Gift Ideas for Film Photographers at Every Price Point

It’s about the time of year where many people are looking for gift ideas. This list outlines multiple options for a film photographer at multiple price points.   

To start, I’m going to break down my suggestions by price point. There will be broken down by items less than $25, $50, $100, and $250. There are, of course, other more expensive options but I wouldn’t suggest spending more than $250 without knowing very specifically what the person wants. I don’t plan to suggest, explicitly, any cameras throughout on the assumption that the photographer already has a camera. With that said, should you be set on gifting a camera, I will cover at the end of the article a bit on why it’s difficult to make a specific suggestion for someone I’ve never met. Further, I am not breaking anything down by camera type so the suggestions are a bit more broadly applicable. Lastly, I will reference some items that can be (and in some cases, need to be) picked up used at which point I suggest you reference my article on picking up film gear on the used market. 

Under $25

This is both the easiest and the most difficult category because it’s the category film falls into. Unless the person you’re reading this for insists on shooting black and white, I would highly recommend single rolls of Kodak Portra 400 or 800 (see a review here). Any suggestion for other color negative films will open up a can of worms that we’ve already dived into previously. As such, I’ll leave the film stock suggestions here for now. One suggestion that I highly recommend to go along with film would be archival sheets. I recommend these for 35mm and these for 120. 

There are two additional things that I suggest to every film photographer. The first, a shutter cable release, has several options which range from being from cheap to about as much as you’re willing to spend. For the cheap options, there’s really only one but if you’re willing to spend a little more, I would recommend the Nikon or Gepe cloth-covered shutter release cables. The more expensive options will do the same job as the cheapest option but will hold up better over time and are definitely more of a pleasure to use. The second suggestion I have would be The Negative by Ansel Adams. For anyone that considers themselves a film photographer, there is a great deal to learn from Mr. Adams and I don't think I've ever met a single film photographer who didn't have something to learn in this book. 

Under $50

Briefly getting back to film, getting a pro pack of a favorite film is always a good move. Personally, I asked for a pro pack of Kodak Ektar and one of Fujifilm Provia 100F. If the photographer in your life shoots 4x5, I would recommend getting them some color film. Another suggestion would be a good camera strap. I like the Peak Design straps so I can have one strap for multiple cameras. They hold up really well and feel good to wear. They have multiple sizes to choose from. My fiancé really likes the smaller, trimmer camera strap and prefer the one that is what I would consider a more normal width. 

Under $100

If the film photographer in your life is not yet developing their own black and white, now is the time! I wrote an article previously which outlined what it takes to get into processing your own black and white film. The actual process itself is really not difficult but can be intimidating to those that haven’t tried it. After processing one roll, they’ll be glad they got started. 

Under $250

Coming in at just over $100 is a wonderful light table from Kaiser. If the photographer in your life doesn't already have one, they can be great to have. More over, if they ever shoot slide film, they'll be addicted in a quick hurry. 

Every photographer needs a tripod – particularly if they are a landscape photographer. Personally, I prefer Manfrotto and 3 Legged Thing. Both companies make splendid tripods and the with a budget of $250, you should be able to get a carbon fiber tripod. My suggestion for the Manfrotto would be the Element and for 3 Legged Thing it would be the Billy. If they already have a tripod, I would go for a nice photography-specific backpack. The Peak Design everyday backpack is weatherproof and can hold up to quite a beating. A lesser expensive but still good quality option would be the Pelican MPB20

Cameras  

I would first like to note that for film photographers, cameras are a very personal thing. It’s not quite as simple as the choices in the digital world where you have DSLR cameras and mirrorless cameras. With that said, should you be adamant about picking up a camera for someone, I would direct you to two previous articles; the first article briefly covers a list of over- and under-rated film cameras in 2020 and the second article outlines the different types and formats of cameras that are available. I would highly recommend that if you’re the person requesting a camera, you think through what you’re looking for in terms of format (35mm, 645, 6x6, etc…) and style (TLR, rangefinder, SLR, etc…) so that you can make a more informed request. If you’re buying a camera for another person, I would highly suggest that you attempt to understand which camera type would suit the gift recipient best. If you buy someone a 35mm rangefinder but what they really wanted is a 6x6 TLR, you’re out of luck.

Gift Cards

While gift cards are not always an ideal idea for a gift, they can really be quite useful. A gift card to B&H would be helpful for buying film or any of the other new items on the list. In addition, B&H sells used gear which includes film cameras and lenses. Other retailers, such a local camera shop and KEH would also be helpful for buying gear. Aside from buying gear, a place where a gift card could be most helpful would be with the company where the photographer gets their film developed. Indeed, film developing costs a significant amount of money, and relieving some of that burden would be greatly appreciated by every film photographer. 

Did I miss something? What would you suggest to someone looking for ideas? 
 

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11 Comments

Michael Dougherty's picture

I guarantee that I'll buy something again this year that seems really useful and then never use it.

David Illig's picture

Best gift for a film photographer might be to get for them indoor plumbing and electricity for their home, and a digital camera.

Christian Monnet's picture

I would say that the best gift for a film shooter would be telling him/her to go on and for a digital shooter the best gift would be a film camera for him/her to see what photography is about.
fotoimpex gift card is a good gift.

David Illig's picture

“... for a digital shooter the best gift would be a film camera for him/her to see what photography is about.”

What photography *used* to be about. It’s called progress and improvement.

And for someone who needs to cross the continent, a Conestoga wagon and a team of mules, I suppose. You know, for them to see what travel “is about.”

Human beings have the gift of reason and imagination. I’m quite certain that anyone who feels the need to understand how photography used to be done can, with reading, watching, and museum visits, get a good idea without turning the master bath into a room full of reeking, toxic chemicals.

Christian Monnet's picture

"What photography *used* to be about." Hummmm, no. May be in your world film photography is dead but not in the real world. There is some new brand for cameras : check https://www.gibellinicamera.com or http://www.shen-hao.com
There's also a lot of new brands for films : Japan Camera Hunter, https://filmphotographystore.com : film photography has its own films and not only selling other brands, kosmofoto has its own films too, Washi is making wonderful and crazy films, Kodak is making new Ektachrome after stopping it back in 2010.
So, a lot of examples that film industry is alive and we know why : people and more and more fed up with the flat digital look. And I'm not talking about the ugly HDR where people want to have everything visible on their photos (like things with no interest in the shadows and things that the eye can't see). It's funny how photos look unreal now, sharper subjects, sharper than the sharpness of reality with your eye (it's easy to make a comparison of a shot where it was shot : these photos look fake. Same with these 4K tv screens : nothing real there)
"You know, for them to see what travel “is about.”" no but I know all these stupid photographers using digital but who want to have a film look. If one wants a film look no need preset or adding grain, just shoot film. Using a digital camera and edit your photos to give them a film look isn't "called progress and improvement" but stupidity.
Taking the engine of a Chev Chevette and putting it in the body of a Porsche won't make it a Porsche.
Compressed music let the ears tired after 30 minutes of listening. The same with digital photos. Eyes are quickly tired.

David Illig's picture

And you think that these cameras are going to take the world by storm, do you? You shouldn’t hold your breath.

Christian Monnet's picture

"And you think that these cameras are going to take the world by storm, do you?" Not the world but photographers. But is it what you're looking for in photography, buying the cameras that took the world by strom? So actually is your goal photography or buying stuff you've been told they were nice or that a lot of people buy? I'm pretty sure that these cameras I've been giving as example are not going to be loved by full SD card collectors, those who never print, who watch their photos on non-calibrated screens, who have no clue about color management but still shoot digital. I'm always bored by people showing me some photos on screens. Where are their prints? I don't care about photos on screens, it shows nothing. How would it be possible on a 72/96 dpi device?
And what I also notice is that more and more people are fed up with digital, because they were told it is magic then they discover that they have to learn to control Photoshop. It's been 26 years I'm working on photoshop and I'm quite ok saying that I know what I'm talking about.
Actually, they discover that digital has no soul. Oh, btw, drop your hard disk on the floor and let me know where are your photos, I'll let you know what did not happened to my films after a flood.

David Illig's picture

Gross and unrealistic exaggerations. I do research-grade nature photography. Users need to search huge catalogs of photos by keyword: location, genus species, whatnot. Drawers full of prints are useless for that purpose; “photos on screens” are the only way to make these photos available to researchers, educators, and amateur naturalists all over the world. Digital photography on the Internet revolutionized the sharing of knowledge and art.

Drop my HD on the floor and where are my photos? Firstly, in the 21st century the drive is solid-state and likely undamaged. If it is destroyed, my photos are safe on three backup drives. If they’re all destroyed, they’re safe in the cloud. If all of that fails, chances are the Apocalypse has arrived and it doesn’t matter.

Film is just too clumsy, too fragile, and lacking in resolution for my purposes.

Christian Monnet's picture

"Drawers full of prints are useless for that purpose" Of course, graphic designer don't print, photographers do. Those who are taking picture that you're talking about are just filling in cards.
"backup", "cloud", I don't know what you're talking about, I'm talking about silver halide crystals and photography, not 0 and 1 and computing.

David Illig's picture

“I don't know what you're talking about, I'm talking about silver halide crystals and photography, not 0 and 1 and computing.“

Exactly so. You’re talking 19th and 20th century, I’m talking 21st century and beyond. Can you imagine a Hubble or a Cassini or a Mars rover equipped with film cameras!?

Christian Monnet's picture

No, I'm talking about 21st century : https://www.fotoimpex.com , http://www.brooklynfilmcamera.com , https://cinestillfilm.com , https://mint-camera.com , https://emulsive.org etc, etc, etc.
You being stuck in digital photography doesn't make analog photographers living in the 19th or 20th century nor it doesn't make you more than them in the 21st century. You're still talking about O and 1 when I'm talking about photography.