Camera-Themed Holiday Gifts For The Instagram-Obsessed
Right now there are something like 150 million people using Instagram. That means a bunch of you reading this are on the social network, and the rest of you know someone who's on it. Chances are you know at least one person who is super into Instagram and owns a keychain, or a pin, or a cross stitch of the logo. That's a bummer since it means you can't give them those things for the holidays. Get them something from this list, instead.
For the Person Who Wants To Improve Their Skill
Instagram is home to some truly awesome and inspiring photographers, pro, amateur, and beginner alike. Not everyone aspires to lofty, art book heights, but if the shutterbug in your life does want to step up their photo game and take better pictures it's not hard to do. Gift them a copy of The Unforgettable Photograph: How to Take Great Pictures of the People and Things You Love by George Lange ($13), a book that focuses more on emotion and technique than on technical details. The author covers all digital photography, including smartphone-specific tips.
For the Person Who Wants To Print and Show Off Their Instagram Photos
There are several photo printing services available for digital photos of all kinds and Instagram pictures in particular but we live in a world of instant gratification and mobility. LG makes a Pocket Photo Printer ($169) that lives up to the name. It's not that much bigger than your average smartphone and connects wirelessly to the same so you can instantly print pictures from Instagram, the Gallery, or any other apps. The picture quality is about what you'd expect from something this small, though, like Instagram, perfect color and pixel density isn't the point.
I also like that the app for the printer (iPhone and Android) gives you some extra editing options: adding fun borders for making instant cards and QR codes for sharing a link to the digital version of the picture. LG uses an inkless photo paper that makes 2 x 3 inch photo prints that don't need to dry, so they're ready for giving away, hanging up, or using in a DIY photo project right away.
Going beyond paper prints, there are many services that will turn Instagram photos into beautiful art, useful objects like magnets and coasters, or decorative items like phone cases and pillows. Drop a gift card for Printstagr.am, Casetagram, Gelaskins, Imagesnap, Stitchagram, or StickyGram into a stocking and let your favorite photobug design their own special object with their own Instagram images. Or you can hop over to any of these sites and create a gift from your own pictures.
For the Person Who Adores the Quirky and Cute
Printing isn't the only way to show off one's best Instagram creations. It's not even the most fun way. The prize in this category goes to the Projecteo, a teeny, tiny projector that comes with a wheel of nine images you pick. It's about the size of a matchbook, so it can't project very large images or at a long distance. It's still a lot of fun to use and makes for a memorable way to share pictures. The first order includes the Projecteo and one wheel for $26. You can order additional wheels for $9. It's not possible to pull images from a friend's Instagram account, only your own. So if you want to give this as a gift, contact the company for a pseudo gift certificate.
For the iPhone Owner Who Wants Better Shots and Greater Flexibility
With "real" cameras changing the lens (when possible) can make a big difference in photo quality, especially if you're trying to shoot very close up, far away, or just want to capture more of what's around you. This is true for the iPhone as well. A ton of lens add-ons popped up around the time the smartphone's camera started getting better, and my favorite of the bunch is the OlloClip. I like it best because it's simple--just slip it on and start shooting, no need for a magnetic ring or special case--and because you get four lenses in one accessory. The OlloClip 4-in-1 ($70) includes fisheye, wide-angle, and two macro lenses.
The OlloClip is available for iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5/5S but will only work on the bare device, not over a case. Never fear, the company makes the Quick-Flip Case ($50) with a bit that slides away when you want to use the lens and then doubles as a shutter button pusher.
For the Person Who Wants A Better Smartphone Camera (That Isn't An iPhone)
Part of Instagram's charm is that it can take pictures that aren't that great quality-wise and make them worth looking at and sharing thanks to heavy filtering. Still, having a good phone camera to start means even better pictures on the other end. Of all the smartphones I've tested this year, I prefer the Samsung Galaxy S4's camera to any other Android device. The shots I took with it were good enough to print and the camera app makes it easy to compensate for things that bring down picture quality, such as poor lighting. It's just one of a long list of things I like about the Galaxy S4 starting with the screen and ending with all the apps and features Samsung packs in. Plus, it's available on all four major carriers and some regional/pre-paid ones as well. Pricing ranges from $0.01 to $160 depending on the contract and mobile provider.
If the Instagram lover in your life prefers Windows Phone, the Nokia Lumia 1020 has a whopping 41 megapixel camera on the back. It does some neat tricks and takes some of the best smartphone images around, partially thanks to Nokia's great camera app.
For the Person Who Wants To Try Analog Instagram (i.e. Lomography)
Kids today with their fancy smartphones and apps, they don't know that Instagram and Hipstamatic filters are based on real cameras. The kind that use film which needs developing. Retro! For those interested in analog cameras that have an Instagram-esque feel to them, the Lomography Konstruktor is a good starter device and DIY project. The giftee will have to put this SLR camera together themselves (the process is easy) before they can use it, which gives insight into how cameras work. The pictures are appropriately just the right amount of imperfect to really give that old-timey feel. The Konstruktor kit is inexpensive ($35), as are the accessories, so it's a good gift for kids as well as teens and adults.
For the Person Who Wants It All: A Real Camera and Instant Instagram Uploads
Meet the most expensive Instagram camera ever: the Samsung Galaxy NX, a steal at only $1,600. You would have to be a really generous Santa to give this as a gift, I know. And it's not for someone who is more of a casual shutterbug, it's for photographers that want a real and powerful camera for taking amazing shots. What makes the Galaxy NX different from other interchangable lens cameras is that it runs on Android. It runs the same apps as a smartphone and has most of the same functionality. You can't make mobile phone calls, you do get 4G/3G data, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Plus you get all the functionality of a high-end camera, including Manual control, Program, Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, easy Auto modes, and fast focus and shutter speed.
I admit, this is a bit of overkill for someone who mainly shares pictures in Instagram. Still, imagine how much better those pictures would be! No? Well, if the NX is way outside of your budget but you still want to get someone an upgraded camera with Android apps, check out the $375 Samsung Galaxy Camera point-and-shoot.