In a world of hundreds of film cameras to choose from, there is a continuum of value for cameras. In this article I list out cameras ranging from most overrated to most underrated.
To preface this list, I would like to say that I don’t exclusively make an assessment on price but it plays the biggest role. Perhaps for that reason, I should have used “valued” instead of using “rated” but since price isn’t everything, I kept it with “rated.” In addition, I will say I consulted with a buddy of mine on this list as he works in the film camera department at the local camera shop and tries out their new stock just about every week so he was more familiar with the current going rates of these cameras as well as a wealth more first-hand knowledge. That said, the world of film photography is quite small and it doesn’t always take first-hand experience to know when one camera is hyped up to a point that it just doesn’t make sense and isn’t worth it.
If you recall from my article a couple weeks ago about film photography heading towards extinction, I argued that in film photography is in a bit of lose-lose situation at the moment. With nearly all film cameras being used and the majority of which are decades old, the finite supply will continue to dwindle until there’s little to nothing left at some point. Why then write an article pointing people towards different model cameras? First off, someone new to film may care to know which cameras are over-hyped/overpriced so they can stay away from them. Second off, because film is on the up and up and as such, more and more people have been making the move back to it – being pointed in one direction or another could be helpful.
I don’t expect, at all, for everyone to agree with me. Quite the opposite. I expect that anyone with even a fair amount of experience in shooting film to disagree with at least one thing and I whole heartedly hope that you will share those disagreements with me.
This is the list I feel most nervous to put together. I believe in the list that’s been put together but I expect anyone with a camera on this list may well get a little bent out of shape. I would like for it to be noted that I’m not saying the following cameras and not good cameras to have and use. Indeed, I think all of these cameras are plenty nice. I’m just trying to say that I think they have become a bit bloated, over-hyped, and overpriced.
- Contax T2
- Contax 645
- Leica M3
- Mamiya 7(ii)
It should be noted that the Mamiya 7 is a bit of a dream camera of mine. My experience with it, however, is very limited. I almost picked up a Mamiya 6 once and I regret not getting it when I could have. The Mamiya 7 seems next level though. It takes advantage of benefits of a 6x7 camera while not having the size that’s typically associated with a 6x7. They aren’t particularly great for studio work I don’t think but for that I have a Mamiya RB67 anyhow. So why if it’s a dram camera would it be on this list? Because it is exorbitantly expensive. A basic Mamiya 7 kit is easily $2,000 and a 7ii kit could easily reach $3,000. With the limited lens selection and the premium prices for lenses, it is not a camera I see myself ever getting. Alas, life will go on.
I was really tempted to put the Nikon 35Ti and 28Ti on the list along with the Minolta TC-1. Similar to the Mamiya 7, I have quite a crush on the 35Ti but I can’t imagine paying so many hundreds of dollars for a point and shoot 35mm camera. Great glass? Sure. Great metering? Sure. But those things are also available for smaller SLRs and other point and shoot cameras that aren’t surrounded with as much hype. So why did I leave these off but point the Contax T2 on the list? Because at this point it is the most status-symbol camera out there. It is not at all better than the cameras at the beginning of this paragraph (which are already a bit overpriced) and yet costs hundreds more.
Right in the Middle
- Hasselblad 500 C/M
- Nikon F2-F5
- Mamiya RZ67
- Mamiya 645 earlier models
- Pentax 67(ii) and 6x7
- Pentax K1000
This was probably the hardest list to put together and I’m certain that I’m missing many cameras that just didn’t come to mind at the time of writing. There are so many cameras that get the attention they deserve and are priced well to the quality of the craftsmanship. This is not at all a comprehensive list but rather the cameras that seem to get the most attention in my sphere of film photographers.
On another note, if you're familiar with any of the above cameras, you'd know that they range in price from less than $100 to $1,000. As mentioned at the beginning of the article, while price plays a big roll, it isn't everything. Medium format cameras in particular command higher prices because they have a lot more to offer.
- Nikon F100
- Canon Elan 7
- Pentax 645 (both models)
- Mamiya 645 Pro(-TL)
- Mamiya RB67
It was difficult for me to think of cameras that I think are properly underrated but I hope I’ve come up with a decent list. I’ve not yet written a review on the Nikon F100 but I’ve used that camera more than any other 35mm camera for the past year and a half. It is such a great camera – it can be bought for not much money and it takes advantage of an excellent metering system and autofocus. I also like the Canon Elan 7 but I don’t think that the build quality is quite on par with the F100. As for the Pentax and Mamiya 645 cameras, they don’t get much attention because of their format, being the smallest of the medium format line. As such, they aren’t much money and they both have a pretty extensive lens selection that are also available for not much money. And for those that have followed my film camera reviews, you probably know that I think very highly of the Mamiya RB67. It isn’t the fanciest camera of all time as it is pretty bare bones but it is 6x7 format and very affordable – you could actually get a RB67 kit for less than a basic kit of any of the other cameras on this list.
The Best Part
I hope that if you are familiar with film photography and have any thoughts/opinions about my list – be it that you agree or disagree with which list a camera is on if you think another camera should have made the list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments below. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me completely and quite honestly, debate is how I and others that are reading will learn. Please and thank you.