Here are some ideas for gifts at all budget levels, from stocking-filler to main present…
A tripod is the first accessory any photographer or videographer should buy. It may not be the most exciting stabilization tool available, but it’s the single most useful one. For all the fun and exciting camera movements we might want to use, you only have to watch any movie or TV show to see how much of it was tripod-mounted.
For an iPhone, small size and portability are key. The whole point of an iPhone is that it’s the camera you always have with you, so a tripod that is small and light enough to carry casually is ideal. This is the one I take with me. In addition to being suitable for use on any flat surface, it also provides a more stable and comfortable way to shoot handheld video, though I recommend holding with it two hands rather than one.
Manfrotto Travel Befree with video head ($219/$359)
If you’re looking instead to buy a full-size tripod, the Manfrotto Travel Befree is an excellent option, combining portability with stability and flexibility of use. There are various models available, and if it’s for video use, make sure you get one with the video head, as this is needed for smooth panning and tilting movements. The aluminum model is cheaper, while the carbon fiber model is significantly lighter. You can add a separate iPhone holder to it if required – but you might as well pay a little more and get the Pixi, above, as this comes supplied with a good-quality one for only around $13 more than the holder on its own.
A gimbal is pretty much a must-have for video these days, allowing the flexibility of handheld shooting but without the shakiness. Gimbals have also become astonishingly affordable in the past few years.
Zhiyun Smooth X ($30-40)
This was incredible value when it first came out at almost twice the price and is now an absolute bargain! It’s a 2-axis gimbal, not a 3-axis one, so no vertical stabilization. All the same, if you’re looking for a gift at this kind of price level, and the recipient doesn’t already have a compact gimbal, this is a winner, with a built-in selfie-stick, pocketable size, and unbeatable price.
DJI OM 5 ($140)
This is the gold standard for smartphone gimbals. 3-axis stabilization, magnetic attachment, selfie-stick, and active tracking (tracking a person, for selfie videos), it’s still decently compact, and the performance is great. The older OM 4 is still worth considering for extended use, as it has a beefier battery offering a 15-hour battery life – but it is significantly bigger.
A slider is a really useful and flexible tool for shooting video. Introducing slow and smooth single-axis movement into a shot can be a great way to add visual interest without distraction.
Neewer Slider ($55)
Neewer is a brand that offers decent quality gear at affordable prices. It offers a number of sliders, and for my money, the 19.7-inch carbon fiber manual model is the sweet spot. It provides a good length and is light enough to carry outside, as well as for studio use. It’s just $10 more than the shorter aluminum one which weighs the same.
At the other end of the enthusiast budget level is the Moza Slypod Pro. It’s expensive, but this is a super-flexible device that can be used vertically, horizontally, or at any sloping angle (tripod needed). It can also be used for push-in/pull-out dolly-style footage without the risk of the slider rails ending up in the shot. Check out my full review. The company also offers some simpler and lower-cost options.
One thing you can guarantee: as soon as someone starts shooting video, they’re going to need lots of storage space! There are a range of items here you can consider as gifts, from a flash drive for immediate backup and storage to full-on networked storage options.
SanDisk 256GB iXpand flash drive ($70-80)
The perfect on-the-go storage for iPhone photographers, it has a Lightning plug on one end and a USB-C one at the other. Transferring footage from an iPhone to a Mac couldn’t be simpler, and it also provides a great backup/additional storage option while mobile. Check out our full review.
SanDisk 1TB portable SSD ($140)
You can never have enough fast external storage, and this SanDisk SSD is a great place to start. There are, of course, higher-capacity ones available, but those are at more eye-watering prices (2TB and 4TB).
When it comes to long-term storage, SSDs quickly grow insanely expensive, so most of us still rely on spinning metal drives for desktop storage. The good news here is that really large capacity drives are now very affordable, and right now 10TB seems to be the sweet spot. These LaCie Pro drives offer good speeds and reliability, combined with stylish looks.
Synology NAS ($210 to $300+)
A large hard drive is a simple solution, but they are non-upgradable, and only accessible locally. A more flexible storage option is a NAS system: Networked Attached Storage. You can then access the content over the Internet, and upgrade the drives over time. A popular (and recommended) entry-level dual-bay option is the Synology DS220j. This is supplied without drives, so you can add the internal 3.5-inch SATA drives of your choice. Stepping up to the DS420j gets you four bays for around $100 more, and above that, the sky’s the limit. Bear in mind that you’ll need supply to the drives themselves. A good starting point would be Seagate IronWolf Pro 4TB drives for around $140 each.
While most photo viewing these days may be done on phones, tablets, and laptops, there’s still a place for prints – whether it’s instant ones for fun, or serious ones for gallery-quality prints.
Polaroid instant cameras were a hit back in their day, and the modern equivalent are mini photo printers intended to create quick prints from a smartphone. There are a whole bunch of 2×3″ ones, mostly in the $50–$100 range, but if you have the budget, it’s worth stepping up to a 4×6-inch one to get something more than a sticker or novelty.
Epson Expression Photo XP-8600 ($300-400)
This is a very popular and highly-regarded mid-range photo printer, combining decent quality and affordable running costs, for sizes ranging from 6×4-inch to 11×8.5-inch. Although primarily intended for photos, it’s affordable enough to use for occasional general color and mono printing, and features USB and wireless connectivity.
Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 ($900)
The Pro-300 is close to a thousand dollars, but if you want to splurge out on a generous gift for someone who appreciates photographic prints, this is arguably the ultimate enthusiast printer. It uses pigment rather than dye-based inks, and produces stunning matt prints thanks to special matte black ink. It’s equally good for mono prints, with true blacks and grays. It can print any size up to A3 or 13×19 inches.