No matter what time of year, there always seems to be a party, occasion, get-together, or something that calls for some kind of gift. Last-minute panic gift-getting often leads to questionable choices that may cause you to be excluded from the next party or two—hey, the drug store was closing and all they had left was a combination manicure/toe-nail fungus kit and I didn’t want to show up empty handed. So, don’t let this happen to you. Read on for a guide to some of the best video-related gifts for less than $100, suitable for most any occasion.
The $25 Grab Bag
Grab bags are a popular fixture at many parties, and often have a $25 limit. There is a tremendous number of useful and fun gift options available, just pick ’em up at the B&H SuperStore, or order from the Web and stockpile them for last-minute occasions.
For less than $25 you aren’t going to get 4K, image stabilization, or manual lens control rings; however, you can get a series of fun cameras aimed at kids, but lots of fun for grown-ups, as well. Nerf, Frozen, and Hello Kitty are represented by these camcorders, which come with editing or effects software.
Let’s face it, among memory cards, the SD form factor dominates, and chances are that everyone you know uses an SD card, so they are a pretty safe bet. Now, high-end equipment will have specific requirements for compatibility, but for general use, what you need is an SDHC or SDXC card rated at least Class 10. For a guide to understanding what all those speed ratings really mean, check out John-Paul Palescandolo’s excellent article Top Memory Cards for Photo and Video Recording. I tend to prefer full-sized cards, and it is amazing how much you can store on one of these. I use SanDisk Extreme Plus cards in my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, but you can find 32GB and even 64GB cards from Kingston, Sony, PNY, SanDisk, Transcend, and others—all for under $25. I use the Transcend 32GB SD card in an SxS adapter when shooting with an EX-1; it works great. If you are thinking of a gift for an action cam owner, then most likely it is a micro SDHC or micro SDXC card you will want. USB 3.0 memory card readers also make excellent gifts, and everybody needs at least one.
Sure you can use them on most camcorders, but they are useful just about anywhere. Carry one in your bag for an easy grab when you need some light, or even mount it on your bike. It is pretty neat—the bang for your buck that you can get for $25 and less—when it comes to LED on-camera lights. I can still remember the days of spending several hundred dollars for tungsten-balanced on-camera units. Take a look at the Sima SL-10HD; it is flicker free, has three power settings (Off, Low, Full), takes AAA batteries, and includes a bracket so you can offset it to avoid that news-video look. Bower’s L10K Twin Light Video Light/Flash Kit offers a different take on the on-camera video light, because you can also use it as a still camera flash. Polaroid—remember that company?—has what it calls the Studio Series Camcorder Video Light, daylight balanced and diffused; it is powered by two AAA batteries. Vidpro’s LED-36X on-camera light is daylight balanced, runs for two hours on three AAA batteries, and has mounting slots so you can mount a few of these lights on each other. Sunpack’s VL-LED-96 Compact Video Light mounts on your camera via cold shoe or 1/4"-20 thread, is daylight balanced, dimmable, includes diffusion and color-correction gels, and runs on four AA batteries.
I wasn’t kidding when I wrote that you could mount these lights on your bicycle. There are a variety of bike handlebar mounts for less than $25 for the video and bike enthusiast in your life, although most feature a 1/4"-20 mounting screw; so you may need a 1/4"-20 to cold shoe adapter, such as this one from Vello, or this from Kupo, if you want to mount an on-camera light on your bike.
Stepping up from the $25 Grab Bag
Gloves are always a great gift idea for the video maker in your life, or for yourself, but the problem with gloves is trying to use them with touchscreens. RUCPAC makes gloves that are weather resistant, feature a rubberized palm, and the fingers are touchscreen compatible. For a less utilitarian look, check out the leather glove offerings from Glove.ly (in men’s and women’s sizes) and Royce Leather Products (in women’s sizes only). These leather gloves have been treated so that you can use them with a touch screen, so no more pulling the gloves on and off just to use your phone or tablet.
There are many more choices, mostly from the action cam category, but if you are looking for something a little different, I’d suggest looking at the Coleman Waterproof HD Pocket Video Camera, which does not require an external waterproof housing and features a 2" LCD view screen. If your gift-giving subject is nocturnal, the answer to your gift-giving quandary may just rest with the Bell and Howell Rogue DNV6HD. With normal and IR night vision recording in 1080p, this small camcorder is easy to carry and use. Diving back into the action cam category, I thought I’d sort it out for you a little bit. Now, sadly, for less than $100 you won’t be able to find the bigger names like GoPro, Sony, Drift, Garmin, Kodak, Replay XD, and Nikon, unless we are offering items on special (it does sometimes happen). However, not to worry, a wide variety of less well-advertised action cameras that fit in the less-than-$100 target range are available at for your gift-giving needs.
Intova, which makes a lot of products for underwater photography, has two offerings in a variety of colors, with underwater housings. The Intova Duo shoots 720p (it is still HD, my friend) and is good to 100 feet underwater, and the Intova DUB, captures 1080p and works down to 200 feet underwater. SJCAM is an option worth considering, similar in form factor and accessories to some other action cameras. The SJ4000 is small enough to fit in your hand, easily goes from topside to underwater, and is available with Wi-Fi or without. I’ve been known literally to toss my SJ4000 (in its housing) around with my nephew, although I’m not sure SJCAM recommends doing that with the camera. Vivitar has jumped into the action cam market with a few models for less than $50 and two more under $100. Rounding out the list is the Kyocera/Yashica YAC-300 with a 170-degree lens, and the YAC-301 with a 140-degree lens. Although I am not an extreme sports enthusiast, I have found that an action camera in its waterproof housing is great for capturing memories at an amusement park, especially when riding the water rides, and it keeps my cell phone out of harm’s way.
Do you have any other ideas for video-related gifts for less than $100? Tell us about them in the Comments section, below.