By all accounts, the state of the economy is gloomy, but the consumer electronics world seems to be in denial, with big-ticket items like tablets, TVs, and other high-tech gadgetry topping holiday gift guides and year-end best-of lists. Yes, I'm as guilty as the next, offering up a top digital SLRs list with street prices that range from $680 to $1,200, not to mention my top 10 compact digital cameras list that included a $1,200 point-and-shoot from Fujifilm (in my defense, the list also included a great $87 model from Canon). So to make it up to you all, here's a list of great digital camera accessories you can snap up for under $70, in descending price order:
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Aquapac Mini Camera Case with Hard Lens - $55 For the point-and-shoot adventurer, a waterproof housing or case is a great gift idea. Unfortunately, camera-specific custom housings can set you back a pretty big chunk of change depending on your camera (the waterproof housing for a Canon PowerShot S100 lists for a whopping $300, for example), and many point-and-shooters don't even have a custom option. Aquapac's line of submersible waterproof cases are a more affordable alternative that still work well for casual underwater shooting. They use a patented plastic sealing mechanism that is essentially dummy proof (just snap two pieces of a clamp together and twist the small levers shut) with no removable parts to drop in the water. There's a range of bags that fit anything from a mini pocket camcorder to large camcorders or dSLRs and even tablet devices. The Mini Camera Case with Hard Lens that I tested fits popular compact cameras like the S100 and S95 (but is a bit too small for a larger enthusiast's compact, such as the Canon Powershot G12). It was simple to use and surprisingly easy to see the camera's LCD through the very pliable TPU material (which you can even operate a touchscreen through). Though it can be a bit awkward to operate buttons and mode dials through the pouch, the snugger the fit around the camera, the easier it was. The hard acrylic lens piece protects your zoom lens when protruded and photos shot through it were clear and of good quality. The case is rated to a depth of 15 feet (and didn't leak when I tried it) but I'm not sure I'd be comfortable keeping it submerged for very long since Aquapac's warranty covers the case, but not any items you put in it. Still, for casual snap-shooting in wet conditions, it's an affordable, easy to use option that makes for a great gift.
M.I.C. iPad 2 CF Card Camera Connection Kit - $29.90 I love my iPad 2, but getting photos from a camera onto it is more of a hassle than it should be. Apple sells a handy iPad Camera Connection Kit, but it only supports SD cards or USB devices, so folks that use CompactFlash cards are out of luck when it comes to official support from Apple. Happily, you can find third-party CF card readers, such as the M.I.C. iPad 2 CF Card Camera Connection Kit. Photojojo, one of my favorite online shops for photo gadgets also sells one that looks very similar, but it's currently out of stock (with a ship date of 12/16 listed on the site). Reports on these card readers from third-party resellers find that they're not quite as reliable about connecting to the iPad as the SD card reader from Apple, but photographer Rob Galbraith tested the M.I.C. model with 30 different CompactFlash cards and had fairly good results from at least 24 of them. While there was still some flakiness here and there, and it only supports CompactFlash Type I cards, unless Apple decides to offer an adapter for CompactFlash cards, the M.I.C. connection kit is a useful option.