Finding the perfect camera for you is tough, especially when working with outdated film cameras that don’t always have the most information and research materials to look through before purchasing. Regardless of how much knowledge you have about a camera, you will eventually need to make a leap of faith and hope that the camera is right for you. It can be difficult to find the best camera for you if you have just started shooting, but if you have been making photographs for a while, you may know exactly what you’re looking for. We’ve put together a list of the best 35mm film cameras worth checking out in efforts to bring you closer to your next work camera that will take you to more places than you had ever imagined.
1. Nikon FE2
The first camera on our list is one of the most notable 35mm field cameras of all time – the Nikon FE2. This workhorse has been used by professional documentary and portrait photographers all of the world since the 1980’s and still remains one of the greatest 35mm film cameras to this day.
Offering a full range of shutter speeds from 8 sec. exposures to 1/4000 sec., you will always be able to capture the brightest lights and the darkest shadows.
2. Leica M6
The Leica M6 is a German-built 35mm rangefinder camera that is known for its incredible image quality and sleek designs.
The Leica M6 was introduced in the 1980’s and features a more modern design and lighter parts than its predecessors in the M series. Also, other than the built in light meter, the M6 is fully mechanical, meaning you will not need any batteries or electricity to operate it.
3. Contax G2
The next camera you need to get your hands on right away is the Contax G2. Introduced in the mid 1990’s, the Contax G2 is well known for its premium design and superior photo quality. The camera is quite controversial as to whether it is to be considered a rangefinder or not because it offers an autofocusing mechanism; however, the build and feel offers a rangefinder like quality.
On top of the automatic focusing, the camera also offers features high quality auto exposure mechanics as well and a wide range of interchangeable lenses to choose from.
4. Pentax Espio 140V
This compact pocket camera is an amazing piece of technology that packs more of a punch than you may know. One piece of advice we always like to consider is that sometimes the most well-known, most expensive cameras aren’t the best. Sometimes it’s the camera that works best for you, and fits your budget and quality needs.
Because of this, the Pentax Espio 140V is one of our favorite 35mm film cameras at FilterGrade and we strongly encourage you to check out your nearest camera shop or vintage flea market to see if you can try it out for yourself!
5. Nikon F3
Next up is the everlasting Nikon F3. This camera is relatively similar to the Nikon FE2, although features a bit of a different build and was one of Nikon’s first analog cameras to offer manual and semi-automatic shutter speed correction. While this may not seem like a huge deal in today’s times, this was a key feature when the camera was released in 1980.
6. Leica CL
Next, another incredible Leica model that is compact, lightweight, and incredibly quiet – the Leica CL. This old school, rangefinder camera is the perfect camera for street photographers looking for a discreet camera with a quiet shutter.
Since 1973 this 35mm rangefinder camera has been a favorite of many photographers. Although they are quite hard to come by now, they are still the perfect handheld professional camera for any street or documentary photographer.
7. Kodak / Fujifilm Disposable Point-and-Shoot Camera
How could we forget?
Don’t ever underestimate the power of nostalgia and flash. Kodak & Fujifilm both offer incredible disposable point-and-shoot cameras that are small enough for your pocket and provide photos that feel like your old family memories.
For small cameras, they pack a big flash to make sure you can create photos in almost any situation. If you haven’t tried these disposable point-and-shoots yet, you need to get your hands on one immediately.
8. Canon AE-1
One of the most-used 35mm film cameras for beginner photographers and photography students is the Canon AE-1 Program. Many of you reading this may have started out with this camera, and if not have probably seen them all over the place.
With all of the key camera features, this camera is the perfect base 35mm SLR to learn with and experiment with to help you grow into an experienced, technical photographer.
9. Pentax K1000
Next up is another great 35mm SLR camera for beginners and film enthusiasts alike. The Pentax K1000 model is used by many film photographers still to this day because of its durability and easy-to-use mechanics.
10. Contax T Series
The point-and-shoot you have all been waiting for – the Contax T series. In the Contax T Series of automatic focusing cameras, there are a few different models, however each of the cameras is a very high performing camera for its small size and lightweight build.
Many photographers enjoy using the Contax T series cameras to document events or capture candid, emotional photographs. See below an image captured by none other than Frank Ocean of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos with his Contax camera at the 2019 Met Gala.
11. Minolta XG
Another great SLR for beginners and intermediate film photographers is the Minolta XG. Due to its lightweight build, many photographers enjoy using this camera for capturing landscapes and even portraits as well.
12. Yaschica T5
This world renown automatic focusing 35mm film camera, the Yaschica T5 is one of the smallest point-and-shoot cameras on the market and provides incredibly high quality photos with a nostalgic feel.
Photographers all over the world use this camera for capturing memories or even document concerts or other fast-paced events that require a small, quick camera.
13. Minolta X-700
At this point, you probably get the message – there are tons of different SLR models from almost every camera brand out there. Many of them are similar to each other with little design features and mechanics that set them apart, and the Minolta X-700 is another example of this. With a uniquely built grip and a durable, metal build, the Minolta X-700 is definitely worth getting your hands on.