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The Best Film SLR Cameras for the New Film Shooter in 2022


The pandemic turned photographers back to film in droves. If you’re looking for the best film SLR cameras to choose from while you’re just getting into film, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve reviewed a whole lot of them over the years we’ve been around. And more importantly, the options we’re choosing in this list suit a slew of criteria. A lot of them have mechanical shutters. Some of them don’t, but then we recommend that you not spend an arm and a leg. But most importantly, we’ve done full and thorough reviews on all these cameras. Dive in with us!

The Phoblographer’s various product round-up features are done in-house. Our philosophy is simple: you wouldn’t get a Wagyu beef steak review from a lifelong vegetarian. And you wouldn’t get photography advice from someone who doesn’t touch the product. We only recommend gear we’ve fully reviewed. If you’re wondering why your favorite product didn’t make the cut, there’s a chance it’s on another list. If we haven’t reviewed it, we won’t recommend it. This method keeps our lists packed with industry-leading knowledge. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Pro Tips on Choosing the Best Film SLR for You

We’ve used tons of film cameras and we’ve even reviewed lots of film emulsions as well. Here are tips on choosing the best film SLR for you:

  • No, your mirrorless camera lenses won’t adapt to the film camera (but you could do the opposite).
  • Whenever possible, go for a camera with a mechanical shutter. If the battery stops working, you’ll still be able to keep shooting. This helped us choose some of the best film SLR cameras on this list. But with some mounts, it just isn’t possible.
  • At the moment, we’re not including anything for Nikon F mount. This mount gets insanely complicated and is worth writing a blog post in and of itself. Besides, there are so many that could make this list of the best film SLR cameras for a beginner.
  • When traveling, consider putting your film in a bag that will be hand checked. Don’t run it through the X-Ray machine; their strength tends to vary from airport to airport and it could damage your film.
  • Modern film photography is much different than it was in the past. The frame rate means nothing because film is expensive. The autofocus is nowhere as good as modern mirrorless cameras. But what’s more important is how durable these film cameras are.
  • Check the viewfinder and diopter. If you wear glasses, you’ll need something that lets you see clearly.
  • SLR stands for single lens reflex. This means that you can see what the lens sees. It’s very useful when using things like graduated ND filters.

Pentax Spotmatic: Access to Incredible Lenses

Standout Features

This Pentax has an M42 screwmount. It can adapt a ton of different lenses. But what’s more important is how big and bright the viewfinder is. I’m legally blind, and I could see through it with little struggle. Oh, plus it’s affordable.

In our review, we state:

“The Pentax Spotmatic is pretty much all metal. Considering that there are virtually zero electronics to deal with you won’t have any sort of issues with the build. If you’re one of those people who knows Sunny 16 well or can carry around a light meter on their phone and figure stuff out from there, then this is one of the most perfect cameras for you.”

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Nons SL42 Mk 2: Give Your Old Lenses New Life

Standout Features

The NONS SL42 Mk2 is one of the first cameras in the world to use the SLR format to shoot Instax film. Full stop. It has full manual control. Is it a quirky camera? Sure. But it’s also one of the most important SLRs made in the past few years. If you’ve got some old Canon EF lenses from Samyang or Rokinon, you’ll do great with this. You can also try Nikon F lenses if you have them.

In our review, we state:

The NONS SL42 Mk2 is straightforward to use. Power it up. Put the Instax film in. Eject the dark slide. Put the NFE on. Then put your favorite lens on with an aperture ring. Cock the shutter. Focus. Check the light meter’s recommendations on top. Make adjustments accordingly. Shoot. And print! It’s an art and craft for sure. 

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Canon EOS Elan 7: The Best Film SLR Camera for Canon EF on a Budget

Standout Features

Overall, the Canon EOS Elan 7 is the best bang for your buck balance of features and ability to use Canon EF mount lenses. I’ve owned one many times. Sure, the EOS 3, EOS 5, and EOS 1 series cameras are all better. But for the money, the Elan 7 does most of what a modern film photographer would need without the fuss.

In our review, we state:

“The Canon EOS Elan 7 has seven autofocus points. My version of the camera has them not being so bright, so you’ll really need to look for them when you select one or the other. Generally speaking, I’ve never had a problem with the center focusing point. Using the others gave me some pause though.”

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Mamiya RB67 Pro S: An Incredibly Versatile Camera

Standout Features

The Mamiya RB67 Pro-S is one of our favorites for various reasons. It’s incredibly well built, and we’d argue it’s even more so than the RZ series cameras. It’s all mechanical. Plus, it can take various sized camera backs for things like the 645 format and much more.

In our review, we state:

“This thing is a beast. There are no electronics built in. It’s big, it’s heavy, and it’s a serious camera. Mine has been through some torture and survived the snow. In my experiences, everything down to the lens bellows are built extremely well.”

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MiNT SLR 670-S: Yes, It’s an SLR

Standout Features

These cameras are mostly refurbished cameras from Polaroid, but done by Mint. However, they’re truly some of the best-refurbished options on the market. We’ve never had an issue with the build quality. You can’t change the lenses with this at all, but it is, by all means, a single-lens reflex camera.

In our review, we state:

“Ever use an SX-70? It’s very similar. With the SLR-70 you open the camera up, focus, set the exposure compensation, and shoot. But this time around, you’re shooting manually, so you need to bring out a light meter, set the parameters, and then shoot according to what the meter says.”

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Minolta Maxxum 7: Sony Fam, Here’s Your Best Film SLR

Standout Features

The Minolta Maxxum 7, otherwise called the Minolta a7, can use your old autofocusing Minolta or Sony DSLR lenses. They’re often easier to find and more affordable than the 9 series cameras. At the same time, the 9-series are awesome. But for the money, the Maxxum 7 will do just as good of a job.

In our review, we state:

“Photographers who use Nikon DSLRs and film cameras like the F5 may really love the Minolta a7 due to the fact that there are a lot of dials that help you choose the parameters you really want to use. As a Canon user for almost 10 years now, that part of my mind finds this camera a bit odd. But being the EIC of a large indie Photo blog means that I get access to gear and so my mind needs to wrap around a lot of different brands. So with that said, I’m also going to say that even with the layout of this camera, so many things are very similar with the Minolta a7 and other SLR cameras that you’ll be able to adapt as long as you wrap your head around some new muscle memory.”

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Leica R6: The Affordable Leica. No, We’re Not Kidding

Standout Features

The Leica R6 offers a ton of features that most film photographers would really want. Most importantly, if the battery dies, the shutter will keep firing. That’s why we say it’s a semi-mechanical camera. The Leica R series cameras are also pretty affordable, but the lenses are another story.

In our review, we state:

“The Leica R6 is a really simple to operate SLR film camera. There are all the basics: ISO control, metering, shutter, aperture on the lens, depth of field preview, etc. Half pressing the shutter or pressing the button in front of it will assist with metering. It’s an incredibly simple camera to use. I’d even call it rudimentary as long as you spend a half-hour (at most) understanding it. The Leica R6 brings photography back to the basics and that’s wonderful.”

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Contax NX: The Best Film SLR with Lenses to Match

Standout Features

The Contax NX can be thought of as a baby version of the famous Contax 645 film SLR. It comes with access to some of the best lenses probably ever made for SLR film cameras too. For those who don’t know, Contax is pretty much Zeiss.

In our review, we state:

“The Contax NX has a lot going for it. Besides having access to a lot of great glass, the autofocus is top notch. Then there is the way the camera feels in the hands. Top this all off with it being so simple to use and you’ve got yourself a winner. But it’s not all perfect. The build quality will make it suffer in the cold. Additionally, I always question the durability of cameras like this in the long run. Mechanical shutters and cameras are more reliable, but that’s not going to stop you from making great photos with it. We really like the Contax NX.”

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