Holiday Gift Guide 2015

Every year the IP Team pulls their thoughts together on the top gifts for photographers in all types of budgets this holiday season.  Check out our recommendations on the top 50 gifts in the IP Holiday Gift Guide 2015!

Holiday Gift Guide 2015
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Thanks so much to our readers and podcast listeners for a fantastic 2015!  We are wrapping up the year with a pretty little bow in this holiday gift guide for 2015 that is sure to make a happy holiday season for the photographer in your life.

$25 Budget

  • Jim's suggestion is a Sabrent 4-port USB 3.0 hub.  Tired of reaching around to the back of your iMac so that you can plug in your SD card or other USB devices?  This is the device for you.  The style matches Apple computers, the ports are super speedy USB 3.0.  Don't worry, for those of you who use PCs you can use this device there too, just be careful that it might get jealous of the hub being prettier than the PC.
  • Jim also has a bonus suggestion/lifehack for you in this budget category: Put your Internet modem (cable modem or DSL modem) on a Christmas lights timer.  Modems are my worst enemy.  SOOO cheap and unreliable no matter how many I test.  Hook it up to a Christmas lights timer so it gets a reset once per week and it makes the humble modem MUCH more reliable.  Jeff notes that Jim must have some kind of bad voodoo going on because his Cable modem has been up for 486 days at this point…
  • Brian thinks you should consider a Range Kleen Battery Organizer.  He says it is so his family keeps batteries organized and knows where to find them so they will stop taking the ones in his charger for his flashes!
  • Darin likes a 4-port USB Travel adapter by Letouch, especially for those traveling photographers who need a small and portable adapter for all those USB charging devices that go with them.
  • Nick took some heat from the team (ok, just Jim) for his recommendation of a Micro Fiber Lens cloth set, but you should be sure to check them out and buy them in bulk since he says he tends to lose more than he ever bought.
  • Erica provided a solid recommendation of LenzBuddy Custom Lens Caps because how cool is it to have a custom cap with your name, logo, and lens type on it!
  • Jeff, as usual, stays true to his inner geek and thinks you should go with a SanDisk Extreme 32GB SDHC UHS-I/U3 Memory Card.  He buys them every time he sees them on sale for less than $25, and reminds everyone they don't last forever.  Don't use any single SD card for more than 3 years at most (1 year is better) to avoid the dreaded SD card read failure after a shoot.  Check out Jeff's “Don't Corrupt your SD Cards” Photo Taco podcast, his “Beginner's Dilemma #2: Which Card to Buy” article, and Jim's  “9 Things Photographers Need to Know About Memory Cards” article.
  • Majeed chose a face mask because there’s no better way to keep yourself warm then wearing a face mask. Plus, when you decide to begin your life of crime to fund your photography habit, you’ve already got the disguise.

$50 Budget

  • Brian likes the Titanium Innovations Battery Charger because you can charge 16 batteries at once! And it shows the charging status and lets you know if a battery is no longer useful. He loves not having to worry about switching batteries in the charger multiple times.
  • Majeed made the team question his sanity a little because apparently he hears power strips laugh and recommends the power strip that laughs at other power strips.  We don't question his pick though as we all need space on power strips and this one is the bomb-diggity. You can plug all kinds of over-sized battery chargers into this and it won’t even break a sweat. Includes sweet green LED light to keep the theme of your secret underground lair.
  • Darin offers something you will hear from the team over and over in this category at all times of the year with the YN-560 TX Flash Controller.  There is simply no better flash controller available for the cost.  Check out Jim's review of the controller.
  • Nick thinks the Platypod is the way to go.  Like the lens wipes in the $25 category, Jim challenged his pick here and wants us all to ask Nick next year in the Holiday Gift Guide if he is even using the Playpod at that point.  Nick insists he uses it all the time and it would make many a photographer very happy as a gift this holiday season.
  • Erica raves about the Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries for this budget.  You can save some money by not buying a million batteries for your flashes and have held up well under the pressures of a full time professional wedding photographer without breaking the bank!
  • Jeff was thinking a long the same lines as Erica here and suggests the EBL Battery Charger to charge those Eneloop batteries.  This charger has a display status showing you how close they are to being charged for each batter in the charger, and charges them without them needing to be in pairs.
  • Santa's Tip.  Santa sent the team a note this year saying he is bringing Nick and Jim a SNAP ON WHITE BALANCE LENS CAP.  Jim needs the cap to be convinced that AWB mode isn't ALWAYS the best, and Nick needs redemption from that whole ExpoDisc doodad debacle…

$100 Budget

  • Jim starts us off in this budget category with the Ergotech Freedom Arm Mount.  He says it is a way to get your iMac up off your desk at a height and angle that is best suited to you and help you get through those long editing session.
  • Darin goes just over budget at $110 with a night photography starter kit.  He says you'll need a Black Diamond Revolt headlamp, Nitecore P12 2015 kit 1,000 Lumen flashlight w- batteries, and the IP team's favorite remote trigger in the Triggertrap Mobile App and mobile dongle (or the more traditional remote trigger by Neewer for Canon and Nikon)
  • Nick can't help but recommend his latest passion for NRS Boundary waterproof socks to help keep you warm while wading through the cold and water to get the shot that other photographers won't.  No flack from the team on this one, they are awesome.
  • Erica went with the SpiderPro Single Camera Holster.  It is a great camera holster that takes the pressure off your neck, back, shoulders, and wrists.  Plus, you look really cool wearing it.
  • Jeff took the budget to mean you only have to have the price start with a “1” and thinks it will be a merry holiday indeed if a photographer gets the $150 X-Rite ColorMunki Display.  Majeed agreed with Jeff here and suggested a calibrator that is actually in the $100 budget with the Datacolor S5x100 Spyder5Express.  A calibrator is an indispensable tool for photographers because you have no chance of getting your white balance and colors to look as you want them to if you don’t calibrate your monitor.  Yes, this is true even if you post process on a Mac.
  • Jeff also couldn't let this budget category go by without recommending another $100-ish item in the Samsung 850 EVO 500GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD.  OK, so it too is actually $150, but this is the best way to breathe new life into an old computer and transform Lightroom from a snail to a fast turtle (which is a good time to bring up that the team really wants Adobe to speed things up in Lightroom for Christmast this year!).  Check out Jeff's “Mac vs. PC for Photographers: The Ultimate Guide“, “Windows Photo Editing SUPER Guide“, and “How to Manage Storage – Storage Workflow” articles for more information about how SSD drives can really help photographers.
  • Brian finishes up this category with a solid choice in the Studio Pro 1000 Softbox.  He's been wanting a continuous lighting softbox and really likes what he's seen and heard about this.  It is ideal to use for headshots indoors.

$500 Budget

  • Darin is having a lot more fun in this budget category, loving the B W XS-PRO Kaesemann Circular Polarizer and the BW Variable ND filter 1-5 stops.  You'll want to add a set of step-up accessory adapters so that you can put those filters on any lens and turn that water creamy and other really fun and good looking effects during the middle of the day.
  • Brian is going with the super solid Feisol Tripod CT-3442 because Jim said anyone who uses MeFoto (which is Brian) isn’t a serious landscape photographer – and he wants to be one! Also, he needs a new one cause his MeFoto isn’t holding up anymore (Jim was right).
  • Jim gives his nod to the Mindshift Gear Rotation 180 Horizon camera backpack.  The bag is lightweight yet still has enough room for his mirrorless gear.  The zippers are incredible.  There are plenty of pockets and places to put non-gear items like water bottles or some snacks.  But the very best thing about this bag is the “man pack” (most people call it a fanny pack, but you know….Jim) that you can easily swivel around from being in the bag to being in front of you in seconds WITHOUT TAKING OFF THE BAG!  Be sure to check out Jim's review of this incredible bag here.
  • Jeff is also voting for a hiking backpack in this budget category, and even the same line as Jim with the Mindshift Gear Rotation 180 Pro.  After doing testing out in the real-wold this summer and fall he came out to be his favorite of the 6 bags he took out on the trails in Utah.  He votes for the “Pro” version of the bag because he still uses a DSLR and needs a lot more space than that tiny mirrorless stuff Jim is floating around with these days.  The other reason this bag is the best one for long-distance hiking is the side pocket for a water bladder.  It even has a whole to put the hose from the bladder through so that you can get some water without having to take the bag off!  It is the only bag Jeff tested that had this feature and made him not wish he had just thrown his gear in his CamelBak.
  • While not a hiking bag, Erica votes for the ThinkTank Airport Security V2.0 Rollerbag in this category.  She says it is an awesome roller bag that fits tons of gear and is perfectly sized for carrying on to planes.
  • Nick has a love affair with his Rokinon 24mm f1.4 and with good reason.  If you are interested in trying to capture that perfect Milky Way shot, or capture one of those super popular scenes in a much different light under the stars, then this is the must have lens for your DSLR.
  • Majeed was thinking a lot like Brian and recommends the Really Right Stuff BH 55 Ballhead.  You may think he is crazy to suggest you should “waste” an expensive gift wish on a ballhead, but that’s because you haven’t used a $500 dollar ballhead.

$1,000 Budget

  • Erica leads off this category with the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS Macro Lens.  It is a beautiful lens that is perfect for macro photography and much, much more.
  • We are finally in a category where really good lenses can be recommended (man are lenses expensive), and Jeff is going with the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens for Canon EOS SLR Cameras.  This is Jeff's Christmas wish this year, and I guess we'll see if he has been a good enough boy for Santa to bring him one.  It is a really solid all around lens.  If you can only take one lens with you somewhere, this is the lens to choose – especially for those hobbyists out there.  Can get a bit wide and a bit zoomed.  Very high image quality.
  • Darin sticks with the whole lens line of thinking and says the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DI VC USD lens is the one to get.  He says it’s on his wish list!  He rented this lens and the wildlife photos shot were awesome! Great bang for your buck!  We needed another exclamation mark!  And one more!  Looks like Darin likes this pick of his!
  • Nick isn't one to buck a strong mental trend and goes with a lens here as well with the Sigma 50mm f1.4.  He says it is absolutely the sharpest 50mm BY FAR at this price range.. great great lens!
  • Not far from a lens, Majeed thinks you should get Really Right Stuff TV-34L Tripod Legs.  He says if you want tripod legs so tall you can build a makeshift shelter at a moment's notice, want to set up your camera above all those other pesky photographers at popular iconic viewpoints, or you have plans to play in the National Basketball Association, look no further because this is the tripod for you.
  • Jim didn't get the whole lens vibe on this category and chose the DJI Phantom Pro 3 instead.  He says it is an absurdly good value for what you’re getting plus has a steady, easy to use, good camera.  You can get the 1080p version for $1,000, or the 4K version for just a little more at $1,200.
  • After hearing Jim's pick, Brian couldn't get his mind of the DJI Phantom either because he has always wanted one, so he decided to pick it as well.  If anyone is going this direction for the holidays this year check out Jim's “A Lawyer's Guide to Drone Photography” article.
  • Even though he suggested a lens, Jeff's wouldn't stop bugging us in this category until we let him have a second pick in a Windows photo editing computer in this price range.  Mostly he wanted to add that in here to point out that you can actually get a photo editing computer in this budget category and you can't if you go with that Apple stuff.  Kidding, kidding.  The price difference for a really good Windows computer isn't DRASTICALLY different, but enough that it does fit here and not in the sleep in a bed of money category that follows.  Jeff really loves his MacBook Pro, but says you really can have a nice Windows PC for cheaper and, hard as it is to imagine, there are actually some people in this world who prefer Windows to OS X.  For a Windows Laptop he recommends the Dell XPS 13 Non-Touch ($1,000).  For a Windows Desktop the HP ENVY Phoenix 850qe Desktop ($900).  To read him drone on and on in great detail and nerdery about this stuff you can also check out his Windows Photo Editing SUPER Guide and Mac vs PC for Photographers Ultimate Guide.

Sleep on a Bed of Money

  • Jeff would tell anyone who sleeps on a bed of money and would like to give him the ultimate gift this holiday season that his choice would be the Fuji XT1 AND the trinity of lenses.  Together that comes in at about $5,000 right now (which is at least half what it would cost to get into the Canon full frame lineup).  He is already used to shooting an APS-C sensor and wouldn’t mind at all having this as an option to take on long hikes in Utah.  He isn't yet convinced he wants to give up his beloved Canon 7DM2 (after all he thinks it is the best choice for a hobbyist photographer), but if he could add the Fuji as a second camera he would.  Be sure to check out Jim’s article about dumping his long-time beloved Nikon for Fuji
  • Erica suggests you join the thousands of professional wedding/portrait photographers out there wielding their Canon 5D Mark III.  She says it is her baby and the favorite tool of everything in her kit, which is certainly very high praise from such an accomplished photographer.  The team agrees this is a very solid choice (although Jim and Darin did vote the D810 as the DSLR of the year), and Jeff insisted we remind everyone that you are going to need some expensive glass to go along with this awesome camera body.  If you are thinking about switching to a full frame camera this holiday season, be sure to check out Jeff's Photo Taco podcasts on the topic with part 1 and part 2.
  • Majeed is also recommending a camera body in this budget category, but he is going mirrorless with the Sony A7RII.  He concedes that you will need a bed of money to buy this camera, especially when you consider the lack of lenses available for it today making it not very practical at this point, but it’s gonna make you happy where you can use it.  Plus you can crop a whole bunch and still make really big prints.
  • Nick is thinking lens here again with the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 is II  L.  He says it is his workhorse, what he uses for pretty well EVERYTHING.  It is sharp, versatile, and just plain awesome.  At $2,000 your bed of money can be much smaller than the rest of the items on this list, so maybe this one would be a little easier to get past the budget committee this holiday season.
  • You knew it was coming, and here it is from Darin – a fully loaded photo editing setup with a 27” iMac w-Retina 5K Display (4GHz Core i7, 32GB SDRAM, 1TB SSD Drive, AMD Radeon R9 M395X with 4GB video memory), a 5-bay Drobo (with 500GB mSATA SSD and four WD Black 6TB drives), a Wacom Intuos Pro – Medium PTH651, and a partridge in a pear tree.  This setup will run you close to $6,000 in total, and would be so nice.  Darin and Jim both voted the 5K iMac as the very best photo editing computer for 2015, even though Jim proved that it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between the 5K display and the 2.5K display on the previous iMac (you can save a little of that money to sleep on if you go with an older model and still get a fantastic photo editing experience).
  • Brian's pick is something we can't link to with “plane tickets to Taj Mahal, Petra, and Chichen Itza.”  He wants to check off his bucket list of shooting the New 7 Wonders of the World. (4 down 3 to go!).  He says camera gear is nice and all, but traveling the world and experiencing another culture is PRICELESS!  Along the same lines, keep in mind the photography workshops run by the IP team.
  • Darin thought he remembered everything in his pick for the ultimate photo editing setup, but he didn't think about the desk to put it all on, so Jim has you covered with the Airplane wing desk.  You can't go and put the beautiful iMac computer on an ugly desk, and Jim has a thing for beautiful desks.  He says this one is the cream of the crop and he might need it, but after looking at it the rest of the team isn't so sure he is thinking straight.  You think this is beautiful Jim?  Jeff thinks it would only be beautiful if you were a lunchlady.  Maybe its just the guys though and Jim is on to something because Erica digs it.

7 thoughts on “Holiday Gift Guide 2015”

  1. Melissa Summerfield

    Hello – I recently bought the 2016 Lightroom Steal – I thought it was supposed to come with a video workshop on flash and a video on better landscape photography. Should I have gotten a link for that?

    Thanks for your help,

  2. Hi Jim,

    I purchased the lightroom package on black Friday, and I never received the flash photography training video. Would you please look into it and get back to me.

    Thank you

  3. Hi Jim – I signed my daughter up for your Photography Start class for $90 (received a $40.01 discount), and received a receipt, but have not yet received any information whatsoever about the class itself. Is there a link that should have been sent to our email? How does she access the class? I have already emailed [email protected] twice, but have not received a response. I would like to get this taken care of as soon as possible. Order ID # is: 0007569028

    Thank you.

  4. I was going to buy the Sabrent USB hub as you guys recommended but it isn’t an SD Card Reader. Can you recommend a quality USB Hub that also has a card reader (for the Mac 5K)?

  5. How can I get a receipt from a purchase I made from you guys? I received a download link but no receipt, and for the life of me I can’t find any support numbers or links?
    order was made on 11-26-15 for 49.99 order number 2086496068

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