photo life no. 1 | how to choose a 35mm film camera

How to Choose a 35mm Film Camera | Azzari Jarrett

I'm kicking off a new photography series today called Photo Life! 

I plan to tackle photography questions that I receive and I thought a new series would be the perfect way to tie my thoughts together.  Although this first installment is about film photography, not all of my posts for this series will be related to film.  If there's a topic that you'd like to discuss, by all means, leave a comment or send me an email.

So you might be interested in experimenting with film photography.  A common question I receive is how do I choose a film camera?

I always recommend starting with 35mm manual film cameras with your initial journey into film photography.  Quite simply because 35mm film is the easiest film to find at your local drugstore or online (I purchase all of my 35mm film from Amazon). Also, learning to shoot manual will strengthen your photography skills overall. It wasn't until I begin shooting with my Pentax K1000 that I completely understood all of the settings of my digital SLR!

Here are some examples of cameras to look for: Nikon FM, Canon AE-1, or Pentax K1000.  All of these cameras are affordable, sturdy, and quite easy to find because they were so popular.  

You can find used 35mm cameras online at sites such as Ebay on photography sites such as Keh.  If you do plan to purchase online, make sure the seller has plenty of pictures posted so that you can inspect the camera accurately.  I have a Pentax K1000, which I purchased on Ebay.  I am using this camera in the photos for this post.  

In person, you have the added benefit of holding the camera is your hand and inspecting the overall condition of the camera for yourself.  Try looking at flea markets, garage sales, estate sales, and antique shops.  Don't forget to ask your family and friends if they have any old cameras that they would like to pass along.  If family and friends know that you are looking for film cameras, they may think of you when cleaning out their attics or old boxes. 

Here are some important things to look for when choosing a film camera:

  1. Check out the overall condition of the camera.  Are there any cracks, loose knobs or buttons?
  2. Inspect the lens.  Do you see any mold or fungus?
  3. Open the camera back.  For the Pentax K1000, simply pull up the rewind knob at the top of camera (see the image above). Is there mold or fungus in the interior of the camera?
  4. Press the shutter and wind the lever.  Be sure to look at the curtain, does it open and close smoothly?
  5. Check for bent spools (see the image above).

Keep in mind that when purchasing a used camera, there will always be a risk.  I hope that by sharing these pointers, you will know what to look for when purchasing to help you determine if your investment is a good one.  

For inspiration, here are some film images I have taken with my Pentax K1000.

Are there any other tips you have for choosing a manual 35mm camera?