In our third Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers, we’re exploring the $500 and up price range. In this range, you’ll find the latest cameras, lenses and flash equipment. Each major camera manufacturer released new game-changing technology in their mirrorless cameras, pushing the limits of low light capabilities, autofocus speed and accuracy and more. Flash makers like Profoto also had some important updates to favorites like the B10 and the A1. And of course, Apple’s big announcement of M1 chip technology in their new Macbooks will have many photographers upgrading or switching.
Be sure to check out the entire list, at all price ranges, in the link below.
Sigma lenses are a great choice for any photographer because of their high performance in sharpness and overall image quality, solid build, and good price point.
The Profoto A1 Light is an incredibly versatile flash that can be adapted to almost any situation on camera or off. The magnet ring makes attachments and accessory swapping a breeze and the TTL capabilities can do most of the heavy lifting for you in terms of your settings. Professionals will enjoy the fast adjustments and versatility, amateurs will take advantage of all of the intelligent and automatic operations. (Check Pricing: Adorama | B&H | Amazon)
With most of us working from home, stand-up desks have become an even hotter item to make the “must have” lists for the creatives in your life. The Jarvis Stand Up Desks have become one of the most popular desks sold today with a competitive price point, a wide variety of heights to accommodate most people, and stability in line with the best in the market.
Zhiyun Crane-2S Pro 3-Axis stabilizer is one of the hottest products of 2020 in its category. The Crane-2S handles large cameras, and you can also mount multiple accessories on it. It features the new FlexMount System which simplifies the setup process while securing the camera with a double safety lock. (Check Pricing: Adorama | B&H | Amazon)
The new M1 chip integrates the CPU, GPU, Neural Engine, I/O, and more into a single system on a chip (SoC), creating the most powerful and efficient Macbook Pro yet. With performance 3.5 times faster than the predecessor, the new Macbook Pro is sure to make any photographer’s mouth drool. (Check Pricing: Adorama | B&H | Amazon)
The B10 Plus builds on the laurels of the original B10, with the same quality, consistency, and design of the original, but now offers 500Ws of power, double that of its predecessor. (Check Pricing: Adorama | B&H)
If you’re looking to splurge on a custom built PC computer, we recommend going with Puget Systems. They’ll put together an optimized machine for your photo and/or video editing needs with operating speeds unmatched by any out-of-the-box solution.
The X-Series cameras have been a favorite among professional creatives and the Fujifilm X-T4 has raised the bar even further. This flagship Fujifilm X-Series camera will be the perfect gift for the professional Fujifilm shooter in your life. (Check Pricing: Adorama | B&H)
The Sony A7III builds on the strong performance of its predecessors. It has a 24MP full-frame sensor, 4K video, a 693-point hybrid autofocus system, frame rate of 10 fps, and other impressive specs. It also has 2 card slots and a long battery life, making it a great value. (Adorama | B&H)
If you’re ready to splurge on a camera and fully commit to the Sony mirrorless system, you can’t go wrong with the A7S III. This full-frame hybrid camera is a small 4K camera with incredible low light performance and great video quality, with the ability to record for long durations. (Check Pricing: Adorama | B&H)
Prior Year Lists
If you need some other ideas, below is a list from prior years selections.
The Holiday Gift Guide For Photographers | $500 +
Author: Kishore Sawh
Date Published: 12/14/2017
Leica TL2 $1,950
Somehow, Leica has managed to envelop some of what we love about the M cameras into this system; something never quite accomplished with the D-Lux, no matter what they say. The mechanical shutter mechanism sounds good, and perhaps more importantly it feels good. Maybe due to its appearance –that it’s so clean and doesn’t look militaristic– you don’t think about it the way you would a Sony a6500 which feels utilitarian by comparison. Nor an X-T2 which feels rather..’.airline cutlery’ compared.
It’s a camera that shows that if you want a practical option you don’t need to drop the idea of having something beautiful and focused on design. It’s modern with a touchscreen and yet retains a classic approach.
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Venus Optics Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D Lens $899
This is a wide lens with little to no compromise. A truly wide-angle prime featuring a rectilinear optical design Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D from Venus Optics is specifically meant to limit distortion for clear and accurate portrayals of landscapes and architectural subjects. The optical construction also incorporates a pair of aspherical elements and three extra-low dispersion elements to control both spherical and chromatic aberrations for improved sharpness and reduced color fringing.
A Frog Eye Coating has been applied, too, to repel dust and moisture from the front element of the lens to benefit working in trying environmental conditions. Benefitting the optical attributes, this lens also features a precise manual focus design along with a floating optical system to maintain accurate rendering throughout the focus range, from 7.09″ to infinity. Additionally, a petal-shaped lens hood is also incorporated into the lens’ design to reduce flare and ghosting when working in strong lighting conditions. For getting close, and for anything like astro, it’s absolutely brilliant – and would be even at twice the cost.
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Sony A7R III $3,198
This is the mirrorless camera we have all been waiting for from Sony, and in general. All the questions the previous models left us asking have been answered, and wish-lists delivered upon.
Sony’s A7RIII is a versatile, high-performance camera characterized by not only its resolution, but by its multimedia versatility. Revolving around a full-frame 42.4MP Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor and updated BIONZ X image processor, the a7R III affords an impressive 10 fps continuous shooting rate along with improved autofocus performance for faster, more reliable subject tracking along with wide frame coverage. This updated Fast Hybrid AF System employs a combination of 399 phase-detection points and 425 contrast-detection areas for quicker acquirement of focus in a variety of lighting conditions, and also maintains focus on subjects more effectively. then of course it has a battery that will get hundreds of shots a charge, a better OLED EVF, and will do and will do FF 4K. It essentially is the best all ’round camera on the market today.
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Hasselblad X1D $7,995 ($1,00 off for the holidays)
What can one say about the X1D? That it looks and feels every bit the $8K camera. It’s a camera you can live with, and love. It’s not intimidating and it’s not intrusive in public, and it’ll deliver the kind of results you’ll only achieve with a sensor this size, and all in a timeless body. It also has about the best grip in the photographic world. It’s a return to form for Hasselblad.
Determined to shake up the photographic industry, Hasselblad has unleashed a world’s first in the form of the silver X1D-50c Medium Format Mirrorless Digital Camera. This camera takes the well-regarded 50MP 43.8 x 32.9mm CMOS sensor found in numerous medium format systems and incorporates it into a revolutionary mirrorless camera body. Designed and handmade in Sweden, this camera is a precision tool with exceptional ergonomics and a compact size that even rivals smaller format systems. Taking this system above and beyond the rest is a large sensor that works hand-in-hand with the Hasselblad Natural Color Solution to create phenomenal raw images with smooth tonal gradations thanks to 16-bit color depth and 14 stops of dynamic range.
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FujiFilm X-E3 $899
A svelte, versatile camera, the black Fujifilm X-E3 is a progression in their rangefinder-styled mirrorless series, and features an updated sensor and processor along with familiar classic design. Revolving around the 24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III sensor and X-Processor Pro image processor, high-resolution stills can be recorded with notable sharpness and clarity due to the sensor’s organic layout and omission of an optical low-pass filter. The sensor and processor combination also avails quick continuous shooting up to 14 fps, an extended sensitivity range to ISO 51200, and the ability to record UHD 4K/30 video or Full HD 1080p/60 video.
Benefitting the imaging capabilities, the X-E3 retains its retro-inspired physical design complete with a high-resolution 2.36m-dot electronic viewfinder, 3.0″ 1.04m-dot rear touchscreen LCD, and physical shutter speed and exposure compensation dials. Also, its wireless capabilities have been expanded to include Bluetooth connectivity for low-power image transferring and remote camera control from a linked mobile device.
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LaCie 6Big Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) RAID Array $2,500+
If you’re looking for a storage/security and speed solution with, essentially, no rival on the commercial market, this is it. It’s absurdly fast, reliable, and strangely beautiful. The performance of the 6Big is like a drug it’s so addictive, and the kind of unit that will see studios, videographers, and individuals with large amount of data elevate their operating levels, and the USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity makes it a daisy-chain and power solution that creatives can grow with. Like the Porsche slogan, “There is no substitute”. Some stats:
LaCie has equipped this RAID array with Thunderbolt 3 technology that transfers data at a rate of up to 40 Gb/s and offers a reversible USB-C connection. For data performance and redundancy, an onboard hardware RAID controller lets you set the 3.5″ hard drives in 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, or 50 RAID configuration. With LaCie RAID Manager, RAID setup is straightforward by offering an intuitive interface to administer the LaCie 6big. Leveraging RAID 0 and Thunderbolt 3, the 6big is able to deliver up to 1400 MB/s read and write speeds.
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Broncolor Siros L $2,053+
Broncolor knows how to make a sexy light. The quality and consistency of the light produced by the Siros L without having to purchase a color correcting dome alone is unmatched in its class and will reduce precious editing time in post production that could be better spent elsewhere.
The freedom that exists with being able to use a truly portable monolight is incredible, and if proper care is taken, the Siros L should last a very long time. The Siros L is innovative, freeing, and a lot of fun to work with. After photographing with a light of this caliber, it is difficult to consider going back to ‘normal’ equipment. The Siros L definitely lives up to the reputation that has become synonymous with everything Broncolor stands for.
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California Sunbounce Sun Swatter $669
Not all reflectors or scrims or diffusers are made equal, and California Sunbounce arguably makes some of the best, which is why you’ll see them in the BTS shots being used in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition shoots, Vicotria’s Secret, and major shoots akin. This Sunbounce system consists of a collapsible aluminum frame that can be easily assembled and combined with different reflecting, light-reducing, or light-absorbing screens to take full advantage of any kind of light–hard or soft, natural or artificial.
This Sun-Bounce Big Super Saver Starter Kit (6×8′) includes the lightweight, stable, anodized aluminum frame, a reversible silver/white screen, a grip head for attaching the reflector to a stand (not included), tuning clips for modifying the reflector by attaching custom fabrics or other material (not included), and a shoulder bag to hold the kit. The silver reflector is for reflecting strong contrasty light; the white reflector reflects a softer, diffused light. The frame is designed with an integrated crossbar and clamp so that it can be comfortably held in many different ways–by hand or by attaching it to a tripod, for instance. A great piece of kit for any photographer to keep and use forever.
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DJI Mavic Pro $999
The DJI Mavic is the runaway drone hit from 2016 and it’s just come out, but it’s dominated the GoPro Karma is pretty much every comparison and packs features once thought possible only on much larger platforms into a compact quadcopter that is snappy, agile, and captures high-resolution images.
The drone features an advanced flight control system that draws on a host of sensors — including a ground-facing camera, ultrasound, GPS, dual redundant IMUs, and more — to keep track of where it is flying in 3D space and even avoid collisions. The Mavic works in tandem with DJI’s GO mobile app for accessing settings, getting a telemetry readout, viewing a low-latency video feed, and even editing and sharing your footage. In addition to traditional joystick style controls, you can fly with simple tap-based commands, and the Mavic can even recognize gestures for the perfect selfie, and all while being in a tiny form factor that shoots 4K.
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HuaWei Mate 9 $399
There are some details below, but perhaps most importantly is the fact this phone has a dedicated B&W sensor in addition to it’s normal one, and the output of it is absolutely sensational. For those who love B&W, this is reminiscent of using the Leica M Monochrom, the images are that good. It’s an utter joy.
The Mate 9’s camera setup includes two rear-facing Leica shooters: a 20MP monochrome sensor and a 12MP color sensor. An 8MP selfie camera is also on board. Bluetooth 4.2 can be used for pairing with other Bluetooth-enabled devices. 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi is also integrated for high-speed Internet connectivity. NFC allows you to instantly connect to other NFC-enabled devices for content sharing, simply by tapping the two devices together. A-GPS with GLONASS is also available for using Google Location and Maps services. Additionally, the Huawei Mate 9 features a 4000mAh battery which can be quickly recharged with the reversible USB Type-C connector
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Apple iPad Pro 10.5 $649
The iPad has been an indispensable tool for photographers since its inception and the iPad Pro seems to have taken that very dearly to heart. This new 10.5 inch is the unit that makes the iPad Pro into a full-on workhorse.
With the introduction of the space gray 10.5″ iPad Pro, Apple provides users with 256GB of storage and a 10.5″ IPS Retina display that is 20% larger than their 9.7″ model, while reducing its border size by nearly 40%. The result is a tablet that weighs just over 1 lb and also features a 12-core GPU, a screen resolution of 2224 x 1668, 264 pixels per inch (ppi), a refresh rate of 120 Hz, a brightness of 600 cd/m2, support for the P3 color gamut, 20 ms latency, and an anti-reflective coating with 1.8% reflectivity. Combined with Affinity Photo and the Pencil, or using it to mirror a computer with apps like Duet or Astropad, the iPad Pro is Wacom Cintiq-like, and fully capable of being a stand-alone editor. It’s also brilliant for sharing images with clients on set when using something like Capture Pilot for Capture One Pro. Highly recommended.
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Sigma 135mm f/1.8 $1,299
Sigma set the bar high for everyone when they released the ART line, especially the 50mm and 35mm ARTs, but perhaps with those as the first, creating an 85mm ART was the true test as it’s the focal length everyone had been waiting for to have an ART tag. Well, with the 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens, and they delivered an optic with high performance, a large f/1.4 aperture, and a variety of technologies. What was to follow was the 135mm f/1.8, which produces some of the most buttery backgrounds one could ask for, and sharp at 1.8. For those in love with the Canon 135, the Sigma 135 performs better, and is sure to be adored by the savvy portrait photographer.
Sigma has truly created a lens worthy of wearing the ART badge.
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Canon 5D Mark IV $3,199
Canon’s 5D line has become something somewhat legendary with a throng of professionals and enthusiasts who swear by every iteration of it, and use them to death. The 5DIV had big shoes to follow as well as ground it had to cover to keep pace with and also outpace the competition.
This multimedia maven offers a newly developed 30.4MP full-frame CMOS sensor paired with the DIGIC 6+ image processor in order to balance fine detail and resolution with low-light performance and sensitivity. It is able to work within a native range of ISO 100-32000, which can then be expanded to an impressive ISO 50-102400, for sharp, low-noise images in a variety of conditions. Along with these improvements to image quality, users will enjoy a performance boost across the board with an enhanced AF system, built-in Wi-Fi, NFC, and GPS, and much more. All of this and with Dual Pixel Raw the 5D Mark IV is a glimpse into where Canon is heading.
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Sony a6500 $1,198
Sony’s a6500 is the next evolution of Sony’s ever-loved a6000, and it is nothing short of remarkable. With it, what Sony has done is taken everything great about the a6300, and made it…more. With a 24.2MP Exmor CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processor, clean image quality is provided with a wide expandable sensitivity range to ISO 51200, along with accelerated readout speeds for internal 4K30 and Full HD 1080p120 video recording with full pixel readout. The processor further benefits videographers with the inclusion of an S&Q (Slow & Quick) Motion setting that permits capturing Full HD video at a variety of frame rates ranging from 1-120 fps.
Stills shooters also benefit from the apt processing speed, which enables continuous shooting at 11 fps for up to 301 JPEGs in a burst, as well as 14-bit raw file output. Complementing both stills and video, 5-axis SteadyShot image stabilization minimizes the appearance of camera shake with ALL mounted lenses to support working with slower shutter speeds. The sensor and processor combination is a marvel and also avails 4D FOCUS, which utilizes a wide-coverage 425-point phase-detection system with a 169-area contrast detection system for quick and precise focusing performance. It’s pretty much all the camera most people will ever need, and in a small package.
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DJI Osmo $260+
DJI’s Osmo came out to much speculation and then much adoration as it made super-smooth cinematic video accessible to everyone, and didn’t require an expertise to achieve it. The Osmo line has expanded and this is the most current offering that features a 3.5x optical and 2x digital zoom, giving up to 7x zoom when shooting in Full 1080p resolution, and up to 3.5x zoom at all other resolutions.
There’s the Osmo for mobile phones, and the regular. The Osmo+ features a 4K camera capable of capturing DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) resolution at 24/25 fps, Ultra HD 4K (3840 x 2160) at up to 30 fps, 2.7K, and Full HD 1080p at 24-120 fps. It also shoots sharp 12MP still photos. Audio can be captured via an on-board mic or an included external FlexiMic, which plugs into the front of the gimbal handle and unobtrusively points in the direction of the subject. The on-board mic is located on the handle. The detachable handle also features a joystick and other controls. The Osmo+ records to microSD cards up to 64GB, and an iPhone can be mounted in an included phone holder on the side of the handle to display a live feed from the camera via a high-speed Wi-Fi link using a designated DJI iOS app, so you can monitor your shots, including your zooming in and out. With the world going video, this is one of the nicest steps into that world.
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Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 $1,199
Characterized by apt focusing speed and image stabilization, the Nikon F-mount SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 from Tamron is a revised fast standard zoom covering a versatile wide-angle to portrait-length range. This is the 24-70 many have been waiting for, out-performing the Canon’s and Nikons in many respects and at nearly half the price.
A sophisticated optical design, balancing its optical attributes it also utilizes a USM autofocus motor to deliver notably quick, quiet, and precise focusing performance that suits both stills and video applications. Also, 5-stop-effective Vibration Compensation helps to minimize the appearance of camera shake for sharper handheld shooting in difficult lighting conditions. Additionally, the lens is moisture-resistant and has a fluorine coating on the front element to enable its use in trying environmental conditions.
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Nikon 105mm f/1.4 $2,196
Nikon’s 105mm f/1.4 ED has to be the most talked about lens of the year, as it breaks new ground in 105mm focal lengths. Not only has Nikon created something new, but its performance is essentially flawless as a portrait lens.
Maintaining clarity and sharpness throughout the aperture range, the optical design utilizes extra-low dispersion glass to minimize chromatic aberrations and color fringing, and a Nano Crystal Coat has been applied to reduce flare and ghosting in strong lighting. Availing a range of unique possibilities for a telephoto lens, the combination of the 105mm focal length and fast maximum aperture greatly benefit portrait photographers as well as event shooters. It’s about as fast or a little faster than you’d expect from a lens this size with so much heavy glass, and the quality of the bokeh is high, not to mention it isolates subjects in a way other lenses just don’t, and yet none of that is as surprising as just how sharp this lens is – astonishing.
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