5 Best 35mm Film Cameras For Beginners


When you’re ready to take the dive into film photography, or perfect the skills you’ve been working on, a solid 35mm SLR with interchangeable lenses is absolutely imperative. An SLR, or Single Lens Reflex, means that a mirror and prism system lets you see exactly what you are shooting. Interchangeable lenses mean just that - you can take the lenses on and off.


Most SLRs are sold as “kits,” meaning you get at least one lens with the body; however sometimes you may come across an amazing body on its own which means you’ll have to find a lens yourself. 

So what exactly makes a good SLR for beginners? First, it should be fully manual! You’ll never learn shooting automatic, so let that one go. Second, it should be easy to repair and easy to find extra lenses and accessories. Go with a well-known brand versus something obscure (no matter how gorgeous it is!) to make sure you won’t be struggling. 

Quite a few major brands manufactured 35mm SLRs, but we’ve put together a list of solid, reliable models that are a perfect fit for any beginner looking to invest in a camera that will last a lifetime. You cannot go wrong with one of these classics:




1. OUR CHOICE  is Nikon F100 and F5

The Nikon F series includes the original Nikon F, the mythical Nikon F2, the indestructible Nikon F3 with some few variants, the Nikon F4 and of course the state of the art Nikon F5, and the latest film camera Nikon F6 is currently in production Starting with production of the Nikon F in 1959, the Nikon F6 is one of the two film cameras still currently available by Nikon

The simple fact that Nikon F series cameras have been in production for so long makes them very easy to find, easy to repair and they are compatible with a very large quantity of lenses. Any Nikon F bayonet mount lens is compatible - even newer models. The only issues you may run into are an incompatibility with autofocus - all Nikon F series cameras before  Nikon F4 are manual focus only - and newer lenses that lack an aperture ring that can work only with F5 and F6. That being said, any lens you buy for a Nikon F series body will also work on your Nikon DSLR no problem. (Side note: Im working right now with my five Nikon F5 everyday.)


Nikon F5.jpg

The Nikon F5 is a 35mm film-based single-reflex camera body  manufactured by Nikon from 1996 through 2004. It was the fifth in Nikon's professional film camera line, which began in 1959 with the Nikon F. It followed the Nikon F4 of 1988, which had introduced in-body autofocus to Nikon's professional line. The F5 was in turn succeeded by the  Nikon F6, as well as Nikon's parallel range of professional digital SLRs, beginning with the Nikon D1.

Important advances in the F5 included:

  • Nikon 3-D color matrix meter (the Nikon F4 had introduced multi-segment matrix metering to the F series, but color sensing was new).
  • A self-diagnostic and self-adjusting shutter.
  • A mirror-balance system that reduced camera shake.
  • Electronically controlled exposure times from 1/8000 second to 30 seconds.
  • Built-in 8 frame per second motor drive (up from 5.7 frame/s on the Nikon F4).
  • 1/300 second flash sync (up from 1/250 on the Nikon F4). However, at 1/300 second, flash units could not use their full capacity.
  • Full support for  Nikkor AF-S and G designated lenses (the Nikon F4 could not use G lenses in aperture-priority or full manual modes).
  • Support for the Vibration Reduction (VR) image stabilization feature of newer Nikkor lenses.
  • Five focus points for the autofocus sensor (up from one on the F4) with intelligent dynamic autofocus mode.
  • A new industrial design by Giorgetto Giugiaro (also designer of the Nikon F3 and F4, and the most innovative Nikon F-801.)
  • An integral vertical/battery grip with additional shutter release and adjustment wheel controls (previous Nikon F models had used a range of removable battery grips).


Like all previous Nikon F series cameras, the F5 maintained a manual film rewind (with a rapid power rewind built in), high durability, exceptionally short shutter lag, interchangeable 100% coverage viewfinders (including a large-view Action Finder, Waist-Level Finder, and 6x High-Magnification Finder, in addition to the stock DP-30 multi-metering pentaprism), and support for a wide range of Nikon F mount lenses lenses. In common with the Nikon F3 and Nikon F4 it relied upon battery power in order to function, either from eight AA batteries or an optional rechargeable NiMH battery pack.



Nikon F100.jpg

The Nikon F100 is a 35mm film-based single-lens reflex camera body introduced in 1999. It is often thought of as a scaled-down version of the Nikon F5, and as a precursor to the Nikon F6. The F100 was discontinued, along with most other Nikon film cameras, in 2006.

The Nikon F-100 is a prosumer version in the Nikon F serie. Exceptional camera, it is a perfect compromise if you like to have a modern SLR camera with separate battery pack and grip. It is of course suitable for all Nikon lenses AF, G and Ai, Ai-S. This camera is light and indistrauctible.

The F100's metering system is a development of Nikon's matrix metering technology introduced in 1983 on the Nikon FA. The meter in the F100 uses a 10 segment light sensor and uses distance information from Nikon D-type and G-type lenses for more accurate exposure calculations when using direct flash In addition to matrix metering, the F100 also offers standard center-weighted and spot metering modes.

Also incorporated into the camera is Nikon's Dynamic Autofocus system and a 4.5 frame per second motor drive with automatic rewind. The top motor drive speed can be boosted to 5 frames per second with the addition of the Nikon MB-15 battery pack.

The F100 also provides many features which are common among high-end 35mm SLR cameras, such as automatic bracketing modes, DX film speed sensing, and custom functions which allow the photographer to tailor certain aspects of the camera's operation to the way he or she works.

Back to the day the Nikon F-100 was as choice if you want to save some money since Nikon F5 was an incredible expensive camera, but today they are both become very affordable and then choose one or another is just a personal matter, about size, shape, dimension and weight.

Canon 01.jpg


The CANON AE-1 is one of the most well-known 35mm SLRs of all time and has a hugely loyal fan base - people literally swear by this camera. It was manufactured in Japan from 1976 to 1984, and in those 8 years enough were produced that you will not have a hard time getting your hands on one for a reasonable price. This camera was not designed for professionals, but instead featured straightforward and easy-to-understand controls intended for beginners or hobbyists. It has an automatic aperture feature, but you won’t be using that if you actually want to learn something. It uses a Canon FD lens mount, making it compatible with any FD or FDn lens. It’s not technically compatible with Canon EF lenses, but plenty of adapters are available to solve that problem. 

A couple of fun facts: this camera sold an unprecedented one million units - a first for any SLR. It was also the first SLR on the market to be equipped with a microprocessor. The microprocessor is essential to the electromagnetic focal plane shutter system - which brings us to the one downfall of this camera: if the battery dies the shutter won’t pop. Batteries for most 35mm SLRs are specifically for the light meter, but this is not so in the case of the Canon AE-1. Basically, buy extra batteries if you go for this camera and you’ll be fine. The follow up model to the Canon AE-1 is the Canon AE-1 Program, and is also a good option. 



3. Pentax K1000

The Pentax K1000 is often referred to as a “beast” or “workhorse” because of it’s insane durability. It was manufactured from 1976 to 1997, making it one of the longest produced 35mm SLR models of all time. It’s inexpensive, simple and loved by photographers worldwide. Because of its reasonable price tag and long-standing production, over 3 million Pentax K1000s units were sold over time and today you can easily find them in great condition without looking very far. 

It’s all metal, all manual and accepts ALL Pentax K bayonet lenses. On top of that, almost all Pentax K-AF and K-AF2 autofocus lenses also work with it - you just have to focus manually. With the help of an adapter, it also accepts screw mount lenses and will even work with new autofocus lenses that lack an aperture ring - albeit with limited functionality. Essentially, Pentax claims that any Pentax lens will have some functionality on a K1000 so it’s a camera that will give you lots of options. Plus on this body, if the battery dies no biggie - it’s only for the light meter.


Nikon Fm.jpg

4. Nikon FM Series (Any)

The Nikon FM series includes the original Nikon FM, Nikon FM2, Nikon FM2n, Nikon FM-10, Nikon FM3a and a few special variants (like the illusive Nikon FM2n Tropical Edition, which unfortunately does not feature a palm tree print.) Starting with production of the Nikon FM in 1977, the Nikon FM10 is one of the few film cameras still currently available. You can buy a new one from Nikon right now. 

The simple fact that  Nikon FM series cameras have been in production for so long makes them very easy to find, easy to repair and they are compatible with a very large quantity of lenses. Any Nikon F bayonet mount lens is compatible - even newer models. The only issues you may run into are an incompatibility with autofocus - all Nikon FM series cameras are manual focus only - and newer lenses that lack an aperture ring. That being said, any lens you buy for a Nikon FM series body will also work on your Nikon DSLR no problem. (Side note: I’ve had my Nikon FM2 for 26 years, have never had to have it repaired and it still works like the day I got it.



5. Olympus OM System

The Olympus OM system includes quite a few models, but we specifically recommend the Olympus OM-1, Olympus OM-2, Olympus OM-3 and Olympus OM-4. These were considered professional series of Olympus cameras line 

Back in the day have / use Olympus was like think different. Exceptionally compact, with incredible beautiful and peculiar lenses that only Olympus brand was capable to offer... they was a choice of a few, but a great one.

(Side note: one of my best friend, a photographer of course, is name Olimpio, and he was having the most complete Olympus system you can imagine....)

The Olympus OM-1 was released in 1972 at a time when plenty of 35mm manual focus SLRs were available, but what distinctly set it apart was it’s extremely compact and lightweight design combined with a significantly quieter shutter than other models. For those of you specifically interested in extended exposures, night photography and astrophotography, the original OM-1 has a mirror lock-up feature; the subsequent OM models do not have the mirror lock-up.  The Olympus OM-4 was discontinued in 2002, giving the OM system quite a lengthy run. 



Let me start by saying,…”Yes, this is a subjective list”! I also only included B+W films with no concern to price. Every one of these films is rated 5 stars on every website that I’ve found that has reviewed them. So, it’s not just me. And, yes, I think Kentmere, Adox, Fomapan, Lomography and others make some great films. When price matters, there are certainly better deals. I personally load Tri-X in my Nikon F5 and Hasselblad XPAN.. But any of these films listed are beyond capable of great images and easy scanning.  

B+W Films – Do Lists Matter?

These are all new rolls, and available right now in 2017. That they are all in stock at most outlets was another consideration. Also, all come from companies with impeccable quality control.

Add your favorites to comments if you strongly disagree.I also didn’t include samples of each film. They are all over the internet. And viewing the results of a specific film on a computer screen is suspect at best. Do lists matter? Only to the extent that a wide consensus is more than likely very valid.

Kodak Professional Tri-X 400 B+W Films

Kodak’s Professional Tri-X 400 is the king of the hill. OK, maybe not. But it’s the king of my hill. Yes, it has fine grain,…but it’s a very beautiful organic grain. I have yet to find a B+W developer that doesn’t produce, if not always stunning, adequate results. Some are better than others, but all work. This is just a classic ISO 400 high-speed panchromatic film that is iconic in nature. Sharp, scans well, develops well, very sharp without the fancy gimmicks. I don’t know a lighting condition that this film cannot deal with. It loves daylight, strobe, direct flash,…I can go on and on. And not particularly expensive. Very, very wide latitude. You would be hard pressed to make an exposure mistake

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 B+W Films

I’m not sure if this was Ilford’s original film, but it seems like it’s been around forever. It’s a traditional panchromatic film. Ilford refers to it as a “general use” film, but I hate that term. If I’m somewhere traveling and am unable to get Tri-X, this is my go to film. It has very wide exposure latitude and responds very well in mixed lighting providing a very even, middle of the road tonality. Very easy to work with in the darkroom. (or your Photoshop darkroom) It’s an ISO 400 that can be developed in any standard black and white chemistry. Pushes as well as Tri-X. HP5 is a very flexible film that is at home in all lighting conditions,….artificial or not.


Kodak Professional T-Max 400 B+W Films

Kodak’s Professional T-Max 400 is a high-speed panchromatic black and white film that pretty much mirrors the 100.. I put this one first because the outcome is near identical, but at a much faster speed. It still has that T-GRAIN emulsion providing a very fine grain structure. Very close to the 100 version. I’ve heard T-Max 400 was suppose to be a replacement for Tri-X. Uhhh,…NOT! They are very different. You can push it to1600. Making it very versatile for a wide variety of applications. When using fluorescence, it responds very well. (both the ISO 100 and 400) Surprisingly, it resolves almost as much as the 100 ISO T-Max when scanned!


Kodak Professional T-Max 100 B+W Films

I remember when Kodak’s Professional T-Max 100 first came out. It was all the rage. It is a medium-speed panchromatic black and white film and has a very fine grain along with high sharpness and resolving power. T-GRAIN emulsion is apparently the new chemistry that was responsible for reducing the appearance of grain when enlarging and scanning. Supposedly, the T-GRAIN technology is responsible for facilitating higher sharpness when scanning. I don’t see it. But there is less grain, especially at 100 ISO. A great film. Using T-Max developer is also available for dealing with the uniqueness of the film, but standard development works fine.


Ilford Delta 400 Professional B+W Films

Ilford’s Delta 400 Professional is a high-speed film. Not quite as sharp as Delta 100, but pretty damn close. In fact, even at 11×14, I doubt you could see a difference. It just uses standard black and white chemistry. But it seems to process best using Ilford chemicals. You can push it to 3200,…but it does get quite grainy. I’ve found it to be a true 400 with no need to adjust. Shot at 400, and developed with Ilford, the grain is quite subtle. Maybe even more so than Tri-X. YMMV


Ilford Delta 100 Professional B+W Films

Ilford’s Delta 100 Professional is a medium-speed black and white film featuring “core-shell crystal technology” in order to produce extremely sharp results with a fine, uniform grain structure. It’s an ISO film when developed in regular black and white chemistry. It’s advertised as having a wide exposure latitude that permits rating the film between 50 and 200.  (adjusting processing) The grain is very subtle. So, if you love grain, remember it is quite reduced using this film.

Ilford Pan F Plus 50 B+W Films

I’ll be the first to tell you this is a VERY slow film! 50 ISO. Ilford’s Pan F Plus is a very slow-speed panchromatic black and white. Not the slowest, (you can get 25 ISO film), but its grain structure is very fine. I would probably just go to a medium or large format if accutance was really an issue. But this film does render a very broad tonal range and extended dynamic range. It has resolution that is one of the best of all B+W films. Including the Rollei 25 ISO films. For fine art images that are printing large, this is a great film. If you can find the light.


Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros B+W Films

I have to confess. If I’m going 100 ISO, this is the film I use. I don’t know why I prefer the tonal range of this over, let’s say, a T-Max or Delta. It’s really just a personal preference. Neopan 100 Acros is an orthopanchromatic black and white film. Unless you need a more sensitive film, I can’t think of a shooting condition this film won’t excel at. The grain is really super fine. In fact, I’ve had images that people insist are digital because of appearing nearly grainless, even using 35mm. An added bonus is it has excellent reciprocity. So, long exposures,…no problemo. Little on the expensive side for B+W, but well worth it.


Arista EDU Ultra 200 B+W Films – $3.89

Supposedly, this film is Fomapan 200 Creative. Could be. I’m really not that much of a techno-nerd. But, is it a great film, with awesome tonal range? Yes. Arista’s EDU Ultra 200 Black and White is a traditional panchromatic film that is optimized for use in a range of shooting conditions. It’s pretty fine grain and is very sharp. especially for 200 ISO. It actually looks like the 100 ISO of many other films. It moderately pushes and pulls easily. While processing normally in a D-76 is great, it responds well to all other developers. Downside of this very inexpensive film? Well, this is the ONLY of all these films that is NOT DX coded.

Analog Inspiration: 8 Beautiful Alternative Processes for Photographers

Given that most photos are captured digitally and shared online, it’s easy to forget the beauty of a print. The history of photographic printing is a fascinating intersection between art and chemistry, and you might be surprised to find a cadre of incredible, contemporary practitioners of techniques well over 100 years old. Here’s a round-up of some of our favorites.


Carbon Transfer

A labor-intensive process that uses carbon pigment rather than inks or silver salts to produce a gorgeous black and white image. The carbon transfer method creates prints with deep, rich blacks that do not fade. Calvin Grier of The Wet Print offers bespoke printing services starting at $135 for an 8×10. Curious? Watch this fantastic video about the process.


Caffenol Processing

In the search for an eco-friendly printing solution, the team from Cahute bypassed photographing onto film, and instead created a solution of vitamin C, washing soda and coffee that is coated to directly onto Harman direct positive paper. The paper is loaded directly into an 8×10 view camera, and subsequently processed with a biodegradable developer. 

If only coffee stains could look so good! Traveling to Helsinki? Book your portrait session for 59€.



Tired of printing onto an opaque surface? Ambrotypes use the wet plate collodion process to print onto glass. Giles Clement not only has mastered the process, but he also has a very cool series of images with people holding their ambrotype portraits. Book your ambrotype portrait when Clement tours a city near you for $900.



Tintypes gained popularity in the 1860s and 1870s in part because they were the “instant” photo of the day. Unlike processes that required a drying process, the thin sheets of metal coated with lacquer and a photographic emulsion could be handed to customers after only a few minutes of processing in a developer and fixer.

A resurgence in the 21st century has made tintypes the alternative process du jourand the Penumbra Foundation offers portrait sittings from $49.

But for real fun with tintype, Ian Ruhter turned his van into a camera giving him the ability to expose metal sheets up to 5 feet wide.



According to the New York Times, Vietnamese-American artist Binh Danh, was fascinated by the strange discolorations left by objects on his lawn in the wake of the powerful rays of the sun. This led to an artistic series created by sandwiching a transparency onto a fresh leaf and letting the sun bleach some parts and alter pigment color in others. Danh’s inquisitiveness and obsessiveness has made him a master of the alternative process.



Not to be limited to just one process, Danh mastered the daguerreotype, the first commercially successful printing technique that utilizes a light sensitive, silvered plate. Astonishing in its detail, the process is sensitive to blue and ultraviolet spectrum which gives bright areas the distinctive blue coloring. Photos of daguerreotypes simply cannot replicate the sheer luster and incrdetail of the originals, so search one out in person, or make your own !



Your typical silver gelatin print uses silver salts suspended in a gelatin substrate. Although silver prints are fairly durable, silver oxidizes over time and the ions migrate through the gelatin causing image degradation. By contrast, the platino/palladiotype process uses metals that adhere directly to the paper, and some experts suggest these prints could last for thousands of years. 

Platinum ain’t cheap, so palladium was introduced as a lower cost alternative during World War I when platinum supplies were limited. But even the price of palladium has skyrocketed, so you’re probably not going to want to start your foray into alternative processing with this.

Ready for your platinum portrait? Koren Reyes has you covered starting at $3500 for an 8×10.



From blue jeans to the Indigo Girls, there’s no denying that humans love the color blue. Although the cyanotype process is more associated with the blueprint, a low-cost duplication technique used frequently for architectural plans, it has seen a resurgence as photographers have come to embrace its cool tones. Although the cyanotype print is not the most stable and durable process, it does have the strange regenerative ability to darken areas faded by exposure to light by simply storing them in the dark. 

Blind artist John Dugdale has frequently used the process for his highly collected portraits.

The alternative processing is niche, but if you have the patience to try it yourself, the community is pretty open about sharing techniques. Want to learn more? Check out The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes by Christopher James, or visit http://www.alternativephotography.com/

A 35mm Film Hard Case Storage Box – So Simple, Yet So Useful . .

- Please note, I am in no way associated with the seller of these boxes, except that I bought one . . . ok more then one !

It’s often said that the simplest (and cheapest) things in life are the best and when it comes to my latest Street Photography related purchase, I couldn’t agree more.

Let’s be honest, how many times (and how much time) have us film photographers spent fumbling about in those dark and unexplored regions of our camera bags? Afterall, that fresh and unexposed roll of 35mm film is in there somewhere. However, when it’s rolling about amongst five or more identical cannisters, some exposed and some not, it quickly becomes a frustrating game of ‘lucky dip’. Often the only solution is to empty the whole lot onto whatever ‘unsuitable’ surface presents itself.

But swear and curse no more, for the solution is both ingenious, cheap and simple.

This fantastic little box, available in both black and white (of course) and made from strong plastic, features ten moulded compartments designed to snuggly and securely hold your precious 35mm film and is conveniently covered with a firmly fitting lid.

Measuring just 140 x 62 x 51mm, this case will easily fit into a coat pocket or spare corner of your camera bag and means that all of your unexposed and exposed film is ‘on call’ whenever you need it.

And the cost of one of these boxes, delivered to your door here in the UK ? Just £5.99 (or thereabouts depending on the exchange rate).

So where can you buy one? From the wonderful guys of JAPAN CAMERA HUNTER. I ordered mine on a Friday and it was at my door by the following Wednesday. Of course you can buy an almost identical case from a few other internet based sites in the USA and elsewhere but these will set you back approximately £15 with the shipping.

This is easily one of the simplest, cheapest and most useful of my photography purchases. A must buy.

Photographer’s Pouch, Velcro-Backed Felt Pockets That Stick In Any Bag

The Photographer’s pouch is a boiled-wool pocket that will stick inside any camera bag thanks to the velcro strip on its back. And of course you’re not limited to cameras, or even camera bags – anything that will fit fits, and any bag with velcro can be used.

Each pouch is 9cm x 15cm, or around 3.5 x 6 inches, has a big velcro square on the back, a flappy lid and an elastic band to close that flap. The velcro is “bad” velcro, or the hook side of hook-and-loop, so it’ll stick to the inside of any camera bag that uses velcro dividers, or in a bag like the excellent Rickshaw Zero Messenger. And you could also stick it to your wooly sweater.

A three pack costs just $30 and a single is $12. I fancy some of these to organize my bike’s handlebar bag.



Because some camera bags don’t have enough pockets or pouches, Designer Will Kortum has created the Photographer’s Pouch. These pouches are designed with velcro on the exterior to fit in and stay put in a camera bag.  This only works with certain camera bags though like those from Billingham. Each pouch measures in at 9x15cm and is designed to help you organize your camera bag a lot easier. I’ve known from personal experience that sometimes I tend to just shove things in.

The three pack comes in at $30, while a single is $12. More photos are after the jump.

Who is Will Kortum?

Will is putting together a portfolio for his college application right now.  We got together the other week to review his portfolio, and over a coffee he said,” Oh Adam, I want to show you this thing I made.”  He pulled out a small felt pouch that can velcro to the inside of a camera bag’s padding.  As a 17 year old, with his mind focused on college, I would not expect him to have the time to redesign his entire Billingham bag, but I applaud his efforts in finding an economical solution to the problem of an internal, multi-use pocket for his bag.  Will tells us more about the history here:

I first thought up the idea that later became the Photographer’s Pouch after losing one of my favorite pens. I use a Billingham camera bag, and while it is fantastic in nearly every way, the main section is pretty much open. This means that it is hard to keep a tidy bag, and loose items like my pen could easily slip out. The Photographer’s Pouch is my idea of a remedy to this flaw. It’s not too small, but not too big either- meaning that you can keep multiples in one bag for different things. It is perfect for the loose batteries, filters, viewfinders, and cords that often occupy the dark depths of a camera bag. Because it has a velcro back, it can be stuck anywhere on the inside of a bag for easy access. I’ve spent months designing, prototyping, and redesigning the pouch for the perfect iteration. I hope you find it as useful as I do !


A few weeks ago when I was speaking at the SXSW V2V Entrepreneurs conference in Las Vegas, there was an idea which was echoed in almost all of the talks.  Good ideas are an excellent place to start…but they are not worth anything without execution.  To this, I’d like to say that Will not only got a product prototyped, logo’d and produced…he also put together a simple, clean, and effective website.  I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Yeah that reminds me, I have to get on my site.”  Hopefully you take Will and his Photographer’s Pouch as an encouraging example that an idea, with a plan and a little hard work, can produce results; and results that other people can get behind.  Until someone designs the perfect bag, it’s nice to know there are a few add-ons to keep all of our batteries and pens together.  In the meantime, let’s all wish Will well on his college application. - See more at: http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/2014/08/the-photographers-pouch/#sthash.eVaRdY4i.dpuf

Photographer’s Pouches are available for individual purchase ($11.95) or a pack of 3 ($29.95) Here is the website: http://www.photographerspouch.com/