7 The 35mm Film camera


  • 35mm film camera types
  • 35mm SLR Mechanical and Electronic cameras
  •  Identify the parts of a 35mm SLR camera

WHAT is a 35mm camera?

A camera is a light-tight box (camera body) that includes a lens and records an image onto light-sensitive material. The magic happens at the push of a button. Really, it’s that simple, however, the more you understand how and why that happens, the better your pictures will be. A 35mm camera is considered a small format camera using 35mm film.

The camera body

  • Houses the film and protects it from being exposed to light while taking pictures
  • Advances the film from frame to frame
  • Contains a shutter that controls the amount of time light enters the camera

The lens

  • Allows light to enter the camera
  • Controls how much light gets in
  • Focuses the image onto the film

Many 35mm cameras today have both automatic and manual functions, however, if you want to be the master of your photographs you will want to work in manual mode.

Working in manual mode is the difference between being the driver or the passenger. This book will put you in the driver’s seat .

Digital and film cameras work on the same principle, which is to allow the correct amount of light onto light-sensitive material.

Both, digital and film photography require mechanisms to control the amount of light entering the camera, and a lens to focus the objects on a light-sensitive material.

Digital cameras use image sensors that consist of millions of light-sensitive receptors that record what is being seen through the lens onto a memory card, while analog cameras use film which is coated with sensitive-to-light silver halide crystals that react to light and record an image.



35mm film for analog camera          
SD memory card for digital camera

All cameras need:

  • Light
  • Light-tight box with the ability to let a controlled amount of light in
  • Lens

There are different types of 35mm film cameras: SLR mechanical cameras, SLR electronic cameras, and Rangefinder cameras.

mechanical 35mm SLR camera
Mechanical 35mm SLR camera
Electronic 35mm SLR film camera
Rangefinder 35mm camera

SLR cameras are bigger and louder (you hear a noticeable  click when you snap the photo.) The viewfinder on an SLR sees exactly what the lens sees.

An SLR camera could be mechanical or electronic. A mechanical SLR camera works with springs and gears while an electronic SLR camera requires batteries and a computer chip to operate. It is a personal preference as to which one you will enjoy using.

A Rangefinder is a smaller and quieter camera, however, what you see through the viewfinder is not exactly what the lens sees, and your picture will look slightly different from what you saw through the viewfinder.

Both types, SLR or Rangefinder, are excellent cameras.

All manufacturers have unique designs for their cameras, which is why you will need to download the specific manual for your camera.  Be sure to search for the brand and model of your camera.


Dilish Parekh of Mumbai, India, works as a photojournalist but has been collecting antique cameras since 1977. He has a collection of 4,425 worth about $80,00.00


Check out his collection on the above link


Use the illustrations below to find these camera parts on your camera…..How many did you find?

For mechanical 35mm SLR cameras

  1. Shutter button
  2. Viewfinder
  3. Rewind release button
  4. Rewind lever
  5. Film advance lever
  6. Aperture ring/ f stop selection
  7. Shutter speed dial/settings
  8. ISO/ASA dial setting
  9. Flash shoe
  10. Shutter curtain
  11. Film cassette holder
  12.  Pressure plate
  13. Film take-up spool

For electronic 35mm SLR cameras

  1. ISO setting
  2. Mode selector
  3. Aperture setting
  4. Shutter speed setting
  5. Light meter
  6. Autofocus switch
  7. Manual focus switch




identifying parts clockwise starting from top left. focusing ring, distance scale, camera lens, camera body, shutter button, film frame counter, shutter speed dial, film advance lever, ISO dial setting, view finder, flash shoe, rewind lever, F stop selection set at f4 depth of field scale.
Mechanical 35mm SLR camera top view
identifying parts clockwise from top left. focusing ring, camera lens, camera body, battery compartment, tripod socket, rewind release button.
Mechanical 35mm SLR camera bottom view
identifying parts clockwise starting top left. neck strap, flash hot shoe, viewfinder, pressure plate, film take up spool, shutter curtain, film cassette holder,
Mechanical 35mm SLR camera with the back open



electronic SLR 35mm camera with back open
Electronic SLR 35mm camera with the back open

Not every electronic camera will look exactly like this.


  • To master the art of photography you need to know your camera inside and out.
  • You must have the instruction manual for your camera handy. Save it on your phone!


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Photography: What, How, Why Copyright © 2023 by Maria Politarhos and Randy Matusow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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