Best Camera Gifts and Accessories 2019

If you’re shopping for camera accessories or gifts for a photographer, you’ve come to the right place! I’ve put together a list of my essential camera accessories I never leave home without. From filters to tripods, batteries to storage, there’s something for everyone here, and best of all, most of the items are priced in the affordable double-digits. Note like my other guides they’re listed by review date, not in order of preference.

Check prices at Amazon, B&H, Adorama, eBay or Wex. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!

 

 

Best Camera Gifts and Photography Accessories

DJI Mavic Mini review

The DJI Mavic Mini is a compact and lightweight drone weighing just 249g, with a half-hour maximum flight time and a 12 Megapixel camera with 2.7k video on a three-axis stabilised gimbal. It brings aerial photography and video to the most portable form factor to date from DJI - light enough, in fact, to circumvent registration fees in the UK, USA and China. You might think the drone ends up making a lot of compromises to sneak in under a legal – rather than technical – milestone, but in fact the Mavic Mini offers better functionality than the Phantoms from only a few years ago in a much more portable package, so where’s the catch? Well, there’s no 4k, no manual control over video exposure beyond brightness, and limited photographic control too. There’s inevitably limitations when it comes to handling wind and bright sunshine (it can flare, and you’ll also need to get used to using exposure lock). These problems only really impact high-end enthusiasts and pros for whom the DJI Mavic Mini is not aimed at. It’s targeted at people who are happy with the quality from a modern phone, but desire new compositions from the air. For others it’s a (relatively) limited expense – less than a lot of lenses – which offers a very good taste of the prosumer drone market. A few silly accessories aside, DJI have hit the mark here. A great choice for first-time drone owners.

Check prices on the DJI Mavic Mini at Amazon, B&H, Adorama, or Wex. Alternatively get yourself a copy of Adam’s best-selling Drone Pilot’s Handbook – an excellent companion for any new or growing pilot or treat us to a coffee! Thanks!

QNAP TVS-472XT NAS review

QNAP really has delivered the best of both Worlds with its Thunderbolt-NAS drives: you get the potential speed of a directly-connected SSD drive that’s quick enough to actually edit video from, but coupled with the benefits of a traditional NAS, including large shared storage pools, protection against disk failure and automated online backup. The TVS-472XT hits a sweet-spot too, with a compact four-bay enclosure that cherry-picks the best of the connectivity of the higher-end models without being excessive for most smaller operations. You get a single 10 Gigabit ethernet port and twin Thunderbolt 3 ports, allowing you to directly connect three devices for very fast access, and if you’re lucky enough to have a 10Gbe network switch, the Thunderbolt ports also act as bridges, allowing suitably-equipped Macs or PCs to connect at maximum speed without splashing out on expensive 10Gbe adapters. Twin NVMe M.2 ports and upgradable RAM also provide easy routes for increasing performance for certain applications. Meanwhile a wealth of USB 3.1 ports allow quick connection to external drives - including a handy front-mounted port for easy backup - while an HDMI 2.0 port lets you connect the unit directly to a TV for media streaming in 4k up to 60p. QNAP rounds it all off with a powerful software suite that makes it easy to run media servers, security cameras or automated backups to cloud services. As someone who’s used traditional NAS units for years, I was already won-over by the traditional network aspects, but the direct Thunderbolt connection transforms its flexibility. Here’s a drive I can use for both traditional network storage and sharing as well as super-fast direct access similar in speed to a quick external drive. I can highly recommend it to any photographer or video creator, where the only real questions remaining are whether to go for the four, six or eight bay model and what drives to populate it with.

Check prices on the QNAP TVS-472XT at Amazon, B&H or Adorama. PS – Treat yourself to a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD review

The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is a rugged, pocket-sized drive that connects to new and old USB ports and exploits the size, speed and robustness of solid state storage. It works with Macs and PCs and is available in four models from 250GB to 2TB. It’s surprisingly compact, easily slipping into any pocket and the absence of moving parts makes it more robust and tolerant than traditional mechanical drives. The IP-55 rating allows it to shrug-off mild splashes, while the lightness means it can dangle from its short cable without damaging your ports - ideal for laptop workers who have to get up or move around. But it’s the speed that really impresses - when connected to a port that supports USB 3.1 Gen 2, like the USB-C ports on a modern Mac, it’ll achieve the quoted rates of up to 550Mbyte/s. This not only allows you to quickly backup data, but also easily free-up space to complete projects on a packed internal drive. Indeed it’s sufficiently fast for you to use it as active project storage when video editing, say to store common assets or a final render. I strongly believe everyone needs at least one portable drive, and if you value speed, size and robustness, the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is a perfect choice.

Check prices on the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD at Amazon, B&H or Adorama, or at Amazon.co.uk Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!

Rode Wireless Go review

The Rode Wireless Go brings wireless audio to mainstream video creators: smaller, lighter, cheaper and easier to use than any decent wireless system to date. Like all wireless systems, it gives you the freedom to walk around, unencumbered by cables or directional microphones and delivering the quoted 70m / 230 feet range given line-of-sight. It’s easy to use too: just switch on the units and seconds later they’re good to go with a helpful display indicating signal strength and battery life. Cleverly the clips on each unit are also the width of a coldshoe accessory, allowing you to slide them onto a camera hotshoe. But the real genius is the compact size coupled with a built-in microphone - sure you can connect your own lav mic if you prefer, but the transmitter is sufficiently compact for it to be clipped directly onto a collar. In my tests the audio quality was respectable, beating similarly-priced shotguns when used more than a couple of meters from the camera, especially outdoors. The relatively hot output means you’ll need to be careful with your camera’s audio levels when setting up and the built-in antennas mean the range is significantly reduced when you’re turned away or don’t have line-of-sight, so be warned if you have the transmitter in a back pocket. If you want the freedom to move around while you talk, not to mention greater resistance to echoey rooms or noisy exteriors, then you simply can’t beat a lav mic with a wireless connection - and the Rode Wireless Go gives it to you in a smaller, lighter and cheaper package than ever before, opening it up to a whole new audience. I can Highly Recommended it to any video creators taking their first steps into wireless audio.

Check prices on the Rode Wireless Go at B&H, Adorama or WEX!

Rode NT USB review

The Rode NT USB is a high quality USB microphone designed to capture broadcast-quality vocals or music with a simple USB connection to your computer or laptop; indeed, with the supplied pop shield, tabletop stand and long cable, you're ready to record high quality audio wherever you go. The NT USB is solidly built and fitted with a 3.5mm headphone jack as well as twin dials, one to adjust the headphone volume and the other to balance the mix between the microphone and the computer's own audio, making it ideal for calls or hangouts. The condenser design captures a broader range of frequencies than dynamic mics like the Podcaster, allowing it to deliver more precise and transparent audio, while the higher sensitivity lets you record from slightly further away too. The Podcaster may deliver more of a classic radio presenter sound as well as being better-suited to studio arm mounting, but if you need to record a broader range of sounds like singing or music, or prefer less coloured vocals, then the NT USB is the preferred (and my personal) choice.

Check prices on the Rode NT USB at Amazon, B&H, Adorama, or Wex. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!

Fujifilm Instax SQ6 review

The Fujifilm Instax SQ6 is an analogue instant camera styled to look like the classic Instagram logo. It's Fujifilm's second instant camera to use the Instax Square format, but unlike the earlier digital SQ10 it employs the simpler analogue process of the popular Instax Mini series. This makes it cheaper and while the lack of a sensor and internal storage means there's no way to print duplicate images nor view them on a screen first, many fans of the analogue system prefer its ephemeral nature as each print is literally unique. In a nice upgrade over the Instax Mini 9, there's the choice of three focusing ranges (thereby increasing the chance of a sharp image) and while the exposure remains automatic, the camera now has access to range of shutter speeds allowing it to better-handle bright scenes; the SQ6 is also supplied with three coloured filters for the flash to produce special effects. Ultimately the SQ6 brings the attractive Instax Square format to a broader audience with a more affordable body, not to mention one that shares the analogue charm of the best-selling Minis with just enough frills to increase the chance of a successful print. Some of these frills may have been seen before on the Mini 90 Neo models, but for much the same body price you can now enjoy them deployed with the larger square format. Budget seekers may still seek out the cheaper Mini 9, but I reckon the SQ6 is worth the extra for its greater sophistication plus the chance to use the square format. Recommended.

Check prices on the Fujifilm Instax SQ6 at Amazon, B&H, Adorama, or Wex. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!

BenQ SW271 review

The BenQ SW271 is a high-performance 27in 4k 16:9 IPS monitor, aimed at photographers and videographers who desire better colour accuracy than budget displays, but at a more affordable price than traditional pro monitors. The picture quality is excellent with a highly detailed and uniform image that can essentially display the entire Adobe RGB gamut. Colours look good out of the box, but calibration with third-party hardware ensures accuracy and the SW271 can implement the process independently of the source; the Black and White mode is also a quick way of previewing how an image will look in monochrome at the touch of a button. There's a wealth of inputs including USB-C, HDMI and DisplayPort, as well as an SD slot, USB hub and a handy puck for easier navigation of the menus and colour spaces. The bezel is attractively thin, the stand substantial, and the supplied hood keeps the display free from reflections. If you don't need to view the Adobe RGB gamut or indeed don't need 4k, then there's cheaper monitors available, and if your core requirement is gaming or watching HDR video, there are alternative displays which will out-perform it. But if you desire the 4k real-estate, value colour accuracy, and can exploit the calibration, the BenQ SW271 will give you pro-performance at a more affordable price point, while also doing a fair job at movies and gaming. It comes Highly Recommended for photographers and video editors.

Check prices on the BenQ SW271 Monitor at Amazon, B&H, Adorama, or Wex. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!

WD My Passport Ultra review

Backing up your data, whether it's photos, videos, music or plain old documents, is critically important, and a crucial part of the process is transporting the backup to a different location. This is why portable drives are so useful. They can store and transport a large quantity of data quickly and easily - just one USB cable will transfer the data and power the drive, and once complete, they're small enough to slip into a jacket or even trouser pocket. Their portability also makes them great for providing more storage for laptop owners who've filled their internal drives, but aren't ready for a system upgrade quite yet. I own several WD portable drives and can highly recommend them. My personal preference is for capacity and value, so I'd go for the Elements models over the Ultras, but the prices can be so close I'd simply buy the one that represents the best value at the time of ordering. The bottom line though is to protect your data sooner rather than later. These drives are so affordable they're a no-brainer for the flexibility and peace of mind they deliver.

Check prices on the WD My Passport Ultra at Amazon, B&H, or Adorama. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!

Retro Cameras book review

Retro Cameras is a compact and stylish hardback that tells the story behind 100 vintage film cameras. Spanning a period of 50 years, it presents each camera with a brief but informative history, key facts and a selection of original product photos. You'll find familiar names here from Pentax, Olympus, Polaroid and Kodak, mixed in equal measure with esoterics and rarities like Mecaflex, Globuscope and Mick-a-matic. It's pitched as a guide for collectors of classic film cameras, but works equally well for camera historians not to mention anyone simply wanting a great-looking addition to their coffee table. Suffice it to say, it's a great gift for photographers who love older cameras.

Check prices on the Retro Cameras book at Amazon. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!

Manfrotto MT190XPRO3 tripod review

If you're looking for a solid and stable tripod without spending a fortune, Manfrotto's 190 series has always been a popular choice. With the latest MT190 range, Manfrotto's beefed-up the specs to become virtually identical to the earlier higher-end 055 models. While this makes them larger than before, it means all four MT190 tripods can become sufficiently tall for most photographers to use without extending the central column, while their 7kg load should accommodate most systems. Like earlier PRO models, you can lift the centre column up and angle it down by 90 degrees, allowing you to shoot straight down or at very low heights. The redesigned mechanism can be fiddly at times, but occupies less space and still locks securely. Meanwhile the new locks grip the legs more firmly and the simple modification of a spirit level on a rotating platform allows it to considerately avoid obstructing the head. The MT190 may have become more substantial, but it's more serious as a result and one of the best tripods around without spending a fortune.

Manfrotto XPRO BHQ2 ball head review

The MHXPRO-BHQ2, or XPRO for short, is Manfrotto's top ball head, designed to quickly and smoothly adjust substantial loads before locking them securely in place. Its aluminium and magnesium alloy construction allows a fairly light weight of half a kilo while supporting loads up to 10kg. The head also allows 360 degree panoramic adjustment with markings on the base and an independent lock. The main locking mechanism employs three grips with an adjustable friction control, while the quick release bracket features two spirit levels and accommodates Manfrotto's 200PL-14 plate (with one supplied). Designed to pair with Manfrotto's 190 and 055 series tripods, but compatible with any legs with a standard 3/8in thread, the XPRO ball head is one of the best serious options without spending a great deal on esoteric or luxury brands.

Check prices on the Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ2 at Amazon, B&H, or Adorama. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!

Canon SELPHY CP1300 review

Canon's SELPHY CP1300 is a fun little wireless printer for when you simply want high quality glossy postcard-sized prints. Connect your phone, tablet, laptop or camera over Wifi, direct USB or by inserting an SD card and in less than a minute it'll output 6x4in lab-quality prints using a dye sublimation process that looks much better than rival inkjets and won't get clogged over time either. The cost per print of around 28 cents / 28p is more than most high-street labs and online services, but there's no waiting or delivery fees. It'll also generate ID photos for passports and driving licenses as well as creating photobooth-style strips or combining multiple images per sheet. Ideal for occasional use, parties or events, especially coupled with the optional battery pack, the CP1300 is a fun addition to any photographer's household.

Check prices on the Canon SELPHY CP-1300 at Amazon, B&H, or Adorama. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 review

The Instax Mini 9 is one of the most affordable cameras to use Fujifilm's hugely popular Instax Mini film cartridges - these produce small business card size prints which emerge seconds after taking the photo and self-develop before your eyes within a minute. The Mini 9 is almost identical to the best-selling Mini 8, but adds a small mirror by the lens for framing selfies, is supplied with a close-up adapter lens, and available in five pastel colours. Like other Instax Mini cameras, don't expect 100% accurate framing with the basic viewfinder and beware that prints can often be over-exposed under very bright conditions. If you want instant pictures with accurate framing and guaranteed exposure, then consider Fujifilm's digital Instax SQ10, or their portable Instax printer that'll talk to phones and other cameras. But once you understand what Instax Mini can and cannot do, it's enormous fun. I've not met anyone, young or old, who's not spellbound by a low-cost camera that pumps out instant prints, and it's perfect for events or breaking the ice in street photography. There are more sophisticated and compact models in the Instax Mini range, but I'm fond of the basic charm the Mini 9 inherits from its predecessor. Once again it may not cope with all conditions, but I still believe very home should have one. Refreshingly retro and recommended!

Check prices on the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 at Amazon, B&H, or Adorama. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!

Feisol TT-15 Mark II mini tripod review

Feisol's TT-15 Mark II is my favourite table-top tripod, boasting surprising stability and strength thanks to its milled-aluminium frame, carbon fiber legs and rubber feet. Unlike some table-top tripods the legs don't extend nor does it come with a built-in head, but their absence coupled with the high-end build quality are actually the secrets of its success: rather than compromising stability by including arguably unnecessary frills, Feisol has designed a simple product that does what it does extremely well. I've successfully used the TT-15 II with compacts and mirrorless cameras of all sizes, and even semi-pro DSLRs, while shooting long exposures or filming video. Yes it's more expensive than the popular Manfrotto PIXI and the smaller Gorillapods, but having owned all of them, it's the TT-15 II that stays in my bag at all times thanks to its superior performance - plus if you're coming from the high-end, it's also roughly half the price of the RRS Pocket Pod.

Check prices on the Feisol TT15 II at Amazon, B&H, or Adorama. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!

Manfrotto XPRO Geared Head review

The Manfrotto XPRO geared head is the lightest and most affordable option for those wanting to experience the joy of precision tripod photography. Like all geared heads, you can fine-tune your camera's position in three axes with a twist of the appropriate knobs, and while the gearing isn't as fine as more expensive models, it's good enough to position most systems. The maximum load of 4Kg will easily accommodate any mirrorless camera or mid-range DSLR with a decent lens in comfort. Like other geared heads, the ratio isn't designed for sweeping video pans, and anyone wanting absolute repeatability for bracketing work should look for a model with a lock; higher-end photographers will also miss an Arca dovetail or means to swap the clamp for one. But as an entry to geared-head photography, the XPRO is a triumph, offering the control beloved by macro, architectural, studio and other precision genres at an affordable price. Seasoned gear-head users might also pick one up for use with smaller legs and cameras, as it's one of the lightest options around.

Digital Retro - The Evolution and Design of the Personal…

Digital Retro is a coffee table book by Cameralabs' Editor Gordon Laing, and a great gift for geeks! It tells the story behind 44 classic computers of the Seventies and Eighties, revealing the inspiration behind each machine, it's goals, specifications and what ultimately went wrong. Each and every model was tracked down from museums and private collections to be lovingly photographed. Where possible the original designers and engineers of each system were interviewed to ensure technical and historic accuracy. Digital Retro is an essential read for anyone who owned or lusted after a computer in the Eighties. If the mere mention of Sinclair, Commodore, Atari or Acorn brings a fond tear to your eye, it's the book for you! Check prices at Amazon, B&H, Adorama, eBay or Wex. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!

In Camera book - perfect photos out-of-camera

In Camera is a photography book by Cameralabs Editor, Gordon Laing. It celebrates the art of JPEG photography with 100 of his travel images, all presented out-of-camera. No filter, no Photoshop, just pure photography! Each photo is accompanied by behind the scenes details, techniques and settings. Everything you need to shoot confidently in-camera! A great gift for beginner or advanced photographers!

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