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For those of you ready to spend a little extra $$ this holiday season, we present our recommendations for photography gifts valued at $500 or less. And if you missed it, here’s our collection of photography gifts for $50 or less.
Datacolor SpyderLensCal Focus Tool – $54.50
Not sure whether your camera or lens is performing to its full potential? The SpyderLensCal could benefit from a catchier name, but it’s a reliable tool for measuring the focus accuracy of your camera and lenses. You spent a boatload of money on your equipment, so you might as well be sure that it’s working at its peak performance.
“Fast, sexy, and powerful,” says Phottix of their second generation wireless trigger. It features excellent build quality, four channels, four groups, and a 150 meter range. Canon, Nikon, and Sony versions are available, but check for your specific camera model.
Joby Gorillapod SLR – Zoom – $73.25
Should you trust your precious (and expensive) camera to the Joby Gorillapod SLR-Zoom? Simply put, yes. While earlier and smaller version couldn’t carry the weight of DSLRs, the Gorillapod SLR-Zoom is made specifically for larger and heavier cameras. If you’ve ever wondered what kind of shot you could get by hanging your camera from a tree branch, bookshelf, or other weird angle, then the Gorillapod is the answer – you can bend and twist the tipod’s gripping legs to grasp on to whatever. If attaching cameras to cliff sides isn’t really your style, it’s still a great go-to tripod that’s easy to pack, light weight, and has a full 360-degree ball head.
This gift is for the fun-loving photographer: FujiFilm is selling these cute little cameras that print instant credit card-sized photos on Fuji film, that still look and feel like analog (because they are). They’re a little like Polaroid’s hip cousin, and awesome to whip out at parties or keep in your car for whenever-you-want-it photos.
Black Rapid Double Strap – $129.95
Carry two cameras and still stay hands-free with Black Rapid’s double strap. It’s super comfortable and evenly distributes your load’s weight – perfect for those longs days when you’re struggling to take a bunch of equipment.
This shoe mount flash is the newest addition to Sigma’s line and designed to work with all major SLR cameras. It’s said to be the most powerful yet, with a Guide Number of 200ft/61m and illumination that covers a focal length up to 105mm. It also features TTL auto flash exposure control for easy operation, and 90-180 degree rotation right-left and 7 degrees tilted down. A powerful tool for serious photographers.
There are times with a full-fledged tripod is too cumbersome and can’t get the job done. In those times you need a simple but stable monopod. This one from Induro is made with fancy materials (magnesium alloy! carbon fiber!) that make it one of the strongest and most durable. Great for heavy lights and telephoto lenses. Also consider adding the monopod head to your list for full 360-degree control ($245).
The next generation of instant printing is here, and it’s being brought to you by Lady Gaga. No, seriously – Lady Gaga was named creative director of Polaroid in early 2010 and has since designed a line of Grey Label products. Among them is this Bluetooth-compatible printer that can print full-bled 3×4″ photos right from your mobile device and most digital cameras. It’s a neat way to bring the instant gratification of photo booth prints into the tech-obsessed era.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 – $179.95
If you haven’t done so already, it may be time for an upgrade. Key features remain the same: non-destructive editing, comprehensive importing, and offline library management. New improvements and additions in this third version include faster operation, better noise reduction, new import dialog, new RAW processing engine, and support for video files (though just for organization purposes, no editing).
Have you ever edited a photo to what you thought was its optimal color, only to print it off and realize that your computer monitor wasn’t properly calibrated? Don’t let this happen to you! Invest in a monitor calibrator, like this one from X-Rite, that’s made especially for pro photographers who require exceptional color accuracy.
Think Tank Shape Shifter Backpack – $249.75
Let’s get serious about traveling with all that gear. Often times, the problem is that you’re either traveling with your laptop, multiple cameras, tripod, flashes, etc. or just a laptop – and you don’t want to have to switch bags just because you happen to be carrying more or less that day. The Shape Shifter backpack is a great option because it can be expanded or contracted to fit your equipment. There’s also pockets galore to fit all your little goodies.
Manfrotto 1004BAC Master Light Stands – $299.90
This package actually includes 3 12-foot light stands, and you can be confident that they will support your lighting equipment. What makes the 1004BAC special is Manfrotto’s patented Quick Stack System which enables each stand to fold flat, allowing for easy storage and transport. It may be one more piece of equipment to lug around, but at least it packs nicely.
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Think Tank Airline Carry On – $349.75
Another option from Think Tank Photo – this one is definitely more expensive, but takes all the stress off your back and shoulders, and obviously packs more. The Think Tank Photo Airport International 2.0 is widely regarded as the best carry-on-sized roller on the market.
Wacom Instuos4 Digital Tablet – $349.95
If you do any kind of precision editing, then you need the Wacom Intuos Tablet. It’s fast, easy, and puts less strain on your wrist than working with a mouse all day. The tablet comes in three sizes: small, medium, or large. We recommend the medium for most photographers.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 – $369.95
If you’re looking for a digital point-and-shoot for under $500, Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-LX5 is a good option. It’s compact and has plenty of external controls, which makes it a good choice for the budding photography enthusiast. This latest version in the LX series has a fully re-designed lens – a nice 24mm Leica Vario-Summicron lens.
Plustek Opticfilm 7600I Ai – $388.95
Anyone who’s seeking professional-quality film to digital conversions needs to invest in a top-notch scanner like this one from Plustek. Its high resolution, 7200 dpi film scanner and LED light sources gives you max image quality (even eliminating most dust and scratches). Plus, it’s designed for both the experienced and amateur: photographers who have experience scanning film can use real-time controls, while amateurs have the option of fully automated functions.
Lytro Camera – $399-499
It’s one of the most talked-about products this season…Claiming to build camera products that “transform light field technology from a scientific theory into a reality,” Lytro‘s camera captures the entire light field, meaning that you can focus and re-focus after you make the shot. We have to wonder, will light field technology take the skill (and fun) out of photography?