockabout fun of instant film, Polaroid-style, then our dedicated guide to the best instant cameras (opens in new tab) is where you want to be. So without further ado, let's crack on with the best film cameras you can buy.
The best film cameras in 2022
Best used 35mm film cameras
We've picked out ten 'classic' film cameras you can still find in good working condition today – that's an important factor, because the best film cameras are the ones that are still working! There are many more we could have included, but these are based on popularity, reputation and price, with a few almost-forgotten masterpieces thrown in. The first five are 35mm cameras, the second five are medium format roll film cameras (opens in new tab). And yes, you can buy both types of film quite easily even today.(opens in new tab)
The Canon AE-1's plastic construction kept the price affordable for novices and enthusiasts, while its electronically controlled cloth focal plane shutter offered 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. The AE-1 used Canon's FD breech-lock bayonet mount, which has since been superseded by its EF lens mount, though adaptors are available. Metering was carried out by a single silicon photocell offering centre-weighted meter. The AE-1 was unusual for offering shutter-priority automation at a time when most makers favoured aperture-priority operation. The AE-1P was a later variant that added a program AE mode.
Read our Canon AE-1 review (opens in new tab) – we revisit this groundbreaking legend.(opens in new tab)
The Nikon F5 is the last professional bodied, fully autofocus film SLR that was produced by the company. Today, it is your best bet if you are looking for a truly advanced film SLR that features great autofocus, aperture and shutter priority modes, as well as being able to use fully manual lenses. The F5 also automatically reads your film speed so not dialing in your ISO manually. With all theses advanced professional features and pro body styling, you do sacrifice portability slightly, the F5 is built like a tank, but that means it is a rather weighty camera that wouldn't necessarily be a top choice for a travel camera however, for anything else it would be the best "go to" for the job.(opens in new tab)
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).
Read more: Pentax K1000 review (opens in new tab) – a no-nonsense manual classic(opens in new tab)
The 1970s were a golden age for 35mm SLRs and one of the top models of the time was the Olympus OM-1. It was a purely manual SLR, flanked by a more expensive OM-2 and cheaper plastic OM-10 with added aperture-priority exposure modes. The OM-1 was designed by the same team that produced the PEN and PEN F, the models that inspired today's digital PEN models. The OM-1 was tiny compared to other bigger, heavier SLRs at the time, yet still boasted a big, bright optical viewfinder which even had interchangeable focusing screens. Unusually, the shutter speed was adjusted via a ring around the lens, while a big dial oin the top of the camera was reserved for setting the ASA (ISO) value for in-built light meter – this was before the introduction of DX coding on film canisters.
See our Olympus OM-1 & OM-1N review (opens in new tab)
The Nikon FM2 came out at a time when other makers were bringing out smaller, cheaper SLRs and new electronic controls, so it seemed a bit of a throwback even then. But its handsome looks and its reputation for longevity and durability drew lots of fans and kept it in production right up until 2001. If you think the current Nikon Df looks good, you need to pick up an FM2. It used a vertical metal shutter rather than the horizontal rubberized cloth shutters in most rival DLRs but it was fully mechanical so the FM2 could work without a battery – this was only needed for the internal light meter. Its 1/4000sec top shutter speed and tough copper-aluminum-silicon alloy body made it sought after amongst pros, not just enthusiasts.
Read more: Nikon FM2 review (opens in new tab) – affordable for amateurs and loved by pros(opens in new tab)
Leica M rangefinders will always be controversial and can take a bit of getting used to. However, the rangefinder focusing is fast and precise in the right hands but takes some learning. But once mastered the M6 can produce some fantastic results, it has been a fan favourite for some time, and now has a rather cult following in the film community, so you will have to pay a hefty price to get a good one. This is only the start, because Leica lenses are equally expensive. But if you like your film photography to be stripped back to its basics, the M6 will oblige. You'll need to apply the settings yourself and you'll need to focus yourself, but for Leica M fans that's what it means to be a photographer.
Best used medium format film cameras
If you asked any professional photographer in the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s which was the best film camera, they would have said a medium format camera. This might have been a twin-lens camera like a Mamiya C330 or a medium format SLR like a Hasselblad 500 C/M. For pro photographers, medium format cameras were the standard, large format was for 'expensive' clients and 35mm was for amateurs. Probably!(opens in new tab)
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, 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.(opens in new tab)
Twin lens reflex cameras use a unique double-lens design, with the camera and its taking lens in the bottom half and a matched lens for viewing and composing photos in the top half. The viewing lens projected an image of the scene on to a ground glass screen viewed by flipping up the lid, which sprung open into a kind of lightbox. The image was reversed, which took a bit of getting used to, but the combination of a square image (long before Instagram!) and waist level viewing encouraged compositions and angles that you just don't 'see' with other cameras. It's a simple and reliable design that shoots 12 frames on medium format 120 roll film, with shallow depth of field effects we pay a fortune to achieve with modern cameras.(opens in new tab)
Looking at the Hasselblad 500 C/M now, it's hard to believe this camera design first arrived in 1957. Its utilitarian box-shaped design looks as if it could have been designed yesterday, and modern high-end medium format cameras still use its flexible, modular design. The camera is the central box, to which you can fit a wide variety of lenses, a number of different viewfinder attachments and different film backs. The interchangeable backs deserve a special mention – you could swap backs in moments, with your assistant loading new films into a spare back as you shoot, swap between the square 6 x 6cm or 6 x 4.5cm formats or even clip on a Polaroid back to test lighting and composition – this was instant playback (or near it) before digital capture was even invented.
And best yet, new life has been breathed into the Hasselblad 500 C/M with the release of the Hasselblad 907X 50C (opens in new tab), a state-of-the-art digital back that fits straight onto the 500 C/M with a series of satisfying clicks and clunks. A tactile analogue experience meets digital perfection, it adds another point in favour of this fantastic film camera.(opens in new tab)
Where the Yashica Mat 124G was an affordable twin lens reflect camera with a fixed lens, the Mamiya C330 was a professional version with interchangeable lens pairs, which was introduced and became popular in the 1970s as a less expensive and less complex alternative to the Hasselblad 500, THE professional medium format camera of the time. The C330 was a true system camera, with interchangeable lenses (from 55-250mm), interchangeable focusing screens and a choice of viewfinders. It's a big old lump to carry around but it's still possible to see analog camera fans and photography students still using them today.(opens in new tab)
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.
Modern film cameras are pretty specialised. They're aimed either at analog auteurs who just love the look of film and the feel of film cameras, or technicial specialists for whom large film formats, extensive perspective-correcting camera movements and the ability to mix and match a wide range of lens, film types and even digital backs is more important than than the quick-fire simplicity of regular digital cameras.(opens in new tab)
The Nikon F6 is like the missing link between old-school 35mm SLRs and modern digital SLR cameras. Many of its specs will seem quite familiar to modern digital users, including its full program AE, aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual modes, powered film advance at up to 5.5fps and an 11-point AF system backed up by Nikons 3D Color Matrix metering system. Styled by Giugiaro, the aluminum alloy body looks a dream, but the 5.5fps continuous shooting speed is modest by today's DSLR standards. Nevertheless, the F6 offers a chance to get a beautifully designed and made film camera is as-new working order with modern controls and technology. The Nikon F6 is available new in some places, but has been discontinued in many countries.
Best new film cameras(opens in new tab)
Leica M rangefinders will always be controversial. To some they're overpriced, overhyped throwbacks to an era that's long gone. To others they're beautifully made classics of engineering that have reached a plateau of perfection. The M rangefinders take a bit of getting used to. Rangefinder focusing is fast and precise in the right hands but takes some learning, while the pain of paying for an M-A body is only the start, because Leica lenses are equally expensive. But if you like your film photography to be stripped back to its basics, the M-A will oblige. You'll need to work out the exposure yourself, you'll need to apply the settings yourself and you'll need to focus yourself, but for Leica M fans that's what it means to be a photographer.
Read our Leica M-A review (opens in new tab)
The Cambo Ultima is a modular monorail camera. The Ultima 45 is not a complete camera in itself because you'll also need a lens plate and lenses and either a film or digital back. It's a very interesting crossover product that handles very high quality large format film photography but also modern digital backs with much smaller sensor areas. The point about a monorail system is partly its supremely modular and flexible (and, uh, expensive) design, and the way the back and front plates can be shifted and angled independently for unprecedented control over perspective, depth of field and planes of focus. It's well suited to studio and architectural photography for those reasons, and harks back to the days when top quality commercial photography was made using 5 x 4" sheet film.(opens in new tab)
Some may remember Hasselblad's much-loved XPan panoramic camera and a few more may know of the Linhof Technorama. Unlike the XPan, however, the Technorama is still going. The Technorama 617s III is sold body-only but a number of different lenses are available. It's a camera for experts, not just because of its manual exposure but because of the need for precise manual focus (it doesn't have a through-the-lens camera) and the need to keep the camera absolutely level for those ultra-wide 17:6 ratio images. The Technorama is designed for high-quality technical photography and shows the flexibility still offered by the analog film format.
Linhof Technorama 617 deals on ebay.com (opens in new tab)
Linhof Technorama 617 deals on ebay.co.uk (opens in new tab)
Film cameras fall into different size categories, just as digital cameras to today. 35mm cameras were 'miniature' models, believe it or not, and medium format cameras were called 'medium' because there was a 'large' format above that. These use sheet film, usually measuring 5 x 4", to offer supreme image quality. Well, almost supreme, because there is also a 10 x 8" size with four times the negative area. The Toyo-View 8x10 810MII is an example of this camera type that's still made today. You'll need to source your own lens plates and lenses, track down 10 x 8" film and work out how to carry a camera weighing 15lb on its own, but with sublime image quality and a wide range of lens and camera back movements, it's a chance to follow in Ansel Adams' footsteps.
Lomography's shops and online store provide an Aladdin's cave of photographic curiosities, from relaunched budget snappers from Russia to new widescreen wide-angle panoramic cameras to a 35mm kit camera you can make yourself.(opens in new tab)
This camera is probably a lot more fun to make than it is to use. It comes as a surprisingly inexpensive kit, but there are lots of plastic panels, parts, screws and springs to put together so it's going to take some patience and dexterity. What you get is a camera with a plastic lens, a single 1/80sec shutter speed (plus B), a fixed-aperture 50mm f/10 lens and manual (obviously) focusing. You'll need patience to use it, plus some very exposure tolerant film – we'd suggest color negative for its latitude. It does have a very interesting waist-level viewfinder though, with through-the-lens viewing provided by spring-loaded mirror lever.
See our full Lomography Konstruktor review (opens in new tab)
See read: Best cameras for kids (opens in new tab)
If you bought a Russian Lubitel back in the 1970s/1980s you probably paid about £8 and you were probably doing well to nurse it through a couple of rolls of film before it packed up. We haven't tried the Lomography version but we hope it will keep going a little longer – especially at this price. The modern Lubitel 166+ is unashamedly plastic in its construction and unapologetically basic in its features. You get manual aperture control (f/4.5-22), manual shutter speed control (1/25--1/15sec plus B) and no light meter. But the Lubitel isn't about engineering finesse, it's about rediscovering the imperfections and naivety of old snapshot photography.(opens in new tab)
If the reimagined Lomography Lubitel 166+'s price tag is too rich for your blood, then there's always the Diana F+. It's a celebration of brightly-colored plastic and bargain-basement features, and a reminder of what cameras used to be like – and how the conditions had to be right for taking a picture. With three-position zone focussing, only one shutter speed (1/60sec) plus b, and apertures linked to the lighting conditions (pinhole, f/8, f/11, f/16), you're going to need optimism and a willingness to experiment, for sure. On its own the Diana F+ is very cheap, but if you fancy embracing the full experience there is a boxed accessory kit with a flash, cable release, interchangeable lenses and heaven knows what else.
Also view Best Lomography cameras (opens in new tab)
Yes, it's a lot to pay for a plastic camera, and you've got to be a fan of the heavily-vignetted, super-saturated, none-too-sharp Lomo look, but the Lomo LC-Wide certainly lives up to its name. Its 17mm lens is way wider than the kit lens can go on any regular camera and well into ultra-wideangle territory. The LC-Wide has a streamlined pocket-friendly design that looks as contemporary as flared trousers (which is the idea, right) and has the luxury of automatic exposure, with shutter speeds from 1/500sec to (it says here) infinity and apertures from f/4.5-16. It does need three (yes, three) LR44 batteries, though.(opens in new tab)
Panoramic medium format cameras are typically very expensive, but the Belair X 6-12 is not. It can shoot medium format images at three different aspect ratios, including 6:6 (square), 6:9 and an extra wide 6:12 ratio. That's the great thing about 120 roll film, that it has a fixed 6cm height but allows camera makers to choose all manner of different frame widths. The Belair looks very cool, and the Belair trim is only one of several options. There's a lot of plastic, though, so don't expect too much from the finish and feel. This has to be just about the cheapest way to get into medium format panoramic photography, though, and it even comes with two (plastic) lenses.
Disposable film cameras
It's film photography at its most basic – low cost, low risk and, er, perhaps low expectations. Single-use or disposable cameras come pre-loaded with 35mm film, pack a basic basic lens on the front and have no photographic controls. If it's bright outdoor light, you're fine; if you're indoors, use the flash. Anything in between – well, you're on your own. The results are variable, but they're great for kids, parties, holidays and cheap gifts.
Also read Best disposable cameras (opens in new tab)
Ilford's single-use camera looks no more sophisticated than any of its rivals, but it's what's inside that's interesting. It's loaded with Ilford's XP2 black and white film, which is pretty unique in that it can be developed with regular C41 chemicals which are used for developing colour print films around the globe (other black and white films need chemicals formulated by people wearing thick glasses and lab coats). If you decide you prefer your black and white with traditional chemistry you can use yourself (handily, it works at room temperatures), you can get single-use variant loaded with Ilford's classic ISO 400 HP5 Plus film. There's even a colour version loaded with "Ilfocolor" Film, which dates back to the 1960s and gives a real retro feel.(opens in new tab)
Yes, it does cost a few pounds more than your usual disposable camera, but you're getting a waterproof camera, for heaven's sake! Fujifilm says its plastic case is water-resistant to a depth of 10m, so it's likely you're going to be in trouble long before the camera is. The Fujifilm Quicksnap Marine comes loaded with 24 exposures of Fujifilm ISO 800 Superia colour negative film which you should be able to get developed at any regular high street chemist or online photo lab. Control is limited, obviously, in that there isn't any. The exposure is fixed at 1/125sec at f/10 so really you're going to need good outdoor light to get decent results, but that's true of any single-use camera.
Kodak's Tri-X 400 is one of the most famous monochrome films of its era, with many photographers falling in love with it for its dramatic, contrast-y look. Now, it's available in a single-use camera, which may make for the perfect gateway drug for anyone looking to dip their toes into analogue photography. As well as 27 shots of Tri-X, you also get what Kodak describes as the most powerful flash on a disposable camera, which perfectly complements the high-key drama of the Tri-X film stock.(opens in new tab)
The Fujifilm Quicksnap Flash 400 is pretty ubiquitous and typical for 35mm disposable cameras. We've not been able to find out anything about the lens but it's pretty clear it's going to be a semi-wide plastic lens with a small fixed aperture and a single, fixed shutter speed. This camera also comes with a flash, so it's a bit of a mystery how they make them for this money. The quality will depend on how well you choose the lighting conditions – it's going to work best outdoors in good light, though the flash has a range of 10ft so indoor party shots are possible too, but expect eighties-style red-eye effects and rabbit-in-the-headlights facial expressions.(opens in new tab)
What we look for in film cameras
Film cameras come in many different shapes and sizes and some are fully mechanical, when 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 analogue resurgence giving 36 exposures, but because these are popular with beginners from all eras, 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 causes 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.
The same applies to all medium format cameras, which are the next step in your analogue 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 bare in mind that the higher the ratio, the less images you will fit on a roll on 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 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 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.
Read more camera buying guides:
The best instant cameras (opens in new tab)
The best DSLRs, whatever your budget (opens in new tab)
Best cameras for beginners (opens in new tab)
Best disposable cameras (opens in new tab)
Best slide viewers (opens in new tab)
The best Lomography cameras (opens in new tab)