It’s that time of year again. And rather than try to answer thousands of e-mails separately with my gift picks, I’m going to do it right here in this blog post. I will try to work out something next week with mid-range items. For now, here’s the dream guide…

Point & Shoot

Canon Powershot G11

Canon PowerShot G11 is geared towards a more serious photographer who wants a pocket camera that has some of the same features as a DSLR without the size.

The G11 comes with a built-in 28-140mm equivalent 5x zoom, with an f/2.8-4.5 maximum aperture range and optical image stabilization. It offers a sturdy metal body with a comfortable heft and a 2.8″, high resolution, fully articulated LCD screen. Pros will also appreciate the dedicated TTL hotshoe, 1/2000 flash-sync speed, and RAW capabilities. When people ask me about buying a sub-$500 camera, this is it.

Third – Party Lens

Lensbaby Composer & Accessories

I love me some Lensbaby. For relatively little money, you can buy a lens that really should be thought more of like a lens system. You can buy and add on a super wide adapter, a soft portrait lens, a circular fisheye lens and more.

Not only is this stuff cool, it’s one of the few pieces of gear that I can safely say will make the photographer in your life more creative. Available in a variety of mounts.

Lensbaby The Composer for Nikon F mount Digital SLR Cameras

Lensbaby The Composer for Canon EF mount Digital SLR Cameras

And don’t forget these must-have Lensbaby accessories that round out the Lensbaby lineup. The new fisheye and soft focus optic could easily appear on several lists.

Lensbaby .42X Super Wide Angle Accessory Lens (Black)

Lensbabies LBOFE Fisheye Optic for Lensbabies Composer Lenses

Lensbabies LBOSF Soft Focus Optic for Optic Swap System for Lensbabies Composer, Muse and Control Freak

(NOTE: Lensbaby is a sponsor of Photofocus. I’ve been using their product since BEFORE they were a sponsor and have no problem including them on this list.)

DSLR for Video

Canon 7D

Canon EOS 7D BODY ONLY

I’ve tried every Canon and Nikon DSLR that shoots video. In my opinion, the 7D does the best job for the money of capturing video. It shoots 1080p 24FPS and gives the photographer/videographer complete control of important tools like focus, depth-of-field and shutter speed.

Shooting this camera at 24FPS at 1/50th of a second I have been able to achieve a film-like quality that dazzles my friends who own and operate high-end video gear costing 10 times as much.

The 7D is a capable stills camera as well.

DLSRs

Nikon D300s BODY ONLY

The Nikon D300s is my choice for pro-sumer DSLR where video isn’t important. While the D300s does shoot video, it’s not up to the quality of the Canon 7D’s video. But as a stills camera, this unit rocks. I like the Canon 7D for still photos as well, but wanted to put a Nikon on the list in this price range for those who have Nikon glass.

The 12.3 MP sensor offers enough resolution to make large prints but still offers low-noise images. The LCD is a thing to behold. Auto-focus is amazing. The camera shoots at 7-fps right out of the box, has dual memory card slots and many other features you only typically find on the high-end, pro bodies.

Nikon D3s BODY ONLY

For those of you who want the very best, my choice is the new Nikon D3s. This is simply one of the best cameras ever made. The low-light performance on this unit is downright scary. ISO 6400 is VERY usable! Again, I am not so impressed with the camera’s video mode, but every single other function on the D3s is state-of-the-art and untouchable by any other DSLR. Nikon’s autofocus is currently the best in the business. It’s low-noise capability is unsurpassed. The build quality, metering and everything else about this camera screams QUALITY. It’s not cheap at $5200 but it’s worth it.

This new version offers dynamic integrated dust reduction system and a larger image buffer.

Canon Glass

Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM Ultra-Wide Angle Lens

I used to own this lens when I was a Canon still shooter. I rented it the other day for a video project and remembered how sweet it really is. It’s nearly impossible to go this wide without distortion, but Canon’s engineers figured out a way to make it happen with this rectilinear corrected, distortion-free lens providing a 114-degree diagonal angle of view. It’s great for street, landscape or architectural photographers shooting with a full-frame body.

Nikon Glass

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S NIKKOR Lens

If you know a Nikon shooter, this lens is what they want for the holidays. They want it badly. They dream of it nightly. It’s Nikon’s newest pro-lens. It has everything. It’s sharp, has the latest Vibration Reduction technology and solves the vignetting problem present in the old 70-200 when used on a full-frame sensor camera. It offers the new Nano-Crystal coating, SW motor, internal focusing; you name it – it has it. My new favorite Nikon lens.

Strobe

Elinchrom Ranger Quadra Kit

At $2200 this is not an inexpensive lighting solution, but if you need portable power that dwarfs what’s available from top-of-the-line flash heads, the Ranger Quadra is for you. I played with one of these babies at Photoshop World in Vegas this year and was blown away by their power, ease-of-use, portability and light output. There are a variety of light modifiers available to compliment the kit.

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This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

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