In this article I am going to get festive. Sort of. I have spent all year banging on about ignoring the gear and concentrating on taking photos.
But now is the time of year for me to tell you all the 11 Christmas photography gifts that I would love to receive. I am not expecting to receive them from you of course! This is just a list of things that over the year have caught my eye that I now want (or need) in a stocking under my tree! And I am using Christmas as an excuse to write about them!
And you might find some inspiration for your own Christmas lists? Spoiler alert – in writing this article I ended up buying something – read on to find out what!
1 – New wrist strap for my DSLR
I am not a fan of camera neck straps. I don’t know why. I was sent the Peak Design slider to try which was very cool but was too bulky for my camera bag so I reverted to a wrist strap I bought some years ago. I do not like having all that strap to fold away in my bag, even though the Slider has the Peak Design quick release catches which make it easily removable.
I just don’t like neckstraps.
I either have my camera in my bag on my back, on my tripod slung over my shoulder or gripped in my left hand secured with my wrist strap.
And the wrist strap I have is getting a bit old, worn and to be completely honest shabby.
And exactly which wrist strap am I interested in? This one – the Peak Design Cuff strap which is available from Amazon for less than £30.
2 – Gorillapod 5k
I love my small tripods, and there us a new Gorillapod which I am liking the look of – the Gorillapod 5K. I have a Platypod Ultra and a Manfrotto Pixi which I take with me on travel photography trips.
These are brilliantly useful bits of kit, but neither is as stable as a proper tripod to be honest.
I am interested to see how the new Gorillapod copes with my Canon 6D and 24-105mm lens doing long exposures – the Pixi has been hit and miss, although to be fair I am pushing this way beyond it’s intended designed use.
And the Platypod works for me some of the time, but sometimes I need to be a bit above ground level – sometime I struggle to frame a composition, especially when I am lying on sharp rocks on the edge of a cliff!
So the Gorillapod 5K looks good to me – these are currently available from Amazon for £114.28.
3 – A new travel tripod
Having said that I am after a Gorillapod I also want a travel tripod with the right head. At the moment I use a Manfrotto 190 Go with my geared head which I use for architectural photography. Here it is on the top of Santorini caldera! Don't worry about the angle – this is purely bad photography on my part!
These are not by any stretch intended to be used for my type of travel photography.
I am after a full height, lighter but equally stable tripod with a different tripod head. I am thinking of a ball head – I do already have a ball head but have not loved it to be honest – then again I have been used to the luxury and precision of a Manfrotto geared tripod head which is an essential bit of kit for my architectural photography work.
A ball head will of course be much smaller and as with all these things practise using one day in day out is all I need and I am sure I will learn to love them.
The question is which tripod to get? I might hang on until the Photography Show in England in March 2019 – I find that tripods and tripod heads are one of those things that I need to physically play with to see if I like the feel of them.
I can feel another article coming on here on choosing the right travel photography tripod!
4 – Self-contained tripod/ holder for my iPhone
This is something that I need and have not yet found – not found the ideal product that is.
This is what I ended up doing in Paxos to shoot a sunrise video! I know – technical stuff!
And here on my Youtube channel is a 6 minute long video taken on Lakka Beach in Paxos which I took using my iPhone stood upright on a rock with rocks piled around my phone to steady it. It’s not bad to be fair – there is no movement other than the waves (sorry but I did not take a photo of this camera stabilisation creation).
Now I love improvisation but there must be an easier way….
I want to be able to plonk my iPhone down anywhere and take photos or videos in portrait and landscape mode. I am looking for a foldaway all in one thing with a decent amount of height and quick adjustment. This thing needs to be lightweight and compact as I will use this to produce content for YouTube and my travel websites.
This is gear that will help me work quicker and better, so it is entirely justifiable!
This is what I want for Christmas – can anyone suggest the perfect product that ticks all the boxes for me?
5 – Variable ND filter
I think I want one of these. I am a bit uncertain as I have heard reviews of not great performance with variable ND filters, but I am sure there are some excellent ones out there.
At the moment I use the Lee Big Stopper – 10 stops of awesome light blocking. This is a bit bulky though, and I would like to be able to vary the degree of darkness in front of my lens. When I say bulky the holder is bulky.
For those who have not used ND filters, they are filters that reduce the amount of light getting to the sensor.
If I was taking a photo and the correct exposure was 1/125th second at F8, the revised shutter speed with an ND filter on the front of the lens would be as follows
- 1 stop – 1/60th second
- 2 stops – 1/30th second
- 3 stops – 1/15th second
- 4 stops – 1/8th second
- 5 stops – 1/4 second
- 6 stops – 1/2 second
- 7 stops – 1 second
- 8 stops – 2 seconds
- 9 stops – 4 seconds
- 10 stops – 8 seconds
With my Lee Big Stopper I change the shutter speed from 1/125th second to 8 seconds – just think of the possibilities this brings.
And yes I checked this using the Lee Big Stopper App – thankfully I was correct!
See – this is what the Lee Big Stopper App does.
I would like a bit of the middle range though – 10 stops, as fantastic as it is, can be a bit much sometimes!
I would therefore be happy with a screw-in one which will reduce the size somewhat – I have a very specific place where I need to store this piece of kit in my current backpack.
This also needs to have high optical quality and minimal shift in colour cast – my Lee Big Stopper tends to give a blue cast to images.
Another one for me to look at in more detail in the New Year.
6 – Ultra wide angle lens
I am talking 15mm or wider.
I know I can but the Canon 11-24mm beast of a lens, but that is too bulky and heavy for the work I am doing – I want a small compact lightweight weather sealed lens with geat image quality and also excellent rectilinear image capture capabilities.
Does this exist in the full frame arena?
My favourite lens is my Canon 17-40mm F4L lens. 17mm is really wide on a full-frame camera body, so 15mm and wider is going superwide. My other favourite lens is my Canon 24-105mm lens. This is the kind of place I put my camera and lens!
What are my choices here?
These are the first ones that I came across
- Canon 11-24mm
- Canon 14mm
- Sigma 12-24
- Tamron 15-30
This is something that I need to spend some time and effort researching, although the Sigma looks interesting and not too expensive.
Why do I want a wider lens? I probably should have said. It is mainly for my travel work – I love taking ultra-wide images of the insides of shops, bars and restaurants in foreign countries – they can be so interesting and different.
And I also love using wide angle lenses for sunrise photos with lots of foreground.
Very specific I know but I am looking for gear for specific subjects.
7 – A really small camera
I love my Canon 6D, and have spent lots of quality time with my trusty DSLR. But I want something smaller. I want a camera and lenses that will take up much less room in my camera bag, and that I can slip in a coat pocket (see below re coat that I want).
Or put it another way – a camera small enough that I don’t find myself in the position where I can’t be bothered to take my camera out of my bag and I just use my iPhone. This is what happened to me while I was away working on the production of my Paxos Travel Guide website.
This will be in addition to my Canon 6D, not in replacement of. I wrote about this in a previous blog post, and came to the conclusion that I looking for a micro four thirds camera, but which one?
The cameras that I have liked the look of are from Fuji and Olympus.
And I have searches set up on EBay which I need to take more seriously – I think that a second hand Olympus OM-D Mk 2 with a couple of lenses might be just the job for me to give micro-four thirds a try.
8 – Wireless card reader backup
This is another conclusion of my Santorini travel tips posts which are on my other website Photos of Santorini.
I am after a device that I can transfer images from memory cards to the cloud with.
I have a strict regime when it comes to managing my memory cards on a foreign trip, but this does not cover my nightmare scenario of losing the case with the used memory cards in. I do all I can to prevent this but if this did happen it would be a disaster. Until I get home I do not have a backup of my images.
This has not happened to me so far but the more I think about it the more uncomfortable I am – this is one thing that I definitely need to sort.
I heard about one of these things, and am now starting my search – again if anyone can point me in the right direction then please let me know in the comments field.
I will be buying one of these things before my next foreign trip, whatever it may be!
9 – A windscreen adaptor for my DJI Osmo Mobile
I bought one but that only fits on the side window.
You can view the first trial video here on YouTube which I made using this device driving through the New Forest. A few technical issues with it I know but it was a start.
What am I on about here I hear you all say?
I have an idea for producing new video content which I think will go down well as there are not many people doing this where I am. It involves me filming where I am driving and putting this on YouTube. Nice places of course.
I know I need to sort out the glare from the windscreen, and also am thinking of introducing a running commentary, and I am going to work on this in 2019 to produce what is new video content that stands out (if only a little bit). And the beauty is that I will be doing this as I am going to places that I am already going to, so it is new content at very little cost with very little time commitment from me – what is not to love about that!!
This one took on a life of its own.
When I started looking at accessories for the DJI Osmo Mobile I disovered that there is a new version, the DJI Osmo Mobile 2! Now I don’t want to start buying accessories for out of date kit so I looked into this, and the reviews told me that version 2 is a big improvement on the first model, and that the things that bugged me all appear to have been dealt with. And it only cost £109. I was Christmas shopping last week (don’t tell anyone) and walked past my local Jessops in Southampton so I just went in and bought the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 which is sat charging under my desk.
I still need the car thing but I have more options now as this version has a tripod thread on the bottom of the handle.
And another point that I would like to make here – if you like going to camera shops like I do then you and I need to start buying stuff from them. Or they will all disappear. I have absolutely nothing against all the amazing online shops that we enjoy using these days, but we really should support local camera shops if we value them.
Rant over – whats next?
10 – A slightly larger camera bag.
Assuming that Santa does not produce the goods with a smaller camera I would really benefit from a slightly larger camera bag. I currently use the Peak Design Everyday Backpack. And I have to say that I love this camera bag. I just need a bit more space.
Here it is on the Santorini caldera.
I have the 20 litre one. There is a 30 litre bag that they do, and also the new travel range of bags.
I am not looking for something huge to cram all my gear into – I just want a bag that I can fit my minimalist travel gear into along with room for more drinks than I currently have, a coat and more snacks.
So it is not for camera gear, it is for food, drinks and a coat!
Well these are the essentials of my style of photography – getting up at 4am and wandering around on the top of the Santorini caldera for sunrise to appear.
And a bottle of something nice on the side for after!
It would be nice to be able to cool drinks in this bag as well.
I also use my camera bag as my carry on luggage, so it can't be too big, but must have enough room for my photography breakables plus all those essential duty free purchases as well as three newspapers I won't get round to reading and a range of snacks that I would only ever buy just before getting on a plane in full blown holiday mode.
This is another of those realisations that I had when I went to Santorini!
11 – A new coat
Yes – I want a new coat. I always seem to be wanting a new coat.
I want a miracle coat that is lightweight, windproof, waterproof, compact, can be folded away in my (new slightly larger) camera bag but is not too warm or bulky.
I know that is a lot to ask of a single piece of clothing but this is what I want.
And this is my problem – I want a coat that covers lots of scenarios.
It can be cold on the top of the caldera on the Greek Island of Santorini while I am sat there waiting for the sun to rise, and if it is windy it can be cold up there all day. But if the wind dies down and the sun comes out, which happens most days, by 10am it can be boiling hot, even on the top of the caldera in April.
And I want to be able to pop my smaller camera in a pocket and not have my actual camera bag with me – this in itself will be a luxury for me!
So what will do the job? I think it is going to be two coats, layers, warmth – a combination of technologies that can be work together or separately.
Sorry to finish on such a boring point – I think I have a bit of a coat obsession to be honest!
This is my Christmas photography wishlist – what is on yours?
I hope that you have enjoyed reading the stuff that we writers have produced on Improve Photography over the course of 2018, and I look forward to joining you again in 2019.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from me and everyone at Improve Photography.