Looking to buy a film camera? Discover our list of the best point and shoot film cameras for travel.
There’s something special about the 35mm film camera that you take with you everywhere, on every trip.
Chase Jarvis wrote that the best camera is the one you have with you. He was talking about iPhones, and yes, they’re ubiquitous, but they can’t compete with a great 35mm camera.
Most of the 35mm film cameras on this list will fit snugly in your pocket, look and feel fantastic in the hand, don’t need the latest version of iTunes to operate and are an exercise in patience whilst waiting for your film to get developed. Without a doubt more fun than an iPhone.
There are a myriad of options to choose from, so to narrow our list down, these 35mm travel cameras had to weigh less than 310g, have a built-in flash, fast autofocus and be able to handle a little beating in the jacket pocket when you’re off on an adventure.
Are 35mm cameras good for travel?
35mm film cameras are great options for travel as they allow you to stay in the moment, capturing the memory without necessarily needing to perfect your image. The lack of time to review makes for a great creative boundary and allows for a wonderful feeling of satisfaction once you get that roll developed and live through your adventures through a fresh perspective that’s uniquely your own.
35mm cameras are often compact, lightweight, relatively simple to operate and comparatively inexpensive making for an ideal choice when travelling. Who wants to be weighed down by something bulky, heavy, costly and difficult to manage when there are adventures to be had!
There are a bunch of options to choose from, so to narrow our list down, these 35mm travel cameras had to weigh less than 310g, have a built-in flash, have fast autofocus and be able to handle a little beating in the jacket pocket when you’re off on an adventure.
The best 35mm film cameras for travel
YASHICA T4/T45 (AKA KYOCERA SLIM T)
Carl Zeiss 35mm f3.5
Small, lightweight, speedy and with a sharp lens from lord Zeiss. The Yashica T4/T45 is a weatherproof point and shoot camera that will last the distance. Look out for the models with the waist level viewfinder – although small, it’s quite usable and makes for great stealth street shooting and working those angles. Most often found in a stealthy black, I’m still hunting for the extra stealthy safari green model to add to the collection.
A major downside for many is that the mode button is tiny and resets every time you turn the camera off, meaning it always opens to auto flash. Despite this, the T4 still holds a very dear place in many hearts as a speedy firing, crispy clean, memory making machine.
OLYMPUS µ[mju:]-II (AKA STYLUS EPIC)
Carl Zeiss 35mm f3.5
A mass-produced camera from 1997, there were apparently once close to four million Olympus MJU II models floating around the globe. That being said, they’ve risen to a cult-like fame and you don’t come across them as often as you used to.
This 35mm film camera is said to be slightly slower than the Yashica T4, but it’s by no means slow. It has a clever and easy sliding cover for the retractable lens, which acts as the power button. I recommend using a film with an ISO of 400 or more to get the best out of the Stylus Epic as it seems sharpest when stopped down.
Carl Zeiss 35mm f2.8
The Contax T2/T3 is a 35mm film camera lauded by many of the world’s greatest point and shoot photographers. The Zeiss lens is as sharp as you would expect – it’s light and feels superb in your hand. Aperture priority, exposure compensation and focus lock confirmation make it more user-controllable than other cameras.
Contax makes beautiful cameras, there’s no question about that, but are they worth the ever-increasing price? They’re worth what you want to pay for them. You’re going to pay a little more because it has Contax written on it and they are adored by many. Buy it if you can afford it and look after it!
Nikkor 35mm f2.8
Ken Rockwell describes this as a “rich person’s holiday camera”, which makes sense as it cost about $1,000 USD when it came out in 1993. It is very much a sophisticated little beauty, though. The “ti” stands for titanium, which envelopes this beautiful camera, so it’s certainly tough. One of the sharpest lenses in this lineup, it produces amazing quality images for its size. There is nowhere to put a shoulder strap on this Nikon, so if that’s a clincher for you, you might want to look elsewhere.
The Nikon L35AF is the cheapest camera on this list and a great entry level 35mm film camera for a beginner. This brick can handle a beating, it has a super bright pop-up flash and a five-element lens, which is sharper than a lot of Nikon’s new digital lenses. It has a proper lens filter thread unlike any of the other, more expensive cameras on this list, so you can shoot proper black and white, use polarisers and protect your lens from the adventure dirt with a UV filter. It might not have the finesse of the Contax, the speed of the Yashica T4 or the cult cool status of the Stylus Epic, but it certainly holds its own for the price.
OLYMPUS TRIP 35
Another of the classic looking 35mm cameras, the Olympus Trip 35 is well built, easily pocketable and has a sharp lens. It’s also very easy to use with zone focusing that can be adjusted easily from the top of the lens ring. These cameras do commonly suffer from an aperture assembly problem, but the fix is often dead simple. The Olympus Trip 35 also boasts green energy points as it’s loaded with a solar-powered selenium cell metre. Olympus made over a million of these 35mm travel cameras, so they’re still quite affordable and not hard to find.
What should I look for in a travel camera?
When on the move it’s always best to take a camera that fits with your travel style and with your end use of your photos in mind; if you like to pack light and carry very little then you may benefit from something compact with a long battery life, especially if you’re capturing snapshots simply to make memories or show family the places you’ve been. However those who don’t mind bulky bags and need the best quality and functionality will probably opt for heftier, reliable and more precise cameras which perform well in a variety of situations.
Regardless of brand or make it’s largely agreed that the best travel camera is the one you have with you. If you choose something that you won’t likely end up slinging over your shoulder, you’re probably not going to take as many photos as you might want to. Nothing worse than seeing the perfect shot play out right before your eyes, only to realise you haven’t got a camera on you!
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