Where do I begin? No, really, I mean it, what type, model or brand?
It isn't simple. OK, here goes...
That film strip that you load into a film camera is made of cellulose acetate or polyester these days but was first made from cellulose nitrate which was found to be rather flammable!
Coated onto this film strip are light sensitive minerals - silver salts, then three layers containing magenta, yellow & cyan coloured dyes.
When the camera fires and exposes the film to light, the chemicals react and the image is set as a negative of the image taken until the film is developed and printed.
That's a very simplified explanation of how it works but that's basically it.
Film cameras themselves have been made in many shapes and sizes and for many many uses.
The most common types of film camera.
- 35mm Viewfinder Camera - Very simple, some have aperture control. Lens not linked to viewfinder so you need to know the approximate distance from the subject.
- 35mm Rangefinder Camera - Lens coupled to the viewfinder to achieve accurate focus.
- 35mm Compact Camera - Newer versions have auto focus but there are a lot that are just viewfinder versions.
- 35mm SLR (Single Lens Reflex) Camera - Ideal for creative photography. Interchangeable lenses. Large range of accessories.
- 120 Film TLR Medium Format Camera (Twin Lens Reflex) - Ideal for both creative and advertising photography. Large negative size which is good for enlargements while retaining quality.
- 120 Film Folding Bellows Medium Format Cameras - Vintage and antique types. Some with very high quality lenses. Various highly decorated versions.
- Box Camera - Simple to use. Some use 120 film. Others use 620 film but 120 film can be adapted for use.
- Disc Camera - Negative film of a very small format mounted on a disc instead of a roll. Poor quality due to very small negative size. Short lived design.
- APS (Advanced Photo System) - A now obsolete system that offered a pseudo panoramic format along with two other frame ratios.
- 126 & 127 Cameras - Although 126 film cartridges are no longer produced, 127 film is still made and many cameras such as the Kodak Brownie 127, Zeiss Ikon Kolibri, Exakta SLR, “Baby” Rolleiflex and the Yashica 44 TLR use this film.
I won't bore you with all the brands but I will say that the biggest names are often the best bet.
They usually have very good build quality so a camera that is 40 years old or more is still working well and may look great too.
Buying a film camera is like many things in life, you can listen to advice, read reviews, watch YouTube videos from some "expert" but what it all comes down to is this - Do YOU like it?
It may sound obvious and I don't want to be patronising but how many times have you bought something because you just "want it"?
I know I've done this more times than I can count (usually cars, motorbikes and cameras).
I suppose there has to be a degree of research but I know one thing for sure and that is - If you like photography, you will buy more than one camera in your lifetime.