Category Archives Photo Gear

Welcome to my "9th Annual Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide" (yes, last year I brought the "Gonzo" back after a brief break because just calling it a "Holiday Gear Guide" lacked that certain, I dunno, "gonzoness.") So, I now bring you the blog-version of my "Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide" (which appears in the current issue of Photoshop User magazine, seen above) whose light burns brighter than a thousand suns (insert dramatic pause here), featuring an unbridled collection of 100% absolutely necessary gear that there's no way we can see clear to live another minute of our hopeless, desperate lives without. (I gotta tell ya, you have to search far and wide to find any holiday gear guide that uses the terms "hopeless" and "desperate" in the opening paragraph, which is more irrefutable proof that this guide truly stands alone.)

Before we get to the list, remember that the holidays aren't about which gifts you get. They're about how many gifts you get, and the person who dies with the most gifts wins. (By the way, you can now add "dies" to "hopeless" and "desperate," making this the most riveting of all gear guides ever!) Okay, folks, watch your Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung, because here we go!

THE RULES:

These are my self-imposed guidelines for which products make it into the guide. It's just two rules actually. First, to be listed here they have to be products that I use myself, and that I absolutely love, and now can't live without (well, I could live without them, but I wouldn't want to). Second, if a product makes the guide, it has to be one I would recommend to a close friend without hesitation, especially if my friend is a personal injury attorney (kidding).

Gear Guide Categories:

In sacred Gonzo tradition, I'm breaking things into three distinct categories:

1: Stocking Stuffers (You can also use these as actual holiday gifts if you're not that crazy about the person.)
2: Great Value Gear (Stuff that's a really good deal for not a lot of money, but he or she will totally dig it.)
3: Cha-ching! (Stuff you buy for the doctor/lawyer/rap mogul on your holiday gift list. This is the stuff that makes them burst into spontaneous tears of joy. Well, at least I would.)

STOCKING STUFFERS


Really Nice Photo Paper

If the photographer on your holiday list has a printer, this is a gift she will truly love because you can never have enough paper (or ink for that matter). Recently, I saw some absolutely beautiful papers from Freestyle Photographic Supplies when I was at Photoshop World in Vegas. You can get an Epson Premium Photo Paper Glossy for $11.99. Sweet!

PRICE
Starting at around $11.99


Remote Shutter Release (Wireless or Wired)

This is one of those gifts that every photographer at one time or another will need, but it's one of the last things we think to buy, which is what makes it such a great gift. You'll need to know the make and model of his camera so you get the right type of connector. Prices start at around $18 for a Nikon or Canon wireless release. Sadly, the better DSLR he has, the more the cable release that works for that camera costs, so just hope he has a lower-end model.

PRICE
Starting at around $18


Spare Battery

I love this stocking stuffer because even if he has a spare battery, he would still love another one. It's one of those can't-go-wrong stocking stuffers. They're usually fairly inexpensive (from around $40-60), unless of course, he has a high-end camera like a Canon EOS-1Dx ($165) or a Nikon D4s ($149), in which case this gift may test the limits of your friendship. Just sayin'.

PRICE
Starting at around $40


Collapsible Rubber Lens Hood

This is a really great stocking stuffer because your photographer will love it. They're awesome because they save space while protecting her lens from damage and lens flare, and it looks like it costs a lot more than it did. They start at $4.95. Of course, the price depends on the size of her lens measured in millimeters. For example, a typical 70-200mm lens uses a 77mm size lens hood, which is still only $19.95 at B&H Photo if you buy the B+W brand, and less than half that if you buy the General Brand lens hood.

PRICE
Starting at $4.95


Some Cool Books

He will love Night Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots by Gabriel Biderman and Tim Cooper (around $16 on Amazon), or how about Matt Kloskowski's awesome eBook Landscape Photography Workflow Using Lightroom and Photoshop for $9.99 on Amazon. (It's an eBook for Kindle or the Kindle app on your tablet or smartphone.) Hey, he might like my new book, part 5 of my The Digital Photography Book series (just $15.80 on Amazon in print or $9.99 for the eBook version), or if you want to splurge a little (and he shoots portraits), get him Picture Perfect Posing by Roberto Valenzuela (around $30 at Amazon).

PRICE
Starting at $9.99


GREAT VALUE GEAR


Macphun Tonality Pro

The king of black-and-white conversion plug-ins had always been Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro (now part of the Nik Collection by Google), and it's still a great plug-in, but there may be a new king in town. Macphun has created a killer black-and-white conversion tool at less than half of the price of buying the Nik Collection. The Pro version is $69.99 and it totally kicks butt! If your photographer is into black and white, this will become her new tool of choice. (The only caveat is that it's Mac only, so make sure she uses a Mac first.)

PRICE
S69.99


Think Tank Photo Airport Roller Derby

It's a four dual-wheel roller camera bag that she will absolutely go bonkers over! It holds a ton of gear, and it glides through the airport like it's on rails. Lots of room for lots of gear, and a very well-thought-out bag all the way around (plus, it fits in the overhead bin with no problem). However, fabulous eight-wheeled bags don't come cheap: it's around $390. Give it to someone you love, or someone you want to love you who doesn't yet, but will after you give her this.

PRICE
$389.75


MagMod Modular Flash Modifiers

There are a lot of great flash modifiers out there, and MagMod is a new player in this market, but I gotta tell ya, their magnetic system of flash modifiers is so incredibly easy to use that you'll be a hero when the photographer on your list uses this system for the first time. The MagMod Basic Kit is $89, which comes with the MagGrip, MagGrid, and MagGel (magneticâ”it just pops on and off) but then you (or he) can buy accessories fairly inexpensively like $19 for the Creative Gel Set or $25 for the MagGel 2 Slot Kit. Cool stuff!

PRICE
Starting at $89


BlackRapid CURVE (RS-7) Strap

I learned about this strap about four years ago on one of my photo walks and I've been using one ever since. The strap wraps across the body (great for safety since a thief can't just grab it off your shoulder and take off), and the camera hangs upside-down at the side ready to slide up the strap and shoot at anytime. Really can't say enough about 'em. Around $62 at B&H. Totally worth it.

PRICE
$61.95


Cactus Wireless Flash Transceiver V5

These are so inexpensive it probably should have been listed under stocking stuffers, but don't let the low price fool youâ”these puppies work amazingly well. They're used for firing your flash or strobes wirelessly and they do a great job of it, even if they're not the prettiest wireless units out there. A set of two is around $75 (and yes, he'll need twoâ”one goes on top of his camera in the hot-shoe mount, the other attaches to the flash itself).

PRICE
$74.95 for two


SmugMug Portfolio

It's never been more important to have an online portfolio, and SmugMug's gorgeous, newly designed templates have taken the world by storm. If the photographer on your holiday list doesn't have an online portfolio yet (or if she does and she has dreamed of selling her work online), this is the ticket. Their Basic plan is just $40 for a yearâ”so get her a year plan. She'll love you for it!

PRICE
Starting at $40/year


3 Legged Thing Punks - VYV Magnesium Alloy Tripod & Airhed

I started using one of these British tripods this year and I really love it, and the photographer on your gift list would totally love one, too! It makes an awesome travel tripod and it comes with a ballhead. It has reversible legs so it folds up really small, and it's super lightweight, but amazingly sturdy. B&H carries it for $199. You'll get lots of love in return.

PRICE
$199


Battery Grip

This is one of those gifts that he will love you for forever because it's so handy, and it will make his camera look and feel more like a high-end pro camera. It also gives him a second battery holder and a shutter button for when he's shooting vertical. They start at around $50 for a third-party grip, but if you buy a Nikon or Canon brand, expect to pay at least two to three times as much, so give the Vello brand at B&H a serious look. You'll be a holiday hero for this one!

PRICE
Starting at $49.95


MPIX Modern Metal Print

Want to really make a photographer lose her mind? Gift her one of her own images printed on metalâ”it's like seeing her image in HD for the first time. Just remarkable! (By the way, this isn't metallic paper; this is printing on actual metal.) MPIX rocks at these metal prints and you will rock for giving them. They start at $33.99 for an 8×10 (the 12×18 is a good deal at $59.99).

PRICE
Starting at $33.99


B&H Gift Card

Not sure exactly what to get him? Yes you do. Get him a B&H Gift Card. I don't know anyone who doesn't want something from the greatest photo store on earth, plus this way he can get whatever he wants (within the limit of how much you put on the card, of course). You can order them directly from the B&H site. They send a card and a catalog so it looks pretty substantial.

PRICE
Starting at $20


Westcott Zeppelin

While this isn't nearly the most expensive gift in this gear guide, it's the biggest, so it may have the most physical impact. It's quite properly named because this mammoth softbox will give you maximum impact as it slowly casts a shadow over the studio space. Okay, I may be overdramatizing the size, but not the impact. Through a clever design, this new softbox allows you to focus and shape the beautiful light by sliding the actual strobe inside the softbox. She will love you for it. Westcott Zeppelin lights cost $399.90 for the 35″ model; $499.90 for the 47″ model; and $699.90 for the 59″ model, which looks like it's the actual size of the Goodyear Blimp when you see it live.

PRICE
Starting at $399.90


Lightroom + Photoshop CC Photography Bundle

For around $120, you can get her a one-year subscription to Adobe's Creative Cloud Photography Bundle where she'll get the latest versions of both Photoshop and Lightroom, plus Lightroom mobile (for iOS), as well as some other goodies. Love will rain down upon you for this gift!

PRICE
$119.88


CHA-CHING!


Profoto B1 500 AirTTL

Every photographer who shoots studio strobes on location dreams of two things: working on location without hauling around a battery pack, and shooting Profoto gear. The new Profoto B1 500 AirTTL fills both dreams at once because the battery is built into the sleek body (so no hauling a separate battery pack around). Profoto is the cream of the crop for performance, and they're gear is built like a tank (which is why most rental houses offer Profoto as their main line). But the price of the B1 500 AirTTL isn't for just anyone at $1,995â”definitely for pros or for the Wall Street insider on your holiday gift list.

PRICE
$1,995


Synology NAS (Network Attached Storage) Backup

This is a very important and powerful gift because this will house your holiday photographer's entire photo collection in a safe, rock-solid storage system (the same one I use myself), plus it will give her access to her images no matter where she is (via the Web). I've been looking for a kick-butt backup and archive system for years, and this is the one! A totally mind-blowing gift. Use their NAS Selector to find out which one is right for the photographer on your list. This may be one gift where you tell them up front, "I'm getting you a Synology NAS," so you get the right one for her needs (and the outpouring of unconditional love may start before the actual holiday does).

PRICE
Starting at around $380


Canon EOS 7D Mark II

I know I've been something of a cheerleader for this camera since Canon announced it in late September, but it's because I think Canon did something really special with this camera aimed at sports and wildlife shooters. They put pro specs into an affordable camera body, so you no longer need to have NFL-sideline-quality gear just to get great photos of your kids' high school sporting events. With 10 frames per second, a 20.2-megapixel sensor, and much improved high-ISO noise performance over the older 7D that it replaces, I think it's an amazing camera at a brilliant price. He will follow you around like a puppy for the rest of his life if you buy him this.

PRICE
$1,799


Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-f/6.3 Di VC PZD (for Full-Frame DSLRs)

This is the lens I use as my all-around travel photography lens. It's lightweight, compact in size, and you can't beat the price as far as value goes. Will it be the sharpest lens in his bag? Nope. Will it be the lens he turns to again and again because it covers everything from wide-angle to super-telephoto? Yes it will. Will you be showered with affection for giving a lens as a gift? Yes you will.

PRICE
$849


DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Copter

The popularity of these DJI copters is exploding because, quite simply, they let your camera fly in the air for stills or video, and photographers have absolutely flocked to them in the past year. This isn't just photography, this is fun! It's $1,229 with a spare battery, and it's worth every single penny. This may be the coolest gift ever.

PRICE
$1,229


STUFF FROM US

A One-Year KelbyOne Membership

Wanna give him a gift that he'll remember all year long? How about world-class online training on everything from Photoshop to Lightroom to photography? It's $249 for an entire year (with 24/7 access to literally thousands of lessons), or just $25 a month. Not only will he love you for it, so will I.

PRICE
$249/year; $25/month


Corey Barker's Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks for Designers, Volume II

The name says "for designers," but since just about every project in the entire book starts with a photo, it's really a special effects book for designers, photographers, or anybody who wants to learn how to create amazing effects in Photoshop.

PRICE
$33.99


Treat Them to a Live Seminar

Buying someone a ticket to one of these full-day seminars would make an awesome gift. My "Shoot Like a Pro" tour, Matt Kloskowski's tour for learning Lightroom, or Joe McNally's "The Power of One Flash" tour are among the choices.
PRICE
Starting at $89; $79 per person for groups of five or more

Treat Them to Photoshop World Vegas

Give him a full conference pass to the Photoshop World Conference & Expo. It's a three-day Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography love-fest. If you buy it for him now, you can get $100 off with the Early Bird discount. If you want to get a one-day pass instead, it's just $249.
PRICE
Starting at $599
__________________________________
Well, there ya have it — hope you find it helpful for your Holiday Gear Gift Shopping! :)

Best,

-Scott

 

 

Hi gang: This weekend I got a chance to take two Canon 7D Mark IIs out for a real world field-test shooting two football games: On Saturday the Tennessee Vols vs. the Florida Gators, and on Sunday the New York Giants vs. the Atlanta Falcons at Met Life stadium in New Jersey. (Note: the two camera bodies I used were overnight loaners from Canon of pre-production demo units â” they are not the final shipping cameras â” so they’re not quite finished yet, but they’re far enough along that I could at least test them and give you, and Canon, feedback).

I’m posting some high resolution samples here (below), but make sure you watch the video above because we tackled all the important stuff you’d want to know about (of course, we talked a lot about high-ISO performance), plus we took loads of questions during the broadcast (I’m joined by RC Concepcion and Brad Moore in the studio). It’s really kind of “three guys sitting around talking about a camera” type of show and I show lots of my photos (not just sports stuff) taken with the 7D Mark II.

Above: Specs: Shot as JPEG image. 640 ISO. 1/1000 of a second at f/5.6. 560mm (400mm with a 1.4 tele-extender). If you click on this low-res preview, it will take you to the full high-resolution image you can download. I cropped-in a tiny bit to fix composition and I brightened the image 1/2 stop, but it’s still a bit under-exposed [I was shooting JPEG and used Exposure Compensation to overcome some highlight clipping I wouldn’t have even worried about if I had been shooting in Raw]. No sharpening, noise reduction, vibrance or any of that type of stuff in post. By the way, it’s killing me to post a non-sharpened image. Just sayin’.

We Covered a Ton!
We covered what worked, what I wish were different, and literally just minutes before we started taping a tech-rep at Canon called in and helped out by showing how to fix my #1 complaint about the camera for shooting sports (which we show how to address during the show above). I still had to whine about a few things (I hope Canon is listening), but I covered the stuff it did right as well. We really tried to cover all the questions we’d been hearing on social and here on the blog as best we could.

Above: Shot in JPEG mode (we explain why on the video). This one’s at 1,000 ISO at 1/1250 of a second. Same lens as above. Cropped in a bit. We also show a large print of this on the show. 

RC Totally Scores!
My favorite part of the broadcast comes around the 2/3 to 3/4 mark when RC absolutely nails why this camera is so important, and he really articulated what I’ve been trying to say about the 7D Mark II since the official announce. You’ll know when it happens because I literally high-fived him for stating it in a way I wish I had, because he really put it all on context.

Above: I used Auto ISO to shoot in the locker room before game time. That image you see above? That’s 16,000 ISO. Click on it to get the high-res version (no noise reduction in post â” and that was shot in JPEG mode). It’s shot at f/2.8 at 1/1000 of a second using a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. You definitely do see noise on the full res image (heck, you see noise on a 1Dx at 16,000 ISO), but I was still pretty amazed that a crop-sensor camera could get this kind of performance at 16,000 ISO. 

I’ll be around today to try and answer any questions we didn’t cover during the broadcast (if you’re going to ask about noise, please watch the video ’cause we covered it to death), so just leave me a comment here and I’ll do my best (Note: I just did a field test â” not an in-depth lab report, so if you ask me pixel-peeper style in-depth techie stuff I’m probably not the right guy to answer those, but I might be able to find someone at Canon who can answer those types of questions).

Above: I thought I should at least post one image actually taken at 100 ISO, so here ya go. This is uncropped, un-anything; shot in JPEG mode. Again, click on it to see the high-res version. 

Anyway, hope this helps, and here’s wishing you your best Tuesday yet!

Best,

-Scott

P.S. We’re only four days away from my 7th Annual Worldwide Photo Walk. If you haven’t registered to join the local walk in your city this Saturday, it’s not too late. Here’s the link. 

Hi Gang: Mia McCormick sits down with one of my all-time heroes of sports photography, the legend himself, Peter Read Miller for his impressions of the recently announced Canon 7D Mark II. If you got a sec, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Also, I shot two games this weekend using the 7D Mark II for my main and secondary bodies (weekend loaners from Canon — just early demo units — not the final shipping version), and I cannot wait to share some shots with you here tomorrow from the Vols/Gators and Falcons/Giants games, so make sure you stop back tomorrow for my field report.

Hope you guys have an fantastic Monday (I know, that’s an oxymoron) even if your team lost this weekend (all my teams lost. Ugh. But there’s still a faint hope for my Fantasy Team â” I’m in third place in our league).

Best,

-Scott

First, watch that video above (it's got all the major specs, and we deliver them short and sweet!), then come on back down to find out why I think the just-announced Canon EOS 7D Mark II is literally going to shake up the entire sports and wildlife photography world (hint: we've never seen a camera with these specs, at this low a price â” ever!)

OK, thanks for watching the video â” what you just saw was literally the little brother to Canon's flagship 1DX, but for nearly $5,000 LESS!!!

The reason why this is such a game changer is that when it came to seriously shooting sports and wildlife so many people were literally left out of the game because of the cost of the type of camera you need to shoot at that level, but with Canon putting a camera out there with these specs, at just $1,799 â” today all that changed and the playing field has been leveled (no pun intended). Hey, before we get deep into this, I just want to throw out one spec that blew my mind. 10-frames-per-second! (Drops the mic. Walks off stage). ;-)

I think one of the biggest advantages this new camera has (and a lot of folks might not realize this at first), is that it's a crop-sensor camera, so it brings you 60% closer to the action than a similar full-frame camera. This allows us to use less expensive lenses and still get in really tight, so the 7D Mark II doesn't just change the equation for the body; it lets you get closer to the action with less expensive lenses. I think not making this a full frame camera may have been Canon's most brilliant move.

Sports photography legend Peter Read Miller, renowned wildlife photographer Adam Jones, and I were all I lucky to have had a chance to spend some serious time with this camera before its release and it's everything they say it is (and then some). We were all just blown away. These guys totally knew how this was going to change the game for sports and wildlife shooters, and they were just as amazed as I was at the specs and price point.  I take my hat off to Canon for taking the risk and doing what needed to be done, in releasing the 7D Mark II with these specs at this price.

Canon's got all the detailed specs (and is taking preorders) over at their site.

Also B&H Photo (I buy all my gear there) is taking pre-orders starting today (the camera is set to ship in early November). Here's that link. If you want a complete list of Canon's authorized dealers that sell the camera, go to this link (I’m very linky today).

Well, that's the big news from here â” hope you all have a game-changing Monday and we'll see you back here tomorrow!

Best,

-Scott

P.S. Although I know Canon aimed the specs of the 7D Mark II at the sports and wildlife crowd, it'll take a photo of whatever you point it at. I did a bridal shoot with it (you can see some of my bridal shots in that video at the :56 mark and around 2:30) and it absolutely rocked!  A lot of folks outside of sports/wildlife fields will fall in love with this camera big time. 

 

Hey Gang: Canon also released the PowerShot G7 X today, an awesome little point-and-shoot camera that's a perfect 2nd camera for pros since it takes amazing images yet it literally fits in your pocket, and connects to your cell phone via Wi-Fi!  It's also great for anyone moving up from a cell phone camera that wants more "umph!" and flexibility.

Anyway, check out the video and see what ya think!

More details over at Canon (here’s the link)

You can get it at B&H (well, that’s where I’m gettin’ mine, anyway). Here’s the link.

Best,

-Scott


Above: Look how much smaller the new bag is, yet it holds all my junk. Ahemâ¦I mean my essential gear for travel. ;-)

If you’re like me, you’re never really happy with your laptop bag. That was me for most of my life (well, most of my laptop toting life anyway), until about 5 years ago when I fell deeply and hopeless in love with Thank Tank Photo’s laptop bag. It was prefect. A pocket for everything â” I could even fit my Wacom tablet in it â” it was justâ¦perfect! Especially for someone who carries a lot of stuff (see below).

Here’s what’s in my bag (as seen above):

  1. 15″ MacBook Pro (this is my main computer day in, day out)
  2. A bunch of plastic cards (gift cards, Delta club card, Hilton Honors card, etc.)
  3. USB drive with backup stuff
  4. One-Tb Back-up hard drive of my entire MacBook, plus USB 3 cable
  5. iPad Charger and cable
  6. iPhone charger and cable
  7. Lexar USB 3 CF and SD card reader
  8. Wacom Wireless Pen and Pen Holder
  9. Backup Wacom Pen
  10. Wacom USB Cable
  11. Bendable Laptop LED light (I use it to light my outline during a seminar)
  12. Love Book (That’s what my daughter called it when she gave it to me. It’s always with me).
  13. Two sets of business cards (I know, that’s probably one too many)
  14. MacBook Charger and Cable
  15. Five Sharpie pens (for signing books and stuff)
  16. Bose headphone adapter
  17. Another USB Flash backup (for paranoid presenters)
  18. Guitar Pick. Hey, ya never know.
  19. OK, I’m carrying more USB drives than I need.
  20. Two DVI adapters to connect MacBook to projectors (one and a backup)
  21. Copy of Photoshop User magazine, outlines for my tour, notes, fan mail from some flounder
  22. Wacom Intuos Pro tablet “Small”
  23. Collapsible iPad stand
  24. AAA batteries just in case my headphone’s batteries go dead. I know, I don’t need three â” just one.
  25. Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones (I so love these things, but I hate their bulky carrying case).
  26. A tin of Altoids (Curiously strong mints)
  27. Screen and Lens wipes
  28. Lens cleaning cloth
  29. Logitech Wireless Slide controller (for slide presentations).
  30. iPad Air
  31. Small bag of marijuana.
  32. Made ya look! ;-)

 

About a year or so ago I saw Think Tank Photo’s booth at a tradeshow (I think it was Photo Plus in NYC), and I thought I’d go pick up another one just like it to replace mine …until I heard the sad newsâ¦.they had discontinued it. I was stunned. It was the best, ever, hands-down and now it’s gone.

It was at that moment that I knew I would have to hold on to my old bag until it literally disintegrated, but luckily that day never came because Wednesday I got something even better than my old Think Tank laptop bag. A brand new, smaller, lighter, better-designed (like they made it just for me) laptop bag. It’s the “My 2nd Brain” Briefcase 15 and it is my new laptop bag dream come true. My world finally makes sense again (Not really).

Above: I did a little iPhone video tour of the bag (iPhone video work by the amazing bearded Brad Moore) to show you how it does it’s thing. It has a perfect pocket for my Wacom tablet, and a separate just for your iPad (In my old bag, I just tossed mine in where I kept my papers and magazines). 

I had pretty much given up on Think Tank Photo ever making another Laptop Bag, and I just cannot tell you excited I was when I found out that not only where they making them again â” that the new one was that much better, smaller and lighter than the old one, but it still held all my gear â” now it’s all just more organized. You’ll have to check out the video to see all the compartments, pockets, sleeves and clever stuff this bag has inside and out. Very well designed, and built like a tank. Super Mclovin’ it!

It sells for $144 over at B&H Photo (that’s where I buy all my stuff). Worth every penny!

Hope this First Look helped you find the bag of your dreams, and here’s wishing you fantastic weekend filled with lots of amazing images. See ya back here on Monday.

Best,

-Scott

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