Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Practical Gifts for Photographers

There are lots of nifty photography related gifts out there, ranging from lens coffee mugs, Photoshop refrigerator magnets, camera cookie cutters, wacky miniature tripods, and tiny DSLR-shaped flash drives. Other people have compiled lists of these items already, so here are some practical tools and materials instead. They are categorized by general purposes as well as by digital and film photography. Some items for the darkroom are discontinued, so this list is being uploaded early enough to wait for them to go up for sale.

General Purposes

Non-slip shoulder straps that keep the weight off your neck. Comes in various sizes, nylon or kevlar (the latter for slot strap attachments, e.g., Canon DSLRs), and with or without quick releases. $22-54.

BlackRapid RS-7
The original Y-strap brand. Popular with sports and bird photographers (or anyone who uses long telephotos). $60.

LumaLabs Cinch
After losing a patent infringement suit with BlackRapid, LumaLabs came up with a new design. (I get the feeling that Lutz Konermann came up with the whole Y-strap idea first, though.) $50-60.

Sun-Sniper Pro
Another sling strap, but this one has a swiveling ball bearing connector. 69€ inc. VAT,  or about $75 minus VAT.

Leicatime Wrist Strap
Makers of leather goods (belts, wallets, bags, etc.) have proliferated in recent years, but Luigi is the original camera case and strap maker...I think. $45 + $20 shipping.

Artist&Artisan Wrist Strap
While A&A is more famous for their bags and shoulder straps, the thing I like most is their wrist strap. $80.

Tipton & Co. Shoulder Strap
Another one of those leather goods companies that are cropping up everywhere. These are styled like English bridle leather belts. Fixed length with finished edges. Currently out of stock. $80.

JnK NS 235 Braided Leather Neck Strap
Perhaps the best braided leather strap. Note the finished edges and stitched, not riveted, ends. 150000 (~$140).

Fox River Wick Dry® Therm-O-Liner Glove
Glove liners like these are the base layer for taking photos in cold weather. $12.

POW Pho-Tog Glove
The next layer should be a glove where at least the thumb and index finger fold back. $45.

SealSkinz Outdoor Sports Mitten
Glomitts are another option for the second layer. $60.

Outdoor Research Meteor Mitts
Designed as a system, these waterproof mittens come with a fleece glomitt liner. $70.

Onyx ArcticShield Glomitts
These water resistant glomitts go well with the POW Pho-Tog Gloves. $40.

Tom Abrahamsson Softies
In handheld photography, soft releases are used to trip the shutter with as little camera motion as possible. The shutter button on your camera needs to be threaded for these to screw into. Classic or mini. $20.

Linhof Heavy Duty Cable Release
Is it any surprise that Linhof makes the most durable, highest quality cable release? Comes in 13.5'', 17'', 21'', and 30'' lengths. About $60-70.

Leica Tabletop Tripod & Ballhead
What are tabletop tripods good for? Taking photos of food? $120 + $285.

Hakuhodo 210 Blush Brush
For lens cleaning. Hakuhodo is one of the better cosmetic brush manufacturers, along with Chikuhodo. Round, 30mm head, goat hair (appropriate for oil-based makeup). $36.

Microdear Cleaning Cloth
Calling this microfiber cloth "dear" makes sense because it is soft and gentle. $20.

ROR (Residual Oil Remover)
Aside from lenses, this works well on LCD screens. $8.

B+W MRC Filters
The Multi-Resistant Coating repels moisture and dust, so screw these on when you're at the beach, near a waterfall, in the desert, etc. As their names indicate, UV Haze reduces atmospheric haze in the distance, and Skylight (KR-1.5) corrects the blue cast of bright, sunny days. About $40-80.

Hoya HRT Circular Polarizing Filter
Cuts down on reflections and deepens blue skies. The High Rate Transparency polarizing film reduces the filter factor by 1/3 stop. $36-120 depending on diameter.

Rosco Strobist 55-Piece Filter Kit
Includes 20 colors, most with extras. Gel holder not included. $8.

LumiQuest Softbox-III
Popular diffuser for accessory flashes. About $40.

California SunBounce Mini
Mid-sized reflector for outdoor portraits. The price might seem excessive, but you'll appreciate the frame and handles when it's windy. 3x4 ft. $265.

The Photographer's Ephemeris
Outdoor photographers can't move the sun and moon where they want it to be, but with apps like this one they can plan to be in the right place at the right time. Available for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows, and Mac. $9.

Does pretty much the same thing as The Photographer's Ephemeris, only simpler. Available for iPhone only. $5.

This app is mostly used as a scouting tool, but it can also be used with viewfinder-less cameras. The Basic version ($12) supports all formats up to 35mm (analog and digital), while the Pro version ($20) supports medium and large formats as well. There is a specialized version called the ALPA eFinder ($12) for Alpa medium format technical cameras. All versions are compatible with a variety of wide angle converters. Available for iPhone and iPad.

A few of the functions of this cinematographer's app are useful for still photographers. For example, it can calculate depth of field, hyperfocal distance, and field of view. It would be nice if there was a version just for photographers, though. Available for iPhone and iPad. $30.

Digital Photography

WhiBal Pocket Kit
Wallet sized reference card for setting white balance. $30.

X-Rite ColorChecker Passport
Combines a 24 patch color chart for making DNG profiles (software included), a white balance target, and a warming/cooling target in a rugged little package. $100.

Eyelead Sensor Cleaning Kit SCK-1
Basically the same as the Pentax Cleaning Kit O-ICK1 and Dot Line DL-AC01, except the sticky thing is blue instead of orange. I figure one should avoid exciting colors while cleaning a sensor. $32 including shipping.

Reid Reviews
Sean Reid specializes in reviewing rangefinder and mirrorless camera gear. He takes an artistic approach to lens reviews by discussing how they "draw," their optical signature. $33 for a yearly subscription.

Luminous Landscape
Video tutorials from Michael Reichmann and company. MFDB and printmaking are their strong suit. $10-60.

A subscription to one of Lloyd Chambers's guides will help anyone who wants "high image quality." Primarily for landscape photographers who use full frame and mirrorless cameras. There are also a lot of free articles, and he writes a great blog. $50 for a yearly subscription to one guide.

Thom Hogan writes eBooks on getting the most out of Nikon cameras. His website also has free articles on landscape photography, camera and lens reviews, and a must-read blog on the business side of the camera industry. Don't forget to check out $40-80 per eBook.

Film Photography

Fujifilm E-6 Prepaid Mailer
These prepaid mailers solve the problem of not living near a lab that handles E-6. On the other hand, I bet all professional labs, such as Richard Photo Lab in Los Angeles, will develop film by mail nowadays. It just won't be prepaid for gift-giving. $8.50 per roll of 135 or 120.

Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Miniature Brushes
For spotting prints, you need brushes of several sizes ranging from 0 to 00000 depending on print size and film type. Size 000 is a good starting point. These miniature versions have shorter bristles than the regular brushes to allow for finer control. $11-13.

Hewes Reels
These film developing reels are the easiest to load because of the well designed catches on the center post and the thicker wires. A bad way to start a darkroom session is to put kinks in your film, something that tends to happen with other reels. $28 for 135, $30 for 120, $39 for 220.

Jobo Film Clips
Sadly discontinued, these clips securely hold onto 35mm and medium format film by poking them with a needle. These show up on eBay once in a while, so save a search and wait. About $1-2 each.

Jobo Sheet Film Clips
Same as the above except for large format. Original retail price was $40, and a bag just sold on eBay for $50.

Kodak Dental Film Clips
An alternative to Jobo Sheet Film Clips. They're discontinued, of course. A person on eBay is trying to sell several boxes for $100 each, though $25 is more reasonable.

Kodak Process Thermometer Type 3
Big, unwieldy, and expensive, yet ridiculously accurate, not to mention steel armored. They're also easy to find on eBay. Read what master printmaker Ctein says about it on The Online Photographer. $50-100.

Versalab Print Washer
Washing prints in a large developing tray is not the most effective or efficient way to do it. Comes in 11x14, 16x20, and 20x24 sizes. $190, $265, and $385, respectively.

Vue-All Archival Safe-T Binder/Besfile Archival Storage Binder
Organize your negatives and store them upright while keeping away dust. The Vue-All comes in white and black, and the Besfile also comes in grey. $14.

Lineco Drop Front Archival Boxes
Acid- and lignin-free boxes for storing prints. Tan is the most popular, but they also come in black and blue/grey. $20-55.

Amber Boston Round Glass Bottles
Vintage bottles are nice for storing chemistry, but these regular 1L bottles will suffice. $42 for a dozen.

Harman Titan 4x5
This pinhole camera designed by Mike Walker features interchangeable lens cones for 72mm (included in the kit), 110mm, and 150mm. $220.

S.K. Grimes Spanner Wrenches
If you like repairing old lenses, you'll love these heavy duty spanner wrenches. Available with round or flat tips. $38 for one or $68 for both, shipping included.

Rubber Lens Repair Tools
These friction tools unscrew the engraved ring on the front of many lenses. They come in sizes 37-40mm, 43-46mm, 49-52mm, 55-58mm, 62-67mm, 72-77mm, 82-86mm, and 95-105mm. About $10 each or $85 for the set.

Doran/Premier/Arkay Paper Safe
Stores and gives easy access to enlarging paper. Available in sizes from 8x10 to 30x40. $30-170.

Micromega/Peak Critical Grain Focuser
The swiveling eyepiece makes it possible to check focus into the far corners. There are usually several for sale on eBay. $50-250.

Nikor 4x5 Developing Tank
Yes, it's spelled with only one "K," to avoid confusion. The reel holds 12 sheets of 4x5 film. Can be found on eBay and in the classifieds of Large Format Photography Forum. $150-250.

MOD54 MK27 4x5 Film Adapter
This adapter can hold six sheets of 4x5 film, and it fits into a Paterson 3-wheel tank. They sell them in kits if you don't have a Paterson already. £44.50 for the adapter alone (~$70) and £68 for the kit (~$100).

Everybody wants to try Pyro at least once. Pyrocat-HD, formulated by Sandy King, is one of the more popular versions. $14.50 to make 10L.

Ilford Cibachrome-A Filter Set
While the cyan filters are basically useless since the death of Ilfochrome last year, the magenta and yellow filters can still be used for RA-4 color printing. The Arista filter set that Freestyle sells comes in a manila envelope and costs $40, but the discontinued Ilford set comes in a nice box with labelled dividers to keep things organized. They go up on eBay once in a while. About $20.

Stephen Keen Contact Printing Frame
Alternative processes such as platinum or palladium printing and cyanotypes need to be contact printed. The most popular large format for alternative processes is 8x10, which most people print onto 11x14 paper. Stephen Keen's frames are beautifully made, but Bostick & Sullivan makes good ones that are more readily available. About $150-300.

Cabin/Mamiya Loupe
Mamiya used to sell these loupes made by Cabin in 3x, 3.5x, 4x, 5x, and 8x magnifications. They came with a pair of interchangeable skirts, one opaque for viewing negatives on a light table (which Cabin makes), and one translucent for examining contact sheets. Some Cabin loupes have a knurled focusing ring nowadays. Loupes are especially useful for editing 35mm negatives, where a 4x loupe works best, and it can also be used to focus view cameras. As for the other magnifications, 8x is used for either checking focus and detail or viewing subminiature formats, 3.5x is for viewing 6x6 and 6x4.5, and 3x is for viewing 6x7. Available on eBay for $50-200.

Kinetronics Anti-Static Brush
Taking film out of plastic storage sheets generates static, so these brushes are great for removing dust. They come in many sizes, but the main ones are the 1.25'', 2.5'', and 4'' brushes for small, medium, and large format, respectively. $17-28.

Stouffer Step Wedges
If you shoot large format and are interested in the Zone System or alternative processes, you'll probably want two step wedges to test paper and film: a T2115 or T3110 for paper, and a TP4x5-21 or TP4x5-31 for film. Wedges with 21 steps are in half stops, which is easier to mentally calculate, and those with 31 steps are in third stops for more precision. Read Beyond The Zone System by Phil Davis to learn how to use them. Uncalibrated scales are all you need, and you can calibrate it yourself for fun if you ever get a densitometer. $7-53.

Massive Dev Chart
A developing timer hooked up with a comprehensive, programmable database of developers and film stocks at various dilutions and exposure indices. Available for iPhone and iPad. $9.

Reciprocity Timer
Large format and night photographers often use long exposures and have to compensate for reciprocity failure, hence this app. Available for iPhone and iPad. $2.

Film Tracks
For taking notes on exposure settings. Available for iPhone and iPad. $1.

Pocket Light Meter
This app takes surprisingly accurate light readings. Available for iPhone and iPad. Free with ads, $1 to remove the ads, and $5 to buy the programmer a pint.

The shutter speeds on old cameras are usually off, so it's very useful to be able to test them before and after DIY repairs. This accessory and app combo measures the duration of light transmission and works up to 1/500 sec (I'm guessing the acoustic app-only version is best reserved for testing the slow speed escapement). Available for iOS and Android. €16 or about $20 USD.

Last updated: December 23, 2014.

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