’Tis the season for maxing out the credit card and trampling over anyone who gets between you and your holiday bargain. Whether you’re shopping for the photographer in your life or you are the photographer in your life, check out these fun and useful photo gifts.
Lomography’s Instant Camera and a few rolls of Fujifilm Instax Mini film will make a nice stocking stuffer for those still mourning the tangible immediacy of instant prints. The camera features a wide-angle lens with two-step focusing and an aperture range of f/8-32. There’s a built-in flash and the camera ships with red, blue, purple and yellow flash gels to filter your images. You can snap unlimited multiple exposures or take a single, long exposure for light painting or night sky star trails. You can attach portrait, fisheye and closeup lens accessories to the camera for additional optical effects.
Price: $141 (includes 10 sheets of film); $149 (includes portrait, fisheye, and closeup lenses).
The Lens Flipper is a fun, simple gadget designed to let you sling unused lenses around your shoulder like a camera strap. Available in Canon, Nikon and Sony A and F mounts, the Flipper is a double-sided lens mount that gives you the freedom to change lenses quickly on the go. With one lens mounted to the bottom of the Flipper, you can remove another from your camera and mount it to the top of the Flipper (rather than juggling it precariously or cramming it under your arm). Unscrew the bottom lens and mount it to your camera and you’re ready to shoot again.
Xume Quick Release Adapter
If you’re a regular user of lens filters, the Xume quick release adapter is an ingenious time-saver. You simply place your filter in Xume’s filter holder and mount a lens adapter to your camera lens. Now, your round, screw-on type filter just pops on and off your lens via magnets, no more screwing around (get it?). It’s available in a number of sizes including 49, 52, 58, 67, 72, 77 and 82mm. They’re sold in a variety of configurations but at a minimum you’ll need the lens adapter and filter holder to get started. After that, you can purchase a starter kit that combines a lens ring and two filter holders or a Pro kit with two lens adapters and four filter holders. Keep in mind that once you outfit your lens with an adapter, your lens cap will no longer fit directly on your camera. Instead, you’ll have to put the cap into Xume’s filter holder to use it. Lens hoods, however, will still fit normally.
Price: $45 (49mm starter kit)
Parrot Bebop Drone
The FAA seems likely to put the kibosh on commercial drone photography, but Parrot’s Bebop is small enough to fly under the radar. This diminutive drone can be flown indoors thanks to removable hulls (included) that shield the propeller. It offers an integrated 14-megapixel camera capable of recording 1920×1080 video at 30 fps. It can also snap RAW stills in the DNG format. The f/2.2 fisheye lens captures a 180-degree angle of view and images are stored to the drone’s 8GB of internal memory (there’s no card slot). Images and videos are accessible through a mobile device. You can direct the camera and pilot the drone all from a single smartphone app. Parrot will also sell an optional Skycontroller that lets you mount a mobile device and use physical joysticks to navigate the Bebop. The Skycontroller also has a more powerful Wi-Fi radio that will let you fly the Bebop further (up to 2 kilometers) from the pilot and higher than you would by simply using your mobile device. If you want a really different drone experience, you can connect the Skycontroller to optional video glasses via HDMI and get a “drone’s-eye view” of the world.
Price: $499; $899 (with Skycontroller)
NixPlay WiFi Cloud Frames
Digital frames have seen their stock fade in the era of tablets but NixPlay has a contemporary take on the product with its new Cloud Frame lineup. We’ve been using a pair for the past few weeks and have been impressed with the web-based interface and slim bezel design which puts the focus squarely on the images. The 8-inch version features a traditional photo aspect ratio of 4:3 and offers 1024×768 resolution while the 13-inch model goes long with a 16:9 aspect and 1920×1080 resolution. You can control up to five from a single standard account (free) or spring for a $20/year Plus account and control up to 10 frames. You can load an SD card full of images or create web-based photo playlists from services like Instagram, Flickr, Facebook and more. The frame can also connect to your Dropbox account or you can simply email images directly to the frame. They have built-in motion sensors to save energy when no one’s in the room.
Price: $169 (8-inch); $299 (13-inch)
Dinkum Systems Actionpod Pro
If you don’t want to place your trust in suction cups when mounting your digital camera, Dinkum’s Actionpod Pro is a convenient clamp. We found ours to be extremely durable with the clip retaining its vice-like grip after innumerable openings, closings, clampings and fastenings. Its 9-inch arm contains seven links for a wide range of motion and the arms stay quite nicely put once you’ve contorted them into position. It’s topped with a standard 1/4-20 tripod socket and supports cameras up to 3 pounds.
MindShift Gear Travel Away
If outdoor adventure’s your bag, the MindShift Gear Travel Away is the bag for your gear. Part of the company’s innovative rotation180° line, the Travel Away is equipped with a special beltpack that rotates to the front for quick access so you can grab your camera without having to un-shoulder your pack. The rotation180° Travel Away can fit a 15-inch laptop and a 10-inch tablet while the removable beltpack (which can be worn separately) can house an 8-inch tablet plus a large point-and-shoot and smaller accessories.
Our hard drives house more than just folders brimming with images and even if those images hold pride of place, all your digital documents need to be secured beyond the fragile confines of your PC. That’s where cloud backup service CrashPlan comes in, providing continuous data backup to protect your important files. There are also software tools to speed backups to your own external drives or other networked computers. The service also keeps an unlimited number of file versions so you can go back in time to recall files and edits you wish to restore. Anything backed up on CrashPlan can be accessed via a mobile phone.
Price: $9.99 per month, per computer
Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan
There are some gifts (neckties, socks, political autobiographies) that deserve to languish in musty closets. A Creative Cloud subscription is most certainly not one of those. In fact, it’s one of the few gifts you can give with confidence that it will be used on a regular, if not daily, basis. The Photography Plan bundles Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom—including web and mobile editions. The subscription entitles the user to continuous updates, so the functionality of the programs will evolve without having to purchase new versions. Adobe is still ironing out the kinks in how users can gift subscriptions to Creative Cloud so for now, you can only buy a subscription for someone not yet subscribing. Still, it’s better than a fruit cake.
Just a few short centuries ago, promising someone the gift of beautiful sunlight would have earned you an express ticket to a burning stake. Today, with the web-based app Skyfire, it’s just a browser point away. This subscription-based web app predicts the quality of a sunrise and sunset in a given region of the continental United States—a boon to outdoor photographers operating during the golden hours. The app is updated twice a day to produce a thermal-style map of the U.S. with gradations showing the quality of the light from best to worst. There’s a 30 day free trial plus a 60-day money back guarantee and the company claims its algorithm is 85-95 percent accurate (and constantly being refined).
IC12 LED Light Cube
LED’s are typically used as a continuous light source but the LED Light Cube pulls double duty as both a flash and continuous light. In the former role, it can fire between 1 to 1/8000s and the company claims there’s no recycle time at all since it’s using LEDs. You can fire off up to 800 shots in full power mode or 3,000 in minimum power settings. It takes between two to three hours to charge the internal lithium ion battery up to full charge. You can daisy chain the cubes to increase your flash power, taking a single 300W Cube to up to 1,200W by combining additional cubes.
If you don’t have the constitution to drink like a photographer, you can at least chill your drink like one with these fun ice cube trays from Enlight PhotoPro. Shaped like cameras, they’re sure to delight your guests as they dissolve in the eggnog. They’re not strictly for ice cubes, though. They can be used as molds for chocolates, cake toppers and jello. The molds will produce not just iced cameras but lenses and flashes and will cement your photo geek status long after the holiday cheer subsides.