Best gifts for photographers in 2021
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The 2021 holiday season is upon us, and it’s time once again to shop for that special photographer in your life. Here at Popular Photography, we love gift-giving, but even more, we love recommending gifts for photographers.
What follows are 20 of our favorite photography gift ideas, from new releases to time-tested favorites, chosen by the nerdiest of photo nerds (uh, that’s us). They range in price from less than $10 to just over $1,000. So whether you’re looking for a stocking stuffer or jaw-dropper, we’ve got you more than covered.
Of course, not all photographers like/want the same stuff. But rest assured, we’ve got something for everyone, from smartphone shooters, to analog lovers, to self-proclaimed digital “pros.”
The best new black-and-white film to try: Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow 400 B&W film
Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow 400 B&W film
This black-and-white film is gloriously heavy on the grain. KosmoFoto
Kosmo Foto’s Agent Shadow ISO 400 film features super-slick packaging inspired by old-school film noir spy movies. But more importantly, it’s a 35mm B&W that’s as versatile as even the sweetest spy gadgets. While the film stock can be used at its “box speed” of ISO 400, the folks behind Agent Shadow intended for users to “push” the film to higher ISOs for use in very low light scenarios.
Underexposing Agent Shadow by one, two, or even three stops will both increase the lowlight capabilities of the film as well as the amount of grain. (To compensate for the “push,” the developer simply adjusts the film’s developing time/temperature accordingly.) The further you push, the more sweet, sweet grain you’ll see. And we’re talking good, cinematic-looking grain, not ugly lowlight smartphone photography grain. Plus, Agent Shadow is also a great choice for first-time film shooters, as it’s both versatile and forgiving to exposure mistakes.
The best cheap way to make a camera more comfortable: Soft Shutter release
Very few cheap accessories can have a profound effect on a camera’s overall feel. Soft shutters represent an exception to that rule. These little gadgets attach to your camera’s shutter either via adhesive strip or by threading into the shutter release itself. And they add a pleasant tactile experience to the act of taking a photo.
While there are a variety of soft shutter releases out there, we especially like the ones from Custom SLR because they’re long-lasting, stylish, and comfortable. These ones are adhesive adhering and sold in a 2-pack so that you can replace one if/when the adhesive gives out. In terms of threaded releases, we’re fans of what JJC Camera offers. These soft releases come with a small rubber gasket on the threading, to help them stay affixed. And are also quite comfortable.
The best way to quickly clean a lens: Nikon Lens Cloth
Many photographers may not want to hear this, but wiping your lens with your shirt or jacket is actually a pretty bad idea. Yes, it’s a very convenient method to get crud off of your glass, but it’s also a great way to damage the coatings on your lenses by rubbing in more dirt and other particles. Keeping a clean cloth easily accessible makes a big difference. This full-sized, micro fiber, anti-static cloth easily crumples up into a small connected pouch that’s only about the size of a single pizza roll. An integrated loop and carabiner makes it simple to connect to the outside of a camera bag or even a camera strap for keeping it really close-at-hand. Maybe order a few and stash them around for the next time that baby cake smash photo shoot gets out of hand.
The best tool for regular lens scrubbing: LensPen Lens Cleaner
When you’re in the field, a quick wipe can get the superficial grime off your glass. Every once in a while, however, your lenses deserve a more thorough cleaning. One side of the LensPen has a brush for quickly dislodging dust or other loosely attached grit. The other end lens works similarly to a marker. A cleaning compound inside the body makes its way out through the tip that’s meant to rub across the surface of the lens. The combination of cleaning solution and wiping from the tip help dislodge tough particles instead of scraping them across the delicate coatings. It also gets rid of oil from accidental finger touches or other environmental factors. Even if you can’t afford to buy your person a new lens, you can make their current lenses look like they’re new.
The best new experimental film: RedRum 120 medium format film
Halloween may be in the rearview mirror, but The Shining is a Christmas movie. And what better way to celebrate the holidays/Jack Nicholson’s frozen face than by gifting a roll of medium format film inspired by the spooky flick?
This ISO 200 film stock produces images with strikingly warm red and yellow tones. So whether you’re looking to create a dramatic spooky vibe, or something more festive for the holiday season, RedRum 120 has a lot of potential. Plus, it uses standard developing chemicals, so most photo labs will be able to handle it. That said, production is limited, so don’t let this gift idea ghost you.
The best way to get the disposable camera feel without the waste: Lomography Simple Use Reusable film camera
Film camera prices are way up on the secondary market right now, and there’s often no way to be sure they’ll even work once that eBay find arrives. This super-basic camera emulates the simplicity of a disposable. It comes pre-loaded with Lomography 400 color negative film, and it doesn’t offer any controls at all. It has a fixed f/9 aperture and a single 1/120th second shutter speed that’s augmented by a built-in flash. Lomography’s color 400 film is fairly neutral when it comes to color, but the camera ships with a trio of colored filters to go over the flash to create a more stylized look. Once the roll is done, the camera opens to accept another roll, so it’s not nearly as wasteful as a true disposable.
The best memory card to protect your photos: Sony Tough SD Card
Not to sound an alarm, SD cards can break in an alarming assortment of ways, each of which has the potential to nuke an entire shoot’s worth of photos and videos. Sony’s Tough SD cards achieve an IP68 durability rating, which means they’re sealed up tight enough to keep dust out and survive up to 72 hours in more than 16 feet of water. The one-piece molded design also makes it harder to break by bending it. In fact, Sony claims it can stand up to 18 times the force a typical card can before it turns into a high-tech taco shell. Sony even left out the teeth that typically exist between the individual metal contacts on the card because they have a tendency to break off inside your camera or card reader and cause chaos while obliterating all the pictures it contained.
The best way to carry a camera: Stroppa Flat hand-made rope camera strap
There are plenty of rope camera straps available. But in all our years writing about camera accessories, never have we come across a more comfortable, stylish one. Stroppa is a small leather and rope maker out of Warsaw, Poland. And their “Flat” rope straps are lighter and significantly more flexible than traditional rope straps.
They’re available in a wide range of lengths and styles. In fact, with five different rope colors to choose from, 25 different thread color choices and sizes ranging from 70 cm to 150 cm, you can really go to town on the customization. Plus, each strap comes in one of three rope types, including the “Flex” which is super soft, the “Duo” which is soft yet durable and the “Active,” which is made from Stroppa’s toughest rope.
The best way to speed up your PC: WD Blue SN570 NVMe SSD Drive [sponsored]
Designed with creators in mind, the new WD Blue SN570 NVMe SSD Drive from Western Digital is a powerful internal storage drive built to provide the reliability artists need to support their creative vision and let their imaginations flow. Creators can upgrade their current PC system or optimize their next custom build with the slim M.2 2280 form factor. With sequential read speeds of 3500Mbps, it delivers 5x the swiftness of Western Digital’s best SATA SSDs to offer less lag and rapid load times.
Purpose-built for endurance, the WD Blue SN570 SSD delivers reliable data protection while keeping storage health in check with the downloadable Western Digital SSD Dashboard. With that tool, creators can work hassle-free on complex projects by optimizing their system’s performance—all while maintaining low power consumption to let their artistic work flow. Prices start at $54 (250GB), and capacities go as high as 1TB ($110) of storage. (Bonus: Each new purchase also comes with a one-month membership to Adobe Creative Cloud, offering access to some of the world’s best creative apps and services such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, Premiere Pro and InDesign.) Whether working on their next passion project or crunching large amounts of data, this is perfect gift for creators looking to give their PCs a boost.
The best way to see the sights: America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass
The best way to see the sights: America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass
National parks play home to some of the best landscape and nature photography opportunities this planet has to offer. This $80 pass provides a full year of admission to the parks, as well as covering standard amenity fees and day use fees for everyone who can fit into a single vehicle. It costs $35 or more just to enter the major parks, so the savings can really start to add up if you visit multiples. If you’re worried the person you’re gifting doesn’t live close enough to National Parks to make use of it, you may be surprised to find out just how much federally managed land exists within driving distance of most people. You can check out this interactive map to find places to visit.
The best way to get into instant film: Fujifilm Instax Mini 40
Fujifilm instant cameras are incredibly popular. And for good reason. They’re fun to use and the results look pretty darn solid. Plus who doesn’t love a physical memory they can share with pals? The latest addition to Fujifilm’s line is the new Instax Mini 40 which uses the brand’s smallest Instax Mini film.
With retro-chic stylings and super-simple functionality, the Mini 40 is the perfect analog camera for parties and other social celebrations. Shots are about the size of a trading card and cost roughly $0.50 per image (if you buy the multipacks of film). And a bright built-in flash provides ample illumination for low-light portraits. Plus, the front of the camera lens sports a tiny “selfie” mirror. For a more affordable Instax Mini option, Fujifilm also sells the Instax Mini 11, which is admittedly less stylish than the Mini 40, but offers the exact same functionality.
The best instant film camera for an old school look: Polaroid Go Instant Camera Kit
Don’t let the Polaroid Go’s cute looks fool you: It’s a very capable instant camera with some surprisingly advanced features. The camera itself shoots familiar Polaroid instant film, and this kit comes with two packs of eight exposures each. You can leave the camera on full-auto mode, which gives that classic Polaroid look. But, it also allows shooters to engage a double exposure mode, which takes two pictures on top of each other on a single sheet of film. A built-in self-timer lets photographers set up shots and then run over to get in them. A small mirrored surface on the front of the camera ensures properly framed selfies, so the subjects don’t end up too far at the top, bottom, or side of the frame.
The best photo printer to turn smartphone photos analog: Fujifilm Instax Wide Printer
Printing photos and sharing them with friends is back in vogue. And Fujifilm’s latest Instax Wide Printer is among our favorite pocket-friendly printing devices. It’s incredibly simple to operate and makes use of the brand’s largest Instax film (with an image size of 3.9 x 2.4 inches).
Pair it with your smartphone or tablet and get printing in no time. Shots take about 12 seconds to churn out and cost around $1 per print. This makes it the perfect device for creating custom holiday cards, thank you notes, and/or event invitations. Plus, the unit uses rechargeable batteries that are good for approximately 100 prints. The Instax Wide Printer is available now in two sleek colors, Ash White and Mocha Grey.
The best camera bag for everyday adventures: Wandrd Prvke Lite camera backpack
There are a lot of camera backpacks on the market. And finding the right one can often be a case of trial and error. What works for you may not work for someone else. Still, some bags are built with better functionality and more useful features than others. And the new Wandrd Prvke Lite is one of those bags. Best suited for mirrorless systems, Wandrd also makes a full-sized version of the Prvke for DSLR users.
So what makes this pack so special? For one, it’s incredibly comfortable to carry, even when stuffed to the gills with gear. And a roll-top design means the storage capacity of the bag is impressively expandable. The exterior is made from a waterproof material, and the zippers also feature a waterproof seal, so there’s no need for a rain cover.
A wide range of pockets provide storage for large tech, like laptops and tablets, as well as smaller items like pens and memory cards. And the main camera compartment is reasonably spacious and features a handy “quick-draw” opening along the side, for easy access to your rig. All in all it’s a smart, stylish bag that should last the long haul.
The best way to get started with off-camera flash: Godox V860 III TTL flash
Getting into flash photography can be intimidating, but it’s much easier now than it ever has been in the past. This powerful flash can mount to the top of a camera and provide automatic or manual exposure just like any other hot-shoe strobe. It also has a radio built-in that lets it take commands from a wireless transmitter. So, you can put this flash all the way across a football field and control its power and its firing right from the top of the camera. No need to hire an athletic assistant to keep running down to make adjustments.
The flash relies on a rechargeable battery pack instead of wasteful, inefficient AA cells, so photographers can practice and experiment as much as they want with basically zero cost. Plus, the wireless system works together, so if your recipient wants to expand their lighting arsenal later, they can add more lights that work with the same trigger.
The best way to store files on the go: SanDisk Extreme PRO Portable SSD V2 [sponsored]
Looking for a gift for photographers on the go? To store, transfer or edit their best work, they need fast, high-capacity storage that’s reliable enough to take on any adventure. The SanDisk Extreme PRO Portable SSD V2 provides powerful solid-state performance in a ruggedized, dependable storage solution.
Nearly twice as fast as the previous generation and available in up to 4TB, this drive boasts powerful NVMe solid-state performance of up to 2000Mbps read/write speeds. Its forged-aluminum chassis and silicon shell offer a premium feel and acts as a heatsink to help deliver higher sustained speeds. With up to two-meter drop protection, IP55 water and dust resistance, and a handy carabiner loop for securing the drive to a belt or backpack, this drive is tough enough to take anywhere. For extra peace of mind, 256-bit AES hardware encryption helps keep photos and video password-protected and secure.
The best drone for photography enthusiasts with aerial aspirations: DJI Mini SE drone
Whether they know it or not, every pilot flying a drone in the US is supposed to register their craft with the FAA. That is, of course, unless the flying machine weighs less than 250 grams. DJI’s Mini SE comes in at a convenient 249 grams, which means whoever you give it to can it from box, to charger, to the sky with no red tape to sort out. Despite the drone’s tiny size, it’s still very capable from a camera standpoint. Its 2.7K camera relies on a 3-axis gimbal to shoot super-steady, high-res footage you can preview from your smartphone on the ground. With a maximum flight time of 30 minutes, it’s a great tool for occasional aerial photographers or those trying to hone their piloting skills before working up to a more advanced craft.
The best GoPro camera for your camera bag: GoPro Hero 10 Black
People used to refer to GoPros as “helmet cams” because they were primarily useful for extreme athletes as they hurled themselves into or out of the sky. In reality, GoPro’s super-rugged, UHD camera is a great little tool that deserves a place in pretty much any camera bag. It can pull down 5.3K UHD video as well as 23-megapixel still photographs despite its tiny size. It has a front and rear screen for composing and reviewing shots. Plus, it connects security to a smartphone for live streaming or more advanced camera controls.
The whole thing is both impact and water-resistant without the need for an extra case. Most importantly, however, its built-in image stabilization feels borderline magical. It makes easy work of smoothing out burly mountain bike runs or snowboard shred sessions, but it’s also unbeatable when it comes to simply walking around shooting footage that won’t make your viewers feel queasy.
The best street photography camera for inconspicuous shooting: Ricoh GR IIIx
The rein of the compact camera is long over. And these days, the most notable pocket cameras are often the high-end models intended for a niche market, like the Ricoh GR IIIx. The GR line has long maintained a cult following amongst street photographers. And this updated model should equally appeal to street and candid shooters. It sports a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor along with a 40mm f/2.8 equivalent lens, in a supremely pocketable package.
You’ll find a nicely-sized 3-inch touchscreen on the back, while a range of tactile controls adorn the rest of the body (including Ricoh’s famed pill-shaped shutter release). Of course, if you prefer a wider field of view than 40mm, there’s also the standard Ricoh GR III, which is essentially the same camera, but with a 28mm f/2.8 equivalent lens.
The best mirrorless camera they can grow into: Fujifilm X-E4 kit with 27mm f/2.8 lens
The X-E4 is Fujifilm’s most compact X-mount camera body. But despite its small size, it offers the same image and video quality, as well as speed and autofocus capabilities as its flagship sibling, the X-T4. Styled to look like a classic rangefinder, this APS-C camera features a high-resolution electronic viewfinder, a well-sized tilting touchscreen, and a pleasant smattering of tactile control points (including an AF joystick).
Paired with the weather-sealed 27mm f/2.8 kit lens, the package offers a 40mm equivalent field of view—perfect for street, travel, or candid photography. And with 18 different “Film Simulations” to choose from, you’ll be able to dial in the perfect look, for any shooting scenario (we’re especially fans of the new “Classic Negative” simulation). Moreover, if you long for the days of shooting film, this just may be the perfect digital camera to emulate that experience.