Christmas is coming, and despite my love-hate relationship with Christmas carols, I still love to celebrate it. Just how many more variations on All I Want For Christmas Is You are they gonna come up with? (Rhetorical, don’t answer). Maddening earworms aside, the best part of Christmas are the presents. You know this feeling: a loved one gets a super-expensive camera and soon accumulates a whole pile of equipment – great time for a gift, you think. Hard enough to guess what’s in vogue for photographers these days. But when asked what they’d want, they shrug! Well, fret not because I’m here to save your Christmas. I’ll spare you technical details, but will give you a clear idea of what to get without giving too much away – otherwise you could save on the wrapper too, since they already know what’s inside. Oh, and most of these won’t require you to rob a bank!
Tripods are good investments for photographer as it allows one to place your camera on a steady mount, free from our shaky human hands, brilliant for landscapes, timelapses and group photos! While some brands like Gitzo can be really expensive, Manfrotto offers some decent options under SGD200, and some Chinese brands like SLIK, Sirui and Beike can be even cheaper. Also, make sure that you’re getting the right kind of head for the tripod. I would recommend getting ballhead. Tripods also comes with different leg locks but that usually not a big problem is choosing. Joby’s Gorillapod is a pretty cool gift too: since the grippy legs latch readily to the nearest surface, they could exercise some creative flexibility (pun intended).
What to look out for: height, material, size
Good for: If there’s no tripod at the moment, beginners wanting to try something new
Price Range: SGD100~250
Is your friend trying to shoot landscapes? Why not try polarising filters! While I am partial towards Hoya for their value, B+W is also a great choice but they cost more. If your friend is really into landscapes you can get a filter kit but that can costs more than a hundred SGD. Filters come either threaded (circle, to be screwed into the front of the lens) or as a square, which slots into a holder that is mounted on the lens. Find out which lens your loved one uses for landscape photography, and take note of the filter thread width (77cm?
What to look out for: Price, brand
Good for: Beginner who wants to shoot landscape
Trust me, no photographer ever has enough memory cards. Newer, more pricey memory cards are generally faster and have bigger storage. Faster memory cards makes video recording, burst shooting and data transfer to the computer a lot faster. Do check if they shoot sports, videos or take pictures quickly as a card with a slow write speed can actually slow the camera down! I usually buy SanDisk memory cards, and several other options like Sony and Lexar are fine. However, try not to get discount brands (anything you’ve not heard before, or is suspiciously cheap) as memory card failure does happen – and it costs a bomb to recover data when it does. Nothing’s worse than returning from an exciting trip only to realise all your photos have been corrupted! Check if your loved one’s camera uses SD or CF. There’s nothing wrong with getting a microSD card with an adapter, but they tend to be slightly more expensive for the same specifications. These days 8GB will be good baseline, unless you shoot video: then a larger one would be needed.
What to look out for: Capacity, brand, speed, format
Good for: Almost anyone, except if the person has too many cards
Nothing is worse than the feeling of running out of battery power, especially when you’re on a trip far from civilisation or doing a long photoshoot. Most cameras aren’t compaitble with portable USB chargers. Getting extra batteries will ensure that you get that extra shot needed on a long day.
Find out the model of your loved one’s camera and a quick Google search would help you with the model number of the battery. Jot it down and any half-decent camera store would sort that out for you. Be wary of off-brand alternatives: lithium batteries are known to be very volatile. Not a good thing when you’re in an airport, as this guy recently found out.
Good for: Frequent fliers, outdoorsy people. Mirrorless camera users.
You accidentally smudge your lens – don’t use your grimy shirt to wipe it! A blower and microfibre would suffice most times for cleaning purposes. Microfibre cloths resemble the ones used to clean your glasses, but don’t buy those big ones used for cleaning windows (but I would like to see the look on your recipient face fit you do). A Lenspen can be useful alternative to clean your lens too. Leave sensor cleaning to professionals.
What to look out for: Overpriced stuff. Microfibre shouldn’t cost like $10.
Good for: Anyone, especially if they’re dirty.
Camera body case or tripod plates
Camera body cases can made a camera look good and also protect them from accidental bumps. These cases are usually covers the front and sides. Good ones will also give access to the battery and memory card compartment without removing them. While rather gaudy ones exist for DSLRs due to the bulk and bulbous surfaces (they tend to be in silicone), very stylish body cases are available for slimmer mirrorless cameras. Some even fit the retro aesthetic, being made of leather.
A tripod plate attaches to the bottom of the camera (where one usually sets them down) and would offer some protection from scratches or even minor drops. An L-Plate/L-Bracket adds another attachment point (in the shape of an L, of course) on another face of the camera to allow for a portrait (vertical) orientation of the camera when attached to a tripod, also offering protection of one more surface! Keep an eye out on SD and battery slot access too – they’re not always easy to remove!
What to look out for: Material, access, camera model
Good for: Mirrorless cameras
Soft shutter releases
Retro-looking cameras especially from Fuji have threaded shutter buttons. You can get these soft shutter releases to provide a personal touch to your camera. They come with different sizes, shapes, and colours. Check if the camera shutter button has a screw thread (looks like a hole in the shutter button) and this can be a great gift!
What to look out for: Size and material. Bigger size is not always better, I tried. Check if the camera has a threaded shutter!
Good for: Fuji camera users, film camera users.
Camera hotshoes can be great place for dirt to collect if you don’t use it often. It is usually used for external flashes and accessory viewfinders. You could get a spirit level that would add some practicality, or a decorative cover to personalise it!
What to look out for: Does the camera have a hot-shoe?
Fascinated with airplane and technology since young, he rose to become his family’s #1 provider of (literal) in-house tech support and airline ticketing.