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. 

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! 

Joby Gorillapod SLR-Zoom Tripod With Ballhead

www.joby.com

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.

Key Features/Specifications

  • 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

Kata 3N1-33 DL Sling Backpack

www.kata-bags-us

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.

Key Features/Specifications

  • 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. 

Think Tank Retrospective 7 Bag

www.thinktankphoto.com

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.

Key Features/Specifications

  • '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 Leather Camera Case (available in small, medium and large)

www.skytoptrading.com

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.


Click here to go to page 2 of our 2012 Holiday Gift Guide