Every winter, plenty of articles appear suggesting cheap gifts for photographers. However, the best presents are those where the giver has carefully considered the wants or needs of the recipient. Furthermore, let’s be honest, they are also where the giver has spent a bit more money.
Those articles inevitably suggest Rocket Blowers and lens cleaning kits. Useful, though they are not that imaginative. However, I always say the best presents do come in small packages. So, whether it’s the upcoming holidays, a birthday, or any other cause for celebration, there are gifts that most of us photographers would like to receive instead of a lens cloth.
There is a problem, though. Good photography gear is something that most of our closest relatives, not being photographers themselves, wouldn’t have a clue about. Consequently, we would need to tell them directly, which spoils the surprise for us.
So, here’s a chance to give a subtle hint. Leave this webpage open on the item you would most like to receive. If it’s not listed, say what you would like in the comments and leave that visible for your loved ones to notice.
Here are a few small but not cheap things that I think many photographers would love.
1. Datacolor Spyder Screen Calibration Tool
The Datacolor Spyder X2 Ultra is a super tool that allows you to ensure accurate reproduction of your images. This, or one of the other models in the range, would be a perfect gift for photographers who want accuracy of colors and tones. If you are unsure which model would be best, then my recent article covers which would suit your needs the best.
2. Small Interchangeable Lens Camera
I always thought that it was a slightly ridiculous trend that many professional DSLRs became bigger and heavier when technology was shrinking. With that bulk came less versatility. With the improvements to sensor technology and the switch to mirrorless systems, full-frame camera bodies have shrunk but, thanks to the laws of physics, their lenses are still cumbersome.
The increasing age profile of the population has led to evermore photographers wanting to switch to something smaller and lighter, but still with great image quality and versatility. This has partially been the reason for the boom in sales of OM System cameras. However, it's not just the older generation that are seeking more compact system cameras. Younger photographers don't want to be burdened with bulky gear, but something that they can slip into their pocket or purse. But they still have a viewfinder, advanced camera features, and the opportunity to change lenses.
The smallest and lightest contemporary body and lens system on the market that fits this description is the OM System OM-5. Couple it with its small and excellent range of professional f/4 lenses and it’s a great camera that can pull its weight. If I were buying a new camera for someone who wanted to get into photography, then this would be a superb option because of its ability to be used as a point-and-shoot through to an advanced interchangeable lens camera. Micro Four Thirds has a wealth of compatible lenses, and there are many features unique to the OM System range. Therefore, it’s a fabulous alternative to carry around instead of that cumbersome DSLR.
Although the OM-5 would be my choice, there are alternatives from other manufacturers. If you can find them, there were two cameras worth a look, although they have both been discontinued. First was Fujifilm’s excellent X-E4 rangefinder style of camera, as well as the Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9.
3. A Lens for All Seasons
Does there ever come a point when you stop needing more lenses? I have every focal length, from 7mm upwards to 500mm (1,000mm equivalent on a full frame 35mm sensor camera) covered at least once.
There’s more to lenses than focal lengths, though. The system I use has a range of f/1.2 prime lenses that I don’t own yet, and I am certainly tempted by the M.Zuiko 45mm F1.2 PRO.
There are lenses that most photographers would want to add to their arsenal. If there’s one you are hankering after, tell me in the comments, scroll down, and leave that comment on your screen for your partner to see! You can make it even easier for them by adding a link to buying it on the B&H website.
If you have not used a professional-grade lens before, then that’s something worth getting. They make an enormous difference to the sharpness and clarity of your images.
There’s more to lenses than speed and sharpness, and I like to play with fast vintage lenses. Although softer than their modern equivalents, they give amazing results. If you enjoy the creative side of photography, then that is something worth hinting at. Many can be picked up for a song, although some rarities are sought after and attract a higher price. If you have an old film SLR hiding in the back of a cupboard, then there are plenty of lens adaptors on the market that will adapt them to most cameras.
There are other curiosities on the market. Lensbaby special effects lenses were all the rage 10 or more years ago, but I don’t hear so much about them as I once did. However, these fun, affordable special effects lenses and accessories can still produce uniquely interesting results.
4. The Difficulty With Giving Software
Software used to come on CDs, and those were great, physical things to wrap up as a small gift. Now, most rely on registration through a website, which means registering the recipient's email address, which spoils the surprise. However, you can usually register to a different email address and change it later.
If you do this then standalone programs without a subscription are the best option, otherwise, you need to register and pay on the day of the gift. Great subscription-free options include ON1 Photo RAW 2024, ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate, and DxO Photolab 7.
5. A Photography Course to Boost Your Skills
At this time of year, I am inundated with people buying gift vouchers for my training courses. Many professional photographers deliver these either in person or online.
Spending time with a professional on a photoshoot workshop or over Zoom can make a big difference. Check the location of the professional. Most of my clients come to me from a 100-mile radius of where I am based. However, online they come from anywhere in the world, although mostly from Europe because of the time zones being close.
Many such courses are general and suitable for all photographers. But, as things become more specialized, searching for a photographer who shoots a similar genre or uses the same equipment as you may be advantageous.
6. A Film Camera Is Not Just for the Twentieth Century
Film photography is becoming ever more popular and people are buying film cameras once again. Secondhand and charity shops, flea markets, and online auctions are all places where you can find vintage cameras. If you are lucky, they will come with a superb lens too.
7. A Peak Design Strap Makes All the Difference
Let’s face it, the strap that comes with your camera isn’t the best, especially if you are carrying a big lens or you want to use a tripod on a windy day. Peak Design came up with a fabulous system of using quick-release anchor links that enable you to attach and remove their straps in seconds.
Apart from their innovative design that others are trying to copy, they are a genuinely environmentally conscious company and not just greenwashing like so many other companies in the photographic industry.
I reviewed the straps recently, and you can read those by clicking here. They are versatile, enabling you to either hand the camera around your neck, across your body, or over your shoulder.
Peak Design doesn’t just manufacture straps but high-quality tripods and backpacks too
8. An Urth Filter for the Earth
I’ve used a lot of filters in my time, but it is Urth that impresses me most. This is not only because they plant trees in rainforests with every purchase, but when I fit their UV filters to protect my lenses, you cannot notice that they are there.
The Plus+ range of filters are their best quality models and are outstanding quality.
9. A Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod
There's an adage that says that a tripod has three factors and you should choose which two are important to you: stability, weight, and price. There are lots of good quality tripods out there that meet different needs of different types of photography. Because I am using mine to shoot seascapes and landscapes, and I have the camera at a low level.
I use a Benro Tortoise columnless tripod with the GX35 ball head. That allows you to level the camera, then there is an additional panning plate above the ball mount, so I can rotate the camera and the horizon remains level.
There are, of course, plenty of good quality tripods out there, including those from Peak Design.
10. Tell The Readers What You Would Like
All those things above are gear I own or have used and would happily recommend.
I do appreciate there is a cost of living crisis and the things here will be out of the financial reach of many of us; there are certainly things there that I wouldn't ask my lovely wife to buy me right now. However, it is okay to dream and, at this time of year, make a wish.
You will have different things that you have bought or been given that you thought of as the perfect gift. So, are there small but not so cheap things that you found were good and would recommend to our readers? Are there any small gifts that you would like your loved ones to buy for you? Or something you would buy for yourself? Let’s hear about them in the comments. Remember to leave that comment visible on the screen as a hint to others.