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Adolph Gasser

Capture Stills and Motion

I admit I've never been an early adopter of the latest gadgets. I was the girl still transcribing my college papers on an electronic typewriter when everyone else graduated to the computer. Maybe it's because I'm cheap, but I'd like to tell myself that I am just practical. If I don't need something, I won't go out and buy the newest thing just because it's available.

This applies to my Pentax SLR camera that I received for my 17th birthday. I used it from my classes in beginning photography in high school through photojournalism in college, and haven't switched over to digital yet, even though I know it would make it easier for me to upload the images I took for this article.

Fortunately, I can painlessly bridge the worlds of the past, present and future of film and photography at Adolph Gasser, an institution for anyone who has a passion for the captured image, be it still or motion, manual or digital. When you walk in, you're not overwhelmed with the latest in digital photography, though they do carry that. My little Pentax would feel at home here among the well loved and cared for cameras in the glass display cases. You won't find any other place like it in the city, with three stories full of products and services for the amateur and professional.

There's so much here, it's hard to know where to start. In fact, I could use this whole space to describe the massive amount of inventory (the largest in Northern California), and still not touch upon their range of services.

Unlike most film stores you find these days, Adolph Gasser is still family run and owned. Adolph, along with his son John, is still active in the store's operations. Originally a photographic repair technician, Adolph Gasser opened the store in 1950. The store moved to its current location in the 1970s, a site which was formerly one of the first photography studios in San Francisco. Check out the images lining the wall on the stairs from the street level to the top floor; those were the kind of images that were created back in the 1860s and 1870s in this same building.

Adolph Gasser's three floors are lined with new and used 35mm cameras, medium format, 16mm and 35mm motion picture and video equipment, accessories and supplies.

On the street level, Adolph Gasser provides services such as photo processing, camera sales and rentals. There's an in-house color lab for negative or slide processing (sizes 35mm-6x6) and digital printing on photographic paper. Their labs are staffed by employees that can assist you with C41 and E6 color print developing. They provide EBox prints (electronic digital prints) of 4x6 images for 21 cents each. If you're in a rush, you can process your own images in an instant for 45 cents each.

New and used digital and manual cameras, lenses, lights, meters, etc. are all for available for purchase on this floor, such as the Canon Digital 5 MEG Powershot SD400 for $399.99 or a SystemPro Lite Tent for $59.99.

Rental equipment includes all still camera formats and video systems, as well as studio and location lighting, including the Nikon CoolPix 5400 for $40.00, a Sony DV Cam for $300.00, or a light meter from Minolta for $10.00.

If your camera isn't producing the types of images you are looking for -- maybe there is a scratch on the lens, or the shutter isn't closing properly -- the technicians downstairs can diagnose and repair all major brands. Film, paper, chemicals and any other supplies you need to develop your images are also stocked downstairs on this level.

The top floor is all about the moving image. You'll find all types of equipment to make a motion picture, including the Super 8 Canon 310XL for $202.00, gaffer's tape for $9.30 a roll, or 10 feet of Comprehensive Video Group power cable for $39.99.

By the way, if you need a passport photo so you can take fantastic travel photos in all of those exotic locations you visit, they can take care of that for you, too (Two photos for $10.00). If you are a starving student, don't forget to bring you ID card for discounts, such as 10% for photo finishing and 2% for processing chemicals.

When it comes to service, be patient. Though it may seem quite quiet in there, they are busy. People come in with detailed questions, and the staff takes their time to answer them carefully. It's not like walking into a box or chain store where the sales people only know enough about the equipment to close the deal. They're always learning new technologies to keep up with changes in the industry, making them a great resource to their customers.