Roger’s 2012 Christmas Suggestions

Published December 3, 2012

It’s time for my annual ‘stuff for the photographer on your Christmas list’ blog post.

I realize that for most of you, well, you are the photographer on your Christmas list. So I’ve added a section of some different photo gifts you could make.

There are no cameras on the list for a two reasons. Many of the cameras on the market right now are in a death-spiral price drop. If I was going to consider one of them I’d wait until the week before Christmas. (Actually I’d wait until after Christmas, but you might not have that option.) The few cameras that seem to be doing well haven’t budged much in price at all. Which makes them unattractive compared to the death-spiral cameras in price. So, again, I’d wait.

What we’re left with is some cool stuff that doesn’t break the bank and that you might not have thought about.

As always, if I put a link to something (other than Lensrentals stuff) it’s because I like the product and I’ve shopped at the store and recommend it. I don’t get a % or $0.25 if you click through, so  feel free to go to another website and click through on their link so their kids get educated and all.

Cool Gifts for Photographers

A Lensrentals Gift Certificate
Price: Any

(This would be one of those that does send my kids to college and such. Except they’ve already finished.) If you order one it lets you print out a pdf of the gift certificate so this is ideal for the person you realize you haven’t gotten anything for around 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Truly, we’ll get more orders for these on December 24th than between now and December 24th.

Canon 40mm f/2.8
Price: $150 (after rebate)


If you have a Canon shooter on your list, they don’t have this lens, then Christmas shopping is over for you. It’s cute. It’s tiny. It’s really good. And it’s amazingly cheap. Any Canon shooter who doesn’t have this needs this. No need to read further.

Sigma 19mm or 30mm f/2.8 lenses for Micro 4/3 or NEX
Price: $199

They’re excellent, excellent lenses. They’re cheaper than even worst zooms you can put on those cameras. Like the Canon 40mm above, if they don’t have it, they’ll love it.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 

Price: $220

And finally Nikon’s version of the ‘really good and too cheap not to own’ lens. Or if you’d prefer something a bit wider, the 35mm f/1.8 is even a bit cheaper.

GoPro Hero  
Price: $200-$400


Truth be told, I’m really sick of GoPro videos consisting of nothing more than skateboard and bicycle wrecks on YouTube and Vimeo. And I’m really over the ‘faux reflection’ product shots that are sooooo 2009. But the new GoPros, with better sensors, lenses, and being wireless and all, are pretty amazing beasts. People are doing very cool things with them. Plus, for me personally, this is all the video camera I’m capable of using anyway. If I was shooting with a RED I wouldn’t get any better footage than I can with a Go-Pro strapped to my chest. “On” and “Off” are about the limits of my video camera capabilities.

Hahnel Giga T Pro II 
Price: $100


I’ve been recommending these for years and still, nobody has done it better. It’s a wireless remote with > 100 foot range that really works. Even through walls. I use it all the time to set up a camera in a corner at a party and then take pictures from anywhere in the room. Or set it up as a photo booth.

Plus it’s a self-timer with optional embedding. So you can do stuff like take a series of 10 shots once every second, repeating that every hour. (I haven’t figured out why you’d want to do that, but you can.) Plus it does a bunch of other stuff I’d hardly ever do. But the cool thing, the amazingly cool thing, is that it’s so intuitive even I didn’t need to read the manual to set it up and was using it in 2 minutes. You can get it in Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Olympus versions, at least.
Price: $20 – $100

Another thing I’ve recommended forever. Use it as a tabletop tripod. Wrap it around a pipe or a branch. Basically use it to put a camera or flash wherever you want. Then use the remote above to trigger your shots. I find it makes an awesome off-camera flash support (and they make a flash shoe clip for it). Put a couple of off-camera flashes as slaves in different parts of a room and you get amazing lighting.

Photography Related Gifts

Camera Lens Kitchen Timer
Price: $16

Sure, it’s kinda cool, but here’s the real deal. The more fake camera lens stuff you have all over the house, the less likely your significant other is going to notice that there’s an extra real camera lens around the house. Brilliant, eh?

Movie Film Sticky Notes from PerpetualKid.com   
Price: $9

Because videographers are people, too.


Build It Yourself Twin Reflex Camera Kit
Price: $30

Just the thing for that forum lurker who’s always saying ‘we had great technique when we shot film’ or ‘it’s all about the photographer, not the equipment’ guy. This is an extremely low quality, plastic lens, snap together kit that makes a camera that actually works and uses film. And makes a Holga’s image quality look like the Hubble telescope in comparison. Also, the directions are like a Google translation of the original Russian. In other words, it’s just the thing to frustrate the hell out of somebody. But probably a lot of fun to play with once you get it together.


Mini Microscope Macro lens for iPhone  
Price: $30

Who needs one of those expensive SLRs and Macro lenses? Just clip this baby on your iPhone and you’re good to go! As an added bonus, since it only fits iPhone 4/4s you can use it as an excuse for why you haven’t upgraded to the latest and greatest.

Camera Stickers 
Price: $5


OK, some adults may like these. But if you’ve got a toddler handy this is a double win. Every toddler loves stickers. You love cameras. If you’re going to have stickers put on all the furniture wouldn’t you prefer some nice vintage cameras instead of another round of Disney characters? Now if they’d just make this as wrapping paper, too.

Wood iPhone Camera Case 
Price: $50

OK, I’m sick of corney iPhone camera cases, too. But I’m all for something different and classy, and, well, here’s something different. Maybe classy. Wood’s classy, isn’t it? Plus this one comes in iPhone 4 and 5 versions. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. I got one.

Gifts for Photographers to Give

Here we have the mother load: a group of gifts that you can make using your photographs, on the cheap, yet screaming “How thoughtful am I?” or even better “Aren’t you glad you let me buy that lens now?”.

A Photo Jigsaw Puzzle 
Price: $20

They’ll use your photo to make it and you can choose from 25 pieces for the kids to 550 pieces for the puzzle fanatic in the family.

A Photo Afghan  
Price: $90

I really think, if they hadn’t used perhaps the worst marketing photo in history, people might actually consider getting this. I did check into it, though, and the distorted head feature is apparently optional. Available in any colors you want, as long as they’re black and white, so this is the perfect thing for the Leica Monochrome shooter.

A Faux Soviet Propaganda Poster  
Price: $ Some ink and paper

Take somebody’s photo, use a couple of Photoshop filters to cartoon it, add some Cyrilic text, drop it down to 3 colors, and if you don’t have a large format printer ship it of to Bayphoto or your printer of choice. Now you have something every teenager would love to display on their wall. Hey, if the best bar in Las  Vegas uses these for decortation, you know how cool it is.

Or if you’re in a rush, download any of the dozens of awesome posters in the public domain and do a quick cut-and-paste.

A Photo Collage
Price: $ Some ink and paper

Roger Cicala, 2008

So overused they’ve become cool again. Especially if you use just a bit of imagination and make it something more than just a bunch of photos slapped into a large photoshop file. The one above, for example, is a bunch of photos distorted in photoshop and then overlayed into the bubbles. I’ve seen it done with the windows of a house, the sides of a geodesic dome, a stock photo of a pile of diamonds, and dozens of other things.

And a Giveaway

‘Tis the season, right? OK, here’s the deal. My sister, who once was like this mega pressure-cooker business-type, had some kind of hippie-flashback tree-hugging episode a few years ago, dropped out, moved out to Appalacia somewhere, and runs a little country store selling stuff the other back-to-nature folks make.

Apparently, out in the country, you can’t really be a cat lady because cats are everywhere. So if you have that tendency you collect a bunch of sheep and goats and such. If you’re a Vegan-type back-to-nature type person, you don’t do the all-American thing and have a big goat-and-sheep barbeque. But you have to do something with the goats and sheep, so she hand-makes this unbelievable goat and sheep’s milk soap and puts all these herbs and stuff in it.

Now I’m not into that kind of thing, particularly, but this is some really awesome soap. My wife went on for days describing the various smells and talking about how much better this is than store soap. (Personally, I’m good with your usual soap-from-coal-tar-and-industrial-byproducts. I think this must be a girl thing.)

Under the influence of some random insane moment or other, I asked her if they could make some soap in the shape of cameras. That way my wife gets her nice soap, and I get yet another collectible camera kind of thing. I was also thinking I’d give it for little Christmas gifts. You know, for the people you don’t really want to waste time shopping for, but that you want them to know you were really thoughtful and got them something special just for them. Since everyone I know loves cameras and needs soap, this seemed a perfectly great idea.

Next thing you know, I’ve got 50 bars of little camera shaped goat-and-sheep milk soap with herbs in it. That’s about 40 bars more than I have friends, so I’ve got a few to give away. So the first 15 people to leave a comment on this post saying “Give me some soap” and email me their shipping address (roger at lensrentals.com) get a bar of camera soap.

If you’ve got some cheap camera strap you could make soap-on-a-strap or something. And even I have to admit, it smells really nice. Not nice like new-camera-smell nice. More like almonds and cinammon or some other herbs I don’t recognize. (OK, I’m not sure there are any herbs I would recognize by smell. Unless you consider coffee an herb.)

I mention this because it sort of looks like chocolate and smells really good, so you should probably clearly identify this as soap if you leave it lying around. I haven’t tried it myself, but one of the techs, who saw a bar lying on my desk, mentioned that it doesn’t taste all that great.

Shameless Plug Now  – if you’re really stuck for a Christmas gift and want something totally different, The Backroads Market has bizarre stuff like handmade brooms (is it OK to give your wife a broom for Christmas if it’s a handmade broom?), a bunch of those sheep-and-goat soaps in like 10 different scents, and some other different stuff you won’t find down at the local Wal Mark (as we call it down here). I’m told the profits mostly go for goat and sheep feed. (Well and people feed, which is probably good for the goats and sheeps too. I haven’t any scientific studies, but being the cynic I am, I suspect a Vegan starving in the middle of winter might just go all Donner-party on some goats and such, requiring years of therapy. We don’t want that to happen, do we?)

The last bar of camera soap in the giveaway went to Pete Johnson. I’ll email each of you back to let you know I have your address and the soap is on the way. 

Now, to make it more fun. I’ve got 5 more bars of sheep and goat milk camera soap (SGMCS). But since the first 15 bars went in 15 minutes, we’ll make this more challenging. Between now and tomorrow at 8 a.m. CST, you can leave a comment on why you, and only you, should get these 5 bars of SGMCS. Perhaps you haven’t bathed in years. Perhaps you have a sheep fetish. To keep it from getting too graphic, we’ll twitterize it (140 characters or less). OR, you can go over the character limit IF and only if, you write your response in the form of a haiku. Bonus points for a haiku that is 140 characters or less.

The entries will be judged tomorrow and the winner will get the 5 bars of soap. Here’s your chance to cover your entire Christmas shopping list in one contest.

Roger Cicala


December 2012

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Lensrentals.com. Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in Other
  • Roger Cicala


    An article is coming on just that.

  • Jim

    Roger, can you recommend a few great Canon lenses for landscape and portrait, for full frame body, please?

  • wow! cool stuff here 🙂 Just updated my ever growing wish list! thank you for sharing 🙂

  • I do not need the soap, Roger. My girl creates her own 🙂 (we live Vegan).
    But I need to say, that reading your blog again and again gives me info, ideas and much, much pleasure. I wish you and all employees at LRs having a great and peacefull christmas time staying (or becoming) healthy, much pleasure and love in 2013.


  • Spark

    Guess I missed the soap. Oh well, I’m used to stinking. 🙂

    Anyways, the real reason I’m posting – the photo afghan. Believe it or not, Costco’s photo center does them, in color, and cheaper:

    I ordered one for my wife a few years ago, and it’s great quality…

  • Kevin S

    Give me some soap!

  • Jon Scobey

    Give me soap

  • Roger Cicala

    BOris, I love it. You win, too. Send me your address!!!

  • happy hollidays
    in the soviet russia
    sheep and goats love you

    Too late for the contest, but I wanted to post it anyways.

  • Roger Cicala

    Stephen S has been declared the winner of 5 bars of soap. Send me your land address and I’ll get them on the way.

    Jordan and Flozano, you get a bar for great efforts. Send me your land adddress, too please — Roger at lensrentals.com

  • Stephen S

    Sheep and Goats Milk Soap:
    Sudsy clean in the shower
    no photographs please

  • Jordan

    Clouds come
    Sheep shape
    Dirt gone away.

  • Roger, the cable release you recommend is available under a number of different brand names, including some with a differently styled transmitter (but identical receiver, and I’d lay money the transmitter internals are identical too). I use the Vello/Pearstone version from B&H.

  • Ben

    Forget clever comments about it being soap, I just want to prank people thinking it’s chocolate! I teach photography in a girls college and you can imagine just how much fun I would have with these! A teachers job is to have fun, or at least I believe so. For example last lesson I poured a cold bucket of water over a pupil to demonstrate the concept of freezing movement with flash. http://thedustylenscap.com/2012/10/23/a-bit-of-fun-in-the-classroom/

  • Joachim

    I wonder why you didn’t consider the Nikon Micro Nikkor 40/2.8? Same price as Canon pancake, less small, but very sharp and very useful as Macro although it feels very plasticky.

  • Jerry

    Of course you remember the old Smothers Brothers routine. Tommy sings: “Soap, soap, soap, soap, soap, soap, soap, soap.” Dickie stops him and asks: “What are you doing?” Tommy responds: “Oh, I’m singing about 8 bars.” TaDa

  • flozano

    Sheep and goat milk soap
    Yielding an instant lather
    Sweet photo cleansing!

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