I was looking at film cameras yesterday. While I’m not looking to buy a new one, it’s something that really caught my interest.

Even a year ago there was a small collection of manufacturers of new film cameras. Now, that number has dwindled further.

The golden age of film cameras was in the early 2000’s. This was the point right before digital really had the opportunity to take over the market and predates cell phones that had usable cameras. At the time everyone was making film cameras.

If you limit yourself to 35mm cameras, you have two companies that keep making these cameras: Leica and Nikon.

Leica has three models (all variants of the M-line of cameras) and Nikon has two that they’ve kept around.


In increasing order of complexity:

Leica M-A

This is as basic as a camera can be made at this point. It doesn’t even have a battery. It doesn’t have a meter. It has a shutter button, a knob to select shutter speed, a way to focus. As a bonus, you have a self-timer. It generally has more in common with a mechanical watch than the average camera. You also have the film-handling features like a winding lever and a rewind knob.

Leica MP

A step up gets you the almost the same looking MP. This is the same as the M-A, except it has a battery-powered light meter. Otherwise, the mechanics are the same.

Leica M7

Now we have computers! Well, kind of. There’s not only a light meter, but it can be coupled to the shutter speed. Looky: automatic shutter speed! But if you’re out of battery, it can still use 1/60 and 1/125 shutter speeds in a completely mechanical fashion. If you’re in auto mode everything about the shutter is computer controlled. If you’re in anything else, anything other than 1/60 and 1/125 is computer controlled.

Otherwise, same as before… film handling and self-timer.


Nikon FM10

This is about as advanced as the Leica MP. It has a meter, but it’s uncoupled with the shutter. You’re on your own.

Nikon F6

Finally, a flagship that you’re expecting. This is the last of the great lineage of high-end pro cameras. This is the only auto-everything camera on the list. It has auto focus, auto wind, auto exposure, everything.

It’s amazing that from the everything that was film cameras just a few years ago, this is all that is left.

Of course there are innumerable used cameras out there that still function just fine… but it’s a dying breed.