First, let me be clear about this guide: This is not the guide for picking the best gift for the photographer in your life. Instead, this one is specifically for photographers. Whether you’re a photographer with a life-long allegiance to a brand or if you’re just jumping into photography for the first time, this guide will help you blow that year-end bonus (or simply upgrade your kit) with these picks.
The Longest Journey Starts with The First Step
For the newbie that’s looking to step away from their smartphone and step up to “real” camera, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is the perfect gateway drug to a life of chasing light and saying things like, “I’m mostly a natural light photographer.” The truth is, that the OM-D E-M10MkIII is a powerful yet compact camera with tons of lens options to keep someone learning and growing as a photographer. It has all of the necessary connectivity features that would make it feel-at-home to a mobile-first user and tons of advanced options (full manual controls, video options, etc.) for the high-level enthusiast that needs a serious camera but doesn’t want to lug their workhorse on a trip. Coming in at $600 with a lens, memory card, and a bag – it offers everything you would need to get started on your photography journey.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III via Olympus
- 16-Megapixel Micro Four-Thirds CMOS sensor without Anti-Aliasing Filter
- TruePic VIII processor
- 121-point Contrast Detect Auto Focusing System
- In-body 5-axis image stabilization
- 8.6 fps high/ 4.8 fps low continuous shooting
- 2.36M dot Electronic Viewfinder
- 4k Video at 24 and 30 fps | Nighttime Live Composite (for those star trail photos or light painting) | 15 Art Filters
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III with Lens, SD Card, & Bag – $600
For the Street Photographer
Personally, I’ve been waiting for Fujifilm’s X-Pro 3. I’ve put off buying an X-T3 (I’m currently using an X-T2 as my go-to camera) because I knew that a new X-Pro 3 would be forthcoming. For those who waited, the X-Pro 3 is finally here and it absolutely makes this year’s photographer’s wish list. The rangefinder-styled camera packs all of the internals of the X-T3 in the street photographer-friendly chassis and makes a few notable tweaks. For starters, there’s 3.6 million dot hybrid EVF and a hidden, 180-degree tilt display that encourages photographers to focus on the moment and not chimping. Based on my hands-on with the camera this year’s PhotoPlus Expo, I strongly recommend spending a bit more for the Duratech-coated color variants in either DR Black or DR Silver – as it will provide protection for years to come.
FujiFilm X-Pro 3 via Fujifilm
- 26-megapixel CMOS APS-C Sensor
- X-Trans4 Imaging Processor
- ISO Range 160-12,800
- Hybrid Optical/Electronic Viewfinder with 100% frame coverage
- Intelligent Hybrid AF system (Contrast and Phase-Detection AF)
- Discrete 180-tilt rear monitor
- Titanium and Magnesium body construction with Duratech coating option (DR models)
Fujifilm X-Pro 3 DR Black (via Adorama) $1999.95
What if Vlogging is More My Thing?
The Canon G7X III has long found a home among vloggers for the camera’s robust video output and pocketability. The camera sports a stacked 1-inch sensor that can handle most shooting scenarios without adding much bulk to your existing kit. It works amazingly well as a BTS camera for working pros (get your highlight reel done) or the main camera for someone starting out as a vlogger. The Creator’s Kit helps those starting out with an included memory card, tabletop stand/selfie stick, and wireless remote bundled with the camera. It’s truly a great way to jump into video creation or expand on your YouTube empire.
Canon G7X III Tech Specs via Canon
- DIGIC 8 Imaging Processor
- 20.1 Megapixel** 1.0-inch stacked CMOS sensor
- Video: 4K up to 30p, Full HD up to 60p, FHD up to 120p,
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi®1 and Bluetooth®2 connectivity
- USB-C charge power supply
- Bundle Includes memory card, tabletop tripod/selfie stick, and wireless remote
Canon G7X III Creators Bundle – $899
Lights, Camera, Action
If you’re a pro photographer, you know that outside of your camera the most important tool at your disposal is lighting. The difference between lighting a subject well and not can make the difference between high-quality work and coming off as amateurish. That’s why if you do any kind of studio or portrait work, a high-quality strobe is a must! Here are two picks for both photographers and videographers:
For Photographers – A great workhorse strobe
The Flashpoint XPLOR 400PRO TTL is a great all-around strobe that can be packed up and transported to wherever you might be shooting. Thanks to its 2600mAh Lithium battery pack keeps it lightweight while still providing over 400 shots per charge (at full power). The XPLOR400 PRO TTL offers wireless TTL compatibility with all major camera manufacturers including harder to find options like Pentax, Panasonic, and Olympus.
Flashpoint XPLOR 400PRO TTL Key Features via Adorama
- Bowens S Mount
- Power Output: 9 stops: 1/256 – 1/1
- Power 400w 2600mAh Lithium Battery Pack – rated for 480 shots at full power
- High-Speed Sync up to 1/8000 second
- 30W Modeling Light
Flashpoint XPLOR 400PRO TTL with R2 Trigger (via Adorama) – $718
For Videographers – a Panel LED That Powers Your Phone
I’ve long mulled over the “need” of an ultra-portable lighting solution for video. Truth-be-told, most of the videos I make are of the run-and-gun, stills-camera used as a video camera variety. So, I don’t often have the need for an elaborate setup (for times where I do put myself in front of the camera, I use this thing) but sometimes you just want to be able to have a powerful light that’s easy to control and carry around. That’s why the Lume Cube Bi-Color LED Panel & Battery Bank is a must-have.
The Bi-Color LED Panel & Battery Bank offers videographers tons of control with its adjustable dimming in 5% increments (from 5%-100% power output) and color temperature control from 3600K (Tungsten) to 5600K (Noon Daylight). When not in use, you can easily plug your phone or small tablet in for a quick recharge.
LUME CUBE PANEL Specs via LUME CUBE
- Color Temperature: 3200K – 5600K
- Brightness Range 5%-100%, adjustable by 5% increments
- Max Brightness: 1600 Lux @ .5M
- CRI: 96+
- Run Time on 5% Brightness: 7.5 Hours
- Run Time on 50% Brightness: 3 Hours
- Run Time on 100% Brightness: 90 Minutes
- Rechargeable via Micro USB and USB-C
- Built-In Li-Polymer Battery: 3.85V 4040mAh
- Power bank Output: 5V 2A
- Dimensions: 151x80x9.8mm
- Weight: 180g