Which Film Cameras I Use

Ever wondered about the film gear I use during my portrait sessions and weddings? Take a look inside my camera bag to discover which cameras I use and why, which film stocks I keep on me, and how I distinguish which camera should be used at any given time. 





A Mix of Film & Digital Photographs

First and foremost, it's important to understand that, like most professional film photographers, I also shoot digital alongside my work - particularly during wedding days. For most weddings, I keep my film camera(s) on me about 80-90% of the day, with more of a focus on the earlier, sun-lit moments such as bride and groom portraits, getting ready, etc. 

For every wedding, I shoot about 18-25 rolls of film - that's about 288-400 images that are shot on film. Luckily with film, my retention rate is very high, meaning that I typically keep and deliver about 75-80% of those images. If my delivered gallery is about 600 images, that means about 50-60% end up being film, while the rest of the digital imagery is edited based off of the film scans.

So what cameras do I keep on me during a wedding day in order to get these numbers? 

Contax 645 Medium Format Film Camera

The film camera that I use the majority of any wedding day or during all portrait sessions is the Contax 645 Medium Format Film camera. This camera is used by many professional film photographers because of its ability to create stunningly soft, while still in-focus images. The lens that I shoot it with, the Carl Zeiss 80mm 2.0 lens, is a huge contributor to these beautiful images with incredible bokeh.

This camera is perfect for portraits, with its ability to get creamy smooth skin tones. The lens' ability to go to a low F/2.0 also gives me more flexibility in shooting in darker situations with a film stock such as Kodak Portra 400. I almost always shoot this camera between F/2.0-F/4.0, while going higher than F/4.0 only for large family portraits and intricate detail shots. 

Depending on the used camera you receive, the autofocus may or may not be in great functioning shape. Personally, my Contax 645 has semi-good autofocus capabilities, but is not nearly as fast as any of the digital camera bodies I shoot with. If you're looking to purchase a medium format film camera, this is a great camera to consider, although a bit expensive compared to many others medium format options. 

medium format film camera Mamiya 645AFD about page

Mamiya 645 AFD Medium Format Film Camera 

This was the very first medium format film camera I ever purchased. As you can see from the image above, although this camera sits at a much more inexpensive price-point, the imagery is still fantastic. I highly recommend considering this camera if you choose to shoot medium format film. 

This camera acts as my main backup medium format camera for wedding days and portrait shoots. Although I do not shoot this camera too often, it does have much better autofocus than my Contax 645 does. The "AFD" in the name of the camera signifies that it has autofocus capabilities. There are options without autofocus, and although they are less expensive, I highly recommend looking at AFD if you shoot anything fast paced, such as a wedding day. 

 Canon EOS-3 35mm Film Camera 

This camera is the primary 35mm camera I keep on me during a wedding day. I rarely shoot 35mm film, but sometimes use this camera for personal travel, or for very fast moments in a wedding day such as the exit down the aisle. A very similar camera option you'll see is the Canon 1V. This camera, while being slightly more expensive, has an autofocus that's a bit quicker than its EOS-3 counterpart. 

A huge benefit of having this camera is that I can still use my Canon EF lenses with this camera. If you already shoot Canon, I recommend considering this lens to give you a cheap start to learning film. 

black and white film image taken with Holga 120 Camera learning Holga

Holga 120N Medium Format Camera 

Find this camera HERE.

If you follow my work, you know that I absolutely adore Holga cameras. If you're considering a very inexpensive way to start shooting film, this is the camera for you. Made of cheap plastic, this camera gives me a quick way to shoot imagery that truly stands out from every other image (as seen in the image above).

There are very few options to control settings, making it easy to understand for a beginner. I often use this camera at night during receptions to get some beautiful, unique film images with a little (very cheap) manual flash. If you're wondering how I shoot on a Holga, check out this How to Shoot Holga Freebie. If you're more of a visual learner, head to my Youtube Video about shooting with this camera. 

Holga Film Camera Shot at Night with Portra 400 and manual flash

* Pro Tip: If you're shooting this camera with a C-41 (color) film, I recommend this film stock.

These are the main cameras I shoot with on a daily basis. I'd love to hear which cameras you shoot with, and any questions you have about my gear. 

Looking to learn all the ins and outs about film? Head here to grab my Complete Beginners Guide to Shooting Film


xo, abi

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