Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gift Ideas for Photographers: "Shall I Get Him the Nikon D750?"

Black Friday and Christmas are just around the corner, and many people might have already begun thinking about presents. If your boyfriend/husband (or girlfriend/wife) is an enthusiast photographer, you might be tempted to get a camera or a lens as a present. A camera is also a possible present for someone who is not even an enthusiast - yet. If someone you care about takes a lot of photos with his/her mobile phone, you might think getting a camera kit would be a great idea.

Would it? And if so, what should you get?

The art of Photography can open one's eyes to a new reality.
Getting someone a camera can be a great gift. Or, a really bad one.
My answer to these questions must be divided into two parts:

  1. Gift idea for an advanced photographer
  2. Gift idea for a complete beginner (or who doesn't even own a camera other than a mobile phone)
Another way to divide this would be this:
  1. Gift idea for someone who knows about photography more than you do.
  2. Gift idea for someone who knows about photography less than you do.

Let's start with the first one, because it's the easiest to tackle.

The truth is, getting a photography-related present for someone who knows about photography more (or even way more) than you, is a bad idea. Why? Simple:
  • They know way better than you do what they need. If your idea is "I've heard her talk about getting an external flash, I'll get her that lovely Nikon SB-300", you'll be facing some "Gee, thanks honey" looks, and the flash will be returned faster than its recycle time. If you know significantly less than s/he does, you might even end up getting something not entirely compatible.
  • They know how to get the best value; you don't. You'll end up buying something expensive, they know what's worth buying new and what's worth buying used.
  • If you try to avoid either of the two above, you'll end up asking exactly what they want and where to get it. What's the point of a gift if they have to tell you what to get them?
Is there a way out? Can you get a photography gift for a photographer much more advanced than you are? The safest best is a gift card. It's perhaps not the greatest, but a) you can personalize it with a message; b) it will be used and they will appreciate what they'll get - because they can choose it. An other idea is photography books - make sure s/he doesn't own the book you plan to get. Here are some great ideas:

Now, let's go to the second option - getting a gift for someone who knows less (or even way less) about photography than you do.
This is a bit more complicated to answer, because a) there are many good options (and some bad ones); b) it depends a lot on the individual

Buying a complex camera for someone who uses only a mobile phone (or a small, full-auto compact camera) is a tricky thing. They might love it, and photography might become a favorite hobby. Or, they might hate it. You can't know that in advance, generally speaking. Getting a camera kit as a gift for such a person, is a bit like buying them a subscription to a magazine or to a local gym. They'll have to try it to see if they like it. And that's OK, that's a perfectly OK gift: the gift of introducing people - people you care about - to new things.

Here are the things to consider:
  • It has to be user and beginner-friendly. Obvious as it may sound, don't go buy a full-frame DSLR to someone who hasn't used anything other than a compact. It has to be a camera they can relate to, a camera the experience of which isn't far away from what they are used to.
  • At the same time, it should be a camera that allows manual control, so that later, once they get to know it better, they can begin to experiment with photography exposure.
  • system considerations: unlike what I usually suggest (think first the system, then the lens(es), then the camera), you don't have to deal with this now. Heck, if you're reading this, you're probably a Nikon user. Pick Nikon then - it's good if it's a camera/system you're familiar with, so that you can guide them through if needed (don't be overbearing or pushy, let them enjoy and learn at their own pace)
So, do I have any concrete suggestions? Yes, I do. It's pretty simple, after all: The best gift for a beginner photographer, who has no other camera but a mobile phone or a compact is a Nikon 1 mirrorless kit. It's small, it's light, it's easy to use, it comes in cute colors (sometimes that's the only requirement :D), it does allow you to grow with it, and it can be cheap (it can also be expensive, but it doesn't have to). Here are some options for that as well:

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