Man, it’s been quite a year. Let’s buy some stuff.
I know you have this friend: “Yeah, I just got this new (insert name of entry-level DSLR). I really like it. I haven’t really had much time to learn to use it though. I mostly leave it on auto.” When they say “I really like it,” they sound like a coffee shop employee describing the vegan chocolate cookie as “delicious,” i.e. lying. They hold up their camera and sure enough, it has the kit lens. Flimsy and slow, not even worth the $120 it added to the price of the camera, it is the reason your friend is not as excited by their DSLR purchase as they thought they’d be.
Rock their world with a fast fifty—a 50mm prime with a large maximum aperture. For Canon, there’s the no-excuses 50mm f/1.8 II ($100), and the best deal going 50mm f/1.4 ($360). Or show ‘em you really love ‘em with the crazy 50mm f/1.2 L ($1600). For Nikon, there’s the 50mm f/1.8D ($125), and if you want to go big I recommend the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX ($500).
All of these are available on the ProLost Store Fast 50s page.
You also have this friend, or more likely a family member: They have a Canon PowerShot that’s never done them wrong over the several years they’ve owned it. It has a tiny little LCD screen and uses its flash in anything less than searing sunlight. They have no idea how things have improved since they spent $400 on that little beast. A new Canon Powershot that beats this oldie-but-goodie in every way can be theirs for only $150 or so: the Canon PowerShot SD1200IS. It even comes in fun colors.
What’s nice is that Canon has not changed their menu interface much over the years, so there’s not much new to learn with a new PowerShot.
For the director in your life, here’s a weird but amazing gift idea: A green laser pointer. I use these on set for everything from placing background talent to describing the height of a light, or the cut of a shadow. The green ones are visible in broad daylight, and of course demand cautious handling, as they could damage human eyesight if abused. Once you spend a day on the set with one of these in your pocket, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without one.
(There are many cheap laser pointers out there, but they are most likely lower-power lasers being overdriven. Don’t skimp.)
Another great gift for anyone who spends time on a film set is a Gerber 22-41545 Multi-Plier ($52). You can schnick out the pliers with one hand, which was something I first saw on a shoot, and it was such a profound sight that I threw my Leatherman into the ocean.
Do you still know someone who doesn’t have The DV Rebel’s Guide? If so, buy one and bludgeon them about the head and shoulders with it.
Blu-ray is the best way for a movie fan to enjoy their favorite films, and the players are not only getting more affordable, they are also starting to be as good at Blu-ray playback as the Playstation 3. The Sony BDP-N460 ($200 or less) not only plays back Blu-ray disks with the speed and slick interface of the PS3, it also streams Netflix and Amazon on-demand movies via a wired internet connection. Want to use it wirelessly? Pick up the Linksys WET610N Wireless-N Ethernet Bridge ($80).
You’ll want some good Blu-rays to play of course. I recommend a few recent sci-fi classic remasterings: Close Encounters of the Third Kind ($32) (because Spielberg films are film school every time you watch them), The Terminator ($10) (because Jim Cameron was a DV Rebel before there was DV, making this movie for $6 million, roughly the bottled water budget of Avatar), and Galaxy Quest ($17) (because damn it’s funny, and my name’s in the credits).
Lastly, something from the jaw-dropping inspiration department: Stanley Kubrick: Drama & Shadows. From 1945 to 1950, Stanley Kubrick was a photojournalist for Look magazine. Will it shock you to learn that his photos are stunning? Even though he was a teenager at the time? I didn’t think so. This book is a reminder that every photo you make can be a step down the road to becoming a better filmmaker.
Happy holidays from ProLost!