Film Cameras Buying Guide

Like if this guide is helpful
Film Cameras Buying Guide

A film camera allows the user to capture images that appeal to many other viewers, whether it is a portrait, a significant personal moment, or a natural scene. Over the last decade, many photographers have made a move over to digital cameras. However, there still remains a healthy market in film cameras. They may involve slightly more work, but the capture has a different quality that cannot be reproduced by digital media. The variety and specialisations available allow every photographer to find the appropriate film camera for their needs. In order to source the right film camera, research the individual brands, then look at the special features before focussing in on individual items and sellers.

About Film Cameras

The first image capture from a film camera dates back to the 1800s; however, it took many years before the technology became accessible and affordable for most people. The improvements in film cameras were driven by the demands of industries that benefited from them, such as entertainment and the media. Production of the Brownie camera, around the turn of the twentieth century, brought film camera ownership to the mass population for the first time.
Most film cameras use a 35mm film, but there are smaller and larger sizes that produce different results. Film cameras work by projecting the light captured by the lens, focussing it and then transferring it onto the film. There are film cameras to suit the demands of every photographic genre. Some are fixed focus for users who wish to take simple shots. These are usually lower priced cameras for everyday use. Some are auto focussing for higher-quality pictures; these are often known as point-and-shoot cameras. More expensive models have a focussing tool; it can be manipulated by the user to achieve the picture they desire. Similarly, a flash mechanism can be set up by the photographer or is automatically deployed on some cameras.

Choosing a Film Camera

Deciding which film camera to buy, will depend on the requirements of each photographer. They will need to consider where and how the device will be used and the visual effect they are hoping to achieve. The wide range of film cameras available mean photographers should narrow their search by looking at the film size, features, and specifications of each item before making a final choice.

Types of Film Camera Available

There are many types of film camera available, and each are suited to various photographic techniques and situations. Whilst some are multi-purpose, others have a more specific application. Here is a table to show the more common types of film camera.


Disposable Film Cameras

Disposable film cameras are cheap and often used at parties, beaches, or other locations where a more expensive piece of equipment may be damaged. The film is not replaceable, and the entire unit must be handed in for developing.

35mm Point-and-shoot Film Cameras

Point-and-shoot film cameras are sometimes known as compact cameras. They are designed for ease of use, often including an auto focus feature, and need very little input from the operator to take reasonable shots. Buyers choose them for holiday snaps and everyday family photography.

35mm Rangefinder

Rangefinder film cameras are named after the focussing aid housed within the device. The feature assists the photographer with judging distance and achieving a successful focus. The view finder must be separate from the lens for this to work, meaning what the photographer sees will not be exactly the same as the final image. These are often used in portrait and action shots.

35mm SLR Film Cameras

Single lens reflex film cameras are widely used by enthusiasts and professional photographers. They transfer an image from the lens to a movable mirror system, blending both the lens and the viewfinder result in the final picture. They are versatile and can be adapted with many lenses; for example, in long distance and low light conditions.

Medium Format Film Camera

Medium format film cameras are considered to be a niche market; they use a larger film which is able to capture images at a far higher resolution than the conventional 35mm format. Though the camera is also larger, it lends itself well to artistic shots and outdoor scenery work.

Large Format Film Camera

Large format film cameras are those which use a film format larger than 120mm; again, they offer an increased resolution, resulting in a very crisp image. They are used to reproduce images from fine art and take very detailed landscape shots.

Speciality Film Cameras

Some speciality film cameras are prized by collectors, and others are bought with a single purpose in mind. Here are three types of speciality film cameras.


Panoramic Film Cameras

Panoramic film cameras remain relatively expensive in comparison to other cameras. They are used to take a wide shot, usually a landscape or cityscape.

Polaroid Film Cameras

Polaroid film cameras are capable of taking a picture and printing it within minutes; they are sometimes referred to as instant cameras. They are popular in social situations but also in film production and crime scene recording. This is because the image can immediately be shared and cannot be digitally altered.

Vintage Film Cameras

Some photographers seek out vintage film cameras as they find the pictures have a deeper and richer quality to them. Each type of vintage camera provides a unique image capture style, plus the equipment has a retro aesthetic which appeals to some users.

APS Film Cameras and Disc Film Cameras

35mm film remains the norm for most film cameras. However, aside from larger film, there have been smaller formats. Discs for film cameras came in a round, cardboard, self-contained package into which tiny frames of film were embedded. They were easy to insert into the camera, which increased their popularity for a while. However, the pictures were of limited quality as the negative was very small. To get an average size photo, the original had to be enlarged many times. Disc film cameras are no longer produced but are available as a collector’s item.
The APS or Advance Photo System film camera uses a smaller than average 24mm film, so the photos can be less clear than those shot on 35mm film. APS film records the time and date of each shot as well as other information about the exposure. The APS film camera was initially marketed as a way for beginners to improve their shots. However, they were quite costly compared to other mass-marketed brands. These were eventually eclipsed by digital photography, but are available second hand. APS film is still produced by various manufacturers.

Film Camera Care

In general, film cameras are sturdy and can withstand gentle day to day bangs. However, there are three threats to the integrity of film equipment that are common and can require repair. Water is the enemy of any technical device and film cameras are no different, so use protective rain hoods in wet weather. If the camera has damp trapped inside, open the back and allow it to dry out. Alternatively, visit a professional film camera technician for advice. Dropping a film camera can cause irreparable internal damage, especially to older models. Avoid this by using a neck strap and a secure carry case. Finally, if the operator is working in outdoor locations, sand and dust can infiltrate the innards of a film camera. On location, a rain hood can provide protection. Also, change film indoors, ensuring the surroundings are scrupulously clean.


A film camera gives every operator an opportunity to record and share significant, beautiful, and personal moments from their lives. Whether the photographer is an enthusiastic amateur or a professional working within an industry, there will be a film camera to fit every need. The varieties available cater for every skill level, each mode of photography, and various settings. Spend time looking at sellers feedback and the individual items they have on offer, then research brands and models in order to find the most useful film camera at the best price.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides