A few things about me: I love a good deal. Though I have a weakness for some brands (<cough> Contax 35mm and maybe Pentax) overall I am brand agnostic. You won’t catch me anywhere arguing the superiority of one over another. Pointless. I’ve been through many brands and what I have learned is that I can get the photo I want with nearly any camera. That being said I will agree that some types of gear are better at a certain task than others. Micro four thirds for their lightness and small size; full frame and greater for low light for instance. Having said this about digital, my preference is film cameras whenever possible —35mm and medium format.
With the holidays coming up thoughts turn to gift ideas for others and wishlists for myself. Given enough time I could go on for days, but as of this moment these are my holiday must-haves.
A good solid automated compact 35mm film camera
You can find these within a broad price range. I personally own a Contax T2 at the high end (purchased from KEH before the hype) and a Konica C35 AF2 (picked up for $50 at the local camera shop), but there are plenty of cameras that fit the bill. They have great metering, auto focus, sharp lenses, and deliver that lovely film experience in a compact pocket-able package. Another camera I have always admired that lands somewhere between, price wise, and keeps a place on my wishlist is the Yashica T4.
A high-end interchangeable 35mm lens
So many choices! SLRs or rangefinders? Some of my favorite SLRs are the Contax/Yashica line, Nikon Fs and Olympus OMs. Some of my favorite rangefinders are M mounts like the Leica M3 and the Voigtlander Bessa R line, as well as the Contax G cameras. My pick for this wishlist is a combination of the last two groupings, the Konica Hexar RF body and lens package. It has an M mount and Contax like automation.
A solid medium format camera
At the low price end you have great choices like the Yashica line of TLR 6×6 cameras. At the high end you have excellent choices like Hasselblad V cameras, but if you want a price point somewhere in-between that adds AF and metering automation, I recommend the Pentax 645N. I also highly recommend the AF 75mm f/2.8. For my wishlist I have to add the Pentax 645Z ,which not only costs way less than other medium format digital cameras, but it also uses the same manual and AF lenses as its film predecessors.
A solid digital stills camera
With digital the world is your oyster. There are great video cameras out there and especially good 4K bargains in the M43 world. The recent round of mirrorless cameras are amazing with more full frame options. I have had many mirrorless cameras and still own a few, but most mirrorless are relatively new to the market. Though they may have a good selection of lenses, they have not been around long enough to bring affordable lens prices via depreciation. If you are looking for a great deal in a solid stills camera and brings dual SD card slots, stellar build quality, and weather resistance my personal choice is the Pentax K-3.The K-3 ii is also great, but costs more and I prefer the built-in flash of the K-3 over the K-3 ii’s built in GPS.There are other cameras better at certain tasks like sports or video, but bang for buck the K-3 is hard to beat stills wise. The camera price is reasonable, but the real money savings kick in when you start considering lenses. Some of my favorite lenses I have ever used at any price point are Pentax mount lenses that can be had for $500 or much less. The 100mm f/2.8 macro. The film era 50mm f/1.7. The 40mm f/2.8 limited. The Tamron 28-75mm and 70-200mm f/2.8s. And so on and so forth. As an added bonus most all work on the Pentax AF film cameras as well as the full frame K-1 if you choose to upgrade later.