Holiday Gear Guide: Gift Ideas Under $200

Holiday Gear Guide: Gift Ideas Under $200

Ah... tis the season of giving! Last week we introduced you to some great gift ideas under $100. We are continuing our Gear Guide this week with ideas that cost just a bit more. For those of you who have a little bit of a budget and you want to make sure you're spending it wisely, we wholeheartedly support that endeavor with these fantastic gift ideas that will keep you under $200 but still put a big grin on your favorite photographer's face.

Over the next few weeks we will be releasing updates to our Holiday Gear Guide, first starting with the lower-cost items and working our way up to the premium stuff.

Up until the end of the holiday season, Fstoppers will be posting the raging-burning-explosivly-awesome deals that we find online that you just can't afford to miss. If there is anything we all love, it's saving money on the stuff we really want.

You can get to the complete list of products between $100 and $200 by clicking here, but below are a few of the standout ideas that we think you should consider for that special photographer in your life.

Lightroom 4 Lightroom 4 is the most popular photo editing and workflow software out there, and for good reason. No other software allows the RAW and jpeg editing freedom that Lightroom does (in addition to allowing for unlimited presets from various third party sources) and also gives the type of workflow simplicity that is important to photographers with a lot of images in their library. A must-have for any photographer out there. [Amazon | B&H]


PocketWizard Plus III If the photographer in your life uses off-camera flash, having a pair of PocketWizards makes all the difference. There are a lot of cheap knockoff brands out there, but if you want to show you care you'll go for the real thing. You can also use them to remotely trigger the camera itself, so that's great fun for photo booths or unusual angles. What's good to remember is that you only really need two of these: one on the camera, and one on one of the lights. You can trigger the remaining lights using slave sensors. [Amazon | B&H]


Manfrotto 190XB w/ Micro Fluid Head Tripods are expensive, it's a fact that many of us have had a hard time coming to terms with. That said, there are affordable options that still get the job done, like this tripod from Manfrotto. If the photographer in your life is still using that piece of junk tripod he bought at Best Buy four years ago, ease his suffering with a brand spanking new quality one. [Amazon | B&H]


Lensbaby Composer Pro Tilt shift lenses are expensive. Crazily expensive. Though the result isn't quite the same, Lensbaby lenses give a similar feel to the images for a lot less investment. There are a lot of popular photographers who use these lenses, and they can work great for bridal portraits or engagement sessions. They are a little tricky to use, but once you get a handle on it, they're great. [Amazon | B&H]


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Tam Nguyen's picture

If I could choose again, you couldn't pay me $200 to get Lightroom 4. No thanks.

Zach Sutton's picture

Why the hate on LR? Its not supposed to be a Photoshop replacement, but rather, a companion.

LR is great for organizing photos and doing minor adjustments before putting the image into Photoshop.

Tam Nguyen's picture

Have you used LR4 and seen how sluggish it is? No matter what you do and how powerful your rig is, it's almost unusable after a few minutes of browsing/culling.

Zach Sutton's picture

I disagree. Lightroom is speedy on my system and runs without any issues. However, my computer has 32GB of RAM, and 4GB of anything runs quick on it.

And its not meant to be as fast as something like PhotoMechanic. Not only is it a Camera RAW reader, but it has alot of powerful tools in it that can bog it down at times. But I havent found any of the LR series being terribly is reading hundreds of 25MB+ files at any given need to give it a little patience sometimes. :-)

Tam Nguyen's picture

I mean I love LR4 because it's got better tools and can process your RAWs better. I really wish the speed was as fast as LR3 used to be. When you have to cull 1k photos, it really becomes a PITA... at least for my case. I have Core i7-960 running at 3.8 GHz, 24 GB of RAM (triple channel), a SSD, and 1 GB of GPU. Don't think it uses as much GPU resources though.

Zach Sutton's picture

I'd recommend checking out PhotoMechanic then. Its got hardly any tools for editing it it, but its speedy fast, and great for proofing large amounts of RAW files. I got wind of it when I was working for some photo journalistic stuff a couple years ago.

Basically, if you have a ton of photos to go through, load them in PhotoMechanic, go through and rate the ones you'll actually use (For Example, you might take 2K photos at a wedding, but only actually use 600 of them), then load the selected photos into LR.

Same here. There is no reason that Adobe should not be able to make it run as efficiently as LR3. 
Like others have said, get Photo Mechanics. Its that good. 

Frederick Alfaro's picture

My suggestion is Break down your library file by year or month based on often you shoot, Some studio/weding shooters could even have one per client/shoot it really speeds up and a lot of the time you wont be working on old images that are using up ram slowing everything else down

also get a SSD so much faster in every aspect, i got a small one and a drobo external via firewire 800 and am about to get the drobo mini thunderbolt  for "active" work.

Patrick Hall's picture

I think the issue is that many people are claiming LR3 is faster than LR4.  I have a SSD and drobo and run LR4 on a PC with 12GB of RAM and it is still pretty sluggish (about 2 seconds between images).  I can't remember if LR3 was that much faster but I also didn't have D600/D800 files back when I was using 3.  

As a wedding photographer, trust me, you only want to go through images once.  Loading 2000-4000 images into another program like PM, rating the best, and then reloading them into LR is not an effective workflow.  SLR Lounge has an excellent series on LR that shows how to speed things up quite a bit but hopefully Adobe will do even more to improve the next versions of LR4 or even LR5.  

I use a combination of Picasa (it can display CR2's) and LR. Despite being maddeningly frustration from an organizational point of view, Picasa is amazingly powerful for browsing and culling lots and lots of pictures.

Mike Stog's picture

Tam- check out (PhotoMechanic 7) Fastest culling software out there! 

Patrick Hall's picture

PhotoMechanics is the software used by Sports Illustrated right?  I remember seeing them cull images on that during the Fstoppers video we did with them and it looks so archaic.  I def would not want to trade LR for PM if it's the same software.  Might be good for studio/commercial shoots where you just need the best images but for weddings that require slight adjustments on each frame that would be a nightmare.  

Tam Nguyen's picture

Thanks guys. I mean I've heard of PhotoMechanic before, but I dread having 2 separate software to process my photos. I guess I can't have the cake and eat it too.

your telling bullshit tam... sorry but that´s the truth.

maybe 10 % experience slow performance.. the majority (including myself) have absolutely no performance issues.

and i have to process around 1000-1500 images a day.

photo ninja is slow compared to LR.. i guess it is because it uses very powerfull algorithm to demosaice the RAW files. sometimes and for some images it´s worth to wait a bit longer.

anyway on my system LR 4.x is as fast as LR 3.6.

to say, per se, LR 4 is slow is just a naiv rant.
it is for some but not for the majority.

Patrick Hall's picture

I think we need to define "fast or slow".  LR4 does run slow for me (similar setup as Tam but with only 12 gigs of RAM), but slow for me means 2 seconds between images after rendering previews overnight (yeah it takes hours to render previews for 3000 D600/D800 files).  Once you calculate say 10 seconds an image for basic adjustments, those 2 seconds between images really adds up.  I really can't say if LR3 was faster than LR4 because I had 12-16mpx images on LR3 where now I have 24-36mpx images on LR4 but it def seems slow to me.  However, if we take into account Nikon's Capture NX software....then yes LR4 is blazing fast!

Tam, if you're having speed issues, you should try using the 2010 (LR3) process as default in LR4. Processing speeds should reflect the change. Enjoy ;)

Mike Kelley's picture

Aperture > Lightroom. I am absolutely devoted to Aperture and for less money I think it does a just as good, if not better job. And I don't get the slowness that LR has given me.

I am having a 50% off fine art photography sale for black friday.

I love the lightroom to photoshop workflow. Doing a one light quickly in LR and then editing it in photoshop or saving the tiff for later is an amazingly streamlined process. My only beef with LR 4 is that I prefer the gui and exposure tools in 3 versus 4 (although you can change those on a case by case basis at the bottom).