The Complete Guide to Buying an Affordable Film Camera

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The Complete Guide to Buying an Affordable Film Camera

Even though digital cameras have taken over the mass market, film cameras still hold their own comfortable niche. Just as serious music fans hold on to vinyl because it has a special sound quality which digital just can’t replicate, so serious photographers hold on to film cameras as film can still produce a certain image quality which currently escapes digital.

Choosing the Right Camera Type

There are various kinds of film camera available, many of which can be found on eBay. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, and choosing the right one depends on the needs of the individual making the purchase.


Polaroid was a camera manufacturer, and their name has become synonymous with the type of camera for which they were most famous. These were cameras with integrated printers which developed photographs internally and printed them out immediately. The advent of digital left the Polaroid company in serious trouble, but it has clung on with instant wireless printers and one instant print camera. Polaroids were never bought for their high-quality images. They were bought for instant gratification in the pre-digital world. Family photo albums are full of their iconic square pictures. Today, both the cameras and the film can be picked up on eBay for a song. Because of this, they are well worth considering as cameras for young children. The typical Polaroid is a chunky device with an obvious shutter button. Their easy-to-hold size and easy-to-use button makes them a perfect choice for little people with little fingers. They may also be a good choice for older people who are not concerned with the wonders of digital and simply want a straightforward camera for family snapshots.


Compacts were the ancestors of modern digital compact cameras. Unlike modern digitals, the basic models have a very limited range of manual controls. On the other hand, if truth be told, relatively few people actually use all the manual controls on digital compacts in any case, so arguably there is very little lost. Even the cheapest cameras do usually have a selection of manual modes and some of the sorts of features that are expected to be see on modern digitals (such as red-eye reduction). More advanced compacts allow a greater degree of manual control. Prices for these sorts of cameras vary depending on their quality; however, it is fair to say that many perfectly-functional cameras are put on eBay by private sellers just to get them out of the house. These cameras sell for a fraction of their original price and for far less than their digital equivalents.
There is also plenty of 35MM camera film for sale on eBay. Film is still in demand and many film retailers use eBay to dispose of their excess stock before it goes out of date. This is the perfect opportunity to stock up on good film cheaply. Just like food, as long the film is put in the freezer before its use-by date, it will keep perfectly well pretty much indefinitely. When it comes time to use it, just make sure to thaw it in the plastic tub, otherwise condensation can build up on the film and ruin it. While most people will want to shoot using colour film, one area in which film cameras usually outshine their digital counterparts is in black-and-white photography. In a nutshell, using black-and-white film will usually give a far greater level of detail and contrast than can be achieved using a single exposure on a digital camera. Professional photographers use multiple-exposure techniques to compensate for this, but this is too much for most amateurs.
Compact film cameras can actually be an excellent choice for teenagers and young adults. Even though most phones come with decent cameras these days, every time that shutter button is pressed, the phone battery is drained. This carries the risk that the phone will be unable to make calls in an emergency due to lack of battery life. Giving a teenager a film camera rather than a digital means that they are forced to wait before posting their pictures to social media. This may go a long way towards stopping them from inadvertently or ill-advisedly posting photographs they later regret.
The other reason why digital compacts are a good choice for teenagers (and anyone who leads an active lifestyle) is that, unlike delicate digitals, they are virtually indestructible. They also have much greater battery life (as the batteries don't have to power viewfinders), which means that most of them use
standard AA batteries. These can be bought cheaply in bulk on eBay but also are available to buy essentially anywhere in the world (as can 35MM film). Those planning adventure holidays of any description would do well to consider film cameras, particularly if the plan is to go deep into the wilderness.

Single Lens Reflex

Even though entry-level DSLRs are coming down in price not even the cheapest digital model can come close to the sort of bargain prices that film SLRs sell for on eBay. While fine-art photographers may stick with film, even in the digital world, many professional photographers need to work at speed. For practical purposes this means they need to use digital whether they like it or not. They may keep one film camera for their personal use, but very few professional photographers can justify keeping more than one as they did in the days of film. These extra cameras are now finding their way onto eBay and are some of the best bargains in photography.
Essentially SLRs do almost everything DSLRs do but in a smaller, lighter body. The reason for the word “almost” is that by definition they do not have viewfinders, nor do they offer any of the in-camera photo-editing options available in the digital world. They do, however, offer the serious photographer full control over the exposure triangle of ISO setting (film speed), shutter speed, and aperture width. They also force photographers to use their own eyes and senses to get the shot right in the field rather than relying on photo-editing programs afterwards. It should be noted that it is possible to use modern photo-editing software on film images. They just need to be put through a scanner first.
SLRs generally use exactly the same lenses as DSLRs. This means that budding photographers can spend the bulk of their budget on the camera lenses (which are the most important part of the camera in both the film and digital worlds) and keep using them if they choose to make the digital switch (or work in both media). There is always a strong market in used lenses on eBay, so not only can quality lenses be bought at an affordable price, but they can also be resold if a person's needs change. Quality lenses literally last for many years, and keen photographers are quite used to buying and selling them second-hand.
Like their compact counterparts, film SLRs are much more economical in terms of battery usage than their power-hungry digital counterparts. This makes them a compelling choice for people who want or need to spend long periods away from a power source; for example, people interested in landscape photography.

Finding Film Cameras on eBay

From the home page, click the buy button at the top of the screen (slightly to the right). Choose Browse Categories. Look for Cameras & Photography and then Film Photography. Then click on Film Cameras. It is still possible to buy new film cameras on eBay, and these will come with a warranty. Most film cameras are used. Buyers can still bid with confidence on these items as their condition must be fully and accurately described. On the rare occasions when there are problems, eBay has a secure messaging system, which allows buyers and sellers to discuss the matter, and usually both parties will reach a resolution.


There is nothing like film photography to ignite a passion towards this art. Being there is a real minefield of possibilities and equipment, it is essential that the purchase is fully researched beforehand. Checking sites like eBay for available models is a great way to find an adequate model of film camera.

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