12 Film Cameras Worth Buying Right Now

The tragedy in Japan has made the current DSLR market a scary place, making this a perfect opportunity to get (back) into film.

Canon EOS 1N Canon left a lot of photographers miffed when their EOS (Electro Optical System) prevented old FD mount lenses from working on their new EF mount bodies. But Canon was compelled to develop a high performance autofocus camera given the AF competition from Minolta and Nikon in the mid 1980’s. (Just in case you’re wondering, the first EOS camera was released in 1987—Canon’s 50th anniversary and Eos is the goddess of dawn in Greek mythology. Get it?) In 1989, Canon introduced a more advanced, pro model in the EOS-1 and followed it up five years later with the EOS-1N. It was their most sophisticated camera to date, with 5-point area AF (impressive at the time), 16-zone evaluative metering that was linked to the focus point and other features that made it a favorite among professionals. It kept its flagship status for six years. The best part about buying this SLR right now is that it’ll work just fine with all of your current Canon lenses. That saves you money in the glass department. Sample Prices: KEH: starting at $179 (with power booster)
Ebay: starting at $179 (body only)
Craigslist: starting at $250 ‘or best offer’ (body only)

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Canon AE-1 Canon has done a lot to change the photography industry, but one of their most revolutionary moments in the 35mm SLR market came with the AE-1. One of the best-selling cameras ever (with estimated unit sales in the millions), the AE-1 was the first 35mm AE SLR with shutter speed priority, TTL metering, and a Central Processing unit, making the camera hugely appealing to amateurs and the general public for its ease of use. The camera was in production for seven years–that’s an eternity in the context of the modern product cycle and a testament to its popularity and its dependability. Given how many AE-1’s were sold, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of used models around that are in great shape. This manual focus camera has an FD mount, so if you have any older Canon lenses around, you’re golden. Sample prices:
KEH.com: Starting from $79 (body only in excellent condition but with a cracked battery door) on up for body and lenses Ebay: If you look, you can probably get one for $50 with a lens Craigslist: $100 for a full kit—camera body, several Canon lenses and flash

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Fujifilm GA645 You might not find too many Fujifilm GA645’s around, but if you do, this camera is certainly worth a look. A funky looking medium format camera that’s relatively small and light—great for travel or hiking into the field—but will get you some of those sweet 120/220 negatives. It has a fixed Super EBC Fujinon 60mm lens (37mm equivalent) and a built-in flash so you don’t have to worry about buying accessories. The combination of its compact design, fixed lens, built-in flash, autofocus and hotshoe may easily put this on your watch list. It’s a little pricier than we’d like but considering it comes with a lens, it’s not a bad deal. Plus, its interesting appearance will probably be enough to draw the attention away from those cocky new X100 owners. Sample Photos: KEH: from $484 Ebay: from $500 ** ** Craigslist: from $400

Hasselblad 500c/500cm
Who doesn’t want a Hasselblad? While Hasselblad has gone digital, models like the 500c/500cm never lose their charm nor their value. It’s the most expensive camera on our list, but you should be able to sell it for as much as you paid for it—at least for a while. The square format is one of its trademarks, and if by some chance you need a repair or a spare part, no problem; a Hasselblad—even a manual focus, film model like the 500c/500cm—has staying power and a cachet that no other cameras has…well, with the possible exception of a Leica. But has a Leica been to the moon? A Hasselblad has. Sample Prices:
KEH: from $254 without waist level finder; from $429 with waist level finder Ebay: from $325 (body only with waist level finder), but most listings are for camera plus lenses at $1,000+ prices

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Leica R-series Like the Hasselblad, the Leica represents a level of quality, (and, for some, status) that you won’t find elsewhere. Most Leicas are still priced out of reach, but used R-series (R3, R4, R5) bodies can be had for as little as $79. Granted, the battery check doesn’t work on that particular camera but, still, that’s one helluva bargain. When you pick up a Leica, you can tell it’s built to last. The R-models are built around all-metal bodies and the aluminum die-cast construction is clearly evident. These hard-core cameras are so durable they’ll outlive most of us. Plus, you get that little red dot. Sample Prices: KEH: from $79 (body only; battery check doesn’t work) Ebay: from $145 (R3 meter needs adjustment) $435 (R5 with data back); $659 (R4 with 35-70mm lens) Craigslist: $175 (R3)
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Mamiya 645 Pro Launched in 1992, the Mamiya 645 Pro has a lot going for it. The camera is well-built, dependable, easy to use, flexible–and those are only a few of the reasons the Mamiya 645 is a good choice if you’re looking for a used medium format camera. Interchangeable backs let you go from 120 to 220 to 135, even mid-roll. With its reasonable pricing, a 645 Pro is still a popular choice among professional photographers. It’s manual focus only, but that’s okay. The Mamiya 645 Pro is a cool looking camera and, if you pick up an AE prism, you can count on TTL exposure. If you really are addicted to AF, you can step up to a used version of the 645 AFD starting at about $950. As the name suggests, it shoots 6 x 4.5 negatives, which is smaller than the 6 x 7 negatives captured by its sibling, the RB 67. That means more photos per roll of film while still giving you a lot more resolution real estate than you get with a 35mm camera. Sample Prices: KEH: from $94 (with power drive but rated “ugly”); also $172 (body only; excellent condition) Ebay: $300 and up for a complete set-up Craigslist: from $299.95

Nikon FM10
Believe it or not, Nikon is still manufacturing two 35mm SLR models, and they deserve a lot of credit for that. While the F6 is an absurd $2,810 (new), the manual focus FM10 is much more reasonable at $337 new with a 35-70mm lens. Check around for a used body and you’ll be blown away at some of the prices (see below) for a camera with such great specs (and one that takes all metal Nikon F mount lenses). The focusing screen is fixed but that’s livable, and the x sync is only at 1/125th second or slower and, compared to today’s digital cameras, the shutter speed range of 1 second to 1/2000th of a second seems a little paltry. But it has a depth of field preview button, manual controls (of course) and is a solid, all-around 35mm camera. Great for beginners, too. Also worth exploring are some of the earlier Nikon F-series bodies from the 1960s-1970s such as the F2, which offer similar (and in some cases slightly more advanced) features with a bit more durability. Sample Prices:
KEH: from $144 (body only)
Ebay: from $50 (body only)
Craigslist: from $100, with Nikon 35-70mm lens

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Nikon N80
When Nikon introduced the N80 in 2000, this affordable (even back then) 35mm camera represented a major step up from the company’s previous consumer AF models. Sure, the body is plastic, but that means it’s lightweight (at least lighter weight than the Nikon F100 pro models) and, better yet, it has a wide range of sophisticated features and controls. Like other consumer/amateur 35mm cameras, its synch speed is only 1/125th of a second and metering doesn’t work with manual focus lenses, but you do get the benefit of a manual cable release for long exposures, and the N80 can actually clock about 2.5 frames per second. It’s a solid camera with some creature comforts, but a full range of manual controls that won’t hinder someone who knows their way around a camera. Plus, it works with your current Nikon AF glass, making the price of entry minimal for users who already have a Nikon DSLR. Sample Prices:
KEH: from $13 (body only)
Ebay: from $80 (body only)
Craigslist: from $150 (body, Quantaray 28-200mm lens, Nikon SB-27 Speedlight, extra batteries, 16 rolls of Kodak 400 film)

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Pentax 67 It’s been called an SLR on steroids by some, for reasons that become immediately apparent when you heft one up to your eye. Because of its size and weight, handholding the camera may be a little difficult and, while KEH offers a super-low price on a model with no mirror lock-up, that’s one feature that you probably want in good working condition to avoid camera vibration. Once you fire the shutter and hear the loud “clomp” made by the mirror, you’ll understand. But this is one rugged and durable medium-format camera, so even models that have been heavily used will hold up over time. And, with the 6×7 format, you get about 50% more usable negative than a 6×6 (3,850 square mm vs. 2,508 square mm). More importantly, though, the Pentax 67’s aspect ratio perfectly matches standard paper sizes so you don’t have to crop (or leave a large border) when printing in a darkroom. The camera takes 120 (10 exposures) and 220 (20 exposures) roll film, but lacks the convenience of interchangeable backs. That said, it also lacks the hassles associated with them. Sample Prices: KEH: starting at $126 (body only, no lock-up) Ebay: $320 (body with Pentax SMC 165mm lens) Craigslist: $354 (body only)

Pentax K1000
I have to confess that I’m a huge fan of Pentax 35mm cameras—I have 3 of them (including the K1000). They’re well-built, easy to use and the Pentax K1000 was especially popular. If you took a photography class in the mid-to-late 1970’s (and beyond), you probably used a K1000. It was affordable and had all the basic features you needed to learn about making pictures (and practice manual focus). By the way, if you happen to have some old Pentax screw mount lenses (or buy them with the K1000), you can use them on a Pentax digital SLR with an adapter. Plus, you can’t beat the price. Sample Prices: KEH: starting at $47 (body only)
Ebay: starting at $50 (body only)
Craigslist: $40 (with Sunpak flash, case and neckstrap)

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Ricoh GR-1 It looks like a point-and-shoot camera because, for all intents and purposes, it is one. But, Ricoh’s powerful little brick does a lot more than the typical analog compact. Legendary Japanese street photographer Daido Moriyama used its fast fixed 28mm lens in ways that make it looks so much more logical than a slow, bulky body. Looking around on eBay, you might be a little surprised to find that the price starts around $300 and can go up from there, but that’s because these little things are sought after for their solid mix of image quality and simplicity. It offers full-auto controls, but you can override that with aperture priority mode. It has AF, but it also allows you to lock the focus on a certain distance, including the hyperfocal distance, a must for serious street photographers. Best of all, it’s big enough to feel like a real camera, but small and subtle enough not to draw too much attention. If you’re into the serious point-and-shoot form factor, you can also check out the Contax T2, which goes for about the same price and offers many of the same features. Sample Prices: Ebay: Starting at about $150 up to about $400 for one in great shape. Craigslist: $200 and up