How to Choose Your First 35mm Film Camera

Finding your perfect film camera can be really overwhelming! There are many different brands and models of film camera, all with their own perks and different features. We have created this guide to help you find what you're looking for. 

Person holds Minolta X-300 35mm film SLR camera in front of their face.

Talking to people about which film camera they should start with or which film camera they should upgrade to is one of my favourite parts of running Cameras By Max. This blog is more aimed towards people who are starting their film photography journey.

Owning a camera store means I have had the opportunity to take a lot of great film cameras for a spin. This means I can give you my professional opinion on different cameras (for example, I really don't think the Pentax K1000 is worth the hype).

You can also contact us directly to ask for a recommendation personalised to you. You can do this here or on the chat feature in the corner of the webpage. 

We also have a film camera quiz to give you personalised camera recommendations.

Olympus Trips in different colours

Why should I try 35mm film photography?

A lot of photographers prefer using a film camera over a digital one. Compared to digital cameras, film cameras are much simpler to use. They can also be a lot lighter and more compact than digital SLR cameras.

With a film camera, you’re forced to be more thoughtful and deliberate about each frame. It’s a great exercise that’ll help you grow as a photographer. 35mm film cameras are a great option for beginners who are looking to experiment with film photography and also to elevate their skills with photography and how to use camera settings. 

Film photographs are more true to life as film filters the light in a more organic way and as you see it in real life. The colours, shadows, and tones capture the world accurately and you'll always be impressed by how your memories are captured. Oftentimes, you take a photo with your phone and think "well that looks nowhere near as beautiful as it does in real life", film photography could be the answer to this problem for you!

If you are new to 35mm film photography, we recommend reading these posts.

How do I choose a film camera?

Before reading the rest of this blog, we highly recommend taking our film camera quiz. It is the quickest way to get a personalised recommendation for which film camera is perfect for you. 

All you need to do is answer a few simple questions and you'll receive a list of cameras perfect for you!

There are a few important questions to ask yourself when you are looking to buy either your first film camera or add something different to your collection. At the bottom of each question, you will find our recommendations.

1. Do you want something simple or something to learn photography with?

If you're looking for a film camera that is simple in order to take pictures with quickly, we recommend a point and shoot film camera, or a SLR camera with automatic settings.

If you are looking for something to learn photography with, we recommend a SLR with automatic and manual settings. This means you can start off on automatic settings and start to use manual settings when you become more confident.

You can view our entire point and shoot collection here.

 You can view our entire SLR collection here

For a more specific recommendation, keep reading this article, or get in touch.

Illustration of Olympus Trip camera

2. What will you be taking photos of?

You'll probably want to take pictures of lots of different things, however if you mainly want to take photos of a specific thing, this is what we recommend. We also have recommendations for cameras that are versatile for all situations.

For portraits, we recommend a film camera with a focal length over 35mm. This is the number relating to how close you have to be to your subject. If the focal length is over 35mm, your portraits will be less distorted as wide angle lenses for portraits are not always flattering. 

With SLR film cameras, you can change the lens, and therefore change your focal length. With some point and shoots, you get a zoom, so you can change your focal length this way.

If you want to take more photos of landscapes, or have a camera that is versatile for everything, we recommend something with a wide lens, or a focal length of between 24mm and 35mm.

3. Have you used cameras before?

If you're new to photography or haven't used a traditional camera before, we recommend keeping it really simple. Point and shoots typically control all the settings for you, and some SLRs also have fully automatic modes. 

If you are well-versed in using cameras and know your way around camera settings, we recommend getting something where you can manually set your settings. Most cameras have light meters built-in so the camera still advises you as to which settings to use. It is a great way to learn new photography skills too. Here are some great cameras with manual settings: 

4. Do you want to use it everyday or occasionally?

Some SLRs are big to carry around with you everywhere. If you want something to fit in your pocket or bag and be with you on every adventure, a point and shoot may be your best option. There are some more compact SLRs like the Pentax ME Super or Pentax MV.

You can read more about the most compact 35mm film cameras here.

5. Are you going to take it with you when you travel?

You may not want to take a SLR travelling with you, as they are larger and can draw attention to you as a photographer. 

Point and shoots like the Olympus Trip or Olympus Pen were made for travellers and being on-the-go. They are compact and robust, with slightly more settings than a fully automatic point and shoot.

You can read our list of the best 35mm film cameras for travelling here.

You may also consider a half-frame camera, which takes two portrait shots on what would normally be one landscape shot, meaning you can get 72 shots on a 36-exposure roll of film. You can read more about half-frame 35mm film cameras here.


If you are new to photography and are just interested in getting photographs quickly and easily, choose a point and shoot.

If you are new to photography but want to learn the skills, choose a SLR camera with manual and automatic settings, such as the Pentax ME Super or the Minolta X-300 or Canon AE-1 Program

If you have used cameras before and want something to improve your skills, choose a manual SLR, such as the Olympus OM-1 or Canon AE-1.

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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