Cheerfully Cheap: 10 Great Filmmakers’ Gifts Under $50

by Hugh BrownstoneLeave a Comment

After we’ve ogled the Leica SL, the Sony a7s II, or the Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS and wiped off the drool,  there’s still time to buy lovely but more practical gifts this holiday season.

Herewith, a last minute list of items under $50 to get the creative juices flowing a little differently.

1. Manfrotto PIXI Mini Table Top Tripod ($24) [B&H|Amazon]

Apple’s not the only company with beautifully designed products. The PIXI Mini is perfect for landscapes and cityscapes when slow shutter speeds are required – or selfies and group shots when you want to be more than arm’s length away from the camera.

Manfrotto PIXI Mini Table Top Tripod
2. Aputure A-Lav ($32)

Aputure has delivered the most thoughtfully designed wired lavalier mic on the market at the price – and it sounds pretty good, too.

Aputure A-Lav
3. SanDisk Extreme PRO 64G UHS-I U3 SDXC ($43) [B&H|Amazon]

You can never have enough memory cards, and the newest Sony cameras – like the RX 100 Mk IV  [B&H|Amazon] – won’t shoot 4K video with anything less than 64G. I found out the hard way.

SanDisk Extreme PRO 64G
4. AA Rechargeable Batteries (8-Pack) (<$20) [B&H|Amazon]

You can never have enough AA batteries, but at least these are rechargeable – do the environment a favor and stop using disposables.

AA Rechargeable Batteries
5. Google Cardboard Headset ($16) 

If you haven’t seen a virtual reality video on YouTube 360 or somewhere else, buy this headset literally made out of cardboard per Google spec, and find out for yourself. Or, you can always go over to BestBuy and try on a Samsung Gear VR headset for free. This is not your father’s VR.

Google Cardboard 45mm Focal Length Virtual Reality Headset

6. Zoolander 27 x 40 Movie Poster ($17)

Put up posters of  favorite movies as reminders of why we do what we do: make films. I've got Zoolander, The Philadelphia Story, Pi, Back to the Future, and True Lies on my walls. Of course, you may have a different idea of what constitutes great, so see if your favorite is available.

Zoolander 27 x 40 Movie Poster
7. Mefoto MPH100K Smart Phone Holder with Camera Support ($30)

Think of this as a superlight ballhead for any smartphone smaller than the iPhone 6s Plus, and you’ll be spot-on. Great on top of a monopod!

Mefoto Smart Phone holder 8. Casablanca ($4)

For ultimate inspiration, re-watch your favorite films — or watch a new one. I think CASABLANCA is the greatest movie ever made. I watch it at least once a year and learn something new each time. You may prefer something else, so check out your favorite movie on your favorite streaming device.

9. MUJI Blank Mini Notebook Japanese Paperback-size Unruled (<$7)

This is my go-to notebook for client meetings. Cheap, nice writing surface – all the goodness of a Moleskin writing experience at a fraction of the price.

MUJI Blank Mini Notebook
10.  Apple's iPhone: The Next Video Revolution – an eBook (<$10, but free until December 31st for new subscribers)

If you want to understand how and why the iPhone and the best of its smartphone competitors have become legitimate filmmaking tools – or if you remain unconvinced — look no further than the ebook I wrote at planetMitch's suggestion and published back in July.  For a short period of time it even hit #1 New Title in Cinematography.  I certainly learned a lot writing it — and I'm happy to share that knowledge with you.

Screen Shot 2015-12-19 at 7.05.53 PM

11. Bonus: 3-Axis Gimbal Giveaway

Finally,  if you want a shot at something that normally costs over $1,000 but have zero budget for it, I'm giving away the CAME-TV 7800 3-axis gimbal we tested back in January. You can find out how to enter here.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 10.29.49 AM


(cover photo credit: snap from the video)

Leave a Comment