What really are the “Best Film Cameras for Beginners” - Part 2

Part two of three

WARNING – people easily offended by other people disagreeing with their entirely subjective views might want to look away now. This post might upset a few people, but that certainly wasn’t our intention when we started writing it.

READ PART ONE of the series before you read this second part….

We have read many articles entitled “The best ever film cameras for beginners” or “film cameras beginners must try” and so on.

We think these articles often fail to do some basic things:
  1. Explain what criteria the writer thinks makes a good beginners camera; and
  2. Tell us why the cameras they have selected meet those criteria.

So here’s our go at explaining what we think makes a good beginners camera…….


We see a lot of talk of cameras like the Nikon F2 or F3 in some of these lists, but we don’t know many people who will be able to throw £250 at their first 35mm film camera!

Nope, being realistic about it, that first camera you buy is likely to be at the bottom end of the price market for most people.

We also think it’s important to think about the costs of lenses for your chosen camera – you don’t want to be stuck with something where finding replacement lenses is hard or expensive.

As a beginner you’re not likely to know whether you want primes or zooms, or 35mm or 50mm. You’ll probably want to experiment and pick up a few different lenses, and see what works best for you.

You’ll therefore want to make sure you can pick up some good value lenses for your camera. As good as Nikon and Canon lenses are they’re not cheap; you’ll probably get more bang for your buck from Pentax/Takumar lenses, and even more value from certain lenses in the “universal” M42 mount.

So we’re going to say if your camera and lens combo is costing more than £100, that’s probably counting against it in the “best beginner camera” stakes.

+ Points therefore awarded for a camera you can pick up with a lens for under £100.
+ Extra points awarded for the less well known brands and M42 mount cameras.
Small mark against good cameras that cost more than an equivalent from another brand.

Ease of Use

Nothing is going to kill that buzz for you more quickly than a camera that you can’t use. Conversely, if you can pick up that camera and get some good photos quite quickly, that’s only going to encourage you to shoot more.

So for us, a good beginners camera must be easy to use.

Now, there’s an argument to make to say your first camera should be a manual one, as it encourages you to understand what is going on with the camera, how it works, how different apertures produce different results, and so on. If you’ve come from a photography background – owning a DSLR perhaps – that makes a lot of sense.

But the reality is that most people looking to get into film for the first time will be youngsters. Most of them have probably not ever owned a ‘proper’ camera (digital or analogue) and wouldn’t know an f-stop if it hit them in the face; they just press the screen on their phone and then edit later.

So we think a good beginner’s film camera needs to offer some sort of assistance in terms of the mode(s) of shooting it offers.

We don’t think program is a good mode for a beginner, as it won’t enable you to understand what is happening with the shutter speed and aperture. Program cameras are nearly always complimented by aperture property and/or shutter priority too, so there can often be a lot of daunting modes and buttons to worry about – if you’ve got a camera like the Canon T70, then you’ve got even more complicated modes to worry about too.

For us, a camera with manual and aperture priority therefore strikes the perfect balance between giving you some assistance, whilst also letting you work out the basics of film photography.

Beyond choice of shooting modes, the more little extras the camera can add the better. Depth of field preview, stop down levers, showing you the settings in the viewfinder, warning lights for slower shutter speeds; all of these can be a great help for beginners.

+ Points added for a camera with a priority mode;
+ Maximum points for a camera with priority mode and manual….and nothing else.


Quite simple this one – all things being equal you’re less likely to take a big bulky camera with you everywhere you go than you are one that can fit easily in a big coat pocket.

When you’re starting out you’ll want to take it everywhere with you, and being able to do that will be a massive help to your photography, and in helping you to learn the ropes as a newbie.

+ Plus points for the compact types from the mid-70s
- Deduct points for those earlier bulky cameras

X Factor

Ok, a little more subjective this one, and perhaps not as important as the first three criteria, but if you’ve got a camera that you fall head over heels in love with, that’s got to be a good thing for encouraging you to shoot with it more.

Not loving your equipment is a turn off; however fickle that may sounds, it’s the reality of our human condition!

If you’ve got that camera that has looks to die for, or has a little extra charm or individuality, that’s going to help.

+ A small extra mark for any camera that we happen to think has it.


So that’s our take on what makes a good beginners camera, or, perhaps more accurately, what you should be thinking about when deciding what is the right camera for you to get into film with.

In the final part three of this article we’ll take a look at some of the cameras we think meet the brief, and we’ll make a fist at dishing out some marks along the lines we’ve set out above, just for the sheer fun of it.


Film Camera store

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