Tips on which 35mm Film SLR Camera I Should Buy Today?

I often get asked on what camera I would recommend them buying? Being an ex-photography student and also had worked at a camera store before, my recommendation for your depends on these questions below: 

  1. What do you need it for? This is my number 1 question that I would always ask if a customer or a friend didn’t give me enough information. And this question is also really important if you are in camera sales.
  2. Budget is something you will need to think about.
  3. Is this your first camera? Or are you intending to replace your current one due to whatever reasons?

Let’s focus on the first question, do you need it for a course that you intend to enroll? Or do you need to help to shoot a friend’s wedding? Or do you just want to buy a camera to bring with you on your upcoming trip?

Before I go on to list my recommendations, I would like to share with you that I started off with a Canon Av-1 as my very first 35mm film camera in the year 2000. My father passed it on to me when I studied photography in high school, he used to shoot with that camera when I was a little boy. 

Whether you are switching from digital to analog (Film) for fun, or you’ve been given a few rolls of color and B&W films, you should just have fun in your first few rolls. Chances are, you could incorrectly load a roll or two of films and everything will come out blank. 

Try to shoot it in different lighting conditions, and shoot some different themes (People photography, travel photography, still life, etc). You should also try to shoot some close-ups too, that way, you can test out the quality of your camera and the lens you’ve got, and consider upgrading your lens to suit your needs. Later on, if your projects get more serious, you can even consider upgrading your camera and use your older one as your backup. 

Planning is really important, and if you are shooting a project in the middle of nowhere, and your main camera breaks down, at least you’ve got a backup camera to allow you to complete your project without too much hassle.

I shot this photo in 2006 at a photography expo in Sydney. These customers were trying to have all their queries answered before making a decision on which camera to buy.

Below are 5 cameras that I would recommend if you are looking to buy your first 35mm film camera, my list is not in any particular order:

Camera Name:


Nikon FM2

A reliable camera with great durability. Shutter speed 1/4000 – 1 second and longer exposure (B). Weight: 540g. Colors: Chrome and Black. Can shoot in full manual mode if this is what you are looking for. Takes all Nikon F mount lenses.

Canon A-1

From fully automatic to fully manual, this is a great camera for beginners. Shutter speed from 1/1000 – B. Weight: 620g. Colors: Chrome and Black. Takes all Canon FD mount lenses or any other 3rd party lenses with FD mount.

Olympus OM-1

This Olympus camera has an aperture priority mode, which gives you a chance to learn and shoot in semi-manual mode. Shutter speed from 1/1000 – B. Weight: 510g. Colors: Chrome and Black. Takes Olympus OM mount lenses.

Minolta X-700

One of the last manual focus camera and a great one made by Minolta. Shutter speed from 1/1000 – B. Weight: 505g. Colors: Chrome and Black. Takes all Minolta SR mount lenses.

Pentax K1000

Made between 1976-1997. Shutter speed from 1/1000 – B. Weight: 620g. Colors: Chrome and Black. Takes all Pentax K bayonet mount lenses. Without any automatic modes, you will need to have a proper understanding of how aperture and shutter speed works.

You should also consider the functions you would need to carry out your projects. For example, if you are a beginner, and you want to shoot in full auto settings before you get used to other shooting modes like aperture or shutter priority, you can get a Canon AE1. Once you have decided on which camera to buy since it’s going to be a second-hand one, check out the second hand market to see what’s available. 

While in the second hand-market, look at what lenses are available for the types of shots you’re trying to achieve, and take a look at accessories like an external flash, tripod, and a camera bag (Get a splash-proof). You should also try to find a second-hand camera store near your location, ask the camera salesperson questions like if they know where you can get these cameras repaired since these cameras are decades old. 

When you enquire online to private sellers about their listing, ask them to send you some close-up pictures of the camera for you to examine. Things you should look at: The camera curtain, shutter button, rewind knot, and film advance (Please do a search on these to see what they look like!). One of my lecturer back in university once told me about buying second-hand cameras, he said I should look at the curtain to see if it has any holes or fingerprints on it to see if it’s broken. He also told me to look at the camera mount to see if there are any visible marks that show the camera was mounted to a tripod often, there is a good chance that camera could have been used by a professional photographer, and that camera could have been well taken care of. 

You also need to ask the seller if there is anything that’s faulty with the camera before buying. My friends usually would send me pictures of what the camera looks like that they’re interested in, and honestly, the appearance looks all great, however, there are faulty bits that we cannot see with our naked eyes that’s been pointed out by the seller, so we better move on to another second hand film SLR. 

Let me know if you have any further questions. Feel free to contact me, and if you want to contribute your film shots on this article, you can let me know! Shoot them to [email protected] 

Below are some photographs taken by film SLR cameras for your reference.

I shot these three photos with a Canon Av-1, 50mm, f1.4 fixed lens. 

These three photos were all shot with a Canon A1 camera in Europe, 50mm f1.8 fixed lens.  Images by Leehahn: and 

These three photos were all shot with a Canon Eos 33 camera in Taiwan and Australia, 28-135 IS USM lens.  Photography by Wayne.