Top 5 Film Cameras for Beginners! Includes Usage and Buying Guide!

21 March 2023 by
Sandra Ko

With the resurgence of film photography, more and more people who love the retro style are being drawn into the world of film photography. Many people have fallen in love with film photography after trying it out and being captivated by the charm of film photos. If you're thinking of getting your first film camera and taking unique film photos, the following beginner's guide and camera recommendations will definitely give you some ideas.

What is a film camera?

Film is the translation of the English word "Film," which refers to the photographic film used in cameras. A film camera is a camera that requires the use of film to take photos. Unlike digital photos taken by mainstream digital cameras or smartphones, which can be viewed instantly after shooting, photos taken with a film camera must be developed before they can be seen.

Features of film cameras

For film camera enthusiasts, film cameras have a magical appeal, with the following characteristics:

1. Uniqueness

Different film cameras, films, developing methods, and lighting and environmental conditions at the moment the shutter is pressed can all affect the colour and atmosphere of the photo, resulting in photos with completely different textures and making each finished product unique and precious.

2. Anticipation for the final product

After shooting with a film camera, you can't immediately see the photo's effect, and you need to develop the film to see the finished product, adding an element of mystery. The feeling of anticipation while waiting for the film to be developed is indescribable, and it's a feeling that digital photography's instant preview feature can't give.

3. Excitement of pressing the shutter

With a film camera, each photo uses up one roll of film, and even if the focus or exposure is wrong, you can't delete and redo it. Before pressing the shutter, the photographer must carefully consider composition, lighting, environment, and focus, among other factors. Any difference in settings will affect the photo's effect, so each press of the shutter brings excitement to the photographer and is the best way to hone their photography skills.

film camera 01

Types of Film Cameras

1. Disposable film cameras

  • Features: Low entry barrier, can be purchased and developed at most photo shops.
  • Advantages: Easy to operate, lightweight and compact, can use entry-level film.
  • Disadvantages: Cannot be reused, can only be used once.
  • Model: Fujifilm Simple Ace, Kodak FunSaver, Lomography Simple Use, NINM Lab 'I'm Fine'

2. Point-and-shoot film cameras

  • Features: Many camera brands produce point-and-shoot film cameras, easy to find in the market, affordable price.
  • Advantages: Can change film, autofocus, easy to operate.
  • Disadvantages: Cannot manually set aperture and shutter, average photo quality.
  • Model: Olympus Mju II, Kodak M35

3. Single Lens Reflex (SLR) film camera

  • Features: Mid-level film camera with more shooting freedom, can use different accessories.
  • Advantages: Can use different lenses, varied photo effects.
  • Disadvantages: Expensive, large and heavy.
  • Model: Nikon F-301, Canon AE-1

4. Rangefinder film camera

  • Features:Viewfinder and camera lens are separate, focusing principle is different from SLR, suitable for people with more film photography experience.
  • Advantages: Lightweight and compact, quiet shutter sound.
  • Disadvantages: Limited focusing distance, cannot use different lenses.
  • Model: Olympus-35 SP, Rollei 35 series

How to choose the right film camera?

When choosing a film camera as a beginner, you can start from the following aspects:

Choose according to level

Evaluate your own photography skills to choose a camera. If you have never used a film camera and do not want to invest too much, you can consider a disposable film camera to experience the fun of film photography. But if you already have some knowledge and skills in digital photography, such as being able to adjust aperture and shutter speed, you can consider purchasing an SLR film camera because of its greater freedom and more accessories.

Choose according to photography style

When buying a film camera, you should also consider your photography style and habits. For example, if you prefer to carry a camera with you and take street photos anytime, anywhere, you can consider a lightweight point-and-shoot film camera. After accumulating some experience, you can upgrade to a rangefinder film camera.

Choose according to desired photo effect

If you have certain requirements for photo effects or pursue a certain style, you can choose an SLR film camera with more freedom to adjust aperture, shutter speed, and other camera settings.

Choose according to budget

Among different types of film cameras, disposable film cameras are the cheapest, while SLR and rangefinder cameras are more expensive. Therefore, you should also consider your budget when choosing a film camera.

film camera 02

Film Cameras Recommendation For  Beginners

1. FUJIFILM Simple Ace

Known as the "King of Point-and-Shoot Cameras," this fully automatic film camera has a large F2.8 aperture and a basic flash. It produces high-quality photos with a deep depth of field and has been popular since its launch in the 1990s.

2. Olympus Mju II

Among different types of film cameras, disposable film cameras are the cheapest, while SLR and rangefinder cameras are more expensive. Therefore, you should also consider your budget when choosing a film camera.

3. Kodak M35 (H3)

This point-and-shoot film camera comes in a variety of candy-coloured shells, and with its lightweight and affordable price, it is especially popular among young girls.

4.  Canon AE-1

Among film SLR cameras, it is relatively lightweight, and has a shutter priority semi-automatic and fully manual mode, making it easy to operate. It is widely popular among beginners, with a wide range of accessories available, and is often the first film SLR camera for many beginners.

5.  ROLLEI 35 series  

This series includes several models and is the most representative 135 rangefinder camera from German company Rollei. Its small size, all-metal body, and unique appearance attract many film camera enthusiasts.

 How to use a film camera?  

  1. First, you need to load the film into the camera. Open the camera back and place the entire roll of film into the camera, gently pull out the film leader and attach it to the take-up spool on the other side. 
  2. For automatic cameras, you can close the back cover directly, but for manual cameras, you need to wind the film once to lock it after inserting the film leader into the slot on the take-up spool.
  3. Once you have loaded the film, you can start shooting.
  4. For manual cameras, after taking a picture, you need to wind the film forward manually to complete the exposure and prepare for the next shot.
  5. If you open the camera back before fully using the entire roll of film, the film may be overexposed, causing the entire roll of film to be unusable.

 Tips for Choosing and Using a Film Camera

There are many second-hand film cameras available on the market. When purchasing, beginners should not only check whether the film loading mechanism is working properly but also inspect the camera lens glass for damage, cracks, dust, and stains. Like digital cameras, film cameras can also develop mold, so it is essential to check for mold when buying a second-hand camera. You should also ensure that the film you buy is the correct size for your camera.

Proper maintenance of your film camera is crucial. Remove the battery when the camera is not in use to prevent battery leakage from damaging the camera. Also, keep the camera away from rainwater and dust, and always store it in a dry and cool place.

 How to digitise film?

If you adore the nostalgic style and unique texture of film photos, and want to keep unique photos forever, you may digitise the film photos. You can browse them on electronic devices, and share them with family and friends through shared albums.

Capture.HK provides photo digitisation service, adopting a non-touch digitisation process and unique digitisation technology to ensure that the film photos will not be touched. After digitising film photos, you will not lose precious memories due to loss of photos or negatives. The photos will be directly stored in USB or Google Photos, allowing you to keep photos forever.

Learn more about Capture HK's photo album digitisation service now!

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