This $25 Film Camera Was My Best Travel Purchase Last Year

This $25 Film Camera Was My Best Travel Purchase Last Year

If “everything old is new again,” as the saying goes, my best travel purchase of 2022 is right on trend. A Kodak M35 35mm Film Camera—the kind we used to carry around before digital cameras and, eventually, cell phones, took their place—has single handedly increased my happiness and satisfaction when traveling. Granted, that’s a lot of praise for a $23 camera, but allow me to explain.

My reintroduction to film occurred in 2019, after purchasing a pack of disposable cameras for a slew of bachelorette parties and weddings. I didn’t think much of it at the time; these were simply used to capture some fun moments I could send to friends and family once developed. In the spring of 2020, I had one last disposable camera left to develop. As many of us settled into a rhythm of social distancing and entertaining ourselves within the confines of our homes, I brought the camera to Walgreens. Several weeks later, I received my photos. All of the memories of friends, dancing, hugs, and happiness that felt so distant in the midst of the pandemic were once again within my grasp. 

As travel picked back up in 2021, I purchased another set of disposable cameras. While having these physical photos was important to me, I was still capturing the real pictures—the ones that would live on Instagram—with my iPhone. Although there are many merits to digital images, including the instant gratification, there’s another side to it, one that was beginning to influence how I felt while traveling.

When strictly using my phone to take photos on trips, I’d feel like I had to take pictures of everything—and my mood would be affected if I didn’t get the shot I’d hoped for. This was only heightened if I didn’t like how I looked on camera. If the photographer had the wrong angle or didn’t capture the photo within my ideal frame, I’d be annoyed. The incredible experiences I was having couldn’t compete with the negative self-talk that would permeate my thoughts. 

Kodak M35 35mm film camera

Upon looking at the images captured from my disposable cameras, however, I realized these memories weren’t muddied with any of those less-than-ideal emotions. In the actual moment the photo was taken, I couldn’t glance at a screen and determine if it was “good” or not. I had no clue if my eyes were closed or if the image was slightly blurry or overexposed. The shots may not have been exactly Instagram-worthy, but once I had the physical prints in hand, I didn’t mind in the slightest. In fact, the not-so-picture-perfect shots were usually my favorite ones. 

As much as I loved the photos the disposable cameras took, the expense—and environmental cost—was something to consider. So in the summer of 2022, I picked up a cheap reusable film camera on Amazon. Along with film, each camera roll processed would cost me around $30, compared to the $35 total expense of the cameras I’d previously used. While that might not seem too significant, it’s worth noting the 35MM film gets 36 exposures, compared to 27 in each disposable camera.