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.
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.