Photographers are tricky people for whom to buy gifts. They’re picky, they know what they like, and most of them spend countless hours in agonized research before buying anything. But we’re here to help. We’ve compiled a selection of unique gifts sure to impress any photo geek this holiday season.
How to use this guide
If you’re a shopper buying for a photo geek, these gifts will work. If you’re a photo geek hoping for photography-related gifts, send this list to those who will be buying you gifts as a not-so-subtle hint.
We’ve broken the gifts down into price point, with smaller (yet no less thoughtful) gifts at the top, and the expensive “Lexus-in-the-driveway” gifts down the bottom. Enjoy!
Stocking Stuffers ($5 to $30)
The best and most obvious gift to give the analog photographer in your life is film. We can never have enough of it, and without it life is meaningless!
Fortunately there have been a number of new films hitting the shelves this year, not least exciting of which is Kodak’s famously re-launched Ektachrome. Kodak also re-launched its high-speed black-and-white T-Max P3200 film earlier in the year, and this stock is perfect for low light and night shooting. Japan Camera Hunter’s well-received JCH Street Pan 400 is a great choice for the aspiring street photographer on your list.
Lomography just released a new black-and-white film called “Berlin Kino,” which has been extracted from a roll of cine film produced by a longtime German film company. Anyone wanting to give their photography a look reminiscent of Wim Wenders, Rainer Fassbender or Warner Herzog would be thrilled to open this on Christmas day. For those looking for a more experimental flair, Dubblefilm this year launched two new films (Bubblegum and Monsoon) that come pre-exposed with unique effects. If you’re looking for some more everyday stock, just grab a brick of Ultramax.
All of these films are good choices, and with every film offering its own unique opportunities and challenges, it’s impossible to make a bad choice.
If it’s clothing and accessories you’re looking for, we have you covered. There are a number of awesome shirt designs available in our own F Stop Cameras shop ($26), as well as tote bags, and retro film canister keychains ($5).
Shoot Film Co. is a treasure trove of stocking stuffer opportunities. From their collection of awesome camera-related pins (my personal favourite being the RIP Agfa Vista pin) to apparel, zines, mugs and more, there’s plenty to allow the photo nut in your life to wave their flag.
Photography magazines are another great option for the stocking. Publications like Kodak’s “Kodachome” ($20) and the female-focused “She Shoots Film” ($20) are great sources of creative inspiration and are packed with features on burgeoning and established analog photographers alike.
Mid-Range Gifts ($30 to $75)
The gift that I’d recommend over (maybe) anything else on this list is a good photo book. While we photo nerds have a tendency to hunt eternally for the next camera or that new piece of glass that will take our work to the next level, we frequently overlook and underestimate the value of looking at someone else’s work.
There’s been an almost endless number of great photo books released this year representing the almost equally endless styles and genres in photography.
Fans of instant photography would enjoy William Eggleston’s “Polaroid SX-70,” and Dewey Nicks’ “Polaroids of Women.”
For the more historically oriented, “Gordon Parks: The New Tide” explores that seminal photographer’s early work and emerging social conscience.
“Displaced: Manzanar 1942-1945” shows the work of seven photographers (including Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange) documenting the U.S. incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War 2.
Finally, two books from Magnum (“Contact Sheets” and “Manifesto”) are fantastic compilations of the agency’s photographers, and are each a treasure trove of photographic inspiration.
The Big Gift ($100 to $500)
At $99, the Polaroid OneStep2 is one of the best gifts in the analog photo world right now. Photo geeks aged twelve to seventy will be equally enthralled by this magical instant camera. Get some film while you’re at it – the OneStep2 takes Polaroid Originals’ I-Type film in color or black-and-white.
While many photographers develop their black-and-white film at home, far fewer venture into the world of color film development. The demand for precision and consistency, as well as the additional complexity of its chemical process makes color film trickier to dev, but a new product from CineStill is designed to bring more color development into the home. Their TC-1000 ($99.95) is a temperature control system and circulator thermostat that makes mixing chemistry and precise processing easy.
Good camera bags are often taken for granted. After all, we would rather have the camera in our hands. But in the case of the Moshi Arcus Multifunctional Backpack ($229.95) carrying is believing, as this bag manages to balance efficiency and ergonomics in a stylish and minimal package.
Tripods are another piece of important gear for any photographer. Tripods open up the world of slow shutter speeds and nighttime photography. While many of the most popular offerings from Germany or Japan can cost an arm and a leg, K&F Concept’s TC2534 carbon fiber tripod ($170) is a fantastic option for anyone seeking quality on a budget.
If you know a photographer who frequently shoots black-and-white film, a set of color filters would make for a great gift. Each color filter (typically red, orange and yellow) bring out a different set of characteristics and improvements in the final image. Just make sure you know the filter size before buying, or opt for a universal modular set from companies like Cokin.
For many analog photographers, buying cameras often turns up models with broken light meters, cameras with light meters requiring now-illegal batteries, or no light meter at all. Often these cameras sell for a lower price than their accurately metering siblings. With a professional light meter, a whole new world of savings and opportunities open up. Sekonic is the undisputed leader in photographic light meters and offers a lineup for a variety of price points. Their Flashmate L-308s ($199) is both affordable and highly capable. It’s a basic meter that fits into almost any pocket, but it offers spot-on ambient and reflective readings with an EV range from 0 to 19.9.
For those wanting the absolute top-of-the-line option, the Speedmaster L-858D is an undisputed champion. Though at a retail cost of $589 it’s above our price ceiling, it justifies the expense with incident and reflective modes, a one-degree spot meter with viewfinder and a mind-blowing EV range of -5 to 22.9 that ensures the photographer always has complete light mastery.
Once you’re above the $500 range, you’re really talking about some cool cameras or lenses. Unrestrained by price, it’s important to go for the absolute best. The camera that would deliver the Christmas feeling only a Nintendo 64 delivered in youth. Only one camera comes to mind. The one camera that towers above all others — delivering supreme creative control, optics and reliability. The Vivitar Ultrawide.
For the unlimited budget category, James has previously chosen some amazing cameras. The Leica M4, a Rolleiflex, Nikon’s FM3a and the Hasselblad X-Pan to be specific. Any photographer would be lucky to own one of these cameras. Give any of them as gifts and you’ll likely change the recipient’s photographic life. I’ll add one more to the list – The Nikon SP.
The Nikon SP could well be Nikon’s best film camera — it’s certainly their finest rangefinder. It’s a beautiful amalgam of past and present. It’s a classic, entirely-mechanical rangefinder made in 2005 with modern materials and production processes. It’s a professional camera with the potential to last forever. It’s a camera that should be passed down, not sold at auction, and though it’s honestly too expensive to think that many people (if any) will be getting one for a holiday gift, it’s nice to window shop.
A Holiday Thank You from the CP Team
James here. Many thanks to Jeb for this lovely and comprehensive gift guide. And many thanks as well to any and all who’ve taken the time to read it, or who’ve read any of our content this past year. We appreciate being a part of your hobby. Thanks again.
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Photography gifts can be life changing. My Kodak Brownie Super 27 was under the tree during the “Open Me First” era and I’ve been hooked on photography ever since. Merry Christmas and keep shooting!