Point & Shoot Film Cameras: What They Are, Tips, and What to Buy

Point and shoot film cameras are a wonderful tool and a staple for households across the world. These cameras offer many features that allow any person to snap a picture with no photography experience necessary.  

Point and shoot film cameras are designed to be compact cameras that are quick and easy to use. These cameras are a more likely household staple than other types of film cameras. The biggest differences for a point and shoot film camera are that they are usually more compact with fewer controls than other cameras and the flash and lens are built into them.

After reading this post, you will know all about point and shoot film cameras. You will know the history of point and shoot camera, what they are, and how to use it. Additionally, this post will cover tips and tricks for using point and shoot camera along with some of the best options available for point and shoot film cameras.

What Is A Point and Shoot Film Camera?

An Olympus XA2 point and shoot 35mm film camera.
An Olympus XA2 point and shoot 35mm film camera.

A point and shoot film camera is a type of compact camera. Point and shoot cameras are known for how easy they are to use. This ease of use it what propelled them to one of the most likable camera options. 

Point and shoot cameras made photography more accessible to the average household. They were less expensive models and did not require a lot of background knowledge on photography.

The history and meaning behind point and shoot cameras:

The name point and shoot cameras came about because camera manufacturers wanted to make cameras for anyone to use (and therefore for anyone to buy). George Eastman, the founder of Kodak, coined the term “point and shoot” because he wanted everyone to know how easy it is to use his cameras because he thought everyone could point it at something and push the button to take an image. His “brownie” box camera (the color was, you guessed it, brown) cost all of $1 in 1900. The camera was loaded up with film and once you took around 100 images it was sent back for processing and your camera was returned with your images (it was also the first disposable camera). The brownie camera was so successful his company had to produce 400 miles of photographic paper and film every month to keep up with the demand.

(Source: Historynet.com)

Highlighted features of a point and shoot film camera:

Point and shoot cameras have some amazing qualities that lend to their ease of use. These features can vary depending on your camera manufacturer, but the following list emphasizes the main ones:

Common brands that manufactured point and shoot film cameras:

  • Yashica
  • Fujifilm
  • Olympus
  • Minolta
  • Canon
  • Halina
  • Leica
  • Pentax
  • Kodak
  • Nikon
  • Contax

The 35mm Point and Shoot Film Camera

The 35mm format film was the most common option among film cameras because the 35mm film size is a great compromise between size and image quality. For a list of places to get your film developed see this guide. These cameras came with some upgraded features that made film easier for the amateur photographer. 

New features that made loading and unloading film easier:

  • Automatic loading – Loads film automatically; less difficult than manual film cameras
  • Automatic advancing – Automatically advances film after an image is taken; no needs to actuate film forward
  • Automatic rewind – Once the end of the film roll is reached, the camera automatically rewinds the film

(Source: Point and Shoot)

The Anatomy of a Point and Shoot Camera

A Contax G1 35mm film camera.
A Contax G1 35mm film camera.

A point and shoot camera has ten important parts. If you are familiar with other film cameras, a point and shoot film camera is not much different. Many point and shoot film cameras stand apart from other cameras because they offer autofocus and autorewind capabilities. 

Parts of a point and shoot film camera:

  1. Viewfinder
  2. Sprocket wheel and take-up spool
  3. Film pressure plate
  4. Battery compartment
  5. Shutter release
  6. Lens
  7. Flash (varies by model)
  8. Exposure counter
  9. Rewind button
  10. Flash on/off switch (varies by model)

(Source: Camera Parts)

How Do Point and Shoot Film Cameras Work?

A point and shoot film camera works similarly to a regular film camera. However, there are a few things that are different for a point and shoot film camera.

Features that are common for point and shoot film cameras:

The two unique features to point and shoot cameras are their fixed lenses and preset apertures. These are different from a regular film camera, which allows you more control over both the focal length and aperture. 

Some simple details on how a point and shoot film camera works:

  1. Light enters the viewfinder.
  2. Through the viewfinder you get a sense of what your final image will be.
  3. Some lenses allow you to zoom in and out on your subject.
  4. When you depress the shutter release, the shutter opens allowing the light passing through the lens to hit the film.
  5. The film is then advanced and you’re ready for your next shot. 

(Source: How a Camera Works)

What Is the Point of a Point and Shoot Film Camera?

The reason for a point and shoot film camera is to take all of the guess work out of the person using the camera and let the camera make the exposure decisions. The point of a point and shoot camera is to make photography easy and more accessible. 

Many point and shoot film cameras have a light meter that allows you to know if your image will be exposed correctly. That’s about all you have to pay attention to as the photographer. 

Why Point and Shoot Film Cameras Over Rangefinder or SLR Cameras?

You should choose a point and shoot film camera over rangefinder or single-lens reflex cameras because point and shoot cameras capture shots fast and easily. With these cameras, you don’t have to think about aperature or shutter speed settings.

Reasons to buy a point and shoot film camera:

  • Relatively inexpensive – You’re looking for a moderately priced option compared to higher priced digital cameras
  • Compact and portable – Small enough to toss in your bag or jacket pocket and easy to bring everywhere
  • Quick and easy – No need to fuddle with knobs or settings, just snap your photo
  • Capture great candid photos – Small design and quiet shutter allow for candid takes

Advantages of a Point and Shoot Camera:

  • Easy to use – Takes images quickly with no guessing involved
  • Quiet – No loud shutter
  • Easy to travel with – No clunky camera bag needed

Point and shoot film cameras are an all-around better choice for someone looking for a quick photo. These cameras are all about capturing moments. They require no knowledge of photography or knowing the terminology in order to get started. Just point at something and press the shutter button.

You may not be totally convinced by the point and shoot film camera’s capabilities. Below is a table to compare the pros and cons of point and shoot, SLR and rangefinder cameras. 

Comparison of Point and Shoot, SLR, and Rangefinder film cameras:

Point and Shoot Camera:
SLR Cameras:
Rangefinder Cameras:
Pros
– Viewfinder built-in
– Most are inexpensive with used options available
– Modern design
– Great for street photography
– Compact design
– Easily portable
– Automatically chooses settings
– Many options for complete control over image
– Parts for repairs are easy to find
– High quality images
– Manual controls
– Interchangeable lenses
– Built to last
– Retro look
– Built with choice materials
– Quality images
Cons
– Some are ugly
– No interchangeable lenses
– Little or no manual controls
– Small design makes camera hard to grip
– Can be difficult to focus
– Older designs are bulky
– Break easily and hard to repair
– Can be expensive
– Large size; not compact
– Loud shutter
– Expensive
– Large size; not compact
– Hard to find used options

Related Article: Rangefinder vs SLR Cameras: Main Differences Explained.

Where to Buy a Point and Shoot Film Camera

There are many places to buy a point and shoot film camera. You can buy them new or used. If buying used make sure to test the camera before. Or, if the seller has tested it and verified it works that’s also helpful.

Best places to look for a point and shoot film camera:

Some sellers are more reputable than others. Always check the reviews before making an investment to spend your money wisely.

How to Use A Point and Shoot Film Camera

Using a point and shoot film camera, like the Contax G2, is a relatively easy task. In this section, you will learn all there is to know about using and taking care of your point and shoot film camera.

How to Shoot with A Point and Shoot Film Camera

Taking pictures with your point and shoot camera can be very easy. However, there are a few considerations to make before you are ready to snap away. 

Steps to shoot with a point and shoot film camera:

  1. After your film is loaded, set your iso manually, if needed. The iso can usually be found on the outside of the roll of film.
  2. After setting or checking your iso, turn on or off the flash.
  3. Once you have decided what light conditions you need, now you are ready to shoot.
  4. Now point and shoot!

Tips for shooting with your point and shoot film camera:

  • Steady hands – Shakiness can lower quality
  • Wait for the advance – Don’t move until you hear the film advance
  • Use a tripod – Keeps the camera steady and you don’t have to worry about moving it
  • Watch your fingers – Make sure your fingers don’t block the lens
  • Avoid the flash – Can easily cause overexposure if used improperly

If you are unsure of when to use your camera’s flash there are only a few situations when you would want to turn it on. When you are using the flash, you have a higher risk of overexposing the film. 

When to use your camera’s flash:

  • Low light
  • Indoors
  • Night

How to Put Film in a Point and Shoot Camera

Loading film into a point and shoot camera is relatively simple compared to the regular film cameras. Many (if not all) point and shoot cameras have an autoload feature. Autoload allows the user the thread the film on to the spool and the camera does the rest of the work. 

Many point and shoot film cameras use 35mm film and the steps for loading 35mm film are the same for any other types of film. 

Steps to loading your film:

  1. Load film roll, upright, usually the spooler that sticks out goes at the bottom. 
  2. Line up the leader film with the notches or indications on the inside of the camera or film door. 
  3. Close the film door.
  4. Listen for the autoload to uptake the film. And that’s it!

If you run into problems while loading film, there are some troubleshooting measures you can take. First, make sure the film is loaded properly and if not determine what is causing the problem.  

Make sure film is loaded properly by:

  • Listen for the spool
  • Look at the exposure counter

Common problems with loading film:

  • Exposure counter doesn’t change
  • Exposure counter reads empty
  • Film is not spooled
  • Not using the right type of film

Tips for fixing any film loading issues:

  • Pull out more film – Go past the feeder line and close the door
  • Use less film – Reel in some film and close the door
  • Try another roll of film
  • Load a new battery and check for corrosion

If none of those solutions fix your film loading issue, it’s time to take your camera to a repair shop. Often with point and shoot film cameras that are well used, the autoload feature can breakdown and lose functionality. 

(Source: YouTube)

How to Tell If Film Roll Is Finished

On every point and shoot film camera there is an exposure counter. This tracks how many exposures you have taken with the roll of film in your camera. In other words, the exposure counter counts how many times you have hit the shutter release.

A roll of film usually comes with a certain number of exposures. If you know that number you can tell just by looking at the counter when you run out of film. 

Some point and shoot cameras will notify you when you have reached the end of a roll of film. This happens through an LCD turning to “E” for empty or a counter going to zero.

Related article: How to tell if there is film in your camera and what to do about it?

How to Focus Your Point and Shoot Film Camera

Focusing your point and shoot film camera is essential to getting crisp shots you love.

Step to focus your point and shoot film camera:

  1. Get your shot in the viewfinder
  2. Depress the capture button halfway
  3. The camera will adjust the focus for you and indicate when it’s ready to shoot.
  4. Fully depress the exposure capture button and listen for the click of the shutter.

If you are having trouble with autofocusing, it may be because of:

  • Poor technique – Try changing how you hold the camera or frame the shot
  • A bad sensor – Wipe down the front of your camera with a damp microfiber cloth
  • A tricky subject – Moving objects or people can be hard to focus on
  • Multiple modes – Try selecting a different focus mode if your camera is equipped

(Source: Autofocus)

How To Clean Point And Shoot Film Cameras

Keeping your point and shoot film camera clean allows you to avoid your film getting scratched or dark spots from dust and sand.

Steps to clean a point and shoot film camera:

  1. Open the film door
  2. Use a blower to remove dust from the chamber
  3. Use a brush to remove larger particles

Be careful around the lens, use tools specifically for cameras to avoid accidental damage while cleaning. 

How To Clean the Lenses on Point And Shoot Film Cameras 

Keeping your point and shoot film camera lens clean only involves a few simple steps. The way you clean your lens is similar to the inner parts of the camera.

Options to easily clean your lens:

  • Use a blower to remove dust
  • Use a brush to remove other fine particles
  • Use a lens or microfiber cloth to gently wipe the lens

How To Test Point And Shoot Film Cameras

There are a few ways to test that your point and shoot film camera is in fact working. This is a critical step to ensure you do not waste any film. Film can be pretty expensive, and it is always disappointing getting blank negatives after processing. 

Steps to test your point and shoot film camera:

  1. Check the battery and insert a new one, if necessary.
  2. Focus the lens and then while still pressing the exposure capture button turn the camera to face you. 
  3. Look at the lens center and depress the capture button fully. 
  4. You should see the shutter open and close.

Another way to check your point and shoot film camera is working:

  1. After you added batteries, turn on the camera.
  2. Open the film door.
  3. Focus the lens and then look into the shutter, which is in the center of the apparatus.
  4. While holding your gaze on the shutter, depress the capture button fully. 
  5. You should see the shutter open and close quickly.
  6. You may want to repeat steps 3 through 5 few times to be absolutely sure!

Some cameras do not allow you to fully depress the capture button when the film door is open. 

A potential work around to this problem is to:

  • Focus on an object by depressing the capture button halfway
  • Open the film door while still halfway depressed
  • Then fully depress the button
  • Watch that the lens’ shutter opens and closes

(Source: YouTube)

What to do if the lens’s shutter is not working?

  • Look into getting it repaired
  • Resell for cheap with the caveat that it’s broken
  • Buy a new one – They are some fairly inexpensive options out there

Other Tips for Point and Shoot Film Cameras

Your point and shoot film camera has a number of capabilities. Review the point and shoot’s manual for a full understanding of all the parts.

Features to explore with your point and shoot film camera:

  • Flash
  • Swiss lens
  • Manual controls
  • Zoom
  • Manual iso
  • Aperture priority
  • Double exposure
  • Date stamp
  • Lens adapters
  • Automatic controls

Not all point and shoot film cameras are created equal. If you are interested in a specific feature, make sure you do enough research to know your camera choice’s full capacities. 

Simple tips to remember while shooting with your point and shoot film camera:

  • When using flash, take one photo with the flash and one without
  • Take batteries out when not using frequently
  • Use a wrist or neck strap to avoid dropping your camera
  • Read through the manual to know everything there is to know

Pro Tip: Hacking Your DX Reader

Some point and shoot film cameras use DX film. This film has a code on the outside that the camera can sense and adjust for. The DX code tells the camera what iso to shoot at. 

You know your camera reads DX codes if it has contacts where you load the film cassette. These are indents in a vertical line on the camera apparatus where the roll of film should be placed.

Hacking your DX code allows you to shoot at your desired ISO. Some cameras are fixed iso, but you can circumvent this if you have a DX reader. You can change the code on the film to reflect the iso you want to shoot at. 

How to hack your DX code:

  • Scratch off part of the DX code, revealing more silver
  • Add permanent marker over the silver areas, creating more black

There are charts all over the web so you can easily change the DX code. One note, if your camera does not read DX codes you will not be able to use this hack.

What Point and Shoot Film Camera Should I Buy?

There are a lot of point and shoot cameras out there. In order to help you better understand which purchase will be most beneficial to you, below is a list of popular point and shoot cameras at various price points. Keep in mind most of these products are used or refurbished because they are no longer manufactured, this may impact overall quality. 

One thing to note about point and shoot film cameras is that most of the cameras on the market are used. This is because photographic film is not used as much as before and point and shoot film cameras were not known for creating high-quality artistic images. 

Additionally, point and shoot cameras were eventually overshadowed by the advent and improvement of the cell phone camera. So many companies stopped producing them.  

Recommendations for point and shoot film cameras:

Budget Buys

  • Ansco Tegra 35mm Point and Shoot Film Camera: Auto focus, Date and time imprint, Automatic flash, load, advance and rewind, DX film sensors

Mid-Range Options

  • Olympus XA2: Rangerfinder style 35mm camera in a one of the smallest ever produced, sharp lens, has a light meter, small flash, manual focus

High End Purchases

  • Olympus Stylus 120 35mm Camera: Zoom lens, Automatic load, advance and rewind, Splash resistant, LCD exposure counter, On/off switch for flash, Autofocus, Shake warning, Date and time imprint, Self-timer
  • Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom Point and Shoot Camera: 2X zoom lens, Automatic load, advance and rewind ,Splash resistant, LCD exposure counter, On/off switch for flash, Autofocus, Shake warning, Date and time imprint, Self timer, Durable, Battery compartment can be difficult to open, Ability for long distance shots
  • Contax G2: See this article for more about the features of the Contax G2 camera and why you would want to purchase one

The Best Point and Shoot Film Cameras by Feature

The best of the best cameras has been compiled below to give you the inside information on which point and shoot film camera will be the best option to meet your needs.

Cameras
Camera Features
Best flash: Halina Ansco Pix Flash 35mm Film Camera
Battery-powered, Basic, compact design, Built-in flash, Good quality images
Best for portraits: HOLGA 120 GCFN Film Camera
Bulky, but retro design, Battery powered, Four built-in color filters, Multiple exposure options allow for the ability to shoot color or black and white, Viewfinder and lens are in different places, Batteries only needed for flash
Best for travel: Halina Tegra 35mm Film Camera
Panoramic photos make this perfect for capturing sweeping landscapes while traveling, Must load film manually, Autofocus High quality images, Self timer, Flash, Loud shutter
Best for beginners: Pentax IQ Zoom Film Camera
Easy and fast automatic focus, Multiple viewfinder frames, Lightweight and durable, Flash, DX code reader, Weather resistant body, Quality images, Not good for portraits
Best zoom: Olympus Infinity Zoom 80 Film Camera
Flash1X zoom, Plastic, compact body, many great automatic features, DX reader, Self-timer, Date and time stamp, Fast focus
Best overall: Canon Sure Shot 35mm Film Camera 
High-quality images, Autofocus, Flash, Self-timer, Plastic body, Loud shutter
Most Expensive: Contax G2
See this article for information about the Contax G2 camera.

(Source: Best Cameras)

Buying a few different point and shoot film cameras is always fun because the best part about film photography is that each photo can be an experiment.

In Summary

Point and shoot film cameras are a great investment and really fun to use. These cameras are a decent option if you want to take focused shots fast. The best part of a point and shoot film camera is that they are so easy to use compared to other film cameras.

Point and shoot film cameras are easy to use and easy to take care of. These are a great option if you are feeling nostalgic and want to dip your toes into film photography but are not ready to dive in completely.

Lee

My name is Lee and I love photography and learning. I received a Master of Fine Arts in Photography in 2010 and have worked as a university professor for the last 10 years in addition to being a working photographer. I started this website to learn more about digital and film-based photography and to provide a resource for all of my students.

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