Affordable ways to give yourself a little treat – here are some of our favourite photo and video gifts available for a great price right now
Image by Annie Spratt
Whether you’re shooting at the moment or using the time away to recharge your own batteries as well as your camera’s, there are loads of ways to treat yourself to a gift without breaking the bank. It’s a tough time to be shooting (or not) at the moment, and if your bank balance can handle it, perhaps this is the time to treat yourself to that photo or video gadget you’ve had your eye on for a while.
You may have already seen our guide to gifts available for under £30 – but if you have a little more to spend, we’ve put together this guide running the gamut between £30 and £200. Whether you shoot stills, video or both, there should be plenty of gadgets here to tickle your fancy and help make all this downtime a little more bearable.
You can’t go wrong with a good tripod, and we really rate this lightweight tripod and head combo from Manfrotto. The 290 is stable but also easy to transport, expressly designed for photographers and videographers who like to be on the move – which may not be you right now, but will be again in the future!
Able to handle setups weighing up to 4kg, it works best with DSLR and mirrorless systems. The Fluid Drag system of the head makes it great for panning, and photo and video users alike will get a lot out of this feature. A fantastic support system for all seasons and users, the Manfrotto 290 Light Tripod with Befree Live Fluid Head will definitely get you thinking positively about future shoots again.
Manfrotto 290 Light Tripod with Befree Live Fluid Head
Manfrotto's 290 Light Tripod with Befree Live Fluid Head has been designed with vloggers and mobile journalists in mind. It perfectly caters for small DSLR and mirrorless cameras systems and thanks to the fluid drag system, you can experience smooth and stable panning. The tripod and included fluid head are super-lightweight and portable which is what makes the kit perfect for travelling photographers and videographers, or those simply what to cut down the weight of their kit bag. This is also eleigble for Manfrotto's extended warranty that adds up to 10 years of warranty cover, all accessed via Manfrotto's website.
If you’ve been using a knackered old rucksack from university to cart your camera gear around in, maybe now is the time to treat yourself to a proper camera bag? For the optimal balance between capacity, utility and affordability, we’d recommend the ProTactic BP 350 AW II Backpack from Lowepro. Designed for a broad spectrum of camera setups, but especially mirrorless and DSLR systems, the ProTactic BP 350 AW II can also accommodate 360-degree cameras, drones such as the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, or long DSLR lenses like a workhorse 70-200mm f/2.8.
The interior is fully adaptable and comes equipped with multiple access points, so you can experiment with different configurations of gear to find the arrangement that works best for you. Being in lockdown is a good time to play around with this sort of thing – and means that you’ll be that little bit more prepared when it’s time to get back out there!
Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II Backpack - Black
The Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II Backpack in black is a high-performance and versatile camera backpack for standard DSLRs and Pro Mirrorless camera bodies. It accommodates for a 360 camera, DJI Mavic 2 Pro or Zoom, DJI Osmo+, DSLR with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens attached, and a medium tripod. With its adaptive interior, multiple access points, modular exterior attachment capabilities and convertible utility belts, it is equipped to support your creativity wherever it takes you.
Binoculars are a fantastic treat for a whole host of different types of photographer, and this extended break is the ideal time to pick up a pair! We’d recommend the Olympus Nature 8x40 DPS I Binoculars, which are fantastic for scouting locations, spotting wildlife, peeking at the night sky and lots more.
Durable and high-quality, with a sure-grip rubber coating, the binoculars handle well in the field, and have built-in dioptric correction to adjust for individual eyesight. With a large centre-focus knob that is close to hand for intuitive focusing, the binoculars feel natural to use and you’ll doubtless be up to speed with operating them extremely quickly. That Olympus name on the logo also means you can be sure that the optics are of top quality, and you’ll be able to see distant subjects with pin-sharp clarity.
One of the most cost-effective ways to up the production value of your video shoots is to introduce a little smooth camera movement. A straightforward way to do that is to pick up a slider, and we’d recommend the RatRig V-Slider 35. Available for a great price, this slider is constructed from anodised aluminium and features eight bearings to make camera movement friction-free; its wheels ensure the glide is super smooth and controlled.
Even if you’re a stills photographer at heart, a slider can be a fantastic way to experiment with time-lapse, giving your completed project a frisson of movement that makes it that bit more exciting and memorable. Versatile enough to work with all sorts of different camera setups, the RatRig V-Slider 35 is a great starting point for a whole host of different projects, in lockdown and beyond.
RatRig V-Slider 35
The hand-built, high-quality RatRig V-Slider is a robust camera slider that features 8 bearings to prevent sticky friction-based movement. 35cm long, this slider is constructed of stainless steel and anodised aluminium. Its Delrin wheels provide a super-smooth glide as well as a huge load capacity. This lightweight V-Slider has multiple mounting points for attaching cameras and tripods.
Another one for video users – one of the most glaring differences between amateur and professional video is sound quality. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated your camera’s sensor is or how meticulously you’ve crafted your lighting setup, if your sound isn’t up to scratch, your video will feel unmistakably amateurish.
Correct the problem easily and affordably with a shotgun microphone like the Rode VideoMic Pro R. Slotting easily into the hotshoe of a DSLR or mirrorless camera, the Rode VideoMic Pro R is one of those welcome tools that simply works – just point it at whatever you want to hear and be amazed at the difference in sound quality. The Rode VideoMic Pro R is equipped with the Lyre suspension system, which is designed to isolate the microphone from handling noises, and the ultra-lightweight microphone (just 83g in weight) will add relatively little to your camera’s footprint. Thinking about vlogging? This is the perfect treat to get you started!
Rode VideoMic Pro R
A true shotgun microphone designed for use with camcorders, DSLR cameras and portable audio recorders as a source of primary and reference audio. The Rode VideoMic Pro R builds on the original VideoMic Pro with the inclusion of Rycote's famous Lyre suspension system, which isolates your microphone from handling noise. Note: battery not included.
Give your stills or videos a burst of light with the Aputure Amaran AL-M9 LED Light. Small enough to fit in a bag or pocket, the AL-M9 is bursting with up to 900lux of light, and is a great way to give yourself just that little boost of illumination when you need it. You might want to fill in some shadows, or just give a subject some of that smooth, even lighting that brings a composition to life – the AL-M9 is a great way to do all of that and more. Able to mount to a camera’s hotshoe, it’s as good for run-and-gun shooting as it is for painstakingly constructed compositions.
Amaran AL-M9 LED Light
The Amaran AL-M9 is a pocket-sized, daylight-balanced LED video light for both stills and video. The on-camera AL-M9 features 9 SMD bulbs that provide a max of 900lux and its compact, lightweight design makes it suitable for a wide variety of applications, from run and gun video to macro product photography.
An affordable speedflash that offers TTL functionality with Canon and Nikon, the Kenro KFL101 Speedflash is a great, affordable way to introduce fast flash into your photographic repertoire. Powered by AA batteries, it’s got all the functionality you need from a speedflash unit, including high speed synchronisation, a fast recycle time, a professionally designed head that rotates 180 ° horizontally and tilts 90° for bounce flash, a built-in angle diffuser and reflector card, and lots more.
If you use a brand other than Canon or Nikon, take a browse through our selection of affordable speedlights, and you’ll like find something that suits your setup!
With both Canon and Nikon TTL compatibility, the Kenro KFL101 Speedflash boasts a wide range of features including a powerful Guide No of 58 (ISO100, 180mm), high speed synchronisation, S1 and S2 slave functions, fast recycle time, auto-zoom, manual zoom and a built-in diffuser. A large LCD screen with backlight option makes operation quick and easy.
Don’t think just about a camera – maybe your trusty smartphone can be put to work for photos or videos too? The FeiyuTech Vimble 2 is a handheld gimbal and stabiliser designed specifically to hold a range of smartphones – simply fit the smartphone into the dedicated cradle and enjoy super-stabilised video even while on the move. It’s great for vloggers and other run-and-gun video producers, but it also has utility for stills shooters too, as it’s also a telescopic pole that can be extended into a selfie stick!
FeiyuTech Vimble 2
The FeiyuTech Vimble 2 is both a 3-axis stabilised handheld gimbal and selfie stick for smartphones. Perfect for Vloggers and travellers who want to capture smooth, stabilised footage on the move, the Vimble 2 can be used in both the portrait and landscape format, and it features a built-in telescopic pole that can extend up to 18cm, allowing you to capture scenes from different perspectives.
Whether you want to accurately monitor the audio intake of your DSLR video setup, or just chill out on the sofa listening to Carly Rae Jepsen’s seminal 2015 album E•MO•TION (other music options are also available, presumably), a pair of headphones is the ideal treat for doing so.
Sennheiser’s HD 25 are a good choice, balancing value and quality. They’re light and portable, but also boast sophisticated attenuation of background noise, ensuring you get a professional-quality listening experience at a fraction of the price. They’re designed to be comfortable even when used for prolonged periods, so whether you’re shooting a long video or just relaxing for the afternoon, you can feel free to plug in and play to your heart’s content.
Sennheiser HD 25 Headphones
Sennheiser's HD25 Headphones are widely regarded as the ‘industry standard' for DJ headphones. Lightweight and versatile, the closed-back HD25s are specifically designed for professional use - offering high attenuation of background noise. Whether you're a DJ, sound recordist or cameraman, these headphones will offer high-quality, true sound.
If you’re using the lockdown time to really get stuck into image editing, then why not try it out on a graphics tablet? Using a tablet can not only allow you to take a much-needed break from your computer screen, but also make image-editing into a much more tactile, free-flowing experience.
We’d recommend using this small version of the Intuos Pro from Wacom – who are one of the true market leaders when it comes to this type of tablet. With the included Wacom Pro Pen 2 that boasts 8,192 different levels of pressure sensitivity, you can achieve a level of intuitive detail you may not have thought possible, and really get stuck into editing your images without having to hunch over your computer desk!
Wacom Intuos Pro - Small
Save £10, was £199
Wacom Intuos Pro sets the standard for professional creative pen tablets.The exceptional pen performance and creative capabilities will help you achieve new creative breakthroughs. At the heart of Wacom Intuos Pro is Wacom Pro Pen 2 which features 8,192 levels of pressure-sensitivity, tilt-response and virtually lag-free tracking. With Wacom Intuos Pro, you can illustrate, edit photos and videos, or design digitally with more natural creative control than ever before.
About the Author
Jon Stapley is a professional journalist with a wealth of experience on a number of photography titles including Amateur Photographer, Digital Camera World and What Digital Camera. See more of his writing on Jon's author page.