2012 Holiday Gift Guide
Mike Perlman | Buying Guides | Published Dec 1, 2012
It's holiday season, which means it's time to start buying presents for friends and loved ones. Photography is an expensive hobby, and finding the right gift for the photographer in your life can be tough, but not everything costs thousands of dollars. In this quick guide we've tried to provide some inspiration by rounding up 14 potential gifts that we'd be pleased to find under our trees (virtual or actual) on Christmas morning.
We've aimed for a mixture of fun and serious, from products costing under a hundred dollars to more serious investments, and our choices are presented here in no particular order. We've used many of these items ourselves, and where relevant, we've also mentioned alternative products that might be of interest.
- Joby Gorillapod SLR-Zoom
- Kata 3N1-33 DL Sling Backpack
- Think Tank Retrospective 7 Messenger Bag
- Skytop Camera Case
- Velbon Ultra REXi L Tripod
- Velbon Super Mag Macro Tripod Slider
- Phottix Aion Wireless Timer and Shutter Release
- Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter
- GoalZero Guide 10 Plus Adventure Kit
- Adobe Creative Suite 6 / Photoshop Elements 11
- Canon Pixma Pro-10 Printer
- WD MyBook Studio USB 3.0 1/2/3/4TB Hard Drive
- Interfit SXT3200 Lighting Kit
- X-Rite ColorMunki Smile Monitor Profiler
We hardly need to ask, but if you think we've missed anything, be sure to add your suggestions for additional products (with web links, if you like) in the comments, and happy shopping!
|The Joby Gorillapod SLR-Zoom is a flexible, spider-like tripod that conforms to varied terrain.|
Is that an experimental government-designed three-legged DSLR robot roaming the desert? No, it's the Joby Gorillapod with a DSLR mounted to its flexible ballhead. Gorillapods are hugely popular mini tripods, thanks to their incredible versatility. In this particular model, Joby incorporates 10 joints in each leg for bending and wrapping around nearby objects. Like all Gorillapods, the SLR-Zoom tripod features rubberized joint rings and foot grips for enhanced mounting security.
The Joby Gorillapod SLR-Zoom measures a modest 9.80 inches (24.9 cm) high and features an (optional) flexible ballhead with leveling device for even horizons. If you want to upgrade to Joby's superior Ballhead X or another pro-level head, the Gorillapod SLR-Zoom comes with a 3/8" adapter. It's constructed from high quality ABS plastic and durable TPS rubber and supports a camera and lens combined weight of up to 6.6 lbs. (3Kg).
While the Joby Gorillapod SLR-Zoom is capable of hoisting small and mid-size DSLRs, the more expensive Gorillapod Focus is designed for larger full-frame DSLRs like the Canon EOS-1D X and Nikon D4. At less than 10" high, the Gorillapod SLR-Zoom is not ideal for portraits or video interviews, but it's really versatile, able to adapt and conform to an variety of everyday surfaces like lampposts, fences and garbage cans - surfaces and objects that a conventional camera support would never be able to grip to.
All Joby Gorillapods come with a 1-year warranty. The Gorillapod SLR-Zoom retails for $50 and the Flexible Ballhead lists for $40, but many retailers offer the two in combination for around $50.
- Flexible joints allow Gorillapod to wrap around fences, tree branches, etc.
- Delivered with a ballhead with a quick release system
- Bubble level located at the base of the quick release adapter
- Rubberized ring and foot grips
- Holds up to 6.6lbs (3kg)
- 9.8in (24.9cm)
What we like - The Bear Grylls of the tripod world, able to adapt to endless environments, high quality construction, compact and portable
What we don't like: - Not practical for portraits or shoots in the middle of nowhere
|The Kata 3N1-33 DL Sling Backpack has a generous capacity and some cool features.|
Kata designs some of the most useful camera transporters on the market, and the company's 3N1-33 DL Sling Backpack is no exception. One of the bag's prime features is that it can be used as a traditional backpack, a cross strap 'X' backpack or converted into a sling bag for quick camera access. Hence the name '3N1'. The Kata 3N1-33 DL can fit a full size DSLR (Canon EOS-1D X / Nikon D4 size) with long zoom lens and still manage to pack in 5-6 more lenses and a flash. All of this equipment is accessible via a side flap on the bottom portion of the backpack. The neat thing about the bottom portion of the bag is that the entire area is customizable via Velcro dividers. So, if you're used to carrying a small prime lens, you can free up more space for additional lenses or accessories.
The Kata 3N1-33 DL also makes room for a laptop up to 15.4 inches (39.12cm) in the top compartment, in addition to a generous space for personals like notepads, clothes and lunch. Two external side pockets increase storage for accessories like lens filters, light meters and remote timers. The 3N1-33 DL also features special 'Memory Dividers' for storing smaller accessories like memory cards and cables. Included tripod straps enable a small field tripod to be attached to the back of the bag and an included rain cover protects contents from the elements.
The bag is constructed from high quality materials and utilizes rugged zippers. External dimensions are 18.31 inches (H) x 12.99" (L) x 10.24" (W) (46.51cm x 33cm x 26.01cm), but the 3N1 family includes three smaller variations to suit your traveling needs. The Kata 3N1-33 DL is also Insertrolley compatible for use with wheeled luggage.
- Fits a full size DSLR with long-range zoom lens
- Also fits 5-6 lenses and a flash
- Carries up to a 15.4in (39.12cm) laptop
- Insertrolley compatible for wheeled support
- Comes with rain cover
- Morphs from sling to backpack
- Modular velcro dividers and large top compartment for personals
What we like - Excellent construction, versatile carrying configurations, ample and smart storage
What we don't like - Can only host a small tripod, does not ship with the element/reflector cover that we love in other Kata products.
|The ThinkTank Retrospect 7 blends classic design with modern storage solutions.|
If backpacks aren't your bag, there's a large number of over-the-shoulder messenger type photography bags on the market. Messenger bags are ideal for shooters who want quick access to their gear, but in a bag that doesn't scream 'I'm carrying expensive camera equipment!' The ThinkTank Retrospect 7 is one of the most interesting around.
Designed for standard-sized DSLR systems (anything up to Canon EOS 5D III / Nikon D800 size), the Retrospect 7 can hold a body with standard lens attached, as well as a 70 - 200mm F2.8 (or similar) lens and flashgun in the main compartment. There are two collapsible pockets in the main compartment, ideal for full size flashes, wireless transmitters or filters, but they can be tucked away if not necessary. There's also an internal zip pouch for pens, maps and other literature as well as a spacious exterior pocket which is big enough to hold an additional DSLR body or other accessories.
The back of the bag houses a slim pocket, ideal for maps, a notepad, tablet computer or small laptop. The benefit here is that the pocket rests against your body to discourage pickpockets. The Retrospect 7 also has a unique 'sound silencer' system that reduces the loud tearing sound of hook-and-loop enclosures. There's a handy top handle, a seam-sealed rain cover and oh - we almost forgot - the bag comes in Pinestone, Blue Slate or Black.
- 'Sound Silencers' reduce noise caused by opening and closing the bag
- Cushioned and padded nonslip shoulder strap
- Organizational and zippered pockets for accessories
- Removable divider set for custom layouts
- Seam-sealed rain cover
- Expandable front pocket for DSLR body or accessories
- Business card slot under the front flap for identification
What we like - Plenty of storage, high quality construction, stylish
What we don't like - Like all messenger-style bags, the Retrospective 7 can become uncomfortable when fully-loaded with heavy hardware. For the price, larger-capacity backpacks are better for carrying lots of gear.
|Skytop's leather camera cases are unique. Hand-made in Colorado from saddle leather, there are three versions available for small (pictured above) medium and large DSLRs.|
Practical gifts are all well and good, but it's nice to be treated once in a while. We've lusted after these leather camera cases since we first saw them at a tradeshow last year. Not only because of their unique appearance, but because of the exceptional quality of their construction. If you miss the days when every SLR came with a leather hard case, you should definitely check out Skytop's products, but they're a considerable step up from anything you'll have used before.
These cases are solid - really solid. And like anything made from saddle leather, they're pretty chunky too. If you want something lightweight, discrete, and inexpensive, you're looking in the wrong place. Skytop's camera cases start at $329 for the 'small' model (pictured above) which is designed for entry-level DSLRs (exact compatibility is listed on Skytop's website) and go up to $429 for the made-to-order 'large DSLR' version, which will accomodate Canon EOS 5D III / Nikon D800-type bodies. This version is significantly beefier than the small DSLR option, all the better to support the heavier cameras, and the pentaprism 'hump' is molded and stitched on separately, to accomodate the extra height. There's also a 'Buntline' version of the case to accomodate particularly long lenses (compatibility information is listed on Skytop's site).
Each Skytop case comes with a holster with belt loop, a detachable lid, detachable 4-way shoulder strap and a 'camera retention strap' for use when the lid is detached and the holster is worn 'open'. Other optional accessories include lens hood straps, wrist straps, a filter wallet and a pouch for a spare battery. All made from saddle leather. If you like the idea of a Skytop case but don't want to add that much bulk to your camera, the Colorado-based company also makes a range of cases for other devices, including tablet computers. Skytop is happy to ship internationally, but if you're based outside the USA, expect to pay at least $30 for shipping. And hurry up! It's nearly Christmas!
Key Features / Specifications
- Hand-made from high-quality stitched saddle leather
- Three sizes available to accomodate entry-level to semi-professional (D800 / 5D III class) DSLRs
- Available in brown or black (all versions)
What we like - Exceptionally well-made, unique leather camera cases that should survive anything you can throw at them (and allow your camera to do the same).
What we don't like - Big, chunky, (some would say ugly) and not cheap.
|The lightweight Velbon Ultra REXi L travel tripod is fantastic for travelling or everyday photography where a conventional tripod would weigh you down.|
Traveling can be daunting, especially with tons of photography gear to lug around from airport to airport. The Velbon Ultra REXi L is designed with the travelling photographer in mind. Weighing just 2.89 lbs (1.31kg), the Ultra REXi L will easily slip into a duffel bag or strap to the outside of a photo backpack without adding too much heft, but it's still capable of holding 11 pounds of camera gear at a decent height off the ground, making it one of the best 'travel' tripods around (and a personal favourite of dpreview's Andy Westlake - Ed.).
Key to the Ultra REXi L's compact size when folded is the 'trunnion shaft' design of its legs, which retract into one another almost completely. When extended, the Ultra REXi L can support your camera at a maximum height of 60.2 inches, or 153cm. This is about five feet - a good working height for most general-purpose photography, and the chunky adjustment controls make setup quick and easy, even in poor weather. We don't normally get excited about how low a tripod can go, but the REXi L's minimum extension of ~10cm (3.94 inches) makes it great for ground-level macro photography.
Despite its compact size, the Velbon Ultra REXi L can comfortably handle a medium-sized DSLR like a Canon EOS 5D Mark III or Nikon D800 with a standard or wideangle zoom attached. Not uncommonly, the Ultra REXi L does not come with a head, but has a reversible bolt that will accept heads with standard 1/4" and 3/8" connections. Velbon offers a few high quality ball and pan/tilt heads too.
- Height (fully extended): 60.2in / 153cm
- Height (without center column extended): 51.2in 130cm
- Minimum working height: 4in / 10cm
- Folded length: 14.2 inches / 36.07cm
- Max load: 11.02 lb / 5kg
- Weight: 2.89 lb / 1.31kg
- Twist Lock leg system
What we like - Lightweight, full-height tripod with extremely short folded length. Chunky adjustment controls are great for quick setup.
What we don't like - The tradeoff for short folded length is a relatively large diameter when folded, which makes stowage in some camera bags awkward. The lowest of the leg grips is the foot of the tripod (not great when setting up in mud/sand)
|The Velbon Super Mag Slider is a must for serious macro photography, where precise camera positioning is critical.|
Macro photography is one of the most popular genres for keen enthusiast photographers, but it's also one of the most difficult. Anyone who's ever taken biology in high school knows how difficult it is to line up tiny things under a microscope, and shooting insects or small flowers with a macro lens isn't much easier. Even miniscule movements at high magnifications might cause you to lose your shot. The average tripod head is not capable of the super-fine movements that are really required when lining up a macro subject, but that's what macro, or microadjustment plates are for.
The Velbon Super Mag Macro Tripod Slider (as used in one of DPReview's studios - Ed.) is an inexpensive microadjustment plate that features precise 4-way adjustment. The design mounts the camera on a cork-covered plate attached to two magnesium alloy rails. The camera can be moved 60mm (2.36 inches) forward and backward, and 30mm (1.18 inches) left and right by turning the large knurled adjustment knobs. The whole thing weighs just 470 grams (1.04lbs). Coupled perhaps with a macro ring light, the Velbon Super Mag Macro Tripod Slider is a great companion for macro photography, but also works well for any application where you need precise control over framing alignment.
- Precise 4-way camera alignment
- Can be moved forward, back, left and right
- Weighs 470 grams (1.04lbs)
- Allows 60mm (2.36 in) forwards and backwards movement and 30mm (1.18 in) left to right
- Features two reversible 1/4-20" to 3-8" tripod connections, and a 1/4-20" camera screw
What we like - Precise four-way movement allows exacting camera movement, light weight, great value
What we don't like - Lacks ruler or millimeter markings, which would be helpful to gauge exact distances
|The Phottix Aion system enables wireless control of self-timer and shutter release.|
A wireless shutter release is one of the most useful accessories that any photographer can have in his or her kitbag, and the Phottix Aion is one of the best. In addition to wirelessly controlling the shutter release, the Aion can activate your camera's self-timer, control bulb exposures and even control auto-bracketed timer settings for HDR photos.
The Phottix Aion has a two-stage shutter button for AF and shutter release functions, just like a typical digital camera. It offers several exposure modes - instant, continuous 5 shot, 2 second delay and bulb shutter.
The Phottix Aion operates over a 2.4GHz radio frequency and has a 60 meter range. We were impressed with the Phottix Odin's performance at long ranges, and we've no reason to think that the Aion will disappoint. The remote unit of the Aion features a backlit LCD screen for enhanced vision at night and both the remote and transmitter run on AAA batteries. The Phottix Aion can also be used as a wired remote system in order to free up the hot shoe for other accessories, though the transmitter can be mounted anywhere during the wireless setup as well. Canon, Nikon, Sony and Olympus cameras are supported.
- Self, interval and long exposure timers
- Number of frames setting
- Auto-bracketed timer setting for HDR photos
- Two-stage shutter button for AF and shutter release
- Instant, continuous 5 shot, 2 second delay and bulb shutter release mode
- 2.4GHz frequency
- 60m range
- Backlit LCD
- AAA batteries
What we like: - Capable of a variety of shutter and timer functions, long radio frequency range, backlit LCD
What we don't like: - a tad pricey
|The Tiffen Variable ND filter provides 2-8 stops of filtration, making it ideal for the travelling photographer or videographer.|
Neutral Density filters are basically like sunglasses for your lens, allowing you to achieve slow shutter speeds or shoot at large apertures in daylight for long-exposure shots of crowds or waterfalls, or perhaps shallow depth-of-field portraits. Conventional ND filters come in fixed densities though, which can make them awkward to use if you want to experiment with different exposure settings.
The Tiffen Variable ND filter solves this problem. It eliminates the need to buy multiple filters by providing 2-8 (0.6- 2.4) stops of density control. The density is controlled by opposing polarizing filters. You twist the filter's ring to increase or decrease the amount of opposition, which in turn changes the density of the filter, allowing more or less light into the lens. It's versatility also makes this filter very useful for DSLR video capture.
I've had a chance to use the Tiffen Variable ND filter pretty intensively, and it's a high quality piece of kit. The ring is buttery smooth and the filter is slim and compact. Tiffen ships the Variable ND filter in a padded nylon pouch with lens wipe. It's constructed from Tiffen's high quality optical glass, and features a 10-year warranty.
Also worth considering, if your budget is more flexible is the Light Craft Workshop Fader ND Digi Pro-HD Filter, which offers 1-10 stops of density, and comes with an adjustment rod and lens cap.
- Provides 2 to 8 stops of light control
- Thin profile ring - 9mm
- Wide outer filter to help reduce vignetting at wide angles
- Supplied with black nylon pouch
- 10-year warranty
What we like: - Multiple ND filters in one, high quality construction, smooth rotation
What we don't like: - Does not ship with a lens cap, no adjustment rod
|The GoalZero Guide 10 Plus Adventure Kit is a USB Solar Charging station designed to keep your phone, tablet and flash batteries juiced throughout the day.|
Sometimes outdoor shoots can last all day, but the average battery can't. Your smartphone, tablet and flash AAs will be hurting halfway into the day. The GoalZero 10 Plus Adventure kit is a green alternative to buying battery extenders and additional batteries.
The GoalZero Guide 10 Plus Adventure kit consists of the Nomad Solar Panel, a 17 x 9 x 0.1 inch (43 x 23 x 0.25 cm) (when unfolded) tri-fold portfolio equipped with two solar panels. The mono-crystalline solar panels are capable of producing 7 watts of power each. Devices can be plugged into the USB solar hub to charge them as you play in the sun and the panels can deliver enough juice to fully charge the included AA battery pack in 3-4 hours. This battery pack holds four rechargeable AA or AAA batteries - common in devices like flashes or wireless transmitters. 4x AA batteries are included with the kit.
A zippered pouch is available for storing cables and other small items, and the GoalZero 10 Plus kit also includes a built-in LED flashlight.
- Recharge your batteries and peripheral devices using the sun
- Small and compact enough to carry anywhere
- Handy built-in LED flashlight to help you search in your dark backpack or purse
- AA rechargeable batteries included
What we like - Juice throughout the day, courtesy of the sun
What we don't like - This isn't a fast-charger, and you'll need to find a suitable place to set the kit up for a few hours.
|Adobe's Creative Suite comprises a large number of programs from specialist web development and design tools to the latest versions of Photoshop and Lightroom.|
If you're shopping for a photography student this holiday season, or someone who's new to digital imaging, the latest version of Photoshop Elements - Elements 11 - would make a great gift. Aimed at novice users, Elements isn't part of Adobe's Creative Suite and at $99 it's one of the most affordable programs of its kind, but packed with features nonetheless. Elements started out as a very limited, extremely cut-down piece of software, but it has since evolved into a powerful image manipulation and organizing platform, available for Windows and Mac.
Photoshop Lightroom 4 is aimed at enthusiasts and professionals that need to edit and organise large numbers of Raw images quickly (although you can also work on JPEGs and there's limited support for video editing, too). A powerful organization and editing tool, at its heart is the same raw demosaicing algorithm that powers Adobe's Camera Raw plugin in Photoshop. Compared to 'full strength' Photoshop though, Lightroom is intended to satisfy photographers who need to do a small number of things, but fast and frequently. At $149, it's great value. Click here to read our review.
Another option, if the photographer in your life is an imaging professional, is Adobe Creative Cloud. Creative Cloud is a membership program offered by Adobe that offers users instant downloads of any Adobe CS software as soon as they become available in any available language. Members also get access to the Creative Cloud website, which serves as a hub where you can explore, create, publish, and share your work. Online storage of 20GB will let you share and sync your pictures wherever you are in the world.
Existing CS customers qualify for Creative Cloud membership at a reduced price of up for $30 per month (for the first year), but if you or your loved one is new to the suite, you'll be looking at $50 per month, which works out at $600 per year. A serious chunk of change, but of course far less expensive than paying for the programs (and their eventual upgrades) separately.
What we like - Elements is great for beginners, Lightroom is quick, powerful and great value for enthusiasts, and Creative Cloud puts every CS program and future update in any language right at your fingertips (but at a cost).
What we don't like - We wish Elements worked a little more like Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom, to ease the transition for upgraders, and we wish there was a cheaper version of Creative Cloud covering only Adobe's more photo-centric programs (do you really need Flash Builder?)
|The Canon Pixma Pro-10 inkjet printer uses 10 individual inks and prints 4800 DPI on up to 13" x 19" media.|
Arguably, after camera and lenses, your next purchase should be a high quality printer to reproduce your digital photographs. There are plenty of printers out there, but the one we've selected here is the Canon Pixma Pro-10, a professional inkjet model that replaces the highly acclaimed Pixma Pro9500 Mark II.
The Pixma Pro-10 features Canon's newest Optimum Image Generating (OIG) System, which is found in the more expensive Pixma Pro-1. This system helps determine what ink combinations are best for the type of paper used, as well as the balancing of color reproduction, tonal gradations, and uniform glossiness. The Pixma Pro-10 uses 10 individual inks with three of them devoted to true monochrome prints.
Speed has also been enhanced on the new Pixma Pro-10, as the printer can churn out an 11 x 14 in (27.94 x 35.56cm) print in 5 minutes and 20 seconds, compared to the Pixma Pro9500's 7 minute and 55 second time. The Pixma Pro-10 can handle borderless prints on up to 13 x 19 inch (33.02 x 48.26cm) paper, prints at 4800 DPI and even supports WiFi and mobile device printing. It has high-speed USB and is PictBridge and AirPrint compatible.
If $700 is too much, Canon also makes the excellent Pixma Pro-100, which features dye-based inks at a lower pricepoint of around $500. Also consider Epson's Stylus Photo R2880, which like the Pixma Pro-10 features three monochrome inks and gives excellent results for a street price of around $550.
- Print on media up to 13 x 19in (33.02 x 48.26cm)
- Maximum 4800 DPI
- 10 individual 'Lucia' ink cartridges, including three monochrome inks
- Built-in WiFi
What we like - Faster than predecessors, WiFi enabled, equipped with latest OIG system
What we don't like - Pricey (but you get what you pay for) and high running cost - 10 individual ink cartridges can get very expensive over time...
|The Western Digital My Book Studio USB 3.0 external hard drive offers up to three times faster connectivity than its USB 2.0 predecessor.|
RAW and HD video files are large and can eat up your computer's native hard drive storage capacity before you know it. An external hard drive is an essential tool for any avid digital photographer. The great thing about shopping for external hard drives is that units are getting faster all the time, and offering more and more storage for less and less cost. I remember dropping $300 on a 300GB hard drive back in 2002 that I had to assemble and configure myself...
The Western Digital MyBook Studio USB 3 external hard drive family is a prime example of the progress in consumer-level storage technology. For $190, you can pick up the 2TB MyBook Studio with a new high-speed USB 3.0 interface. For many of us, that's enough capacity for a years' shooting at least. Western Digital also offers the MyBook Studio USB 3.0 in 3TB and 4TB iterations for MSRPs of $240 and $300, respectively, and if you just don't need the space, there's a 1TB version for $160. If you shop around though, you can find all of them for less than their recommended retail price.
In addition to offering three times faster data transfer speeds than older USB 2.0 drives, the alumiunium-encased Western Digital MyBook Studio USB 3.0 can be password protected, and can be used with Windows or Mac Computers (the drive is formatted for Mac by default), and supports Apple's Time Machine automatic backup technology.
If you need storage on the move, we recommend you check out LaCie's Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt Series mobile hard drive. This portable drive measures a mere 89 x 140 x 24 mm / 3.5 x 5.5 x 0.97 inches and comes in two SSD versions (120GB and 256GB), as well as a standard 1TB 'spinning disk' variant. The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt series offers a high-speed Thunderbolt connection for use with Apple's newest computers, in addition to USB 3.0, which are both capable of achieving up to 385MB/s file transfer speeds. I own the 500GB FireWire 800/USB 3.0 - also a member of LaCie's Rugged family - and have been very impressed by its ability to handle rough handling. In theory, the solid state drive of the newer model should be even tougher.
- Available in capacities up to 4TB
- USB 3.0 interface
- Heat dissipating aluminum enclosure
- Compatible with Apple Time Machine
- Mac ready, but can be Windows formatted
- Password protection
What we like: - Lightning fast, tons of storage, Mac-friendly but will also play with Windows, password protected, great value (especially if you shop around)
What we don't like: - 3-year warranty is great, but it's limited
|The Interfit SXT3200 3 Head Tungsten kit is a great start to enter the world of studio photography.|
Studio photography is a lot of fun, and can also be reasonably lucrative. But it can also be very expensive to get into. A basic studio lighting kit makes a great gifts for a student or an enthusiast that want to dip a toe into studio portraiture or still life.
For under $400, the Interfit INT115 SXT3200 3 Head Tungsten kit gives you three 500W heads, three metal light stands (two are air-dampened), a silver umbrella, translucent umbrella, a 1 x 2.4 x 6 meter (9 x 30 foot) blue / grey background cloth, hook system for cloth, all-in-one carrying case, and an instructional DVD on how to get the most from your new lighting kit.
The 500W Interfit lights are configured to emit 3200 Kelvin temperature tungsten light and run on EUR 230V/50Hz (USA 110V/ 60Hz) voltage. You can't vary the output of the heads, but for the price, this is an excellent entry into studio lighting, and a good starting point for someone wanting to move up to a full strobe kit.
If you're looking for an affordable strobe lighting kit, we recommend the Calumet Genesis 200 2-Light Kit, which at around $450 offers excellent value for money, including 2x 200W heads, a pair of reflectors, 10ft metal light stands and two versatile white umbrellas with removable black covers.
For more options, take a look at our 2011 roundup of studio lighting kits.
- 500W heads are powerful enough for most studio shoots
- Comes with instructional DVD
- Fairly large blue/gray background cloth
- Silver and translucent umbrellas for different lighting effects
- Two of the lighting stands are air-dampened
What we like - Lots of power for the money, generous included accessories make a well-rounded kit
What we don't like - This is a tungsten kit, so its gets hot, and the output of the heads cannot be varied.
|The ColorMunki Smile makes monitor calibration extremely easy, and very affordable.|
A properly calibrated monitor is essential in the world of photography, whether you're a hobbyist or a pro. Colors can vary significantly from monitor to monitor, and even on the same display over time. You may have experienced the problem of looking at a shot on your home computer and opening it on a different screen at work, only to find that the colors have magically shifted. This happens when one or other (or both) your monitors aren't calibrated properly. Just imagine what the prints will look like.
Traditionally, color calibration was complex and confusing, requiring advanced software and time-consuming steps, but not the ColorMunki Smile from X-Rite. The ColorMunki Smile plugs into the USB port of a laptop or desktop and guides the user via onscreen instructions. Once completed, before and after color samples will be shown to demonstrate how inaccurate the colors on your computer monitor were prior to calibration. X-Rite says there's no need for a background in color science in order to use the ColorMunki Smile, and after having the product demonstrated to us at a recent tradeshow, we agree. The easy-to-use device incporporates the same color engine technology found in X-Rite's professional products, so results should be dead on.
The ColorMunki Smile supports both Mac and Windows machines and is capable of calibrating LCD and LED displays on laptops or desktops (anything with a 1024 x 768 pixel display or higher). Online help videos are available for the ColorMunki Smile, but it's so straightforward to set up and use that you might not need them. A reminder will flash on the screen when it's time to recalibrate in order to maintain proper color display.
- Calibrates LCD and LED laptop and desktop monitors
- No need for a background in color science
- Very plug-and-play
- Easy to maintain color calibration
What we like - Easy-to-use, provides basic callibration at a fraction of the cost of X-Rite's professional options
What we don't like - For the price, there's not much to complain about, but the ColorMunki Smile lacks some of the features of its high-end cousins, like printer / projector calibration.
- DPReview recommends: Top 5 Zoom Compact Cameras
- 10 Last-Minute Gift Ideas for Photographers (Published Dec 2011)
- Buyers' Guide: Studio Lighting Kits (published Dec 2011)
- Mirrorless Camera Roundup (Published Dec 2011)
- Buyer's Guide: Enthusiast raw-shooting compact cameras (Published Dec 2011)
- Buyer's Guide: 10 Essential Color Management Devices (published Nov 2011)
- 10 Photography Accessories for Under $250 (Published Nov 2011)
- Roundup: Third-party Lenses for Enthusiasts (published Nov 2011)
Mike Perlman is a freelance photographer and writer, based in Bar Harbor, Maine. After a spell reviewing camcorders at Camcorderinfo.com, Mike moved to infoSync World as the Senior Photography Editor, before taking up a role at TechnoBuffalo.com as the head of the Photography department. These days, Mike runs his own photography business and contributes to dpreview between shoots.