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PetaPixel 2013 Holiday Exchange Guide… Because It’s Too Late to Call it a Gift Guide

Well, your last chance to order something online and get it in time for Christmas pretty much came and went already, and yet us lazy PetaPixel editors (okay, not us, just me) have yet to put together a holiday gift guide. Well, I offer my hardiest apologies, and what we’ll call our ‘Holiday Exchange Guide.’

Lets face it, chances are the people reading this article ARE the photo nerds on everyone’s list. Sure, many of your friends might be photography people as well, but there’s a good chance you’ll receive something you find less-than-appealing under the tree on December 25th, at which point you’ll wait the appropriate amount of time (say, 24 hours) before making a beeline for the store where you’ll put that gift receipt to some good use.

That’s where this list comes in. This list features one item picked out by each of out most frequent contributors. An item they feel is their absolute favorite piece of gear, one they would recommend above all others. We hope they’ll give you some idea of what to spend that gift card money on.

David Becker — Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 Pancake Lens

You’ll recognize David as one of our news writers, but when he’s not covering stories for us, he’s out shooting, often with his Panasonic Lumix G3. When I asked him for his favorite piece of gear, he didn’t hesitate: 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens.

I’ve been thrilled with the 20mm pancake lens I got for my Lumix mirrorless. It makes the camera almost pocketable, and the f/1.7 aperture bought me a lot of flexibility for shooting aurorae borealis in Norway.

And just in case you’re curious, here are those aurora photos from Norway, embedded using Flickr’s fancy new system:

Joseph Campanella — The Fuji X100

It might seem strange that a discontinued product is showing up on the list, but this one was a “no brainer” selection that took Joseph all of a couple of seconds to come up with, so we went with it. He actually was afraid I’d get this one (or at least its successor) suggested by several people and he’d have to come up with a second choice. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

Here’s what he had to say about his X100:

The Fuji X100 is the camera. The one I take on vacation. The one I want with me at a party. It’s got a personality my 5D Mark II just doesn’t have.

Colors from this chip are vibrant and beautiful. Instead of white blobs the highlights roll off elegantly and the lens rivals the best from Canon and Zeiss. Add onto that the build quality of a tank and a big, bright viewfinder and you’ve got a camera you’ll find difficult to put down.

The reason I haven’t upgraded to an X100s isn’t a knock on the new model, but a compliment to the old one. The X100 family seems like they’re built to last. When’s the last time you heard that?

Gregory Jones — ZEISS 50mm f/1.4 ZE Planar T* Manual Focus Lens

Another lens suggestion, and another one that doesn’t exactly come cheap, but when you ask a bunch of photographers what their favorite gear is, what do you expect? Here’s what Gregory had to say about his ‘trusty’ Zeiss 50mm:

I’ve never made a sharper image than I have with this Zeiss 50mm. Perfect for crisp detail in landscape scenes and versatile enough to shoot with in or out of the studio. I take it with me on every shoot, and I use it just about every time.

Adam Griffith — PhotoPills

Here’s one for those of you whose budgets aren’t measured in hundreds of dollars. It’s also a great one if you know you’ll be getting an iTunes gift card in your stocking. Adam is a self-proclaimed gear minimalist, and so his recommendation comes in the form of a $ 10 iOS app called PhotoPills:

I’m typically pretty equipment minimalist, but I do have one neat little tool that I like to use:

PhotoPills is a fantastic tool for planning landscape shots. At around $ 10, it’s a little expensive for an iPhone app, but it’s been well worth the price for me. In addition to tables predicting the sunrise, sunset, moonrise, and moonset times months for tomorrow or months from now, it features a unique “Virtual Reality” mode that uses the phone’s gyroscope, accelerometer, camera, and GPS to display the projected path of the sun and moon over an image of the space in front of the phone. To figure out exactly where the sun will be at a given minute, just track its path across the sky.

For example, I was in Zion a month ago and I set up a GoPro time-lapse to capture the sunrise over this beautiful valley we were camping above. I used PhotoPills to figure out where and when the sun would rise (more than an hour before it did) and how it would arc across the frame.

Pat David — Metabones Speed Boster

Honestly, I was surprised I didn’t hear this one from several of our writers because, lets face it, Metabones’ speed boosters have been a huge hit with the photo community ever since they arrived on the scene. Here’s what Pat had to say about his choice:

A neat holiday gift for many shooters would be lens adapters. And for APS-C/MFT shooters, the Metabones Speed Booster is a particularly awesome choice: Not only can you adapt a world of classic lenses, but smaller format shooters gain 1 stop of advantage in speed as well.

Of course, many great old MF lenses can be had inexpensively, increasing the value and appeal of even straight adapters.

Colin Peddle — The Rapid Box

This one is for the more professional shooters out there, which is exactly what I expected to get when I asked one of our reviewers for a suggestion. Colin’s go-to was The Westcott Rapid Box 26″ Octa Softbox. Here’s why he chose it:

No one will ever have enough light boxes and I ask you what’s better than a small kit capable of big things with just little lights? Besides the small footprint in my pack, the one thing I absolutely love about the Rapid Box is how quickly I can transition from packed away to making a very well-lit photo. But hey, it’s called the Rapid Box right?

And if that’s not enough versatility, you can add the deflector plate and modify that light even little bit more.

DL Cade — I Couldn’t Pick Just One

There is an inherent problem with picking one favorite piece of gear, and no, it’s not that, like children, you can never have a favorite. It’s that people have a range of budgets and one idea necessarily only fits a fraction of those.

So, to solve this problem and allow myself more freedom than our writers got (we’ll call it editor’s privilege) I picked six, listed below from least to most expensive:

Dodge & Burn Photography T-Shirts — $ 29

You really can’t go wrong with these. Whether you are a photo nerd or you’re buying something for a photo nerd, Dodge & Burn’s photography-themed T-shirts are a safe and affordable bet… plus they’re comfy as crap!

Most of their designs feature cool depictions of classic cameras, but they actually released two all-new designs that take it to the next level just in time for Christmas — one paying homage to ‘The Famous’ (aka. Weegee) and one to the great Ansel Adams. Here’s a look at those designs:

All of Dodge & Burn’s T-Shirts cost $ 29, but since they know that people are shopping for the holidays, they’ve gone ahead and discounted EVERYTHING in their shop by 20%. Just type in the coupon code XMAS20 at check out.

Lomography Experimental Lens Kit — $ 90

The purists of the photography world will probably scoff at this one, but for the price, this is a great gift for the MFT shooter in your life who doesn’t take him or herself too seriously. For $ 90 you get three lenses — a fixed-aperture 160-degree fisheye, a 12mm wide-angle and a 24mm standard lens — all of which performed admirably when Dirk Essl took them for a test run.

CamRanger — $ 300

There aren’t many photographers out there who don’t appreciate a great way to control their camera wirelessly, and one product we consistently hear nothing but great things about in that arena is the CamRanger.

At $ 300 it doesn’t come cheap, but Nikon and Canon owners can use it to control all of their settings, see a live view, tap to focus and much more, all from your iPad. Plus, you can use it to cleverly bring photos right into Lightroom while shooting on location, as photographer Benjamin Von Wong recently demonstrated.

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 — $ 800

This APS-C lens was a HUGE hit when it first debuted. Terms like ‘game-changer’ were thrown around because, to put it bluntly, they fit. It keeps an f/1.8 aperture through the zoom range and only costs $ 800.

Compare that to Canon’s 17-55mm f/2.8 at $ 1,060 or Nikon’s 17-55mm f/2.8 at $ 1,450 and you begin to understand why ‘game-changer’ and ‘bombshell’ are such apt descriptors.

And don’t let the fact that it’s a third party lens turn you off. The quality is nothing to scoff at.

Canon EOS 70D — $ 1,100

With the exception of the Sony a7 and a7R, the Canon 70D and its dual pixel AF capability probably made the biggest splash this past year. It is, in many ways, the perfect prosumer DSLR: great photo quality meets impressive video capability in a camera that Nelson had many great things to say about in his full review.

Sony a7R — $ 2,000

There’s a reason this camera is the belle of the photography ball this year, and if you have the money we highly suggest you find out first hand. I got to spend a week toting this puppy around and putting it through its paces, and I’m not ashamed to say I felt a bit empty inside when I got home a7R-less.

Plus, just about everybody that has tried this shooter out has it at or very near the top of their list of best cameras of 2013.

And that’s it. Our Holiday Gift Exchange Guide for 2013. Thank you for another amazing year at PetaPixel and stay tuned for our PetaPixel State of the Blog Address come January 1st! Happy Holidays!

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