Any photographer who still shoots film today knows all too well the meaning of the phrase “slim pickings,” whether it be in regards to film, developing labs, chemistry, darkroom equipment and even cameras. Sure, we all rely on a stock pile of vintage cameras that the majority of the world doesn’t care about, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt each time a film camera is discontinued by a manufacturer. Many people are mistakenly under the impression that there are no more film cameras being manufactured today, but that would be wrong.
As many people are aware, Lomography offers a huge selection of film cameras, many vintage and many which are directly manufactured by Lomography itself. Fuji has also had large success with its Instax line of instant film and cameras in multiple formats, and the Impossible Project managed to raise Polaroid film from the dead so we can all keep using our old cameras.
But what about Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus… and many of the other camera giants? We did a lot of research and figured out exactly which companies are making which cameras as of the end of 2013.
Die-hard film users might be pleasantly surprised that some classics never change:
(All prices listed are for new cameras in USD)
PART I: 35MM
Fujifilm is a Japanese company, so I guess we technically shouldn’t complain - but for film lovers worldwide it stings a little to know they only consider their own to be hard-core film users. Beyond the Instax line and photographic film, Fujifilm outside of Japan manufactures zero film cameras today. In Japan they manufacture two. For now.
Fuji Natura Classica - $400-$450
The Fuji Natura Classica is a high-end, compact 35mm camera designed for natural light use, and more specifically low-light situations. Fuji’s Natura 1600 film complements the cameras NP (natural photo) mode. The Natura Classica comes equipped with a f/2.8-5.4 28-56mm lens and, oddly enough, an integrated pop-up flash.
As previously mentioned, Fuji manufactured the Natura Classica exclusively for Japan, but they can readily be found online. For more on the Natura Classica, check out our review on how it performs in low-light situations.
Fuji Klasse W - $550-$700++
Another “premium” compact 35mm camera and Japan-only exclusive, The Fuji Klasse W is like the Natura Classica with a major upgrade. With an f/2.8-16 28mm lens, it provides a far more profound depth of field and also offers fully manual functions. The Natura Classica is to an automatic SLR as the Klasse W is to a fully manual SLR, in compact camera form. The price ranges quite a bit on this little guy, as it can be difficult to find online - particularly if you don’t read Japanese.
For more info on comparing and purchasing, check out Japan Camera Hunter’s Buyer’s Guide to Premium Compact Cameras.
Here’s where we talk about quality classics. Personally, I have never been a rangefinder girl, but no one can argue with the fact that Leica’s are a) known for their exceptional image and mechanical quality and b) a ridiculously loyal following. An iconic brand in and of itself and renowned as the camera for street photography, some famous photographers who shot with Leica cameras include Man Ray, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Helmut Newton and Diane Arbus.
We can all take comfort in the fact that Leica is still manufacturing two of their revered 35mm rangefinders, for those who can afford them:
Leica M7 - $5,000-$6,500+ (body)
Leica itself refers to the M7 as the “Modern Classic,” boasting TTL metering, as well as both electronic and mechanical shutter speeds (among a bajillion other snazzy technical features which would probably even make an engineer glaze over.) For tech spec nuts, feel free to have a gander at the Technical Data Sheet if you dare.
Granted it’s copy text, but Leica does offer some beautiful words on film and why the M7 is still a great choice today:
“Silver halide photography with a Leica M has a special appeal: the understandable process of exposing the film and the chemical processing of the same piece of material create an emotional relationship with the subject and the camera. The concentration when taking the photograph, the keen anticipation of the literally tangible images and the excellent results are all arguments in favour of analog Leica M cameras.”
Leica MP - $5,000+
The Leica MP is basically exactly the same as the M7, minus the AE (automatic exposure,) electronic shutter, the shutter speed in the viewfinder, DX coding, and TTL flash metering. It’s a less expensive option for those who must have a Leica.
Both the Leica M7 and MP are “system” cameras, meaning that like an SLR, the body and lenses are purchased separately. They certainly come with a hefty price tag, but a Leica is a life-long camera and quality investment for the right photographer.
Full disclosure: Neither I Still Shoot Film nor myself is officially affiliated with Nikon, but I have been a Nikon girl my whole life and will be the first to admit I am hardly objective. That being said, let’s stop one minute and thank Nikon for being one of only 2 camera companies to still manufacture 35mm SLRs. They may not have the fancy resume of a Leica, but for a fraction of the price my FM2 is going on 21 years and still working strong.
Nikon currently offers two 35mm SLRs: one entry-level and one high-end.
Nikon FM10 - $319.95
The Nikon FM10 is a fully manual 35mm SLR which uses center-weighted metering and a focal plane shutter. It’s compatible with all metal Nikon F mount lenses, but what’s nice is Nikon still offers a kit for this camera which includes the body and a Nikkor 35-70mm f/3.5-4.8 lens. The body is speedflash compatible, but as it doesn’t use TTL metering that function won’t work. The FM10 doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, because quite frankly it doesn’t need them if you have (or want to learn) basic exposure skills. This is a great option for anyone looking for just a plain old 35mm SLR, plus it’s available at the listing price directly from Nikon USA online.
Nikon F6 - $2,669.95
Based on the price tag of the Nikon F6 (shown above with motorized drive), you can assume it’s a tad fancier than the FM10… because it is. First, for you lazy people it has automatic functions, but more importantly it offers three different types of metering: 3D Color Matrix metering, center-weighted metering and post metering. It in the automatic functions include an 11-are auto-focus system and four separate auto-focus modes. Overall, it’s a higher quality camera body with more sensitivity and precision. The hot-shoe sync for studio lights which implies it’s for professionals, but this camera would be a good choice for nonprofessionals as well.
Vivitar V3800N - $200+ (depending on lens)
The Vivitar V3800N is similar to the FM10, in that it’s a entry-level fully-manual 35mm SLR, great for photography enthusiasts or anyone looking to get in to shooting film. It costs a little bit less than the Nikon FM10 simply because Nikon is known for making better quality lenses and bodies than Vivitar. The Vivitar V3800N features TTL center-weighted metering and a vertical running focal plane shutter. The kit includes a 50mm f/1.7 lens, which is actually quite fast considering the price.
UP NEXT: Part II - Medium & Large Format
Interesting. That Fuji Natura looks kinda awesome.