So, you want to buy a film camera… fortunately for you these are still being manufactured. Fuji, Leica and Hasselblad are just a few of the companies that still manufacture film cameras – even if the latter may cost you an arm and a leg just to get started. Now is the perfect time to snag up as many film cameras as possible, while people are upgrading to digital and 35mm isn’t old enough to be considered “antique.” You would be surprised how often you can find great film cameras for a couple of euros… I believe I paid €10 for my Pentax K1000 and it’s one of the cameras I started with and used the most. Purchasing used and vintage film cameras may seem intimidating if you are not familiar with them, but it’s actually easier than you think. First you have to remember: if you don’t buy the camera from a dealer or shop, there’s always a risk of something being wrong with it, even if it looks perfect. But for the price you can buy these cameras for, it’s a risk I was willing to take. This is also one of the reasons I bought a low priced camera to start my film journey with.
First, ALWAYS stop at thrift stores. No matter where you are. Whether or not a place seems like it would have vintage cameras is irrelevant; always keep your eyes open. You can even check online and/or social media for people that want to part with their vintage film cameras.
If you come across a camera that is less than €10 and it looks like it’s in good condition, why not buy it. Even if it’s not a functioning camera, you can always put it on a nice shelf as a vintage display or take it apart and use for parts or cool camera hacks.
When you are considering buying a camera, start by looking at the body. Normal wear and tear is to be expected from these old cameras but these are the things you should look for in a working camera:
- a smooth shutter advance
- a back that fully opens and closes
- shutter pops at all speeds
- you can easily slide the aperture ring
- you can easily adjust the shutter speed without the dial getting stuck
- the interior of the body has no mold or fungus
- the lens is free of mold and fungus
(very small spots on the lens are okay – they’ll give your photos a vintage touch, but if you look through the lens and it’s cloudy, blotchy or you can clearly see foreign matter, it’s a no-go.)
On another note, some vintage cameras can go for high prices, I bought my Hasselblad for almost €500 and that was a bargain. So always do some research on average prices before you jump head first for that sweet sweet new old camera you saw. Film cameras are not worth what they used to be but this does not mean every brand of cameras will be cheap.
These are the main things that I have looked for and it hasn’t failed me yet. You can also get great deals by buying a body with a damaged lens and then a damaged body with a clean lens of the same make and model and swapping the two.