5 Great 35mm Film Cameras for Beginners!

5 Great 35mm Film Cameras for Beginners on Shoot It With Film
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Written by Kathleen Frank

If you’re just starting out with film photography, finding the right film camera can be super overwhelming. With so many options, it’s difficult to know where to start.

So we thought we’d make it a little bit easier by rounding up a list of the five best 35mm film cameras for beginners.

Ranging from fully manual vintage cameras to point-and-shoots, here are some of the best 35mm film cameras that are easy on the budget, reliable, and full of beginner-friendly features.

(Looking for more awesome camera lists? You can check out our favorite medium format cameras for beginners here and the best point and shoot film cameras here.)

5 35mm Film Cameras for Beginners/>

1. Canon AE-1 or AE-1 Program

The Canon AE-1 - 5 Best 35mm Film Cameras for Beginners on Shoot It With Film
image credit: @loafcameras

The Canon AE-1 is a classic 35mm film camera and great for anyone just starting out. Manufactured throughout the late 70’s and early 80’s, it was the most popular camera of its time. And with great reason! It’s compact, easy to use, and reliable.

This camera will definitely give you a retro, hands-on film shooting experience. It has manual focusing, manual film rewind, and the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture are all set with mechanical dials. No digital displays of any kind!

A few tech details: The AE-1 has an internal light meter, and exposure is set through either manual or shutter priority mode. It has a shutter speed of up to 1/1000, ISO setting up to 3200, and compatible with FD or FDn lenses.

If you’re looking for a few more automatic features, the Canon AE-1 Program is also awesome for beginners. An updated version of the AE-1, the AE-1 Program has a fully automatic exposure setting.

It still has manual lens focusing, but the program mode will make it easy to start shooting film without worrying too much about metering and manual exposure.

You can pick up either of these cameras with a lens for around $100, with the AE-1 Program usually costing a little more. Find the Canon AE-1/AE-1 Program at KEH Camera or on eBay.

2. Pentax K1000

The Pentax K1000 - 5 Best 35mm Film Cameras for Beginners on Shoot It With Film
image credit: @girlwithagraycat

If you want even more of an analog experience and love cameras with a vintage feel and retro design, the Pentax K1000 is a great option.

The Pentax K1000 was manufactured for over 20 years from the late 70’s to the late 90’s and designed with limited features to bring down its price tag.

It’s a bare bones camera but still a favorite for many shooters due to it’s simplicity, durable build, and analog experience.

It’s a fully mechanical film camera. Except for the light meter, it is completely functional without a battery. This makes for an awesome analog experience, but it is better suited for those comfortable with manual focus and manual exposure. There are no auto or shutter priority features.

Tech details: The Pentax K1000 has an internal light meter, exposure is set manually, a shutter speed up to 1/1000, and compatible with Pentax K bayonet lenses. It is also compatible with K-AF and K-AF2 lenses, but only supports manual focus.

You can find the Pentax K1000 and lens for around $100 at KEH Camera or on eBay.

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3. Nikon F100

The Nikon F100 - 5 Best 35mm Film Cameras for Beginners on Shoot It With Film
image credit: @wendy_b_photos_

Next on our list of best 35mm film cameras for beginners is the Nikon F100. This camera brings us into the world of more modern film cameras.

It was manufactured from 1999 to 2006 and has up-to-date features like exposure bracketing, multiple auto-focus modes, and even TTL metering. The F100 is going to feel more like your modern DSLRs.

The biggest bonus to the Nikon F100 is it’s lens compatibility. It is compatible with your current Nikkor lenses! It has the Nikon F mount and is compatible with Nikkor AF lenses and most AI and AI-S lenses.

Tech details: The F100 has auto and manual focus capabilities and automatic and manual exposure modes, including shutter/aperture priority. It also has a shutter speed up to 1/8000 and supports double exposures. With the Nikon F lens mount, it is compatible with all Nikkor AF lenses.

The Nikon F100 is currently selling for around $200-$300 without a lens, but keep an eye out because there are often ones in good condition for less than that. Pick one up at KEH Camera or on eBay.

4. Canon EOS 3

The Canon EOS 3 - 5 Great 35mm Film Cameras for Beginners on Shoot It With Film
image credit: @_kerrylake

The Canon EOS 3 is the most expensive film camera on this list but has many of the same awesome benefits as the Nikon F100 if you are a Canon shooter.

Manufactured from 1998 through 2007, the Canon EOS 3 has a very similar style and ergonomics to Canon’s current line of DSLRs.

Filled with your standard modern features, this camera will be an easy jump to film if you are already familiar with Canon cameras. It is also compatible with all EF lenses, so you can use all of your current Canon lenses with it!

Tech details: The Canon EOS 3 has advanced auto-focus features, including Eye Controlled Focus, and all your modern focus modes. It has in-camera metering, and manual, auto, and shutter/aperture priority exposure settings. It also has a shutter speed up to 1/8000 along with TTL flash settings and is compatible with all EF lenses.

You can pick up the Canon EOS 3 without a lens for $300-$400 at KEH Camera or on eBay.

5. Olympus Stylus Epic

The Olympus Stylus Epic - 5 Great 35mm Film Cameras for Beginners on Shoot It With Film
image credit: @itsamyberge

The Olympus Stylus Epic is our favorite point-and-shoot option for film photographers. If you’re looking for a ultra simple way to break into film, then this 35mm might be a great fit for you.

The Olympus Stylus Epic, also called the Olympus MJU-II, was manufactured in the late 90s during the height of point-and-shoot cameras. So why did this one make our list? Not only is it sleek with a great design, it has a killer 2.8 aperture lens with a price point at around $100.

The sharp, low aperture lens gives you amazing quality with all of the ease of a point-and-shoot. You don’t need to worry about light meters or manual focus, you can just slip this thing into your pocket and enjoy shooting some film.

Tech details: The Olympus Stylus Epic has a 35mm f2.8 lens and fully auto exposure and focus with built-in flash.

In mint condition, the Olympus Stylus Epic can run about $200, but many can be found for around $100 or less. Be sure to also search for Olympus MJU-II as it goes by both names. Pick one up at KEH Camera or on eBay.

Any one of these five 35mm film cameras are perfect for beginners and will give you a great start to your film photography journey!

And if you have a favorite starter film camera that we didn’t go over here, please leave it below in the comments!

5 Great 35mm Film Cameras for Beginners on Shoot It With Film
5 Great 35mm Film Cameras for Beginners on Shoot It With Film
5 Great 35mm Film Cameras for Beginners on Shoot It With Film
5 Great 35mm Film Cameras for Beginners on Shoot It With Film
5 Great 35mm Film Cameras for Beginners on Shoot It With Film

Kathleen is the founder here at Shoot It With Film, and you can read more of her articles here, like how to shoot film on a budget and a guide to medium format film photography. You can also check out more of her work on her website and Instagram.

Leave any questions below in the comments, and if you have other awesome 35mm film cameras for beginners, leave those in the comments, too!

Want to learn more about shooting film? Read all of our film photography tutorials here!

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Kathleen Frank

Kathleen Frank is the founder of Shoot It With Film. Find her other articles here, such as 5 Best Point and Shoot Film Cameras and 30 Film Photography Resources for Beginners.

Blog Comments

Yashica Electro 35 range of rangefinders.

These cameras have an amazingly accurate and simple form of automated metering, a fast and effective manual range focus (with parallax correction) and are aperture priority. You can play around with the ISO if you’re clever enough to tweak shutter speeds. The simplicity of these is perfect for beginners – and with around 10 million made they’re still pretty cheap.

If you can’t find one in your parents/grandparents cupboard that is.

And they’re built to last several lifetimes.

The Yashica Electro 35 is a great camera! Thank you so much for sharing!

No X700?

Such an awesome camera! It’s pretty similar to the Canon AE-1 (along with the Nikon FM series and Olympus OM series), that we didn’t put it on the list, but it’s a favorite for sure.

Canon’s Canonet G-III QL17
I bought one new in 1977. Easy to use and very quiet for street photography. 40mm f/1.8 lens somewhat limited by its 1/500 shutter speed. I also recommend Canon’s A-1, I’ve bought two of them each with lenses for $45 from Craigslist.

Thank you so much for commenting! The QL17 and the A-1 are both fantastic 35mms. The QL17 is such a nice combo of quality and compatibility for a decent price. Thanks for sharing!

Fir Pentax:

M-42 Version of the K-1000: Pentax Spotmatic any model any Takumar M-42 lens of the period.

For Pentax-K MF: Pentax a3/ a3000 with KA-mount with SMC-A lenses you have program mode with 2xAA-batteries. Prefer primes or 35-70 zooms for MF or get early AF lenses which will manually focus when used with MF body.

For Pentax-K AF: Pentax SFX/SFXn/SF7 well built with MF also possible and many exposure modes and measuring options and have pioup flash plus hot shoe. AA-battery option with the aa-battery grip. For Large hands. Pentax KAF mount means screw-mount AF lenses only. Can be had for a song.

The SFxxx have zoom kit lenses usually which will do the job and later can still serve as lens caps. Try to get for AF the shorter 35-xx zoom lenses or a 50mm prime.

Thank you for sharing!

I would have to say that the Olympus double digit film cameras would make a good starting point for a beginner. Admittedly the OM 10 required an additional accessory to operate with manual shutter speed but apart from that the camera shares it’s genes with the OM-1. Later models such as the OM-40 had all the features built in. The only difference between single and two digit om cameras was the mechanical strength – single digit cameras were built to withstand professional use and consequently more robust. The Location of some of the controls (namely the shutter speed control ring) can take a bit of getting used to initially but it naturally falls to hand when holding the camera making it a pleasure to use

And of course it opens up the world of Zuiko lenses!

Yes! The OM-10 and 40 are great options for beginners. Wonderful suggestion!

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