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 camera, all with their own perks and different features. We have created this guide to help you find what you're looking for. 


Talking to people about which film camera they should start with or which 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 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.

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

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 something simple to take pictures with quickly, we recommend a point and shoot, or a SLR 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.

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 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 SLRs, 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.

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 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. 


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 need some help? Get in touch with us!

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