Film Cameras used to be cheap, but now, not so much. With the recent resurgence of film photography, cameras that used to go for next to nothing now often carry 3 or even 4 figure price tags. For the average person, a lot of the high-end film cameras are out of reach, especially if you are in college or just want to experiment with them. Thankfully, there are still plenty of cameras that can be found for about 2 hours work at a minimum wage job(or 3 in most red states).
If you want a descent film camera at this price, be prepared to work for it. Ebay auctions are going to be your best friend, and you will likely have to check frequently to find really good deals. Usedphotopro.com occasionally has excellent deals as well, but it can take some waiting to find the cameras you want on their online store. Don’t forget to check thrift stores and yard sales either! While many have caught on to the rising prices of film cameras, great deals can still be found, especially with items on sale. Think of this as a reminder that, while a $500 Yashica T4 will take great photos, high quality film photography doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With that said, here are my 10 favorites!
1. Olympus Infinity Stylus Zoom 75/Stylus Epic Zoom 80
While not quite as fun to use as their prime lens counterparts, both iterations of the Olympus Stylus series are very good cameras. The lens on the Epic is significantly sharper, and is fairly good throughout its zoom range. The Infinity Stylus Zoom is good at its widest setting, but gets progressively worse as you zoom in. Neither camera is particularly quick, but they are both very reliable and well made cameras. Expect some light leaks on both, with the epic often having the dreaded lens leak that presents as rounded streaks in the corners of the frame. One thing worth mentioning is that the infinity stylus zoom has much better color saturation, so if you shoot color exclusively like I do, you may want to opt for the Infinity stylus. Though they often go as high as $60-$80, they regularly go for less than $20 at auction, and even less at thrift stores.
2. Nikon One Touch 200
This camera goes by several names, including “One Touch 200”, “W35”, and Nikon made a “Sport Touch 200” with the same lens and a very similar design. All can be found for about $15-$20 on Ebay auctions, and all feature the same very nice 35mm 3.5 lens. Although this camera is very bulky for a prime lens film point-and-shoot, they take very nice photos, and have descent features for such basic cameras. The only major downside is that if it can’t acquire focus or there isn’t enough light, it just wont take a photo, and gives no indication why. But for daylight shooting, it is a very good option for its price! Mine has a bit of a warped back(hence the tape), but don’t be afraid to pick one up for yourself.
3. Minolta Maxxum Series
I am often astounded by the ridiculously low prices that Minolta Maxxum Series SLR’s go for on ebay. If you are looking for an entry level, electronic film SLR and you are on a budget, definitely look for one of these cameras in ebay auctions. While they aren’t the most reliable, and they can definitely have problems, For a $20 SLR kit you would be hard pressed to find better, especially online.
4. Canon Sure Shot 60 Zoom
A real sleeper! You can find these for about $10-$12 dollars all the time on ebay, and the 60 zoom version has a surprisingly sharp lens. The build quality, features, and viewfinders leave something to be desired, but if you need a dirt cheap film camera with a descent lens, look no further. These cameras are both super fun to use, and even have a few basic settings to play around with!
5. Olympus Trip Series
Don’t get too excited, you are unlikely to find a trip 35 or similar fixed lens rangefinder for this price, but Olympus has made a multitude of interesting cameras over the years that carried the “TRIP” moniker. If you like LOFI looks and lomography, you will feel right at home with some of these plastic cameras, and they are plenty of fun if you can find them for a good price. A few models I like include the Trip 30, Trip MD, Trip AF, and Trip Junior. Some of them feature plastic lenses, and the cheapest of them take disposable camera-esque photographs, but thats not such a bad thing. If you are feeling bored, don’t be afraid to pick one up and put a roll or two through it. You might be surprised by the results!
6. Minolta Hi-Matic
The Minolta Hi-Matic series of cameras are a bit rarer to find under $20, but they can definitely be found at thrift stores, and occasionally online too in the sub $20 range. The Hi-Matic AF and AF 2 are going to be your best bet at this price, so keep your eye out at shops and the film camera section on Ebay. They are very very good cameras, and street/music Photographer Ricky Powell famously used A Hi-Matic AF for many of his photographs. That being said, any model from the Hi-Matic series under $20 is a good deal, and as long as it works, don’t think twice about buying one.
7. Nikon Lite Touch 120 ED/140 ED
The Nikon Lite Touch Zoom ED series is another highly underrated range of cameras. The Zoom 120 ED and Zoom 140 ED are known to have particularly good image quality, and they are comparable to the stylus zoom cameras, perhaps even a bit better in terms of IQ. Although they aren’t as stylish as the Olympus cameras, they produce very nice photographs, and they are a prime example of Nikon quality, even if they are very consumer-level cameras. Ebay auctions are going to be the place to find these for less than $20, but for a few dollars more you can almost always find one with a “Buy it now” option.
8. Olympus Infinity Junior/AF-10
I love this camera, and have already written a review on it that you can find here: https://gra1ny.wordpress.com/2018/05/26/2018-5-23-the-best-compact-for-the-money-olympus-infinity-jraf-10-review/ Interestingly, this is one of the few good film cameras that has become slightly cheaper recently, and at $20, this is a phenomenal buy, easily one of my favorites from this list.
9. Kodak Duaflex
If you have never used a twin lens reflex camera before, The Kodak Duaflex line is a very cheap and easy way to try one out. This fixed focus and shutter speed camera is about as basic as it gets, and takes surprisingly good photographs. It takes 620 film spools, so you will have to wind some 120 film onto an old spool to use the camera. Since the settings are fixed, I would suggest a film with a wide exposure latitude like Ilford HP5 or Kodak Portra 400 for best results. Don’t bother looking for these cameras at antique stores or thrift shops, they are readily available for $20 or less on Ebay.
10. Nikon EM
I’m cheating a bit on this one because you will almost never find a Nikon EM with a lens for less than $20, but it is an extremely underrated camera nonetheless! This entry-level SLR is basically an aperture-priority-only version of the Nikon FG, and other similar Nikon SLR’s. The body itself is tiny, and perfect for use as a go-anywhere camera, as well as street photography. It is meant to be used in auto mode, but has a fixed 1/90 sec setting in case you need it, or the batteries run out. And best of all, you have over 50 years of excellent Nikon lenses to choose from for use with this camera! If you are already a Nikon shooter you cant go wrong with it. Because there were so many made and there is presently such little demand, they often go for well under $20. Just be ready to replace the light seals, since many will have been sitting around since the Late 70’s and 80’s. I will be reviewing the EM in the near future, so keep an eye out for that!