Do you love film photography, or are you shopping for someone who does? Lucky you / them! Film photography is exploding in popularity and the folks in on the fun tend to be some the coolest cats in town: sorry, digital peeps.
Cool cats deserve cool gifts. And so we’ve combed the analog universe, searching high and low for the hottest gear to include in this guide. It’s filled with fun stuff that should please even the pickiest analog avenger, and most budgets. From funky film stocks, to home developing and digitizing solutions, these are the best film photography gifts in 2020.
Note: Gifts are listed in order from least to most expensive.
Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros II – $12 a roll – A classic film stock, resurrected from the dead
Fujifilm’s beloved B&W film stock is back, baby! Discontinued in 2018, the Japanese film producer announced a new and improved Acros II in November of 2019, much to the delight of monochrome fanatics everywhere. Available in 35mm and 120 formats, Acros II offers silky smooth grain, excellent sharpness and lovely tonality; the perfect film for a nice sunny day.
It’s nostalgic, yet practical, and a film certainly worthy of a spin through any analog lovers’ camera, whether they shot the OG version or not.
The Solarcan – $20 – A cool recyclable pinhole camera
The Solarcan is a long exposure camera, which, you guessed it, is built from a can. The intended use is for documenting the path of the sun across a horizon over a long period of time – we’re talking weeks or months. Originally launched on Kickstarter back in 2017, this single-use pinhole camera is a fun project for any analog nerd also interested in astronomy. Plus, it’s recyclable!
Each Solarcan is preloaded with a piece of B&W photographic paper (Solarcan Color is coming soon) and includes instructions for use, mounting materials and a storage tube to keep it light tight until exposure time. The Solarcan is also available in a five-pack ($80), which we recommend for added experimentation. Note: this item ships from the United Kingdom.
Lomography Analogue Aqua camera – $40 – An inexpensive waterproof 35mm camera
I’m giddy with excitement just thinking about how fun Lomography’s reloadable waterproof cameras are. For folks in the Northern Hemisphere facing a dreary winter, summer swims may seem like a far-off memory. But sunny skies and COVID-free days will someday soon (hopefully) be back upon us. And when the time does come again to take the watery plunge, the film-lover in your life will have the perfect camera to document it.
The Analogue Aqua is basically one of Lomography’s $20 disposable cameras sandwiched into a watertight plastic case. There are two version of the camera, one with Lomo Color Negative 400 film and one with Lomochrome Purple film. But it’s worth noting, unlike a traditional ‘disposable’ camera, these ones are not sealed shut and Lomography intends for you to reload them them again and again.
Lomography Fantôme Kino B&W ISO 8 film – $45.50 (5-pack) – A cool and new 35mm film stock
Speaking of Lomography, another great idea for the celluloid celebrator is the gift of a new film stock to try. Lomo’s Fantôme Kino B&W ISO 8 – announced earlier this year – is not technically new, since it’s cut from German cine film stock, but it’s newly-available for stills shooters!
This incredibly-low ISO monochrome film is super contrasty and perfect for creating a film noir–style look. And for more B&W fun, we also recommend Lomography’s Babylon Kino B&W ISO 13 film. Unlike Fantôme, it offers subtle tonal changes and plenty of dynamic range. Both are only available in 35mm as of writing.
The Pixlatr – $55 – A better way to digitize negatives
One of the most annoying struggles faced by analog lovers is how to get high-resolution, high-quality digital versions of their negatives. One of the best non-scanning solutions is to photograph negatives using a digital camera and a macro lens. But how the heck do you hold them in place and ensure even lighting?
Thankfully our good pal and DPR’s Film Photography Talk forum moderator, Hamish Gill, invented a solution. The Pixlatr, originally launched on Kickstarter, is a modular film holder that works with most film formats (up to 4×5) and features a semi-translucent back to diffuse light. It’s a simple, versatile and effective solution for anyone who owns a macro lens, a digital camera and a tripod.
Another solution is the Nikon ES-2. It’s a little more straightforward to use than the Pixlatr – it attaches to the end of a lens – but is also nearly three times the cost ($145) and only works with 35mm format film.
Analogue Wonderland film subscription box – $65 every other month – A reoccurring 35mm film subscription box
Who doesn’t love getting a parcel filled with fun surprises in the mail on a reoccurring basis? UK-based Analog Wonderland is bringing the concept of the ‘curated subscription box’ to 35mm film lovers everywhere. Once signed up, subscribers will receive a box every other month (depending on the length of subscription). Each box contains six different rolls of 35mm film, curated from a selection of 100.
This is not only a fun way for film lovers to try new emulsions, but also a way to connect with other 35mm shooters. Each month all subscribers receive the same film stocks, and Analog Wonderland provides an online space for folks to both discuss their results and compete in friendly competitions.
Lomography HydroChrome Panoramic Camera – $80 – A wacky camera with a ‘water lens’
Bear with us on this one, because Lomography’s HydroChrome Panoramic camera is truly wild. Based off a mid-1800’s camera design, this inexpensive panorama camera is built around a 32mm equivalent water-filled lens. Yes, you read that correctly.
While the concept may sound gimmicky, the results are actually pretty compelling and cool. And the camera plays nice will all sorts of liquids, not just water (though we’d avoid anything sticky). For instance, simply adding food coloring, or watered-down coffee can change the results dramatically.
UN Twin Film Pocket & Rama Works Film Canister – $20 & $110 – A watertight film holder
Is the film shooter in your life also an adventure-seeker? If so, a water/light tight film holder may be the perfect gift, providing peace of mind. And we’ve got two models to choose from: one on the sensible side and one a little more swanky.
First, the sensible: The UN Twin Film Pocket is a straightforward product that will safely store two rolls of 35mm film. It’s built of plastic and features screw-down caps with rubber gaskets as well as a metal clip to attach to a camera or bag strap. These units can be a little tricky to hunt down stateside, but the product is carried by both European and Japanese distributors. That said, we’ve successfully had them sent to the USA, just plan for a little extra time in transit.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Rama Works Film Canister. Sure, it costs 5x as much as the UN Twin Film Pocket, but it is a beauty to behold: machined from a solid block of aluminum and anodized. Note: Only the 120 format version is currently available as the time of writing.
Rama Works Film Canister shown above.
Fujifilm SQ1 Instax Square camera – $120 – A larger format Instax Camera
Most folks are probably familiar with Fujifim’s Instax Mini format, but did you know there’s also an Instax Square format, which provides a larger image size? And the hottest new Instax Square model is the Fujifilm SQ1, which dropped earlier this year.
It’s a handsome-looking model that’s easy-to-use, comfortable and capable of excellent results. Available in three chic colors, it’s the perfect camera for documenting social outings, once we’re allowed to gather together again!
For even more Instax photography fun, we also recommend the Fujifilm Wide Instax 300 ($90). It’s a good bit chunkier than the SQ1, but makes use of the largest Instax format: Instax Wide. It also offers a bit more creative control than the SQ1.
Lab-Box Daylight Developing Tank – $160 – An easier way to develop film at home
Analog shooting and DIY often go hand-in-hand. And nothing beats the thrill of successfully developing your own images at home. But for those a little nervous to dip their toes in the unknown world of loading exposed film to reels in the dark, the Lab-Box Daylight Developing Tank is for you.
Because let’s face it, most home developing mistakes are a result of improperly loading film and/or accidentally exposing it in the process. Lab-Box removes this pain point, though there is a slight learning curve to using the device. But ultimately, once mastered, it should help speed up the workflow of any home developer while also cutting down on the number of botched rolls.
And there you have it, the best film photography gifts in 2020, sure to bring a smile to the faces of emulsive eccentrics everywhere! Happy holidays and happy shooting, from the analog nerds here at DPReview.