Hi gang, and welcome to the online version of my 5th Annual Holiday Gear Guide (the printed version appears in Photoshop User magazine, which is just hitting NAPP members’ mailboxes this week).
If you’ve been a faithful reader of this gear guide for the past four years, you’ve probably noticed a subtle change in the title. That’s right, this is the first year that it’s not my “Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide.” When I put the first one of these together five years ago, I honestly didn’t give the name much thought because it was originally supposed to be just a post here on my blog. But it got so popular, the following year we published both an online and printed version. Eventually, it became the cover story, and well—gonzo just sounds kinda lame at this point. In fact, I really have no idea what gonzo actually means, so while nobody was really looking, I just kind of deleted it, and so far, nobody at NAPP HQ has raised a big stink.
Last year I came up with a self-imposed set of rules for products that would make it into the guide:
(1) They have to be products that I use myself, and that I absolutely love, and now can’t live without. (2) If a product makes the guide, it has to be one I would recommend to a close friend without hesitation. And
(3) Although this is mostly camera gear (which isn’t a cheap hobby), I wanted to include a few items that were under $100, and some under $50 if I could find them (which is harder than it sounds).
To make things easy, we put up direct links to all the products so you don’t have to wonder if you’re getting the exact right one. The links either go directly to the manufacturer (if they only sell direct), or to B&H Photo and Adorama (none of which send me a kickback or commission if you buy something, and I wouldn’t take it if they did).
Remember, the only thing better than actually buying cool gear for someone you love is having someone you love buy you cool gear (kidding—kind of). So, without further ado (that’s right—everything up to this point was “ado”), here’s this year’s collection of really cool, handpicked gift ideas (by the way, it’s perfectly acceptable to buy gifts for yourself if it has lots of buttons or any kind of LCD screen.)
We use this as a hair fan in the studio because it’s so small, lightweight, and best of all, you can attach it to most any light stand and aim it right where you want it. It was designed for drummers, but works great in the studio.
IKEA Asker Suspension Rail and Clips for hanging prints
Ed Loziuk, one of the readers of my daily blog (scottkelby.com), turned me on to this great, very inexpensive way to display your images. You basically hang your unframed prints on a tiny lightweight track using clips that are specially made for it so you can quickly change out prints any time. Looks great, works great, costs just a little.
23.5″ rail: $7.99
47.25″ rail: $9.99
Clips (3): $4.99
Nik Software Color Efex Pro 3 Complete Edition
If I had to use just one single plug-in from here on out, this would be the one. I use it for everything from landscapes (try the Brilliance/Warmth effect) to portraits (try Tonal Contrast) and everything in between. The Complete Edition is compatible with both Photoshop and Lightroom.
Complete Edition: $299.95
AluminArte: High Definition Photo Prints on Aluminum from Image Wizards
I got my first images printed on metal this past year, and everybody pretty much said the same thing: “It looks like the print world’s version of high-def TV.” I don’t know how they get that depth, that look, but it truly looks amazing. Give the photographer on your holiday list a print on metal from Image Wizards and she’ll be hooked!
Prices start around $182 for a 12×20″ print
Nikon SB-700 AF Speedlight
If you know a Nikon shooter that has always wanted to make the jump to off-camera flash, now’s the time thanks to this new lower-priced, feature-packed flash. You can buy two of these brand-new flashes for just a little more than one Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight, and it will open up a new world for the photographer who wants to start using off-camera flash.
Wacom accessories: Intuos4 Classic Pen (thinner than regular pen) or Case (a lightweight sleeve)
If the Photoshop user on your holiday list has a Wacom tablet (and my guess is he does), Wacom has a bunch of nice accessories, such as a thinner wireless pen (compared to the Intuos4 Grip Pen) or lightweight travel sleeves for their small, medium, and large Intuos4 tablets.
Classic Pen: $69.95
Small Case: $24.95
Medium Case: $29.95
Large Case: $34.95
A Nikon or Canon tele-extender
Long lenses are expensive, but by buying a 1.4 tele-extender, it makes current lenses 40% longer, without costing 40% more (they’re relatively inexpensive). Worth every penny.
Canon Extender EF 1.4X III: Approx. $500
Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II: $519.95
iPad Camera Connection Kit and iPad as backup device
If the photographer on your list has an Apple iPad, get him the iPad Camera Connection Kit, which lets him use his iPad as an in-field backup and photo viewing device. It’s very small, lightweight, and does a good job. The kit includes two connectors: one for USB to connect the camera directly to the iPad and one for an SD card. If he doesn’t have an iPad, and you really, really, like this person (or you want him to really, really like you), spring for an iPad. Now he’ll have his portfolio with him everywhere he goes (and a whole lot more).
Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit: $29
Connection Kit – B&H
iPad – B&H
Canvas photographic prints from Artistic Photo Canvas
Want to really impress a friend this holiday season? Send her a canvas print. Want to blow her away? Send her one of your panoramic images on canvas. Haven’t shot a pano? Just crop one of your regular landscape images like a pano. What I love about APC is that they’ll do all the work to prepare your image for printing on canvas, and the results are just amazing. Try them once, and you’ll be hooked. (Image: Seattle Summer Night by Jacob Lucas)
Gallery wrapped canvas panos start at $89
Captured: Lessons from Behind the Lens of a Legendary Wildlife Photographer by Moose Peterson
I want you to know up front that my company actually produced Moose’s book, but there’s a reason why I asked Moose to write this book—it was because I knew there wasn’t a single book on wildlife photography that was the “go-to” book to learn the craft, and I knew in my heart Moose was the guy to write it. What I didn’t realize was that he would take my expectations and literally blow them away. He wrote a truly groundbreaking book that will help the wildlife photographer on your gift list make better images, and that’s really what it’s all about. Fascinating insights. Amazing images. Intriguing stories. And packed with important tips and techniques that will change the way you capture wildlife. (Way to go, Moose!)
Think Tank Photo Airport Check In laptop bag (the best I’ve ever used)
I have gone through more laptop bags than I can count in my search for the perfect bag, and earlier this year, I finally found it—it’s Think Tank Photo’s Airport Check In. It’s really thoughtfully designed and holds lots of big and small gear (including up to a 17″ laptop). It’s not cheap, but who wants a cheap Christmas present? Worth every penny.
Adorama (NAPP members get 10% off Think Tank products + free shipping from Adorama)
Westcott 12×36″ Stripbank softbox
Stripbanks are tall, thin softboxes that work great for everything from portraits (perfect for a hair light) to lighting products, and they’re gaining popularity. I use the 12×36″ Stripbank from Westcott (you can buy adapters to attach most brands of strobes), and I have stripbanks from Elinchrom as well. You’ll love ’em.
Westcott 12×36″: $165.40
Lexar Professional 600x CompactFlash Card
I haven’t met a photographer who wouldn’t love another memory card. If someone on your list loves to shoot sports, then a high-speed card will make his life a lot easier, and this is about as high speed as you get. These cards are super reliable, and are available in three capacities: 8, 16, and 32 GB.
8 GB: $199.99
16 GB: $299.99
32 GB: $499.99
The Camera Lens Mug
These are just so clever—they’re lens mugs that are pretty much exact replicas of a real 24–105mm zoom lens. They’re pretty inexpensive, and they’ll definitely put a smile on her face (once she gets over her disappointment that you didn’t buy her a real lens. Just kidding—she’ll know it’s not real by the weight before she ever opens it).
If you have an off-camera flash freak on your list, get him a Rogue FlashBender or two. It’s a shapeable light modifier that easily attaches to the flash head to let him control the light as it leaves the flash. Of all the ones I’ve seen out there, I think these are the best designed and easiest to use.
Small Reflector: $34.95
Large Reflector: $39.95
Bounce Card/Flag: $29.95
Three-Piece Kit: $104.85
This may be the cheapest gift in this year’s guide, so maybe consider it a stocking stuffer. If it starts raining during a shoot, the photographer on your list can simply grab one of these small, lightweight covers and protect her gear while letting her keep on shooting. You’ll be a hero. The original version fits a camera, and the flash version accommodates a camera and external flash.
Original Two Pack: $6.95
Flash Two Pack: $8.95
The Nikon D7000 or Canon EOS Rebel T2i
These two are arguably the best values out there for someone wanting to jump from a point-and-shoot to a real DSLR. They both take great photos, have full built-in HD video features, and they have enough bells and whistles to keep the photographer on your wish list happy for quite a while (well, at least until next holiday season).
Canon EOS Rebel T2i (body only): $799.99
Nikon D7000 (body only): $1,199.95
Magnetic Polaroid Frames
This is a cleverly designed set of picture frames that look like old Polaroid images, and they even have the little bend in them that makes them look like they’ve been tacked up to the wall for a while. I have a set of these right outside my office door, and I always get comments on them. Very cute, easy to use, and very affordable.
Six frames: $15
A Nikon or Canon backup battery
This is one of those things photographers hate to buy, but love to have, and if you’re like me, and think sometimes the best gifts are the ones you know you should have, but never buy—then this will definitely make him smile. By the way, if he already has a backup battery, a third never hurts.
Check B&H Photo to find batteries and pricing: Approx. $48–115
Wacom Intuos4 Small for travel
If you really want to get him a tablet, but can’t spring for one of the medium-size Intuos4 tablets (which are amazing), get him the Intuos4 Small. The price is right, and he’ll love the small size—I carry one in my laptop bag everywhere I go, and I totally love it! By the way: she’ll love one, too!
That’s it for this year’s Holiday Gear Guide. Have a Happy Holiday Season and I hope Santa brings you everything you want! (and I hope it’s not just the Op-Tech Rainsleeve) :-)
Ok so what now do I need to buy, ermm I mean invest in???
Looking at the list I’m most definitely looking at the Think Tank Laptop Bag. The one I use at the moment is Ruck Sack Style; does a great job but it’s a little cumbersome and having a Think Tank Pro Roller I know the quality is going to be spot on.
I’m not a big plug in user but hearing you, Matt and Calvin Hollywood rave about Color Efex Pro makes me think I really should get this; certainly for working on large amounts of Client Images that need to be finished within a short time frame. Constantly hearing good reports about this plug in.
Also the iPad…My resistance to this point has been darned hard work and I fear this coming week I may be visiting the Apple Store.
Nice list of items there Scott; truth be told I’d have them all :)
What?!? you didn’t recommend giving a NAPP membership to the your loved ones?!?
I’m going to report you the to the PR department.
…great list Scott. I look forward to it every year.
I just bought myself a Canon 70-200L coffee mug and I love it.
the only problem is, I’m afraid to leave it in my car like a standard coffee mug b/c it looks like the real thing. I don’t know who would be more disappointed about a car break in to steal what turns out to be a coffee mug: the thief, or me.
Great list and thanks for posting. Made my list off of your and I will be sure to check it twice. Although I am wondering if there is a significant difference between the SB-700 and the SB-900 speedlights?
I think that the power is the significant difference. The 900 has a higher power output and GN than the 700
Just looking over your list, I actually have something on it!!! I just upgraded to a Canon EOS Rebel T2i with the 18-135 lens. Starting to feel a bit overwhelmed and in over my head but I am determined to figure all this out, and love your shows, which I actually understand. There are several more things on your list I would love to have, but the Rebel wiped my funds out for awhile. Keep up the great work and maybe you will turn me into a better (obsessed) photography buff yet.
Scott, I like the TTank bag, it will go great with my Airport bag. The 600x Lexar 16g’s are what I use now, much faster buffering and download. C & K-B.
Ken (above) the 900 is 2 stops brighter. KT
PS, Scott the Nikon Teleconverter is linked to the II series, shouldn’t that be the III series for 500?
Ken there is no III series for Nikon for the 1.4 or 1.7, only the 2.0
I agree, and the only one $500.
What….RC couldn’t photoshop a picture of you and put a Santa hat on your head? That should have led off the blog post. Terrific list! One I am sure to pass on to the CFO of my family (my wife).
Good thing I already have a Op-Tech Rain Sleeve.
I agree with Mark. You should have included a NAPP membership suggestion!
Just to help out concerning “Gonzo”:
Gonzo is a character of the Muppet Show. While I don’t know if he’s into photography, he shure would have a hard time trying to get his eye close to a viewfinder, so he’d probably recommend buying cameras with LiveView. Just search for “Gonzo” in the goolge-picture in search and you’ll know what I mean.
Great list. Thanks very much, Scott. I really like the fact that there’s something for every pocket size. Teeny, tiny criticism? The list seems to assume we’re buying for a man (see iPad connection kit, Intuos small). I’m sure there are plenty of female photographers who would love to receive some of this stuff.
The magnetic Polaroid frames are going on my Wish List right now!
There are at least three products where feminine pronouns are used: AluminArte, Camera Lens Mug, and OP/TECH RAINSLEEVE.
Yep, you’re right, Mark. I take it all back. Humble apologies and all that.
No worries, John.
Another great list Scott! Looks like i’ll have to take the plunge and buy myself a lens mug. 8-)
An awesome list. Loving the cheap and cheerful rail and clips from IKEA!!! Loving the Magnetic Polaroid Frames too! :)
I just wish you could get the IKEA rails online, not have to go to their stupid store.
There’s a wide range of frames you can choose from, they may not be like the rail and clip frame but their still really effective and cheap. You can’t go wrong with IKEA’s thick dark photo frames.
I absolutely IKEA, any reason to go IKEA! I’d go! :D
Scott, which lens is that?
That looks like the Canon, quite possibly the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM (http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/ef_lens_lineup/ef_70_200mm_f_2_8l_is_usm)
I shot with one of these lenses while photographing a triathlon and have to say I simply loved the speed, response and clarity that the lens offered. Let me say, it is on my short list of lenses for this holiday season – did I hear someone say stocking stuffer?
Loved the mug. It looks just like the genuine article. Just hope on one of those bleary pre-dawn mornings as I prepare for a shoot that I don’t pour coffee all over my real lens.
Thanks for the great list.
I understand you don’t receive kick back on products sales. Is this probably for journalistic cred? Would you still be credible if you had the vendors give their standard affliare refferal paentd to a charity of Scott’s choice?
Great list again this year Scott! I have my eye on that mug and teleconverter. Thanks for those great suggestions!
Thanks for acknowledging my tip from earlier this year on the Asker Rail. I must admit that when I got the Holiday gear guide two weeks ago, I was pretty excited to see my suggestion at the top of the list and I showed it to my spouse right away. Your integrity is a reflection on you and all the gang at NAPP. Thanks again Scott.
We are a blog that promotes the artwork of the unknown. We think Scott’s guide is very helpful and have published it in the featured-section at following link :
Thanks a lot Scott !
Hey Scott great, I’m craving for an ipad…hope this will be my christmas gift…
Excellent gear ideas Scott – thanks for sharing!
Thanks so much for including the Canon products alongside the Nikon. Makes me want to go shopping for me! Thanks also for all the helpful posts throughout the year. You have helped a lot of serious hobbyist as well as pros.
Awesome list! Some things on there I need to send to some family members for ideas!
I have a question however on the iPad recommendation. If you are shooting RAW in the field, how would you use the iPad as a backup? The iPad only imports the jpeg previews when you use the usb camera connectors. I use it to show results to clients on-site if the shoot doesnt require a tethered laptop, and I explain its just a preview, etc.
Just curious about your thoughts.
I have heard the the iPad imports the RAW files and displays the jpeg preview but keeps the RAW files available for uploading or emailing. Here’s a link that discusses the process: http://www.macworld.com/article/150893/2010/04/ipad_camera_connection_kit.html
Thanks for the heads up on that, thats some great info on the process. Too much monkeying with the RAW files for my clients and my workflow to consider this a viable resource, in my opinion. Theres too much riding on those RAW files sometimes.
Always as interesting every year to see what you are recommending. Now comes the question on what “don’t need”. ;)
One of each please! I was wondering the same about the Ipad as a backup but need to look into the SD card part of the connection kit. Maybe that will explain it. Now to retweet so everyone I know has the right gift ideas! Thanks, Scott!
Another thing for gifts… Kelby’s Digital Photography book 1, 2, and 3. I still go through those things every once and a while to remind myself of the good tips.
I do, too!
I already own a couple items on the list. Thanks for confirming my good purchases. I love the Rogue flash bender! The Color Efex Pro is a nice set of plug-in filters, too — I use them every day.
…everything up to this point was “ado”
Classic. Tones of Stephen Wright. I have GOT to get one of those lens mugs. Also agree with poster above that a NAPP membership is essential. Gift that keeps on giving. Or a Kelby Training annual subscription.
Thanks a bunch Scott! I now have one great idea for a gift and a new canvas resource for my business.
Have a great Holiday Season!!
I have the Nikon coffee mug even though I shoot Canon. The first time I took it to work with me I got all kinds of wonderful comments. I also have the iPad with the camera connection kit and use it all the time. I like Color EFX PRO but I think it’s a bit pricey for waht it does. If you spend a little time in Lightroom you can duplicate most of the effects.
Just my 2 cents…
The SB700 is a great unit, but for most photographers it is missing one big thing and not having a PC port is a cardinal sin in my book. It can’t be used for any type of off camera flash other than with the Nikon CLS system. No Pocketwizards or Radiopoppers, etc. for this flash.
You need to visit http://www.larryscheapshots.com! He has your solution!
You can get hot shoe to PC port connectors. I use one to pocketwizard an SB600
Thank you to Lew at APC and Scott for allowing me to represent the incredible panoramic canvas prints from APC on this gift guide! The quality of these canvases is truly amazing – it’s hard to believe just how great they look up close!
What type of prints do you reccamend for the hanging prints?
Thanks for sharing!
Another great “Holiday Gear Guide”, Scott! The “Captured” book is my favorite.
Scott, I love this list every year, can’t wait for it. I have to disagree and take you to task on the Rogue FlashBenders, however. I have them and to be honest, they are the wrong size for my SB-800 flash. The smaller one fits it pretty well, but I think the larger ones are made for a much larger flash like the 900. Those two larger “Benders” are too wide in the areas that attach to flash. Because of that, the fabric buckles and the unit will not attach solidly and tends to fall off unless it’s facing up all the time. I wrote the company about these issues but they have ignored me so far (6 weeks). I might buy the smaller unit for my SB-800, but I don’t think I would buy the two larger units again …. or I would want to try something else out.
Great stuff Scott. Just got done ordering a Nikon mug.
Wow. Too bad the person I want to buy for has another make of SLR, I have to buy them a Nikon or Canon TC, or Nikon or Canon battery. She’ll be pissed off when she opens that! Bizarre.
OMG…the lens mug is priceless!!! I’ve already placed my order…
Great list Scott. I look forward to it every year. One thing I would love to see on this list is a workshop or two. I realize that this could be a conflict of interest with all of the great NAPP and Kelby Training products, classes, books, seminars and everything else you offer, but I think there is still a little room for a workshop or two on your list. I remember reading on your blog about how you and Matt have gone to workshops by other photographers and you raved about them. Maybe you haven’t been to one in a while so that’s understandable if that’s the reason there aren’t any on the list.
Please, please, PLEASE… drop the Lens mug off the list! I could not think of anything worse. And if I did show this list to my wife, that is possibly what she would buy!!!
Canvas panoramic prints… perfect for my new Lomo Spinner 360!
I also love the ‘polaroid’ fridge magnets
Man, there sure are a lot of goodies on this list that I would love to have.
I love Nik software’s Color Efex Pro myself and use it more than anyother plug-in that I have.
The canvas prints are something that I want to check out as well.
Moose’s book looks swell so I’ll definitely check it out.
Thanks for the list!
There’s another Ikea item that I’ve been using for a few years to hang photos on…see here:
It’s nice because you can cut the cable length to whatever you want.
Dang! NOW it shows up. Sorry for the double post (now triple post…such an idiot)
(apologize if this is a duplicate, I tried to submit once, but the comment still does not show in the comment section when I look)
Ikea also has another item that works really well for various sizes of photos:
And the clips:
Love the list and how cottage industries are spawn from digital photography. So many gifts its hard to choose between needs and wants. Really like the Color Efex Pro.
Wishing you a great holiday season,
All the best,
So I am considering the Nikon D7000, I am just curious at this moment in time is there any compelling reason I should buy the D300 instead? What are the main differences in the two cameras? What am I overlooking as far as important feature sets of the two?
Great list! Thanks for putting it together.
I’m actually interested in getting the fan. I assume that it has pretty good output right? Would it be able to do more then hair like if the model had a light scarf?
Not looking to do any tornado type shots but it would be nice if you had some extra power to play with.
Since we shoot a lot of video with our photographer’s camera, the 32 gig card would be greatly appreciated. Thanks Santa!
Thanks for another year of great gift ideas Scott. My personal favorite: The Camera Lens Mug. Not even my wife (aka “the committee” can deny this appropriation! :-)
Think Tank Photo does not offer a 10% discount to NAPP members per the salesperson I spoke to today when ordering the Airport Check In. Perhaps Mr. Kelby or Adorama was misinformed. If it was Adorama I would like a contact to make the correction.
Can you drop me an email with some more info, eg your order number and who you spoke to at Adorama?
I’d like to be able to help fix this, if I can.
Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador
Really your thought will be a great mainstream.As it sounds very good though i would like to light it at the wall of my facebook.
I liked the look of this one http://www.bayphoto.com/metalprints/metalprints_double_float.htm where they double float the image.
I just need to find somewhere in the UK who does all this :(
Hi Scott, just found your site through Pioneer Woman as I was looking to see what camera she uses – hoping to jump from my Cannon powershot point and shoot to my first DSLR very soon! I was also born in Lakeland and lived there until I left in 2003 for college – small world!!
What’s a great laptop to buy a serious amateur photographer who doesn’t want a Mac. Thanks!