Buying a film camera can be very confusing. After all, you can’t really ask questions about megapixels. Also, autofocus lacks things like face and eye detection. Film cameras allow you to do very different things from digital. They are funny ! In 2022 though, it’s absurd to ask the same questions people asked in the 90s and before. You could say your camera took good pictures, but it would be the film that did it with the lenses. We dive into the questions you should ask yourself about how to buy a film camera. And I share my experience of buying them for over a decade.
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Choose the right stores (eBay, Blue Moon Camera, etc.)
First, choose the right stores. If you’re wondering how to buy a film camera, don’t buy it from a bad source. You can’t always trust Craigslist. And so let’s dive a little deeper into that:
- Some retailers do nothing to prepare the camera for resale. Some will buy it directly from a buyer for a stupidly low price and then sell it directly to you for more than they bought. I wouldn’t go with any of the big players unless it’s a really big purchase of a camera which is also very rare.
- Even people I know who work in big camera stores don’t buy their used cameras there.
- Some retailers go so far as to revamp and refurbish cameras. Blue Moon Camera, our partner for the Rare Camera Store initiative, does it!
- eBay may have some great stores, but be sure to check the ratings.
- Etsy can be a great place to buy cameras if you can get them at the right price.
- Look around at the prices on the market. Don’t be afraid to be confrontational. The truth is, you’re not going to sit back one day in retirement regretting that you were confrontational. Hold them accountable. If the store you are visiting charges more, ask them what justifies the extra cost. Good shops will be transparent with you.
Aim and shoot, rangefinder or SLR?
There are a lot of tough questions you need to answer when it comes to buying a film camera. One of them concerns the type of camera. A point and shoot will keep things simple. A rangefinder is one of the smallest and most versatile. Plus, they can easily go digital if you’re looking for something with the Leica M mount. An SLR can also go digital, although a bit of a pain these days. SLRs show you what you get in the viewfinder, while other cameras give you an approximation.
Personally, I use point and shoots and rangefinders. There are affordable SLR cameras out there, but I have pretty good experience with modern mirrorless cameras!
Medium format, large format or 35mm?
Here’s another great question! What format are you planning to shoot in? 35mm is a small format, but if you’re thinking about how to buy a film camera and what you’re buying it for, it could be the tactile experience. If you go for 35mm, buy it because it feels good, the movie you want is easier to get in 35mm, or it’s just fun. Otherwise, just opt for medium format or large format. Most digital cameras can surpass what 35mm film does these days. But medium format can outperform digital in many ways.
Your best bet is all mechanical
THIS IS A BIG!!! Cameras with electronics are prone to failure. Some cameras are both mechanical and electronic. Look for example at the Leica M6 or the Leica CL. They are mechanical cameras but the meter uses electronics. On the contrary, your Leica M6 will simply become a Leica M4! Mechanical cameras will also mean that they will keep working no matter what. If your camera needs a battery to power the shutter, buy with caution.
Check the lens system (if there is one)
Some cameras don’t have many lenses. So that means they can’t do what you want. Other cameras have tons of proprietary and third-party lenses.