I’ve been shooting on a lot of different film cameras for a lot of years and over that time I’ve figured out what you need when it comes to street photography!
I’ll suggest some incredible film cameras for street photography, but ultimately, what matters is finding the right film camera for you!
So if you need some film camera inspiration and help then look no further!
So, what makes a good film camera when it comes to street photography? There are a lot of attributes that different kinds of photographers will like, some will want a fully automatic camera, an aperture priority camera, a fully manual camera, the camera with the best lenses, the most expensive camera or even a little point-and-shoot!
I can tell you that my favourite camera for street photography isn’t necessarily the best film camera there is, it’s the one I’m happiest with and that has served me well for so very long!
Generally, you want a camera with a prime lens, usually between 28-50mm, with your preferred settings, 1/1000 shutter speed + and that isn’t too big and cumbersome.
|Shutter Speeds||8s – 1/4000|
Okay, I’m starting with my favourite camera, sue me. But it’s a lot of people’s favourite camera, the Nikon FM2n is a beautiful classic camera. It’s indestructible, it has shutter speeds of up to 1/4000, it can house some of the best vintage lenses ever made and it’s just so goddamn reliable.
In terms of street photography, it’s pretty small and light which is a massive plus. I would usually walk around holding this with no straps at all and I wouldn’t really have any problems with it.
Something that can be viewed as a pro or a con depending on what kind of photographer you are, is that the FM2n is fully manual. Some photographers will like having complete control of their settings but some might prefer to have less to do.
The classic Nikon lenses available for the FM2n are another big plus for the FM2n, the 50mm 1.8 original Nikon lens is brilliantly sharp and even a lot of the new Nikon lenses can still work on the FM2n!
|Lens||3.5 – 35mm – Zeiss|
Okay, okay, it’s a point-and-shoot camera, what’s so special about it? Well, as they go, it really is one of the best point-and-shoot cameras available. With its slim build, amazing Carl Zeiss lens and auto everything, it can’t really be overlooked as a street photography camera.
Of course, if you want super professional, super sharp images then this probably isn’t the camera for you. But you can still get great shots using the Yashica T4 and it has some other really important upsides other than its image quality.
One big thing is the size of the T4, it’s nice, small and compact which is a really ideal thing for street photography. It’s also fully automatic, so you’d be able to shoot more intuitively rather than having to consider your settings all the time.
Of course, the reason why this camera is so damn good is that it’s got that beautiful 3.5 Zeiss lens. You might be thinking ‘Well the Olympus MJU II has a 2.8 lens, surely that’s better?’, well, not really no, the Zeiss lens is a better, sharper lens than the MJU II despite only being a 3.5 lens.
The size and intuitive nature of the Yashica T4 seriously benefit the user when it comes to street photography and this is why I think the T4 is a perfect street photography option.
The EOS1n is a truly great option when it comes to street photography, a fully automatic professional SLR camera with auto everything.
This camera would be better suited to someone that wants to shoot professional pictures intuitively. Since this has autofocus (if you use autofocus lenses) and auto modes on the camera, you can shoot this without having to think about settings, which can be really important to a lot of photographers!
This camera can house some amazing EF lenses that are all autofocus. If you can pick up a prime 35mm lens or something of that nature then it’d be perfect for street photography.
As a more modern film camera, this has all the accessories and settings you could need, alongside being completely auto-everything and reliable.
Of course, I can’t really make a list like this and not include a Leica, they’re a classic, the rich man’s camera, the photography status symbol but let’s be honest, they’re really bloody good.
I can’t lie, this is one of a few cameras that I’ve never used but let’s face it, it’s widely known as one of the best film cameras and it’s brilliant for street photography for all the right reasons.
It’s small, it’s easy to use, it’s got TTL metering, it’s got incredible lenses and you just can’t help but take good pictures with this camera.
This is a great camera for the opposite reasons that the Canon EOS1n is, everything is manual, no autofocus, no auto exposure. It’s simple and beautiful and the M series has been known as some of the best cameras known to man since day one.
Most people can’t afford this beast, but if you can then it’s definitely a camera to consider if you want to get really sharp street shots.
This is an amazing camera and I’ve been lucky enough to use it myself. With Carl Zeiss lenses, Auto everything, beautiful design and small size, this is a pretty amazing go-to street photography camera for those with the money!
The lenses available for the G2 are so good and sharp, it’s ridiculous, the 45mm F2 Zeiss lens is truly brilliant.
The autofocus of the Contax G2 is especially good, it’s a massive difference from the Contax G1. This is especially useful for street photography as you can shoot more instinctively, without having to worry about getting focus.
Also, the fact that the G2 has auto exposure and aperture priority means that you don’t need to worry about anything. You can decide to shoot manually but most people wouldn’t do this.
Yes, this beast is really expensive but it’s expensive for a reason, it’s really good and really handy!
There are quite a few reasons why the Olympus OM4Ti is such a great option for street photography, one of them being its size and weight. At 730g with a lens, it’s coming in at 110g lighter than the Leica M6!
Now, weight and size aren’t everything, the OM4Ti has a good range of Zuiko lenses. The 50mm 1.8 is a classic that can’t really be overlooked, and it’s still super affordable.
It’s also pretty durable, nothing to the Nikon FM2ns standards but it’s a solid camera that isn’t that old (having been released in 1986), so you’re less likely to get as many issues as with something like the OM1.
This camera also has incredible metering which is a big reason why people tend to pick this camera up. When I used it myself, I really liked it, I liked that it was small and light, it also felt easy to use.
I can’t leave the Nikon F6 out, a pretty modern film camera that looks and feels like a digital one. Unlike its predecessor the F5, the Nikon F6 is a reasonable size and weight which makes it pretty ideal for street photography.
The Nikon F6 has incredible colour matrix metering, auto everything and it can house amazing lenses. It’s as close to the pinnacle as an SLR can get and I’d say it’s a semi-reasonable price for what you actually get.
The reason why I think it’s such a good option for street photography is that it’s pretty light, intuitive, easy to use and it can be automatic if you want it to be. It’s expensive but not soooo expensive that you’d be scared to take it out to shoot with it (which is an issue I’ve had when shooting the Contax G2 or Pentax 67).
I’ve shot with the Nikon F4 and F5 and I really loved aspects of them, but they were so big that I couldn’t really get excited about them. With the F6, the size and weight have been taken care of so you’re left with a brilliant classic film camera.
Pentax ME Super
|Pentax ME Super|
Okay, the Pentax ME Super is a bit out there but please, hear me out. Yes, it’s a really budget film camera, yes it is pretty basic and yes, unfortunately, this camera often has problems with the shutter. However, when you find one that’s working, it’s such a good camera.
The ME Supers’ size and weight are some of its big attributes, it’s really small and really light, you’ll be able to carry this around all day with no problems. Also, the fact that this camera has aperture priority means that you can shoot really intuitively without having to worry about changing your settings.
And, on top of all that, Pentax lenses are really good and typically pretty affordable. They have a 50mm 1.7 lens that you could pick up for about £50 and it’s fantastic.
I guess this is the ultimate budget option for street photographers, and while some of the better options are 10X the price, they definitely aren’t 10X as good.
This is a cheeky one but I have to include the 35Ti here. The Nikon 35Ti is a brilliant point-and-shoot film camera with a ridiculously good Nikkor 35mm f/2.8 lens and a focusing distance of 0.4m.
I would argue that the 35Ti could be better than the Contax T2. Obviously, the T2 is more popular and well known but the 35Ti is a bit less expensive and it’s world class.
The Nikon 35Ti has some of the best metering available in a point-and-shoot and it exposes tough and varied shots really well. The lens is pretty amazing for a compact camera too.
Now, probably one of the only things that lets it down is that its AF can be quite noisy which isn’t really ideal for street photography in close quarters. If that’s something that would be an issue for you then you might want to look at something else.
|Shutter Speeds||30s – 1/1000|
Now, I know the Canon AE-1 is the original that a lot of people loved but I’ve got a big soft spot for the Canon A-1. With its add-on grip, easy-to-use light meter and of course, beautiful FD Lenses I just think it’s an ideal SLR for street photography and it doesn’t have that crazy price tag.
Another aspect that I love this camera for is that it’s produced only in black and it’s reasonably light. This is a big thing for street photography, less in your face and manageable to carry around all day.
You’ll struggle to find nicer lenses that are this affordable, the 50mm 1.8 or even 1.4 are pretty fair in terms of price and let’s face it, imagine trying to pick up a 50mm 1.4 AF lens for Canon these days, it’d probably be about £500.
This is a great option if you’re an SLR fan and you want to shoot street photography on a bit of a budget!
Obviously, the kind of camera you use is a very personal decision which is based on a load of different factors. These are just ideas and inspiration to help you to make the right choice for you.