Written by Jennifer Stamps
Buying a good film camera can be overwhelming. I remember when I first started shooting film, and I scoured the Internet looking for “the best” camera to meet my needs.
With all of the choices and recommendations out there, it may feel like you have to spend a lot of money to get a good film camera, but you definitely don’t have to.
You can find some really great cameras to fit with any budget, and, today, I’m going to share with you five film cameras you can get for under $50.
In fact, one of my favorite cameras, the Snap Sights! underwater 35mm camera (find on eBay), cost $10…literally! All you need to do is determine what you need and want in a camera and then look in the right places.
Where to Buy Film Cameras
So, looking in the right places… It takes time, and you need to do your research, but purchasing a used camera is your best bet when looking for an affordable film camera under $50.
Here are a few of my favorite places to find good deals on film cameras:
eBay is probably the number one place to look for used film cameras. Always make sure the seller has good reviews and indicated the camera has been tested and works properly. You can find a camera cheaper if it hasn’t been tested, but it’s a 50/50 shot on if it will work.
Find a vintage camera on eBay.
2. KEH Camera
KEH Camera buys and sells used cameras and is a great place to look for a film camera you know will work as advertised. You will likely pay more than on eBay, but you can find some great deals in the bargain category. With their great return policy and accurate descriptions and ratings, it’s a piece-of-mind buying experience.
Find a film camera at KEH Camera.
Etsy is another good place to buy film cameras – however, I’ve noticed that everything on Etsy costs more than on eBay. This is usually because it’s been tested with several rolls and professionally cleaned (the seller should note this if that’s the case).
Many individuals and companies list used film cameras on Amazon due to it’s popularity. You can find lots of different options. Make sure you do your research on the seller and ask questions if you’re unsure about the condition of the camera before you buy.
5. Thrift Shops
This might be my favorite place to snag my treasures. You can get cameras for pennies on the dollar and you are shopping local. The only bummer is that you won’t know if it works until you get it home and put a roll through it.
6. Social Media
Sometimes photographers are ready to skinny down their collection, and they’ll sell their gear on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. A bonus to buying from another photographer is you have a pretty good idea that the camera is working and was taken care of. Facebook groups (such as Film Photo Gear) are also great places to keep an eye out for good deals on film gear.
5 Film Cameras Under $50
Now you know where to shop, let’s get to the goods! Here are some great film cameras you can find for under $50 to get you started.
I covered a range of different categories (medium format film cameras, manual SLRs, auto SLRs, point and shoots, and instant film cameras), so you can find an affordable option no matter what type of film camera you’d like to shoot.
I own all of these cameras and still shoot with and love them all.
*A note about pricing: The cameras listed below should be pretty easy to find in good working condition for under $50, but you will definitely see a range of prices depending on the condition of the camera and the marketplace you decide to use.
Medium Format: Holga 120N
Medium format is probably the hardest one to find under $50. On average, they cost a few hundred dollars, but you could easily spend a few thousand.
Admittedly, the Holga 120N (find on Amazon) is a plastic camera with a plastic lens, but that doesn’t mean you have to treat it as such. It’s hands down my favorite camera.
Pros: It’s lightweight, durable, can shoot 12 or 16 frames per roll, fun to travel with, and begs to be played with.
Cons: You can’t set the ISO, and the shutter speed is either a set open/close or manual release, so you really need to pay attention to your lighting conditions when you pick your film stock speed.
Find the Holga 120N on Amazon.
Manual SLR: Minolta SRT-101
The Minolta SRT-101 (find on eBay or at KEH Camera) is an adorable little camera and an absolute dream to shoot. It’s actually the first 35mm camera I owned (in the digital age).
This is a fully mechanical, manual camera with a light meter. Features include interchangeable manual focus lenses, ISO meter ranging from 6 to 6400, and shutter speeds ranging from bulb to 1/1000 second.
Pros: The Rokkor lenses are a dream – seriously smooth glass. It has everything you need in a camera and could easily be you go-to 35mm camera.
Cons: It’s heavy (not ideal for travel), and it can be hard to nail focus with the manual lenses.
The Minolta Maxxum 7000 is another great 35mm that can be found for a great price.
Find the Minolta SRT-101 on eBay or at KEH Camera.
Auto SLR: Canon EOS 3000N
Looking for something you can just pick up and shoot without a lot of set up? An automatic SLR might be just the thing.
With the Canon EOS 3000N (find on eBay), you can shoot completely automatic, partially automatic, or completely manual – the choice is yours. This camera features interchangeable lenses (EF mount which is the same as Canon DSLRs), light meter, and built in flash.
Pros: You can choose whether you want to use automatic or manual settings, and it will work with new/modern lenses with auto-focus.
Cons: Lenses can be expensive since they fit DSLRs, and the camera is not at all that compact with lenses attached.
Find the Canon EOS 3000N on eBay.
Point and Shoot: Canon Sure Shot
The Canon Sure Shot (find on eBay) is such a fun little camera. I picked it up on a whim because I didn’t have a point and shoot.
There is something freeing about just picking up the camera, turning it on, and shooting. It’s even more simplified than my Holga.
There is nothing that makes this camera stand out from the rest, but I am always impressed with the images from this little baby.
Pros: It allows you to shoot freely and even pass the camera over so you’re in more photos, and it has a built in flash.
Cons: You can’t adjust any of your settings; it’s either flash or no flash.
But if you’d like to know more about hacking the DX code on a roll of film to give you a little more control with point and shoot cameras, you can check out this article here.
Find the Canon Sure Shot on eBay.
Instant Film Camera: Polaroid Sun 660
What a fun little camera. The Polaroid Sun 660 (find on eBay) is the first Polaroid I’ve ever owned. I found it at a thrift store and paid less than $5 for it.
When I learned that it worked, I was ecstatic. This bad boy has even been to Paris with me!
This camera takes Polaroid 600 film.
Pros: You can adjust your settings based on how much light you have available, you can shoot with or without flash, and it autofocuses.
Cons: Film is expensive and can be unpredictable (but I say that only adds to the charm).
Find the Polaroid Sun 660 on eBay.
Thank you so much, Jen! Jennifer is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and be sure to check out her other articles, like how to develop color film in black and white chemicals and a film camera review for the 35mm Olympus OM-1. You can also check out more of Jennifer’s work on her website and Instagram.
Leave your questions below in the comments, and please feel free to share your favorite film cameras that you’ve picked up for under $50!
August 14, 2020 at 10:50 am
Great article! My top of the list of cheap SLR’s is Pentax ME Super. Yes, it might be not as reliable as full mechanical cameras, but it’s very light, quiet and Pentax glass is amazing.
August 17, 2020 at 9:28 am
Thank you! The Pentax ME Super sounds like a great camera.
June 28, 2021 at 12:29 pm
Estate sales are a great place to find film cameras, too. I just picked up a Yashica Mat LM for $100. That’s not under $50, of course, but compared to Ebay I thought that was a pretty reasonable price. I’ve scored some cool vintage cameras that way as well.
August 11, 2021 at 1:02 am
I have a Canon Rebel G 35mm film camera. I use my canon 50mm f/1.8 lens. Together they cost about $100. I develop and scan my own film. Lab box and Epson v600. Those were $400 but it costs $20 a roll at a lab. The art is worth the investment.
September 19, 2021 at 11:55 am
The Ricoh KR-/XR-cameras of the 1970ies/80ies are seriously underrated and have Pentax-K-bayonet. Some times even with a full set of Ricoh glass under 50$.
Also if you want an SRT, go go for the first version of the SRT-303 which can be gotten for less than 50$.
September 7, 2022 at 10:09 am
I like the Holga, but I LOVE the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye! You can usually snag one for $20.00 or even less. They are simplicity itself to use (easier even than the Holga), very sturdy and dependable, and 120 film works fine (be sure to have at least 2 old 620 take up reels on hand!).