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November 22, 2010 AT 10:28 am

Taking Photos gift guide for makers, engineers & more – AN ADAFRUIT ELECTRONICS GIFT GUIDE

Today’s Adafruit Gift Guide is all about taking photos. Some great gear to help you take photos of your projects so you can share what you do best with the world.

Advanced Point-and-Shoot — Canon PowerShot G12 ($500, B&H Photo & Video)

SLRs are great things, but they are expensive, particularly when you add in the cost of lenses. And the higher end ones are somewhat bulky, heavy, and awkward to carry. If you want something smaller, lighter, and more portable that still takes great photos, look in to one of these:

Canon PowerShot G12 — The latest in the venerable “G”-series from Canon. Like the G11 before it, the G12 is 10 megapixels, down from the G10’s 14-megapixels. This is not a bad thing. It’s a lower pixel count, but the same sized sensor, so each sensing element is bigger, resulting in much lower noise. 10-megapixels is more than enough resolution to make an 8×10 print, and it’s massive overkill for pictures on the web. Coupled to this 10mpix sensor is the DIGIC-4 processor, which further reduces noise.

One of the hallmarks of the G-series has always been the excellent glass, and the G12 has a superb f/2.8 lens equipped with image-stabilization, including a neat hybrid mode which further reduces blur when taking closeups.

Finally, the G12 adds the ability to shoot 720p HD video with sound, which makes it even handier for documenting your projects.


Shooting Table – Smith Victor Shooting Table with Photoflood Lights ( $548 – B&H Photo and Video)

This is a neat little setup for taking photos of small objects. It comes with a tripod too, which is probably a good source of cheap aluminum (I wouldn’t put a camera on it though). If you already have lights, you can purchase the table seperately ($310). If you already have a table, you might want to check out this nice SV photoflood light kit ($399).


Speedlight ($200 – $500, depending on model)


Canon 430EX-II shown

Every major camera manufacture makes dedicated speedlights. Speedlights, also known as “shoe flashes”, are portable flash units that mount on top of the camera. In modern cameras, these speedlights work with metering systems that are integrated into the camera, to ensure good exposures every time. Many of them can also be used wirelessly, communicating with the camera via an optical signaling system. While ostensibly designed for DSLR’s, they will work with any camera that has a hot shoe, like the G12 shown above. Bear in mind that to utilize the advanced metering system, you should get the flash from the same manufacturer as your camera.


AlienBees Monolight ($225-$360, Paul C. Buff, Inc.)

I love these little guys — they’re the only lights I use now. LadyAda uses them too! They’re well made, reliable, not too expensive. Granted, there are less expensive generic monolights out there, but I’ve never found any of them to be as durable as the Bees. And the customer service from Paul C. Buff, the manufacturer, is excellent. I also like that they offer a full line of accessories which are equally well made.

Another point to consider is that it’s very easy to make your own modifiers. Unlike many light systems, which use a flange/bayonet system for mounting things to the light, the Bees use a a simple spring clamp, which fits inside a 3.5″ circle. If you want to attach your own modifiers, just cut the appropriately-sized hole in them with a hole saw and clamp them on.

There are three models of lights that share this form factor: the B400 above, the B800, and the B1600. The only difference between them is light output. The 400 puts out plenty of light for shooting things like products on a table or headshots, but consider upgrading to a B800 or B1600 if you plan to do large group portraits or use a large softbox (softboxes absorb a LOT of light).


Reflector set and holder ($85 – B&H Photo and Video)

Great for shooting small stuff on a tabletop, and particularly useful for shooting video. The reflectors can be used to bounce light back into a scene and to provide fill light. You can use the disc without a reflective covering as a diffuser, or use it with a cover to cast a shadow. You can also mount a speedlight on the boom arm to put a light source in an otherwise difficult spot.


Tripod – Manfrotto 055XB Tripod Legs w/498RC2 Ball Head ($267 – B&H Photo and Video)

You can buy one good tripod for $270 and keep it for life, or you can buy a crappy $99 tripod every few years when your old one breaks.


Memory cards – (Prices vary by size – Various vendors, including Adafruit)

Never can have enough memory cards. Larger ones (8GB+) are handy if you use your camera to shoot video. For shooting stills, I usually stick to 4GB cards — spreading the data out over multiple cards is good insurance in case one goes bad.

Keep an eye out for deals on these around the holidays — sometimes you can get them with free shipping or at a discount.


Camera Bag – LowePro CompuRover AW ($189 – B&H Photo and Video)

A handy way to carry your camera, your tripod, and your laptop (or your iPad, or whatever) , plus another compartment for the rest of your stuff.


Stay tuned for Part 2: Editing and Sharing Photos tomorrow!
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7 Comments

  1. I’m very interested in owning a Canon Powershot that can run CHDK. I see on the CHDK FAQ wiki that the G7, G9, and G11 are all compatible. Does this mean the G12 isn’t compatible, or does it just indicate that no one’s done it yet?

  2. Great list! In addition to the Lowe Bag, check out the Kata bags. Much cheaper and a bit more incognito. I have had the http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/681592-REG/Kata_KT_DR_465I_BB_KT_DR_465I_BB_Digital_Rucksack.html for some time and use it daily to carry laptop and SLR.

  3. @johngineer Would you recommend the G12 over say the Nikon 3000 or 3100 DSLRs (or canon equivalents) ?

    What are the advantages of each- Is one better for documenting projects, or portraits, or traveling pics?

    I’m used to a film SLR, and I’m not sure where to go from there… Nice guide by the way!

  4. @Chip: I’m sure someone is working on getting CHDK to work on the G12 — it’s only a matter of time. :)

    @samroesch: Thanks! Regarding SLR vs. G12: it’s hard to say. I like the G12 because it’s compact and offers a large number of features for the form-factor. The “baby” Nikon SLRs are compact (and light) too, but they’re still larger than the G12. They all do video and take great photos, so it really comes down to how it feels in your hands. If you want the feel of an SLR, then there’s no substitute. If you want something more portable but still packed with features, go with the G12.

    The most obvious nice thing about the SLRs is the interchangeable lenses. So for a portrait, for example, you could switch to a fast 85mm/1.8 prime which would let you soften the background. As far as documenting projects goes, you don’t really need SLR for that — just a nice all-around camera than can shoot wide-angle as well as moderate zoom. Sorry if this is a non-answer, but it really depends on your shooting style.

    Something to bear in mind though: if you have a Nikon film SLR, most of the lenses won’t work on the baby DSLR’s (like the 3×00 series). Older Nikon autofocus systems used a motor in the camera — the smaller Nikon DSLR’s omit this motor to reduce size and weight.

  5. @johngineer Wow, I was actually expecting much more of a “non-answer”, that really helps, thanks. With the Nikon lenses- would old F-Mount lenses that aren’t autofocus still function? (It seems as though they should…)

  6. @sam I believe so. I know that they will physically mount on the camera — an F-mount is an F-mount — however, I do not know if they will meter properly. When the D200 came out about 5 years ago, it was a big deal that older manual-focus AI/AI-S lenses would mount AND meter properly on it. I don’t know if they’ve extended this functionality “down the line” to the entry-level cameras. Bear in mind, of course, the crop factor. A 50mm lens on a cropped-frame DSLR looks like a 75mm. Very nice for portraits, but it ceases to be useful as a “normal” lens.

    I don’t know which film body you are coming from. However, if you are coming from something like an F90 or F100, you will find the D3x00 severely lacking in terms of physical feel and build. The D300s would be more your style, though it costs more.

  7. Great list. I use Alien Bees quite a bit too and they are definitely a great gift for a photographer.

    @sam the newer Nikon entry SLRs will work with AI and AI-S lenses. Like john said, the entry level DSLRs will leave you missing a lot. I second the D300s.

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