Eight Timeless Tools for Photographers


Sometimes you can’t beat a classic, even in the fast-paced, ever-changing world we live in today. Despite rapid and continuous evolution in the digital camera world, or constant improvements to optical design, new high-tech fabrics in bags, lightweight carbon fiber tripods, and so on, there are some photographic items out there that defy the need to evolve. They were simply perfected years ago, and are still available today to perform the same tasks they did back when they were cutting edge.

Leica MP

Leica MP .72 35mm Rangefinder Manual Focus Camera

Released in 2003, the MP is not the oldest Leica still available as new (that title belongs to the M7), but it is likely one of the simplest cameras out there. MP stands for “mechanical perfection,” which is an apt summary of what this 35mm film camera entails: mechanical focal plane shutter with a top speed of 1/1000 of a second, metal film advance lever and rewind knob, and a manual frame-line selector. The only bit of electronics used in this camera is the TTL exposure meter, which requires a battery for use, and it is completely optional for those Luddites out there. This camera is the epitome of what Leica is all about, and has been for the past century.

Domke Protective Wrap

Domke 15x15" Color Coded Protective Wrap

One of the simplest, most “why didn’t I think of that?” items out there, Domke Protective Wraps, or lens wraps, are padded squares of soft nylon fabric with hook-and-loop fasteners at the corners. Available in a variety of sizes, they can be used to wrap up and guard just about any bit of important photo gear you have, ranging from lenses, to bodies, to point-and-shoots, and effectively can transform any bag in your arsenal to a photo bag.

Nikon NIKKOR 50mm f/1.2 Lens

Nikon NIKKOR 50mm f/1.2 Lens

Nikon is the only camera manufacturer still producing manual focus lenses (outside of specialized tilt-shift and macro options) for its cameras, and the NIKKOR 50mm f/1.2 lens still remains the fastest lens in the current lineup. Beyond its speed alone, the lens is an apt performer, has a classic and versatile 50mm focal, and is a viable option for a range of subjects and shooting applications—photo and video.

B+W Kaesemann Circular Polarizer Filter

B+W 77mm XS-Pro Kaesemann High Transmission Circular Polarizer MRC-Nano Filter

Even in this day and age where most optical filters’ effects can be replicated during post-production, a polarizer is still an essential tool whose properties cannot be duplicated after the shot. Among the most well-respected and trusted polarizers around are B+W’s line of Kaesemann Circular Polarizers, which are known for notably high transmittance, effective reduction in glare and reflections, and durability against the elements.

Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head

Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head

Even though ball heads may be the more popular tripod-head type today, geared pan-tilt heads still have their place, and have seen few upgrades over the years simply because they already work well enough. The Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head is an example of a classic head that can support nearly any regular camera and lens combination thrown at it, including DSLRs with long lenses or large format film setups. It is relatively compact, considering what it is, and has intuitive operation to move the head precisely, one axis at a time.

Berlebach 3042C Wood Tripod Legs

Berlebach 3042C Wood Tripod Legs with Levelling Center Column

Going to even more classic tripod designs, a wooden tripod is still a well-respected tool for many landscape and nature photographers. Nowhere near the technological innovation of aluminum-alloy designs, let alone carbon fiber, wooden tripods, such as the Berlebach 3024C, are heavy—and that’s how they’re supposed to be. Many photographers claim that wood benefits them by absorbing vibrations more effectively than aluminum or carbon fiber, and wood can also handle extreme heat and cold temperatures with ease.

Sekonic L-308S Flashmate Light Meter

Sekonic L-308S-U Flashmate Light Meter

Not the cream of the crop of Sekonic’s line of light meters, but the L-308S Flashmate has long been a standby for students, or really any photographer on a budget. This sleek meter performs all of the basics needed for most applications: incident metering for ambient and flash, reflective metering, and even frame rates up to 128 fps with a 180° shutter angle for filmmakers. An LCD makes it easy to view exposure readings and the sliding lumisphere design keeps the form factor pocketable for on-the-go use.

Kodak Professional Tri-X 400 Black-and-White Negative Film

Kodak Professional Tri-X 400 Black-and-White Negative Film

Likely the most storied film still in production, Kodak Tri-X 400 is the standard to which all other black-and-white films are compared. It isn’t the finest grained, nor is it the sharpest, but it is, likely, the most versatile and reliable of all films. Its wide exposure latitude plays well with underexposure/push development, and the film works well with nearly all developer types.