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11 picture perfect gifts for your photographer friends – TechCrunch

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Photographers are tricky to get gifts for because every one of them has preferences they may already have spent years indulging. But we have blind spots, we photographers. We will spend thousands on lenses but never buy a proper camera bag, or properly back up our shots, or splurge for a gadget that makes certain shots ten times easier. Scroll on for gift recommendations that any photographer can appreciate.

Gnarbox or Western Digital backup drive

Okay, these are definitely expensive, so keep scrolling if you’re on a budget, but they can also totally change how someone shoots. If your photographer/loved one tends to travel or go out into the wilderness when they shoot, a backup solution is a must. These drives act as self-contained rugged backup solutions, letting you offload your SD card at the end of a shoot and preview the contents, no laptop required.

They’ve been around for years but early ones were pretty janky and “professional” ones cost thousands. The latest generation, typified by the Gnarbox and Western Digital’s devices, strike a balance and have been pretty well-reviewed.

The Gnarbox is the better device (faster, much better interface and tools), but it’s more expensive — the latest version with 256 GB of space onboard (probably the sweet spot in terms of capacity) costs $400. A comparable WD device costs about half that. If you and a couple friends want to throw down together, I’d recommend getting the former, but both do more or less the same thing.


Microfiber wipes

On the other end of the price spectrum, but no less important, are lens and screen wipes. One of the best things I ever did for myself was order a big pack of these things and stash them in every jacket, coin pocket, and bag I own. Now when anyone needs their glasses, lens, phone, laptop screen, or camera LCD cleaned, I’m right there and sometimes even give them the cloth to keep. I’ve been buying these and they’re good, but there are lots more sizes and packs to choose from.


SD cards and hard cases

Most cameras use SD cards these days, and photographers can never have too many of them. Anything larger than 16 GB is useful — just make sure it’s name brand. A nice touch would be to buy an SD card case that holds eight or ten of the things. Too many photographers (myself included) keep their cards in little piles, drawers, pockets and so on. A nice hardcase for cards is always welcome — Pelican is the big brand for these, but as long as it isn’t from the bargain bin another brand is fine.


Moment smartphone lens case

The best camera is the one you have with you, and more often than not, even for photographers, that’s a phone. There are lots of stick-on, magnet-on, and so on lens sets but Moment’s solution seems the most practical. You use their cases — mostly tasteful, fortunately — and pick serious lenses to pop into the built-in mount.

The optics are pretty good and the lenses are big but not so big they’ll weigh down a purse or jacket pocket. Be sure to snoop and figure out what model phone your friend is using.


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Waxed canvas camera bag (or any good one really)

Every photographer should have a padded, stylish bag for their gear. I’m partial to waxed canvas, and of the ones I recently reviewed I think the ONA Union Street is the best one out there as far as combination camera/day trip bags go. That said everyone is into these Peak design ones as well.


Lomo’Instant Automat or Fujifilm SQ6 instant film camera

Everyone shoots digital these days, but if it’s a party or road trip you’re going on and capturing memories is the goal, an instant film camera might be the best bet. I’ve been using an Automat since they raised money on Kickstarter and I’ve loved this thing: the mini film isn’t too expensive, the shooting process is pleasantly analog but not too difficult, and the camera itself is compact and well designed.

If on the other hand you’d like something a little closer to the Polaroids of yore (without spending the cash on a retro one and Impossible film) then the Fujifilm SQ6 is probably your best bet. It’s got autofocus rather than zone focus, meaning it’s dead simple to operate, but it has lots of options if you want to tweak the exposure.


Circular polarizer filter

Our own photo team loves these filters, which pop onto the end of a lens and change the way light comes through it. This one in particular lets the camera see more detail in clouds and otherwise change the way a scene with a top and bottom half looks. Everyone can use one, and even if they already have one, it’s good to have spares. Polaroid is a good brand for these but again, any household name with decent reviews should be all right.

The only issue here is that you need to get the right size. Next time you see your friend’s camera lying around, look at the lens that’s on it. Inside the front of it, right next to the glass, there should be a millimeter measurement — NOT the one on the side of the lens, that’s the focal length. The number on the end of the lens tells you the diameter of filter to get.


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Wireless shutter release

If you’re taking a group photo or selfie, you can always do the classic 10 second timer hustle, but if you don’t want to leave anything to chance a wireless remote is clutch. These things basically just hit the shutter button for you, though some have things like mode switches and so on.

Unfortunately, a bit like filters, shutter release devices are often model-specific. The big camera companies have their own, but if you want to be smart about it go for a cross-platform device like the Hama DCCSystem. These can be a bit hard to find so don’t feel bad about getting the camera-specific kind instead.


Blackrapid strap (or any nice custom strap)

Another pick from our video and photo team, Blackrapid’s cross-body straps take a little time to get used to, but make a lot of sense. The camera hangs upside-down and you grab it with one hand and bring it to shooting position with one movement. When you’re done, it sits out of the way instead of bumping into your chest. And because it attaches to the bottom plate of your camera, you don’t have the straps in the way pretty much from any angle you want to hold the camera in.

If you feel confident your photographer friend isn’t into this unorthodox style of shooting, don’t worry — a nice “normal” strap is also a great gift. Having a couple to choose from, especially ones that can be swapped out quickly, is always nice in case one is damaged or unsuitable for a certain shoot.


Adobe subscription

Most photographers use Adobe software, usually Lightroom or Photoshop, and unlike back in the day you don’t just buy a copy of these any more — it’s a subscription. Fortunately you can still buy a year of it for someone in what amounts to gift card form. Unfortunately you can’t buy half a year or whatever fits your budget — it’s the $120 yearly photography bundle or nothing.


Print services

Too many digital photos end up sitting on hard drives, only to be skimmed now and then or uploaded to places like Facebook in much-degraded form. But given the chance (and a gift certificate from you) they’ll print giant versions of their favorite shots and be glad they did it.

I bought a nice printer a long while back and print my own shots now, so I haven’t used these services. However I trust Wirecutter’s picks, Nations Photo Lab and AdoramaPix. $30-$40 will go a long way.


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USB installer tool removes Windows 11’s Microsoft account requirements (and more)

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Enlarge / The Rufus tool will offer to modify your Windows 11 install media when you create it. The workaround for the Microsoft account requirement is new to the 3.19 beta.

Andrew Cunningham

One of the new “features” coming to the Windows 11 22H2 update is a Microsoft account requirement for all new installs, regardless of whether you are using the Home or Pro version of the operating system. And that’s too bad, because the 22H2 update corrects a few of Windows 11’s original shortcomings while adding some nice quality-of-life improvements.

An easy workaround for this requirement is the Rufus USB formatting tool, which can create USB install media for Windows and all kinds of other operating systems. Rufus has already offered some flags to remove Windows 11’s system requirements checks from the installer, removing the need for clunky Windows Registry edits and other workarounds. But the beta of version 3.19 will also remove the Microsoft account requirement for new installs, making it easy to set up a new Windows PC with a traditional local account.

When setting up Windows 11, make sure not to connect your PC to the Internet before creating your user account. This trick worked to circumvent the Microsoft account requirement in Windows 11 Pro and some of the later versions of Windows 10 but is being removed entirely from Windows 11 22H2. The Rufus tool merely reverts to the pre-22H2 status quo.

If you’re using Rufus to avoid Windows 11’s system requirements, your system will still be “unsupported” once you have Windows 11 up and running. That means putting up with periodic reminder messages about unsupported hardware and the vague threat that Microsoft may eventually stop providing updates and security patches for unsupported systems. On the other hand, Rufus also doesn’t keep Windows 11’s TPM and security features from working once the OS is installed, so if you want to create a single USB installer that will cover both supported and unsupported systems, Rufus makes that possible.

Microsoft provides its own media creation tools for people who want to make USB install drives for Windows 10 or Windows 11, but it obviously doesn’t offer the same circumventions for the company’s requirements.

Listing image by Getty Images

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iFixit and Google launch official Pixel parts store

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iFixit

The iFixit and Google partnership that was announced in April is now live. iFixit says that genuine parts for Google smartphones are now for sale in “the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and European countries where Pixel is available.”

It looks like iFixit is offering screens, batteries, and rear camera assemblies for most models of the Pixel phone, along with smaller odds and ends like adhesive and cooling graphite tape. Despite the official partnership with Google, we wouldn’t call the iFixit Pixel store a comprehensive source of Pixel parts. For the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro—which are currently in production and should have tons of available parts—you can’t buy replacement glass back panels, charging ports, front cameras, or any of the delicate cables you could accidentally rip while you’re taking the phone apart. Just compare the official Pixel 6 Pro parts list, which has only six items, to any of the iPhone part lists, which have about 30 parts, and you can see there are a lot of missing items.

iFixit says it’s just getting started, though, and that it will “continue to add more types of parts to our catalog” for the Pixel 2 and later. For the Pixel 6a, which comes out at the end of July, iFixit is promising “a full selection” of parts “as soon as possible.”

iFixit says Google has continually been improving the reparability of its devices, although the repair site never actually scored the Pixel 6 or 6 Pro. (iFixit’s last full Pixel teardown was on the Pixel 4 XL in 2019.) iFixit also praised Google’s willingness to make software repair tools available online, like an easy-to-use OS flashing tool and a fingerprint reader calibration tool for the Pixel 6. If Google is really concerned about device longevity and reducing e-waste, we would like to see the company match its competitors when it comes to software support, where Google’s three years of major OS updates are still lagging behind Samsung (four years) and Apple (five years).

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Apple outs its invite-only program that rewards VIP forum members 

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Samuel Axon

Apple made its Community+ Program common knowledge this week. Similar to other tech companies like Dell, HP, and Microsoft, Apple has been rewarding the knowledgeable volunteers who frequently contribute to its online support community.

As spotted via iClarified on Wednesday, Apple launched the Apple Community+ Program webpage, which details a program that annually invites a small number of forum members to enjoy special rewards. An Apple rep told Ars Technica that while the webpage is new, the program “has been around for a few years.” It’s likely that since only a small number of people get to participate in the program, there hasn’t been much chatter about it before the page’s launch.

The Community+ members receive “special perks, white-glove experiences, and more,” according to the program’s page, but Apple didn’t specify what that means, and the company declined to provide Ars Technica more details about the rewards.

Apple also didn’t specify the boxes you have to check to get an invite. The Community+ page does say, however, that invitees are “high-level community members” who are “engaged and active in the community,” “share quality content and helpful answers to build their reputation,” and are role models for the forum.

Regular Apple support community members already receive points for participating in activities like asking or answering a question or having one of their answers marked as “helpful” by other community members. Gathering virtual points can lead to virtual rewards, like the ability to have a custom avatar image or access to The Lounge, where you and other high-ranking members can have discussions.

The Community+ Program promises better perks than that. Again, we don’t have specifics, but we can look at similar tech perks programs for ideas.

As noted by The Verge, Microsoft support forum members have been receiving MVP awards for more than 20 years, with over 4,000 reportedly earning the title so far. Perks include early access to Microsoft products and an invite to the annual Global MVP Summit at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters.

For a couple of years, Dell has been rewarding its most elite community members with invites to online and in-person events and providing new product testings and internal resources. Meanwhile, HP’s Expert program rewards include invites to virtual and live events and the opportunity to speak with HP employees.

It’s good to hear that Apple has also been rewarding its most helpful forum members, who can save hours of time for Apple customers and employees, free of charge. Without a detailed look at those perks, though, it’s unclear just how appreciative Apple is.

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