2013 Back to School Buying Guide

Pack this stuff next to your instant noodles for maximum college enjoyment

school buying guide 2013

school buying guide 2013

Going off to school requires a lot of stuff. With so many trips to Bed, Bath and Beyond, it's easy to forget about some other crucial stuff a photo-obsessed student is going to need on campus.

We've put together a short list of stuff that will make college life that much better. We're not talking about cameras and lenses here. These are the little things that can make a ton of difference. Of course, if you have suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Good luck out there!

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Zack Arias Q&A Book $18 You can learn a lot from taking photo classes in college. But, there's also a lot of knowledge out there that you won't get from many professors. That's why honest books like Zack Arias's Photography Q&A can come in very handy. The subject matter is taken from Zack's blog, which answered real questions from readers with matter-of-fact honesty that's very refreshing. It's a nice supplement to the straight up technique and history stuff that many intro photo classes tend to teach. It's also an entertaining and colorful read, which can be a nice break from the land of academia. Official Site
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Buffalo Technology MinStation Extreme Portable Hard Drive $139 (1 TB) Hard drives are fragile things, and having one banging around in your backpack all day is a recipe for disaster. But, Buffalo Technology has reinforced their MiniStation extreme in a rugged case designed to give it MIL-SPEC shock protection. In addition to its rugged exterior, it also has 256-bit AES hardware encryption, so if it gets lost, no one can get at the stuff inside. One of the best parts, though, is that the USB 3.0 connection cable is integrated right into the drive and stows away for transportation. No more lost cables. Official Site
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Canon Pixma MG7120 All-In-One Photo Printer $199 Most of the time, a college printer will be used to churn out pages of text to be turned in to professors. But, if you're going to get one, you might as well go with an option that can always turn out a nice photographic print. This all-in-one printer can handle up to 8.5 x 11 pages with a 9600 x 2400 resolution. It has six individual ink tanks, which includes a gray tank for better black-and-white prints. It also has a built-in scanner, and the ability to print directly from a smartphone or even a tablet. It can even comes with software that pulls stills from video shot on Canon cameras and turns them into high-quality prints. Official Site
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X-Rite ColorMunki Smile $89 For many students, college now involves a lot of time spent staring at the monitor of a laptop. X-Rite's entry-level calibration system helps ensure the colors and brightness on the monitor are looking like they should. Calibrating is a must for a photo-obsessed college student, especially if digital photography or graphic design will be a part of their studies. The ColorMunki Smile doesn't have much in terms of customizability or options, but it does offer a method of calibration that's both very quick and extremely simple. Even if they're just typing papers and watching movies, things will look a lot better than they would with the eye-scorching color and brightness settings it carries with it out of the box. Official Site
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Fujifilm Instax Mini 7s Instant Film Camera $54 There are few things as much fun at a party than an instant cameras. Fujifilm's hip instant shooter takes 20-shot film cartridges and pumps out prints roughly the size of a credit card. You get some minor exposure controls, but the built-in flash does most of the heavy lifting. It won't be useful for creating a senior thesis photography project, but it is a great way to capture some awesome college moments you can keep posted on your white board. It will also set you apart from the rest of the Instagram-loving crowd. Official Site
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Lowepro Transit Backpack 350 AW Camera Bag $119 During long days on campus, a student practically lives out of a bag. Lowepro's inconspicuous backpack has more than enough room for a full day worth of supplies, including everything from food and electronics, to stacks of books. Put in the camera insert, though, and it becomes a full-on camera bag, capable of carrying a pro body with a lens, as well as two additional lenses, a flash and a bunch of accessories. There's enough room for a 15-inch laptop and the modular padding allows for an impressive number of configurations. And because it carries LowePro's "AW" designation, it's reinforced against the elements to keep moisture from hitting your camera or your copy of "A Brief History of Time." Official Site
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Manfrotto Pixi Mini Table Tripod $25 One of the beautiful things about being a part of a school photography program is the ability to borrow their gear. They usually have extremely nice tripods you can borrow for short periods of time. But, what if you just want to make a short video or do a time lapse of yourself as finals preparation drive you slowly insane? That's where the Pixi comes in. It weighs just half a pound, but can support up to 2.2-pounds of gear, so it's great for a phone or a compact camera. It's easy to adjust and folds down extremely small to fit into a gear pocket. It's even great if you want to use an audio recorder during a lecture if you're into that kind of thing. Official Site
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Micro Gaffer Tape $21.50 (four rolls) Just about any working photographer will tell you that gaffer tape is an essential piece of kit. But, for a college student, the utility goes beyond that. Sure, you can use it for labeling memory cards, fixing flashes, supporting cameras, hiding wires, and even covering up camera logos. But, you can also use it to hang posters, repair fridges, mend glasses, and just about anything else you can think of. Micro Gaffer comes in a variety of colors in small, manageable rolls. It's strong, easy to rip, and most importantly, it won't leave awful residue all over the dorm room that will have to be paid for when you move out. Official Site
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Square Space Collecting Facebook friends and accruing Instagram followers can be fun. But, for many budding professionals, it can be a real boon to have an online presence with a bit of class. A blog can do that. Squarespace is a simple, WYSIWYG blog and portfolio solution that lets you post words and images in one of several pre-determined layouts. The sites actually look fairly professional and are indexed by major search engines. That means when a future boss or internship provider Googles you, they'll see your site with photos and words, rather than a Facebook photo taken by one of your friends during a momentary, um, indiscretion. Official Site
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Sandisk Wireless Flash Drive Flash drives come in mighty handy during college for saving documents, photos, and whatever else you need to move from computer to computer. But, Sandisk added an extra layer of utility to their Connect Wireless Flash Drive. You can store media on the drive itself (they offer 16 and 32 GB flavors) and stream it using a built-in wireless connection to up to three devices. You can have 8 devices connected at once. It works with most popular devices, including iOS and Android and will go for up to four hours on a charge. Plus, because it's a flash drive, there are no wires to worry about or drop out of your bag under your chair during Psych 101. Official Site