Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The 5 Most Common Mistakes When Buying a Film Camera via eBay

Image © Beebo Wallace

Film cameras have been around since 1889, when the Eastman Kodak company produced the first flexible roll of plastic film. When Kodachrome for 35mm cameras came along in 1935, color pictures became the standard for most camera enthusiasts.

Most film cameras available today, such as the 2010 Fuji GF670, use 35mm film. Additionally, there are still some Polaroid instant film cameras around, but film is getting harder to find, so 35mm has become the standard. It is also getting somewhat harder to find support for film cameras as smaller camera stores have been pushed out of business by big box retailers and electronics superstores who sell primarily sell digital cameras and accessories.

This guide will take a look at the five most common mistakes when buying a film camera and how to avoid making them. Additionally, it will take a look at where to find film cameras at good prices as well as accessories and support for film camera photography.

Image © cliffpatte

1. Not Doing Any Research

Walk into just about any retail department store electronics section or electronics superstore and ask an associate to help you find a camera and without fail, they will take you to the digital camera section. Digital photography has become so popular to the mass buying public that some locations do not even carry film cameras any longer. This is why a photographer must do their homework.

The first thing that needs to be done is decide what you want the camera to do. If you are interested in doing landscape photography, portraits, art photography, or other speciality, you will want a camera suited to that particular style of photography. If you want to shoot coastal scenes, something constructed to withstand the elements is called for, but if you are just going to shoot woodland wildlife or birds, you could go with something less expensive.

When you decide what you will most likely be using the camera for, take a trip to the local library or go online and see what photographers taking those kind of pictures are using. Look into photography publications that suggest what type camera works best for capturing your target subjects. The reason the library and internet are the best sources is because most current photography magazines and periodicals deal almost exclusively with digital processes. So, with just a little bit of research, it is pretty easy to narrow down a few brands and models that will be right for your needs.

Below is a table of twelve of the most popular film cameras.

Production Run
Bronica SQ/SQ-A
1958 - 2005
Uses 120 film. Popular with pros and great for portraits and group shots
Canon EOS 1N
1994 - 2000
Uses 35mm film. Popular with pros. Five-point area auto focus
Canon AE-1
Uses 35mm film. First microprocessor equipped SLR. Durable body and F-style lens capable
Fujifilm GA645
1990 - 2000
Uses 120 and 220 film. Point-and-shoot, fitted with 60mm f/4 lens
Hasselblad 500c
1957 - 1966
Uses 120 film. NASA’s camera of choice during the 1960s, for the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions
Leica R-series
1964 - 2009
Uses 35mm film. Can be fitted with a Leica Visoflex rangefinder and digital module
Mamiya 645/645 Pro
1975 - 1997
Uses 120 film. Fitted with 300mm f/2.8 APO lens
Nikon FM10
1995 - 2006
Uses 35mm film. Manual focus. Intended for Asian markets but found its way to the West
Nikon N80
2000 - 2006
Uses 35mm film. Built in speedlight and accepts all F-mount lenses
Pentax 67
1990 - 1999
Uses 35mm 120 film. Fitted with Super-Multi-Colored TAKUMAR/6x7 1:2.4 f=105 lens
Pentax K1000
1976 - 1997
Uses 35mm film. Manual focus with built-in cadmium sulfide light meter
Ricoh GR-1
1996 - 2005
Uses 35mm film. Point-and-shoot, fitted with a 28mm f/2.8 lens with auto focus
2. Not Knowing What You Should Look For in a Film Camera

If all you really want is a easily accessed point-and-shoot camera, you really need look no further than the phone in your pocket or purse. Also there are many modestly priced digital cameras on the market. However, if you are a hobby photographer, and you want to use film but are not sure what to choose, go online and ask for help. There are hundreds of photography and photography-themed blogs and websites available where you can ask questions of the pros and fellow hobbyist to learn what to look out for. There are also professional photographers at photography studios, you can make contact with. The longer established a studio the better, as they are more likely to have extensive hands-on experience with film cameras.

Make contact and telling those experienced photographers what you want your camera to be able to do. They will then make suggestions of what cameras you should be consider buying. Also, they can tell you what to avoid when shopping and maybe even give you some leads on available cameras. It is vital that any film camera you buy have not only the features that you want but have the accessories to let you do what you want to do.

3. Not Comparison Shopping

When beginning the search for a film camera, it is a good idea to narrow the list of cameras you might like down to just a few that are most readily available. You should have been able to do this through speaking with some pro photographers and researching online. Once you have a short list, it’s time do some "window shopping." Window shopping is simply comparison shopping of the available products you are looking for.

Since film cameras are being phased out by manufacturers, retailers have lessened their stocks of film cameras and accessories. So, it may be difficult for you to locate cameras to physically inspect. Often by speaking to some professional photographers, they will give you some leads for film cameras that are for sale.

If you must window shop online, resist the temptation to buy the first camera that appears to fit your needs. There could be more options that will please you even more. Virtual window shopping means that you have to find a retailer first and then examine what they have to offer. Don’t forget to look for accessories when considering cameras for sale. Many of the really good cameras, need battery packs, external flash systems, and other accessories to perform optimally.

4. Buying a Camera That is Not Supported

One thing that can be a bit discouraging about owning and using film cameras is the growing limited availability of film and accessories, and access to repair parts and expertise if something does go awry. It is very important to check into these issues before buying a particular film camera. For the most part 35mm film is still commonly available in retail stores and online, and there is still some availability of Polaroid instant film because of a short lived pop-culture resurgence in the 1990s, but the supplies are limited and expensive.

Currently there is still some old film for Polaroid 600 film around and new and old film for Polaroid cameras, Type 100, Mio, SX/70, and 300. For cameras that need 110, 126, 127, and 220 film, one can find film online for the most part, as these formats are no longer mass produced by the camera manufacturers. Disc film is a dead medium. If you own a disc camera, just put it away as a collector’s item.

Accessories such as automatic film winders, external flash attachments and flash bulbs, along with filters, lenses, lens covers, carrying cases and straps, can be limited in availability. It is best to choose a camera that has a fairly complete set of attachments, as they may be very difficult to find individually.

One additional thing to ensure is that there is a location that will develop your pictures and make large prints. Many online based film processors, retail department stores and pharmacies still do a considerable amount of film developing and they offer the option to manipulate the pictures. Additionally, they can provide you with a digital album of the pictures so that you can then use photo-editing software to manipulate digital copies of photos you took with your film camera.

5. Paying Too Much for a Film Camera

Film photography can be an expensive hobby. You will need a lot of patience, as searching for some cameras at affordable prices can take a while. Your best options for affordable film cameras are rebuilt and used cameras offered at cameras stores, and classified and auction sites online.

Terrestrial Shops and Dealers

Since there is still a business for film cameras and accessories, some surviving camera shops and retail stores carry film cameras and film (most often 35mm). Of the two, camera shops are best. First of all, they may very well carry rebuilt and used film cameras, and they generally have a skilled associate who can help answer your questions. Retail outlets generally carry lower-end cameras that are for the most part targeted at children, but they have good quantities of film on hand. Stay away from retail stores for the camera but keep them in mind for film and developing.

Online Shops and Dealers

The internet is full of camera shops and dealers and enthusiasts who are constantly buying and selling film cameras. These sites offer visitors maybe the widest selection of film cameras. When working with dealers, you get the benefit of the dealers expertise, but again keep in mind that many of the items can be expensive. You must weigh the features and benefits of the camera against the cost in these cases, because if you want quality, it may not come cheap.

Online Classified and Auction Sites

A very good option to try and keep the cost down when buying film cameras is to shop online at classified and auction sites. Many times there are great deals on film cameras from individuals that just want to get rid of their old film cameras because they have gone digital. The cost savings that come from shopping on sites such as eBay, can be very significant.

To look for film cameras on eBay start on the homepage by mousing over "Electronics" from the list on the left of the page, select "Cameras and Photography" to navigate to that page. Once on the "Cameras and Photography" page, select "Film Photography" from the list on the left. When this page opens, choose "Film Cameras" from the sub-category list. You can hone the search results by Type (SLR, Field, etc.), Brand (Canon, Nikon, etc), Condition (New, Used, Manufacturer Refurbished, etc.), and Bundle (check if the camera is bundled with camera accessories).


Choosing to buy a film camera can be a step back in time, but with some challenges. Film cameras have become harder to find and good quality ones in great condition have increased in value. It is important then to ensure you keep from making any of the five most common mistakes made by film camera buyers. Be sure to do some research so that you will know what type of camera you’ll need and what brands and models of cameras will fit those needs. Don’t just go buying whatever you find first. Take the time to window shop and compare different cameras to find the one that is right for you. You will also want to make sure that the camera you choose can be supported with film, and other accessories. Finally, don’t pay too much for a camera. Online classified and auction sites will often offer the best deals on film cameras.

*This article was published on eBay's Buying Guides here.

Pin It Now!


  1. "Most film cameras available today, such as the 2010 Fuji GF670, use 35mm film." - WRONG

    "Pentax 67 1990 - 1999 Uses 35mm film. " - WRONG AGAIN.

    "Not Doing Any Research" - well... CORRECT


    1. Thanks for your comment.


    2. Thanks for quick fix :-) Sorry for being so picky!

  2. I really love this article post. I wish that I could find vintage cameras in one online camera store here. Thanks for the information!