Gear Guide: For creative types

Shopping for a musician or photographer this season? We've got a few suggestions.

Instagram on Paper

Thanks to the ever-growing popularity of Instagram, the world is now inundated with lo-fi images of things people love—memorable meals, beach sunsets, fixed-gear bikes, and so forth. And what better way to commemorate the things you love than with a beautiful, 7-by-7-inch Blurb photo book? Books can range from 20 to 160 pages in size and be bound either softcover or hardcover. Blurb automatically enhances the resolution for printing. It's a great way to share and show off your favorite Instagram shots.—Alexandra Chang
$11 and up; Blurb

Plug In

With Apple’s $5 GarageBand app, the iPad can be a slick portable music studio. But there’s a (literal) disconnect: How do you plug your guitar into it? Apogee’s Jam can make that connection. The Jam—no bigger than a pack of Life Savers—fits directly into the iPad’s dock connector port. Plug your guitar into its input port, fire up GarageBand, and you're ready to rock.—Christopher Breen
$99; Apogee

Shades of Gray

If you’ve embraced digital photography but you miss the hours spent in the darkroom perfecting your images, Silver Efex Pro 2 could be just what you need. The black-and-white conversion program is an easy-to-use plug-in for Aperture, Photoshop, and Lightroom that offers dozens of features, including a bunch of presets, a browser that remembers your editing history, advanced black-and-white controls (such as Dynamic Brightness and the Grain Engine), vignettes, image borders, film emulation, and more. What really sets the software apart is its U-Point technology, which allows you to adjust tonality, contrast, and detail.—Alexandra Chang
$200; Nik Software

Mobile Musician

A couple of decades ago, musicians were likely to record their hissy demos on Tascam Portastudio four-track cassette machines. Today, you find digital devices that are the same size as that old recorder, but pack a lot more punch. Zoom’s remarkably versatile R8 multitrack recorder, for example, is a two-in, two-out, 24-bit, 96kHz eight-track SD recorder that also acts as a USB audio interface, a control surface for digital audio workstation applications, and a sampler for creating drum patterns. It’s small enough to pack in a guitar case and it runs on AC power or four AA batteries.—Christopher Breen
$300; Zoom

Pocket Power

At just over four inches wide and two inches tall, the Nikon Coolpix S8200 is the perfect pocket companion. Yet, this little camera has a lot to offer, including a 16-megapixel sensor, 14x optical zoom lens, a target-finding autofocus, continuous shooting, a 6fps burst mode, HD video capture, special effect filters, and automated exposure controls. Perhaps its niftiest trick: The S8200 has a smile timer mode, which recognizes when a subject smiles and releases the shutter at just the right moment. (Unfortunately, this only works on humans.)—Alexandra Chang
$330; Nikon

Big Pixels

The Canon Vixia HF M40 camcorder doesn’t have a bazillion-megapixel sensor. But while that might sound like a drawback, reducing the number of pixels means that each pixel can be bigger, giving the camera great low-light performance and dynamic range. (It still has enough megapixels for full HD images.) There are 11 automatic scene modes to choose from, and a manual mode is available for those who want more image control. The camcorder comes with 16GB of internal memory (85 minutes to six hours of video, depending on compression size) and two memory card slots that make it possible to shoot up to 2TB of video, so lack of space won’t ever be a reason to miss a moment.—Alexandra Chang
$600; Canon

Sharp Shooter

The Canon Rebel T3i is a top-notch option for anyone looking for a first DSLR or an upgrade from a more basic camera. Of course, it captures excellent images (with an 18-megapixel sensor) and video (in full HD). But it also has wireless flash control, an adjustable LCD monitor, and a built-in Creative Filters mode (which includes options like Grainy B/W and Fish-Eye Effect).—Alexandra Chang
$900; Canon

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