Top 10 Most Popular Film Cameras of 2019!

Top 10 Most Popular Film Cameras of 2019!

Introduction

Between our showroom, stockroom, repair center, and spare parts warehouse, we have thousands of cameras here at Kamerastore. We're constantly sending cameras around the world as well as doing research to improve our business and keep up with industry trends.

Because of this, we have access to gear and data that isn't accessible to all. We're happy to present the Top 10 Most Popular Film Cameras of 2019! This list was generated using Google search data and ad analytics. Specifically, we used 40,000 interactions with our ads over the course of 10 million views throughout 2019.

With that out of the way, let's begin!

Top 10 Film Cameras by Search Popularity in 2019

It's important to note that this is not a list of the best film cameras out there. That's entirely subjective, and we encourage you to try many cameras to find the best ones for you. That being said, all of these cameras have happy owners around the world!

We'll go through the features and use of each camera and then provide alternatives to suit different budgets. Click below to watch the video or continue scrolling for the text!

#11: Rolleicord

[SHOP Rolleicord]
Rolleicords are cheaper, smaller versions of the famous Rolleiflex TLR line. They're designed and built in Germany and come with excellent lenses.
[SHOP all TLR cameras]

Wait, #11? I thought this was a Top 10!

It is, don't worry. We just figured we'd slide in a bonus for you! The Rolleicords are great low-end options in medium format, as they can be found for much cheaper than their Rolleiflex cousins. There are pros and cons to the Cord vs Flex, but the Rolleicords have excellent build quality and lovely lenses that make the final results difficult to differentiate sometimes.

The main difference between the Rolleicord and Rolleiflex is the shutter and advance mechanisms. On the Flexes, the camera advances the film and cocks the shutter simultaneously. On the Cords, this must be done separately.

The positive of this is that you don't often waste a shot by accident. You can also do double exposures very easily. The negative is that it's an extra step.

Later Rolleicord models are generally more desirable and often are in better condition simply due to being used less. These cameras were produced for a few decades, but ended production in the 1970s. This means it's important to look for one that has been checked, tested, and repaired.

Compared to the Flexes, the Rolleicords will have dimmer focusing screens. If possible, try to upgrade with a Maxwell or Beattie screen. It'll greatly improve your focusing.

All Rolleicords are medium format (120) cameras that take 6x6cm exposures on 120 film. Some are able to use 35mm film with adapters, though!

One thing to note about Rolleicords (and TLRs in general) is that you have to use a waist level finder. Looking down into the camera instead of through an eye level finder is a very different experience that can take some getting used to.

Another thing to get used to is the difference between the viewing and taking lens. Because there are two lenses on a TLR camera, what you see in the viewfinder is not exactly what the image will look like. Many TLR cameras have what is called parallax correction to compensate for this. It affects how you compose your shots, especially at close focusing distances.

Speaking of close focusing, the Rolleicords can accept Rolleinar close-focus filters on top of many other accessories. Rollei cameras use special bayonets

Notable Features:

  • Small and lightweight with great build quality
  • Excellent lenses from Schneider-Kreuznach & Carl Zeiss

Rolleicord Alternatives:

#10: Nikon FE2 (1983 - 1987)

[SHOP Nikon FE2]
The Nikon FE2 is a pro-sumer, manual focus, 35mm SLR film camera with a built-in light meter, aperture-priority auto exposure, and a shutter speed up to 1/4000s.
[SHOP all Nikon F camera]

It's impossible to talk about the Nikon FE2 without mentioning the other cameras in its line: the FE, FM, and FM2. The FE and FE2 are electronic camears with aperture-priority auto exposure, and the FM and FM2 are mechanical cameras with fully manual exposure only.

All four of them have internal light meters, but the FE and FE2 use a needle system that gives more information than the LED system of the FM and FM2.

With the aperture-priority auto exposure mode of the FE2, all you have to do is set the aperture and the camera will pick a shutter speed for you.

Many FE2s were sold back in the day due to its ultra-fast 1/4000s maximum shutter speed. This was a remarkable achievement in a non-professional camera back then, and is still extremely useful today. Combine that with high build quality and access to the vast majority of Nikon's vintage glass and it's no wonder the FE2 made this list.

Notable Features:

  • 1/4000s maximum shutter speed
  • Aperture-priority & full manual exposure modes
  • Built-in light meter
  • Self timer
  • Depth of field preview lever
  • Dedicated double exposure lever

Nikon FE2 Alternatives:

#9: Leica M4 (1966 - 1975)

[SHOP LEICA M4]
The Leica M4 is a mechanical, interchangeable-lens, 35mm rangefinder film camera typically meant for use with 35mm to 135mm lenses.
[SHOP all Leica M mount rangefinders]

The Leica M4 was released in the late 1960s following the rampant success of the M3 and M2. Although Leica was no longer the dominant professional camera due to the rise of the Nikon F and SLRs, the M series found continued success with niche markets.

The M4 has a similar viewfinder to the M2, which means it's built with 35mm as its widest focal length. The camera has frame lines in its viewfinder for 35, 50, 90, and 135mm lenses.

The M4 also keeps the M2's subdued styling compared to the M3. So what makes it different? Many quality of life improvements.

Most notably, the M4 has a rewind lever instead of the knob of the M3 and M2. The lever is much faster. Film loading is also faster due to an improved film loading mechanism that doesn't require a separate take-up spool.

The M4 also comes with a self-timer, frameline preview lever, and a different advance lever with a plastic tip that many people find more comfortable and efficient.

Notable Features:

  • Improved film loading system (over previous models)
  • Fully mechanical operation (no batteries needed)
  • 1/1000s maximum shutter speed
  • Popular and repairable (many cameras are not repairable!)
  • 0.72x viewfinder magnification for shooting as wide as 28mm with no external finder

Leica M4 alternatives:

  • Less expensive:
    • Leica M4-2
    • Leica M4-P
    • Any fixed lens rangefinder
      • Look for either a 35mm, 40mm or 45mm fixed lens with a big aperture (f1.4, f1.7, f1.8, f1.9) for something in between 150€ and 400€
      • f2.8 and f3.5 versions can be had for even under 100€

#8: Hasselblad 500C/M (1970 - 1994)

[SHOP Hasselblad 500C/M]
The Hasselblad 500CM is an iconic modular medium format camera that uses high quality Carl Zeiss lenses. Did you know they went to the moon?
[SHOP all medium format cameras]

The Hasselblad is arguably the most famous medium format SLR. Not only is it a beautiful piece of engineering and industrial design, but its legacy and quality have helped the Hasselblad system last for decades in public consciousness.

As a user camera, they're still excellent. Compared to other 6x6 modular SLRs, the Hasselblads are smaller and better built. And the modularity is a big benefit, too.

There is an immense array of Carl Zeiss lenses (from a 30mm fisheye to a 500mm telephoto), interchangeable backs, finders, grips, and winders! Hasselblad's system covered almost every type of film available at the time, from 120 and 220 to 35mm and even Polaroid pack film.

The standard kit, though, is the 80mm f2.8 with an A12 film back and waist level finder. This kit is as much as most people will ever need.

The 500C/M was made for many decades, and tons are still out there. If you get one that has been serviced, or service an existing one, you'll have a camera that will serve you well for years to come. Just be careful not to jam the lens on there!

You can also consider newer models like the 501C, 503CX, as well as the F series of Hasselblad. These cameras have Focal Plane shutters, though, so be careful. Normal Hasselblad V lenses will work on focal plane cameras, but focal plane lenses will not work on normal V bodies.

Notable Features:

  • Carl Zeiss lenses
  • Leaf shutters: flash sync at all speeds
  • Modular design
  • Small footprint
  • Widely available and repairable

Hasselblad 500C/M Alternatives:

#7: Mamiya 7 (1995 - 2014)

[SHOP Mamiya 7]
The Mamiya 7 is a medium format rangefinder camera that fits some of the best glass ever made into a compact, lightweight body.
[SHOP all medium format cameras]

If you're looking for the smallest camera that produces the biggest negative, it's hard to compete with the Mamiya 7. This compact rangefinder takes 6x7cm negatives on each roll of 120 film and has been a standard for documentary/editorial photography since its introduction in 1995.

On top of its small size and large negative, the 7 uses some of the sharpest glass ever made. Sharper than Leica, sharper than Carl Zeiss, and sharper than even other Mamiya glass. 

There are seven lenses available for the system, beginning with the Biogon-style 43mm (a 21.5mm equivalent!) and ending with the uncoupled 210mm, the 7 has lenses to suit almost all needs. Plus, they all have quiet leaf shutters that can sync with flash at any speed.

It is, however, entirely dependent on batteries. Despite this and some plastic construction, the Mamiya 7 feels sturdy in the hand and comes with a light meter and even aperture-priority auto exposure. These cameras are also quite new relative to most film cameras, so mechanical issues aren't likely to arise from normal use anytime soon.

Notable Features:

  • Excellent Mamiya lenses
  • Internal light meter
  • Internal darkslide
  • Flash sync at all speeds

Mamiya 7 Alternatives:

 #6: Olympus Mju-II (1997 ~ 2001)

[SHOP Olympus mju II]
Marketed as the Olympus Stylus Epic in the United States, the Olympus mju II is an automatic point and shoot 35mm camera with a weatherproof clamshell design, autofocus, and a 35mm f2.8 lens.
[SHOP all compact cameras]

The Olympus Mju-II is one of the smallest film cameras ever made. With the clamshell closed, it easily fits into a pocket. It can be used one-handed for casual shooting and still deliver excellent image quality from its 35mm f2.8 lens.

For these reasons, and because it seems to be the darling of the YouTube/Instagram community, the Mju-II has skyrocketed in popularity.

There are some complaints about copy variance and missed focus, but these complaints are valid for almost all low-end electronic cameras of this era. It's not the Mju's fault that it became so wildly popular 20 years after it was introduced.

Like all AF cameras, if you use the Mju-II in the right environment it will give you crisp, sharp, in-focus images almost every time.

One consequence of the meteoric rise of the Mju is a rise in price. Over the last few years prices have gone up and up. That being said, though, plenty of other compact cameras have seen very similar rises. For the Mju in particular, though, it may be fair to say it was undervalued before.

Why is the Olympus Mju-II so popular? Well, there are tons of them out there and they do great work. Olympus sold thousands of these cameras during its lifespan for quite cheap, meaning they ended up in people's drawers, attics, and other storage spaces.

Some ended up in secondhand stores, and thus in the hands of new photographers. What these people learned is that the Mju-II takes excellent photos at any price point and is also lightly weatherproof!

Notable Features:

  • Spot metering mode
  • All-weather body
  • Large aperture f2.8 lens (large for a compact camera)
  • 1/1000th of a second max shutter speed

Olympus mju II Alternatives:

#5: Leica M3 (1954 - 1967)

[SHOP LEICA M3]
The Leica M3 is a mechanical, interchangeable lens, 35mm rangefinder film camera and the first M mount camera Leica released.
[SHOP all Leica M mount rangefinders]

This is the grand-dad of all M-mount cameras. When the M3 was released, everything on the rangefinder market was instantly outdated. This included Leica's thread mount (LTM) cameras, all the Japanese LTM clones, and even Nikon/Contax's bayonet mount rangefinders. They all crumbled in front of the M3.

Despite being over 70 years old and despite the release of numerous other Leicas over the years, many consider this the purist Leica experience.

There aren't many features in this simple camera. You can load/advance film, change shutter speeds, and focus the lens. No electronics are inside here, and very few things to go wrong.

The M3 is named as such because it has 3 available framelines in the viewfinder. These change automatically depending on which lens is attached (which was revolutionary at the time). The frame lines are for 50, 90, and 135mm lenses.

This means, of course, that you are limited to these three focal lengths when using an M3. Otherwise, you'll have to resort to an external viewfinder. It's not unusable like this, but it's a lot more clunky.

The positive is that the Leica M3 shines with the 50mm focal length. While other Leica rangefinders dedicate only a small portion of their finder to the 50mm normal focal length, the M3 is built around it. This means your framing will be easier and more accurate.

The M3 is easily recognizable because it has raised edge around the 3 windows on the front. No other Leica M model has these raised edges.

Despite its age and popularity, M3s are still readily available. Many of them are in excellent condition, because these cameras were high-end, niche products even when new. Even if you find one that's a bit beat up, there are many Leica technicians out there who can help you make sure it's working internally at least.

Notable Features:

  • 0.91x viewfinder magnification (good for 50mm photography)
  • Fully mechanical operation (no batteries needed)
  • 1/1000th of a second maximum shutter speed
  • Popular and repairable (many cameras are not repairable!)

Leica M3 alternatives:

#4: Pentax 67 (1989 ~ 1998)

[SHOP PENTAX 67]
The Pentax 67 is an interchangeable medium format SLR that shoots 6x7 negatives that looks like a 35mm SLR on steroids.
[SHOP all medium format cameras]

The Pentax 67 line began in 1969 with the Asahi Pentax 6x7. Unfortunately, it's hard to separate these models on a list like this because people might be searching for one and find the other. With names this close, it wouldn't be surprising if people didn't know the difference!

But they are different, and after a few iterative improvements Pentax officially changed the name from 6x7 to 67 in 1989. This is its own camera.

The first thing you'll notice is that the Pentax 67 looks like a 35mm SLR. The second thing you'll notice is that you're actually really far away from it and it turns out the Pentax 67 is huge. Despite its large size and heavy weight (2.4kg!) it's very approachable because of its similarities to 35mm SLRs.

Because the 67 is a standard SLR, you don't have to worry about waist level finders, reversed images, parallax correction, or any of that. What you see in the finder is what you get in the photo.

Although the Pentax 67 does not have an internal light meter without a special TTL prism, the camera's shutter is controlled electronically. This was necessary with the focal plane shutter in order to make it more accurate and give it the 1/1000s top speed that helps set the 67 apart.

There are around 20 lenses in the 67 system, from fisheyes to super telephotos. There are also specialty lenses, like macro, soft focus, and shift lenses. While most people flock to the 105mm f2.4 for its shallow depth of field, you'll get excellent performance from the 90mm f2.8 and 150mm f2.8 for a fraction of the cost.

It is, however, a bit clunky to use. It's loud, bulky, and slow to load because it requires reloading after every roll. Another downside is the lack of leaf shutters. That means flash can only be synced at 1/30s unless you buy the specialty leaf shutter lenses. At that point, though, you may be better served by a modular SLR.

Pros:

  • Shutter lock
  • Interchangeable Viewfinders
  • Battery-check LED
  • Depth of field preview lever
  • 120/220 exposure counter
  • Wooden handle

Cons:

  • No cold shoe or hot shoe (only with wooden handle)
  • 1/30 Flash sync with non LS lenses
  • Heavy mirror slap
  • No interchangeable backs or inserts
  • Chain in TTL can break easily

Pentax 67 alternatives:

#3:  Contax T2 (1991 - 2000)

[SHOP CONTAX T2]
The Contax T2 is a premium compact 35mm film camera with a retractable built in Carl Zeiss 38mm f2.8 autofocus lens and a built in flash.
[SHOP all compact cameras]

The Contax T2 is small, easy to use, and can create impressively beautiful images for its size. It is easy to fit it into a jacket pocket and use it in basic operation with just one hand. 

The T2 is another camera that is very trendy, resulting in substantial price increases over the past few years. Unfortunately, as time goes by these cameras will stop working due to electronic issues. The pool of available cameras gets smaller and smaller even though demand gets higher and higher.

Notable Features:

  • An outstanding Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 38mm lens
  • Built-in flash
  • Autofocus
  • Manual focus knob
  • Exposure compensation
  • DX coded (no need to set ISO manually)

Contax T2 Alternatives:

#2: Canon AE-1 (1976 - 1984)

[SHOP CANON AE-1]
The Canon AE-1 is a 35mm film SLR camera with an interchangeable lens system using the Canon FD mount.
[SHOP all Canon FD mount cameras]

Released in 1976, the Canon AE-1 is a consumer-grade SLR designed around ease of use. It's also the first camera to feature microprocessor-controlled auto exposure, and brought electronics to the homes of many people around the world.

Its silver or black shell is actually plastic treated in a special way to feel like metal, which helps lower weight and cost without the camera feeling cheap. By combining low costs, high-end technology, and a wildly successful marketing campaign, Canon was able to turn the AE-1 into one of the best-selling SLRs of all time.

Its shutter priority auto exposure allowed more people to step behind the camera than ever before. The photographer only needs to choose a shutter speed and the camera will pick an aperture for you. This was a big deal in 1976.

Nowadays, it makes the AE-1 a great choice. The FD mount lenses this camera uses are also widely available and quite cheap. It's easy to recommend this camera to anyone.

Because of its widespread use, low price, and useful featureset, the AE-1 seems to be near the top of every film camera list. Why is this? Is the Canon AE-1 one of the best cameras ever?

In short, yes! While it may not win any individual category or have the fastest/best of anything, the AE-1's longevity and widespread use (even today) makes it impossible for us to say anything else. The Canon AE-1 is undeniably popular and has the capability to back it up.

With the right lens, the AE-1 is capable of nearly any type of photography. You won't have to have a second camera with the AE-1.

Obviously other cameras can do the same thing, and some are more capable for niche situations, but the AE-1 works remarkably well for almost every use case.

One thing to note is that many AE-1s today have light meter problems due to aging electronics. Generally, the exposure is off between 0-2 stops in either direction. While overexposing can produce a pleasant look and many other electronic cameras have the same issue, its worth paying attention to when you buy an AE-1.

The Canon AE-1 and AE-1 Program also have a problem with squeaky shutters. After years of sitting unused, the shutter can make a small wheeze or squeak noise. A professional can repair this issue quite easily.

Notable Features:

  • Shutter priority mode
  • Full manual mode
  • 1/1000th of a second maximum shutter speed
  • Meter range of ISO 25 to 3200
  • FD lens mount - huge selection of lenses to choose from

Canon AE-1 Alternatives:

#1:  Leica M6 (1984 - 1998)

[SHOP LEICA M6]
The Leica M6 is an interchangeable lens rangefinder 35mm film camera with a built in light meter.
[Shop all Leica M mount rangefinders]

For most people looking to buy a Leica, the decision of which to get usually comes down to 2 features / questions. 

  • Does it have a light meter?
  • What lens focal lengths can I use it with?

This is why the Leica M6 is so popular. It has an internal light meter and access to almost every normal focal length of lens. No other Leica has this without sacrificing something else.

The M5 and CL don't have the same styling cues as other Leicas, and the M7 requires a battery for all operations. The M6 does it all while still having the classic Leica form factor that has remained eerily consistent for 70 years.

The M6 can be found with multiple viewfinder magnifications, allowing use of lenses from 28mm to 135mm. Most M6s will be found with this 0.72x finder, although some had 0.85x and 0.52x as well. If you like shooting 28mm, the M6 may be the best choice for you.

Leicas are highly sought-after cameras. Even when new, these cameras were made in small numbers for only the most wealthy and influential of clientele. That remains true today, even 40 years after the M6 released. These cameras are very expensive, and prices will only continue to rise.

Instead of producing as many cameras as possible, Leica specialized on build quality. They have highly-trained engineers and artisans who hand-build each camera. Their market has been exactly the same since the 1950s, and Leica caters to them better than anyone else.

The high prices might scare people away, but if you view a Leica as an investment rather than a camera it makes more sense. In 5 years, your Leica will likely be even more valuable than it was when you bought it. No digital camera can claim that.

The rapid advancement in technology makes buying digital cameras a bit of a losing game. Film will always have the same image quality, and Leica quality is almost like a guarantee.

Notable Features:

  • Built-in light meter
  • All-mechanical shutter speeds
  • 28mm*, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm, 90mm, and 135mm framelines
  • Easy loading (compared to the M2 and M3)
  • Full line of quality lenses 

Leica M6 alternatives:

 

Shop 35mm Film Cameras

Shop Medium Format Film Cameras

 

This article was originally published on 7.1.2020 by Jordan Lockhart and updated on 25.1.2022 by Connor Brustofski.

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