With the exception of novelty models by Lomo and a few others, point-and-shoot 35mm cameras are history. The ranks of 35mm SLRs are getting thinner. A search of new film SLRs at Adorama shows only 16--and just a dozen or so are currently available. NOTE: Prices are approximate and current as of mid-June 2010.
Of the current, thinning crop of film SLRs the least expensive models, such as the Vivitar V3800N, are basic affairs that can cost $200 or less. Unfortunately, since the manufacturers have all but stopped making new models, availability is spotty. What about high-end cameras? The Canon EOS-1V, at approximately $1,700, is the last pro-level 35mm SLR standing, and we honestly don't know how much longer that model will be available as a new camera.
Yes, these are tough times for film traditionalists.
Real used camera bargains
But if you go to the Used camera department, a world of possibilities opens up. Not only do you get the entire range of SLRs from basic to pro-level, but you can get them at really, really low prices. Want to buy a former flagship camera that used to cost over $1,500 for around $150-700, depending on conditon? Look for a used EOS-1 or EOS-1v. A banged-up model in good working order can cost under $200. A banged-up model in good working order can cost under $200. The EOS 3, once considered the cutting edge, will cost under $200. How about an EOS Elan-7, which was one of Canon’s popular enthusiast cameras, in Excellent condition? Grab one now for under $60! Go to Canon AF 35mm Cameras in our Used dept.
Manual focus cameras tend to hold their value better, so you might not get as much as a bargain if you wish to buy a Canon A-1, which will set you back between $70 and $200. The Pentax K1000, which enjoyed a 20 year production run, is holding its own in the mid-$100 range. But offbeat, innovative cameras such as the Olympus OM-1 can be found in reasonable (if not excellent) condition for under $100. (Beware: Yashica-Contax mount lenses are expensive and hard to find.)
On the other hand, Nikon cameras have dropped in price, even among manual-focus models. The once-king of photojournalism cameras, the Nikon F-2, and F-3, can be had for under $300 in most cases. We’ve even seen a lower-end Nikkormat Ftn for $44! Browse the Adorama Used Department's Manual Focus Nikon section for bargains. I wouldn’t recommend the early AF Nikons, such as the N2020 or N4004, although the enthusiast-oriented N8008 is a real bargain at under $100. The F4s, a legend and Nikon's first AF pro body, that once cost over $2,000, is now available for $300-450. The F5, which technologically can give some digital cameras a run for their money, is around $500-600. Want a real bargain? Look at the prosumer F90, which once was $750 but now costs $100 or less. Check the Nikon Autofocus SLR section of our Used dept.
Of course, you’ll need a lens to go with your SLR. If you already own a digital SLR, your lens might work with same-make film camera, but only if your lens is made to cover the full 35mm frame. Newer lenses designed for DSLRs with APS-sized sensors will leave the edges dark because they are designed to project a smaller image. Older used lenses tend to lack coating that reduces contrast and flare, so go for newer lenses if possible, and always be sure to use a lenshood when shooting.