It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and if you’re like me, you’re probably in a state of semi-panic thinking about the volume of gifts you need to pick up for family and friends in the next few weeks. If you’ve got a photographer on the gift list, chances are they’ll be even pickier than most about the gifts they receive. Luckily, we’ve come up with a list of photographic gifts for the most discerning snapshooter in your life.
Photo: Matthias Ripp (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Sony RX100 III
With the explosive growth of smartphones with cameras in the past few years, camera makers have had to drastically improve their products in the areas that smartphones don’t easily cover: image quality, zoom, and controls. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Sony RX100 III, my pick of the compact cameras available today. A large 1″ 20MP sensor that delivers great quality images, a 24-70mm equivalent zoom lens with a wide aperture throughout, tiltable screen, control dials and a pop-up electronic viewfinder, all in a shirt-pocketable form factor – it comes together in an incredibly appealing package. If your budget doesn’t extend as far as the $1099 RRP that Sony asks, the older but still excellent RX100 II and original RX100 are still available and on sale in selected stores.
The days for digital SLRs in the consumer market are numbered. The traditional advantages of great image quality, durability and speed that DSLRs have offered are no longer restricted to that realm: compact mirrorless cameras are rapidly becoming popular because of their ability to deliver that same image quality and performance in a smaller, lighter package. The Fuji X-T1 epitomises this concept best, with all the features you’d expect on a mid-range DSLR (large image sensor,giant viewfinder, solid dials and controls, weather proofing and fast focus and capture) in a body half the size and weight of many larger DSLRs. Fuji’s lens selection is also stellar, with a wide variety of zoom lenses and prime lenses that the photographer in your life can easily pick up over time.
If, on the other hand, the photographer in your life is content with one or two lenses, or is keen on dabbling in the world of video, consider the Sony A7S. It’s quite a bit more expensive than the Fuji X-T1, but with an even larger full-frame sensor with just 12 megapixels, the image quality (and low-light performance) is through the roof. 4K video recording makes the Sony A7S a sweet video rig, and the ability to add adapters to mount all sorts of lenses opens up the creative floodgates. Both the Sony A7S and Fuji X-T1 are excellent choices for interchangeable-lens cameras, and unless your photographer is absolutely wedded to a camera brand for all eternity, they’ll be happy with either of these.
Fujifilm Instax mini 90
Not all photography is about expensive gear and the pursuit of technical perfection. Sometimes, all one really wants in photography is to have fun and to be in the moment, like with the Polaroid cameras of old. Luckily, instant photography’s had a bit of a revival in recent years in reaction to the explosion of digital photographs, and the Fuji Instax mini 90 captures the fun of instant photography while still being easy to use. With a bunch of modes designed to get great quality snaps under any conditions, and several tools for creative effects like long exposures and double exposures, the Instax mini 90 is great for anyone from casual happy-snappers to serious photography enthusiasts looking for something a little more light-hearted. You can pick up the Fuji Instax mini 90 for around $199 at the usual camera and electronics stores.
EyeFi mobi wireless SD card
If the photographer in your life already has a digital camera, and is hankering to put their best shots up on Instagram, give them an EyeFi card. Being able to wirelessly transfer photos from camera to phone or tablet is a godsend, and opens up photos from a DSLR or mirrorless camera to the world of smartphone photography apps. Even if their camera has built-in WiFi capabilities, the ease of use of the EyeFi apps beats out most camera makers’ half-baked apps. The convenience of being able to see and share photos from your camera at any time is so powerful, I’ve got EyeFi cards sitting in all of my digital cameras – and my friends seem to think it’s magic. Your photographer friend won’t know how they ever lived without one of these.
A decent backup system (e.g. Crashplan)
I’m frequently astonished by the number of photography enthusiasts that don’t have any effective backup plan for their hard-won photographs. If the person on your gift list doesn’t have a really solid backup plan (a single spare hard drive sitting around that occasionally gets a copy over doesn’t count!), do them a favour and give them one. A gift of a subscription to a backup service like Crashplan is a gift of ease-of-mind, being safe in the knowledge that if something *does* go wrong, it’s not the end of the world. Many photographers don’t realise the value of having a good backup plan until they’ve lost something important (count me in that number) – you can make sure the photographer in your life isn’t one of them.
These are just our opinions. If you have any other suggestions, feel free to put them in the comments below.