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By the middle of the first decade of this century the digital revolution had transformed photography so completely that that the ranks of film cameras in production were decimated. While digital is destined to
remain the primary capture medium, shooting film is enjoying a renaissance, especially among artists and traditionalists, and film in the popular 35mm, 120, and sheet film sizes is still widely available.
Indeed, you can no longer buy, say, a Hasselblad 500C with 80mm f/2.8 Zeiss Planar lens on eBay for $400, as you could in 2007 or 2008 when everyone was dumping their film cameras—a clean one will now set you back over a grand.
If you’re hankering for a brand new film camera the good news is that there are a surprising number of excellent choices still out there which we’ve detailed below.
Some are fairly pricey, so you may also want to check out B&H’s Used Department’s listings when pursuing the film camera of your dreams.
If you’re aiming to jump into analog with both feet, you can also find a wide range of darkroom equipment, chemicals, and photographic paper on the B&H website.
Now it’s back to the future with a camera selection that will warm a film fanatic’s heart.
It’s fitting that Leica, the company that put the 35mm rangefinder on the map, still offers three M-series models, all incorporating the magnificent Leica range/viewfinder with parallax-compensating,
auto-indexing frame lines that debuted on the Leica M3 in 1954. Leica M-A (Typ 127): With an appearance recalling a timeless classic, this camera is a totally manual, mechanical camera requiring no battery.
Its traditional, horizontal rubberized cloth focal-plane shutter provides speeds of 1-1/1000 sec plus B, and its gorgeous bright line range/viewfinder has parallax-compensating, selectable,
auto-indexing frame lines for lenses ranging from 16mm to 135mm.
It incorporates Leica’s signature silky smooth single-stoke manual film-wind lever, an “old fashioned” rewind knob, and Leica’s traditional removable bottom cover for loading.
Leica MP: An updated homage to the original MP created for photojournalists, this robust, manual classic requires a battery only to power its through-the-lens selective, center-weighted metering system.
This all-metal rangefinder provides shutter speeds from 1-1/1000 sec plus B, X sync up to 1/50 sec, and has the same 0.72x-magnification viewfinder as the M-A, with projected, parallax-compensating,
auto-indexing frame lines for 28, 35, 50, 75, 90, and 135mm lenses.
Leica M7: A proven model in production for decades, it delivers the essential Leica M experience while providing the advantages of aperture-priority
auto-exposure via a horizontal cloth focal-plane shutter with electronically timed speeds of 4-1/1000 sec plus all-mechanical shutter speeds of 1/60 and 1/125 sec should you run out of juice.
All the other classic M-series features are present, including the 6-frame 0.72x range/viewfinder detailed above, plus the ability to shoot at flash speeds of up to 1/1000 sec with dedicated Metz flash units,
and exposure setting info in the viewfinder. The M7 embodies the classic Leica M form and function while offering many modern conveniences that enhance its speed and convenience.
Nikon F6: You’ve got to hand it to Nikon for still offering this flagship 35mm SLR with an advanced Multi-CAM 2000 AF Sensor Module that controls an 11-zone AF system with 9 cross-type sensors,
1005-zone 3D Matrix Metering with spot, evaluative, and flexible center-weighted options, an ultra-reliable Kevlar and aluminum-bladed shutter with electronically controlled speeds up to 1/8000 sec,
and a maximum film advance rate of 5.5 fps (8 fps with optional MB-40 Battery Pack).
Functions are displayed on two LCDs: one on top and one on the back. Additionally, the F6 offers i-TTL balanced fill flash with compatible flash units,
41 custom settings, a mirror lockup, and multi-exposure capability, all in a rugged, stylish package.
Nikon FM10: Emerging film fans and photography students will be delighted with this all-manual 35mm SLR with all-mechanical shutter speeds of 1-1/2000 sec plus B, and flash sync at 1/125 sec that operates without battery power.
Only the simple match-diode center-weighted meter requires long-lasting button batteries, and the camera accepts all F-mount lenses that have aperture rings.
Other features: fixed, split-image focusing screen with micro-prism and a mechanical self-timer that can be used to lock up the mirror.
Fujifilm GF670: The sole survivor of a once flourishing breed, this cool, contemporary folding camera shoots 6×6 or 6x7cm images, accepts 120 or 220 roll film,
has a coupled, combined, superimposed-image range/viewfinder with projected, parallax-compensating frame lines, a center-weighted aperture-priority auto-exposure system,
full manual settings, and an electronically controlled leaf shutter with speeds ranging from 4-1/500 sec that will syncs with flash at all speeds. Its high-performance,
80mm f/3.5 EBC Fujinon lens provides 40mm equivalent coverage when using the 6x7cm format and 44mm equivalent on 6x6cm.
The GF670 is an excellent all-around field, street, and travel camera that combines classic virtues with modern features and, at about 2-1/2 inches thick when folded, it’s the only current medium format camera that will slide into a jacket pocket.
Lomography Lubitel 166+: Yes, you can still buy a brand new TLR if you opt for the long-running Russian-made Lubitel described by the Lomography folks as a ”re-creation of a Soviet-era classic.
” It’s name means “amateur” in Russian, which ought to tell you something, but this simple plastic-bodied TLR has a decent, glass 75mm f/4.5 triplet lens,
and an improved pop-up, waist-level viewfinder with a flat ground glass that shows a 100% viewing image. You can shoot 6 x 6 cm images on 120 film, or 4.5 x 6 cm images using the included drop-in format mask.
And, it comes with a 35mm Lubikin conversion kit so you can create fascinating “58 x 33mm vertical panoramas with exposed sprocket holes showing” on 35mm film.
The Lubitel provides apertures from f/4.5-f/22 and shutter speeds from 1/15 to 1/125 sec plus B. Minimum focusing distance is 2.6 feet and it has a standard X-sync hot shoe and 1/4″-20 tripod socket.
This modest camera is no Rollei, but it’s a lot of fun for the money.
Virtually all 4 x 5, 5 x 7, 8 x 10″ and 6 x 9cm view cameras have spring-loaded ground glass backs and most can accept standard film holders or third party digital capture modules.
You can check out the dozens of new view cameras available on the B&H website, but we’ll briefly mention 3 to give you a sense of what’s out there.
Toyo View 45CF Field Camera: Constructed of lightweight polycarbonate and carbon fiber, this 4 x 5″ view includes a reversible Graflok-type ground glass back with etched markings for 6 x 7 and 6 x 9cm formats, and accepts Toyo flat or recessed lens boards.
Cambo Ultima 4 x 5″ View: This top-of-the-line aluminum alloy field and studio 4 x 5″ view camera provides a comprehensive range of movements and features a 17.7-inch two-piece monorail,
geared yaw-free variable-axis tilt and swing movements, and dual-range focusing.
Linhof Technikardan 23S: Exquisitely made and finished, it provides studio camera features in a field size camera, a comprehensive range of adjustments via its L-shaped front and rear standards,
comes with a Linhof Quicklock 23 ground glass back, and folds flat for easy transport.
Yes, instant film cameras are still available and here are two ones worth mentioning:
Polaroid 300 Instant Film Camera: This cute looking bug-eyed creature takes business card size prints on instax mini instant film, has a built-in flash, is powered by 4 AA batteries, and comes in four colors.
Fujifilm instax mini 90 Neo Classic: With vintage styling, this instant film camera uses instax mini film to produce credit card sized images, has a retractable 60mm lens that can focus to 11.8-inches in macro mode, six shooting modes,
built-in flash, a brightness control, and a tripod socket. It uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
If you’re an instant picture fan determined to go back to the future with something more sophisticated, check out the refurbished Impossible Polaroid SX-70 and SX-70 Sonar folding SLRs that take 3.1 x 3.1-inch prints on SX-70 Type film.
Other classic Polaroid models are also available.
These descendants of the simple box cameras of yore are popular with art photographers and nostalgia fans aiming to create an “old-timey” look and feel in their images.
What they capture may not be critically sharp but it sure can be cool. Here are two examples culled from the rafts of Holgas and Lomography Dianas listed on the B&H website:
Lomography Diana F+: It takes twelve 5.2 x 5.2cm or sixteen 4.2 x 4.2cm images per roll of 120 film, has as 75mm lens that’s removable for wide-angle pinhole shots, four focusing zones down to 1.6′,
shutter speeds of “sunny, cloudy, and B,” a simple optical viewfinder, and a standard tripod socket. Also check out the Lomography Diana Mini 35mm camera and the Lomography Konstruktor F 35mm Film SLR Camera Kit.
Holga 120CFN: This simple, fixed-focus toy camera has a single-element 60mm f/8 plastic lens, captures 6 x 6cm or 6 x 4.5cm images on 120 film via a sliding format selector, and has a built-in flash powered by two AA batteries.
It is said to yield images with a “dream-like vignette look” and has a color wheel in its built-in flash that lets you choose red, blue, yellow, standard white, or a combination.
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