Moms are often the digital image keepers of the family--the one who makes sure to have a camera on hand at every family event. So what better Mother's Day gift than one that makes it easier for her to snap, save, and view those memories. Here are my picks for the best digital camera accessories (to suit a range of budgets) for the various moms in your life:
The Active Mom
She's always on the move, whether it's hiking, biking, or cruising the sidelines at soccer practice. And of course, she always has her digital camera with her. But getting the right shot in different locations can be tough. I've always been a fan of Gorillapod flexible tripods from Joby, but the newest incarnation is sheer genius. The Gorillapod Magnetic adds powerful neodymium magnets to the feet of its bendable legs, adding another way to secure your camera to whatever stable object is around. Now you can not only wrap it around poles, railings, or tree branches, but you can also attach it to a car door, a street sign, or most other metal objects. On-the-go moms will also appreciate the slim quick-release clip that attaches to your camera and snaps on the Gorillpod so you don't have to waste time screwing the camera on. Best of all, it costs just $24.95, so you'll have some coin left over for flowers.
Sometimes also known as Grandma, she's the one with shoeboxes full of fading old snapshots ranging from your baby pictures to your college graduation. The digital camera you bought her keeps her current snaps of the grandkids in the digital realm, but she still has decades of memories stuffed into those one-hour-photo envelopes. Scanning thousands of photos yourself would be above and beyond, and many scanning services that charge per photo get prohibitively expensive for larger quantities. ScanMyPhotos.com offers a more convenient and affordable option: Order up a $149.95 prepaid box for mom and she'll get a pre-addressed shipping box that holds roughly 2,000 photos. She can send it back to get 300dpi JPEG scans of all the photos she can fit in the box, with free return shipping including a DVD with all the scans. The company is also offering a Mother's Day special where you get a third box free when you buy two prepaid boxes.
The Camera-enthusiast Mom
This mom already has a digital SLR and uses her camera to express her creativity, not just for snapping photos of the family. For her, I recommend one of my favorite dSLR accessories, a Lensbaby “selective focus” lens. These little gizmos are compatible with Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, and Four-Thirds' mount SLR cameras, and allow you to manually select an area of sharp focus while the rest of your image remains blurry (something like the effect of a tilt-shift lens). The least expensive and most basic version is the $100 Lensbaby Muse, but for smoother, more precise control opt for the $270 Lensbaby Composer. Both accept interchangeable optics, the newest of which are the dreamy Soft Focus optic ($89.95) and the versatile Fisheye optic ($149.95), which serves up an ultra-wide 12mm focal length and 160 degree field of view.
The Tech-savvy Mom Closely related to the Camera-enthusiast Mom, this mother has multiple hard drives full of digital images and isn't afraid to get down and dirty setting up tech. She loves shiny new gadgets and already has a flatscreen HDTV. Get her a new toy that will let her view all those digital photos on the big screen: The WD TV Live is a digital media player that lets you play digital content (e.g., photos, HD video, and music) from USB drives or stream it over your home network to your HDTV. In addition to Ethernet and USB connections, it includes HDMI and optical audio out, along with a composite and component out connections.
This mom doesn't know her Esc key from her USB key, and honestly doesn't want to. She just wants to get her tasks done quickly and efficiently and can't be bothered with the complexity of most gadgets. The Litl Webbook will let her upload and share photos online with minimal frustration, combined with an easy-to-use photo frame. Essentially a cloud-computing device/internet appliance, the Litl Webbook is a notebook computer with no hard drive or storage--everything it does is managed online. It uses its own minimalist operating system to simplify all tasks and maintenance. Press a button to power it up or power it down--no menus, task bars, folders, or icons. Using a card-catalog-like interface, the device lets you easily upload photos to Flickr, Picasa, SmugMug, and Shutterfly (which Litl has partnered with), or to any online photo sharing site via its customized (Mozilla-based) Web browser. Flip the device over into "easel" mode and it acts as a digital photo frame, displaying slideshows from any RSS-enabled site (plug in an HDMI cable and you can view them on your TV). You can even merge images from different accounts on any of the four partner sites. I ran into a couple of software glitches on a unit I looked at, but they were easily remedied by rebooting the device (which is simple and quick). Because the device automatically downloads maintenance updates, bug fixes are completed behind the scenes, making for a "maintenance-free" experience. All this simplicity doesn't come cheap, though: You could get a more powerful (and more complex) computer for less than its $699 price tag. But since every task essentially runs over the Internet, there's no real threat of hardware obsolescence anytime soon. And best of all the company offers an unheard of two-year, no-questions-asked money-back guarantee.