Home Buyer's Guide 2011 Editors’ Choice Awards
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2011 Editors' Choice Awards

Our editors pick some of the best products and technologies for the new year

This Article Features Photo Zoom

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 1920x1080/60i (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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