With the holiday season being the ideal time of the year to take up a new hobby or take an existing one to the next level, it's no surprise that numerous manufacturers are now quick to push their photography equipment as the ultimate gift, whether for your loved one or your humble self. However, the market is extremely crowded and pinpointing the best performer in any given category is often no mean feat. That's where AndroidHeadlines comes in, with the guide in front of you being meant to provide you with a quick overview of the very best photography equipment spanning all price segments (with a focus on consumer-grade hardware) that you should consider getting in 2018/19.
Prices below are subject to change. This post will be updated regularly to ensure the most up-to-date pricing, but during the holidays, there will be flash sales and price drops so keep that in mind.
Best Value Lens - make the most of your budget
Who doesn't like to get the maximum bang for their buck? That's precisely what the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM FLD will provide you with, even though the Japanese firm isn't exactly known for making budget-conscious gear and has instead built its reputation on premium hardware. Regardless, this lens offers a traditionally versatile focal length, ultrasonic autofocusing, and a relatively bright aperture that make it an all-around great performer for product, landscape, and urban photography. Better yet, Sigma is offering versions for virtually all major DSLR camera lineups, including those from Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Pentax. Naturally, Sigma-made DSLRs are compatible with this lens as well.
Best Travel Lens - when you can only bring one
Regardless of what kind of a photographer you are, you probably don't want to pack five lenses and a tripod for your travels. When you're out there exploring the world, being able to take an image momentarily is preferred to having a ton of gear on your back, meaning superzoom lenses are the way to go. This product category had a bit of a bad reputation for years as extreme focal lens range usually equals to significantly worse image quality but that started changing in recent years. Case in point - the Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di-II VC PZD. If we had to choose a single lens to take on a deserted island, this would certainly be our choice because of its versatility and sharpness, even with a wide open aperture. Better yet, Tamron's mid-range solution is remarkably compact given its capabilities and weighs under 540 grams, which is even lighter than most ASP-C DSLR cameras
Best Action Lens - freeze motion like a pro
If you're getting serious about sports photography or capturing movement in general and don't want to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on your hobby, the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG HSM OS FLD is the best-value telephoto option on the market that provides you with professional-grade specs implemented into a body that's comfortable to handle, especially for its size. Regardless of your preferred action subject, this lens will have you covered and is available in variants with Sigma SA, Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony Alpha, and Pentax KAF3 mounts.
Best Macro Lens - take a closer look in the best way possible
Nothing beats a good prime lens when it comes to macro photography in a(t least somewhat) controlled environment, and nothing proves that better than the Tokina AT-X 100mm f/2.8 PRO D, an amazing piece of glass that will make the most of any subject from up close. Regardless of whether you want to achieve a stellar bokeh effect or simply ensure your macro photography is as crisp as possible, this Tokina-made lens will provide you with stellar results at a highly reasonable price, regardless of whether you use a Canon or Nikon camera.
Best Video Lens - facilitate your filmmaking ambitions
The love Tarantino and Nolan have for the 35mm focal length is far from unfounded but as far as non-Hollywood filmmaking is concerned, an 85mm primer is likely to the most versatile tool in a content creator's arsenal. Cue the Rokinon CV85M-C 85mm t/1.5, an embodiment of everything that's fantastic about 85mm lenses; it's compact, can produce some amazing depth-of-field, is amazing for close-ups, works in a lot of action scenarios, and is extremely convenient for documentary purposes because its focal length allows you to stay out of your subject's faces, lowering your chances of intimidating them. Coupled with a de-clicked aperture an excellent focusing mechanism, this product will be a worthy and inexpensive addition to your filmmaking arsenal and can be bought with a Canon, Nikon, Sony (A & E), and a Micro Four Thirds mount.
Best Beginner Tripod - keep your camera safe and steady
One thing you ought to learn as soon as you start your photography journey is that you can't afford to spend too little on a tripod. Even the worst camera can deliver decent results in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing but a fragile tripod will see your hundreds of dollars' worth of equipment destroyed in a moment. That's why our recommendation for beginner photographs is to still invest in the SLIK PRO 700DX, a decent mid-range option that's sturdy, tall (up to 75.0"), and features an aluminum-magnesium build with legs made of a titanium alloy to ensure it will serve you for many years to come. When it comes to mounting any kind of gear on a slim three-leg pedestal, you really can't afford to cheap out.
Best Flash Stand - be reasonable and save your hard-earned money
Even if you're a pro, you don't need a $300 tripod for your off-camera flash. When it comes to such setups, portability has to make way for stability, at least to a degree. Unless it's windy, a single flash shouldn't be in any danger of being knocked over so if sandbags aren't a necessity, your best option is the CheetahStand C12 which can be set up, moved, and stored at a moment's notice due to its automated assembly mechanism. The fact that it can be made up to 11.75 feet tall is also a massive benefit when it comes to manipulating light, so if off-camera flash is something you use a lot or about to start doing so, the CheetahStand C12 will be your best investment this holiday season.
Best Tripod - for mounting even the largest gear monstrosities
Yes, you can spend $500 on a tripod but that only makes sense if you hate money seeing how the Manfrotto MK190X3-2W 190 is an equally capable option that comes from an established accessory brand and is (currently) available at nearly half that price. An ultra-premium, perfectly stable build like this one usually comes with a trade-off of a head that's difficult to unlock in a swift manner but that isn't the case here, so if you want to have maximum flexibility while still knowing your equipment is perfectly stable, the Manfrotto MK190X3-2W 190 is by far the most affordable option for you.
Best Beginner Flash - let some extra light help you improve your photography game
Photography is both an art form and a craft of manipulating light, and while learning to work with a dedicated flash can be intimidating, you can start doing so on the cheap as soon as today. Enter the Yongnuo YN-560 IV Flash, a perfect beginner flash Speedlite that's compatible with all contemporary DSLR cameras from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Olympus, allows for granular shooting controls, and remembers the settings that work for you automatically, all for under $70. It can also be used as both a master and slave unit, though by the time you get to working with multiple flashes, you'll probably want to upgrade to something slightly more capable. Or go all the way and buy the following item...
Best Flash - a no-compromise solution
While the best value-oriented flash on the market is a third-party affair, the best overall product in this category comes from Nikon's workshop and it's not even close. If you want to be on the bleeding edge of tech innovations, your only option is to go with the Nikon SB-5000, an amazing feat of engineering that goes as far as to feature the world's first hotshoe-mounted cooling system which allows you to take up to 100 consecutive shots. This incredible gadget is still in high demand two years following its debut, so your best bet is to pick it from an authorized distributor. If you don't use a Nikon camera, you should look at the top models from your DSLR manufacturer if you want a no-compromise flash solution but the SB-5000 has yet to be beaten. Also, don't mix Nikon flashes with Canon cameras or vice versa because the best you can hope to get out of it is an overpriced light source that can only shoot in manual mode.
Best Value Camera Bag - a sensible solution for a variety of scenarios
Spending hundreds of dollars on a camera bag isn't an unfeasible scenario, but it's hardly necessary. Anything that's even remotely compact won't protect your gear from significant impact and a basic bag of a decent size that cushions smaller bumps and is weather-proof can be bought for around $100. Take the Domke F-3X, for example. A hundred bucks is certainly not cheap for a bag but it's that sweet spot that provides you with plenty of protection for your thousands of dollars of gear while still being somewhat reasonable compared to fancier solutions which rarely do anything better, apart from looking more stylish. If you're seeking suitcases to store your photography equipment in, you may also want to look at Manfrotto products but as far as conventional, easy-to-carry bags are concerned, the Domke F-3X is currently the most sensible option on the market.
Best Camera Bag For Hoarders - when you just have to bring it all with you
If you insist on top protection but also can't decide how many of your half a dozen lenses to take on your next assignment and also happen to have two favorite cameras, you can simply keep them all with you with the Vanguard Alta Sky 45D, one of the largest camera backpacks from an established brand that's currently available on the market. And if two DSLRs and six or seven lenses still aren't enough for a single assignment, you probably need to reassess your approach to photography.
Best Miscellaneous Camera Accessory - something that everyone needs
What's one piece of photography gear you probably haven't upgraded since you bought your first entry-level DSLR? That's right, the camera strap. It's an often-overlooked accessory but spending as little as a few bucks on a new one can amount to a surprising difference. The Tarion shoulder-and-neck strap is probably the most affordable such accessory that will still improve your quality of life while out there shooting as it's noticeably more comfortable to wear and even looks more stylish than whatever kit strap you were given with your camera.