The Filmtastic Gift Guide for Film Photographers
So you’ve got a friend that’s crazy about film photography and you're looking to show them how appreciative you are of their friendship. Perhaps you know very little about the topic yourself, perhaps you’re looking to drop some hints to your own friends, or perhaps you’re just looking for inspiration on your next purchase! Either way, I’ve collected a bevy of topical items to satisfy everyone from the budding film photographer to the seasoned pro. Perhaps this will settle the collective quandary!As a warning, a few of these items can't be purchased new. But don't worry, film photographers love used equipment. It makes their collection all the more unique!
For The "Instant" Photographer
Fujifilm has made some great strides in recent years in the effort to re-invent and revitalize the instant film photography culture. From the depths of filmic despair arose the Instax series of cameras that captured the hearts of a new generation and kept the instant photography niche afloat. Despite the ubiquitous nature of the Instax cameras, some purists would argue that they lack a bit of the nostalgic charm of the vintage Polaroids, (if you listen closely, you can hear the crowds chanting “Square is better!”)
If you’re looking to stand out from the crowd and brandish a unique camera oozing with old school charm, look no further than the newly released Polaroid OneStep2. It has a fantastic combination of old-school charm in a modern, attractive enclosure. Didn’t know that Polaroid was still making cameras and instant film? It’s true, they ceased operation for a while, and many thought the Polaroid name would soon be only a memory.
Then along came company called The Impossible Project, and saved both the Polaroid name, and the format that Polaroid invented and popularized. If you want to read more about that epic saga, check out this article. Also, If you’re looking for a few extra brownie points, pick up a pack of film as well. It shoots Polaroid 600, but the newly developed i-Type (which it also shoots) is cheaper due to elimination of the battery inside the film pack and contains the same photographic quality as its older sibling. The Polaroid OneStep2 will be available soon at many major retailers, including Amazon.
For the “Unique Film Stock” Buff
As a film photographer, you’ve been given an incredible gift. Any time you go out to shoot, you have the ability to change and upgrade your camera “sensor.” What I mean, of course, is that you have the ability to change your film every 36 exposures, thereby completely altering the way in which your camera captures an image. Want a sharper and more vibrant image? Pick up some Kodak Ektar! Need a softer image with more pleasing skin tones? Grab some Portra! It’s like having a unique Instagram filter in every roll! Film may seem like a small present, but you can't capture those grainy memories without it!
But what’s even more unique than the easy to find and ubiquitous film stocks of the modern day? Well, expired, discontinued films of yesteryear of course! Here’s the problem…while shooting expired film stocks can be incredibly exhilarating, it’s difficult to find an old film that still maintains its basic photographic properties, and hasn’t been ruined by improper storage. Time and heat aren't kind to film. That’s where the Film Photography Project comes in. If you’d prefer an alternative to the Russian-roulette method of purchasing film on eBay, you must check out their sales at the Film Photography Store. They have an incredible collection of vintage films, all verified as properly stored, and donated by other film photography lovers across the country and the world.
Expecting incredibly high prices for such unique stocks? You will be happy to find that most of the film stocks listed on their site compare favorably with the prices of modern films on popular retailers like Amazon and B&H. What’s more, all the proceeds go back to the Film Photography Project’s effort to equip a new generation of film photographers through camera donations to students, and general knowledge of the craft provided through their podcast.
For the "Glass Connoisseur"
When you’re shooting digital, so many aspects of the camera determine the look of your image: the sensor, the processor, the lens, the software used in editing, and so forth. When you’re shooting film, you only have two things to consider when looking to switch up your look and style: your film stock, and your lens. I also encourage people to invest in their glass more-so than their cameras for two reasons: it will often have a greater effect on the quality of your image, and it will often outlast your camera body.
While quality modern lenses usually sell for incredibly exorbitant prices, vintage manual focus lenses often sell for well under $100. But besides the price, why would anyone want a vintage lens? For one thing, many of these lenses were built for professional use, and do away with the plastic found on most modern lenses for sturdy steel. They’ve lasted this long for a reason! Secondly, most of these older lenses contain small perfections due to their age and the lack of computer algorithms used in their creation. Many photographers see these imperfections as adding to the uniqueness of their photographs rather than degrading or adding unwanted characteristics. While modern lenses may strive for optical perfection, they often end up feeling sterile and uninspired. Vintage lenses add character and uniqueness to our world of beige.
Many of these lenses also adapt well to a range of vintage and modern cameras either natively or through the use of inexpensive adapters. Take Nikon lenses, for example. Purchase nearly any Nikon F-mount lens from eBay (or the ever-recommended KEH and UsedPhotoPro) and it’s sure to fit any Nikon SLR from the dawn of the format to the modern age. Be sure to do a bit of research on whether the lens you hope to purchase will fit the camera you hope to equip. If you’re unsure, shoot me a message and I’d be happy to confirm or deny compatibility!
For the camera connoisseur
Look on instagram and you'll find film photographers with dozens (sometimes hundreds) of camera bodies. Why? Because film camera bodies are cheap. Visit any antique store, any garage sale, or any flea market, and you're sure to find film camera bodies for just a few dollars. If you know enough about cameras to ensure their functionality, pick one up! Even if you don't, who knows...that $5 purchase could end up providing years of joy. If it doesn't work...well, you have a great display piece.
Look for cameras with a low likelihood of failure. In other words, find something that doesn't rely on batteries, has few moving components, and doesn't look incredibly banged up. Also try to find one that takes a modern film format (although not always of absolute necessity). Many cameras will indicate the film type inside the compartment if it isn't completely obvious.
For the Skater
No long explanation here. It’s a skateboard with film stocks displayed on the bottom. Do you skateboard and shoot film? You’re likely to appreciate this piece. Check out these and more here.
For the Summer Shooter
This recommendation is going to sound a bit odd. However, if you’ve shot film in the heat of summer, you know that film and heat don’t mix very well. Called “baking” the film, you lose clarity, and often see a bit of haze in the film when you develop. So what do I do when traveling with a few rolls of film that I know will be exposed to the elements for long periods of time? I store them in a vacuum thermos! While a vacuum bottle is designed to keep hot food hot and cold food cold, it also works well for keeping something room temperature in desert heat (or even just inside your hot car while you run errands). I have a love for Stanley thermoses because of their durability, history, and lifetime warranty (and a tad bit because of the name), but any vacuum bottle will work. Try to get a food bottle with a wide-mouth opening for easy removal of your film. As an added bonus, these bottles will keep your film dry if you’re working out in the rain. Just don't try to store soup in it at the same time.
For the Do It Yourself-er
Many film photographers have spent years perfecting their craft. Then they send their rolls of to be developed somewhere else. If you know someone that’s looking for a challenge (and quite a bit of fun), pick up a developing starter kit for them. There’s something about the sights, smells, and experience of developing your own film, not to mention the ability of control you have over the outcome. Check out this great kit on (you guessed it) the Film Photography Store.
For the Reader
If you know someone who loves reading about everything from techniques to the latest gear, check out Kodak’s recently released Kodachrome magazine. It contains a bevy of images, articles, and advertisements related purely to the world of film photography and analogue culture. This also isn’t some floppy magazine. The quality of paper stock and heft of the overall magazine gives a bit of insight into the quality of the material written inside. They can be purchased directly through Kodak, here.
For the traveler
What good is a camera if it isn't functional? Help keep that investment safe with a good camera bag. Whether on the road or flying to your next destination, a good camera bag will help keep those cameras, lenses, and accessories safe. Film photographers are typically attracted to the film photography aesthetic (vintage and rustic), so try to find a bag that matches that. Black nylon bags will keep the gear safe, but if you want to make someone really happy, find one in a nice canvas or leather. Ona has been perfecting these for years. These bags may not be cheap, but they'll last you decades.
ideas for stocking stuffers
These little items might seem boring or unnecessary, but they can make a world of difference.