Real Cool Photo Tools: 13 Great Gifts for Creative Picture-Taking Enthusiasts

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To give you a heads-up for gift giving this holiday season, we’ve compiled a scrumptious selection of awesome gifts for the photo enthusiasts in your life that are guaranteed to put a smile on their faces and enhance their shooting experience. Our bodacious baker’s dozen includes items ranging from cool compact cameras to ingenious bags and straps, to the ever popular and always appreciated high-capacity memory cards, plus a smattering of offbeat items that, frankly, defy easy categorization. We hope this compendium of cool and colorful gift-worthy items inspires you, points you in the right direction, and helps you to make this a truly joyous season for all the image makers on your A-list—maybe even yourself!

Shootsac Lens Bag  This innovative body-hugging stealth lens bag has an interchangeable neoprene cover that hides the bulges and bumps of your lenses, adding an extra measure of security and protection when you’re on the go. This slim bandolier-style, 7-ounce carrier holds 3-6 lenses, flashes, or accessories in wetsuit-grade open neoprene pockets that help keep dust and dirt off your glass. The included neoprene messenger flap is removable and easily replaced with designer fabric pocket-style covers. Additionally, the pocket covers are backed with a Microsuede lens cloth to keep your optics squeaky clean.

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens  This commendably compact ultra-wide zoom for APS-C-format DSLRs covers an amazing ultra-wide-to-wide-angle 12-24mm equivalent range for creating exaggerated perspectives, capturing expansive landscapes, and opening up interior spaces. It incorporates FLD glass, hybrid and molded aspheric elements, a Super Multi-Layer coating to deliver crisp, flare-free images, and a Hyper-Sonic motor (HSM) to ensure fast quiet, AF performance. This will definitely expand any serious shooter’s horizons. Available for Canon, Nikon, Sony/Minolta, and Sigma mounts.

Fujifilm XQ1  This classy high-tech compact is the only camera in its class to employ Fuji’s cutting-edge 12MP 2/3” X-Trans CMOS II sensor, which uses a unique randomized pixel pattern to eliminate the optical low-pass filter and deliver enhanced sharpness and clarity. Its state-of-the-art, high-speed 25-100mm equivalent f/1.8-4.9 lens employs no less than four aspheric and three extra-low-dispersion elements to deliver outstanding imaging performance. Its Intelligent Hybrid AF system focuses in as little as 0.06 seconds to capture extreme action and it has built-in Wi-Fi connectivity for easy sharing.

Gitzo GM2561T Traveler Monopod  Constructed of 6x carbon fiber, this may well be the ultimate monopod in terms of light weight and impressive load capacity—it’ll support up to 9.9 pounds and weighs a mere 11.6 ounces. Its six-section twist-lock leg folds to an easy-to-pack 14.3 inches, yet it extends to an eye-level 56.1 inches. It features the Anti Leg Rotation (ALR) system, a Safe Lock Disc top plate to protect your equipment, and comes with a wrist strap and belt clip. It’s the ideal gift for the true monopod connoisseur.

High capacity, high-speed memory cards are essential for capturing large numbers of images on today’s ultra-high-megapixel cameras and for shooting high-speed bursts, Full HD, and 4K video without annoying dropouts, and make great gifts for any serious photographer.

Lexar 256GB SDXC Memory Card  Rated at 600x, this Ultra High Speed (UHS-I) Class 10 card delivers a maximum read speed of 90MB/s and a maximum write speed of 45MB/s—ideal for capturing extended 1080p Full HD video and high-speed bursts. It comes with a free download of Rescue 4 software and is compatible with USB 3.0 card readers for high-speed image transfer.

Leica C Digital Camera  This high style, high-performance 12.1MP compact sure looks like a Leica with its iconic rounded-end body contours, and it upholds the Leica traditions of quality finish, robust construction, and outstanding image quality. Its 7x f/2-5.9 DC Vario-Summicron lens provides a 28-200mm equivalent zoom range, plus 4x digital zoom, and it has a 200k-dot eyelevel electronic viewfinder and a hi-res 921k-dot 3.0-inch LCD for enhanced shooting flexibility. Additionally, Wi-Fi with NFC is available, and the Leica C Image Shuttle app can be downloaded to iOS and Android mobile devices for instant image transfer and sharing. To really impress the recipient of your generous gift, add the ultra-slick Leica C-Pouch in soft lambskin that wraps snugly around the camera to protect it—and has space for a smartphone and keys.

Lexar Professional Workflow HR1 Hub  This cool-looking tower is a modular 4-bay reader hub designed to accept up to 4 Professional Workflow SDHC/SDXC UHS-I, CompactFlash UDMA7, or XQD card readers so you can transfer data from four memory cards simultaneously—great for pros and high-volume shooters. It requires just one USB connection, eliminating cable clutter, supports USB 3.0 and is backward compatible to USB 2.0—just the thing for RAW, hi-res photos and HD, 3D, or 4K video files.

Rokinon Tilt Shift 24mm f/3.5 ED AS UMC Lens  There aren't that many independently made tilt/shift lenses out there, but here’s a cool one that provides true wide-angle coverage with full-frame DSLRs, 36mm equivalent coverage with APS-C-format models, and the high-level perspective, convergence correction, and depth-of-field control that's possible only with a T/S lens. With a maximum tilt of +/-8.5 degrees, a maximum lateral shift of +/-12mm, and a mount that rotates left up to 90 degrees with click-stops at 30-degree intervals, it’s the hot ticket for sophisticated image control. Available for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony A mounts.

Metz Mecablitz 52 AF-1 TTL Touchscreen Shoe Mount Flash  Most current flash units have LCDs to display various functions, but here’s one that offers full touchscreen control. Compatible with current and future DSLRs, this powerful strobe (guide number 52 m at ISO 100) features a 24-105mm flash head that can be set to match the camera’s sensors, wireless TTL in 3 groups and up to 4 channels, and full manual control with 12 variable-power output levels. The graphic touchscreen display even rotates automatically when you turn the camera 90 degrees to shoot portraits. It’s available in dedicated shoe mounts for Nikon, Canon, Pentax/Samsung, Olympus/Panasonic/Leica, and Sony.

Tenba Messenger Small Photo Laptop Bag  Despite its moderate exterior dimensions (15.5 x 12 x 6.5 inches) this understated, attractively styled bag will hold quite a lot—a laptop up to 15 inches plus a DSLR with three lenses. It features rugged Cordura nylon construction, a removable photo insert, one large zippered pocket on the flap, two zippered pockets on the front flap, more than 20 assorted interior pockets, and a comfortable molded grip handle. For the fashion conscious, it’s available in a veritable rainbow of color options including Black, Platinum, Chocolate, Olive Green, Burnt Orange, Navy Blue, and Plum.

Gura Gear Sabi Sack  Here’s what happens when an ingenious designer gets hold of the classic beanbag camera support and adds another dimension. Using a double-pillow design with reinforced carrying handle and concealed zippers with a Leak-Stop Tab, the Sabi Sack adds stabilization to your camera rig in places where a tripod won't work. Its unique design lets it stand up on the ground or secure itself to any convenient support such as a car door or a stout tree limb. Made of durable Cordura fabric, it comes unfilled—you supply the beans or whatever filler works best for you. It’s available in Ranger Green or Sand.

Vulture Equipment Works A4 1.75” Camera Strap  This top-of-the-line, 1.75-inch-wide heavy-duty nylon camera/backpack strap may well be the strongest, most advanced and indestructible camera strap ever. Its length is adjustable from 45 to 62 inches and it has a quick-release system similar to those found in parachute rigging—you pinch together two brass ears to release the robust metal buckles. There’s even a “Remove Before Flight” tag indicating the quick-release system is engaged and an additional safety wire to prevent accidental release. It’ll accommodate carabiners or attach directly to your camera or backpack. This is the perfect solution for “drop-proofing” your high-end DSLR.

SpinLight 360 EXTREME Modular System  Here’s something completely different—a cool creative speedlight-control system that lets you quickly and easily alter the direction of light emanating from your flash unit. The ingenious Ring System lets you use attached bounce cards and domes, and to turn the ring 360 degrees with the touch of one hand to direct the light toward or away from your subject to tame harsh lighting and eliminate heavy side shadows. The system includes 2 black and 2 white bounce cards, domes, half domes, and circular gels that let you quickly adjust the lighting, and a hook-and-loop strap for securing the SpinLight Ring to almost any standard-sized shoe-mount flash. It’s truly a unique light-control system for the creative-lighting artist on your gift list.