Go old-school (and affordable) with everything from full manuals to automatics.
When stepping into the world of film photography, trying to choose the right camera can be a daunting experience. Lucky for you, we’ve rounded up a list of 35mm SLRs to get your hands on—from full manuals to automatics to easy point-and-shoots, below are some of the best vintage 35mm film masterpieces that every beginner should consider getting.
Canon AE-1 Program
Ask any film camera enthusiast what SLR they'd recommend for beginners, and chances are they’ll say the Canon AE-1 Program. It's one of the most highly regarded 35mm SLR cameras for a number of reasons. To start off, it is one of Canon’s earliest cameras to allow you to shoot on auto mode; the setup is pretty straightforward and easy to understand—just add the battery, load the film and start shooting. It has all the basic necessities too, like timer, shutter priority, exposure lock, aperture priority, interchangeable lens and a full manual mode option for when you want to have artistic control. It’s versatile, it’s sturdy, and it’s got a killer look that will turn heads when you’re out shooting. Plus, for film camera novices, the price is pretty reasonable too.
Available at: Siam Klong Film, www.siamklongfilm.com
For something a little less mainstream, the Pentax K1000 is another great film camera beloved by many newbies to the world of 35mm film. This camera is often given descriptors like “tank” or “beast” for its incredible durability—a rugged all-metal body that you can handle as rough as you want without worrying about it falling apart. It’s a very straightforward camera— there are no fancy gimmicks or unnecessary buttons to confuse the hell out of you. Its fully mechanical and manual settings make it perfect for beginners to learn the ropes of shooting on film, and like the Canon AE-1 Program, you can buy it at a reasonable price.
Available at: Klong Film DD, www.fb.com/Klongfilmdd
Olympus Trip 35
This little snapper has been a big hit among film camera enthusiasts since 1967 for its incredibly simple design and operation combined with its ability take professional high quality photos. The name “Trip” was a reference to its intended purpose—a functional compact camera that people can use on vacation. With its 40mm lens, solar-powered selenium light meter (meaning no battery is required), two shutter speeds and mostly auto mode settings, this low-cost cult classic is a true point-and-shoot, grab and go camera that makes taking quality film photos a breeze.
Available at: Siam TLR, G/F, Mahatun Plaza Building, 888 Phloen Chit Rd., 081-431-0351. Open Mon-Sat 12pm-7pm. www.fb.com/SiamTLR.Shop
Another classic workhorse, the electronic Nikon FE has proved to be a reliable companion for advanced photographers and new shooters alike since its debut in 1978. Its batteries can last for years, even with regular use, and it’s a much friendlier camera to work with than its older fully-manual sibling, the Nikon FM, due to its ability to shoot in aperture-priority mode—meaning the FE can do the work for you by automatically calculating the shutter speed. It’s also ideal for night photography, as the self-timer lever doubles as an exposure lock that lets you capture long, low-light long exposures.
Available at: Try Siam Klong Film www.siamklongfilm.com or Good Old Films www.fb.com/goodoldfilms
Launched in 1981, this super sleek, all-black 35mm SLR camera from Japan is another perfect choice for newcomers to the analog world. What’s neat about this camera is that it has an aperture-priority mode and program mode, meaning the camera will work out the right aperture and speed, and all that’s left for you to worry about is the focus. Just select “P” mode and the camera turns into a point-and-shoot that anybody could use, but for those who want to be more creative and in control, full manual mode is also available, plus it comes with a fantastic array of accessories and lenses. Overall, this is another reliable shooter that should definitely make your shortlist.
Available at: Siam Klong Film www.siamklongfilm.com or try 5/F, Mega Plaza, 900 Maha Chai Rd. Open daily 9:30am-7:30pm
Often considered one of the best 35mm film cameras for beginners, the Yashica FX-3 is a great option for those who really want to learn the basics of shooting on film. It is fully mechanical and manual, offering features like a focal plane shutter, but its major bonus is that it’s compatible with all Yashica and Contax lenses, plus its super compact and light, weighing in at around one pound.
Available at: Try Camera Film Day www.fb.com/camerafilmday or Siam TLR, G/F, Mahatun Plaza Building, 888 Phloen Chit Rd., 081-431-0351. Open Mon-Sat 12pm-7pm. www.fb.com/SiamTLR.Shop
*For the best shops to buy old cameras, mend your equipment and process films professionally in Bangkok, see here