The Only Guide You’ll Need Before Purchasing That Film Camera

film camera
Image by Stokpic

There is no doubt that the film revival is here to stay. Whilst it is unlikely that film will ever become a mainstream commercial medium again, many photographers are returning to or taking up film photography by purchasing a film camera and there are many reasons for this.

Some like the look and grain of film.
Some like the challenge of shooting and not seeing the image until it is developed,
Others just love the feel of an old camera.

The question is, what film camera should you buy? The second-hand market is awash with some incredible cameras. Cameras that would have cost a king’s ransom twenty years ago can be bought for less than the price of a kit lens.

Today we are going to suggest some excellent cameras to get you back into film. This list is by no means exhaustive but the cameras here are affordable, reliable and still generally available on the second-hand market.

The Second-Hand Film Camera Market

Nikon FM2:

If you are looking for a camera that will really take you back to basics, the FM2 is the one for you. Rugged, durable and completely manual, the FM2 was an iconic professional film camera from the 70’s and 80’s.

It boasted a revolutionary vertical shutter that could shoot at up to 1/4000th and could even sync flash at 1/2000th. There was an excellent light meter but no automatic exposure modes and the camera was entirely mechanical.

If you are already a Nikon shooter, most non-G lenses will work on the FM2 due to Nikon’s famed backwards compatibility.

A Manual Marvel. The FM2 will take you back to basics. By Marcos André

Canon AE1:

One of the biggest selling film cameras of all time the AE1 was a beautiful film camera to hold and to work with. It featured an electronic shutter giving speeds up to 1/1000th with manual or shutter priority modes.

The AE1 used the Canon FD mount lenses, plenty of which are available on the secondhand market even today. You can also buy adapters to convert your current full frame EF lenses to fit the AE1.

About Author

Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer, videographer and stock shooter. You can get to know him better here

I cannot let this go sorry The Mamiya M-645 Does Not have interchangeable backs. It had 120 and 220 film inserts. for 15 or 30 shots. And the Nikon FM2 with a vertical focal plane shutter will synch the flash at 125th second not 1/2000 second. I was manager of a small camera store, that sold many of these fine cameras. I still shoot film for the same reason as I listen to vinyl records, It has a quality ‘feeling ‘ about them. Nobody will get my fingers off my Pentax LX, or MX, or even older K2. Thank You

Hello Jason,
I have to agree with Bo regarding the FM2. Don’t get me wrong, that camera is a beast and I personally love it (I have 2 of them). Also having the famous Nikon lens backward compatibility is also great, not just for me, but to all the mirrorless digital shooters these days (with an appropriate adapter on their cameras). But I sidetracked, the FM2 had 2 major versions that are very hard to differentiate unless you are keen on details. There were FM2’s that had titanium honeycomb shutter curtains and could sync at 125th of a second and 200th of a second (marked by the “X200” on the dial wheel), and the updated version with aluminium shutter curtains that could sync up to 250th of a second. For a film camera, syncing at 1/2000th of a second was simply not possible in those days. This difference was visible on the shutter/ISO dial wheel on the top side of the camera: the first generation was marked with the “125” and “X200” in red on the dial wheel, while the second generation FM2’s had the “250” th shutter speed in red marking the maximum flash sync speed.
Hope that clears this small confusion. More info can be found on the following website:

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