35mm film is by far the most common film type used in modern film photography, whether color, black and white, or reversal. As such, there are many different film cameras that support 35mm photography. The two major, most common, cameras for basic 35mm film photography are the single-lens reflex camera and the range-finder camera.
35mm Single-Lens Relfex (SLR) Cameras
A single-lens reflex (SLR) camera is the most common film camera used today. For beginner photography, an SLR camera should be the starting point as you learn basic photography tips and techniques. The large majority of SLR film cameras support 35mm film, but there are advanced medium format camera systems that also utilize SLR configurations.
35mm SLR cameras utilize an automatic mirror system that allows for the photographer to see exactly what the camera lens ‘sees’ and eliminate what is known as the parallax error. In short, the parallax error is the difference between what the photographer sees through the viewfinder and what the camera lens captures. Before the development of the SLR camera type the photographer’s viewfinder was always off to the side of the camera’s lens and required the photographer to adjust accordingly. The SLR eliminated this need. In short, light enters the lens of the SLR film camera and bounces of two angled mirrors inside the camera body and through the viewfinder. When the photograph is taken the mirrors flip up and exposes the film to light entering the lens.
Because the shutter is always closed until the shutter release button is pressed, film is kept light-tight. This allows the SLR camera to use interchangeable film camera lenses for various distances, zooms, and angles. The 35mm SLR camera is only one of the very few cameras that have complete interchangeable lenses.
35mm Range-Finder Camera
Range-finder cameras resemble the three dollar disposable film cameras that you can buy at a local store and were once the standard for most cameras before the SLR camera. The viewfinder on this camera is often to the side and above the camera lens, causing the parallax error. Subjects at a great distance are not affected by the parallax error, but as the subject gets closer the parallax error becomes larger and the photographer is forced to compensate by moving the camera. Until you use this type of camera often, it is very difficult to shoot subjects close-up.
As such, any photography beginner would have more success learning with an SLR camera. As he or she begins to learn photography techniques and tips and the process, then moving on to another camera, such as medium format or large format cameras, will work.