The 35mm film camera used to be the most popular photography option for everyone. With the digital industry growing more rapidly than ever for both professionals and the general public, it should come as no surprise that there are fewer and fewer 35mm cameras being made, sold or used. With a more limited market, it can be hard to choose the best 35mm camera to meet your needs.
Whether you are an amateur photographer wanting to start with a 35mm film camera or a professional that has developed an affinity for this specific style, we have provided this guide to help you find the perfect camera.
Features to Take into Account
You may either be considering an SLR or a compact camera. These are the only two options that are still being newly made today, each with their own benefits.
The SLR provides the user with more flexibility as the lenses can be changed. It also comes with through-the-lens light metering and auto-exposure modes. Though the SLR has more features, it still needs to be able to cover the basics with possibly automated features that can be overridden manually.
The compact camera is more common today with specific features that can vary. The focusing mechanism can be a fixed viewfinder or a variable focus rangefinder.
The compact cameras also have automation that allow for automatic exposure modes. The compact camera is less expensive but it does compromise the control that a photographer will have.
You should also consider the following features based on your preferences:
- Exposure capability
Top Six 35mm Camera Comparison Chart
|Picture||Name||Best Feature||Price||Rating (1-5)|
|1. Nikon FM-10 SLR Camera with 35-70mm f/3.5-4.8 Zoom Lens||Full Manual Control.||$$$$||4.2|
|2. Canon EOS Rebel 2000 35mm Film SLR Camera Kit with 28-80mm Lens||7-Point Autofocus System.||$$$||4.2|
|3. Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 QD CG Date 35mm Camera||Automatic Film Loading, Advance and Rewind.||$$||3.6|
|4. Canon Sure Shot Classic 120 Caption 35mm Camera||Exposure and Lighting Control.||$$||3.5|
|5. Canon Sure Shot 90u 35mm Date Camera||3-Point Autofocus.||$$||3.2|
|6. Lomography Diana Mini- 35mm Camera||Ultra-Compact.||$||2.9|
Buying the Best 35mm Camera
As these cameras have lost availability, the market and services surrounding them are also lacking. Before buying, you should consider the following guidelines:
- Film Development. This may seem simple, but you will either need to be developing the film yourself or find a shop that will do it for you. This is not as common as it once was and is worth investigating before you make any investment.
- Condition. Even if a camera is new, it should be completely inspected in terms of the shooting quality and the state of the body of the camera. Some of the main aspects that should be examined are the light seals. Having these in perfect condition is the only way to guarantee your photos will develop as intended.
- Compatibility. Some cameras come with one set lens while others have the option to change the lens and the view. If lens variation is important to you, then you should consider whether or not this is possible to get with the best 35mm camera.
Top Three 35mm Cameras Reviews
If you prefer Nikon cameras then buying the Nikon FM-10 SLR Camera with 35-70mm will only increase your love for this make.
This camera and the kit come with everything that you need to take great photos with more control than you would have with just a point and shoot disposable camera. This is not an automatic camera so you will have to spend time focusing on the subject you are shooting.
Even with the added time, which is actually a plus for photography enthusiasts, you can easily get used to the controls and improve the time it takes to focus. With a really wide lens and center weighted metering, you will be in total control of your images.
- Built-in light meter tells you how much light you need
- Accurate and versatile metering system
- Excellent for learning the basics of film photography
- All-manual functions encourage experimentation
- Extremely durable metal components
- More affordable than many manual SLRs
- Compatible with all NIKKOR AF-D, AI-P, AF-I, AI-S, and AF-S lenses
- Not suitable for taking pictures of objects in motion
- No autofocus for the standard lens
- The light meter can be better
- Using a camera flash can be challenging
The Canon EOS Rebel 2000 35mm Film SLR has 7-point autofocusing, 35 zone metering and a depth of field preview that all make using the camera and absolute pleasure for those that want more control.
This is a great camera for those just getting into photography as it allows for features to be adjusted manually without being overly complicated like the high-end professional models.
The metering and the build of this camera mean that it reliably produces great images with proper light exposure.
- Excellent lightweight film SLR
- Improved functions for faster operation
- Multiple shooting modes
- Full manual operation
- Manual exposure for scaled metering
- Has a depth-of-field preview function
- Solid built-in pop-up flash
- Film advance protects the film from accidental exposure
- The plastic body requires delicate handling
- Attaching a huge, heavy lens can be a bit awkward
- Requires CR2 3-volt batteries that are not easy to source
- Film spooling can be noisy and irritating
This Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 QD CG Date 35mm has a glass lens and is a completely automatic point and shoot that doesn’t disappoint. Due to the compact size of this model, it is the best 35mm camera to take on trips.
It is also easy to load the film and the images come out beautifully when they are developed, which is not always the case when using film.
Choosing this camera is great for those that prefer using film but do not want to get too much into the manual features and controls.
- Straightforward functionality
- Fully automatic zoom, flash, and timer controls
- Produces decent film photos
- Extremely small and compact
- Uses an easily obtainable CR123 battery
- Decent battery life
- Full auto means you have no control
- Mechanical zoom wears out easily
- Accidental movement of the lens cover shuts the camera off
The Canon Sure Shot Classic 120 Caption is a 35mm autofocusing camera with a built-in 3.2x zoom lens. It incorporates an AI autofocus function, a light guide flash, and a molded glass aspherical lens.
Canon designed this camera with a good balance of performance, portability, and cost-effectivity. With Canon’s miniaturization technologies, the Sure Shot Classic 120 has a compact body while remaining durable because of its traditional aluminum exterior.
Furthermore, this camera’s handling is relatively easy. It has a built-in eyepiece with dioptric adjustment. Plus, its Mode Dial features a Personal Mode that enables a manual setting for center single-point autofocus. In addition, this mode allows manual flash use and continuous shooting.
The built-in optics is a 38-120mm f/4.5-10.9 lens with seven elements arranged into six groups. Its autofocus working range is from 0.6 meters to infinity in normal mode and 0.43 to 0.58 meters in close-up mode. AF modes include single-shot AF, servo AF, and manual selection of center-point AF.
We like that this camera has an automatic film loading and advancing feature. The Sure Shot Classic 120 Caption automatically moves the 35mm film to the first frame and rewinds it every time you take a shot. This way, every image you capture sits safely intact inside the film compartment, and you won’t have to worry about accidental exposure.
This camera requires two three-volt CR-2 lithium batteries. It measures 115 by 63 by 45 millimeters, and it weighs 250 grams. You might also come across Japanese models that weigh about five grams more. The only difference is the Japanese version can capture panoramic shots.
- Aesthetically pleasing point-and-shoot camera
- Excellent performance and build quality
- Has exposure and lighting versatility
- Outstanding optical quality
- Excellent picture clarity
- Exceptional camera for professional and casual photography
- Great value for the money
- Lens zoom is relatively slow
- Mediocre aperture requires a 400-speed film
- Side retraction of the flash gets in the way of hats and caps
- Control buttons can be too small for some users
Canon packed its Sure Shot Series with a wide array of compact 35mm cameras, including feature-packed models and easy-to-use point-and-shoot variants. One of the simpler 35mm cameras from the brand is the Sure Shot 90u. It came along with the 80u, 105u, and 115u, the only difference being the zoom range.
Like the Sure Shot Classic 120, the 90u uses a 35mm film, but its zoom range is limited to 2.3x. Its built-in optics is a 38-90mm f/4.7-10.5 lens that features a five-zone, three-point passive autofocus. This metric means that for each autofocus operation, the camera selects three points out of five.
The 90u also has a center single-point autofocus accessible through Custom Function. Furthermore, you will find that the lens is capable of servo autofocus through the camera’s Action Mode.
While the standard focus is similar to the Classic 120, the macro mode for the 90u is between 0.45 meters to infinity. This camera also supports automatic film loading, advancing, and rewinding, but rewinding is only possible mid-roll.
The Sure Shot 90u only needs one three-volt CR-2 lithium battery to function. Furthermore, it only measures 107.2 by 58.7 by 42.8 mm, making it slightly more compact than the Classic 120.
- Multiple autofocus options
- Small and lightweight, extremely portable
- Straightforward operation
- Exceptionally affordable
- Other options from other brands have better lenses
- Limited resources for sample outputs
Which 35mm Camera Tops the List?
When choosing the best 35mm camera, knowing what you want could help you come up with a decision. Since many 35mm cameras are not as versatile as many modern units, you might want to choose one with the most features to offer. Otherwise, if all you want out of it is the basic 35mm film functionality, you can settle for the point-and-shoot options.
Your best bet for the most versatility would be the Nikon FM-10 SLR Camera with a 35-70mm f/3.5-4.8 Zoom Lens. Aside from offering complete manual control, it features compatibility with a vast array of NIKKOR lenses. With these features combined, you can have all you need to dive deep into how people did photography before digital prints even existed.