Top 5 Features to Consider Before Buying a 35mm SLR Film Camera

When it comes to buying a 35mm SLR camera, there are several features that you should look for to ensure that you get the best possible results from your photography and the most value for money. Here are the top 5 features to look for in a film camera:

1. Manual Controls vs Automation

One of the main benefits of shooting with a 25mm SLR film camera is the level of control that you can have over your images. If you want more control, look for a camera (such as the Canon F-1 or Nikon F2) that offers full manual controls, including manual focus, aperture, and shutter speed. If you want simpler or faster controls, cameras with Aperture or Shutter Priority features (like the Canon AE-1) may be better.

2. Interchangeable Lenses

Having the ability to switch out lenses is the single greatest advantage of shooting with an SLR camera. This allows you to customise your setup for each shooting situation and achieve different creative effects. Once you pick a camera, you can also build a system around it with more lenses for more scenarios. Canon FD and Nikon F, remain the most popular lens systems, although Pentax SMC or Contax CYM are viable options at lower and higher ends of the market respectively.

3. Build Quality

Most 35mm SLR cameras available today are already more than 40 years old, so when buying, look for a camera that is durable and well-built. Metal bodies are typically more rugged and durable than plastic ones, but are also heavier and susceptible to corrosion if not properly cared for.

4. Light Metering

While it's certainly possible to shoot without a light meter, having one built into your camera can be a major time-saver and make it easier to achieve correct exposure. Look for a camera with a reliable light meter that is accurate in a variety of lighting conditions.

5. Viewfinder

A clear, bright viewfinder is essential for composing your shots accurately. Look for a camera with a large, clear viewfinder that allows you to see exactly what you're shooting.

By focusing on these five key features, you'll be well on your way to finding the perfect film camera for your needs. Whether you're a seasoned film shooter or just getting started, the right camera can make all the difference in the quality of your images.

While not as important, you may also want to keep in mind the following:


Many film cameras rely on batteries for power. Look for cameras that take commonly available batteries or have a long battery life for the best shooting experience.


Accessories can greatly expand the capabilities of your film camera, so it's worth considering what options are available. For example, some cameras have interchangeable focusing screens, which can help you achieve more precise focusing. Other accessories to look out for include motor drives for rapid film advance and flash systems for low light photography.


While autofocus wasn't widely available on film cameras until the 1980s, some cameras from that era, like the Canon EOS series, are highly regarded for their autofocus capabilities. If you're interested in autofocus, look for cameras with accurate and responsive systems that can help you capture sharp images. Keep in mind, however, that autofocus systems may not be as fast or reliable as those on modern digital cameras, so you may need to use manual focus in some situations.

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