2009 Editor's Picks

Looking for a perfect holiday gift for the “To Me, From Me” under the tree? We’ve compiled our annual list of a few of our favorite gear and accessories about which you’ll want to start dropping hints. From updated versions of essential tools to totally new ideas to make your photography more successful and enjoyable, this year’s list includes some of the most exciting technologies we’ve ever covered.

Apple MacBook

The new MacBook is one of the most impressive notebooks Apple has ever produced, and that’s saying a lot for the company that completely redefined the category with its original Titanium PowerBook, a design that set the bar for years. Bringing innovative, eco-friendly construction and serious power to its mainstream notebook, the 13-inch model features an LED display, Intel Core 2 Duo processors up to 2.4 GHz and hard drive capacity up to 320 GB; 2 GB of RAM is standard, but you can double it for a modest charge. The casing is cut from a solid block of aluminum, reducing weight and size and enhancing durability. For the traveling photographer, this notebook is best in class. List Price: From $1,299. Contact: Apple, (800) MY-APPLE, www.apple.com.


Seagate Free Agent Go

This little drive is so slick, you’ll want to take a backup of your photo library wherever you go (which isn’t a bad idea, by the way). It makes it easy, too, with the convenient dock that’s included. Available in capacities up to 500 GB, there are versions pre-formatted for Windows and Mac computers. The Mac version offers USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 and 800; Windows users get USB 2.0 only, but have a choice of four colors (the Mac version is silver only). List Price: From $159. Contact: Seagate Technology, (877) 271-3285, www.seagate.com.


ExpoImaging Ray Flash

If you like the convenience of flash but are often disappointed with the results, the ExpoImaging Ray Flash helps eliminate harsh flash shadows, creating the soft, even ring flash lighting effect that a professional studio-level unit would for a fraction of the cost. This adapter for hot-shoe flash units, designed to fit the Canon 580EX (I and II) and Nikon SB-800, weighs about a pound, lets you use your camera’s TTL metering system and works with most Canon and Nikon lenses. Estimated Street Price: $199. Contact: ExpoImaging, (800) 446-5086, www.expoimaging.net.


Western Digital My Book

You just can’t have too much storage. Photographers, in particular, need as much capacity as possible for keeping all those large image files. The Western Digital My Book Home Edition is available in capacities from 320 MB up to one TB. The external unit attaches to your computer via USB 2.0, FireWire or eSATA ports. Installation is simple because there’s no real installation. Plug in the drive and you’re ready to go. The drive comes preloaded with software to get it running on your system as soon as you plug it in. An innovative capacity gauge on the unit lets you see how much space you have at your disposal with a quick glance at the case. Estimated Street Price: $129 (320 MB) to $259 (1 TB). Contact: Western Digital, (949) 672-7000, www.westerndigital.com.


Sigma 4.5mm ƒ/2.8 EX DC Circular Fisheye HSM

We’ve always liked the unique 180-degree round images that a circular fisheye lens produces, but until recently, the effect wasn’t available for smaller-sensor D-SLRs, which crop into the circular fisheye image, producing a full-frame fisheye effect. Enter Sigma’s 4.5mm ƒ/2.8 EX DC Circular Fisheye HSM lens, which was designed specifically for the smaller-sensor D-SLRs and produces a true circular fisheye effect with those cameras. The lens is available in mounts for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma and Sony/Minolta APS-C-sensor D-SLRs, bringing circular fisheye capability to the many users of these popular cameras. Estimated Street Price: $900. Contact: Sigma, (800) 896-6858, www.sigmaphoto.com.


Canon PowerShot SX10 IS

The “super-zoom” compact digital cameras are great do-everything models when you want to travel very light. Canon’s new 10-megapixel PowerShot SX10 IS measures 4.9×3.5×3.4 inches and weighs only 19.8 ounces, yet provides a 28-560mm (35mm equivalent) ƒ/2.8-5.7 20:1 optical zoom that covers true wide-angle to super-telephoto range. Other features include a 2.5-inch, tilt-swivel LCD for those odd-angle shots, plus an eye-level finder and macro focusing down to the front of the lens. Canon’s latest DIGIC 4 image processor, optical image stabilization and servo AF are other noteworthy features. Estimated Street Price: $399. Contact: Canon, (800) OK-CANON, www.usa.canon.com.


Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight

Impressive is an understatement for Nikon’s flagship SB-900 Speedlight flash unit. With more versatility, a higher GN, faster recycling and a wider zoom range (from 12-200mm in DX mode and 17-200mm in FX), the i-TTL flash improves on many of the excellent features found in its SB-800 predecessor. Additionally, the SB-900 adds three light distribution patterns—Standard, Center-weighted and Even—bringing pro-level strobe light features to an on-board camera head unit. The head itself features 180 degrees of rotation to the left or the right, making it especially useful as a wireless slave. Speaking of wireless, the SB-900 can act as a control for up to four channels of i-TTL Speedlight groups. Estimated Street Price: $450. Contact: Nikon, (800) NIKON-US, www.nikonusa.com.


Hoya HD CIR-PL Filter

Made of hardened optical glass with four times the breaking strength of standard filter glass, Hoya’s new HD CIR-PL circular polarizing filter works with digital and film SLR AF and metering systems. The filter features a high-transparency polarizing film like those used in the latest HD LCD TV systems, with 25 percent higher light transmission than standard polarizing films. Transmission is also enhanced by an eight-layer, water-repellent and scratch-resistant multi-coating that has an average transmission of 99.35 percent in the visible spectrum (wavelengths between 400nm and 700nm). The HD CIR-PL is available in sizes from 52mm to 82mm. Estimated Street Price: $105 to $285. Contact: THK Photo Products, (800) 421-1141, www.thkphoto.com.


Epson Stylus Photo R2880

With the
ability to print 13 x 19 inches and Epson’s professional UltraChrome K3 inkset, the Stylus Photo R2880 is a pro-level printer with a decidedly enthusiast-friendly price. The printer features pigment-based inks that produce exhibition-quality images that stand up to the rigors of time. Built-in Radiance technology ensures smooth tonal transitions and improved highlight and shadow detail. An exclusive advanced black-and-white mode gives you four preset menus each with custom sliders for maximum control. You can fit the unit with roll paper or use media like artist’s canvas if you desire. Estimated Street Price: $799. Contact: Epson, (800) GO-EPSON, www.epson.com.


Joby Gorillapod Focus

There’s no substitute for a tripod when it comes to taking steady shots. With tentacle-like legs designed with articulating ball-and-socket joints, Joby’s compact Gorillapod can bend and twist to support your camera on tricky surfaces. The latest model, Gorillapod Focus, supports up to 11 pounds yet weighs slightly more than a pound. Machined aluminum sockets with an anodized gunmetal finish allow 360-degree rotation, and rubberized ring and foot grips provide a firm hold in almost any environment. Estimated Street Price: $149. Contact: Joby, (888) 569-JOBY, www.joby.com.


SimplePhoto.com

Many photographers are great image-makers, but not as interested in the sales side of the business. SimplePhoto.com”> helps solve this problem as a complete e-commerce solution for photographers. With a commission-based setup and sales/web consulting, SimplePhoto helps you leverage the Internet for better online sales with customized pricing, product lines and invoicing to your clients. You can sell prints, novelty items, gift certificates and more. SimplePhoto’s Managed Accounts option does the work for you with custom websites, search engine optimization and outsourcing of purchased material to select vendors. Estimated Street Price: Varies. Contact: SimplePhoto, (404) 806-1801, www.simplephoto.com.


Lowepro Stealth Reporter D200AW

It may have been designed for photojournalists, but the Lowepro Stealth Reporter D200AW is the ideal camera bag for anyone who wants to protect their gear and not be weighed down by a heavy, overbuilt bag. Many bags are overbuilt in terms of the materials and padding used in their construction. The Stealth line takes a decidedly more minimalist approach without sacrificing protection. High-density, closed-cell foam internal padding keeps your camera, lenses and accessories safe, while the outer shell is made of durable ballistic nylon. Estimated Street Price: $130. Contact: Lowepro, (800) 800-LOWE, www.lowepro.com.


Eye-Fi Wireless SD Card

If you’re looking for a simple way to wirelessly download images to your computer, look no further than Eye-Fi’s Wireless SD Card. A WiFi radio is built into the card, so once the camera has written your image to the card, it’s wirelessly transmitted to your computer’s hard drive. Three versions are available: the Home card downloads to your Mac or Windows-based computer, Share lets you upload to your computer and photo-sharing sites like Flickr, and Explore allows you to take advantage of WiFi hotspots. Estimated Street Price: $79 to $129. Contact: Eye-Fi, (877) 873-9334, www.eye.fi.


Olympus PT-EO5 Underwater Housing

Underwater photography has gone mainstream. Once the exclusive domain of a handful of dedicated professionals, today there are options that fit the price range and shooting level of just about any photographer. The popular Olympus E-520 can be safely transported to the ocean’s depths with the Olympus PT-EO5 housing. The full-featured setup gives you complete TTL flash control when used with the Olympus UFL-2 underwater strobes and fiber-optic control cable. The housing takes a multitude of lens ports for a host of Olympus Zuiko Digital lenses. Rated to a depth of 130 feet, recreational scuba divers, as well as snorkelers, will be able to get stunning, vivid photographs of the undersea world. Estimated Street Price: $1,199. Contact: Olympus, (888) 553-4448, www.olympusamerica.com.


Epson P-7000 Multimedia Photo Viewer

Maybe the ultimate accessory for the traveling photographer, the Epson P-7000 Multimedia Photo Viewer is a home away from home for your photos, movies and music. The built-in card reader lets you back up images from all popular memory card formats to the 160 GB hard drive, then review them on the sparkling four-inch LCD display. It supports JPEG and even RAW images from select cameras, as well as common video and audio file formats. A travel kit includes a case, dual battery charger, viewing stand and car adapter. Estimated Street Price: $799. Contact: Epson, (800) GO-EPSON, www.epson.com.


Tamron 18-270mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 Di II VC

We love the versatility of ultrazooms that can go from wide to serious telephoto, especially when we want to travel light. The 15x zoom range of this Tamron lens, coupled with Vibration Compensation to allow handheld exposures without a tripod, even at telephoto, makes it the only lens you’ll need for most photo opportunities, providing the 35mm equivalent of 28-419mm. Tamron’s Di II lenses are designed specifically for use with popular D-SLRs from Canon and Nikon. It measures just 3.9 inches in length and weighs 19.4 ounces. List Price: $599. Contact: Tamron, (631) 858-8400, www.tamron.com.


Tamrac Adventure Messenger 5

Over-the-shoulder messenger bags are perfect when you’re out shooting the urban landscape. With Tamrac’s Adventure Messenger 5, there’s room for your SLR, several lenses and a laptop. A foam-padded main compartment with dividers keeps your photo gear organized, while the rear pocket provides quick access to most 13-inch laptops. Extra pockets make storing manuals, personal items and accessories easier. Estimated Street Price: $69. Contact: Tamrac, (800) 662-0717, www.tamrac.com.


Lensbaby Composer

We’ve always liked the concept behind Lensbaby lenses, with their eye-catching focus control. The redesigned Lensbaby line includes a new flagship, the Composer, wh
ich makes it easier than ever to achieve selective-focus results with straightforward operation. Perhaps the biggest enhancement is the new Optical Swap System, which is now part of every Lensbaby lens. This system makes the lenses modular, so you can switch out the optical element for different effects. Several are already available, including a Holga-esque plastic lens and a Pinhole/Zone Plate optic, with more to come. List Price: $270. Contact: Lensbaby, (877) 536-7222, www.lensbaby.com.


Ansmann Digicharger Vario

Keep all of your devices powered up when you’re on the road using the Ansmann Digicharger Vario. The charger works with more than 100 battery types, including AA/AAA, NiMH or NiCd batteries, and lithium-ion and lithium-polymer battery packs, all without an adapter plate. Simply plug it into a power socket or car cigarette lighter. The Vario charges quickly and has an overcharge protection mechanism that protects batteries from damage. Estimated Street Price: $58. Contact: HP Marketing Corp., (800) 735-4373, www.hpmarketingcorp.com.


Adobe Photoshop CS4

The latest version of the industry-standard photo-editing package has added new capabilities and convenience. Some of our favorites include a new Adjustments panel that’s more intuitive and includes lots of useful presets, and a new Masks panel that makes it easier to create and use masks. Also new in this version are cutting-edge technologies like content-aware scaling (which lets you stretch or compress the aspect ratio of an image without stretching or compressing subjects like people in the scene) and the ability to merge several photos into one with extended depth of field and dynamic range. Estimated Street Price: $699 ($199 upgrade). Contact: Adobe, (800) 833-6687, www.adobe.com.


Nik Software Viveza

Nik Software’s Viveza makes image-editing fun and easy—thanks to the company’s proprietary U Point technology, images can be finely adjusted quickly and intuitively with user-friendly Control Points. You can set the radius of the Control Points to change as little or as much of the image as desired while color, exposure, contrast and other adjustments are seamlessly blended. The process takes all of a few minutes to master. Viveza is simple to use, you can see changes as they’re made, and it works. List Price: $249. Contact: Nik Software, (888) 284-4085, www.niksoftware.com.


Pretec 64 GB/100 GB CF cards

Pretec’s CompactFlash cards featuring storage capacities of 64 GB (and an upcoming 100 GB model) are remarkable. For photographers who like to keep copies of their photos on the card, those who shoot with ultra-high-res cameras, or for situations where switching cards isn’t possible (think underwater), capacities of this size are highly desirable. The fast 233x write speeds clock in at up to 35 MBps, and the cards are constructed of a metal housing for increased resistance to impact and shock. List Price: $399 (64 GB 233x). Contact: Pretec, www.pretec.com.


Gitzo GT3541L 6X Carbon-Fiber Tripod

Tripods continue to get sturdier and support more weight while weighing less themselves. Gitzo’s GT3541L 6X carbon-fiber tripod legs use layered carbon-fiber construction for improved tubing that’s stronger than its predecessor. Load capacity is nearly 40 pounds, there’s an ultra-low leg spread for ground-level shooting, and the Anti-Rotation Leg system and G-Lock design mechanism make setup fast. The GT3541LS is available without a column as part of the Gitzo Systematic series, which lets you add a center column of your choice. Estimated Street Price: $825 (GT3541L); $699 (GT3541LS). Contact: Gitzo (Bogen Imaging), (201) 818-9500, www.bogenimaging.us.


X-Rite ColorMunki Photo

Color calibration is essential—it ensures the adjustments you make to your images are correct. X-Rite’s ColorMunki makes the process as quick as it gets, with an all-in-one spectrophotometer that profiles monitors, projectors and printers. Use the easy mode with presets, or if you’re looking for more control, an advanced mode lets you set white point, ambient light and more. Using new printer-profiling technology, ColorMunki optimizes specific colors, black-and-white and flesh tones based on your images. Estimated Street Price: $499. Contact: X-Rite, (914) 347-3300, www.xrite.com.


Monostat-RS Monopod

While we often prefer to shoot handheld using stabilized lenses, sometimes that isn’t steady enough—especially with a really long lens or when doing close-up work. The Monostat-RS monopod is a good solution. It’s easy to carry, provides more stability than handholding (it can be used with the lens stabilizer on for added stability) and features a Swivel Toe Stabilizer that lets you shoot at up to a 60-degree angle from horizontal, something conventional monopods don’t allow. The toe also provides a good grip on slippery surfaces. Available in aluminum or carbon fiber, units support up to 30 pounds. Estimated Street Price: $175. Contact: Monostat of Switzerland (Accurate Sales, Inc.), (718) 302-7063, www.monostat.us.


Wacom Cintiq 12WX

For the most precise image editing, you can’t beat the control and accuracy of Wacom pen tablets. Their pressure-sensitive technology is fully supported by Photoshop and other apps; in Photoshop, the amount of pressure you apply when retouching affects the intensity of the adjustment you’re making. The Cintiq 12WX takes the tablet one step further by integrating a 12.1-inch display with WXGA (1280 x 800) resolution, 24-bit color depth and 170-degree viewing. Estimated Street Price: $999. Contact: Wacom, (800) 922-6613, www.wacom.com.


Litepanels Micro

One of the problems with flash is previsualizing the effect. It also can be tricky to ge
t the intensity just right. Litepanels Micro for D-SLRs is a terrific solution when fill light is needed, allowing you to adjust its continuous output strength with a simple dial. Forty-eight cool-running LED lights provide generous, flattering light, perfect for close-ups and portraits. And because the light source is continuous, you don’t need to worry about red-eye. You also can add gels (some are included or make your own) to adjust the color of light output. It runs on AA batteries and mounts to your camera’s hot-shoe. Estimated Street Price: $299. Contact: Litepanels, (818) 752-7009, www.litepanels.com.


onOne Software FocalPoint 1.0

If you’re into the soft, defocused look that a tilt-shift lens creates, but can’t afford the heavy price tag that comes with those lenses, check out onOne Software’s FocalPoint 1.0. With a special on-screen control called the FocusBug, you can tilt the sweet-spot aperture in 3-D, mimicking the effect of a view camera or tilt-shift lens. What’s cool about this app is that the FocusBug acts as a “virtual” lens, allowing you to alter the focus and depth of field in post. You also can add a vignette by lightening or darkening the edges of the image. Estimated Street Price: $159. Contact: onOne Software, (888) 968-1468, www.ononesoftware.com.


Moab by Legion Paper Moenkopi Unryu 55

The name might not be conventional on this side of the Pacific Ocean, but the paper gives your prints an added dimension no matter where you live in the world. Moab long has been known for producing some of the most innovative and interesting papers for photographers. Moenkopi Unryu 55 (Unryu is a Japanese word that translates as “cloud dragon paper”) continues that tradition. When the paper is being made, long, coarse fibers are added to a layer of mulberry. The paper is suitable for use in most printers, but it was specifically designed for archival inkjet models. Moenkopi Unryu 55 maintains the look and feel of fine Japanese Washi papers. Estimated Street Price: $19 to $269 (varies depending on size and quantity). Contact: Moab by Legion Paper, (877) 259-3161, www.moabpaper.com.


Tiffen Dfx Digital Filter Suite

Effects that used to take hours to achieve in a darkroom are now possible in just a few mouse clicks with Tiffen’s Dfx Digital Filter Suite. Included are hundreds of filters and special effects for replicating Rosco and GamColor gels, white-and-black conversions, film looks, classic darkroom techniques like bleach bypass and more. The interactive EZ Mask tool simplifies separating different components of an image for further editing. You can choose from the Complete edition or a pared-down Select version. Estimated Street Price: $199 (Complete); $99 (Select). Contact: Tiffen, (800) 645-2522, www.tiffen.com.

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