Not dead yet: Finding great film gear without breaking the bank


posted Friday, November 13, 2015 at 5:31 PM EDT


While digital is how most of us do our photography these days, film still holds a special charm for many. Once consequence of the digital revolution, though, is that really prime film-era gear can be had for a song online. 

Freelance photographer Daniel Sawyer Schaefer has written a guide to buying and shooting with a 35mm film SLR camera on a budget over at Japan Camera Hunter. If you want to get back into film photography, you don't need to spend a lot of money to get great gear, as Schaefer has some tips on being able to afford gear without breaking the bank.

Schaefer recommends buying your own light meter. Finding a camera with an operational light meter can be tricky and it often comes at a premium. Investing in your own high-quality light meter means you'll be able to find better deals on cameras and have more cameras to choose from. In addition to investing in your own light meter, you'll be able to get more quality shooting in by going with mechanical camera bodies rather than relying on batteries and computer chips in an electronically actuated camera.

[Editor's note from Publisher Dave Etchells: If you don't want to make the investment in a light meter just to dip your toes back into film-based photography, you can use your digital camera as a rudimentary meter. Set it to the ISO of the film you're using, and the shutter speed and aperture settings it gives you will be pretty close to the mark. There may be minor differences, but they'll generally within the exposure latitude of the film, especially if you're shooting negatives vs slides.]

There are quality mechanical film cameras available from many manufacturers, although Schaefer has had good luck with a variety of mechanical Nikon bodies. As far as lenses are concerned, don't be afraid to go old. You can find some old lenses that are sharp, in good condition, and under $200.

Nikon FA film camera. Credit: Andrew Blight

Read Daniel's article to lear the three things he always considers when buying any film gear. You can check out Daniel's work here and also see what's in his own camera bag here

(Seen via Japan Camera Hunter. Nikon FA image courtesy of Flickr user Andrew Blight. Index image courtesy of Flickr user E Magnuson. Both images used under a Creative Commons CC-BY-2.0 license, and have been modified from the originals)