Maybe you’re an addict of the look and feel film photos and polaroids have. A nostalgic ? Or maybe you just want to leave digital photography for a bit and experiment the authenticity of film. In any case, I’ve got you and I’ll share with you my experience and all my tricks to get into film photography serenely.

At the beginning of the year, I’ve made a bit of research of what film was exactly. I was just getting the basics regarding films, the different types, how you capture pictures, and how you finally extract your photography to print or digital format by developing, scanning and/or printing.

I’ve been a big fan of the colors of film, the grain and the light leaks for a while now. I used a battery of apps to recreate the very unique feel those photos have. It’s until quite recently I’ve decided to finally make the step and try film photography for real.

I’ve decided to buy my first film camera on internet, I’ve looked on websites like e-Bay, Leboncoin or photo shops (who are very expensive).

Finally I’ve bought it from an online flea market owned by an old man who loved to get things from discounters or other flea markets and sell them again through his website.

I got my first camera for 20€. Then I bought and got a couple more on e-Bay, Leboncoin and other platforms .

The different types of cameras

First you need to know that as for numerical cameras, there’re different types of film cams :

  • Compact
  • Manual
  • Reflex

What’s great with compacts is that they are usually very easy to use. They are surnamed “point & shoot”, because that’s literally the only thing you’ve got to do. They’re best for beginners in photography. However, due to their form factor, they are not easily repairable. It would be quite difficult to find a place to repair it, and even more to do so for a reasonable price.

Then you have the manual cameras. They are made for pros or at least people who are a bit more into photography. They allow you to chose every setting to take the perfect shot, compared to a compact that does the work for you. However, the possibilities are countless ! They may be a bit difficult to use for novice photographers. One of the biggest advantage is that they are usually very reparable. It won’t be a pain in the ass to get your camera fixed by a professional or even by yourself if you are a bit of a Bob the builder.

To finish the last type of cameras are the reflex’s. They are the mix between compacts and manual cams. So you get best of both world, you can use it fully automatic or fully manual or choose some settings and let the camera do the rest of the configuration for you. They are usually as big as manual cameras but are more like compacts. So the downside is that they are less reparable than manual cams. To sum up, they really are a 50-50 between manual cameras and compacts.

What to look at when you by a camera ?

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So now that you know the main principle on the different types of cameras, and have decided which type fits you best, you can get into prospection.

First of all, you need to know that 99% of the cameras on sale nowadays are used ones. When film photography was still the only way to go, so between 50 and 20 years ago, these cameras were quite expensive but they aren’t anymore for most of them.

With that in mind, you should understand that these cameras have seen and lived a lot of things. Their condition may not be the best right now as they’ve certainly been saved in attics, dust, moist and haven’t been used for decades.

So when you buy a camera, especially online because you can’t try it, make sure to check in the product’s description or ask to the seller if it is fully functioning ! And why not both ?! This is very important. Lastly, try to check on other website how much it is selling so that you don’t buy a 10€ camera for the triple.

If you have the opportunity to test the camera, try to switch it on, check the lenses, check the pointer, the flash if it has one, the shutter AND the film loader. I have a camera fully operating but the film doesn’t roll when loaded inside the camera so I can’t use it… And it may not be fixable (or I’d have to sell a kidney) because it’s a compact camera.

Also, you might think that it’s worth buying a camera cheaper in order to make reparations on it. As I said in the previous section, it could worth the try depending on the type of the camera you’re willing to get.

Be very careful.

Also you can check on Lomography what the photos could look like with the desired camera. However keep in mind that the look of the photo also depends on the film roll used and the settings used for the shot.

Where to buy a camera ?

  • e-Bay
  • LeBoncoin
  • Silver vintage shop (for 100% working cameras. Follow their Instagram to know when they drop new cameras for sale)
  • Specialized photo shops
  • Flea markets
  • Check in your parents or grand-parents’ attic

Everything you need to know about the film :

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The next step is to buy films in order to take photos !

I often get several questions by my friends who begin film photography :

  • What type of film should I get ?
  • What films are the best for beginners
  • Where to buy ?
  • At what price tag ?

Well, first you should prioritise negative films. They are developed in almost every film lab and they are often the less expensive to develop as the chemicals are still easily available for labs. Also with negatives, you have a higher chance of getting a good result even if you missed the exposition of your photo.

Then it depends on what you like. You have to make a choice between color or black&white.

I haven’t tried B&W yet so I won’t be able to make a suggestion over this…

What film roll for beginners ?

Now regarding color films for beginners, I would recommend these (I’ll add some of my unedited photos so that you can get an idea of the possible raw result you’d get) :

  • Kodak Ultramax 400 – nice and warm tones :
You’re not supposed to get light leaks, I need to fix my camera
  • Kodak ColorPlus 200 – Warm tones, ideal for street photography. I got strange results in daylight but excellent in dark scenes with the flash on. Get them for your party nights ! See by yourself below :
Night + flash

Update on Kodak ColorPlus 200 : The camera I used isn’t very good in daylight. My boyfriend used the same films with his Nikon RF2 and the pictures are very good ! (See by yourself right below, an unedited pic of NYC).

  • Fujifilm C200 (my favorite) – excellent for landscapes and even for everyday shots :

As you’ve just seen, I’ve tried all of these and I really like the result. Also these films are the cheapest you can find on the market as I speak. So perfect to begin with !

For my french speaking fellows, I recommend this article to get more info regarding the choice of your first roll of film :

What price tag ?

Well, this is quite a complicated question. Because the price of film rolls really vary, just like the stock market. I’m not even kidding. The ressources to make films and the chemicals necessary to develop them are becoming more rare and expensive. And the pandemic didn’t help to pull the price down. So depending the time of the year, the seller, the quantity you buy, you could get very different prices for the same roll.

Also due to the rarity of ressources, film rolls often tend to be out of stock at resellers’.

I would say that it is best buying a bunch of rolls when they are available. Make a bit of stock so that you have a bit of time before buying again. Moreover, you won’t suffer from the shortage of supply.

Now, to me, the maximum price for a 36 exposures film roll is 6€ or 7€. If it’s more expensive, then I don’t buy and I just wait to buy somewhere else.

Recently I bought a pack of 10 Kodak ColorPlus200 36 exp. for 40€. Which is quite interesting imo.

The more you buy, the more it becomes interesting. Make grouped order with your friends to increase quantity and decrease price by the same occasion.

As a cheaper option, you can also consider to buy expired films. Depending on the way they’ve been conserved and the length of the date of expiration, you could get really good result, or more experimental ones… It could really be worth the try !

Where to buy ?

Firstly I forbid you to buy on Amazon. At least for my french readers/friends. It’s just overpriced on there. Avoid at all cost.

Prefer to buy on specialised retail shop or film labs :

Nation Photo –

Digit Photo –

Labo Argentique –

e-Bay (it’s sometimes interesting to buy on e-Bay, bids or fixed offers. Check the offers frequently)

Now I think that you know everything to get into film photography.

The best is still to make some research to start comfortably. Check out the Silver Vintage Shop’s blog here :

Youtube has also a ton of ressource for a lot of film rolls, cameras, and tutorials on how to load film, expose correctly, etc…

Let us know in the comments, where you made the best bargain buying cameras and where you buy film rolls for a good price !

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