The overlords of the photo industry are finally starting to listen to the photographers in the field. Aesthetics and soul are desperately missing from modern cameras — but film is here to help with that. In 2023, we reviewed a whole slew of film photography products. So here are the 5 best gifts for film photographers that we think they’ll love.
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How We Test and Choose the Best Gifts for Film Photographers in 2023
- The Phoblographer’s various product round-up features are done in-house. Our philosophy is simple: you wouldn’t get a Wagyu beef steak review from a lifelong vegetarian. And you wouldn’t get photography advice from someone who doesn’t touch the product. We only recommend gear we’ve fully reviewed in these roundups.
- If you’re wondering why your favorite product didn’t make the cut, there’s a chance it’s on another list. If we haven’t reviewed it, we won’t recommend it. This method keeps our lists packed with industry-leading knowledge. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. You can read more about our ethics on this on our Disclaimer page.
- When we test products we’ve got various things in mind. First off, we consider who might want to buy the product and what they might do with it. With that in mind, we try to tackle at least three genres of photography with that product in a variety of situations. For example, if a lens has weather resistance, then we’ll test it accordingly with a weather-resistant camera. We also test the autofocus of the lens in continuous mode, single mode, with exposure preview effects, without those effects, and then with all the major image quality parameters. These days, no one really makes a bad lens — but some are far better than others. And that’s what we’re trying to find in our reviews.
- In all of our roundups, we’re basing our findings on the reviews that we’ve done. We’re choosing a favorite, but we’re also giving photographers a bunch of others that they might like, depending on how they shoot.
Our Choice Amongst the Best Gifts for Film Photographers: CineStill 400D
We gave CineStill 400D an Editor’s Choice award in our review. And more or less, the company gave photographers exactly what they wanted. This is a cinema film balanced to daylight and available at a faster ISO than their previous 50D. Essentially, it’s the daylight version of 500T — and that also means that it can be a suitable replacement for so many other C41 films on the market. Available in 35mm and 120 (which most photographers shoot with), this film has a unique look thanks in part to the remjet layer of the film being removed. So you’ll get red halation around point light sources.
These specs are taken from CineStill’s website:
CineStill 400Dynamic is a fine grain daylight balanced color negative film that delivers a soft color palette with natural saturation and rich, warm skin tones. The film has a wide dynamic range with a base sensitivity of ISO 400, but can be rated from 200 to 800 and pushed up to 3200. This makes the film highly versatile, usable both indoors or in the studio, under virtually any lighting conditions.
400D was specifically designed for still photography to be processed in C-41 chemistry by any photo lab or at home. In addition, it also features a process-surviving anti-static lubricant coating ideal for both manual SLRs and automatic winding cameras. This film continues CineStill’s ongoing tradition of cinematic film emulsions made for still photographers, allowing them to maximize their creativity and produce remarkable images that express who they are as artists.
RECOMMENDED ACCEPTABLE EXPOSURE FOR PUSH PROCESSING:
No push – EI 200-800
1 stop push – EI 400-1000
2 stop push – EI 800-1600
3 stop push – EI 1000-2000
Storage and Handling: Load and unload film in subdued light. Store unexposed film in a refrigerator at 13°C (55°F) or lower in the original sealed package. To avoid moisture condensation on film that has been refrigerated, allow the film to warm up to room temperature before opening the package. Process film as soon as possible after exposure. Protect processed film from strong light, and store it in a cool, dry place.
Expiration: Film is a perishable good. For best results, expose and process the film within the stated expiration date. Exposed film should be processed promptly in C-41 chemistry to preserve latent image latitude and color fidelity. All current productions of CineStill have expiration dates for two years from manufacture date on the box.
What We Think
In our review, we state:
The CineStill 400D hype is real! This is a gorgeous film that will remind you of lots of the movies and television shows you’ve seen. It absolutely stands on its own apart from 500T and 50D. Where 50D is always kind of difficult to use, 400D is more versatile. This, coupled with 500T, should be the mainstay of your camera bag in lots of situations, along with Kodak Portra 800.
Four of the Other Best Gifts for Film Photographers in 2023
While Cinestill is a great option, there are lots of others on the camera and film market. And best of all, they’re not super expensive. If you truly love the film photographer in your life, then you’ll get them more film. Just kidding — you’ll actually console their soul that film isn’t dead. But surely, these products can help.
Atlanta Film Co Euphoric 100
In our review, we state:
This is a film I think some photographers might scoff at. I mean, where are those tones and the beautiful skin render you see so much of on Reddit, Instagram, and Tumblr? Well, if you develop with E6, you’ll get a more standard image. However, other photographers might like it. Folks who care more about the moment captured will adore this film, the fact it’s affordable, and that it offers a unique look. The modern film world is the Wild West though, and these folks are either a niche within a niche or they’re everywhere. And unfortunately, you can never completely figure it out.
Fujifilm Instax SQ40
In our review we state:
If we’re talking about pure image quality, the Fujifilm Instax SQ40 doesn’t have a glass lens like the Lomography Lomo’Instant Square does. It also doesn’t have interchangeable lenses like the Nons SL660. But it’s also far simpler to use than all of them. While Lomography takes inspiration from vintage Kodak cameras with its folding design and glass lens, the Fujifilm Instax SQ40 keeps it simple. When you’re in the moment, you truly just want the camera to get out of the way of making a better picture. That’s when the Fujifilm Instax SQ40 will serve you best.
In our review, we state:
I like my film cameras retro. The Polaroid I2 is a fascinating camera that feels like a brand of retro from a time when manufacturers started to make cheaper feeling products. And overall, the Polaroid I2 doesn’t feel like the highest quality option on the market. But at the same time, this is arguably one of the most modern analog cameras to date. In the end, I’m quite happy that Polaroid made this camera.
Jollylook Pinhole Instant Film Camera
In our review, we state:
Admit to it or not, we all tend to “spray and pray” with our digital cameras and smartphones. With the Jollylook pinhole camera, there’s definitely a lot of praying. Praying that the exposure you so painstakingly calculated (or guesstimated) turns out right. Otherwise, that’s one frame that’s just gone to waste. And the more frustrating thing? You don’t really know what exposure to put in after that last wasted shot.
Using This Guide to the Best Gifts for Film Photographers in 2023
If you’re considering purchasing anything from this list of the best gifts for film photographers, consider the following:
- All the product images and sample photos in these roundups are shot by our staff. In fact, we don’t talk about products at length in roundups like this unless we’ve done full reviews of them. But you can surely know that we’ve done all the research ourselves.
- This list of the best gifts for film photographers includes a lot of options for a variety of photographers. There’s 35mm, 120, instant film, and more. Instant film isn’t always Polaroid, either. Fujifilm has made Instax for several years. And yes, they’re both film because there’s an active chemical development process involved here.
- If you’re shooting instant film, store it in the fridge if your packs aren’t opened yet.
- If you shoot 35mm and 120 film, store your unused film in the freezer. Then let it thaw and get to room temperature before using it.
- Our American staff are currently based in the North East; but we send our film to Blue Moon camera for development.
- Pinhole photography is super fun because it forces you to slow down even more so than regular film photography does.
- CineStill’s quality can be a bit hit or miss at times. But if you let the company know that you got a faulty roll, they’ll send you a new one usually.
- Atlanta Film Co is a pretty new company to the world of film. And they’re doing things no one else does.
Picking the Right One For You
If you’re still a bit confused as to the right lens for you, here are some questions to ask yourself
- What’s your budget?
- How will you use the product?
- What lighting situations are you in, and how will that affect what you’re doing? Our reviews hyperlinked in this article can help with that.
- Are you traveling a lot with it?
- Will you be using it in a situation that’s a bit rougher?
- Who else uses this product? How are they using it?
- What’s so appealing about this product that I can’t get from what I have already or something else?
- When will I really have time to use this product?
- Where will I bring this product?
- How will this product help bring me joy and joy in my photography?
These are just a few of the questions that we ask ourselves, but we think that you should ask yourself these for sure.