There’s something for photographers at all skill levels this holiday season — and for all budgets. Here are a few of our favorite gift ideas, from relatively inexpensive to wildly extravagant.
The Joby Gorillapod is a flexible tripod that you can wrap around anything — a tree branch, a fence post, a balcony railing, you name it. It’s lightweight but serves all the functions of a conventional tripod — from steadying your camera under low-light conditions to taking timed group shots. The original version (pictured) is for compact digital cameras. A heavy-duty version ($45) can hold an SLR-type camera or camcorder weighing up to 1.75 pounds.
America in Space: NASA’s First Fifty Years is the ultimate coffee-table book for people who love great photography. This huge book (dimensions: 14.5 x 11.2 x 1.4 inches) features nearly 500 photographs that tell the story of NASA “from the drama of lift-off, to tension in mission control, to the humor and humanity portrayed in the faces of astronauts, scientists, engineers, and political leaders.” It’s fittingly dedicated to NASA photographers. (It retails for $50, but you can buy it for only $30 at Amazon.)
If your kid is always trying to get his grubby little mitts on your precious Nikon, placate him (we mean, feed his creative impulses) with the Fisher Price Kid-Tough Digital Camera. The sucker is tough; it’s also easy for little kids to use, with a two-eye viewfinder, big buttons, and dual handgrips. And, how gender-appropriate, it comes in both pink and blue versions. It’s good for ages 3 and up.
The Original Lensbaby is a special-effects SLR lens that lets you bring one part of your photo into sharp focus, with that “sweet spot” surrounded by graduated blur. Just bend the lens to change the location of the sweet spot. The Lensbaby produces ethereal images that bring a new dimension to portrait, B/W and artistic photography. It’s about the most fun a camera geek can have for a hundred bucks.
Umbra’s Digilicious Digital Frame lets you display your digital pictures in style — without a computer. Just insert a flash memory card into the frame to show photos (or play music or video). Photos are automatically resized without distortion. You can set it to play a slideshow with a variety of transition effects. It also comes with a remote control and stereo sound.
Slim and stylish, the Samsung i85 is the perfect digital camera for the fashion-conscious hobbyist. It comes in a variety of colors and is well-equipped, with 8.1 megapixel resolution, a 3-inch touchscreen LCD, face recognition, 5x optical zoom, and integrated MP3 player and PMP functionality. It’s got an interesting little feature for travelers, too: an inbuilt “tour guide” that provides instant access to travel information covering 2,600 regions in 30 countries. Info can also be downloaded from the Internet into the i85’s 450 MB of internal memory.
The Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC Macro is an excellent zoom lens for SLR cameras. Razor-sharp and very fast, it’s lightweight but with a solid build — a really nice choice for photographers on the go, and a huge upgrade over cheap kit zooms. (And while the MSRP is $670, you can find one for less than $400 online.)
The Nikon D80 is a superior D-SLR with 10.2 megapixels, a 2.5-inch LCD display, high-speed shooting, long battery life, great color, and scant picture noise or artifacts. It makes amateur photographers feel like a pros, combining consumer-friendly features with remarkable performance and image quality. Before you spend big bucks on a D200 or other high-end choice, be sure to take a good look at the D80. Nikon, of course, has lots of lenses to choose from; the $1,000 MSRP version comes packaged with a 18-55mm DX Zoom Nikkor lens.
Take your loved one on the Photograph Nepal tour by G.A.P. Adventures for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Nepal has long captured the imagination of Westerners with its breathtaking perch on the Himalayas, medieval temples and monuments, wildlife (such as tigers and rhinos), and hospitable locals. Kathmandu is a world of markets, bazaars and narrow streets, home to Hindu holy men, sacred cows, and street sellers. The $1,150 price doesn’t cover airfare, which from the U.S. isn’t cheap, so if we add that to the package, we’re talking somewhere around $5,000 per person.