Which SLR Film Camera Should I Buy?

There are so many SLR film cameras out there, and they all seem to do the same things, at first glance. This guide intends to help you be able to choose which one is the best camera for you.

We will explain the differences between the most popular 35mm SLR film cameras, their features, and whether they are worth the money.

Which 35mm SLR film camera should I buy

What is a SLR film camera?

"SLR" means single-lens reflex, and this refers to the way in which the viewfinder works. Basically, the image you see in the viewfinder is reflected through the lens. 

These cameras are often the traditional style of camera you are used to seeing around. Most SLR cameras have interchangeable lenses, manual focus, some or all settings, and manual winding.

Why would I want to use a SLR film camera?

SLR film cameras are great for learning the skills of photography, as well as giving you control over the images that you take. Whereas point and shoot cameras are often mostly automatic and have limited settings, you are able to control a lot more of the camera's functions with a SLR film camera.

Canon F-1 35mm SLR film camera

Which features tend to differ on SLR film cameras?

At first glance, it may seem that all of these 35mm film cameras look the exact same. However, they all have differences and quirks, as well as different ways of working, and different settings. 

Some key things to look out for when considering which model of SLR film camera to go for are:

  • Setting modes: does it have a manual mode, or automatic mode, or both?
  • The maximum shutter speed: does it go up to 1/1000 or only 1/500?
  • Light meter: does it have one, and is it a needle or LED lights?

  • Self-timer: does it have one?

Automatic or manual shutter speed dial on the Canon AE-1 Program
SLR film camera with automatic settings

What are the differences in camera brands?

The main differences between the brands of 35mm SLR film cameras are the user interfaces. For example, the Olympus OM-1 varies greatly from other SLR film cameras as it has the shutter speed dial around the base of the lens, whereas the Canon AE-1 Program has a shutter speed dial on the top of the camera.

There is also a big difference between the brands when it comes to accessories for the brands of 35mm SLR film cameras. Olympus accessories are much cheaper than Nikon accessories, for example. So, if you were keen to get zoom lenses or other accessories, research how readily available these accessories are.

How do I choose a SLR film camera?

This is what we are here to help you with. There are many things to consider when choosing a SLR film camera, so we have narrowed down some of the those things and our recommendations. 

Should I choose a manual or automatic SLR film camera?

This is one of the main things to think about when deciding which SLR film cameras to look at. Some SLR film cameras are fully automatic, fully manual, or both. Cameras with both automatic and manual settings can be used to have manual shutter speed with automatic aperture or vice versa.

Manual settings on the Canon AE-1 35mm SLR film camera
SLR film camera with manual settings

Whether you want a manual or automatic SLR film camera depends on the way in which you would like to take photographs. 

Manual cameras require you to set your settings yourself according to the light meter in the viewfinder. 

Automatic cameras will do some, or all, of the settings for you. This can be your shutter speed or your aperture. 

Most SLR film cameras (and all the ones on our website) have manual focus, so you will find your focus through the viewfinder. 

Which SLR film cameras are the best?

This is the age old question: which 35mm film camera is the best? Well, everyone has their opinions, and we also have our own opinions. 

The perk of running your own film camera shop means that you can try lots and lots of 35mm film cameras. We have tried many SLR film cameras, and have also worked out which of these cameras are some of the best.

Now that you understand the basic differences between SLR film cameras, here are some of our recommendations when looking for your first SLR film camera:

Canon AE-1 Program

We LOVE this camera. It is ideal for beginners and is very easy to use. It has manual and automatic settings, as well as being relatively lightweight. Extra lenses are easy and cheap to come by for this camera, meaning you can add accessories and build a full kit with ease.

Olympus OM10

Lightweight, easy to use, sleek, and with great quality lenses, what more do you want in a 35mm film camera? The OM10 is a staple of the film community and much loved by many amateur and professional photographers.

Canon AE-1

With manual settings, and the option of automatic aperture, the Canon AE-1 is a common favourite among film photographers. It has a simple to use light meter, is reliable, and has that classic SLR film camera look.

Minolta X-300

With manual and automatic settings, the X-300 is a lightweight and capable 35mm film SLR camera. Additional lenses for this camera are generally cheap and easy to come by. 

These are just a few of our recommended 35mm SLR film cameras. You can explore more of these cameras in our other blog posts, and in the SLR film camera section of our website.

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. 

Or send us a message on Instagram, send us an email, chat to us on our live website chat, or read some more of our blog posts!

If you like what we do, but can't buy a camera from us, please consider buying us a cup of coffee! It helps us to keep these resources free, consistent, and accessible.

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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