2011 Editors' Choice Awards

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Sony Alpha NEX-3

While its size makes it look more like a compact camera, the Sony Alpha NEX-3 delivers image quality like a DSLR. The mirrorless, interchangeable-lens camera has a 14.2-megapixel Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor, which is larger than those used by Micro Four Thirds cameras. The result is high picture quality, low noise and creative depth-of-field effects familiar to DSLR users. Powered by Sony’s BIONZ processor, autofocus is fast and precise with minimal shutter lag. The NEX-3 shoots 720p HD video as compact MP4 files and includes a built-in stereo microphone for high-quality audio recording. Estimated Street Price: $599 (with 18-55mm lens). Contact: Sony, (877) 865-7669, www.sonystyle.com.

Adobe Photoshop CS5

With every new version, Adobe’s powerful Photoshop image-editing software suite gets bigger and better. Photoshop CS5 includes a variety of new and refined tools for perfecting your images, like the Content-Aware Fill feature for quickly removing objects and replacing them seamlessly with nearby backgrounds. The Lens Correction filter is an important tool for finely tuning chromatic aberration, vignetting and geometric distortion (to fix perspective) caused by camera and lens combinations. The Puppet Warp tool is a fun new feature for easily bending and twisting subjects in an image, particularly useful when the photo is great but small parts of a subject aren’t quite right. New Edge Detection and Refine Radius tools allow for more precise adjustments when working with masks. List Price: $699. Contact: Adobe, (800) 833-6687, www.adobe.com.

Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD

Having a sharp, big-range zoom at your disposal can be indispensable for shooting in a variety of photo situations. The versatile Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD is small and light and fills a frequently used telephoto range. Designed for DSLRs, the lens can be used with full-frame or APS-C-sized sensors where the angle of view changes the zoom range to 109-465mm. Built-in vibration compensation helps keep images steady when shooting handheld—crucial for sharpness when working with a long lens. Canon, Nikon and Sony mounts are available. List Price: $449. Contact: Tamron, (800) 827-8880,www.tamron.com.

Epson Stylus Pro 4900

The 17-inch Epson Stylus Pro 4900 delivers high-quality prints with a wide color gamut and at fast speeds. Incorporating many of the technologies found in the large-format Epson Stylus Pro 7900 and 9900, the 4900 uses the one-inch-wide, 360-nozzle MicroPiezo TFP printhead for delivering accurate dot shape and placement of the 10 separate ink channels used by the printer. Epson’s 10-color, pigment-based UltraChrome HDR ink system includes orange, green and automatic switching between Matte and Photo Black. The printer also features ink-repelling coating and auto-nozzle-verification technologies that significantly reduce clogging. List Price: $2,495. Contact: Epson, (800) GO-EPSON, www.proimaging.epson.com.

Tamrac Expedition 9x Backpack

Tamrac’s Expedition series expanded this year, literally, with the Expedition 9x backpack. Tailored to comfortably carry a DSLR with a long and heavy telephoto lens attached, the bag is convenient and portable, even on long treks, thanks to a unique harness system with Dual-Density Comfort Pads and Air Flow Channels. The Expedition 9x is incredibly modular, and we’ve used it as an organizational system for cameras and accessories even when we’re not out on the road. The multisection divider system fits extra bodies, lenses, flashes and other extras in the spacious interior. On the exterior, there are dual wing pockets with water-resistant zippers that feature Tamrac’s convenient Memory & Battery Management System for keeping used cards and batteries separate from fresh ones. You also can attach a tripod to the backpack. Estimated Street Price: $299. Contact: Tamrac, (800) 662-0717, www.tamrac.com.

Apple iPad

There’s a lot to love about one of the year’s biggest technological innovations. Beyond just the coolness factor, one of the key benefits of the iPad for photographers is the ability to quickly and easily share images, whether via a slideshow presentation or through e-mail. It’s also a handy accessory that can make imaging
work more productive and enjoyable, thanks in part to some useful applications that are already available for it and many more that will surely be coming soon. Just 0.5 inches thick, the slim device also lets you ditch your laptop when traveling but allows you to stay connected. List Price: Starts at $499. Contact: Apple, (800) MY-APPLE, www.apple.com.

Sigma 8-16mm ƒ/4.5-5.6

At the wide end, the Sigma 8-16mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 lens delivers close to the distorted perspective of a fisheye, but once zoomed to 16mm, the field of view offers the natural-looking appeal of a wide-angle. Designed specifically for use with APS-C-sensor cameras, the focal length is equivalent to 12-24mm in 35mm format. The Hyper Sonic Motor autofocus system is designed for quiet, fast autofocus, and full manual focus capability is available. Also incorporated into the lens is Sigma’s new FLD glass, which is comparable to fluorite glass and compensates for color aberration. List Price: $1,100. Contact: Sigma, (800) 896-6858, www.sigmaphoto.com.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2

Panasonic’s GH1 was a big hit, and its successor improves on the original in a number of ways. First, it’s got a new 16.05-megapixel Live MOS sensor and a new Venus Engine FHD, which combine to enhance image quality and operating speed (16 MP images at 5 fps, 4 MP images at 40 fps). Next, the new contrast-based Light Speed AF system is amazingly fast. Third, the GH1’s excellent video capabilities have been improved, with a top mode of 1920×1080/60i (output at 60p) full-HD video with autofocusing during recording (just by touching the subject on the LCD monitor). That brings up another plus—the 3.0-inch free-angle LCD monitor also provides touch-screen control. Attach the new Lumix G 12.5mm 3D lens and you can shoot 3D still images, even of moving subjects. Estimated Street Price: $899. Contact: Panasonic, (800) 211-PANA, www.panasonic.com.

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Wacom Cintiq 21UX

Editing your images on a pen tablet offers a more intuitive approach. With its natural, interactive interface, the Wacom Cintiq 21UX has 21.3 inches of screen space for displaying software tool bars and large views of your images. The Grip Pen delivers 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity for enhanced accuracy. The pen also has a pressure-sensitive eraser and two side switches that can be customized for commands such as double-click and right-click. Touch Strips and 16 programmable ExpressKeys give you instant control over zooming, modifier keys and shortcuts without having to reach for the keyboard. List Price: $1,999. Contact: Wacom, (800) 922-6613, www.wacom.com.

Canon PowerShot G12

Adding 720p HD video to the already solid capabilities of its predecessor, the 10-megapixel Canon PowerShot G12 is a pint-sized “point-and-shoot” in name only. With a host of features usually found in pro DSLRs, the camera has an affixed 28-140mm 5x zoom with Hybrid IS image stabilization for taking blur-free shots from wide-angle to telephoto, and even close-ups. Scenes can be composed on the articulating 2.8-inch tilting and swiveling LCD screen. The High Dynamic Range scene mode will combine multiple shots into one picture for optimum exposures. Video can be played back directly to HDTVs in high definition via the HDMI output. The G12 also is compatible with Canon’s professional Speedlite flash series. List Price: $499. Contact: Canon, (800) OK-CANON, www.usa.canon.com.

Kata Pro-Light Beetle-282 Backpack

Kata’s Pro-Light Beetle-282 is a lightweight, low-profile photo backpack that’s well suited for traveling, storing and working with your gear. The main compartment will hold two or three DSLRs, four to six lenses up to 300mm, a flash and more, and you can customize it using the included Aeriform Dividers. There’s also a pocket for a 17-inch laptop computer. Good ergonomics, rugged construction and two external tripod straps are additional assets. A reversible elements cover keeps rain out, and has a silver side that deflects heat and can serve as a photo reflector. Estimated Street Price: $315. Contact: Kata, (201) 818-9500, www.kata-bags.us.

Pentax DA 18-135mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 ED AL [IF] DC WR Zoom

That name is a real mouthful, but each item is significant. Extra-low dispersion (ED
) and aspherical (AL) elements minimize aberrations and keep size down. Internal focusing (IF) means the lens doesn’t change physical length during focusing for better balance and the front element doesn’t rotate, handy when using orientation-sensitive lens attachments like polarizers. The direct-current (DC) AF motor produces smooth autofocusing, while weather-resistant (WR) construction means you can shoot in rain and mist (with weather-resistant Pentax DSLRs). Estimated Street Price: $529. Contact: Pentax, (800) 877-0155, www.pentaximaging.com.

onOne Software Plug-In Suite 5

With six highly useful plug-ins, onOne Software Plug-In Suite 5 helps solve a variety of the most common photographic problems. Genuine Fractals 6 Professional Edition allows you to res up images to large sizes with excellent quality. PhotoTools 2.5 Professional Edition provides a host of photo effects. PhotoFrame 4.5 Professional Edition makes it easy to produce edge and framing effects. FocalPoint 2 gives you control over depth-of-field and selective-focus effects after capture. Mask Pro 4 makes it easy to change backgrounds, and PhotoTune 3 provides lots of color-correction and black-and-white conversion flexibility. List Price: $499. Contact: onOne Software, (888) 968-1468, www.ononesoftware.com.

Lensbaby Tilt Transformer

Lensbaby’s Tilt Transformer lets you attach any Nikon-mount lens to a Micro Four Thirds or Sony NEX camera, and rotate and tilt it to position the resulting “slice of focus” as desired. Or you can add the Lensbaby Composer Focus Front, which provides a round focus “sweet spot,” and allows you to position it as desired by tilting and rotating the unit. You also can attach one of the many other Lensbaby effects devices via the Lensbaby Optic Swap System. Estimated Street Price: $250. Contact: Lensbaby, (877) 536-7222, www.lensbaby.com.

Novoflex Micro Four Thirds Adapters

Using Novoflex Micro Four Thirds adapters expands your photographic opportunities because they allow you to mount older film and digital lenses onto these kinds of cameras, which are especially useful when traveling because of their small size. So you can travel with your big DSLR outfit and a Micro Four Thirds camera as a backup, and you only have to bring one set of lenses. List Price: Varies. Contact: HP Marketing Corp., (800) 735-4373, www.hpmarketingcorp.com.

Nik Software HDR Efex Pro

Nik Software continues its line of highly regarded software plug-ins with HDR Efex Pro for Adobe Photoshop, Bridge, Lightroom and Apple Aperture. The program is leaps and bounds ahead of many commonly used high-dynamic-range applications, with a simple interface that makes the whole process easy and fun. Alignment of multiple exposures is automatic, and there are adjustable presets that provide results as subtle or as cartoonish as desired. Nik Software’s U Point technology allows you to make changes to small or large areas of an image without complex layers or masking. HDR Efex Pro will even simulate high dynamic range on a single exposure. List Price: $159. Contact: Nik Software, (888) 284-4085, www.niksoftware.com.

Litepanels MicroPro Hybrid

If you shoot with an HD-capable DSLR, the flexibility offered by the Litepanels MicroPro Hybrid makes it a must-have accessory. Combining continuous-light output with flash functionality when used in continuous mode, the light provides soft, wraparound lighting for video, while the Flash setting produces a 400% brighter burst for illuminating stills. The unit generates 1.5 hours of continuous output using six AA batteries or five to six hours using Energizer e2 Lithium cells. An integrated dimmer at the top of the housing delivers instant dimming from 100% to zero with minimal color shift. List Price: $525. Contact: Litepanels, (818) 752-7009, www.litepanels.com.

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Really Right Stuff Ground Pod

The TP-243 Ground Level Tripod from Really Right Stuff lets you make low-angle shots and close-ups, offering a minimum height of just 1.9 inches and a maximum height of 16.9 inches. The sturdy, rugged unit weighs just 2.6 pounds, yet can support up to 50 pounds. It’s made of abrasion-resistant stainless steel
and hard anodized aluminum, with reversible bottom leg sections that have stainless-steel spike feet at one end and rubber tips at the other for maximum outdoor/indoor versatility. Estimated Street Price: $375. Contact: Really Right Stuff, (888) 777-5557, www.reallyrightstuff.com.

Nikon Coolpix P7000

With a compact size and plenty of power, the Nikon Coolpix P7000 is the perfect camera to take on a trip. The 1/1.7-inch sensor is bigger than that of its predecessor, and the focal length has expanded from 28-112mm to 28-200mm (35mm equivalent). The camera has a really cool Zoom Control feature that allows you to customize focal lengths that can be automatically zoomed to with one touch. A built-in ND filter reduces light by up to three stops when you’re shooting in bright conditions with shallower depth of field or a slow shutter. The P7000 also shoots 720p high-definition video at 24 or 30 fps. List Price: $499. Contact: Nikon, (800) NIKON-US, www.nikonusa.com.

Alien Skin Bokeh 2

With Alien Skin’s Bokeh 2 software plug-in, not only can you control the depth of field in an image after you have taken the picture, but you can do even more than you’d be able to just by adjusting aperture in the field. Bokeh 2 allows you to manipulate focus selectively to an image, unlike most lenses that only allow you to change focus in a uniform plane parallel to the camera’s sensor. Some of the possible effects include tilt-shift, motion blur, vignette and creative aperture effects like stars, sparkles or hearts. Bokeh works nondestructively so you can remove effects altogether at a later time, and this edition adds native support of 64-bit Photoshop CS5 on both Mac and Windows operating systems for a speed and performance boost over the previous version. List Price: $199. Contact: Alien Skin Software, (888) 921-SKIN, www.alienskin.com.

Kenko Teleplus PRO 300 DGX Converters

Kenko’s PRO 300 DGX teleconverters come in 1.4x and 2.0x versions, each designed to perform well with prime and telephoto zoom lenses with no vignetting. Multicoated optical glass from Hoya, the world’s largest supplier of optical glass, assures top optical quality while Gate Array IC maintains signal integrity between the camera body and lens. DGX circuitry provides improved EXIF metadata recording, reading the equivalent aperture and focal length of the lens-and-converter combo. Estimated Street Price: $200 (1.4x); $240 (2.0x). Contact: THK Photo, (800) 421-1141, www.thkphoto.com.

Nissin Di866 Mark II

With a small flash positioned below the main flash, the Nissin Di866 Mark II Professional flash for Sony provides fill-in light while bouncing the main flash. The Sony model joins already available models for Canon and Nikon. With a guide number of 60 (198 feet at 105mm), the flash’s Auto Zoom covers a 24-105mm focal range. The head tilts up to 90º, and rotates 90º to the right and 180º to the left. The user-friendly interface has a color display with icons representing each of the operation modes—auto, TTL, manual and more. With supporting Sony ADI/P-TTL, the camera automatically controls the flash, but the flash exposure value can be compensated. Estimated Street Price: TBA. Contact: Nissin, www.nissindigital.com.

Billingham f/Stop Bag

In the world of camera bags, functionality is often valued over style. Billingham’s f/Stop series of camera satchels offers a classically sophisticated aesthetic that comfortably fits a DSLR with a lens attached. There are two models in the line, the f/Stop 2.8 and the wider f/Stop 1.4, and the bags are available in khaki FibreNyte with chocolate leather and brass fittings or black FibreNyte with black leather and nickel fittings. The bags have enough space for a flash and an extra lens, perfect for packing the essentials. There’s also a Front Dump Pocket and a rear zippered pocket for storing smaller items like memory cards, manuals and batteries. Optional AVEA Pockets attach to the external leather straps of the bags for carrying even more items. Estimated Street Price: $239 (f/Stop 2.8); $260 (f/Stop 1.4). Contact: Billingham (RTS Inc.), (631) 242-6801, www.rtsphoto.com.

Hoodman Cinema Kit Pro

One problem with shooting videos with a DSLR is that you can’t use the eye-level finder because it blacks out in live-view mode. It’s also awkward holding a heavy DSLR out at arm’s length for prolonged periods so you can use the LCD monitor on the back of the camera (which can be hard to see in bright light). Hoodman’s Cinema Kit Pro solves the problems. It consists of the HoodLoupe 3.0, HoodMAG 3.0 and HoodCrane. The HoodLoupe fits over the LCD monitor, eliminating glare. The HoodMAG 3.0 is a 3x magnifying eyecup for the HoodLoupe that permits easy eye-level viewing of the LCD monitor. The HoodCrane slips into the camera’s hot-shoe and holds the device in place. Setup is simple; then you can hol
d the DSLR up to your eye as you shoot. Estimated Street Price: $209. Contact: Hoodman USA, (800) 818-3946, www.hoodmanusa.com.

Joby Gorillapod Magnetic Tripod

Joby’s Gorillapod is a cool concept that’s well executed. It’s a lightweight tripod with flexible legs made of more than two dozen joints that can bend and rotate 360°. The Gorillapod Magnetic adds magnetic feet to the unit, so it can attach to any magnetic surface. A quick-release clip lets you quickly and easily attach and remove your compact digital camera or mini video camera weighing up to 11.5 ounces. The unit lets you mount your camera almost anywhere and is easy to carry. It measures just 5.9×1.2×1.2 inches and weighs a mere 1.6 ounces. Estimated Street Price: $24. Contact: Joby, (888) 569-5629, www.joby.com.

Cotton Carrier Carry-Lite

Give your neck a break while keeping one or two cameras at the ready using the Cotton Carrier Carry-Lite. Available for pro and midsized DSLRs, the Carry-Lite uses a cotton waist-belt system with a shoulder strap to carry a camera at your side while keeping it readily accessible. The camera insert uses anodized aluminum and stainless steel for secure mounting of the camera, and optional Side Holsters are available for attaching an extra body. List Price: Starts at $119. Contact: Cotton Carrier, (877) 852-9423, www.cottoncarrier.com.

GOALØ Sherpa Series

With digital cameras, computers and other essential equipment, staying powered for the long haul is essential, especially when there might not be an outlet nearby. GOALØ’s Sherpa line of portable power sources provides solutions for a variety of devices, including cameras, laptops, cell phones, GPS units and more. The Sherpa series includes the Sherpa 50 or 120 batteries with extended recharge times, as well as Nomad Solar Panels for recharging the batteries themselves. They’re built to be durable and lightweight, with operating temperatures between 32º F and 104º F. They’re available separately or in kits. List Price: Starts at $249 (Sherpa 50). Contact: GOALØ, (888) 794-6250, www.goal0.com.

Clik Elite ChestPack

For fast access to your DSLR, the ChestPack series from Clik Elite is an ideal carrying solution. The bags fit snugly against your body through a four-point harness that doesn’t restrict freedom of movement. This is a nice feature for active photographers who ski or hike. A molded back panel vents heat and moisture. The accessory pocket on top keeps small accessories like batteries and memory cards organized and available. The ChestPack also will dock into any Clik Elite backpack via the ChestPort system. List Price: Starts at $90. Clik Elite, (888) 532-CLIK, www.clikelite.com.

Flashpoint Full Finger Shooting Gloves

Keep your hands warm and comfortable in cold temperatures wearing the Flashpoint Full Finger Shooting Gloves (FPSGS). The thumb and index finger open to allow easy access for zooming the lens and operating the camera controls. Other features include a slip-resistant palm pad with abrasion overlay and an adjustable strap that allows you to wear the glove around your wrist to keep from losing it. List Price: $19. Contact: Adorama, (800) 223-2500, www.adorama.com.

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