Sometimes, buying gifts for a Photog spouse or relative can by tricky if you don’t understand enough about photography yourself, or don’t know what they already have or want. This post is designed to arm with you with a little more knowledge about what’s what, what’s hot, and where’s what.
The following are some gift ideas for photographers. Some are rather simple and straightforward while others are very specific. Feel free to do your own research too. Amazon.com has great reviews, and the best online prices on the internet anywhere will be from B&HPhoto. Their competition, Adorama, is also nice if they have something you can’t get elsewhere.
Keep in mind to also utilize your local camera store. They are very busy this time of the year (I worked at one this time last year) and though their prices might be a tad higher than online, you are also paying for their knowledge, your ability to get hands-on, and the speed at which you can obtain your gift (usually walk right out with it). Support your local camera store!!
NEW AND UPDATED POCKET CAMERA
There are hundreds of pocket cameras out that all do different amazing things (actually most do 95% the SAME thing) so which one to pick? Most photo enthusiasts will want a camera capable of shooting RAW (unprocessed photos) which allows for more creative control, and also a camera that has manual controls. Obviously, a good zoom and a fast lens is a bonus too right? Without getting into too much detail, I’ll give you a few cameras that come to mind and briefly their “talking points” to give you something to start with.
- Panasonic Lumix ZS-8 or ZS-10 (excellent lens quality, easy-to-use controls, one-touch movie recording, 720p HD video & 1080 HD video respectively, GPS on the ZS-10) (also, check out my review of the Panasonic ZS-7 HERE which is very similar)
- Canon Powershot S100 (fast lens with high-quality optics, RAW, GPS, 1080p HD video)
NEW LENSES FOR DSLR CAMERAS
If your photographer gift recipient has a camera with lenses that can be swapped out from the body of the camera, this would be a DSLR. Generally-speaking, the Canon EF-S mount or Nikon DX mount will be the most popular. If you’re unsure, ask your local camera store, as Panasonic and some Sony’s use a “micro 4:3″ and other Sony’s and Pentax use their own mounts.
- Macro Lens (my Macro photo lens gallery)
Macro lenses are a FUN way to make photography much more interesting! Primarily they’re used for taking close-up shots of tiny objects, bugs etc… but really their uses are limitless. Macro lenses are often overlooked for their landscape abilities (quite the opposite of their primary use) and also make very nice portrait lenses (complete with soft, creamy background blur behind your subject)!
I’d recommend the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM Macro which is a high-end macro lens for semi-professionals or spoiled photo enthusiasts!
Otherwise, a much more modestly-priced lens that is great for any budget is the Tamron 60mm f/2 Macro. It brings in twice the light that other macros bring in and since it’s a “third-party” lens, you can buy it for Nikon, Canon, or Sony mounts. Each mount is incompatible with the other, so make sure you get the one that is right for the camera it will be used on. I owned this lens for quite a while and absolutely loved it!
- Fast telephoto lens (for sports and low-light photography)
Many people think that megapixel is all that matters in a camera. Unless you’re printing billboards, it doesn’t really mean much. One side effect, though, is that you can crop into the image to make parts of the image larger on your screen. This is silly as the image will never be good quality, especially if it was shot at a high ISO/in low-light. The answer? Telephoto lenses!
- A 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is what the pros use for portraits, weddings, and not-too-far sports photography. Now before you say “well my gift recipient is no pro” – hang on. Usually the lens I’m talking about is $2500 and equipped with the absolute newest lens coatings, image-stabilization technologies, and also is just plain overpriced. While the pros depend on their gear to get the JOB done, your photog might not require that. AFFORDABLE 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses include Sigma’s and Tamron’s, the latter is only available without image stabilization but Sigma’s is available in either format (they call it OS for “Optical Stabilization”)
If you are lucky enough, you can even find a second-hand Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L lens with or without image-stabilization for a decent price. The new version II with IS runs you nearly $2500, but if you shop smart, you can find the non-IS version I for about half that. Yes, that’s still expensive though!
- A 70 or 75-300mm telephoto variable aperture lens. These lenses are much more affordable but for a reason. They don’t let in as much light (especially at longer focal lengths) and therefore can’t get the same 1/500sec shutter speeds to “freeze” the action like the more professional-grade lenses will do. Is this something your photog needs? Maybe this photog will be taking photos of the kids little league or soccer games. If there is often very good sunlight there, he/she may not need to go up to a pro-grade lens. Again, consult your local camera store to try some out. Whereas the 70-200s will run you $1000-$2500, these lenses can be had for as little as $250, though a good quality brand with IS is going to be about $450. The Canon or Nikon brands are nice, but the Tamron is a great alternative as their lenses are a little lower-priced and just as good.
- A super-long lens that isn’t large or heavy for wildlife or very bright daytime sports is hard to come by. There are a few out there but two come to mind. My first choice is the Tamron 200-500mm and will set you back about a grand. This lens is rather good quality for being such a long zoom and narrow aperture. It’s build pretty well and comes with a tripod collar and case. It looks huge, but it’s really quite light!
My second choice is Sigma’s 50-500mm lens. I must say that I’ve heard people love it, but I personally can’t imagine the quality is really that good. It might depend on who you ask or what you call a good-quality photo. Please do your own research here! If you click on the link for this lens, you’ll be taken to a very good review site that compares it to a few other similar lenses. The Canon EF 100-400 L IS is a lens that I actually used to own, and loved it. I only traded it for a 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS because I needed the ability to shoot in lower-light, doing more weddings and portraits than sports and wildlife. I would recommend this Canon lens easily over the others, though it’s the only one I’ve used. Again, please do some of your own research!
- A good travel lens is something everyone wants. If your photog just got a Canon Rebel or Nikon D3100 /D5000, these are all entry-level DSLR cameras that come with an 18-55mm “kit lens” that is somewhat wide, not very long at all, not fast, and the quality is lacking a bit. A few nice “kit lens” upgrades if you want quality over anything else would be the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 L IS USM or for Nikon’s 17-55mm f/2.8, but beware, they are expensive!
A great lesser-expensive alternative would be Sigma’s 17-70mm with OS (I used to own the non-OS version) or one of Tamron’s many great lenses! For Canon I would highly recommend the better-quality “kit lens” if they dont’ already have it: the EF-S 18-135 IS is a VERY nice lens for the price! Many photos on my portfolio were taken with it!
- Super-wide angle (my super-wide angle gallery)
Whether you’re traveling, making art, or shooting indoor parties or concerts, the ability to see the ENTIRE scene is often important. If your photog has a non-pro-grade camera, he or she will likely be the prime candidate for one of the following super-wide angle lenses. These lenses are NOT for close-up portraits, but rather for artistic architecture, landscapes, and some street and event photography. The images made with these lenses are dramatic!
Sigma 10-20mm, Tamron’s 10-24, Canon’s EF-S 10-22mm, and my favorite, the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8. I’ve shot with both the Canon and Tokina and used to own the Tokina for YEARS and what an amazing lens that was!
- A FAST low-light lens great for portraits too! (my 50mm prime gallery)
I’ve always said and always will say: ”Anyone who owns a DSLR should have a 50mm prime lens in their bag.” Plain and simple. Luckily, there are several price levels and even the lowest priced 50mm lens will take AMAZING photos.
These lenses will allow you to shoot in light that is about 8-16 TIMES darker at the SAME shutter speeds than other lenses, namely the kit lenses. That’s insane! Not only will you be able to obtain higher shutter speeds, but you’ll get a nice soft “bokeh” or background blur behind your subject, and whatever you focus on will be TACK SHARP. There is ONE drawback… and really only one. It’s that you can’t zoom. These lenses are made very simply with very little glass inside, hence, they are sharper and let in more let. You can’t get everything in one package for photography – you have to give and take. If you’re okay with “sneaker zooming” as they call it, read on…
For Canon you have three options:
About $120 = Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
About $350 = Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
About $1500 = Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM
For Nikon, you also have the 50mm f/1.8 option, at about the same price, but the others will run you more than the Canon lenses.
Now, I’ve used all three of these Canon lenses. I started out with the 1.8, and moved to the 1.4 which I own now. I’ve rented the 1.2 a few times, and though it is a very very nice lens, I wouldn’t recommend spending that kind of money on the lens UNLESS this person makes his primary living shooting photography with a 50mm prime. It’s also great for people who do a great deal of HDDSLR video. Since this blog article is about gifts for your photog-friends, and not working professionals, I’ll bet if they need one they already have one. It’s a lot of money to spend on a gift that isn’t a heck of a lot better than the 1.4. Then again if you are a millionaire and can afford it, go for it – your friend will be ever-so-happy. And while you’re at it, throw one my way will you? It’s pocket-change for you right??? :)
Okay… so now your photographer friend or relative has all this amazing gear, some of which is rather expensive and perhaps delicate. Where is it all going to go?! Surely not in a normal backpack and just leaving it around one’s own person can be dangerous and is unnecessary unless actively shooting. There are many styles and brands of camera bags. This section could be a mile long, so I’ll let you do your own research, but ad a few of my personal feelings on bags.
First of all, my rule of thumb is that I only buy Lowepro. This is a “case” where brand matters. They make bags, cases, vests, straps etc… and they know what they are doing as they’re just about the best thing in the business. Other name brand alternatives are Tamrac and Timbuk2. The latter opts more for style than anything else, and you can customize the look of your bags. They are made in San Francisco and ship around the world, and they have an OUTSTANDING website! Both Lowepro and Tamrac tend to have more options, though, as they are the main two that make most bags trusted by photographers. Lowepro also has an amazing website!
So your photographer-friend has taken all these great photos. Now how does he become a “famous” photographer?? Well good question – I’m still trying to figure that out! But… one good step would be to get his work out there online! What? Facebook? Yes yes… Facebook is great for friends and relatives and even marketing for a photography business, but not for a portfolio. Online portfolio sites are a dime a dozen. 500px, SmugMug, Picasa, Wix, etc… the list is huge. Personally, I think SmugMug is great, but I use Zenfolio, which is give or take the same. Zenfolio allows me to upload photos and video, as well as PDF files, and display my works with beautiful slideshows and gives me an incredible amount of templates to work with. It also allows me to make scripting changes to the site if I know how to program websites. In addition, I can sell my photos online via direct download and/or printing. There are many more things that these sites can do. They’re usually about $99/year give or take, depending on features and specials. If you decide to go with Zenfolio, I’d appreciate a referral (code KF8-JXS-7KZ during the sign-up process). I have been with them for many years and have always been treated well and my portfolio isn’t lacking compared to other sites out there.
Yeah yeah… gift cards are tacky… but are they really that bad? Wouldn’t you be hurt if you got your fellow photographer a bag that didn’t fit all his gear, or a lens that is very similar to one he already owns? How about a near camera only to find out it’s not compatible with some of his lenses? If you don’t know a great deal and don’t take the time to really research, a gift card is a great alternative. As a photographer and computer enthusiast, places I would love to get a gift card would be BestBuy, B&HPhotoVideo, Adorama, Lowepro, Canon, Sigma, and Starbucks (whoops… well… when you’re always on the go taking photos, you need something to keep you moving, right?!)
Okay, this blog article is just the tip of the iceberg. What else does a photographer need? Tripods/monopods, lens filters, batteries, good shoes, and iPad, flashes, light stands, soft boxes, memory cards etc… (do you like I just slipped “iPad” in there?)
How about a lens bracelet??? Great for a stocking stuffer and you’ll get a good laugh outta’ your photo-friend too!!
Well.. if you’ve made it this far then you should have some ideas floating around in your head now. Google them all and find what works for your Photog. I think you’ve also earned 10% off fine-art photography on my website. Don’t you think?!
My Fine Art photography is located HERE and you can use the coupon code: XMAS-TIME to receive your discount! If you have any questions/comments/donations.. haha… feel free to e-mail me. Thanks everyone!