Happy first day of December, everybody! Yesterday, I wrote about What’s in my Bag, which is a little on the overbearing side for someone who just wants a good camera to take pictures. So here’s a more useful sort of post — the photography gift guide for the holidays! Much like a restaurant review, $ denotes budget-friendly, $$ is for a moderately-priced item, and $$$ is for those who want to splurge. A lot of the items will be skewed towards Nikon, just because that’s what I know :) And also, just so you know, some item links will be to Amazon.com via my affiliate link, which means that if you buy a little somethin’-somethin’ for someone, a tiny bit of that sale goes to me.
Here we go!
DSLRs: if you want a digital single-lens reflex camera (otherwise known as one of those “fancy” cameras), here are my suggestions.
$ Nikon D5100 – this is a good beginner’s DSLR. It has a swivel screen which is great for self-portraits and movies, and this model does better in low-light situations, has more megapixels, and has a longer battery life than the D3100. Right now, you can find a new D5100 body for less than $800.
$$ Nikon D7000 – a nice intermediate DSLR, the D7000 (not to be confused with the D700 (2 zeroes)) shoots photos as well as HD video, and is sturdy enough that I know wedding photographers who use it as their backup camera. If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is. While I love my D90, I don’t like how it doesn’t autofocus when I shoot movies, but apparently Nikon fixed that issue with the D7000. You can find a new D7000 body for about $1400.
$$$ Nikon D3S – if you need the best, this is the best. Nikon’s flagship body is a glorious full-frame camera, with ISO capabilities up to 12,800 (do you know how insane that is?), dual CF card slots, and 51 autofocus points. I’m eyeing you, D3s. A new D3s is $5300.
Lenses to go with your DSLR: if you buy just the body, you’ll need a lens to go with it. Since I’ll assume you want a nice all-purpose lens for any part of your life, we’ll look at zooms first.
$ Nikon 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 – this is the kit lens that comes with several of Nikon’s DX bodies and it’s pretty good. Because it goes from 18mm (very wide) to 105mm (zooming in close) you can get a real range with this lens, and it’s built well. One of these will set you back about $300.
$$$ Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G – unfortunately, I can’t seem to come up with a good middle-range zoom, so this is going to be the other bookend. While this lens doesn’t cover as much ground as the 18-105, its lower aperture ensures that your photos will be buttery and beautiful, and it will work well in low-light situations. This is also an FX lens, meaning that you will be able to use it with a cropped-sensor or a full-sensor camera body. New, this lens is about $1900.
For those of you who are interested in fixed focal length lenses (in other words, not zooms) for everyday use, these are my picks:
$ A Nikon 50mm f/1.8 or Nikon 35mm f/1.8 – Nikon makes both of these lenses for dirt cheap. I’ve already written about how much I love my 50mm, and although the build quality is not as great on the f/1.8 lenses than on the 1.4s, they are still a steal. The Nikon 50 1.8 works with both DX and FX bodies, but if you use the 35 1.8 (a DX lens) on a full-frame body it will cast some vignetting on the edges. Just so you know! You can find the the D version of the 50 1.8 for less than $100 used; the newer G version is about $230 and the 35mm is $200.
$$ Nikon 50mm f/1.4G – hands down, one of my favorite focal lengths ever, and so pretty. You could live your entire life with a 50mm up to your face; Henri Cartier-Bresson did. A new 50 1.4 G is in the neighborhood of $450.
$$$ Nikon 35mm f/1.4G – this is Nikon’s new baby, and it’s gorgeous. Sure, the f/2 does great work, but I’ve compared files shot with the f/2 and the f/1.4 and the 1.4 is delicious – better contrast, better handle of back-lighting, and the bokeh is lovely. This lens is $1800.
Sick of DSLR talk?
“Point and Shoots,” then. There are so many good P&S cameras coming out nowadays. Anything recent basically trumps the merchandise that was coming out not even 5 years ago. And since most P&S cameras don’t require additional parts to make up a kit, you’re free to buy whatever brand suits you.
$ Canon G12 – 10 megapixels, good low-light performance, 720p HD video, and fast focusing. Less than $400.
$ Canon PowerShot S100 – 12 megapixels, good low-light performance, 1080p HD video, and it can shoot in both RAW and JPG. Less than $500.
$$ Fujifilm X100 – I’ve heard good and so-so things about this “digital rangefinder” (it’s styled as a rangefinder, but I don’t think it’s an actual one), but the pros outweigh the cons. The lens acts as a 35mm f/2 on a cropped sensor, and can shoot in RAW and JPG. I kinda want one. This will set you back $1200.
$$$ Leica M9 – Excuse me while I drool all over myself. This is a real digital rangefinder, with a full-frame sensor. I actually played with one of these last year and was struck by how comfortable it felt in my hands. If I could sell my car without repercussions, I’d probably buy one of these. The M9 is around $7000 and that’s just the body. Holy.
Miscellaneous Photo-Related Items (that your favorite photographer might like!)
These are all things that I already own or that I’d love to own. I hope your shutterbug gift-recipient feels the same way!
USB film rolls – at 4GB a roll and recycled from old film canisters, these are adorable and useful! $20.
A Diana or a Holga medium-format film camera – I adore my now-neglected Holga. I love how you can advance the film however much you want, so you can do effortless double-exposures. Light leaks are also a quirky effect. I guess you could make Holga-like photos now with your iPhone and Hipstamatic, but if you want the real thing, toy cameras are authentic as they come :) $30-40.
A camera belt buckle – no joke, my dad has a camera belt buckle and has worn one for years and years. I think it’s one of the coolest things ever. $15.
A wooden camera necklace – this is pretty adorable. $78.
I definitely encourage you to do your own research to find what works best for you, but I hope that this gift guide helps to point you in a direction or seals the deal for those of you who were already mulling something over! If you have any questions, just ask :)