Eric L. Woods

The inexpensive film cameras that ruined high end cameras for me.

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I used to have full on film cameras GAS (Gadget Acquisition Syndrome for those unfamiliar.). It was bad. I have owned a bunch of instatwitface darlings and still have a couple. But what changed my mind was a bit of an experiment. As I stated in a recent digital camera post:

I kept a G1 over a G2. An FG over an F3. An OM-10 over an OM-1. I am a huge fan of bang for buck champs that hold onto the same lenses as their pricier siblings.

I will admit a couple of recent digital cameras have scored near direct hits on my soft spot for film cameras. But I will shoot film as long as there are kind folks at my local camera shop to inexpensively develop color (With their prices I have no interest in going down the develop color at home rabbit hole… yet.) and monobath to develop B&W myself at home (Link to KEH post I wrote.). What has changed is my fascination with the most expensive film cameras. Partially down to smaller full frame digital cameras starting to cost less new and definitely less used than some other popular film cameras. But also down to very capable inexpensive options on the market. I have written about all of these cameras before. I like them all, but this is an updated list of budget friendly overachievers.

I mentioned the G1 earlier and it is a great value compared to the G2, but in isolation it is still a bit dear. On the other end there are cameras that are very cheap, and I do like them, but carry great compromises (See Darth Vader helmet camera.) with that low cost. This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are cameras I have not had an opportunity try and others I may not be aware of. There are some inexpensive cameras that I have or had that I enjoy, but cannot recommend with a clear conscious for one reason or another. Here I will be listing cameras I have tried that can be had for far less that are capable of results with no or very few caveats. Will list the pros and cons along with some sample images. Here we go.

Konica C35 AF2

Konica C35 AF2

Pros

  • Great Hexanon lens that holds its own with lenses costing far more. Very sharp with great colors.
  • Plastic brick of a thing. Dropped it on the ground day 1. A few scratches, but it bounced and has worked just fine since.
  • Built in flash.
  • Takes regular old AA batteries.
  • Accurate AF and AE. For those looking for a true frame it and forget it point and shoot here is your camera. Would make a great travel camera.
  • Manual advance and rewind mean fewer parts to pack it in.
  • Affordable. I paid $50 for mine at my local camera shop.

Cons

  • For some the lack of focus and exposure overrides will be a problem.
  • Once this camera packs it in it is game over.
  • Some may want more focal length options than a fixed lens can provide.

Samples

Konica C35 AF2
Konica C35 AF2
Konica C35 AF2
Konica C35 AF2
Konica C35 AF2
Fujifilm X-Tra Superia w/ Konica C35 AF2

Nikon FG – Series E 50mm f/1.8

Nikon FG

Pros

  • While any F mount lenses from this period will work the Series E 50mm pancake is a perfect fit for this camera. The two make a fantastic combination. If you do want to expand your focal length options I have and recommend the 28mm and 100mm Series E options.
  • Accurate AE.
  • Great build and aesthetics.
  • Have had the more highly regarded FE and F3 bodies and his camera is every bit as good.
  • Series E lenses were created as the lower tier Nikon lenses as I understand things, but I love the images that they produce.
  • Has a neat party trick. Program mode.
  • An inexpensive way to shoot Nikon lenses with film. They run around $50 or so. Lenses are also inexpensive.

Cons

  • At this price none actually.

Samples

Nikon FG/Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series E
Nikon FG/Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series E
UNC Bell Tower
Nikon FG
Nikon FG
Nikon FG

Olympus OM-10

Olympus OM-10

Pros

  • Very compact.
  • Well built and a good looking little camera.
  • OM Olympus lenses are fantastic.
  • Accurate AE.
  • Manual shutter speed is accessible with an inexpensive adapter.
  • Like the FG above it offers a great value option to the fantastic but much more expensive OM-1.
  • Camera and lens are very reasonably priced. I bought both camera and lens at my local camera shop for $50 on sight.

Cons

  • Again, at this price nothing.

Samples

Olympus OM-10
Olympus OM-10
Olympus OM-10
Olympus OM-10
Olympus OM-10
Olympus OM-10
Olympus OM-10

Pentax SF10

Pentax SMC F 50mm f/1.7 (AF)

Pros

  • Swift and accurate AE and AF.
  • Access to shutter priority and aperture priority modes.
  • Built in flash.
  • Light.
  • Weird retro aesthetic. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it.
  • Access to all Pentax K MF and AF lenses.
  • Can be purchased for peanuts. Mine was given to me for free.

Cons

  • Weird retro aesthetic. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it.
  • Not the most robust of builds.

Samples

Pentax SF10
Pentax SF10
Pentax SF10
Pentax SF10
Pentax SF10
w/ flash
Pentax SF10

Canon T70

Canon T70

Pros

  • Built like a tank.
  • Accurate AE.
  • I kind of like the looks of this camera.
  • A multitude of automation is available. Check the review link above for more information.
  • Uses AA batteries.
  • These are practically given away price wise.

Cons

  • Weighs like a tank.
  • A bit noisy.
  • Looks are not everyone’s cup of tea.
  • A Rodney Dangerfield Canon receiving little respect.

Samples

Canon T70/Canon FD 50mm f1.4 S.S.C
Canon T70/Canon FD 50mm f1.4 S.S.C
Canon T70/Canon FD 50mm f1.4 S.S.C
Canon T70/Canon FD 50mm f1.4 S.S.C
Canon T70/Canon FD 50mm f1.4 S.S.C

Contax 137 MA Quartz

Contax 137 MA Quartz

Pros

  • Sharing a mount with Yashica brings access to reasonably priced top quality Zeiss Contax glass and solid performing downright inexpensive Yashica and third party glass.
  • Uses AA batteries.
  • Excellent prism for easy manual focusing.
  • With available skin kits or bare metal this is an attractive camera.
  • Solid construction.
  • Inexpensive Contax SLR model. The least expensive of the CY Contax bodies while just as capable.

Cons

  • Skin mentioned above will likely be a necessity rather than an option since any camera found will likely need it replaced if this has not been done already.

Samples

img245
Contax 137 MA Quartz
img233
Contax 137 MA Quartz
Contax 137 MA Quartz
Contax 137 MA Quartz
Contax 137 MA Quartz
Test Roll - Cinestill DF96

Well that does it for this updated list of affordable cameras that I have tried and recommend. You may notice a lack of rangefinders on this list and you would be right. Many price themselves off of this list. Other rangefinders that do fall into the under $100 or even under $50 range are fine performers, but are either too fragile and/or lack features like AE so I decided to leave them off of this updated list.

These cameras performed so well that I used them far more often than some more prestigious camera models. Then I started thinking. If these cameras perform just as well for my purposes and are not so valuable that I do not feel comfortable using them for fear of drops or thefts then why do I need those more expensive cameras? The answer was that I did not so I have sold a good few of these more expansive cameras.

If you are interested in a bit of film therapy that will not set you back I can vouch for these cameras listed above.

Happy shooting.

-ELW

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