Buying Your First Film Camera-Podcast Episode 003

Buying a film camera can be a great way to improve your photography. If you've listened to Episode 2 you heard several key reasons why I think that shooting with a film camera is a great way to improve your skill as a photographer, no matter what your experience. If you are considering purchasing your very own analog camera, congratulations, you're on a path that you probably will never want to get off of!

Suggested First Vintage Film Cameras

a vintage Rolleicord Va film camera

If I've convinced you to take a look a adding a film camera to your arsenal, congratulations, I think you're making a wise decision. Now, what to buy? Obviously, I can't force you to buy one camera over another. Purchasing a vintage/old film camera is a very personal thing. But, based on my experience and those of some friends who shoot film, here are my suggestions on what film camera(s) to purchase when you are first starting out:

  • If you want to try medium format film photography, check out the Rolleicord-A classic medium format TLR (twin lens reflex) camera that can be purchased for a fair price. I got my Rolleicord Va for just under $180. I'd recommend one of the later models like the Va or Vb. Another option that many people seem to like is the Yashica-Mat. For either of these I'd suggest going completely "old skool" and get the models without a built-in light meter. You can pick one of those up separately.
  • If  you want a 35mm camera, I'd suggest you start out with a well-built SLR that has a wide availability of accessories. My 1st two choices would be a Canon AE-1 or one of the Olympus OM series. Both the Canon and Olympus are solid and should last you a long, long time if you take care of them.
  • If you want a "newer" 35mm film camera, you can pick up one of the many Canon or Nikon film SLR's that were originally sold in the 1990's. These might be a great choice if you currently have a digital SLR because there is a good chance you will have some lens "transportability" depending on the brand and model. You can get a perfectly capable Canon EOS for well under $100, which is a great deal. Nikon has similar models in the same basic price range.
  • If you want a brand spanking new, out of the box, 35mm film SLR, the Nikon FM-10 is one of the few, maybe the only, film SLR that's still made.

Where To Purchase Your Film Camera

There are a lot of options when it comes to purchasing film cameras, many are good, some are very very bad. Before you purchase a camera make sure to do your research. The vintage/older camera market is definitely a "buyer beware" situation and you should do whatever you can to increase the odds that you are dealing with a reputable seller.

KEH Camera is based here in the Atlanta area but sells worldwide via the web. While I haven't purchased anything from them yet, I have a lot of friends who have. They have a good stock of all kinds of cameras in various price ranges. At the least they are a good place to check when you are doing your research.

There are quite a few film cameras on Amazon, believe or not. You can find both new and used cameras.

Ebay is probably the biggest film, vintage camera marketplace. While there are a lot of potential cameras on Ebay you really need to be in the know in order to reduce the chances that you'll not get taken. I've been on Ebay since 1996 or so and have never had a problem but that's probably because I do a ton of research before I get into a potential bidding war on something. Patience is often a virtue when using Ebay.

Fred Miranda is a very active forum site that has a good marketplace. Many of the cameras seem to be newer/digital but it pays to check here if you are in the market.

Goodwill is an unexpected source of used/vintage camera equipment. I was introduced to their online shopping site by a friend and it definitely looks interesting. I haven't purchased anything yet but I'm sure I probably will :-)

There are many more places you can look for and purchase vintage film cameras. Do a Google search for whatever camera you're looking for and you will find many possibilities. Just be sure to do your research before laying down your hard-earned money.

I hope this post/podcast has inspired you to consider the opportunities that are offered by adding a film camera to your toolbox. I know I've immensely enjoyed shooting with my film cameras and I bet you will too.

Stay tuned for future episodes where I will go into more detail on various film cameras, techniques, developing your own film, etc. Until then...

Happy Shooting!