2014 Gift Guide the Discerning Photographer

2014 Gift Guide the Discerning Photographer



Every year I try to create a Christmas Gift List that I think my readers might enjoy. It started out as a list of things I had that I thought others should have as well. But it has since morphed into both a list of things I can vouch for and things I am putting on my own wish list. I wanted to get this out before the notorious “Black Friday”. For those of you that are not American, this is the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and it has proven to be the biggest shopping day of the entire year.  I think I gave you a real variety – but no fedoras or pipes this year. Sorry. I did manage to add a bow tie , though . They are in general price categories from the most costly to the least. This way if you have a budget you know where to look at a glance. So without further to-do here is my list.




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FujiFilm’s X-T1 Graphite Silver edition

Price: $1499.00



Fujifilm X-T1 Graphite Silver edition


If we are going to make a list of gifts for a photographer then we need to start with a camera. And what better camera in my book than the Fujifilm X-T1 Graphite Silver. There is just one word to describe this little camera: sexy. With its graphite silver and black look it harkens us back to the 1960s and 70s before every SLR was black on black. It looks remarkably like my old (1986) Olympus OM-4T. T was for Titanium. This unfortunately is not titanium, but it does have that look. It is cool looking but better still it is crazy functional. This camera has features no other Fuji has (at least until a firmware update on Dec 18th). This camera is on my wish list.

X-T1 Graphite Silver edition key features:

  • 16.3 Megapixels APS-C X-Trans CMOS II Sensor
  • Dust and water-resistant body with more than 75 points of weather sealing. Freeze resistance to 14°F (-10°C).
  • Phase detection AF and motion predictive AF for continuous shooting up to 8 frames per second
  • Highest viewfinder magnification for digital cameras of 0.77x
  • Wide viewing angle (diagonal 38° and horizontal 31°)
  • Ultra-fast Real Time Viewfinder with a lag-time of 0.005sec (less than 1/10 of existing models) and new Natural Live View
  • Four different display modes: Full, Normal, Dual and Vertical.
  • Tempered glass 1.04 million dot high-precision 3″ tilting LCD monitor
  • Digital Split Image and Focus Highlight Peaking
  • Completely electronic shutter up to 1/32000 seconds
  • Die-cast magnesium body provides a sturdy and durable, while compact and lightweight design
  • Interval timer shooting for Time Lapse photography is available with intervals of 1 second to 24 hours and up to 999 frames
  • NEW ‘Classic Chrome’ and other film simulation modes
  • Full HD video 1080p at 60fps; bit rate of 36Mbps for clear capture of delicate movements; frame rates of 50fps, 30fps, 25fps and 24fps, supporting worldwide motion picture formats
  • Manual focus available during video recording
  • Free FUJIFILM Camera Remote application and Wireless Communication function allows users to remotely shoot images from smartphones and tablets via WiFi
  • Photos can be sent to the INSTAX Share Printer using the free INSTAX Share App (iOS and Android) SHARE Smartphone Printer





 A Photo Workshop in Colorful Rajasthan, India

Price: $5,499 (single room occupancy)





We have one spot left for the 2014 Rajasthan Photo Trek & Workshop. Don’t let the term trek fool you. This is sleeping in some of the finest hotels in India. We will be traveling through the kind of storybook locations any photographer could hope to visit. There will be an abundance of camels, castles, and color throughout this trip. We refer to this as a “photographic trek” in that we will be traveling across Rajasthan and stopping all along the way to photograph its amazing cultures and traditions. We will take time to visit historical locations where our local “fixers” will show us things that few travelers get to see. Throughout the trip we will be staying the nights in ancient forts, castles and historic Rajasthani Havelis.

Our trip starts off in New Delhi where we will visit some famous shrines and markets. After Delhi we will proceed by overnight train to Jodhpur, Rajasthan also called the “Blue City”. Jodhpur stands on a range of sandstone hills surrounded by a strong wall. Dominating the city is a massive fortress. Very near Jodhpur are the Bishnoi settlements, the eco soldiers. Unique and highly photogenic, these shepherds and farmers live simple lives that we will be able to photograph. From Jodhpur we travel to Pushkar, a friendly town built around the edge of the small Pushkar Lake with its many bathing ghats and temples. For Hindus, Pushkar is a very important pilgrimage center where you will find plenty of sadhus. After Pushkar, we travel to the small village of Pachewar where we will photograph village life. Then on to Jaipur, the “Pink City”, the capital of Rajasthan. Surrounded on all sides by rugged hills, crowned with forts enclosed by embattled walls, the city was built in the early eighteenth century. While staying in Jaipur we will make the excursion to the city of Amber to visit its ancient fort and the amazing Amber Step Well. Following Jaipur we drive down the road 3 hours where we will stay our last two nights at a 15th century Neemrana Fort Palace.









Price: $390.00



Tanner Goods Field Camera Bag Waxed Field Tan

Tanner Goods Field Camera Bag
Waxed Field Tan


To be honest, I don’t own this bag … yet. But it looks classy and frankly a lot more practical than any of the Ona bags. The Ona bags look too narrow and small. This looks like the right size for a proper camera bag. Normally I would say if you want a retro looking bag then go for the Think Tank Retrospective. But they don’t have a leather trimmed bag, and I wanted to feature a canvas and leather bag here, just for the looks. Is it the perfect canvas and leather bag? No. It needs more pockets. But it’s made like a saddle and looks pretty great! It will go with that retro style we are sporting on this page. Be sure to visit the link for more detailed images of the bag.






The Think Tank Airport Roller Derby roller bag

Price: $389.75


Think Tank Airport Roller Derby

Think Tank Airport Roller Derby


I never carry my cameras through airports. My back just wont take it. I use a roller bag. I have used close to every bag Think Tank Photo has made. But I can tell you the best bag to date is the newest as well. It is the Roller Derby. It is a Goldilocks bag. What is a Goldilocks bag you may ask? Well, it is not too big and not too small. It is just right! This bag is made with four rollers (exclusively made by Think Tank). This bag makes walking through airports easy as … well walking through an airport. My only minor issue with the bag is on ramps: it wants to roll away, so you need to be a little careful or you might go chasing your bag though the airport rather than rolling it. But over all this is the best roller bag I have owned.

As a special for Black Friday Think Tank is offering a great deal. When you buy a Think Tank Photo rolling camera bag you are eligible to receive their new “Road Warrior Kit,” a $44.98 value, for free!  The kit consists of ten Red Whips cable ties, a Cable Management 10 pouch, an AA Battery Holder (holds up to eight AA batteries), and a Small Travel Pouch. Frankly, I use all those accessories so this is a nice incentive to buy this bag now.





Suunto Ambit2 HR

Price: $364.99



Suunto Ambit2 Black HR


This is the watch I wrote about a few weeks back. I have this watch’s older brother, the Ambit, which I use when I run. Frankly, because it is so techie it helps keep my interest in running. I track all my runs on the Movescount website. The HR stands for Heart Rate monitor. So as I run it tracks my heart rate, calorie burn etc. I know many of you have sport watches and you are wondering: why this one? and, why on this photography site? Well, for one thing this is a heck of a lot easier to use than my wife’s Garmin, and much better than the Polar she had before that. It is simple and intuitive. Now why here on this site? Well, I also use it to geotag my photos. Yeppers, this little guy will track your movements and then let you download a GPRX file that you can then upload to Lightroom and geo-code your photos. You can read how I do it HERE. Amazon is having a Black Friday special on this watch and others HERE.







Fujifilm Instax Share Smartphone Printer SP-1

Price: 151.95



Fujifilm Instax Share Smartphone Printer SP-1

If you or the person you are buying a gift for uses Fujifilm X-series cameras or they are just a smartphone photographer, this is a great gift. This small instant photo printer pairs with the latest X-series cameras and most any smart phone  through an ad-hoc wifi signal. Once paired you can print small business card size instant prints directly from your camera or phone. A great way to share memories or “ad-hoc” (sorry) gifts on the fly. I use mine all the time.







Visible Dust Arctic Butterfly  &  Quasar Sensor Loupe 7x Combo

Price: $216.20




Visible Dust Arctic Butterfly & Quasar Sensor Loupe Combo


One of the major banes of the photographer’s existence is dust on the sensor. There are two ways around this: send in your camera for servicing or do it your self. I choose to spend the money on these two little guys and save in the long run. Seriously, there is no better gift for a photographer than this. Easy to use and incredibly effective at removing dust from your sensor. In my opinion no photographer should be without this in their kit!







RFID Travel Vest for Men

Price: $135.00




ScottEVest RFID Travel Vest for Men



ScotteVest’s, #1 selling travel vest, just got even smarter with the added feature of an RFID-blocking pocket to protect your valuables from high-tech skimmers that can steal your identity. Their advanced two-way zipper allows you access to all 26 pockets with ease. This is a good looking vest, there is no doubt about it. If you travel, and especially if you are a photographer traveling, it is getting harder and harder to take what you need in your carry-on. So here is the answer. A vest that holds everything and still looks nice. As they say, “There’s more than meets the eye and even more that doesn’t.”







Screenshot 2014-11-25 06.13.38


Bradley Mountain Pipe Roll Waxed Canvas

Price: $45.00


Bradley Mountain Pipe Roll Waxed Canvas

Bradley Mountain Pipe Roll Waxed Canvas


If you have read my blog for any amount of time you would by now know I smoke a pipe. You will also know I don’t entertain comments about how bad it is for me. I already have a mother. Now I find it interesting that pipe smoking is gaining a bit of a resurgence. More and more men (even some women) are digging out their grandfather’s old pipes and lighting up. The only complication to this is a newbie pipe smoker has no way to keep their pipes out side of a drawer in their office or a show box. Not to mention they have no way to travel with the pipe, the tobacco, tamp and lighter. Well, not any more! Now you can carry your pipe essentials with some class. This roll is specifically designed to hold your pipe essentials. Made out of leather and waxed canvas, this is a thing of class and your grand kids will appreciate you when they start lighting up because this roll is made so well it will still be around.








iPhone and Android Film Scanner

Price: $59.00


iPhone and Android Film Scanner


This might just be what your special photographer is looking for. I certainly want to give it a try. The Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner! You can now scan 35mm film directly to your smartphone. Show everyone on Instagram your analogue shootin’ skills. Let all of Facebook see your passion for film. No middleman, middle-cables or cumbersome equipment here. It’s simple: slide any smartphone into the scanner’s snug mount, switch on the battery powered backlight, slip in your film and snap a pic of the negative. Straight forward and easy.







 Price: $30.50



Urge Basics Soundbrick Ultra Portable Bluetooth Stereo Speaker



This is a great deal and unlike so many good deals it is a great value. In other words, it is not going to break right out of the box. I bought this speaker after comparing it with a Bose SoundLink Mini, essentially the same size. The Bose has better sound and is unquestionably better made, but it is also $200. This Urge has a full sound–not that far off from the Bose, and it is only $30.50 and can work as a hands free device. There is another version of this same speaker branded by BiJELA. It costs twice as much but with the BiJELA you get a taste of Asia that as far as I know no other speaker gives you. When you pair your device with it, it gives you this lighthearted update:








Lume Cubes for the iPhone and GoPro

Price: $59.00 ish (KickStarter)





Lume Cube was drawn to my attention over Twitter and it looks like fun. It’s an external flash for your smart phone. It’s time to go beyond selfies (OH Lord I hope so!!). Sync your Apple iPhone or Android Smartphone to Lume Cube’s bluetooth interface, and adjust up to 1,500 lumens of light output to find the perfect complement for your mobile photos and video. It also works with the GoPro. You can sync up to 5 Lume Cubes to your iPhone or Android smartphone using a simple Bluetooth-powered app. The app allows you to adjust the brightness and duration of lighting to capture the perfect shot long after the sun goes down. This is still in Kickstarter mode so it will cost you at least $59.00.








Price: $40




This is a deal. I know Piet Van den Eynde very well since he is co-leader of my Photo Treks to Rajasthan and Ladakh, India. He is a master at Photoshop and Lightroom.  This 42-video double-volume set has nearly 7 hours of laser-focused, live-screen tutorials that will teach you more than you thought you needed to know about Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and Adobe Photoshop.

Photoshop for Photographers is a video tutorial series made by a photographer for photographers which means it focuses on the tools and processes that photographers need. Beginner and intermediate users will love Piet’s approach and workflow as his tightly scripted, detailed instructions make every step easy to follow.

Most of the Photoshop training videos out there jump ahead in the editing process leaving photographers with unanswered questions and unnecessarily large files with no option of non-destructively changing settings or synchronizing edits across multiple images like ACR or Adobe Lightroom.

Throughout these concise and action-oriented, bite-sized videos you’ll be guided through the essentials on what remains the most powerful photographic editing software on the planet.

Bonus content includes Piet’s EasyDodge 2.0 custom Photoshop Action set ($10 value all on its own) and a downloadable Exercise File Packages (.zip) so you can follow along with the tutorial using the same image files.

This full-time bundle saves you 25%.







Peak Design Camera Straps

The Slide

Price: $59.95


Peak Design Slide

Peak Design Slide





The Clutch

Price: $39.95


Peak Design Clutch

Peak Design Clutch


I have tried so many camera straps along the way from the high-end sling straps like Black Rapid, the more costly Artisan & Artist all the way down to the humble homemade strap and none work as well as the Peak Design Leash.  But, as I was writing this I saw on the Peak Design website they have two new models that look really promising, the Side, a wider version of the Leash and a new design called the Clutch a beefed up version of the Cuff. Both look very promising and look like something I would use. These are currently in a “pre-order” state on their website, and I have no idea if you would be able to get them for Christmas. But check them out.







Screenshot 2014-11-25 06.16.31



 USB Film Roll

Price: $20


USB Film Roll Fit 4GB of photos into one roll of film.

USB Film Roll Fit 4GB of photos into one roll of film.



Remember the days of film? Well, they’re back … sort of. At least the canisters are. Because some creative soul has thought of sticking a 4GB memory stick into recycled film canisters. So now you can  have your favorite film with you, and this time it will hold a lot more than 36 exposures!







Bow Tie by the Tie Bar



Diamond Tip Bow Ties

Diamond Tip Bow Ties


“When you wear a bow tie, doors open for you. Your posture is a little more erect; your shoulders are a little further back; your style is a little more dynamic. It’s about the reestablishment of the gentleman” – Dhani Jones (former American football linebacker)


For the photographer who wants to look great. I have only recently started wearing bow ties again. I wore them when I was a kid. But recently my daughter begged me to get a bow tie. I told her if I get a bow tie then it has to be a “self tie” bow tie. Meaning, the kind you tie yourself. None of this clip on or pre-tied stuff. I want to tie it myself.  Then last Christmas my mother and sister sent me a vintage silk diamond tip bow tie, and I couldn’t believe how cool it looked. The diamond tips are unusual and thus distinctive.  So now I am finding every excuse I can to wear a bow tie. After all as the 11th Doctor says, “Bow ties are cool!” These bow ties are from The Tie Bar and are 100% silk. You can get the self tie, or if you are not as daring as me, pre-tied version. These are also a great deal. Until I ran across these, most of my silk bow ties ran around $35. These are a mere $15.00







Fotodiox 5-in-1 22″ Premium-Grade Professional Collapsible Disc Reflector

Price: $12.95



5-in-1 22" Premium-Grade Professional Collapsible Disc Reflector

5-in-1 22″ Premium-Grade Professional Collapsible Disc Reflector


This is a crazy deal. $12.95 for a 5-in-1 disc reflector? This is almost a disposable price.  Even if your photographer gets one or two shoots out of them, and I am sure they will get many more than that, it is worth the price. A reflector is that extra bit of lighting equipment that separates the men from the boys … er the women from the girls … the sheep … ok, you get my point. It is a piece of photography kit that anyone that is serious about their photography should have, and at the best price I could find for you.




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About The Author

Matt Brandon

Matt is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by business and organizations around the globe. Matt also on the design board for Think Tank Photo, a camera bag manufacturer. In 2013 Matt founded the On Field Media Project to train the staff of non-profits to use appropriate technology to produce timely as well as quality images.


  1. Fernando

    I could definitely see that Tanner Goods bag hanging off my shoulder. Thank you!

    • Matt Brandon

      Yeah, I actually thought about posting for women, but I am a little unsure of my tastes in clothes for you all. 😉 But, I should have at least posted this link. Thanks!

  2. Scott

    I love the pipe bag! I had never seen such a nice rugged wee bit.
    I just wish they made one to hold more than a single pipe.

  3. Brad

    The Urge Basics has been my daily speaker for the past year or so. Great sound in a small package and excellent battery life. My new favorite is the Photive Hydra (http://bit.ly/photive-hydra). Very similar but bigger & better sound AND waterproof. I just got mine for $40. Runs a bit more than that but is worth it for something a bit more rugged (if you need it in damp or dusty conditions or even for the shower, pool, or beach).

    And here’s another item for your list: the iBlazr (www.iblazr.com) LED flash/panel light for smartphones & DSLRs. Plugs into the headphone jack on your mobile but includes an adapter for hotshoe mounting on DSLRs. Doubles as a great, tiny flashlight, as well. Very powerful for such a tiny package. Haven’re received mine yet but it comes very highly recommended. It is another Kickstarter or Indiegogo project that is recently out of the gates. Runs $50 ($70 if you want the aluminium body) but they have occasional discount codes.

  4. Scott Collins

    Torn between which Fuji to slump my pennies into.

    The new XT1 Graphite looks pretty, but the soon to be out firmware for the black one, and the black one’s a few hundred less in cost. Will they still be the same thing (other than a silvery sheen?)

    But…. I have had a chance to play with the X100T, and i have to say it was super excellent. I have been reluctant to replace or get anything new since my XPRO1, as I love the fit and feel.

    If you had a suggestion or opinion, I’d be very happy to hear it.
    (I have been holding out for an XPRO2… glad I wasn’t holding my breath)

    • Matt Brandon

      Scott, Sorry for the delay in responding, I was in the Philippines for the last week and without much net. If it is a choice between the X-T1 and the X-100T I would go for the X-T1. Only because the X-T1 gives you more lens options. The X-100 has changed over the last few years but it still only offers you the 23 mm fixed lens. You are right about the graphite and the black X-T1 being the same after the firmware update on Dec 18th. I just finished shooting the graphite model all week in the Philippines and loved it and it looks sooo sexy, but would I spend the extra $200 on a silver body? Nope. If it offered even a few options over the black body other than just a color option then maybe. But not on just color alone.

      • Scott

        I see your point. The XT1 has the most in terms of flexibility just now. My only concern is no longer finding a use for my XPRo1 if i when that route. I love the teeny-tiny size of the X100T, and its new layout an buttons are, in my opinion, the best yet for the X series. (more so than the XT1)

        I was thinking that the next interchangeable series fuji I wanted was the as yet to be announced replacement for the XPro. I like the option of an optical VF.

        Damn choices. Hahah.

        All the best for the season. Tis a snow storm here in Montreal. I’d rather a hot morning and steaming bowl of noodles than the porridge and frozen misery going on here. Enjoy.

        • Matt Brandon

          I guess, you can always look at your X-Pro1 as a backup body or a second body? I always shoot with two bodies. Frankly, I am in the same boat. I have a feeling we won’t see the X-Pro2 till late 2015. I hope I am wrong. I need two bodies. Do I buy another X-T1 and sell it/them when the X-Pro2 arrives or keep shooting the X-T1 and X-Pro1 still then? Hmmm.


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