You’ve been eyeballing all those pretty pastel-y shots and want to take your creativity to a new level. You don’t know if you’ll do it for work or fun, but something about the nostalgia of shooting film appeals to you, the need to slow down and soak it all in. You’ve scoured forums, read books and now know nothing is better than learning through practice. It’s time to take a leap and purchase a film camera. Just do it already, shesh! But…what to buy? I have two suggestions for finding + purchasing your first film camera:
1. Start Simple: If you’re itching to be shooting and learning the ropes but aren’t sure of the ‘look’ you’re most drawn to, pick up a modestly priced camera, or heck, dig one out of your closet! I am willing to bet a family member or friend has an old Canon Rebel or Nikkor they’d be happy to let you borrow. Then grab some 35mm film and start practicing! I’d absolutely say start with a 35mm camera paired with 35mm film as it’s slightly more accessible than 120 film (and their medium format camera counterparts), more affordable, and offers more frames on a roll (36 frames vs. 16 on a roll of 120).
2. Do research: If the the idea of more complex or interesting cameras intrigue you (like the Yashica Mat G–it shoots frames in 6×6 squares!), do a bit of googling. Find what you think may be a great deal on Ebay but not sure if the camera style is up your alley? Search the model on Flickr and see what types of photos turn up! This will give you an idea of the images each camera is capable of producing.
MY 4 FAVORITE FILM CAMERAS FOR BEGINNERS
//35mm: easily accessible, affordable, and fun! Typically the most similar to current digital set-ups.
Canon EOS-1N ($150 via Ebay): Has 5 focusing points which can be selected manually (similar to your current digital camera). It also allows for 1/2 and 1/2 exposure increments, which means you can be more precise with your settings (my Contax only allows full stops in shutter speed!). I personally use this camera during weddings for wider shots + fast moving candids.
Canon EOS-1V ($300-$500 via Ebay) Boasts 45 focus points, which is helpful when trying to nail a shot in film!
I am a fan of each of these Canon cameras because they both are compatible with current Canon lenses and have a very similar set-up to their digital counterparts which makes the transition to shooting film a lot easier, less intimidating, and financial do-able! They also imprint (not like the werewolves) camera data onto your film, kinda like “metadata”, so when you get your negatives back you can see what the settings were for each frame. This is exceptionally helpful when learning. (I’d also encourage you to take notes as you shoot instead of waiting for the negatives to see your settings–those can sometimes take a while to receive from your developer). Paired with a 50mm 1.2 these babies are gorgeous! They do, however, introduce more grain into photos than medium format cameras.
[Canon 1n with Canon 50mm 1.4 + Fuji 400h film]
//Medium Format: if the look of 35mm (which has the same framing and look as a ‘full frame’ digital camera) just won’t do and you love the shorter + fatter frame and less grain look, go with one of these:
Mamiya 645 AF (the AF stands for “Auto Focus”)($800-ish via ebay). A super awesome and affordable medium format set-up. Similar to the Contax645, this baby isn’t nearly as hard to find and is a whole lot more affordable! It shoots wider frames with the required 120 or 220 film.
Pentax 645N: ($600-ish) I have never personally used this camera, however it’s getting a lot of love lately! And honestly, I’ve seen some beautiful images come from it. Again, similar but more affordable than the Contax 645. I hear it’s heavy and loud as heck, though!