Category Archives Photo Gear

It’s time to face it — the new full-frame camera bodies from Nikon, Sony, and Canon aren’t really that much smaller (if at all), and if they are lighter, we’re talking a few ounces (not pounds). This isn’t awesome because one huge reason so many people were attracted to mirrorless in the first place was the dream of a super high-quality camera without the bulk and weight of a DSLR. That dream is fading away as many of the new bodies being released are relatively close in size and weight to their DSLR counterparts.

Essentially, what we have now (in our mirrorless evolution), is this:

  1. A DSLR-like body that’s nearly as heavy, but they’ve replaced the mirror with an Electronic Viewfinder (which brings some advantages and disadvantages as well).
  2. While a few native mirrorless lenses are a bit lighter in weight, some are actually larger and heavier. Some of the sharpest, faster ones are definitely sharp as heck, and heavy as heck, too (in some cases, stunningly so), and quite expensive, to boot.

As for bodies: for example let’s look at the Nikon DLSR D750 versus Nikon’s new Mirrorless Z6 body. The Z6’s body is 4+ ounces lighter, but if you want to use one of your existing Nikkor lenses on it, once you put the adapter on…it actually weighs an ounce more than the D750 DSLR with the same lens. Same with my Canon R6 mirrorless vs. my old Canon 5D Mark IV. It’s about 4 oz. lighter (negligible), until you put on the adapter so I can use my existing Canon lenses, then it weighs about the same if not an ounce more.

The more I compare new mirrorless bodies and lenses, the less the difference it seems there really is today (especially for Sony users who are just using the same lenses they always have, but now on mirrorless). And yes, I know, if you do some digging, you can certainly find a particular mirrorless full-frame body and lens combination that might weigh less overall, but that’s not where the manufacturers seem to be heading. Even with Canon — for example, their R-mount mirrorless 70-200mm seems a lot smaller at first glance, and it is — when you’re at 70mm, but once you zoom it in to 200mm, the lens then extends out from the barrel, so now it’s nearly as long as the DSLR mount version. It does weigh a bit less, but it costs about $700 more than their 70-200 with a DSLR mount.

If you actually want a legit super lightweight mirrorless body and lens, you almost have to leave Sony, Canon and Nikon full frame and go with a crop sensor or Micro 4/3, like a Fuji or a Lumix with a fixed pancake lens (nothing wrong with Fuji’s, Lumix or Olympus cameras btw, all three make great mirrorless cameras), but if your goal is a lightweight carry-around camera that takes great photos, why not just use your iPhone’s camera instead?

I recently read an article where the author essentially said (I’m paraphrasing here), “If you’re carrying around a low-end DSLR, you’re fooling yourself. Quality and size-wise, you might as well be just using your iPhone,” (and I tend to agree, and when the iPhone gets a real telephoto lens, which I feel will be very soon, it’s game over for those low-end bodies).

This “mirrorless is now back to being heavy and bulky” wave seems like just kinda where we are headed now. I’m cool with it, as we can have the best of both worlds — for me, it’s my iPhone for when I don’t want to lug a heavy camera rig around, and my new Canon EOS R6 for when I think it’s worth hauling the gear (and for me, there are many times when it’s definitely worth it).

There are some really nice things about mirrorless, but the dream of full- frame, super small, super lightweight, super high-quality bodies doesn’t seem to be the direction the big camera companies are moving. Anyway, something to consider if you’re thinking of upgrading.

Have a great week, everybody! :)

-Scott

P.S. How about Tom Brady and those Buccaneers going all the way and winning the Super Bowl. Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. LOL!! Congrats Bucs — you guys worked hard, really came together as a team, and won it all!!! #GoBucs (BTW: This is an incredible football year for me, as our college team is none other than the National Champions — The Alabama Crimson Tide. #RollTide!).

Last week the box I’ve been waiting for arrived from B&H Photo with my new Canon EOS R6 and a Tamron 150-600mm lens.

When I shared the photos of my delivery on social (taken with my iPhone), I had a number of folks asking “Why did you choose the R6 over the R5?” so I thought I’d cover that here today (and why I decided to upgrade from . Here we go:

Lower Noise / Better Sensor

This was probably the biggest thing for me. My main sports camera has been the Canon 1Dx. Not the Mark II. Not the Mark III. Just the original 1Dx, which is a boss when it comes to low noise. Literally the best camera I’ve ever used in low light. Just incredible, and it has a wider dynamic range. It’s an incredible sensor, and somehow the R6 (not the R5) has the same sensor in it as the Canon 1Dx Mark III, at a fraction of the price. The 1Dx Mark III body alone is $6,500. The R6 is $4,000 less at $2,500. This was the main reason I went with it. The rest is just icing on the cake.

The Lower Price


The R5 is pretty expensive at $3,899 ($1,400 more than the R5), and that allowed me to save enough also to get the Tamron lens I’ve been wanting, and still have enough left over to buy…well…lots of stuff!

The lower megapixels (What?!)

For me (and in my opinion, for most photographers out there), more megapixels just mean more hassles. Your cards fill up faster, your drives fill up faster, Photoshop runs slower, and you’re always dealing with huge files. My current high-end camera, my 1Dx, is an 18-megapixel camera, and it’s what so many pro sports shooters — commercial photographers who make their living shooting for magazines and news sites, use day in and day out. The R6 has a couple more at 21-megapixels, which is great, but it’s all I need (even when making huge prints). The R5 is 45-megapixels which, is 50% higher than my old EOS R at 30-megapixels, which was already more than I needed. For me, the lower megapixels are a big plus.

I don’t shoot video. At all.

If I hit the video button on the back of my camera, it’s by accident. I wind up editing a lot of videos, but I don’t shoot any at all. The R5 is a video camera that shoots stills. It’s aimed at the video crowd, and they absolutely love it, but I feel like it’s video first and stills as the sideshow, so none of the video features that make video folks drool over the R5 mean anything to me, so that helped make my choice easier. The R6 is a camera for the still shooter (even though it still has some pretty impressive video features)

I don’t like CFexpress cards

I love that the R6 takes fast SD cards. I hate that one of the card slots on the R5 is a CFexpress slot. I don’t really need two slots in the first place, to be perfectly honest, but if I have two, I don’t want to require really expensive cards that I don’t have. Now I have to carry two types of cards? Nope. I’m going with the R6.

Why Did I Upgrade From My Beloved EOS R?

All the stuff I mentioned above
But especially the better sensor

Built-in Focus Stacking
The EOS R didn’t have it, but weirdly the lower-ed EOS RP does. Canon could have added it in a firmware update, but the just never did.

Built-in Image Stabilization
Most of my lenses already have stabilization, but people are raving about the performance of the built-in version.

Another bonus for me is the physical Mode dial on top
Changing modes through menus on the R was kind of a pain. I love a physical dial.

More Frames Per Second
Way more. I can use this body for sports. The Autofocus is better, too.

Way Better Buffer
The buffer on the R6 is crazy good (and way larger than the one on my EOS R).

The back of the menu-driven original EOS R. Not many buttons, and a funky main dial.
More buttons, much like the 5D Mark IV (notice the top dial, too)

More Buttons and a Better Main Dial
Menus are great until you need to change something quickly. There’s a reason so many pros like buttons — they keep you from having to dig through menus when you need to make a quick change. Also, the Main Dial (from the 5D Mark IV) that I loved so much is now on the R6, and man that thing is the best in the business. I’m thrilled to have both of these features.

Better ergonomics
How it feels in your hands matters more than you’d think, and the R6 has a refined body (and did I mention more buttons) and a better feel, and even looks better. How it looks matters.

In short, this is the camera I’ve been dreaming of — with more of the stuff I love and less of the stuff I don’t need. It’s like I just got a Mirrorless 1Dx with way more features at a fraction of the price. I’m thrilled! This is my first week shooting with the new camera, so I’ll have more of a shooting report later on, but for now, I wanted to answer that question that everybody was asking.

One more thing:
Another thing folks were asking me was how does my new Tamron (bought to shoot aviation) compare to the Sigma with similar range. I have no idea. I don’t have the Sigma; they never send me a lens a try — I have no idea. I’m a Tamron guy, and the lenses they have been coming out with in the past few years are just incredible, and an incredible value (the closest Canon lens is their 100-400mm, so it’s not nearly as long a zoom, but it’s still $1,000 more). It was an easy decision to go with the Tamron (especially after I shot an airshow a couple of months ago with a Canon 100-400mm, and 400mm really doesn’t get you close enough. All the pros out there were shooting 500mm or 600mm, or that exact Tamron I bought, so I’m pretty psyched. Now, I just need an airshow I can drive to. LOL!!

OK, There you have it. I hope you found that helpful, and more to come on the camera and lens as I chance to chance to shoot with it. :)

-Scott

This is a cautionary tale — one where I was literally just one click away from getting my $1,450 Canon EOS-R Mirrorless body ripped off. Here’s what happened:

I wanted to buy the new Canon R6 Mirrorless body

It has all the stuff I want on it, (and yes, for goodness sake it has two card slots), and I’ve been waiting for what I hope will be the perfect camera for me, and well…it came in yesterday. Anyway, to get this body I decided to sell my beloved Canon EOS R mirrorless body I bought back in 2019, so I listed it for sale on eBay (as seen below).

I’ve sold a number of things over the years on eBay, and I don’t do the whole auction-thing — I only put stuff up with a “Buy It Now” choice. I take my own pics of the product (seen below and throughout), so it’s the actual one they’re getting, and I price it to move, and it usually does pretty quickly. I had a few low-ball offers, but then within a day or so, it sold at full price, and I could see the guy paid in full, but PayPal put a hold on the funds to make sure I actually sent the guy the camera body. Apparently, theft and scams for what PayPal referred to as “high-priced consumer electronics” is a fairly common thing.

Things start getting a bit sticky

I get a message from the buyer saying how excited he was to get the camera, and how he couldn’t believe they actually got it. He also told me the shipping address on the account was outdated, and now he lives in Delaware and could I ship it to where he lives now instead, and he gave me his new address. I’m like “Sure, no problem.”

I messaged back to the buyer that I would be shipping the camera body that day and I would send the FedEx tracking number shortly, and I went to create the shipping label.

Wait. What?

The buyer dropped me a note again, and said he noticed that PayPal had put a hold on the funds. I’m not used to this happening (neither was he), so I went “old school” and called PayPal on the phone to make sure it was OK to ship the camera body (I didn’t want to get scammed, and have the buyer pull back his payment after I shipped the camera, saying he never received it). They assured me it was OK to ship it, and that the payment would be released the buyer received the camera. So, as I’m writing back and forth the buyer, I wrote, “That’s going to the Delaware address, right?” He wrote back, “What Delaware address? I live in Tennessee.”

Well, as it turns out, the first messages I got weren’t actually from the real buyer. They were from someone posing as the buyer of my camera, using a different eBay account. He got the buyer’s name after seeing it on my Facebook page, because the actual buyer wrote there, “Hey, Scott. I just bought your EOS R” so this other guy posed as him, used his name, and son-of-a-gun I was one click away from shipping it to the scammer at tthat Delaware address. I would have lost my camera; the real buyer would get hosed because now he’s not getting a camera either, though eventually he would have his money released back to him by PayPal, but the bad guy in Delaware would have pulled a fast one and I’d be out $1,450. I was that close. One click from printing that label and shipping it.

A Rookie Mistake

I’ve been told (since) you never, ever ship to an address other than the address on their account (by the way — the guy in Delaware closed his fake account immediately after I told him I was shipping the camera that day).

I Dodged A Bullet!

The real buyer confirmed he got the camera and he’s loving it. I’m about two days away from having PayPal release the funds from the sale, and my new camera (along with a new 150-600mm Tamron lens) came in yesterday in a glorious B&H Photo shipping box, and man…I just got lucky. This story could have had a very sad ending.

I hope this story of near-disaster helps you if you’re selling any gear online, and at the very least makes you double-check and triple-check before you ship.

Here’s wishing you a wonderful, safe, non-ripped off weekend, and we’ll catch you next week. :)

-Scott

P.S. A big thanks to everybody who attended our Travel Photography Conference this week. It totally rocked, and the feedback has just been stellar!!! Such a great group of photographers, with lots of great questions and discussions, and laughs throughout. Also, a high-five to all our wonderful instructors and my production team here at KelbyOne who worked so hard to make this conference such a success. I’m indebted to you all. Can’t wait to share what’s next. :)

So, we had my official 15th Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide, and then last Friday I had a few more ideas, and yet here we are with three more awesome gift ideas for photographers. Let’s go!

Camera Body skins for Sony Users

If there’s a Sony Shooter on your Holiday Gift List, take a look at this: this company (called CamSkins) creates perfect fit cover skins for Sony camera bodies of all kinds, and they look really slick (that’s the red body skin shown above).

They’ve got different colors (the white skin looks really cool) and they fit various Sony models, and…I just wish they made them for Canon bodies. They’re around $54, and they would make a really cool, colorful, and practical gift. Here’s the link.

If They Shoot With a Flash, This Is For Them

The Crown Prince of Flash, the Duke of Diffusion, the wizard of wireless, Joe McNally, has his own signature line of really smartly designed flash modifiers and accessories made by the folks at Lastolite, and the flash user on your holiday list would be thrilled to get any of these. Really fantastic stuff (I have their pop-up softbox myself)! Here’s the link.

A fantastic book from Photographer Rick Sammon

Here’s how Rick describes it: “In today’s crazy times, photography is providing a much-needed outlet/release for our feelings – and a way to creatively express those feelings. It’s also a private escape into a world in which we can create our own reality (in camera and with Photoshop/Lightroom/plug-ins) – privately and publicly.

It’s such a great book (and Rick is such a great writer and photographer), and thought there’s not a single photo inside the book, they will love this book from cover to cover. Here’s the link (in print and for Kindle).

Happy Shopping Everybody!

-Scott

P.S. You know what would make a freakin’ amazing Christmas gift for the photographer on your Holiday Gift List? A KelbyOne Pro Membership. They would flippin’ lose their minds! They would learn so much! Here’s the link, ya know, just in case. :)

Welcome to my glorious and sheepishly anticipated “15th Annual Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide.” It’s an annual tradition here in the mag, where I share gift ideas for photographers based on the stuff I spent too much money on throughout the year. Being stuck inside with the pandemic and all, sadly hasn’t curtailed the amount I spent this year (perhaps, just the opposite), but nevertheless, I’ve got some great gift ideas in three different categories:

Stocking Stuffers: These are the perfect gifts for people you don’t really care that much about, but it would be awkward if you didn’t get them anything.

Great Value Gear: These are gifts that fall into that sweet spot of looking like they cost a lot, but they’re actually pretty inexpensive, so you look like a champ, but in reality…well, you can fill in your own blanks here. Good stuff, cheap. Well, cheapish.

Cha-ching!: These are my picks for gifts you’d buy the photographer on your gift list who’s a personal injury attorney, anesthesiologist, or perhaps a cloud engineer (nobody actually knows what a cloud engineer does, but it has to pay a lot because it has “cloud” in the name and the future is all about the cloud). Before buying any of these items, the process will go faster if the bank has pre-approved you for a specific loan amount.

Just remember, giving one of these gifts by itself isn’t enough. The real magic of the holidays is when you can use social media to make others feel less adequate by taking smartphone pictures of all the stuff you bought, and all the stuff you got, and sharing it online. It’s what separates us from the animals. So, without further ado, I present to you my “15th Annual Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide” and late night bag o’ chips snacking companion.

STOCKING STUFFERS

Uncommon Grit: A Photographic Journey through Navy SEAL Training by D. McBurnett

If the photographer on your gift list enjoys a good coffee table book, this one is pretty brilliant. It has fantastic images of Navy SEAL training operations taken by a retired former Navy SEAL and it’s really stunning (the imagery and the testament of what it takes to become a SEAL). Really nicely done, and they’ll love it (and you). 

Price: Incredible deal at $37.53 (link)

Carbon Copy Cloner 5 (software)

This has become my favorite software for backing up my computer, and since photographers are notoriously bad at backing up their computers (they must be, because people email me all the time with heartbreaking stories about how they’ve lost their photos forever when their computer died or was stolen), this will make it so easy. It literally reminds you to plug in your drive and back up on a schedule, and all you have to do is plug in that drive—Carbon Copy Cloner does the rest. This is a very pragmatic gift, so while it’s not flashy, and they won’t necessarily be gushing when you give it, they’ll thank you again and again all year long. At the very least, they’ll think of you in a semi-positive light. 

Price: Personal & Household license: $39.99 (link)

Hard Drive for Backing Up Photos 

This one is particularly nice, because it really seems like you spent a lot, but the prices for storage have come down so much that it’s shockingly low. You can get a WD 2-TB external hard drive for around $65, which is just insanely cheap. Get them at least a 2-TB drive, and if you’re romantically tied to this person, maybe even go for 4 TB for around $100. 

Price:
2 TB: $64.99 (link)
4 TB: $99.99 (link)

My New Book, The Digital Photography Book 

Okay, this is a plug for my own book, but it’s one I’m really proud of because I’ve heard from so many photographers who have told me that this is the book that turned them into a photographer. It’s the major new update to the #1-bestselling book in history on digital photography, and it’s been seven years in the making. I’m sharing all my latest techniques, tips, and tricks on how to make better photos, right away, today! It’s not a book on theory that challenges them to figure things out on their own; it’s the exact tools, settings, and techniques that will make a difference immediately in their photography. It’s available in print and eBook editions. 

Price: $28.50 (link)

Rogue Flash Gels: Universal Lighting Filter Kit

Most photographers hate cutting gels for their flash, and storing them for future use is even worse, which is why they’ll love these precut, super-easy-to-use, and clearly marked gels for hot-shoe flash. They’re very cleverly designed to make putting gels on their flash quick and easy, and the gels come in their own storage wallet with a tabbed organizer to make finding the right gel easy. Super-cool gift for the flash user on your list. 

Price: $29.95 (link)

ARKON 11″ Tripod Mount for iPhone

If they shoot with an iPhone, I think this is the best darn little tripod out there. It’s so light, yet so handy. Make sure you get the one that fits their model of phone. This is the perfect stocking stuffer for the iPhone photographer on your list.

Price: $19.95 (link)

B&H Gift Card

This is always the perfect gift because B&H Photo is the greatest camera store in the world, and whatever the photographer on your gift list wants, B&H has it, in stock, ready to ship. They’re the magical unicorn of camera stores. Get them a gift card from here, and they’ll follow you anywhere.

Price: Starting at $25 (link)

Dogtography: A Knock-Your-Socks-Off Guide to Capturing the Best Dog Photos on Earth

This brand-spanking new book from the undisputed queen of dog photography, Kaylee Greer, is an absolute gem and, if the photographer on your gift list has a doggo, they’ll get so much out of this wonderful book. Kaylee is magic when it comes to photographing pooches (she even had her own TV series on Nat Geo Wild called Pupparazzi), and she shares all her secrets to getting the best doggie photos you’ve ever taken. Well, the person on your gift list will be so happy to get this book, and if you buy a copy for yourself, you’ll be happy too. Totally worth it.

Price: $45 (link)

A Couple of Spare Camera Batteries

Even if they have a spare battery, every photographer would still love another one (or two). It’s one of those can’t-go-wrong stocking stuffers. Today you can get a pack of two spare batteries along with a charger for around $30. Note: If you buy a battery from the camera manufacturer (such as Canon or Nikon), the prices are so much higher (like $60–70 a battery) that it will probably move you out of the stocking-stuffer range. I haven’t noticed a difference in quality or battery life whatsoever with these off-brand batteries, so save the money and buy them two of these instead of one of the name brands. They’ll love this!

Price:
For Canons using LP-E6 style batteries: $29.99 (link)
For Nikon Mirrorless cameras using EN-EL15b style batteries: $19.95 (link)

2-Pack of Lexar Professional 633x UHS-I SDHC 32GB Memory Cards

Memory cards are like batteries: photographers can never have enough of them (especially if they shoot video, too), and these fast SD cards will be so welcome by the photographer on your gift list. This is one of those things that photographers put off buying, so when you buy it for them, it’s hero time. Plus, these are so inexpensive now (around $15 for two), you can’t go wrong (and they’ll think you spent a lot more)!

Price: $14.99 (link)

GREAT VALUE GEAR

Topaz Sharpen AI

This is a freakin’ amazing sharpening plug-in from the wizards at Topaz Labs. Erik Kuna, our VP of Operations and instructor here at KelbyOne, and I have both fallen in love with this plug-in. It’s way cheaper than buying a new sharp lens, but it will make their images look like they plunked down $3,000. Since it uses AI and automatically does all the analyzing and applying, all they have to do is sit back and click a button to enter a whole new world of sharp, crisp images. Really good stuff (and it will help them prepare for when robots steal all our jobs).

Price: $79.99 (link)

Breakthrough Photography X4 Neutral Density Filters

Famous photographer (and my dear friend) Rick Sammon called me one day to tell me about these filters (’cause he knows I’m a filter freak). He was raving about the quality, and man was he right. He talked me into getting a set of the X4 Neutral Density (ND) filters, and they’re as good as it gets. They’re so well-crafted, and everything Rick said they were. Breakthrough Photography makes all sorts of different filters, all designed and built here in the U.S. This is a really nice gift. The 6-stop ND filter starts at $149 (based on the size of their lens in mm), and the 10-stop (my fav) starts at $159. Make sure you find out what mm size their lens is. (This is a tricky thing to ask without giving away the present—good luck with that!)

Price: Starting at $149 for the 6-stop ND (link)

MagMod Starter Flash Kit

There are a lot of great flash modifiers out there, but MagMod is their king for just how easy it is to use and switch between their different flash accessories. The secret? Magnets. You don’t attach them; they just magnetically snap into place, and they’re a joy to use. You’ll be a hero from the very first time the photographer on your list uses this system. The MagMod Starter Kit comes with the MagGrip, MagGrid, and the popular MagSphere. If they use flash, they will so love this system.

Price: $99.95 (link)

DxO Nik Collection 3 Plug-Ins

This is a long-beloved collection of special effects and production plug-ins, originally developed by Nik Software, who was acquired by Google, and then acquired by DxO (maker of PhotoLab). DxO has updated the software a bit, added a new plug-in called Perspective Efex, and just released a new set of presets. For many photographers out there, this plug-in is their secret weapon.

Price: $149 (link)

An “Epic Print” from Bay Photo Lab

This is a very special gift: a gift certificate so the photographer on your list can get a 16×24″ Epic Print (which is their name for this particular printing process). Here’s how they describe it: “Epic Prints are made from prints on Fujiflex silver halide photographic paper with up to 610-dpi resolution, for high-precision clarity that’s as close to ‘perfect’ as print gets. Mounted to aluminum for a sleek, thin profile, and a flawless presentation.” Seriously, who wouldn’t lose their mind to have one of their images printed and presented like that? They just upload their file, and Bay Photo does the rest.

Price: $165.95 (link)

Loupedeck+

This is a hardware input device (nerdspeak) for super-fast editing in Lightroom and Photoshop. It replaces clicking all over the place with your mouse with an intuitive set of dials, knobs, and buttons that are just so slick and thoughtfully laid out. If you know someone who wants to speed up their Lightroom or Photoshop work, and wants to look really cool doing it, this is for them.

Price: $249 (link)

A Signature Photo Album of Their Own Images

If you want to give them a gift they’ll literally treasure for years, get them a gift certificate from Mpix.com to have their images printed in a high-quality photo book. It’s like a coffee table book, but of their own images, and the quality (and customer service) is off the charts. They’re not cheap, but that’s only because they’re super-high quality. This is a gift they’ll love on a level you can’t imagine.

Price:
$159.99 for the 8×8 book with 20 pages;
$184.99 for the 10×10 with 20 pages (Note: Go for the 10×10!) (link)

Luminar AI Automated Photo-Editing Program

If they’re not a postprocessing shark, this plug-in (which uses AI to analyze and edit your image automatically for you, or with some input from you), will help take their images to the next level, without the learning curve. It’s pretty amazing what Skylum is doing with this standalone app. It’s set to be available on December 15, 2020, so it’s right around the corner.

Price: $99 (normally $149) (link)

SlickPic Portfolio

Every photographer needs an online portfolio, but the process of getting and creating one has been either really limited, complicated, or both. SlickPic is a site designed exclusively for creating photography portfolios, and if you buy the photographer on your gift list a “Portfolio” level account, SlickPic assigns a professional designer to help them get their site up and running fast and looking great. I switched my portfolio over to SlickPic earlier this year and I’m loving it (though I didn’t need to use their designer as their templates are really easy and intuitive).

Price:
Pro: $14.95/month billed annually;
Portfolio (includes Design Services): $29.95/month billed annually (link)

BLACKRAPID RS-4 Classic Retro Camera Sling

I’ve tried a lot of camera straps over the years, and this is my favorite. I learned about this strap on one of my first photo walks (about 12 years ago) and I’ve been using one ever since. The strap wraps across their body (great for safety since a thief can’t just grab it off your shoulder and take off), and their camera is right at their side ready to shoot at any time. Really can’t say enough about ’em.

Price: $59.95 (link)

A 3-Book Bundle of My Greatest Hits!

Okay, I wanted to sound like a rockstar with that greatest hits title, but in reality, it’s three of my bestselling books: (1) The Landscape Photography Book (2) The Natural Light Portrait Book, and (3) The Flash Book, all bundled together at one incredible price as if it were designed from scratch from the book publishing gods to create the ultimate photography learning gift pack. If your photographer is a reader, they’ll super-dig my book bundle (thank you Rocky Nook for putting it together).

Price:
All three print books together: $45 (insanely low—that’s 50% off the cover price);
All three eBooks together: $35 (I should find a new publisher—that’s too low!) (link)

Tether Tools Rock Solid Tripod Roller

Nobody else will have this hidden gem on their gift guide, which is partially why it makes such an awesome gift (and one that will make their friends jealous). It’s a super portable and collapsible base onto which you put your tripod, and it becomes—wait for it, wait for it—a rolling tripod. You can’t imagine how great this is until you use one (I’ve been using one for years). It looks and acts like it costs a lot more, and they’ll be the envy of every studio photographer everywhere.

Price: $79.95 (link)

One of My Fine Art Prints

The gallery YellowKorner sells three of my fine art prints of classic interiors at various sizes (you can get some really nice large sizes) and styles; and I, for one, would be honored if you saw fit to give one as a gift. Imagine how tickled I’d be if you gave three or four? Or even three or four hundred? The mind reels, doesn’t it? Anyway, it would make a great addition to your photography collection (said the artist; so his opinion is marginally biased). If you purchase one, please post a pic on social and tag me in it, so I can share it, as well.

Price: Starting from $145 (link)

CHA-CHING!

Hand-Painted Backdrop for Portraits from GravityBackDrops

This is the second time these have landed in my Gear Guide, but I’ve been using them a lot lately, and felt they needed to be included again. These beautifully hand-painted backdrops are turning the industry on its ear, because they’re priced so far below their competitors, yet their quality is spot-on. These are giving photographers access to a level of quality, hand-painted backdrops that were out of reach for so many people; you can now own these backdrops for less than we used to rent them for the weekend. They’ll even custom-make whatever you want. Can’t recommend these enough (and you’ll be a hero to the photographer on your gift list).

Price: Based on size, but figure around $350 or so (link)

Canon EOS R6 Mirrorless Camera

I don’t have this camera yet, but it’s the one I’m about to buy for myself for Christmas. It has the sensor of the camera I wish I could buy, the Canon EOS-1D Mark III (I have the old 1D Mark I), so the low-noise performance is insane, but it’s got all the features of Canon’s latest mirrorless line, and a price that’s actually mind-blowing for what you get. Perfect for the Canon shooter on your holiday gift list. They’ll lose their minds when you give them this!

Price: $2,499 (body only) (link)

Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 Lens for Shooting the Night Sky/Milky Way

This lens is highly recommended by the real man, can of ham, eats lots of bran, friend of Jean-Claude Van Damme, big fan of Wham, and the real rocketman, Erik Kuna, who notes that this is an absolute favorite among the astrophotography crowd (which I believe are people that take photos of George Jetson’s dog) and, well, the price is so good, it’s hard to pass up. If the photographer on your gift list likes shooting the night sky, or heavenly bodies (stop snickering), or Milky Way bars, this will totally float their boat!

Price:
Nikon: $299 (link)
Canon: $399 (link)
Sony: $499 (don’t shoot the messenger Sony users) (link)

Westcott FJ400 Wireless Flash System

Westcott has a huge hit on their hands with this portable studio strobe. They can’t build ’em fast enough to keep up with demand, because the design is awesome, the wireless trigger is really fantastic, and the price is ridiculously cheap for what it does. You need both the strobe and the wireless transmitter, but they’re totally worth it, and the photographer on your gift list will follow you around like a puppy with unending adoration if you pick up this gift for them.

Price:
FJ400 Strobe 400Ws with AC/DC Battery: $569.90 (link)
FJ-X2m Universal Wireless Flash Trigger: $99.90 (link)

Nikon Z 6II Mirrorless Camera with FTZ Adapter Kit

A number of my Nikon-shooting friends have this camera and every one of them absolutely swears by it. If the Nikon shooting photographer on your gift list has been itching to go mirrorless, they’ll pass out and wind up in the fetal position on the floor when they open your wrapped gift, and they find this inside. They’ll have to go through a concussion protocol shortly after opening the box. True story. Get the one with the adapter so they can use their existing Nikon lenses with this new mirrorless. It really shows you care.

Price: $2,046.90 (link)

Sony Alpha a7R IV Mirrorless Camera

If the photographer on your gift list is a Sony shooter (or just wants to be), here’s a gift that will have them exploding into candy like a piñata. It’s the top-selling, most-wished-for, most-longed-for, sexiest (sexiest?) mirrorless camera with incredible specs and a legion of fans around the world. If you want to curry favor with your giftee, be the gifter that breaks the bank and gets them that once-in-a-lifetime gift. (I say that because you’ll never be able to afford things such as food, rent, and air again. You’ll be broke, but you’ll be a broke hero and that’s saying something.)

Price: $2,998 (body only) (link)

STUFF FROM US

Treat Them to a Ticket to Our Online Travel Photography Conference

It’s coming up in January, so the timing is right on the money, and if they’re into taking photos when they travel, they’ll so love this two-day, two track, all-online conference with a who’s who of brilliant travel photography instructors and postprocessing wizards. Plus, they’ll have access to the archive of all the conference classes for an entire year after the fact. These are super popular, and they’ll have a great experience, laugh a lot, learn a lot, and they’ll thank you again and again. ;-)

Price: $149 for a full-access pass (early-bird) (link)

A One-Year KelbyOne Membership

If they love online training, we have a special membership level that just focuses on the online classes, giving them access to more than 300 courses, and it goes for just $9.99 a month or $96 annually. Give ’em a 12-month membership and they’ll love you all year. If you really want to bowl them over, get them a KelbyOne Pro membership; it’s got more classes (800+), more features, and an incredible worldwide community of photographers helping each other get better. It’s for accelerated learning, and they’ll have full access to everything. They’ll love you (and so will I).

Price:
Plus Membership: $9.99/month; $96/annually;
Pro Membership: $19.99/month; $199/annually
(link)

Well, there ya have it, folks. Remember, it’s not how many gifts you get. It’s about how many gifts you get me! ;-)

Happy Shopping, Everybody!

-Scott

We’ve never had more choices for photography gear than we do today — thanks to Kickstarter, and Indigogo and all the tech advances, we’ve got an got incredible array of choices. This is why reviews are so important, but I cannot tell you how much time I’ve spent reading or watching reviews that at the end leave me with little more info than I started with.

A buddy and I were talking about this very topic — how so many useless reviews are out there today that aren’t really helping anybody (but perhaps the reviewer). So, today I thought I’d outline the things that make a gear review really useful (and what makes them useless and things to avoid):

I only want to read reviews from a reviewer that uses that brand of camera or lens

I don’t want to read a review of the new Chevy Camero from a Ford Mustang enthusiast, but a similar things happens in photography reviews incredibly often. I want a read a review from someone who’s not “camera brand biased” from the very start. I’m done reading reviews about a Nikon or Canon camera, from a reviewer who says they are a Sony shooter (or vice versa). I know, right up front, at the end of the review they’re going to share why the product isn’t that great, and that that it’s not as good as their Sony version, and that they’re not switching from Sony, etc.. I don’t want them to tell me how it compares to their Sony, any more than I want to hear what the Chevy lover thinks of a Mustang (Spoiler alert; I can pretty much tell you before I read the review).

If it’s a new Nikon camera, I want it reviewed by a real Nikon shooter and they can tell me how it compares to their current Nikon and that is actually very valuable to me. If it’s a Canon lens, I want to hear from a real Canon shooter and how it compares to their current Canon lenses. If it’s a Sony mirrorless body, I want to hear what an existing Sony mirrorless shooter says about it. There’s only one thing worse — when you read a review and they don’t tell you they’re brand biased, and then later you found out they shoot an entirely different brand than what they were reviewing, and they give it a less than stellar review. I’ve had it happen more than once.

I want them to give me a final bottom line. Not “Well, it depends on what your needs are”

There is nothing that drives me crazier than a review that looks at several different products, with a headline like “Our pick for the best super wide angle lens of 2020” and then at the end they tell you why each lens in their “shootout” has good points and bad points, and why each may be right for you depending on what you shoot. Basically they say, “They’re all good, it just depends on what you’re shooting.” Nope — that’s not why I read the article. Take a stand. I want the reviewer to tell me, straight up, “This is the best one of the bunch! Buy this one!

An unboxing video is not a review. Neither is a “first impression”

So many videos on YouTube have the word “Review” in the headline, but they turn out to be an unboxing video — literally , somebody filming as they unbox the product; set it up, and try it out for two minutes. I need a “field report.” Shoot it for a while and let me know what the experience is really like. How does it work after two weeks, two months? Opening it on Day 1 is not a review. You’re really just giving an initial impression – it’s day 1 – you haven’t run into the problems yet. I want to hear about it a few days down the road. Do you still love it?

It needs to include really clear specs

I can’t tell you how many reviews I’ve had to wade through just to find out how many megapixels a camera has, or the size or weight of a camera or lens. It seems like basic stuff, but then I find myself having to go to B&H’s Website because they have a spec tab where they list all the specs that should have been in that initial review. At the minimum, give me a link to the manufacturer’s specs page, or even B&Hs, but it’s gotta be in the review, right up front — don’t make us go searching for it.

Include LOTS of your own photos

Don’t just repost product shots from the manufacturer. By the time I’ve found your review, I’ve already seen lots of shots from the manufacturer. If you’ve reviewing the gear, and you’re a photographer, take your own photos of it and show me what it really looks like — not a shot of it on a white background, perfectly lit, with a reflection below it. One thing manufacturer’s shots don’t really show you is scale. Take a shot of you holding it in your hands, so I can really see its size. Also, if you’re going to show sample photos you took with a particular camera or lens, take some good shots. Not shots you took in your backyard in harsh lighting conditions. Some of the sample shots I’ve seen posted by big time reviewers make me feel like they’re tech nerds, but not actually photographers. The shots often literally look like snapshots and it makes me think either the gear isn’t good, or you’re not a real photographer, in which case I’m not sure I want to take the word of someone who isn’t a decent photographer about which piece of gear I should buy. Make your sample shots look great, so we get a real idea of what the product can do.  

Give advice

Really great reviews give advice. For example, if I’m reading a review and there are three sizes for the particular product, tell me which one to get ane why. For example, if the Small Size is really a better deal, or easier to work with, say so. Something like this is so helpful: “If I was going to order one, I would go with the Small size — you’ll save money and it’s so much easier to store and take with you,. The medium size doesn’t easily fit in your average camera bag, and the large size needs really needs two people to carry it.” That’s the kind of advice that is absolutely invaluable.

The most important aspect is honesty

At the end of the day, we are searching for an honest review. If something’s bad, say so. If the product has an Achilles Heel, tell us so. If there’s a deal breaker, let us know. There are very few products that are so perfect that nothing can be improved upon, so let us know the good stuff and the bad stuff. If all you do is tell me all the good things about it, then you come off as a fan boy. If you only tell us the bad stuff, you come off as a hater or biased from the outset (See #1 above). Here would be a great question or statement to make to your readers: “If you used this gear for two months, and it got lost or stolen, would you buy this same piece of gear again?” That would be a really valuable thing for us to know.

There ya have it — I’m hoping some of the folks out there that review gear take some of these points to heart — it could help us so much in making smart decisions on gear (and most gear ain’t cheap these days). Maybe you know a reviewer you should send this to? By all means, do.

Here’s wishing you lot of reviews that actually help you make a good decision. :)

-Scott

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