The Holiday Gift Guide

The Holiday Gift Guide

Welcome to the first ever Holiday Gift Guide. Here, we’ll be listing some of our favorite cameras, lenses, and accessories that you should consider for the photo geek you’re shopping for. We’ll break this list down by category, so you can easily find something for the shutterbug in your life, no matter what their experience level is.

Let’s start with that all-important question – what camera should I rent?


We broke this section down by category, from pro-level to the new mirrorless cameras.

Nikon D800Cameras (pro-level)

  • Nikon D800 or D800E
    • It’s received some of the highest ratings ever given to any camera by testing company DxO, and has been universally lauded as having some of the best dynamic range capabilities ever packed into a DSLR, and is competitively priced, too.
  • Others to consider:


Canon Rebel T4i

Canon Rebel T4i

Cameras (consumer DSLR)

  • Canon Rebel T4i
    • Canon’s Rebel series precedes their digital cameras and has established a really good track record as the go-to DSLRs for many beginners. With an 18MP sensor, an articulating touch screen and compatibility with all of Canon’s lenses, the Rebel T4i is a fantastic starter DSLR that is capable of producing outstanding results.
  • Others to consider:
Sony NEX-6

Sony NEX-6

Cameras (Compact Systems with Interchangeable Lenses)

  • Sony NEX-6
    • The latest addition to Sony’s popular NEX series adds some first-rate features that even its more senior sibling, the NEX-7, doesn’t have. For starters, Sony has made autofocus much faster, and has added in WiFi to make moving your images off the camera even easier. It’s still compatible with all of Sony’s E-mount lenses, and with the LA-EA2 adapter, it works with Sony’s A-mount DSLR lenses too.
  • Others to consider


Lenses are, quite simply, a hard nut to crack. Each manufacturer has dozens, and they run the gamut from the super-expensive 800mm telephoto from Canon, to the relatively inexpensive 35mm f/2 lens from Nikon. So we broke this category down a bit to help you wade through the offerings on our site.

Wide-Angle Lens

Standard lens

  • Sigma 35mm f/1.4

    Sigma 35mm f/1.4

    Sigma 35mm f/1.4 for Canon, Nikon, and Sony

    • Sigma’s new 35mm lens has a lot of folks tripping over themselves in excitement. Reviewers are calling it a surprisingly sharp lens, matching up to or exceeding the sharpness of the lenses from Canon and Nikon. A USB port gives Sigma the ability to update the firmware in this lens, so small tweaks and improvements can be expected down the line. As standard lenses go, Sigma seems to have hit this one right out of the ballpark.
  • Others to consider:

Telephoto lens

  • Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II

    Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II

    Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II

    • “That thing is so sharp, you can cut yourself on it.” That’s what a colleague at told me when the lens was first released. Corny lines aside, this is easily the best 70-200mm lens Canon’s ever made, and it’s arguably one of the finest optics in its class out there. With first-rate image stabilization and outstanding corner-to-corner sharpness, low distortion and chromatic aberration, this is the go-to for many shooters looking to cover this focal length.
  • Others to consider:

Sleeper Hits

I wanted to include some items that a lot of folks tend to overlook, for a variety of reasons. So, here they are…

  • Canon 400mm f/5.6L

    Canon 400mm f/5.6L

    Best Telephoto People Don’t Know Much About

    • This would have to be the Canon 400mm f/5.6L lens. A superb piece of glass, it’s lightweight, has an integrated hood, and is about as long as the 70-200mm optics mentioned above. No image stabilization, but this is a 400mm lens you can shoot handheld all day long without feeling it. It’s sharp, too, and if you throw it on a camera like the 7D, you end up with an effective 640mm f/5.6 lens with Canon’s USM motor for a first-rate bird or action photography lens.
  • Best Portrait Lens for Maximum Bokeh Control
    • Nikon’s 135mm f/2D AF DC (there’s a mouthful for you) features Nikon’s unique Defocus-image Control technology, which allows you to control background and foreground blur for striking portraits. That kind of selective bokeh control makes this lens (and it’s 105mm sibling) a pretty unique lens to try out. Watch for our article about this lens and how to use it in a few weeks.
  • Best “Are you kidding me?” Superzoom
    • Sigma's 50-500mm

      Sigma’s 50-500mm

      Sigma’s 50-500mm (nicknamed the “Bigma”) lens has had something of a cult following for some time now. Any time you have a lens that can go from 50mm to 500mm, you’re looking at some loss of optical quality, but people have been taking outstanding images with this lens since it was released, despite the compromises it makes. Now, it’s Optically Stabilized version (nicknamed “BigmOS”) is out, and as we’ve reviewed in the past, it’s also a pretty neat lens. If you’re looking to give an inexpensive superzoom a try, you should look at the BigmOS.

  • Best Bag to Defy the Laws of Physics
    • Guragear’s 30L backpack

      Guragear’s 30L backpack

      Guragear’s 30L backpack wins this category, hands-down. Here’s what I said about it in a past review:
      “This thing will accomodate one of the largest lenses we rent, the monster 600mm lens from Nikon or Canon, or Canon’s 800mm (which is a hair larger, by .1 inches, but 2 lbs lighter) lens on one side and a couple of bodies and still more (smaller) lenses on the other. We often wonder if this bag is somehow bending the laws of physics because it doesn’t appear to be capable of holding all that, but does anyway. Empty, it weighs practically nothing. Filled to capacity and properly cinched up around you (the bag has a bunch of adjustable straps and harnesses), it still feels surprisingly light and extremely comfortable to carry. There’s just no argument – this is the big backpack of choice for us.”

  • Best “You rent what!?” Category on the site

And finally, the one gift you can get that’ll give you “All of the above”….

The Gift Certificate! Available from $10 to $500, this is your ticket to try out the items above.

Happy holidays, folks!


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Sohail Mamdani is a writer and photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter. You can find his blog at and his work on 500px.

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