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The Official 2011 Phototuts+ Holiday Gift Guide

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The holidays are coming. It’s nearly that time of year to break out mulled spiced cider and flip through catalogs for ideas. Are you in need of a gift for that special photographer in your life? Or do you just help writing a wish list to send to Santa? Whether your budget is big or small, we’ve got you covered in this year's Phototuts+ Gift Guide!


Camera Straps

Most standard straps that come with cameras are not comfortable at all. Hard, unergonomic and ugly to boot. You’ll score brownie points with whomever receives a new strap as a gift.

  1. Frugal – Coming in at $20, this Quantaray strap has air bubbles for cushion and is comfy on daylong tromps around the city or hikes in the boonies. It's a good alternative strap with a comfort of neoprene, but less bounciness. Author note: I’ve had this strap for five years and the air bubbles have yet to pop or leak.
  2. SmartBlack Rapid’s slings are great and makes it easy to whip the camera out in a hurry. Great for a street photographer or a power shooter. $54-$130
  3. Stylish – Want something more unique than the usual black strap? Think vintage or handmade. Etsy is a motherlode of unique, gorgeous straps. (Pictured - $28 - OhSoStrapped via Etsy)

Camera Bags & Cases

Every photographer needs a decent bag to protect their camera. Bonus points if it doesn’t scream “camera in here!” to would-be thieves.

  1. Frugal – The messenger bag style for cameras are pretty versatile and they’re ubiquitous enough that a mugger shouldn’t take note. $15-$50 (pictured, $23)
  2. Fun – If you’re tired of the same old taupe, maroon, navy or black choices in bags, check this Etsy seller, JanineKingDesigns amongst many others. She designs and creates unique camera bags. Chances are you won’t ever mistake someone else’s bag for your own. (Pictured: $90)
  3. Splurge – Nothing says luxe more than a gorgeous leather bag. The notable Billingham bags are perfect for that Leica photographer.
  4. Bonus Splurge – Add some class to your camera by cladding it in leather. Sky Top Trading offers customizable leather camera-body cases $300+

Clothing & Accessories

Show your love for this profession even when you don’t have a camera in your hand.

  1. Fun – T-shirts – Cafepress has a wide array of t-shirts sure to suit any photographer. Who doesn't need another t-shirt? $20-$40 (pictured, $20)
  2. Sweet – a special gift for that special photographer. Tiffany’s camera charm on a silver necklace - $49
  3. Classy – Cuff links are back in style in a big way. Add a nice french cuff shirt and you have yourself a memorable gift. Camera cuff links -$29

Tripods

In these tumultuous economic times, we all need a little stability. What better way to offer that to a friend that to give them a tripod. Nothing makes people feel more secure in their photo!

  1. Flexible – Gorillapods have gone from being a novelty to a necessity. There are a variety of sizes and accessories, but their flagship is called the Focus ($99.95). Just stop by their online shop to find the perfect Joby gorillapod for you. ($20-$100)
  2. SmartSlik. It’s quite slick, but won’t slip on ice. An affordable yet well-built alternative to the popular Manfrotto. $50-$250.
  3. Splurge – can’t go wrong with a Manfrotto. This classic brand offer tripods of all sizes made of many materials. ($150-$1000)

DSLR Cameras

This is a good time to buy a new camera – prices for electronics tend to drop in December. I hesitate to recommend any one specific camera over the other because everyone has their favorite. But here goes!

  1. Affordable- Nikon D3000 - great bang for your buck with the practical and timeless Nikon F-Mount! ($500 with lens)
  2. Reasonable - Coming in around $500, Canon Rebel T3 is a gorgeous dSLR with all the features you'll need.
  3. Semi-pro - Pentax k5 - I had to include this one, it. I'm a proud owner. MSRP $1600 (body only).
  4. Prosumer - Canon EOS 5D Mark II retails for about $2500 and features a full frame sensor and stunning video capabilities.
  5. Weird - Can't get this in USA, but if you really want one...Pentax K-r comes in some wacky colors.

Medium Format Digital Cameras (AKA Splurges!)

Ready to jump into the world of medium format cameras? They are a bit spendier, but it may be a good investment for someone wanting to make a career out of it. These cameras are actually the traditional gift for that photographer in your life who recently saved your child from a burning building.

  1. Leica S2 - Featuring a larger than full frame sensor, the camera packs it all. Each body has a focal plane shutter, but each lens has a leaf shutter as well, just in case you need that high speed sync. $22,000-$30,000 (lens extra)
  2. Hasselblad H4D series - An ultra modern version of the medium format classic. Bodies range from 31 to 60 megapixels. $14,000 - $45,000
  3. Mamiya DM series – This line has cameras that go up to 80 megapixels and seem to be the slightly cheap cousin of the Hasselblad. $10,000 – $35,000
  4. Pentax 645 - This camera has made some waves for it's affordability, and it's great 40 megapixel sensor. $10,000 for body only.

Lenses

As always, remember that it’s far more important to sink as much of your cash as you can in a decent lens. You’ll get much better results than with a kit lens. CYB (Cover Your Butt) and do some research, read the reviews; there are a number of brand-name (by brand-name, I mean Pentax, Nikon, Canon) lens that are just horrible. And there are the great ones. And complicating things more, there's some third-party lens that make equally as good or even better images as a typical brand-name lens. Zeiss, Sigma and Tamron are three of the better-known third party lens.

  1. Classic - Nifty fifty. A f2.0 (or faster) 50mm prime lens is a great portrait lens. $100-$400, depends on the manufacturer. (Pictured: Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm, f1.4, $400)
  2. Macro - Many 100mm f2.8 lens are great for macro photography, they range in price from $500 (Canon USM) to $1800 (Zeiss's Makro-Planar lens for Nikon & Canon) (pictured: Canon EF100mm f2.8 IS lens, $1000).
  3. Zoooooom - Zoom lens are highly versatile and a popular choice. There are so many choices! Your pick will depend on your receipt's needs, so definitely do your homework here. (Pictured: AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8G ED, $1900).
  4. W-w-wacky - Lensbaby - play with the tilt shift effect. Miniaturize the world! $250-$400.

Memory cards

Not all SD memory cards are made equal; some perform faster than others and some give you a bigger bang for your buck.

  1. SavvyEye-Fi – beam your photos directly into your computer without the hassle of wires. Just like magic! Only not. Still awesome at $50 and up
  2. Blazing - Sandisk Extreme III SD card, starts at $63
  3. Speedy - Kingston SD High-Capacity Ultimate, $28 and up
  4. What a giant! - SanDisk Ultra SDXC, $250

Vintage Medium Format Cameras

I have a thing for antique cameras. They are so funky and cool-looking and have a different feel when compared with modern cameras. If you're wanting to try out medium format cameras without dropping the big bucks, this may be the place for you to start. Also a great gift for someone who fancies themself a hipster. Note: list prices assume the cameras are in excellent condition.

Psst - don't forget film! Double check the size before buying; there are 120mm, 117mm, 127mm, and 220mm films; different models take different sizes.

  1. El-cheapo (but good)Yashicas are great for beginners to get your toes wet with. ($100-$300)
  2. SchweetMamiya TLRs are a great mid-range camera to shoot with. (about $400-$600)
  3. Spendy (but totally worth it) – Rollei is the Rolls Royce of TLRs. Expect to spend anywhere between $1,000 and $3,000 for one in a decent to mint condition.
  4. Gorgeous - Hasselblad - Can’t go wrong with one of these. ($1,000-$3,000)

Vintage 35mm Cameras

Old but still good, the 35mm film cameras still have value even in the "modern" digital age. They're great for beginners to cut their teeth on. And, hey, some pros make a good living shooting film even today. Note: prices assumes excellent condition

Psst - Don't forget film!

  1. Built Like A Tank - Pentax K1000 - This is hands-down one of the best cameras to learn on. And even if you don't plan to use it, it's a great addition to a collection of antique cameras. $150-$200
  2. Rockin' - Canon AE1 - If you're a Canon fan, this is for you. Auth personal note: I inherited this camera from my Dad, and it still works great. Around $200-$300
  3. Purrrty - Nikon FM - How can you not love that chrome and lucite? $200-$400 (price depends on which lens comes with it)
  4. Ubiquitious - Minolta SRT - Practically every high school and college photography courses offered this camera to their students. That should say something about its durability and strengths. $150-ish
  5. Not so budget friendly - Leica R3 - Leica's reputation speaks for itself. $500-$2500 (depends on lens and condition)

Stocking Stuffers

The title speaks for itself. 'Nuff said.

  1. Fun yet practicalLens Mugs. So realistic that an ebayer selling one of these mugs fooled ebay bidders. It sold for over $500! $10-$50
  2. Whimsical - SLR Bokeh kit $25
  3. WarmMitten gloves, great for an outdoor photographer in winter.
  4. Smart – Kill two birds with one stone. It’s both a lens cap and a white balance tool $45-$65
  5. Funny - What the Duck - a collection of comics about a duck photographer and his quacky adventures $5-$12
  6. Cool - Vintage Bookends, a great gift for a bookwarm nee photographer. Retails for $100

What’s on your wish list?

Have you found any great photography gift ideas this year? Share them in the comments below!

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