2012 Holiday Gift Guide

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 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

Comments

Total comments: 59
Nikonworks
By Nikonworks (11 months ago)

It is now 2013, in case you did not notice.

0 upvotes
triplejck
By triplejck (Jan 30, 2013)

Avoid Seagate drives get WDs

0 upvotes
tazmac
By tazmac (Jan 24, 2013)

Totally avoid Western Digital hard drives! Get Lacie which is mostly using Seagate drives!

0 upvotes
sherwoodpete
By sherwoodpete (Dec 15, 2012)

No it ain't holiday season. Summer is a long way off.

2 upvotes
KiLa
By KiLa (Dec 14, 2012)

The Phottix Aion is a nice one :)

0 upvotes
OneGuy
By OneGuy (Dec 3, 2012)

What accessory do you need for Pana GF1 w/20mm lens?

But of course, a nice blazer jacket.

0 upvotes
Chris2210
By Chris2210 (Dec 3, 2012)

Having worked at a place that was cheap enough to think tungsten garden lights would do for studio work [thankfully objects, not people], I can vouch that the things get hot as hades - pretty uncomfortable over an extended period.

The colour is also absolutely awful and although you can of course custom white balance for them, the light is very, very cool. So while the Interfix does look like a lot of kit for the money, I'm fairly surprised you're recommending it. I'd say for beginners who want to set up a home studio, a couple of lower-powered [adjustable] daylight heads would represent a far more sensible investment for about the same money...

1 upvote
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Dec 3, 2012)

All your points are valid (and we also recommend an entry-level calumet strobe kit) but tungsten kits are traditionally good entry-points into studio photography because the metering is so much simpler for a beginner to grasp. The heads are their own modelling lights, after all. But yes - not as versatile, and hot.

0 upvotes
Chris2210
By Chris2210 (Dec 4, 2012)

Fair enough - you do have to trial and error the exposures and shoot manually with strobes, whereas you can let the camera [or light meter] work out exposure for you in continuous lighting - which is of course also better for motion film. But I'm not sure manual exposure setup is much more of a challenge than setting a correct custom white balance for cool lighting.

I can remember getting very hot BEHIND the tungsten lights after only a few minutes. I imagine you could melt a model in a couple of hours ;)

A good list and article overall, btw.

0 upvotes
dholl
By dholl (Dec 3, 2012)

Thanks for reminding us non-pros how huge (and costly) the world of photography accessories can be.

That said, two really good tips here for me (not as a gift, but to buy for myself at some point): Gorillapod Focus & the Colourmunki.

Cheers and happy hollidays!

0 upvotes
ozgoldman
By ozgoldman (Dec 2, 2012)

Actually, I thought it was Christmas time.

2 upvotes
frenchie1
By frenchie1 (Dec 2, 2012)

More clutter in the apartment, yay!
I'm still trying to save money to own the new MKIII (donations are welcome).

0 upvotes
plasnu
By plasnu (Dec 2, 2012)

Retrospective 7 is uncomfortable even there is nothing inside. The bag weighs a ton. One of their key features: "Business card slot under the front flap for identification" itself may weigh more than a pancake lens.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
1 upvote
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (Dec 3, 2012)

Most things weigh more than a pancake lens.

1 upvote
gtvone
By gtvone (Dec 6, 2012)

I can confirm that the business card pocket doesn't weigh more than my pancake lens... mmm... pancakes...

Sime - thinkTank

0 upvotes
aardvark7
By aardvark7 (Dec 2, 2012)

I know that photography is expensive, whether a profession or a hobby, but DPReview live in a different world to me if these qualify as 'gifts'!

I think, though, this is probably a true reflection of the vile, consumerist spectacle that Christmas has become with adverts on television and signs appearing in shops, etc. by early October trying to get you to spend on these 'ideal presents'.

It's no wonder the world has got itself into an almighty money tangle and we need to take a cold, hard look at ourselves in terms of what is really important (and before you jump to conclusions, I'm an atheist).

7 upvotes
rpm40
By rpm40 (Dec 2, 2012)

Then why celebrate Christmas at all? It is a (theoretically) religious holiday, after all.

0 upvotes
aardvark7
By aardvark7 (Dec 2, 2012)

I think you'll find the tradition of a mid-winter feast is fairly universal and variations can be traced back far further than the origins of Christianity.

Indeed, I have no problems at all with having a special time to remind ourselves of our humanity, together with the spirits of kindness and decency, and expressing it with small thoughtful gifts.

Unfortunately, these days, there seems to be little consideration of the 'thoughtful' but rather an emphasis on the cost, the latest 'must-have' and bragging rights.

This is just one more expression of all that is wrong and it saddens me greatly.

7 upvotes
ratherbesnowboarding
By ratherbesnowboarding (Dec 3, 2012)

I actually think that is quite well said. Anyway....

2 upvotes
Mike Perlman
By Mike Perlman (Dec 2, 2012)

Well, isn't everyone in the holiday spirit this year!

1 upvote
taotoo
By taotoo (Dec 2, 2012)

Those peeling stickers get old very quickly. Too much peel. Also odd to put your logo next to street price which is clearly not owned by anyone.

0 upvotes
Lawrence Fleischer
By Lawrence Fleischer (Dec 2, 2012)

Oh, grow up. So, by your logic, I demand you call this time of year Hanukkah and you say Happy Hanukkah to everyone, even people who you know are not Jewish.

1 upvote
Barry Fitzgerald
By Barry Fitzgerald (Dec 1, 2012)

I think they mean "Christmas Gift Guide"

5 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Dec 1, 2012)

Christmas is one event in 'holiday season'. Others include thanksgiving, Hanukkah, New Year...

9 upvotes
digitallollygag
By digitallollygag (Dec 2, 2012)

+1!

0 upvotes
bed bug
By bed bug (Dec 3, 2012)

Barney, you also forgot the atheists, in which case it is 'Happy Christmyth'!

;-)

4 upvotes
balios
By balios (Dec 3, 2012)

Hope I get the Think Tank bag for Saturnalia.

0 upvotes
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (Dec 1, 2012)

It's fun... The "Sound Silencers", that's a good one. :)

0 upvotes
gtvone
By gtvone (Dec 6, 2012)

To truly get the best from the sound silencers, you need to empty your bag on the footpath and shove it over your head : )

Sime - thinkTank

0 upvotes
GKrish
By GKrish (Dec 1, 2012)

In general variable ND filters are pretty useless, combination of two polarising filters creates undesirable patterns in the field of view and creates more problems than it solves....

6 upvotes
John Koch
By John Koch (Dec 1, 2012)

One could make the same complaint about marriage, business, gardening, or sports. As equine photogs used to say, "Never snark a gift filter with your mouth."

3 upvotes
Fabio Amodeo
By Fabio Amodeo (Dec 1, 2012)

Dear Gentlemen,
the Interfit SXT3200 3 Head Tungsten kit is not a “strobe kit”, as you state, but a continuous light kit. As such the heads do not “fire” as you state, but are always on: the modelling light you invented are therefore non existing.
The inability to separate flash light from continuous light makes me think the author does not know much about lighting, and makes me doubt also of the knowledge about photography in general.
The Interfit site clearly distinguishes flash light and continuous light of various kinds. I think it's the biggest flaw I ever read on a photographic site.

9 upvotes
lehill
By lehill (Dec 1, 2012)

Fabio is right. The SXT3200 is a continuous light kit and doesn't have strobes nor do they fire.

2 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Dec 1, 2012)

Quite right, sorry about that. The text has now been edited to make that clear.

1 upvote
Airless
By Airless (Dec 1, 2012)

A holiday gift guide with no cameras or lenses? Have you lost your minds?

5 upvotes
AlexAPN
By AlexAPN (Dec 1, 2012)

I agree to that! And by the way, what about some cool software like Oloneo Photoengine and the like? Isn't the holiday/Xmas season a good time to have a little fun using creative tools and explore new styles in photography?

1 upvote
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Dec 1, 2012)

As we said in the article, feel free to leave suggestions (and links to product information) in the comments :)

1 upvote
LensBeginner
By LensBeginner (Dec 1, 2012)

They would have had to suggest at least one camera per brand, or it would have been the start of a heated discussion among fanboys.
Also true had they chosen, say, a Nikon DSLR and a Canon P&S.
IMHO how they did it is just about right.

5 upvotes
John Koch
By John Koch (Dec 1, 2012)

P&S cameras were gifts in years past, but are buy now superflouous, like a third Barbie, or displaced by phone cameras. System cameras are unsuitable as gifts, since they are very expensive, can be demanding to use, and brand and model choice is highly controversial. Lenses are even more difficult to select. Arranged marriage is less complicated. Enthusiasts have trouble enough picking equipment (or partners) for themselves.

4 upvotes
Airless
By Airless (Dec 1, 2012)

Brand choice isn't highly controversial. Olympus is the best,followed by Panasonic and Sony. Everyone else is tied for last place.

2 upvotes
xandxor
By xandxor (Dec 1, 2012)

Just stay away from Lacie: unreliable where it matters: your data.

2 upvotes
Tape5
By Tape5 (Dec 1, 2012)

A great read and a great reminder of the holidays.

0 upvotes
ScarletVarlet
By ScarletVarlet (Dec 1, 2012)

Dear Santa,

I have been VVVEEERRRRRRYYYY good this year.

=)

0 upvotes
marike6
By marike6 (Dec 1, 2012)

The Tiffen Variable ND looks good, but I've read reports of issues past 2 stops on FF (Something about an X), and magenta color shifts. For something like this, it often makes sense to just spend a bit more the Singh-Ray.

For video, variable NDs like the Lightcraft are popular. The cheap ones definitely degrade IQ so avoid them.

The Velbon tripod I would almost certainly pass on for the Benro Travel Angel, which solid, lightweight, also folds down to 15", but holds over 26 lbs (11.7 kg). Nice list. Merry holidays.

1 upvote
tkbslc
By tkbslc (Dec 2, 2012)

The X effect you describe happens on either FF or Crop when you get past about 28mm equivalent. It's pretty ugly.

0 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (Dec 3, 2012)

It would be ineresting to know where the Tiffen comes from. Truly neutral polarizers (or ND filters) don't seem very common.

0 upvotes
skimble
By skimble (Dec 1, 2012)

the KATA and Gorilla pod a must for any DSLR user who like to travel safe and light.

0 upvotes
ScarletVarlet
By ScarletVarlet (Dec 1, 2012)

And know all the best places to find tafoni.

0 upvotes
J D Tranquil
By J D Tranquil (Dec 1, 2012)

Interesting article. I just wish there's a view-all-pages button.

8 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Dec 1, 2012)

It's something we're considering but honestly, in one long page, this thing is pretty hard to read!

0 upvotes
InTheMist
By InTheMist (Dec 1, 2012)

+1 for read all.

And something about text entry in the forums is really funky on an iPad.

4 upvotes
DavidRiesenberg
By DavidRiesenberg (Dec 1, 2012)

View all = Less ads displayed.

0 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Dec 1, 2012)

@David - well yes, but you'd be surprised how much difference that doesn't make to our revenue. At all.

The real reason is that a single page would be well over a meter long, which isn't great for readability. Links are provided to go directly to any of the products covered, it's really very minimal effort on the part of the reader.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 7 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
fireplace33
By fireplace33 (Dec 1, 2012)

Here's my 2 cents,...
A single page is just one click and everything loads all in one go. Easy to then scroll up and down and find what you want. even if it is 2 meters long!
With several pages you have to find the "next page" button several times and click and wait each time for the next page to load. Then after a a quick read you might want to go back to some part to read it in more detail, ...but wait, what page was it on??. Now you have to click each page again to find it :-(

With one page you can also jump immediately to anything you search for with say crtl-F

In a list like this it might also help if the quick "index" at the top remains , but has links to each new article further down on the same page.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
10 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Dec 1, 2012)

@ fireplace - permalinks to the other products in the roundup is a good suggestion, thanks. I'll try that for future content.,

0 upvotes
peterwr
By peterwr (Dec 1, 2012)

@Barney: What fireplace33 said. Plus if you're arriving here from Google (other search engines are available...) and the result Google is pointing to is several pages in*, you have to do the scroll-page-scroll-page thing to find what you're looking for. Just hitting the "Show All" button and using Control-F in the browser would make that a whole lot easier. I've used that technique on other websites like the Guardian, Salon and Creative Cow and believe me, it's like rollerskating compared to slogging through mud.

Not sure how necessary it would be on camera/lens reviews - the section headings here at DPR are pretty intuitive - but for forum threads and articles without page headings (*cough* Connect *cough*...), it's a boon.

* For some reason, Google seems able to index multi-page articles/forum threads as a single page even if they're displayed as multiples.

2 upvotes
peterwr
By peterwr (Dec 1, 2012)

Oh, and while I have(?) your attention, thanks for the article. Some very interesting ideas there. Even if I do voice a heartfelt "Bah, Humbug" to the whole Xmas/"Holidays" thing. :-)

0 upvotes
Gallopingphotog
By Gallopingphotog (Dec 2, 2012)

Barnie: You want readability you should lose the reverse type for text.

1 upvote
Don Fraser
By Don Fraser (Dec 1, 2012)

Chicken! ;-)

Comment edited 31 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Total comments: 59