Technology has since taken us so deeply digital that we have practically forgotten what it means to use analog processes. In photography, for instance, film cameras have literarily been confined to the museum of relics, making film cameras very cheap. But whether you are an experienced professional or an iPhone snapper, a good bit of shooting actual film would be good for you.
This is why I think that a review of the cheapest film cameras may just be the motivation you need to get you to experience or re-invigorate your film shooting, even if it is just to experience the nostalgia of shooting film
Here are 5 of the cheapest film cameras you can start with
1. THE CANONET QL 17
This camera, at the height of its popularity, was dubbed the “poor man’s Leica,” for a very good reason. The fixed 40mm f/1.7 lens is sharp as they come; producing images that, with the right kind of film, will result in incredibly sharp negatives. The favorite setup has a 58mm step-down ring on the lens to house a modern Canon lens cap; which is vital as these old cameras don’t usually include a lens cap.
So, what’s the special thing about this camera? For starters, the metering system still works on most copies that are available to you; all you require is a 1.35v battery. The Wein Cell is a nice recommendation as a replacement for the old mercury batteries and you have a piece of fine working equipment to use once again. You can choose to shoot in shutter-priority only, and since the metering sensor is positioned directly above the lens and inside the filter ring, it makes up for ND filters in case you use one.
The best part, perhaps, is the price. Depending on the condition, the QL17 GIII can be bought for between $75 and $150. Make sure you check to see that the unit you are buying is in good working condition.
2. THE NIKON F3
Although several manufacturers like Nikon, Canon, Pentax, and a few others made excellent SLRs; a lot of photographers preferred the Nikon F#-series of cameras as they, in most cases, have the most flexible lens mounts. This camera will accept just about any Nikon lens made in the last several decades with the obvious exception of “G” lenses, which do not have a manual aperture ring.
Although the F3 is a manual-focus camera; it, however, has a metering system that allows for aperture-priority metering. This camera also uses 2 SR44 button cells for power, which are readily available.
3. MAMIYA C33 TLR
For most film camera enthusiasts, the C330, the younger sibling of the C33, gets all the attention among Twin Lens Reflex cameras. The C33 possesses a very, remarkable body. It is also generally cheaper than the C330 or even the more famous Rolleiflex TLR. Apart from that, the camera has something pretty cool for TLR cameras; which is the ability to exchange lenses. From the amazingly sharp 80mm f/2.8 that sits on some cameras to a somewhat unusually long 250mm f/6.3, these lenses are normally available for around $200.
4. MAMIYA 645 1000S
Like the Canon products, we have two Mamiya cameras in the same article; this is because Mamiya tends to deliver some pretty remarkable quality for the price, and the 645 1000s is no exception. The camera was built to be used with the ease of a 35mm SLR, and renders a negative that’s 6cm X 4.5cm hence it is also referred to as the 645 monikers. However, you may need to buy three separate pieces for it – the main body, a viewfinder, and a lens. All considered, it is possible to get the complete camera for just about $250.
The Mamiya 645 is designed to take 120-size medium format film, which is the most popular type sold today. Top it off with an AE prism viewfinder with a built-in meter and you get aperture-priority operation, with a centrally-weighted pattern.
5. BRONICA ETR-S
The Bronica’s ETRS will probably look somewhat familiar to the owners of Hasselblad, because of its simple, modular box design. A complete Bronica ETRS system may be gotten for under $300, depending on the condition.
Introduced in 1979, the ETR-S shoots 6×4.5cm film with a standard back, but you can also switch that back out to shoot standard 35 and panoramic 135-format film as well. There’s a great variety of lenses available for it, both fixed-focal-length and a few zoom lenses as well; which is quite a rarity at this price range.
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