Unique holiday gifts we love and use from inexpensive accessories to high-tech gadgets!
We’ve got you covered with our selection of holiday gifts we love and use everyday! You’ll love and use them all year long!
Photographers are always asking themselves? “Should I bring a tripod with me.” They are big, heavy and rarely used but when you need it you are happy you have it. At the office we make everyone carry one of the Slik Mini tripods with them all the time. My favorite is the Slik Mini Pro V tripod. It takes up less space than the typical pro zoom, it supports my Nikon D500 with a 24-70mm f2.8 at most angles. I have shot tack sharp exposures as long as 3 minutes without any drift or vibration blur. It is made from strong but lightweight aluminum, weighs .8 lbs, and sports an easy-to-use compact 2-way pan head. The simple one handed operation allows for fast and easy locking and unlocking of the head and can act as an acceptable video pan head in a pinch. If you prefer ball heads Slik has got you covered and offers 2 versions to choose from using the same legs as the Pro V.
We travel a lot for our jobs and have to carry camera equipment, laptops, and all the typical personal electronics to stay connected back home. Choosing a camera bag or backpack is a very personal experience and there are lots of opinions on the subject including those of the photographers in our
office . . . until recently.
We bought the Think Tank Commuter backpack to replace an old Tamrac backpack that served us fearlessly for 10+ years. But, now we have fights over who gets to use the Commuter when there are overlapping travel schedules. The bag carries so much and easily stows in most US overhead bins, and fits under many seats without the flight attendant yelling at you. But what we like most is the weight, it comes in at 3.5lbs empty which is 1.8lbs lighter than our old bag. We also love the thinner dividers and padding which allows for more gear in the same space. It is comfortable on our backs as we trudge from the gate to the rental car and provides all the usual amenities we expect in today’s camera bags. As for the fights in the office, holiday bonus time is coming and I know a couple people who will love to see this show up at their door.
Let’s start with the New GoPro Hero 6. We upgraded from the Hero 4 Black and there are obvious upgrades for us most notably the screen. Wasn’t sure I needed it since I was really comfortable shooting without but now I can’t live without it. All the other tech upgrades are great and the image quality improvements are noticeable especially in low light. What we were most excited about trying was how the camera interacts with GoPro’s Quick Story feature in the GoPro App. So we put it to the test many times and we are really impressed. For our first test we shot video and stills over a typical day trip to the beach, fed that data to the App on our iPhone and it spit out a great video of the day I could share on Instagram and Facebook immediately. Could I have done a better job editing it on my own, yes but I would have spent half the night doing so only to impress myself.
Now let’s talk about KNEKT. We have been using their products for a couple years and would not think of using a GoPro without one of their triggers or poles but a new GoPro meant we needed a new trigger and thankfully KNEKT was ready soon after the Hero 6 launch with the new GPSS. Boy, is this thing a work of manufacturing art. It allows you to attach a Hero 6 or 5 using the GoPro Super Suit (SS) giving you full access view of the screen. The locking mechanism is a bolt action process that says goodbye to the standard GoPro screw and the grip feels like it was molded specific for my hand. The trigger makes it really easy to capture awesome stills and steady video. They have lots of accessories for shooting above and below the surface of the sea and their dome port is a must have for water shooters. If you have a GoPro, do yourself a favor and check them out.
Like bags, straps are a very personal buying decision and when I saw the updates Peak Design made to the new Leash camera strap system I knew I needed to give it a try. I have a love/hate relationship with straps. If I had my choice I would never use one but that is not all realistic or safe. Straps are great for carrying but horrible for shooting and the process of removing and reattaching the strap is agonizingly tedious especially in the field. Peak has addressed all of my concerns with The Leash. Using the “quick-connect” Anchor Link system I can go from strapped to strapless in seconds. Now I can go from my tripod (strapless) to hiking to a new spot (strapped) with my camera safe and ready to use. You can configure it as a sling strap, neck strap, or safety tether and what I really love is the ability to adjust the length quickly with one hand. I also purchased the new Cuff to go with the system which is a wrist strap that uses the same Anchor Links. Brilliant design and execution. Thanks Peak Design for creating solutions for photographers.
Have to admit that we were a little confused by this product when it was introduced on Kickstarter. Is it a backup hard drive? Is it phone charger? Or is it a mobile editing hub? Well, we learned through one of our ambassadors the answer to all those questions is YES! The idea that we can back-up our still and video files in the field and edit those files through our phones using the GNARBOX app without a laptop had us very excited. So we borrowed one to test and it worked exactly as advertised. We took a trip up to Yosemite for the day with our DSLR’s and GoPro’s and left the laptop at home. We wanted to see it we could shoot, edit and share to social media without the help of a laptop. The results were awesome. We shot about 50GB of RAW still images and nearly 2 hours of HD and 4K video then downloaded the files to the GNARBOX. This is where the magic happened, using an iPhone 7 Plus we were able access the RAW files edit them quickly for color, contrast and saturation and then download them to our Camera Roll for further editing in Snapseed before final publishing to Instagram. Then we started playing with the video editor and after a quick learning curve we created a 45 second highlight reel of the day to share on all our social platforms. We love our laptops but they are a pain to carry into the field and we hate leaving them in the car while we shoot for fear of theft. The GNARBOX really solves a major problem for photographers on the move and we were so impressed we ordered 2 units when we got back to the office.
Let’s face it, batteries are pain and keeping them charged is harder than ever especially in mirrorless cameras. And if you are like us you carry a phone and/or tablet into the great outdoors and without fail something needs to be charged. This is why we rely on the Goal Zero Sherpa Solar Kit. The set-up is simple; a 5,200 mAh power pack with AC inverter and a portable solar panel capable of recharging the power pack in about 10 hours in direct sunlight. We make sure the battery is charged the night before we venture out and the battery alone will provide 3-4 “empty to full” recharges of our iPhones or 6-8 recharges of our Sony, Canon, and Nikon camera batteries. The best part is when we take a break or will be stopped for 30 minutes or more we bust out the Solar panel to keep the battery as full as possible. So over the course of a 2-3 night trip we have enough power to keep us shooting the whole time. The Sherpa 50 is a little bigger than we would like but the fact that we can charge our camera batteries via a standard AC plug makes it a must have when we are shooting away from civilization for more than a day.
10-stop Neutral Density filters have become an almost must have filter in most photographers’ camera bags. They allow you to achieve long exposures in the brightest light so you can capture silky smooth-running water and streaking clouds. The big drawback to most ND filters is their inability to control Infrared (IR) contamination. This contamination reveals itself in odd and unpredictable color shifts, and causes shadows to look reddish instead of neutral black. This is why we depend on Hoya’s Solas IRND filter line. They cover us from 1-10 stops in all the standard filter sizes and allow us to shoot 4-minute-long exposures without fear of weird color shifts and IR contamination. We will even stack a 10-stop and 8-stop together and achieve awesome, predictable results. If you like to shoot long exposures and lament the idea of spending extra time in Lightroom or Photoshop correcting color shifts then do yourself a favor and check out this filter lineup from Hoya.
While your at Hoya’s site checking out the Solas Filters don’t forget to grab yourself a 3-pack of lens cleaning cloths. They are all black with the Hoya logo and measure 8” x 8” and do an amazing job of cleaning your lenses, filters, sunglasses, phone and computer screens. These are not your typical thin giveaway clothes. They are made of a premium microfiber material with a stitched edge. They have a nice texture to them so they don’t slip out of your hand while your cleaning. This is the type of gift that will get you a “nice” thank you at first but 3 weeks later you will hear, “Wow, I love these lens clothes you got me. They really do a great job. Thanks!”
The people at Tokina were thinking when they created this. The cloth is blue with the retro “T” arrow logo in the corner. It measures 15” x 15” and does double duty as a lens cleaning cloth and a protective lens wrap. As for cleaning, it does an amazing job of on your lenses, filters, sunglasses, phone and computer screens. Not your typical thin giveaway cloths. Instead they are made of a premium microfiber material with a stitched edge. They have a nice texture to them so they don’t slip out of your hand while your cleaning. As for a wrap, they are big enough to wrap most lenses and provides protection from nicks and scratches when your bag doesn’t have separate space for each lens. This is the type of gift that will get you a “nice” thank you at first but 3 weeks later you will hear, “Wow, I love these lens clothes you got me. They really do a great job. Thanks!”