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The Best 35mm Film Cameras for 2024

What Film Cameras Should You Be Shooting in 2024?

With film photography a firm winner amongst Gen Z, whether you’re a rank beginner just starting out on your photography journey, or a seasoned pro looking for a new challenge, there’s a 35mm film camera out there for you. We've rounded up the top cameras you can buy, with a range of features to suit every budget and skill level, from basic models perfect for learning the ropes, to advanced systems that offer a wealth of creative possibilities.


Looking back on 2023 and seeing the traction in the film photography world, it gives me hope as we start out in 2024. And to keep that buoyant mood alive, we've rounded up several 35mm camera models that stand out as top picks for anyone looking to dive into the world of film photography. These include ultra-bargain options like the Yashica FX-103 Program and the Minolta X-570 or X-700, mid-range models like the Nikon F3 and F3HP, and premium models like the Canon EOS-1V and Nikon F6. Each of these cameras offers a unique blend of features, performance, and value, making them worthy additions to any photographer’s kit.


If you're looking for something a little more free and easy, why not check out our guide to the Lomography and the top 10 point and shoot cameras?


So why not give film photography a shot in 2024? You might just fall in love with the magic of analogue. It’s a journey of discovery, a way to connect with the history of photography, and a chance to create something truly unique. So go ahead, pick up a 35mm film camera and start capturing the world around you. You might just find that it’s the perfect way to express your creativity and see the world in a whole new light.

 

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Ultra-Bargain SLR: Yashica FX-103 Program



The Yashica FX-103 Program is a hidden gem. Introduced in 1985, it was the first Yashica body that could offer three different exposure modes: program (high-speed and regular), aperture priority, and manual. It was also the last Yashica manual-focus SLR that included the shutter speed information in the viewfinder.


As it uses the Contax Yashica (C/Y) mount, you benefit from a wide range of high-quality lenses out of the box, making it a versatile choice for photographers of all levels.


One of the standout features of the FX-103 is its viewfinder, with the best viewfinder of all Yashica bodies, offering a clear and bright view of your subject. This can make a significant difference when you’re trying to capture that perfect shot.


Despite being significantly lower specified compared to the contemporary Contax 159MM, the FX-103 has fairly similar real-world functionality. It’s a remarkably small and light body, making it a great choice if portability is on your wishlist.


In terms of price, the FX-103 is usually priced around £75 with a 50mm f/1.9 ML Yashica lens. You'll sometimes find it bundled with flashes, zooms, winders, and even sometimes with the Contax 50mm f/1.7, which then makes it an ultra-bargain SLR, offering more than most cameras in this price range.


The Yashica FX-103 Program offers a great balance of functionality, versatility, and affordability. Whether you’re a beginner looking to dip your toes into the world of film photography or a seasoned pro looking for a reliable backup camera, the FX-103 is a solid choice.


Bargain SLR: Minolta X-570 / X-700


The Minolta X-570 and X-700 are fantastic options for those looking for a bargain. Introduced in the early 1980s, these cameras are some of Minolta’s best manual focus SLRs.


The X-570, also known as the X-500 in Europe and Asia, was considered a little sister to Minolta’s top of the line X-700. However, it offered several improvements to the viewfinder over the X-700. It was one of the last manual focus SLRs released by Minolta before they released the auto focus Maxxum series. Despite being seen as a lower-level camera to the X-700 when it first came out, it has since become favored by photographers and collectors for its fully capable feature set, small size, excellent ergonomics, and excellent viewfinder.



The X-700, on the other hand, was Minolta’s most advanced (and their last) manual focus SLR. It comes highly recommended and is often praised as one of the most popular cameras ever. The X-700 was introduced in 1981 as Minolta’s top-of-the-line manual focus SLR system camera. It was an immediate success, being promptly declared the European “Camera of the Year” by EISA. The X-700 went on to enjoy enviable sales success, becoming Minolta’s best-selling camera since the highly respected and desirable SRT range.


Both cameras offer a great balance between price and performance, making them ideal for beginners or those on a budget. They are lightweight, yet solidly built, and support full manual mode along with aperture priority auto exposure mode. They can use their meter in full manual mode unlike many other SLRs of the past 30 years. These are cameras that are good looking, especially in black, and have excellent ergonomics.


Whether you’re just starting out in film photography or looking for a reliable backup camera, the Minolta X-570 and X-700 are solid choices that offer a great balance of functionality, versatility, and affordability.

 

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Mid-Range SLR: Nikon F3 / F3HP

The Nikon F3 and F3HP are mid-range cameras that offer excellent value for money. Introduced in 1980, these cameras are some of Nikon’s best professional 35mm SLRs.


The F3 has always been one of Nikon’s best pro cameras. There are still plenty of people using them today. Nikon continued to make the F3 even after it introduced the F4 and the F5. Its big finder, simple and durable electronic auto exposure and manual shutter system, and its ball-bearing smooth manual film advance lever mark it out as a top choice. A motor drive - the MD4 - was sold separately. The F3 remains popular as Nikon’s lightest professional 35mm SLR ever made.


The F3 is manual focus only and works best with Nikon’s manual focus AI and AI-s lenses (as well as the unusual AI-P lenses), which offer the best manual-focus feel and full meter coupling. The F3 will work with older non-AI “F” manual focus lenses, however they demand stop-down metering unless you have them AI updated.



The slightly newer F3HP version (HP standing for High Eyepoint) has a slightly larger eyepiece with slightly less magnification - which means that you can hold your eye farther away. Exposure is match-dot manual, or aperture-preferred auto, using Nikon’s classic metering system that is heavily center-weighted.


The Nikon F3 and F3HP are robust, reliable, and offer a range of features that will satisfy most photographers. They are a great choice for those looking for a mid-range camera that offers excellent value for money.


Premium SLR: Canon EOS-1V or Nikon F6

For those willing to invest a bit more, the Canon EOS-1V and Nikon F6 are top-of-the-line 35mm SLRs. These cameras offer superior build quality and advanced features, making them a favourite among professionals.


The Canon EOS-1V is Canon’s top-of-the-line 35mm SLR. Introduced in 2000 and produced until 2018, it proudly ushered out the era of film. Its spec sheet is unmatched by any other film camera. It is by any measure an amazing machine, and a 35mm SLR swansong worthy of one of the most important camera companies in the history of imaging. This camera is a powerhouse and perfect for seasoned film shooters.



The Nikon F6 is the best 35mm SLR ever. For one (and a rather major reasoning for this rating), it is a reasonable size, unlike the rather bloaty F5, which makes it more satsifying in the hand. Nikon is very proud of the quiet and refined sounds the F6 makes. Even in rewind it sounds precise and quiet, and its unique Cs (silent) mode is particularly pleasant. The last of the F-series of SLRs, introduced in 2004, it boasted all the latest electronic features. It really was the last man standing against digital photography.


Whether you’re just starting out in film photography or looking for a reliable backup camera, the Canon EOS-1V and Nikon F6 are solid choices that offer a great balance of functionality, versatility, and affordability.


Top Street Photography Cameras

When it comes to street photography, the compact and unobtrusive design of the Olympus XA series makes it a popular choice. This series of cameras, introduced in 1979, was designed with the vision of creating a small, easy-to-carry camera that would produce very good results. The Olympus XA completely changed the compact camera game, keeping Olympus at the very top of that game well into the digital age.



The Olympus XA series is often hailed as Yoshihisa Maitani’s greatest masterpiece, overshadowing even the OM system. Its intuitive design ensures its reputation as an out-and-out shooter. The XA series cameras are not only superb street shooters but perfect for LOMO-style shooting.


One of the standout features of the Olympus XA series is its rangefinder focus. This allows for quick and precise shots, capturing the spontaneity of the streets. The camera also features a sharp lens, further enhancing its image quality.

 

Other Rangefinder Cameras perfect for Street Photography:

 

In addition, the Olympus XA series features a brand-new clamshell cover which not only streamlined the body, but also protected the lens, focusing mechanism, and ISO/ASA selector. It also featured a vertical aperture control, an electromagnetically triggered shutter button, and a flush-mounted self-timer, battery check, and +1.5 EV exposure compensation lever.


The Olympus XA series is a solid choice for street photography. Its compact design, rangefinder focus, and sharp lens make it ideal for capturing the energy and spontaneity of the streets.


On the other hand, the Canon P is a hidden gem, compatible with the M39 (Leica Thread Mount) mount, allowing it to utilise the excellent early screw mount Leica lenses, as well as modern Voigtlander optics designed for the LTM mount. The viewfinder - large, bright and of good magnification, shows frame lines for 35mm, 50mm and 100mm lenses, all parallax-corrected and labelled within the finder.



The Canon 7, a much more advanced model, is a classic rangefinder with all the usual buttons and dials. It comes with an old school selenium light meter, so check when you buy it that it works reliably against a known working meter, as selenium depletes and the light meter readings become unreliable. In all honesty, I've never relied on selenium meters. A beautiful looking camera with a very simple design and very reliable mechanics. This camera also supported the astonishingly fast 50mm f/0.95 lens known as the "Dream Lens" for its rumoured ability to collect 4x more light than the human eye.



All-Time Favourites For Those With No Budget Restrictions

The Leica M4–2 or M4-P are often hailed as some of the best film cameras of all time. These premium rangefinder cameras are known for their exceptional build quality and superb image quality.



The Leica M4–2 is a joy to shoot - a truly superb camera. If a Leica is a Lamborghini, then the Canon P is the Ford Capri. The sum of its parts is so much greater than the whole - and not one single part makes it special on its own. It's the seamless way everything works together that means this simple camera delivers a surprising amount of performance, and it's a shedload of fun to shoot with.


But if I had to choose, then it's the Leica M4-P for me. I fell in love with the all-black finish and humble origins of this model right from when I first laid eyes on it. The solidity of the camera feels like a well fired brick in my hands. Sturdy and with superb build quality, it's exactly what I expected from a Leica. The viewfinder is crystal clear and bright.


Conclusion

Whether you’re just starting out in your photography journey or looking to upgrade your kit, there’s a 35mm film camera out there for you. From ultra-bargain options like the Yashica FX-103 Program and the Minolta X-570 or X-700, to premium models like the Canon EOS-1V or Nikon F6, these cameras offer a range of features to suit every budget and skill level.


If you’re a beginner, the Yashica FX-103 Program and the Minolta X-570 or X-700 are fantastic options. They offer a great balance between price and performance, making them ideal for those just dipping their toes into the world of film photography.


For the more experienced photographers or those willing to invest a bit more, the Canon EOS-1V and Nikon F6 are top-of-the-line 35mm SLRs. These cameras offer superior build quality and advanced features, making them a favourite among professionals.


And if you’re into street photography, the compact and unobtrusive design of the Olympus XA series makes it a popular choice. Its rangefinder focus and sharp lens allow for quick and precise shots, capturing the spontaneity of the streets.


You may even decide that 35mm is not for you and go straight for medium format: we've got you covered there too with the top 5 medium format cameras in 2023.


So why not give film photography a shot in 2024? You might just fall in love with the magic of analogue. The tactile experience of loading the film, the anticipation of waiting for the film to develop, and the joy of seeing your photos come to life — these are experiences that digital photography just can’t replicate. So go ahead, pick up a 35mm film camera and start capturing the world around you. You might just find that it’s the perfect way to express your creativity and see the world in a whole new light.

 

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