For a creator with ambition, a smartphone alone probably won't cut it. If you have a decent budget, their talent for street photography, cinema or portraits will be better served by a mirrorless or DSLR camera with interchangeable lenses. Luckily, we're in a golden age of excellent cameras that can handle a lot of different jobs. We found six choice models hitting all the budget categories, ranging from $500 to $1,700, to help you find just the right camera.
If your giftee is into filmmaking or street photography, Fujifilm's X-T30 mirrorless camera is one the best all-around options, while Canon's M6 Mark II is a speed and resolution champ. For more budget-minded shoppers, Nikon's D3500 is ideal for DSLR purists, while Sony's A6100 is packed with the latest tech. And for filmmakers or portrait artists, take a look at Nikon's Z 6 or the Sony A6500.
Of course, the photographer in your life might be very happy with the camera they already own. In those cases, we've got a selection of accessories, from bags to gimbals, picked by our staff. (There's even a phone accessory, if they're really married to shooting with their smartphone.)
Canon EOS M6 Mark II
If you have a decent budget and are looking for a gift for a photographer with exacting requirements, Canon has a great option. The EOS M6 Mark II has the highest-resolution sensor available on any APS-C camera at 32.5 megapixels. Your lucky recipient can take sharp, color-accurate photos at incredible speeds of up to 14 fps with autofocus enabled, making it ideal for both wildlife and landscape photography. At the same time, lenses aren't too expensive for this system. The drawback is 4K video that isn't as sharp as rivals', some very mediocre lenses and no built-in optical viewfinder. Still, for $850 (body only), you can't find a higher-resolution, faster-shooting camera. -- Steve Dent, Associate Editor
DJI Osmo Mobile 3
It doesn't take much to become a filmmaker or an influencer these days -- just a smartphone, some good ideas and a decent gimbal. DJI is well known for its fantastic mobile gimbals, and the Osmo Mobile 3 is no exception. It features all the same controls and shooting modes that made its predecessors so popular, and it helps smartphones shoot some of the smoothest footage you'll see even when the going gets particularly rough. Best of all, this new Osmo folds up for easier storage and transport, so your would-be cinematographer has fewer reasons to leave it behind before a day's shoot. -- Chris Velazco, Senior Mobile Editor
In case you're wondering if there's anything you can get an aspiring YouTuber who already owns a mirrorless camera, the answer is yes. DJI's Ronin-SC is a compact, lightweight gimbal designed for mirrorless cameras, featuring a three-axis system that can help achieve smooth and cinematic shots -- all with one-handed use. Yes, you'll have to spend $439 on it, but just remember that you're probably going to be helping someone with their YouTube or film career. You can't put a price on that. -- Edgar Alvarez, Former Senior Editor
The F-Stop Dalston is a ridiculously light camera backpack. It's not the largest or most feature-rich bag on the market, but that's by design. The Dalston is built for people who want to keep their photography life small and simple. Street snappers will appreciate the bright blue camera cube that attaches to the main compartment via Velcro. It also has a roll top -- though it's more for show than expandability -- and two weather-sealed zippers that run the length of the bag on either size, providing quick access to what's in and above the cube.
The Dalston can easily double as an everyday travel and work bag too. It offers a basic laptop sleeve and a large, A4-size pocket on the front that has a couple of extra nooks for stowing gear and personal goodies. F-Stop also sells accessory pouches if you think the recipient needs some help organizing their spare batteries and memory cards. Otherwise that's it! You can snag the Dalston in olive green or a vibrant orange for $149. The latter color is a great option for cyclists and anyone else who wants to remain visible at night. -- Nick Summers, Senior Editor
Planning to offer a (dearly) loved one a camera in the $800 range? There's no better option than Fujifilm's X-T30. It'll give your favorite photographer most of what they can get with the much more expensive X-T3, including the same 26.1-megapixel APS-C sensor, face- and eye-autofocus system, a blackout-free EVF and fast shooting speeds up to 20 fps. It also delivers crisp, full-sensor 4K video with a microphone port and other pro options. Last but not least, it's extremely compact and handles as well as it looks. The main drawback is a lack of in-body stabilization, but that's typical in this category. Compared to rivals, at least, it's a steal at $800 for the body only. -- S.D.
Nikon Z 6
If you're looking for a full-frame mirrorless camera for a very lucky person, the best deal right now might be the 24.5-megapixel Nikon Z 6. For $1,700 you'll get some desirable features like 12 fps shooting speeds (5.5 fps with autofocus), five-axis in-body stabilization, face- and eye-tracking autofocus and color-accurate photos. For budding videographers, the Z 6 is one of the best buys out there with full-frame, supersampled 4K video and both microphone and headphone jacks. The main point against it is that it uses expensive XQD cards. However, it does everything well, and if your loved one already owns some Nikon DSLR lenses, the $1,700 price currently includes Nikon's F mount adapter. -- S.D.
When a smartphone isn't cutting it for your favorite photographer, why not consider getting them a budget DSLR? Nikon's D3500 is one of the best you can buy. It comes with a 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor and an updated Expeed image processor that delivers sharper images and more-vivid colors than its predecessor, the D3400. It has shooting speeds at up to 5 fps with 11 autofocus points, and it's no problem to shoot at night, thanks to a maximum 25,600 ISO. The drawbacks are a lack of 4K video and no tilting screen, but you can now find it for just $400 with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR AF-P DX Nikkor lens -- a third the price of an iPhone 11 Pro. -- S.D.
Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L
The Everyday Backpack is used by countless YouTuber and creative types, including Marques "MKBHD" Brownlee and Sara Dietschy. And with good reason: It's a bag that doesn't compromise on form or function. Photographers and filmmakers alike will appreciate the side-access zippers that are easily reachable once you swing the backpack onto your chest. We love the main compartment too, which can be customized with Velcro-backed FlexFold dividers. Does your loved one need something that can handle both weekend fashion shoots and everyday commutes to the office? This might be the bag for them.
It's the little features, though, that will likely impress the most. The Everyday Backpack 20L has thick carry handles and a luggage strap on the back that lets you slide the bag on top of your suitcase. It also offers dedicated laptop and tablet sleeves, expandable side pockets and a magnetic clasp that, on the highest locking point, lets you pack a little extra into the main compartment. We like the stealthy black option, though the charcoal, ash and tan colors are equally slick. The bag's good looks and extensive functionality come at a price though: At $259.95, it's more expensive than many Lowepro and Manfrotto backpacks. -- N.S.
Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L
The Everyday Sling is a great option if you know someone with a smaller camera setup -- a compact Sony RX100, for instance, or a Fujifilm camera with an APS-C sensor -- or downsizing aspirations. The 10-liter bag has decent padding and a couple of FlexFold dividers that can house a camera body and two spare lenses. Like the Everyday Backpack, these partitions can be removed for trips and activities that don't require a camera. The $149.95 bag also offers a tablet sleeve, two external straps for carrying a tripod or umbrella, and a couple of smaller pockets for stowing camera accessories or precious items. -- N.S.
When it comes to powerful compact cameras, Sony is basically unrivaled. So if you're thinking about what to get that aspiring photographer or videographer in your life, consider the A6600. Sony's new flagship APS-C shooter has a 24.2-megapixel sensor paired with an 11-fps shooting mode and a ridiculously fast 0.02-second autofocus speed, which the company claims is the world's fastest. At $1,400 (body only), the A6600 isn't a cheap gift by any means, but you'll be giving someone one of the best cameras out right now. -- E.A.
If you don't want to spend $1,400 on the higher-end A6600, Sony has another new APS-C mirrorless camera that's much cheaper. The A6100 features the same 24.2-megapixel sensor, 0.02-second autofocus speed and 11-fps shooting mode as the flagship A6600, but in exchange for that lower price you'll have to settle for a smaller battery and no headphone port. That said, if you're shopping for someone who's jumping headfirst into photography or videography, you can't go wrong with Sony's A6100. It's $750 (body only), which is reasonable for an APS-C shooter with a top-of-the-line sensor and super-fast autofocusing system. -- E.A.
Wandrd Prvke 21 and camera cube
The Wandrd Prvke is a stylish camera backpack with a roll top. If you know someone who wants to keep their passion for photography on the downlow -- maybe they're worried about thieves or don't want to alert potential subjects -- this is a great option. The Prvke has a large metal hook to keep the roll top in place and two magnetic handles for easy lifting. The owner's camera gear, meanwhile, is stored in a removable cube that's accessible from the back or right-hand side of the bag. Earlier this year, Wandrd also improved the cube and introduced a family of optional replacements that fill the inside in different ways.
The Prvke can carry more than camera paraphernalia though. The bag has dedicated laptop and tablet sleeves; a thin, A4-size pocket on the front; and an expandable side pouch for a small bottle or tripod. It also offers a side pocket with a keychain holder and a special compartment that is usually hidden by the wearer's lower back. At $180, the Prvke is a fairly expensive backpack. We think the price tag is justified, though, by its unique shape and style, stealthy tarpaulin exterior, and wide variety of photographer-friendly compartments. -- N.S.