Canon, Nikon, and Sony are the three major camera manufacturers. In a pinch, we could add Fuji and micro four thirds systems like Olympus and Panasonic to the list, too, if we’re not limiting ourselves to full frame sensors. Naturally, the debate about which system is best has raged on since the first digital cameras transformed the industry. Sony is lighter, Nikon glass is better, Canon’s recent 5DmrkIV has tremendous dynamic range. Each camera has its own benefits and limitations.
But guess what? It doesn’t matter what camera you use.
Every camera on the market today is far superior to cameras we were using just a few years ago. Sensors are better, lenses are sharper, and, I dare say, most us don’t need another megapixel’s worth of resolution.
Whether you’re searching for gift ideas for travel photographers on your holiday gift list or simply hoping to improve your own camera kit, I’d like to encourage you to largely ignore expensive cameras and lenses. In their place, here are a few less expensive gift ideas for photographers. These are pieces of equipment that I use almost everyday I shoot.
Gift Ideas for Travel Photographers This Holiday Season
For travel and landscape photography, tripods are an integral piece of kit. They are a pain to carry around; however, tripods are the only tool that allow us to use slow shutter speeds to blur motion and shoot in low light.
A sturdy tripod can cost anywhere from $250 to about $1200. Here are three solid options I always recomment:
Plenty of tripods – especially inexpensive options – are sold as a kit, including the legs and ballhead. If you spring for a Benro, Gtzo, or other professional quality options, ballheads are sold separately. There are attachment plate types: Arca Swiss and Manfrotto. The former is the industry standard and I highly recommend it above Manfrotto, which is a proprietary system. My top three options are:
Personally, I use this model: Acratech GP Ballhead
Tripod L Bracket
I’ve always felt it was important to shoot horizontal and vertical images to build a well rounded portfolio, but I immediately found myself shooting more vertical frames when Instagram went away from its square-only format. The portrait orientation fills the smartphone screen, which ultimately leads to more engagement on my photos.
Using an L bracket makes capturing both landscape and portrait orientations simple and maximizes the ballheads movements. There are really only two options for an L bracket: buy an inexpensive generic version that’ll work on any camera or pay a little more for a camera-specific model that won’t block access to the camera’s main functions.
Make sure to match the L Bracket to your camera or select a generic version: Tripod L Brackets
A super inexpensive piece of equipment (mine only cost $10), a wireless remote is essential for landscape photographers. They make longer shutter speeds – above 30 seconds – possible via the camera’s BULB function. It’s also the only way to effectively shoot the mirror up mode, which eliminates camera shake to achieve critical sharpness. Plus, they’ll help take your selfie game to a whole new level.
Graduated Neutral Density Filters
While many photographers opt to blend multiple exposures in post processing, I still prefer to use graduated neutral density filters to capture a single exposure in the field. My logic is simple, I want to spend more time capturing images and less time editing and graduated filters allow me to do just that. Unfortunately, it takes 3 different pieces of gear to get started:
Neutral Density Filters
Neutral Density Filters are essentially sunglasses for your camera. I personally use a big stopper (10 stops) and little stopper (6stops) Lee filters that slide into my 100mm filter kit. Another option, especially for videographers, are screw on ND filters. If you opt for a screw on variety, make sure it fits your largest camera lens filter ring and buy an adapter for smaller lenses.
Need an easy stocking stuffer? Buy a lens pen. I overlooked these for years, always opting for filter clothes and disposable wipes, but I recently discovered there is no easier way to clean a camera lens. I now carry one every time I go shooting.
I used to be afraid to clean my own camera sensor, but it’s a surprisingly easy task and it’s certainly easier than cloning dust spots out of every image. I use two different products and find both give excellent results:
Peak Design Straps
Native camera straps work great. I still use mine, but I did add a Peak Design quick release system so that I can remove the strap when shooting on a tripod.
Camera bags are never perfect, but Lowepro makes enough bags that I confidently recommend them to anybody, as there is likely a model that will suit your individual needs. Personally, I always recommend a avoiding any backpack that has the laptop sleeve against your back.