The Best Compact 35mm Film Cameras

We all love things that fit in our pockets, and some film cameras can be so big that it makes you not want to use them everyday. Plus having a compact camera means it is so convenient for travelling. Here is our selection of the best compact 35mm film cameras.

Person in the woods taking a photograph

What do you mean by compact?

We mean, itty bitty cameras that are gonna fit in your pocket, or even in the palm of your hand. I have small hands (and small pockets most of the time) so having a compact camera is super useful. Big cameras are great, take my Canon F-1 for example, but sometimes you don't want the weight swinging from your shoulder threatening to hit someone who walks by you. 

Judging how big a camera is just by looking at it online is hard, so we've divided our list into categories, making it easier to find a compact camera that suits you. 

Fujica Mini

Best Compact SLR

We'll start with the biggest on the list: the SLR camera. Granted, this won't fit in your pocket, but some SLR cameras are huge. This is our pick for a compact SLR that won't break your shoulder off (okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration for any camera). 

Anyway, here we go. 

Coming in with a weight of around 800g, and one of the most compact 35mm SLR bodies, the Pentax ME Super is a great choice. 

It also doesn't lack anything! With a self-timer, manual AND automatic settings, and bulb mode, this camera can do it all. 

It's not the only Pentax SLR that was designed with size in mind. Its sibling camera, the Pentax MX is also super compact, and was also designed with professionals in mind.

Other Pentax cameras of the same size, include the Pentax MV and MV-1. These are often a lot cheaper than the other two, but their top plate is made of plastic, rather than metal.

Best Compact Fully Automatic Point and Shoot

This is a compact camera that does it all, and fits in your pocket whilst doing it: the Minolta Riva Zoom

It's a metal-bodied, fully automatic point and shoot with a zoom, and all the settings you could ever need. 

Another honourable mention is the wildly popular Olympus Mju II. This compact camera fits in the palm of your hand, has a fantastic lens, and is quick with its autofocus and flash. We just assume that everyone knows about this camera at this point, but that doesn't make it any less impeccable.

Similarly to the Pentax cameras, this Olympus Mju also has some siblings worth mentioning. Although these cameras do not carry the same high quality lens as the Mju II, they are great choices for someone looking to shove a 35mm film camera in their pocket. 

Best Compact Point and Shoot with Manual Focus

Sometimes you want that extra bit of control that comes with a manual focus camera. This was one of the hardest categories to pick a winner for, as there are a few great manual focus point and shoots, such as the Olympus Pen EES-2. But ultimately, we had to go with the one that is most compact without compromising quality.

Our choice for the best compact point and shoot with manual focus is the Olympus XA2. Its lens is super sharp, and it is a good looking camera too. 

You can detach the flash to make it more compact when you don't need the flash attached, and you will barely even notice its weight in your pocket or bag.

I took this camera on a trip to Amsterdam, and although my film got fogged in the airport, I managed to get some incredible images from it. You can read more about this camera and see the images I created in this blog post:

Again, this camera comes with its own set of siblings that are worth mentioning, and are equally as compact.

Best Compact Half-Frame

Half-frame cameras are more compact than full-frame cameras because they take smaller images, so choosing a best half-frame here was really difficult.

We ended up choosing the Olympus Pen EES-2. It's not the smallest of the half-frame cameras, but it has the best features, and usability.

It is similar to the Olympus Trip, except half-frame. It has manual focus, a red flag feature, and aperture settings for using flash.

It also has siblings in the form of the Olympus Pen EE-3 and EE-2

Olympus Pen EES-2 cameras

The Most Compact Camera

You might be wondering what the most compact 35mm film camera is. Well, that would be the Fujica Mini. It is a half-frame camera that is truly tiny. 

It also has manual aperture settings and a built-in light meter. It avoids having features that would make it bigger, for example, its winder is built in to the top of the camera rather than poking out of the side.

They're pretty rare and hard to come by, so if we have it in stock and you like it, get it before its gone.

You can read more about the super compact Fujica Mini here:

Still stuck on which film camera to buy?

Try our film camera quiz. All you have to do is answer a few questions, and then you will get a list of personalised camera recommendations. 

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Max, owner of Cameras By Max

Article written by: Max

Max is the owner of Cameras By Max. They work full-time repairing and refurbishing all the 35mm film cameras you see on the website. Their favourite camera (at the moment) is the Olympus XA, and their favourite city in the world is Edinburgh.


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