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Photography holiday gift guide

Photography holiday gift guide

Even before Thanksgiving, retailers were piping in Christmas music. Sure, at first you hum along not realizing they are messing with your subliminal mind, and before you snap out of the zombie-type acceptance that Christmas music is playing in early November, if you are like me you start to think about gifts for your loved ones. Now the pressure is on, but it doesn’t have to be. Shop along with some of our staff photographers and  do something for yourself this holiday season. Here are a few choice items selected from members of the L.A. Times photo staff.

Photo lens mugs: If you have a family member or friend who is a Canon or Nikon enthusiast, the perfect gift would be a lens mug. The mug from Photojojo looks just like your favorite mid-range zoom lens.

The mug is very realistic and features a stainless-steel lining. It will turn heads when you’re sipping your favorite brew.

If you’re not a coffee or tea drinker, the A Plus Computer Support suggests using it as a flowerpot. The Canon Coffee Mug sells for $24 and Nikon Zoom goes for $30 at the Photojojo store. — Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times

“From Still to Motion: A Photographer’s Guide to Creating Video With Your DSLR”:

This book is perfect for someone who is ready to take the plunge and get serious with a video-ready DSLR camera. The book, co-written by James Ball, Robbie Carman, Matt Gottshalk and Richard Harrington, is a great introduction into video for those of us used to just taking single frames with our cameras.

The book takes you through the process, featuring topics including lighting, sound, stop-motion, time-lapse and studio work from pre-production to the finish. Also included is a DVD with more than six hours of extra training and footage to practice with. “From Still to Motion” is available at bookstores and online with a list price of $49.99. — Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times

Canon PIXMA MG5220 photo printer:
The Canon PIXMA MG5220 is a highly capable wireless ink-jet photo printer, scanner and copier with a stylish, glossy-black design. It has five individual ink tanks and produces excellent quality, borderless color prints up to 8.5-by-11 inches with impressive speed.

It’s equipped with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi networking for fast wireless scanning and printing from any computer in the house. In addition, Canon provides via download a free app for both iOS and Android, which lets you print directly from an iPhone 3G, 3GS and 4, iPad and iPod Touch, as well as Android OS 1.6 and later devices. With the included HD Movie Print software, you can grab and print individual frames from HD video shot with Canon EOS D-SLR and PowerShot cameras, with excellent results.

It has a bright, 2.4-inch-diagonal tilt-up color LCD screen with a new interface and memory card support to print directly from virtually any card you can throw at it. With a ton of other useful features, including duplex printing, a full software suite for Mac OSX v10.4.11 and higher (including Snow Leopard v10.6) and Windows XP, Vista and 7, it lists for $149 with a discounted price of $99 or less. I highly recommended it. — Jerome Adamstein / Los Angeles Times

Olympus Stylus Tough cameras:
It would sure be nice to use a camera that was worry-free when out at the beach, mountain climbing or skiing. It always seems like I worry about getting my camera wet or dropping it. Olympus, with its Stylus Tough series, has solved the problem.

The cameras in the series vary depending on how much tough you need. The Stylus Tough-8010, priced at $379.99, is the most rugged and has some impressive stats: waterproof to 33 feet, shockproof up to a 6.5-foot drop and crush-proof to 220 pounds of pressure. This 14-megapixel, 5x-lens camera should meet most people’s outdoor needs.

Another in the line includes the Olympus Stylus Tough-6020. This camera is priced at $279.99. It’s waterproof to 16 feet and a drop of 5 feet. Stylus Tough-3000 is priced at $199.99. This camera is their lowest priced rugged camera and would probably work fine for most of us for  trips to the beach or swimming pool.  — Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times

Black Rapid RS-&7 camera strap:
Probably one of the most forgotten camera accessories is the camera strap. For the holiday list I picked the BlackRapid RS-7 strap, which features a non-conventional design connecting on the tripod mount. The camera hangs comfortably upside down on your side. This design allows the camera to be brought up quickly to your eye for shooting.

The strap is worn across your body instead on one shoulder or around your neck. It takes a little bit of a custom adjustment to fit the strap, but once it’s set, the camera glides easily up to your eye for taking photographs. The RS-7 camera strap is available from BlackRapid for $58.95. — Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times

Adobe Photoshop Elements 9:
If you’re looking for a gift of software, look no further. Photoshop Elements 9 is the perfect gift for a photo enthusiast looking to step up from the basic standard software that accompanies your PC or Mac. This software is made for both and is so much cheaper than Photoshop CS5 but still retains most of the important features. I find this to be one of the best bargains when you consider the features and price. You are really only limited to your imagination. Elements 9 will help you organize and edit your photographic masterpieces. The software cost $99.99. Check the Adobe website for a $20 Elements 9 rebate on purchases made from Sept. 21, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2011. — Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times


Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch:
Wacom has long been a leader in pro graphics tablets and its new consumer-oriented Bamboo range make using a tablet as an input device for your computer an affordable and fun option.

The Bamboo comes in five versions; my choice is the black Pen & Touch, which has two sensors, one for the included two-button, pressure-sensitive pen and the other for multi-touch finger input. The tablet is 9.8″x6.9″ is size while dimensions of the active areas for the pen and touch are 5.8″x3.6″ and 4.9″x3.4″ respectively.

The device connects via standard USB and the driver installs easily from the included CD, which includes fully-licensed copies of Adobe Photoshop Elements v7 for Windows and v6 for the Mac. It’s also ambidextrous — you can position the tablet on either side of your keyboard and set the orientation in the preferences.

In addition to the active surface, the tablet has four customizable buttons with a white on/off light in the center. The buttons can be set to perform functions such as right-clicks, control-clicks, and turning the touch surface on and off. You’ll find the latter essential since anything placed on the tablet when you’re not using it will cause your pointer to seemingly obtain a mind of its own as it moves randomly around the screen. In this case, hitting ‘Touch Off’ would be an excellent choice.

Another minor issue is that it’s somewhat difficult to intuitively hit the button you’re aiming for, even by cheating and looking down, since they’re flush with the surface and almost invisibly black. The upper and lower buttons have a tiny raised bit in the center for tactile recognition that helps somewhat; the inner two buttons that are smaller have the same thing reversed and as indents they are virtually impossible to feel.

The thing looks great and works extremely well with a slew of customizations, including pen or mouse mode, sensitivity, speed, acceleration, pan/scroll, tip and eraser feel — flipping the pen upside down presents a virtual eraser to the tablet surface — and many other functions. Not immediately obvious is that the red fabric loop on the edge isn’t just to present the company’s name rather stylishly; it forms a tube to hold the pen.

Once over the learning curve, you may decide to use the Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch as an adjunct to your mouse or as your sole input device, throwing the latter to your newly puzzled cat.

System requirements are Mac OS X v10.4.8 and higher and Windows XP w/SP2, Vista and 7. The list price is $99, which drops to a touch, if you will, above $80 on Amazon and elsewhere.

Pen this one on your holiday list.  — Jerome Adamstein / Los Angeles Times

Canon PowerShot SR1200 IS:
It’s holiday gift list time. Time for a new low-end point and shoot. My trusty 2004 Nikon Coolpix 5200 still works, but suffers from shutter delay,  so-so low light and only 5 megapixels.  Yes I shoot a lot,

have better cameras, but need a good pocket camera for unplanned photo ops.

My four-step process goes like this: First, have a budget and stick with it. I started with under $150. Second, list your important camera features. Mine are more than 10 megapixels, little shutter lag, pocket size and a viewfinder. Things like movie mode, face recognition, etc., I seldom use.

Now the hardest step: step three, narrow down to a couple of models. I went to the Canon, Nikon  and Amazon websites. Use those comparison tools. Read the reviews and pay attention your “must have” feature list. My short list of 2010 models was Nikon Coolpix S5100, Canon Powershot SR1300 IS and Canon Powershot A3100 IS. List price varied between $160 and $180 — before competitive price discounts.  But NO viewfinder on any model. So I went with a 2009 model, Canon Powershot SR1200 IS.

After 40 years of photography, it’s hard to switch from an optical viewfinder to a little television monitor. The fourth and final step: Compare prices. Go with the lowest price, but a reputable website or storefront. Hopefully this step can be left to the gift-giver. — Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

Leica M9:
For those with more money than you know what to do with, the perfect photography gift would be a Leica M9 18MP digital range-finder camera. At a retail price around $7,000 (that’s for the body only) it certainly is not in the price range for most of us.

This camera would look nice around the neck of the serious photojournalist or just for people taking snapshots of the kids or added as a cherished spot in your camera collection. Unfortunately, I’m not expecting Santa to put one of these in my stocking hanging on the fireplace. I haven’t been THAT nice; ask my wife, she’ll tell you.

The camera uses a Leica M mount lens matched with a full-frame sensor giving you the feeling of a 35 mm film camera. You will have no excuses with these state-of-the-art lenses.

The Leica M9 also includes a full license for Adobe Lightroom. — Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times



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