Best Film Cameras For Wedding Photos
As you may know I am a UK portrait photographer photographing mostly models but also weddings. I offer my services as a film wedding photographer both in the UK and overseas. Here I cover all the film cameras I have used at weddings over the last 10 years and my favourites.
Film cameras for wedding photography
I’ve used lots of different analogue cameras at weddings over the last 10 years or so I give my pros and cons of each mentioned camera together with a few lens tips.
Wedding film photography in 2022
Film photography has made a huge come back over the last few years. I was an early adopter when film started to make a resurgence so was lucky to be able to pick up quite a few film cameras at lower prices than they are today. Leica, Hasselblad and others. The fact that people are still booking me for weddings in 2022 and asking for film photography or a mix of film and digital is the reason I write this post.
If you have only ever shot with digital cameras but like the idea of film you might not know the best film cameras for wedding photography specifically. Lots of sample photos coming up from some of the film cameras i’ve used for wedding photography bookings.
35mm wedding photography
35mm film is what many people think of when it comes to film photography. If you’re new to film 35mm gives you normally 36-38 exposures per roll and the cameras tend to be smaller, faster and often better in low light. This makes them better for fast paced wedding photography and the entry cost can be much lower than for medium format film cameras. Let’s look at a few examples.
Leica wedding photographer UK
If you follow this blog as the name suggests I specialise in Leica cameras. This is particularly true for digital cameras but I use Leica film cameras too. Leica wedding photography is almost a niche in itself as the brand often attracts those looking for photographers with a camera brand they know of or often they appreciate Leica as use the cameras themselves. Off topic for this article but I currently use a Leica SL, Leica M240 and Leica CL digital bodies with various Leica M mount lenses.
My most used Leica film cameras for weddings are the Leica M3 and Leica M4-P. Here are some sample photos and I will cover the pros and cons of each model further down.
Leica M3 weddings
Click any photo to view full res and to see the camera, lens and film information. *Most photos in this post were taken between 2014-2019 so quality will vary.
Leica M4-P wedding
I tend to use a pair of Leica M4-P cameras instead of M3’s if using off camera lighting. See my Godox light posts for more info.
Nikon film camera weddings
Prior to discovering Leica I used to shoot with Nikon cameras. This means I had some of the best Nikkor glass left from using digital cameras like the Nikon D800. Once I discovered film I bought various Nikon film cameras to try out for wedding photography too. SLR cameras are better than rangefinder cameras such as Leica if using long lenses. Some of the photos below are shot with the Nikkor 180mm f2.8 lens so that gives a different look to shorter focal lengths on the Leica bodies. Often 28mm to 50mm.
Best 35mm film camera for weddings
So the big question is what is the best 35mm film camera for wedding photography? I can only answer for the film cameras I have used. In good hands you can probably use any camera and get nice photos. The key I think is first make sure the camera is film tested and then pick a camera that is fast to use. Weddings don’t wait for us photographers so if you’re not quick the moment is gone. Here are a few 35mm film camera I have used together with more info.
The Leica M2 would be my first choice if shooting 28mm or 35mm lenses at a bright available light only wedding. Beautiful camera but less useful when trying to trigger off camera flash as have a cold shoe not hotshoe. My lens of choice for a small setup would be the Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f2.
As a 50mm shooter I love the Leica M3. To me it is once of the best film cameras ever made. Pair the lens with a fast 50mm lens such as the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH and for available light photography this is a very rewarding combination. I used to use a pair of Leica M3 film cameras for weddings.
UK weddings can often be low light affairs so the M2 and M3 are not always the best choices. I bought a pair of Leica M4-P cameras specifically for weddings to use with off camera flash. The M4-P like the Leica M6 have a hotshoe so I can use my standard Godox trigger to fire my strobes such as the Godox AD200. (The Leica M2 and M3 have cold shoes so you can’t use modern flash triggers as easily).
The Leica M6 is perhaps the most popular Leica M film camera. The advantage of the Leica M6 is it has a built in light meter. I am used to copying my exposure settings from the digital cameras to the film cameras so I tend not to need a light meter.
One of my first film cameras was the Nikon FM SLR camera. I think it cost £100 with a 50mm lens. SLR cameras are tough and often great value. Pair them with a nice lens and you now have a cheap wedding film camera. SLR cameras don’t suffer from the rangefinder calibration issues of Leica M cameras and you can sync flash at a much faster shutter speed to help freeze motion.
The Nikon FE2 was an upgrade to my Nikon FM offering more features and a really nice needle dial light meter. I enjoy these older Nikon SLR camera if using small manual focus lenses especially. The Nikon FM2 is also great.
As I started to use autofocus lenses I wanted a film camera that offered me autofocus too. My first choice was the solid Nikon F4 which takes 4 AA batteries. Autofocus at weddings can be useful and some people rely on it. I found I missed some photos because the camera couldn’t hit focus fast enough.
The Nikon F5 was my upgrade to the Nikon F4. A pro level do everything except wash the dishes film camera and with faster autofocus. It takes 8 AA batteries so it quite a unit once you have a lens attached. I enjoyed the Nikon F5 for a few years and it’s still perhaps my best choice when using long telephoto lenses.
A camera that needs no introduction to many! I persuaded myself that the Hasselblad XPan was the ultimate camera for weddings for that cinematic wide look shot. I got the camera and it is amazing but I found the pano crop rarely ideal for wedding photography.
Medium format film wedding photography
When you think you want to upgrade from 35mm film the next stop is medium format film. Inspired by the early Flickr photographers sharing their work I wanted to offer medium format film wedding photography to my clients.
Hasselblad wedding photography UK
I’ve used Hasselblad cameras the most for medium format film weddings so here are a few samples. Photos are shot with either Hasselblad 500CM (2 of) or a newer Hasselblad 501C. I have to thank Victor who introduced me to Hasselblad by paying for his wedding in cameras and lenses! He gave me the 501C as part of the wedding arrangement. In terms of lenses I built up quite a collection to use; 50mm, 60mm, 80mm, 100mm, 120mm, 150mm, 180mm. Each have there role.
Best medium format film camera for weddings?
So if you want to dive into the world of medium format what is the best medium format film camera for wedding photography? The most common answer is probably the famous Contax 645 film camera. That was my first choice and purchase after seeing the amazing results achieved by others.
The best feature of the Contax 645 film camera is perhaps it’s Zeiss Planar 80mm f2 kit lens. Sharp enough wide open this combination offers dreamy looking wedding photos. It seems to be the film camera of choice for wedding photographers in the California region in particular. Great light coupled with a capable camera / photographer results in some of the best film wedding photography photos on the internet in my opinion. Sadly my Contax developed an electrical fault so once it was repaired I sold it.
A cheaper option for those not willing to pay the high price tag of the Contax 645 is the Mamiya 645 camera. There are multiple versions but the Mamiya 645 Super is manual focus whereas the Contax is autofocus. The fastest lens for the Mamiya 645 cameras is the Mamiya Sekor 80mm f1.9 lens. Example photo below.
If you are looking for autofocus and a 645 format film camera there is also the Hasselblad H series cameras. I used to use the Hasselblad H3D-31 and now I use the Hasselblad H2. The kit lens is the HC 80mm f2.8 so one stop slower than the above mentioned cameras. That said it is a beautiful camera and it is one I still use in 2022 for weddings over others listed here.
The GA645 point and shoot film camera is not ideal for weddings. It is loud so trying to take a stealthy photo at the church is impossible. The lens is excellent but the autofocus is too slow for weddings. I only used it at one wedding.
The Fuji GS645 is a manual focus quieter version of the GA645 (similar). Being a folding camera I thought the small size would be good to carry at weddings but the photos lacked the wow factor. Being a rangefinder camera you can’t get close enough to the action to create a shallow depth of field so photos looks more ordinary. Again a great Fujinon lens but not my choice for weddings if you like bokeh shots.
The Mamiya 6 is 6×6 film format rather than 645 for those mentioned above. Being a full manual rangefinder camera and with a leaf shutter lens it is one of the fastest medium format film cameras I have to use. Not great for bokeh shots using the kit lens but great with off camera flash. 3 lenses available – 50mm, 75mm, 150mm.
If you like square film format the Hasselblad V series cameras are a popular choice. I have multiple bodies and backs so I have backups for wedding days. Personally I prefer the Hasselblad if using available light for group shots as I can set the camera up on a tripod. For faster action shots I find the Mamiya 6 better as I can focus quicker. Hasselblad lenses can be big an heavy so a full kit is not a small setup. Being a modular camera I preload film backs ahead of the group photos so I can swap out without delaying the day. One advantage over the Mamiya 6 camera.
Trying to be the best film wedding photographer I could be I bought the Fuji GF670 camera. Extremely sharp lens. I only used it for a few weddings as I decided it was too fragile for such work. Being a bellows camera it is weaker than say the Mamiya 6. The Fuji GF670 is the quietest film camera i’ve used and it offers you both 6×6 and 6×7 film with the flick of a switch.
If you want a gym workout at the same time as photographing a wedding you might love the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II camera. No doubt one of the nicest cameras to use with the big bright viewfinder and fantastic for close up portraits using the bellows focusing. Better than the Hasselblad for firing off camera flash and gives the same benefit of interchangeable film backs. As the name suggests the RXZ67 is a 6×7 format film camera but I use mine with 6×6 film backs too. I shot some weddings using a Fuji Polaroid style back but that is before the Fuji FP peel apart films were discontinued.
If you like the 6×7 film format for maximum negative size and detail captured the Mamiya 7 might be for you. More rugged than the Fuji GF670 and with interchangeable lenses, the rangefinder camera is fast to use. I used mine for two weddings I think but I can’t seem to find any example images to share. (I will add one later when I find one). My preference is 6×6 film format so went back to square format cameras.
Large format film wedding photography
If your feeling really confident as a film wedding photographer you could offer large format wedding photography. I have three 4×5 film cameras, Pacemaker Speedgraphic with Aero Ektar lens, Sinar F2 and an Intripid. I’ve almost used them at weddings a few times but something always crops up and I don’t take it. They would suit a slow paced wedding for a few key shots during down time or to be used by a second shooter so not to miss all the key photos.
My plan was to use mine with a Fuji Polaroid film back and Fuji FP-3000B black and white film. I bought 20 boxes of the Fuji film from Japan when it was discontinued but then life past by and the one wedding that really wanted this option was postponed for two years due to Covid.
Best film camera for wedding photography
So in summary what is the best film camera for wedding photography in 2022 and what do I use? Of my mentioned cameras (I know there are many great cameras not listed, especially 35mm), I use different cameras depending on the situation. I’ve stopped using Nikon film cameras as I find Leica rangefinder cameras faster to use. My preference is the Leica M2 and Leica M3 if a sunny outdoor wedding. I use the Leica M4-P if less light or indoor and I’m using off camera flash. I don’t always use 35mm film cameras for weddings (sometimes it’s medium format film only) but they do suit fasted paced wedding days. Best lens is the mentioned Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH.
With all that said, on a bright day i’m very keen to use Leica R lenses on perhaps my Leica R6 SLR film camera. In particular I want to make use of the fantastic Leica Vario-Elmar-R 35-70mm f4 as it one of my best performers.
For medium format I use Hasselblad 500 series cameras if a bright day and the Mamiya 6 if I want to shot 6×6 with strobes. The Hasselblad H2 is faster to use than the Hasselblad 500 cameras with my eyesight so I normally have that with me for non-group photos.
Best film for wedding photography
If you ask wedding photographers what is the best film for wedding photography the two most popular answers are probably Kodak Portra 400 and Fuji Pro 400H. Fuji gives richer greens and blue tones so would be my choice in that setting. Both can be over exposed a lot and you still get great images. Fuji actually looks better slightly over exposed and is the popular look I mentioned in California.
For black and white film weddings I use Ilford XP2 Super. Why? It is a C-41 B&W film and I lab develop my film for wedding clients to be safe. C41 films are cheaper to lab process and XP2 Super 400 gives very fine detail and is great for scanning. Ilford Delta 3200 can be amazing for very low light and I like the fine grain of Kodak T-Max films too.
Black and white film wedding photography
Black and white wedding photography is my preference as I shoot B&W for most of my personal work. I offer the incentive of a 20% discount if couples opt to have all the digital photos in B&W. I think for 35mm film especially B&W film looks better as the grain adds to the image for me. On a grey day such as in the UK black and white definitely wins. If you have sun and a nice blue sky there is a strong argument to shoot some colour film too.
Bridal photography on film
As I work with a lot of models, sometimes it is nice to do a bridal themed shoot to show what could be possible on a wedding day. Without the time pressures of a wedding day and working with someone that enjoys having photos, it can be very rewarding.
Wedding photography and film packages
I offer three price options for digital Leica wedding photography. For film photography I offer it as an extra at close to cost price to benefit the wedding couples. See all my wedding photography prices here.
Camera lens tips for different wedding photos
Group photos on wedding day
When taking family group shots at weddings a normal length lens often works well. 35mm – 50mm for example if you have space to fit everyone it. Anything wider than 35mm can distort the people standing at the edges and longer lenses give a limited depth of field so it’s easy to mis-focus the eyes. The deeper the group of people the more you need to stop the lens down to ensure eyes are sharp from front to back. Medium format cameras have a more shallow DOF verses 35mm cameras so even at f8 you might have soft focus on the eyes of some guests if they are too far from the plane of focus.
Wedding veil shots
For me a wedding veil helps to improves the look of the wedding photos as it is nice for posing and can look very elegant. Fast lenses can help create a nice shallow depth of field for head shot portraits and hiding part of the face can often look very attractive I think.
The wedding dress
Having a bride that selects a wedding dress that works with her figure really helps when it comes to nice wedding photos. After helping style female models for over 10 years I probably notice this more than most. You can use a macro lens for detail shots or most lenses to capture the dress as a whole.
Beautiful wedding venues
Don’t under estimate the impact of a nice wedding venue on your final wedding photos. A stunning location can transform the photos for the better if used creatively. I enjoy using wider lenses to capture more of the backdrop in these situations. If it’s a non-photogenic wedding location perhaps crop in closer to focus more on the bride and groom and or shoot up to omit unsightly distractions.
Amazing wedding cakes
It’s always nice to carry a macro lens or a lens that focuses closer to capture wedding cake pictures and especially the finer details.
Brides bouquet and wedding flowers
Wedding flowers always make for beautiful wedding photos. Wedding bouquets can be used for posed shots and don’t forget the grooms button hole too. Again a macro lens can be useful as seen here for close ups and fast aperture lenses for shallow DOF dreamy looking photos.
Full body wedding photos
Longer lenses often give a more flattering look for full body shots. Telephoto lenses help compress the background and give minimal distortion. You can get dramatic shots with wide lenses too so it can be personal preference.
That’s my 2p worth. I hope you found it useful!
Digital Leica Wedding Photography
Best Medium Format Film Camera? (645 Format)
Large Format Cameras
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