Five Best Digital Cameras for People Who Love Film Cameras

Five Best Digital Cameras for People Who Love Film Cameras

1512 1008 James Tocchio

We love film cameras for many reasons; notably their historical significance, their ability to make world-class images, and their low cost compared to their digital counterparts. But I think most of the writers here appreciate and maybe even prefer film cameras for one very specific reason – they feel incredible. Film cameras are creations from a time when physical mechanisms drove the world, and it’s rare to find such haptic joy in the modern era in which consumer goods are often thought of as disposable, or at least inevitably replaceable.

All of that said, there’s no denying that we also love certain digital cameras. While many digital cameras seem bland and, as stated, disposable, there does exist a handful of really phenomenal digital cameras that not only make amazing images, but also feel like the classic mechanical cameras that we love so dearly. It’s also hard to argue against the speed and efficiency of the digital workflow (there’s a reason all of the product shots here and in my camera shop are made with digital machines, after all).

The writers and I decided to sit down and brainstorm which five digital cameras currently selling today are best for those of us who love film cameras. Here they are.

Fujifilm X100 Series

When the original Fujifilm X100 debuted at Photokina in late 2010, it made a massive splash. In an early 2011 writeup, DPReview described the X100 as “…a firm favorite in the dpreview offices.” Adding that “Its drop-dead gorgeous looks and excellent build make it a camera that begs you to pick it up and take it out with you,” and later describing the image quality of its 12.3 MP APS-C sized CMOS sensor as “…nothing short of superb.”

The original X100 and subsequent models in the series are such great cameras for people who love film because they’re all characterized by some very “film camera-like” features. They all look and handle like the classic compact or rangefinder cameras that film-shooting street photographers lust over (think Canon’s Canonet or even Leica’s M series). They feature a traditional optical viewfinder (with a decidedly trick hybrid electronic viewfinder system), they have classic physical controls for shutter speed, aperture, and more, just like film cameras of the past, and they all feature a number of “Film Simulation” modes which reproduce the look of classic Fujifilm emulsions.

Since the release of the original X100 (actually called the FinePix X100 – all later cameras dropped the FinePix nomenclature) Fuji has released three additional X100 models. The X100S refined the user interface and ergonomics while replacing the original X100’s excellent 12.3 MP CMOS sensor with a 16.3 MP Fuji X-Trans CMOS II. The third model, the X100T, retain the sensor, lens, and core functionality of the previous model, but improve on the X100S in incremental ways. Most interesting to film lovers might be the addition of the “Classic Chrome” film simulation.

The fifth and latest X100 is the X100V. This camera is naturally the most advanced X100 yet, packing a 26.1 MP sensor into the traditionally compact X100 series body, as well as introducing a veritable cornucopia of new improvements. Some of the standout features include Fuji’s advanced image processor, built-in ISO dial (a friendly addition for us film camera fans), a more potent battery, an improved  425-point autofocus system, and numerous film simulation modes.

The X100V has been the recipient of numerous awards in the photography press, and has successfully convinced the world that the X100 is a true professional photographer’s camera.

Which X100 camera should you buy? Well, the thing about the Fuji X100 series is that every single model in the series is fantastic. My advice is to first decide on your budget and then buy the newest X100 you can afford. Even if that ends up being the original X100 with the 12.3 MP sensor, you’ll be getting an incredible machine that will make phenomenal images. Anything more than that is just a bonus.

At around $1,300 the X100V is one of the more expensive cameras on the list. But for those of us looking to save money, the original X100 and some of the older models can be bought on eBay for a fairly low price.

Buy the New Fuji X100V from B&H Photo here

Buy a Fuji X100 on eBay here


The Ricoh GRIII is an obvious choice for any film shooter whose preferred film camera is a compact point-and-shoot. It’s a strong digital stand-in for the premium point-and-shoots from Contax, or the ever-popular compact cameras from Olympus and Yashica. And of course the Ricoh GRIII is the perfect digital camera for anyone who lives and dies by the earlier Ricoh GR1 film cameras.

We’ve written about the reasons the GR1 series of film cameras are such incredible point-and-shoots in our article earlier this year, and many of the core superlatives that characterize those film machines are carried over to their counterparts in the digital GR series. In his video review of the new GRIII, Kai Wong called the Ricoh GRII one of his “…favorite cameras of all time,” and went on to describe the GRIII as “..something truly great.”

Kai’s not wrong. The Ricoh GRIII was released just a few months ago and it offers everything you’d expect from a brand-new, world-class digital compact while retaining the core concept that has made the GR series a camera loved by street photographers and snap-shooters for decades. It’s incredibly small and well-made, features one of the best 28mm (equivalent) lenses in the photographic world, has in-body image stabilization, excellent high-ISO capability, and an incredibly quick start-up time for capturing snapshots at a moment’s notice.

It’s an especially great camera for those of us who love compact film cameras because while it offers everything we’ve mentioned plus countless modern conveniences, it’s really a simple camera like the compact film machines we all love. It’s as “point-and-shoot” as it gets, without sacrificing anything in terms of image quality or tech. Oh, and it’s got some pretty fantastic film simulation modes too, if you’re into that (and we are).

At $899, it’s the least expensive new camera on the list. For what the GRIII offers, that’s truly impressive. And these days, you can find one used for even less.

Shop for a used Ricoh GR on eBay here

Buy a new Ricoh GR from B&H Photo here

Olympus Pen F

I’ll admit that some of the allure of classic film cameras, for me, is just how gorgeous these old machines look. There’s something about the proportions, something about the finish of satin metal contrasting against black or brown leatherette or vulcanite; film cameras are beautiful objects. It’s especially intoxicating when these gorgeous machines also happen to be extremely capable image-making devices. Which brings us to our third pick, and it comes from a legendary camera maker – Olympus.

Olympus is celebrating their centennial this year, and like they’ve done for many of the last hundred years, it seems Olympus is content to get down to the business of quietly making exceptional cameras and lenses. Without a lot of fanfare or marketing hullaballoo, Olympus has recently released a truly impressive digital compact in the form of the Pen-F Digital.

Like its earlier film ancestor, the Pen-F digital is uncommonly small. The Maitani-designed Pen F film camera was a half-frame camera, while the newest Pen-F Digital is a micro 4/3rds machine. This makes it well-suited for travelers and lifestyle shooters, or for event photographers looking for a pocketable camera for candids.

Like earlier Olympus designs, the Pen-F digital has outsized dials and knobs and switches for all the most important controls in photography. Big, mechanical dials click into place with directed force, controlling exposure compensation, firing modes, aperture, shutter speed, and more. And it feels dense and solid while never feeling heavy or awkward. Put the Pen-F Digital into the hands of a film photographer and he or she will instantly feel at home.

The tiny camera is packed full of incredible features – a 20 MP sensor (with 50 MP high-res shot mode), five-axis image stabilization, 10 FPS sequential shooting mode, an exceptional OLED electronic viewfinder, 81 point autofocus, and… a tilty-flippy screen. If you can’t get the shot with the Pen-F, it’s probably not the camera’s fault.

Interchangeable lenses from Olympus’ famed Zuiko line complete an imaging ecosystem that can compete with much larger (and more expensive) cameras. When we see the images that Olympus’ micro 4/3rds cameras can make it becomes obvious that the lesser-celebrated brand is still a powerhouse in optics – they’ve been doing this for a hundred years, after all. Oh, and the Pen-F Digital is (in my opinion) just about the prettiest camera on the market today. That counts for something.

The Olympus Pen Digital has been discontinued, as Olympus has changed ownership and the new brand is now focusing on their OM system digital cameras. However, this means that we can buy used Pens on eBay at great pricing.

Shop for an Olympus Pen Digital on eBay here

Nikon Df

The Nikon Df was very nearly replaced on this list after the team and I discussed its history and reputation and modern relevance. We had almost decided to include it at the end as an honorable mention. Call it nostalgia or perhaps a power move by my inner Nikon fanboy, but I just had to include it on the list.

The Nikon Df was released in 2013, and marketed by Nikon as a return to the purity of their earlier F series film cameras. With a full-frame sensor, dedicated physical dials to control the most important aspects of photography, a full metal construction including top plate and metal controls, and removal of the video mode often found on DSLRs, the Df does indeed seem like a perfect film-like interpretation of the DSLR.

The top plate is packed with big metal control dials for exposure compensation, ISO, shutter speed, shooting modes, and more. And in this way it truly does look and feel like one of Nikon’s modern classic SLRS, the F4 or the F5. But the rest of the camera is decidedly a digital machine. The back has everything you’d find in one of Nikon’s contemporary to the Df DSLRs, the D610 or the D750 for example. Which is good, but also somewhat confusing.

Is shooting the Nikon Df like shooting a film camera? Not really. Sure, it’s got physical controls, but it’s really quite a massive camera with very DSLR-like ergonomics. It’s the least pleasant camera on this list to shoot for those of us who just don’t get excited by DSLRs. And on this site, that will include a lot of readers as well.

Where the Nikon Df might become the perfect digital camera for the film shooter is when we discuss Nikon specifically. If you’re already shooting a bunch of Nikon cameras, say an original F, an F4, and even a Nikon DSLR, the Nikon Df could be a great fit. That’s because it’s the only Nikon DSLR that can mount and shoot every Nikon lens that’s been made since the original F mount was introduced in 1959. That’s pretty incredible. But then again, the new Nikon mirrorless Z6 and Z7 can do that too (with adapters). Decisions.

The Nikon Df is one of the more expensive cameras on this list. In fact, it’s only topped by our next machine. This will not be a surprise…

Leica M10-D

For many film photographers, the Leica M series is the perfect combination of all the things that make film cameras special. A beautiful, timeless design encapsulating nothing but gears and levers and steel and brass, the early M cameras especially are mechanical masterpieces (see our guides to the Leica rangefinders and their SLRs). Even today, Leica still makes two mechanical film cameras, the meter-free M-A and the light meter-equipped M-P.

With this pedigree and continued ability to create what could be the best film camera in the world right now, it’s no surprise that Leica should make some truly impressive digital cameras. While the brand seemed to struggle to find its footing in the digital age, their latest releases, the Leica CL, the Leica Q and Q2, and their newest M, the M10, are all grand slams.

Each of these cameras feels like a classic film camera in the hands. The dials and controls are simple and straightforward. The mechanisms actuate with incredible precision. The ergonomics and methodology are simplified down to the basics of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. In many ways, shooting a CL or a Q2 or an M10 feels like shooting a Leica M3 from 1954 or a CL from the 1970s. And that’s a good thing.

The M10-D is the most film-like digital camera the company’s yet made. It’s the purest expression of the film camera ethos in a digital machine. The M10-D is essentially a Leica M10 that recalls the look and feel of the original M series camera. It loses the Leica Red Dot logo and replaces it with the more film-traditional Leica Script engraving. There’s a thumb rest on the top of the machine that flips out, looking and actuating almost exactly the same way that the film advance lever of the M3 does. The on/off switch is a ring surrounding an exposure compensation wheel that’s a clear reference to the film speed reminder of the oldest M film cameras (or the ISO selector on later M film cameras). This on/off and exposure compensation dial sits on the rear of the camera, exactly where most digital cameras would show their LCD display (this space is available because the M10-D simply doesn’t have an LCD display). This is the M10-D’s boldest move.

For a digital camera in the modern era to not have an LCD screen is weird and, some would say, silly. And it’s an easy thing to poke fun of when we’re talking about the extremely pricey products that Leica creates. In case you’re not keeping track, I’ll tell you – the M10-D costs approximately $1,500 more than the M10. Why would anybody spend more money for a digital camera with fewer features than the camera from which it’s derived? There’s something to be said for staying in the moment and eliminating distractions, sure, but is that worth $8,000?

It’s a question that I won’t answer in a definitive way. Different strokes for different folks. But if you’re looking for the closest experience to shooting an incredible film camera but want those digital files and digital workflow, the M10-D might be the pinnacle of modern machines. (Even if I’d never buy one).

Shop eBay for an M10-D


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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • Years ago, the Nikon FE2 with a Nikkor 35mm 2.0 was my constant companion, it was always with me. But then I switched to digital and the FE2 gathered dust in the back of my closet. Eventually I gave it to my nephew who was just getting excited about film photography. Being a loyal Nikon photographer, I had the D50 and eventually a D90. I enjoyed the D90, but the haptic experience of shooting this kind of plastic, blobby DSLR was always lacking. I missed the nimble, solid, and best of all, smaller, shape of the FE2. So when rumors began to circulate about a digital revival of the FM/FE series, I was ready to sell blood plasma to get one. And then it arrived. From my standpoint they missed the mark so completely that I questioned if they even understood their own legacy. I couldn’t understand why they created such a bloated monstrosity. Even seeing its photo in your article made me cringe a little. Sometime after the Df announcement, the Fujifilm X-T1 was released. And that felt right. I immediately sold every piece of Nikon kit I had and bought into the Fuji system. And I’ve been super happy. The XT series feels like a FE, it feels good in the hand. It’s nimble. The controls are where they should be. If anything, I like it better. Last year though I got oddly nostalgic about the scalloped non-ai lenses from the late 60s and early 70s. I always loved how they felt and, of course, their classic optics. So I bought the 24, 50, and 85 to use with an adapter. Naturally I couldn’t resist also picking up a Nikkormat EL for $20, because why not? So I’ve shot a half dozen rolls with that this Summer. The sound of the shutter is so satisfying. I’m a hobbyist, so I don’t really need to concern myself with professional considerations. So the physical engagement of the act of taking pictures has always been at the forefront for me. I like focusing a lens, even if I miss sometimes. I have no one to please but myself.

    • This pretty exactly mirrors my own experience with going digital (D610), getting bored, and then picking up film again. And now I’ve been writing about these things for six years. A long time, but I’m still in love with film cameras, still excited about special digital cameras. I agree with you as well, that the Nikon Df could have been so much more than it ended up being.

      • And mine! Digital went from being an expensive curiosity to the obvious way to take pictures in (for me) 2006. I deserted my Pentax film SLRs for a (Pentax) digital – and then eventually deserted that too for a succession of small but capable Canon P&S digitals. I never actually sold any of the Pentax gear, though.

        The tide began to turn when I was tempted by a Fuji X70 and fell first for how it felt in my hands, and then for the quality of its Classic Chrome JPEGs. That led to an X100F, which I still consider my ‘main’ camera, for all the reasons James mentions in the article. Things only got messy when I started reading about using old lenses on digital bodies; I imagined a camera with some visual ‘history’ would improve my hit rate with impromptu street portraits. So I went shopping for a scruffy black X-E2 and ended up with a rather tidy one.

        My mistake was to fall, as Alex did, for the look of a scalloped Vietnam-era Nikkor – a 35mm/2.8 – when I already had half a dozen M and A Pentax lenses I could have tried. The street portraits idea came to nothing – I bought a modern Fuji 35mm for those – but then I bought a contemporaneous Nikkormat FTn for the old Nikkor and I was a film user again! So now I’m running bits of three different camera systems, and have somehow acquired five more manual Nikkors (because I’ve discovered I rather like them) and another body, the camera I really wanted but couldn’t afford when I bought the Pentax: a Nikon FE. And the FE, and the AI 24mm/2.8, are the pieces I like best of all. The ME Super still gets some love too – I have some Cinestill 800T for an after-dark project, where its LED meter display will be just the job.

        What I’ve learned from all this is that while I love the Mad Men aesthetic of a lot of 1960s gear, I belong haptically and photographically to the electromechanical heyday of the very late 1970s. I’m an aperture-priority shooter, which works just fine with the Fujis and is what I was missing in the Canon digitals. On my desk is the 1979 Casio fx-39 calculator I used at school, which has green LEDs and the most delightful individually-sprung keys. The FE, and the ME Super, and the Fujis have a similar quality of everything in its place and feeling good to touch and use. These days it’s film that’s an expensive treat, but I don’t feel I’m missing out whichever kind of camera I pick up for a day out.

        I thought seriously, for a while, about the Pen F too, but at the time it was out of budget and I found the X70 at an unmissable price. If the coin had landed Olympus-side up, I suspect I’d have been equally pleased with my choice. And I do look from time to time at the silver Nikon Df and wonder – but then I remember to ask myself how often I’d leave the house carrying something that big!

    • I don’t know why nikon could not make a digital that was in the same form factor and size as their old slr cameras. (the fm2 and F2 are my fav ones). I feel like they could have because leica has done it and fuji film. I would also have loved to have seen a digital Nikon sp. I just recently bought a leica m9p because it seemed the closest I could get to film in a digital body. though I would have happily gone to nikon if they had something more akin to the old film bodys.

      • I agree wholeheartedly. Why couldn’t the Df be as small as the FM2? Why can’t the current Nikon Z fc be a full frame digital camera with Nikon F lens compatibility? Nikon aren’t fools. They must have thought of this. I am not sure what the engineering cost would have been but I would have made it a stripped down manual focus full frame digital camera with basic metering. May be next time.

  • One of each, please.

  • Other than the Nikon, lovely choices for the digitally inclined film lovers, my bias would be to include a Pentax digital body, able to use and meter the classic Takumar lenses as well as some classic K mount glass too ( yes I’m a Pentax fanboy )

  • All good choices here, James.
    I have the Ricoh GRII and the Nikon Df, and have come quite close to buying the X100 and Pen F. The Leica is simply out of my budget.
    Sadly Ricoh removed some of the excellent functionality with their “upgrade.” Especially, the loss of the exposure compensation rocker switch, removal of the AEL/AFL button, and removal of the right side Effect button. And, call me finicky, but I’m not a fan of using touch screens on cameras, digital or otherwise. I much prefer knobs, dials, buttons, switches and the like. The GRII is one of my favorite cameras.
    The Df was a brand new open-box deal for nearly $1,000 off list price–and with many film lenses (for my film Nikons)–I couldn’t pass it up. Used with manual focus primes, it’s quite an enjoyable shooting experience. The handgrip only becomes insufficient when the Df is paired with my very heavy Tokina 24-70. I have no regrets.
    I’m saving up for the Leica CL, which seems to fit the bill for what I’m looking for to shoot the various lenses I’ve picked up over the years (for use on my Ricoh GXR with the M-mount module).
    However, nothing beats my Pentax K-5 IIs for handling and haptics and intuitive interface. It’s about as perfect as I’ve experienced, though the MZ-S and F100 are a close second and third. I just wish I had the sense to buy a second body when they were discounted, in case mine every dies or is stolen.
    Ultimately, though, for a film camera-like experience, no digital can touch any film camera…in my opinion. Thus, the reason I have plenty of film cameras at my beck and call.

  • I have owned quite a number of the cameras listed, or at least versions of them. I had a Fuji X100s, I currently have a Ricoh GR aps-c, (for my pocket) and a couple of weeks back I traded a couple of decent cameras for a second user Leica M-D type 262.

    It so happened that I had wanted this camera from long before it was on the market and I was somewhat disappointed when it was eventually released and was substantially more expensive than the standard type 262. I decided to wait for a second user market to develop, in the meantime the M10-D came to the market, I was sorely tempted at first, but once I had read that it was not a stand alone device, that it worked in tandem with Leica fotos, and I also read a couple of user reports that the original model had a very satisfying arrangement for the ISO sensitivity, namely the big dial on the back, where it should be, the choice became academic, since the sensor and its output are essentially the same as the M10.

    Anyway, it turned out that these Leicas are definitely a minority sport and they don’t come to market that often, so I jumped at the one that I have, which is in excellent condition.

    But when you pick it up and realise that there is nothing to check, set up, change, monitor, you don’t even have to know whether there is film in it, there is only Shutter and ISO along with whatever aperture one chooses for the mounted lens. It dawns that this iIS the closest to using a film camera that any manufacturer has ever dared to venture. The Fuji and the Ricoh are excellent cameras, and I have heard good reports of the Nikon DF, but they are still not anywhere near being film cameras.

  • Wonderful choices. I own the X100F and the Ricoh GR III. Both are wonderful cameras. The Ricoh images in particular have great character, especially when emphasizing the blacks in an image. I second the earlier comment about the Leica line of digital cameras. With the Leica and Leica lenses, I am able to produce imagery that gets close to the soul of film. The simplicity of the camera makes me more attentive to how a scene is exposed. Focusing with the rangefinder also slows the process. Regardless, all are excellent choices for film buffs like me.

  • Which camera would be recommended the best interchangeable lens version of the X100? I’ve often considered replacing my Panasonic GF1 with a Fuji X100, as the 20mm is my most-used lens anyway, but I still often use a Jupiter-8 50mm for portraits also.

    I think the Leica is probably the only example that provides the feeling of using a film camera. I always thought the Df and PEN-F primarily only look vintage, without actually providing the experience of using a film camera. The Fuji seems close, but it still doesn’t have a proper manual focus ring which is one of the fundamental aspects of the film experience to me.

  • I would argue that any of the Fuji X-E series of rangefinder-style digital cameras would be a great move for a film photographer in addition to the X100 series. With these cameras you get the benefit of interchangeable Fuji XF lenses that have manual aperture ring functionality, plus you have the option to adapt your existing manual analog lenses. This is a feature that the fixed-lens X100 series does not offer. You can find something like a used X-E2 for under $300 and have the benefits of all the mirrorless focusing aids for your vintage lenses. I have an X-E2 that I adapt my Nikkor and Canon FD glass to and it’s great!

  • Алексей Ахтямов September 4, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    Appearance and controls are good. but the essence of the camera is its sensor. Most of the current cameras are Sony cmos, that is, they are about the same. my only and favorite camera is sigma, in some ways it looks like a film, it is not fast, not universal, with a bad screen, virtually no jpeg and a short battery life. you really have ~ 36 frames, which you then show in the corporate slow editor and are glad that some of your photos came out pretty good. I do not know any other brand of cameras with such a distinctive picture. canon, nikon, fuji, etc – it’s all about sony. older ccd models and medium format have something different. but most of today’s cameras are boring, they don’t have wow, they don’t have magic, so sorry. for me only film, sigma and ccd

    • Totally agree with you on both Sigma Foveon and older ccd sensors.

      Especially, Sigma Merrill series have very pleasing film-like result ( in terms of image result, not operational)

      And, i still prefer my Ricoh grd4 and Olympus XZ-1 over newer Cmos based cameras. Little wonders.

    • Agree. The shooting experience is important, but what counts in the end is the image.
      And images produced by Sigma Merrill cameras are the closest to film.
      I think they are no longer produced, maybe that’s why they are not on this list.
      Images from Leica full frame digitals are also close. But at that price tag, I better shoot film.

    • You brought up a great point about the sensor being the essence of the camera, and I’d like to add my 2 cents… I have the original Fuji X100, and the Nikon Df. I also have a Sigma DP0 Quattro and I appreciate its Foveon sensor as well as the CCD sensor of my old Nikon D200. But IMHO, the sensor of the Df would smoke any of the cameras on this list. Now PLS, before anyone crucifies me, I am just stating an opinion, of course it is subjective and biased, so not worth arguing about. Remember its just MY 2 CENTS, right? 😉 The sensor of the Df is made by Nikon NOT by Sony and is the same sensor as their D4. This sensor has one of the best rendering I have ever seen in a digital camera and I own a few; 5 Nikons, 6 Fujis, 1 each of Sigma, Olympus and Panasonic Lumix, so I have seen how various sensors render – even the ones from the same brand. The Df was very much maligned even before it came out mostly by people who haven’t even used one, and even by those who only “tested” it for a little while. But those that eventually found the time to use it will definitely agree that the sensor is one of it strongest attributes. Now, I understand it is not “like a film camera” the way the others are on this list. But I can use ALL my Nikon F glass; non AI. AI-s, AF-D and AF-s lenses and enjoy their unique qualities and how they render on the Df’s sensor. That experience, which can be intentional and methodical at times, is very similar to my using my old film Nikons. And lastly, as much as I enjoy digital, I shoot mostly film nowadays. I don’t compare digital with film. Each has its place and use. My current film favs include; The Oly Pen FT, Canon P, Zeiss Ikon Mess Ikonta 524/2, Hasselblad XPan, Mamiya 6 and Bronica SQ-B (specifically with the Zenzanon PS 40mm lens paired with the SQ 135W panoramic back.

  • I’ve owned the X100S, T, and F. All were excellent. Also the Pen F, which I’ll agree is the prettiest digital camera I’ve laid eyes on. I’ve scaled back on digital recently to just my Canon kit and have been using film much more in the past year. After buying a Leica M2, then M3, I had to try the Monochrom. I’d say my M246 is as close to a film experience as I can get with digital. In two years, I’ve gone from dreaming about a Leica to owning 4 of them (M6 most recently). I need a 12-step program.

  • I bought an X100 when it first came out. I loved it right away. I eventually upgraded to the X100T (and still use it with no plans to upgrade). It’s pretty much the only digital camera that I like using. All the controls feel right and the files are fantastic. I’ve considered buying an X-Pro2 just based on my love for the X100, mostly because I prefer 50mm, (I know there’s an attachment for the X100 series, but it’s pretty bulky) so who knows, maybe someday.

  • I’m a Nikon Df user. For film cameras I tried Canon A1, AE1, Canonet 28, Olympus OM1, Pentax ME super and Nikon FM, all because of the recommendation of CP. Thank you guys for providing these reviews, they are all fatastic. I don’t like rangefinder because I found the focusing patch distracting. Of all the film cameras I used, Pentax ME super is my favorite. With the 40mm f2.8, it becomes a pocketable SLR. I would say this is the smallest possible film SLR package. I almost went with Pentax K1 for digital, but it was expensive. So I got a second hand Df, for $1200. I really don’t have much to complain, except the fact that the focus screen cannot be changed, which was not a problem for Canon 5D. The shooting experience was quite film like, if you are using AI lenses. Also, the viewfinder is great. I think a second-hand Df should easily go on this list, for its price, full-frame, optical viewfinder and compatibility.

    • Hello fellow Df user… I made a comment earlier about the Df’s sensor which to me has one of the best rendering I have seen in a digital camera. The Df was largely unappreciated and criticized when it came out, mostly by people who haven’t even used one, and by those who only “tested” it for a while. But those of us that found the time to use it will definitely agree that the sensor is one of it strongest attributes. It may not be “like a film camera” the way the others are on this list. But I am able to use ALL my Nikon F glass especially the vintage lenses and enjoy their unique qualities and how they render on the Df’s sensor. That experience, which can be intentional and methodical at times, is very similar to my using my old film Nikons. So yes, definitely deserving to be on this list!

    • You can change the focusing screen on the Df. I changed mine to a split-prism K3 screen (from the FM3a) & it makes shooting with my Ai & Ai-S primes a joy.
      There’s a company in Taiwan that cuts the screens to perfectly fit DSLRs.

  • I am missing gge phantadtic Fujifilm X-Pro2 in your, otherwise well done, list. Actually without sounding like a fanboy for me this camera is way more „old school“ than the Nikon Df, although I understand why it is in the list. Any reason for ignoring the only digital interchangable lens camera with a good usable optical viewfinder?

    • I agree with you to some extent because I still enjoy my X-Pro1 and have never upgraded. I like the rendering of the first X-Trans sensor just as much as the sensor of my original X100. But I also enjoy the Df with my old Nikon glass. It is not “rangefinder-like” like the X-Pro, but using the older glass with it is similar to using my old film Nikon bodies.

  • I was very disappointed in my experience with the DF. Big, fat and yet hollow feeling. The ability to use old Nikon manual focus lenses was lost with the terrible focus screen which I think just came from the D600. Instead of doing it right and giving it a real split image focus screen, it had the regular old AF one. Which is not accurate at all if you try to shoot wide open, and the RF indicators have lots of play as to what it shows as in focus. My later D750 was more accurate focusing manually, and the D850 was superb – there is no play in the RF indicator. When it shows in focus, it is. The D850 is the same money as a DF, has better focusing, a 47mp vs 17mp sensor, video etc etc. So with the DF you are paying for the look.
    I also have the Pen F… a lovely little camera that has given me some crackin’ images. I love the film mode dial on the front and the Oly lenses are superb. I think the OLED vf is just ok though. It is very low resolution compared to current EVF cameras. But you have to get it in black and add the hand grip!

  • I would add the Epson RD-1 and Leica M8, the M8 even sounds like a film winding on and has definite filmic qualities. The epson has a ‘working’ wind on lever unlike the leica M10-D. Possibly even the Fuji X-pro-1

  • I am the owner of several film and digital cameras. They are all outstanding performers in their own right. I do have the Pen F and enjoy using it. I wish Olympus would design a Pen F that would with a simple switch remove the color lensed from the sensor and turn the camera into a pure B?W camera. The current B/W feature is nice, but it is only possible as a JPEG having to do it from RAW conversion. Why not a camera that allows the color and B/W in its purest form? Leica has its monochrome camera. Olympus give us a Pen F that will allow us B/W pure and simple as swell as color. This a pure engineering problem and should be possible. I would get rid of all my digital cameras for one like that.

  • Leica M8

  • I have an old Nikon FM2. Meter doesn’t work, and Nikon has chosen to stop supporting their local – even regional – repair centers. Any thoughts or suggestions?

  • I do get it that the article focuses more on the “haptics”. I have the original x100 and the X-Pro1. And I also have the Nikon Df, which was largely marginalized by a lot people, many of which had never even handled the camera. I enjoy my x100 and X-Pro1. They are great cameras, both in looks and rendering. However, the Nikon Df sensor is one of the best I have ever shot with. I don’t have any problems with the Df “haptics” coz I’ve shot Nikon SLRs for years before I even tried digital. The Nikon Df blows away any of the cameras on this list easily both in rendering and performance. I also shoot it quite a bit on the streets and although it is sizably bigger than the other cameras on this list, it looks discreet enough like a film SLR, that I have never gotten a negative reaction the way DSLRs get. My favorite way of shooting the Df is with my manual focus Nikon primes, just like my film SLRs.

  • If not too late, I fully underwrite most of what Noel wrote.
    Having used quite a few Nikon cameras for decades (and other brands), film first and then digital, and now and then film again, in reading the “best digital cameras for those who love film cameras” title, only two cameras immediately came to my mind: the Nikon Df, which indeed I love, and… the CVF50 back sitting on one of my Hassy V bodies… 🙂 .
    Just my personal taste of course.

  • Nice James to put this review again.
    Despite I do not like digital, It is difficult to ignore and very difficult to take a few images without digital. I mean, 80% of my images are film, but 20% are from digital. I have a Sony A7 RII, which I do not like. I will say a Leica M10-r of course if money should not be the problem, or simply a Fuji XE-4 simply because we can change the lens.
    Very great idea to give us the possibility to read some articles which are of actuality.
    By the way I repeat again, and are the only website I follow because they are very open, and the reviews are excellent. Thank you so much.

  • I have read and read about how the first gen X Trans sensor was something different. Not special but did something different. In a world where every digital camera basically produces files that are exactly the same with no character (sharpness is not always the way), I found a mint XPro 1 and a couple of the F/2 lenses. Since I got that, I have not used any of my film gear. It really does produce some cool colors. It is slow and deliberate and very much like an older film camera.

    • Hiii Jarrod. Totally agree. But, I still continue film for the mgoc of film, but on digital world FUJI is a winner. Lens are the best, high quality.

      • I do as well, it just has been a while. I am still feeling out the X Pro and seeing what it can do. The change is that now the X Pro is my go to and the film stuff is more for an event or something similar.

    • Hi, Jarrod! Are you shooting RAW? And if so, what are you processing them with? I bought a second hand X100s about a year and a half after they came out. I was processing the RAW files with Adobe Camera Raw, and they were good, but weren’t *quite* as nice as I expected.

      Then I read about Iridient Developer and its performance with the X-Trans sensor. I downloaded a trial version.

      The difference was stunning. I took the camera with me to the Royal Albert Hall for a concert (a friend of mine was drumming for Damon Albarn). I took a couple of shots of the entire stage, from an elevated position about 100 feet away. The version I processed with ACR was, again, acceptable, but when I opened it in Iridient Developer, there was *way* more detail visible. The front stage monitors had a diamond pattern grille over them. With ACR, that was just a muddle. With the Iridient app, not only were they clearly visible, but I could also easily make out individual guitar strings.

      I don’t know if Adobe ever caught up with Iridient for getting the best out of the X-Trans sensor of that time; it appears Iridient is still in business, but again, I don’t know if they’re still so superior today. (I had already begun to conclude the X100s wasn’t the camera for me, so I never bought the app. But had I decided to keep the X100s, I’d have definitely bought the version available at that time, it was *that* much better.)

      I am *not* associated with Iridient in any way, and as I mentioned, I never bought the full app. But if you are using a camera with the X-Trans sensor, it’s definitely worth reading up on the various and best options for processing RAW files from it.

  • Top of the blog, top o’ the mornin’! I think you hit the mark with placing the X100 at the top of the list. I have owned every model, and this one is superb. It is just as capable of any digital camera I own (many), the only limitation being the fixed lens. It’s easy on the shoulder, the menu system is a breeze and it is versatile. That said, and having given this a lot of thought lately, there is really no digital camera with an experience or end result equivalent to shooting film. A processed digital image will not have the unique quality of a well exposed film image, even scanned. If I posted this elsewhere, I would be tarred and feathered. And to repeat the worn out statement, film makes me think. James, I hope you and your family are well and that we can some day meet for a photo walk. Louis.

    • Hiii Lasousa, totally agree with you.
      1. Miss James too despite I cannot have a walk with him )I would like ;-), hope his great family is good too.
      2. Fuji is a winner. The easiest way on digital.
      3. Like you I prefer film;-), reason why we go on this great CASUALPHOTOPHILE.
      I HAVE FOUND A NEW TOOL WHEN I DO NOT WANT A CAMERA, THIS IS AN IMPRESSIVE TOOL : THE SONY XPERIA 1 III. Sd card, I can plug my earphones because this is a wonderful mobile phone to listening to music in high quality, and the JPEG are perfect, the raw, … wahaouuu impressive.
      By the way, I continue film at 80% because as you say it pushes me to think, and like every thing of life, when we think, things start to be better.
      Say hello from us to James. We think a lot about him and his family, also Bellamy.
      For Mister Peter Toshe and his funny photo, I believe it has seen it ( ) – here we want to go out of lockdowns, here in NSW where our leader had managed greatly for first waves, the Delta variant breaks all efforts all over the world, what did happen in Wuhan, what they did? I cannot go outside to take pictures. Likely Gladys gives us freedom again, I know it was against her values to put us into lockdown, but safety has touched her heart deeply, finally Delta variant is more a question of respecting the rules for everyone, people who do not respect the rules, testing, social distance, vax, tracing, staying home when it is important to stay home are responsible, they break the rules. We have to live with this virus, but we want to know what happen, why datas are hidden, why some have more time for coal industry and climate change? What does happen in this world?
      Film is wonderful, but when I go out, I need time, I need to think, during several months we were locked because some people play with the rules, they do not think about others!

    • Believe it or not, I was just thinking about you the other day and remembered that I should plan some kind of photo walk before the warm weather makes way for snow. I’ll see what we can do and keep you appraised of any plans I make. Hope you’re very well, too! Thanks pal!

  • While the Pen F was the camera I lusted over for a while, I eventually ended up with a Lumix GX9, and I’m very happy with it. I definitely think the GX9 and/or the GX85 should be on the radar of anyone that wants a digital with a film camera feel.

    The Lumix Dynamic Monochrome mode produces some of the most beautiful b&w shots I’ve seen outside of a Leica Mono, especially if you use the GX9’s adjustable grain simulation.

  • Any chance of redoing this with cameras that don’t cost close to 1k?

  • I have a more left field suggestion: the Canon 6D i. (I think others would add the 1D & 5D series but I have no experience of them.)

    I bought a 6D recently & am in love with it. In operation it’s as simple as any film camera I’ve enjoyed & to my mind easier to use as all controls are right at hand with no need to take one’s eye from the viewfinder. To me the EOS SLR user interface is as classic as any; it persisted for 40 years, after all!

    Well-exposed raw files need little adjustment in post. Colours are lovely. Careful use of NR gives to my eyes a wonderful film grain look. It is the digital film camera equivalent I’ve been looking for; & like the 5D i & ii, can be had now for very little outlay.

  • After nearly 50 years of shooting film cameras, the digital camera I ended up buying was a used Fujifilm X-T1. Feels like a film camera to me and the cost of entry with the 18-55 Fuji zoom was under five hundred bucks.

  • What about the Fovein cameras?

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop

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