|Volume 12, Number 24||19 November 2010|
Welcome to the 293rd edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Take a week off and study our 2010 Gift Guides before the Black Friday stampede. And avoid getting trampled by shopping through our Buy Now page at http://www.imaging-resource.com/buynow.htm and our PriceGrabber page at http://ir.pricegrabber.com too. It helps support what we do here. Thanks!
This issue is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please show your appreciation by visiting their links below. And now a word from our sponsors:
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Black Friday is creeping up on us before the gang at Imaging Resource has had a chance to wrap up the reviews of some pretty compelling cameras. But we interrupted their feverish activity to get a list of this year's best cameras. And we've checked it twice.
When it comes time to buy and if you decide to buy online, please do us the favor of getting to your vendor via our Buy Now page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/buynow.htm). Thanks!
Canon PowerShot S95 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/PS95/PS95A.HTM) -- Among its premium-quality competitors, the Canon S95 is the smallest digicam with such a fast lens. Its understated, stealthy appearance will be popular with street photographers and its easy customization will gain everyone's admiration, period. The S95's hold on users becomes complete with the gorgeous, 420K-pixel, 3.0-inch LCD. $396
Panasonic Lumix LX5 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/LX5/LX5A.HTM) -- There are few cameras most photo enthusiasts would agree upon. The Panasonic LX5 is one of them. No, not all photo enthusiasts will say it's the best but most would agree it's a contender, a heck of a good camera, with a classic design. It can be relied upon for high-quality images in most situations, even standing in reasonably well as a portrait camera. $445
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/HX1/HX1A.HTM) -- The Sony HX1 is a 20x zoom digicam that can get in close while delivering good 11x14 prints. Other unique features include Handheld Twilight mode, which combines images in-camera for better low light performance and Sweep Panorama mode, which makes capturing panoramic images as easy as scanning the horizon with your eye. $370
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/FZ35/FZ35A.HTM) -- With a zoom range from 27 to 486mm, the FZ35 will meet just about every need on your next outing and do it in a small package weighing less than a pound. HD video captures 1280x720p complete with stereo sound. A stack of Scene modes, face detection and several intelligent exposure modes round out its features, but it's the speed and image quality that impressed us. $307
Nikon Coolpix P100 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CP100/CP100A.HTM) -- Megazoom digicams don't get much longer than the P100, which has a 26x zoom ranging from a very wide 26mm to a very long 678mm. Its 10.3-megapixel backlit sensor allows it to perform a few cool tricks, too, including a frame rate of up to 10 shots per second at full resolution and an automatic HDR mode for difficult lighting situations. An articulated 3.0-inch LCD screen, light weight and a very fast full AF shutter lag round out the package. $380
Canon PowerShot SX20 IS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SX20IS/SX20ISA.HTM) -- Well built but awkward to handle, the Canon SX20 IS will nonetheless be popular with those already familiar with Canon long zoom cameras. There are certainly more external controls than most digicams offer and the one-touch activation of Movie mode is still quite inspired, even as it's adopted by the competition. $430
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/HX5V/HX5VA.HTM) -- With a 10-Mp back-illuminated sensor, a 10x zoom, built-in GPS and a very clever way of capturing stable images in low light, the Sony HX5V is perfect for travelers. It's one of the few digicams on the market to include Sony's Handheld Twilight mode, which takes six rapid images and combines them to form one low-light shot. The 10x zoom ranges from 25-250mm. Its unique grip provides a good hold while not protruding from the body, allowing the HX5V to slip easily into most pockets. It's also a competent HD video camera, recording up to 1080i at 60 fps with stereo audio. $302
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/ZS7/ZS7A.HTM) -- The ZS7 features a 12.1-Mp sensor and a 12x optical zoom, a high-res 3.0-inch LCD and GPS to record where you were when you took all those vacation shots. Capable of 720p HD video as well, it's indeed an excellent travel companion for stills and video and its 25-300mm equivalent zoom range frames subjects ranging from close-ups to landscapes. $313
Canon PowerShot SX210 IS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SX210IS/SX210ISA.HTM) -- The Canon SX210 takes pocket zoom a little longer, with a 14x zoom that ranges from 28-392mm. It also sports a 14-Mp sensor, exceeding the competition in both zoom range and resolution. It's surprising just how close you can get with a 14x zoom, especially with built-in image stabilization. With a pleasing shape and good heft, it was a joy to use and brought home great pictures. $285
Canon G12 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/G12/G12A.HTM) -- The latest in Canon's renowned G Series, the G12 features a new control dial on the front of the camera body, mirroring those on Canon's EOS-series dSLRs and support for an optional lens filter adapter which extends along with the lens itself, accepting Canon 58mm-threaded filters. The top-panel ISO dial is also finer-grained, allowing adjustment in 1/3 stop increments and there's a new user-configurable Auto ISO function. Tracking autofocus is new as is an electronic level function to straighten horizons. And the G12 now offers a variety of new aspect ratios, including 4:3 (native), 3:2, 16:9, 1:1 and 4:5. $492
Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD1300IS/SD1300ISA.HTM) -- Though the Canon SD1300 is the first of the ELPH digicams to dip below the $200 mark, it still has what you need to get good quality shots. It has a small, smooth, metal body, a 12-Mp sensor, a 4x zoom that starts at 28mm, optical image stabilization and a sharp 2.7-inch LCD. Even with a reduced feature set, it isn't missing anything important. Canon's done an extraordinary job pruning the SD1300 down to the essentials, while preserving good image quality. $165
Canon PowerShot A3100 IS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A3100/A3100A.HTM) -- If you're looking for a camera that just works and doesn't cost a lot, check out the Canon A3100. Its 4x zoom isn't wide, but does zoom from 35-140mm and its 2.7-inch LCD looks great in most lighting conditions. But the big story is the 12.1-Mp sensor, whose output exceeds the abilities of today's top-end Canon ELPHs, rather mysteriously. $138
Panasonic Lumix ZS5 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/ZS5/ZS5A.HTM) -- Built-in GPS isn't for everyone, so why pay extra for it when the ZS5 offers the same image quality as the ZS7? It has the same 12-Mp sensor, wide-angle 12x zoom and a 2.7-inch LCD in a sleek metal body. Ranging from 25-300mm, the 12x zoom is perfect for just about every situation you're likely to encounter and it maintains such high image quality that you can output 16x20 prints from most daylight images. $265
Canon PowerShot SX120 IS (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SX120IS/SX120ISA.HTM) -- The Canon SX120 gives you a fast 10x zoom in a simple, well-designed camera. Its image quality competes with larger long-zoom cameras and its DIGIC 4 processor and 10-Mp sensor improves on its predecessor's 9-Mp design. A large 3.0-inch LCD shows your images clearly and it includes a wide range of exposure controls, from full Auto to full Manual and all modes in-between. $218
Olympus PEN E-PL1 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EPL1/EPL1A.HTM) -- Olympus took most of what was great about the first two Pen cameras and dropped it into the E-PL1 digicam. From the 12-Mp sensor to the high quality optics and excellent output quality, it loses almost nothing while shedding a couple hundred dollars from the price and getting a grip in the bargain. The built-in flash, also new, can remotely control Olympus strobes to boot, making this lower-priced digicam more versatile than the more expensive E-P1 and E-P2 digicams. A new video button allows you to start movie recording without leaving the mode you're in and the Olympus E-PL1 also allows Manual control over video exposure. It's a pretty complete package, one that can be expanded with the addition of different lenses and accessories. $546
Sony Alpha NEX-5 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/NEX5/NEX5A.HTM) -- Mirrorless cameras have been big in Japan and Europe for a while now, but have gotten off to a slow start in the U.S. But with the Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3 cameras, the game has changed significantly. These new models are not only the most compact interchangeable-lens cameras on the market but also bring features like Sweep Panorama and Hand-Held Twilight shooting modes up from Sony's digicam line, combining them with the dramatically higher image quality. In fact, the image quality from these new cameras is by far the best we've seen from the Sony Alpha line at the APS-C sensor size. But wait, there's more! Unlike most of their competition, the Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3 both offer truly effective live autofocus during movie recording. The Sony NEX-5 can record 1080i at 60 fps in the AVCHD format (plus options for MPEG-4 recording), while the NEX-3 offers 1280x720p recording in MP4 only. $691
Canon EOS T1i (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/T1I/T1IA.HTM) -- Our experience with the Canon T1i was excellent and shows Canon is taking its dSLR challengers quite seriously. Indeed, our test results show it is one of the best values on the market, offering Canon 50D quality in a significantly less expensive package. $699
Canon EOS T2i (Rebel T2i, Canon 550D) (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/T2I/T2IA.HTM) -- Canon ignored the rest of the digicam industry when they limited resolution over the last few years, putting an 18-Mp sensor in their consumer flagship Rebel T2i and as a result the camera stands head and shoulders above any other offering under $1,000. Where you'd expect more noise from this 18-Mp camera, the Canon T2i actually delivers less than its predecessor, while increasing detail at all ISO settings. Also upgraded on the Canon T2i is 1080p video at 24, 25 and 30 fps with video editing tools built right into the camera. Still shooting mode also gets a frame-rate increase to 3.7 fps. Both still and video quality from the Canon T2i are very impressive. $854
Watch for our review of the Nikon D3100 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D3100/D3100A.HTM) offered at $708 and the Canon EOS 60D (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E60D/E60DA.HTM) at $990.
Nikon D300S (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D300S/D300SA.HTM) -- While the Nikon D300S has the same 12.3-Mp sensor as its predecessor, it can now capture up to 7.1 fps (8 fps with the optional battery grip). The new SD/SDHC slot gives it greater versatility while retaining a Type I CompactFlash slot. But the big story is its HD movie mode, capturing 1280x720 videos at 24 fps. Though it has a built-in monaural microphone for audio recording, it also includes a stereo mic-in jack. You can frame images via the big, beautiful optical viewfinder or the large, high-resolution LCD in Live view mode and view your images and videos direct from the camera thanks to the HDMI-out port. $1,527
Canon EOS 7D (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E7D/E7DA.HTM) -- The 7D stands alone. It's a dSLR camera that can capture 18-Mp images at 8 fps and 14-bit depth, with a quite usable ISO range from 100 to 12,800. It offers Live View, full manual exposure control while recording movies, Full HD movie recording, a new 19-point all-cross-type autofocus system, a near-100 percent optical viewfinder and built-in support for controlling up to three groups of Speedlite strobes. $1,560
Watch for our review of the Canon EOS 60D (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E60D/E60DA.HTM) offered at $987, Nikon D7000 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D7000/D7000A.HTM) at $1,500 and the Pentax K-5 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/K5/K5A.HTM) at $1,543.
Nikon D3x (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D3X/D3XA.HTM) -- The Nikon D3x produces the highest image quality of any camera we've tested. Its combination of resolution, color fidelity and noise performance puts it at the very top of its class. Not only does the Nikon D3x sport an amazing 24.5 megapixels of resolution, it manages to wring more detail out of those pixels than anything else out there. The D3x also offers surprising speed, capable of 5 fps at full resolution and up to 7.5 fps in its 10.5-Mp DX crop mode. Then there's build quality. It's built like a tank, capable of handling most anything. Calling it a five-star Dave's Pick is the highest praise we have to offer, but it seems hardly enough. $6,863
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E1DMK4/E1DMK4A.HTM) -- The Canon 1D Mark IV is a remarkably capable camera, fit for news, sports and many other types of pro photography. Its fast frame rate of 10 fps makes it excellent for action, yet its higher resolution makes it great for portrait or other work. Printed results tell most of the story, outputting 16x24-inch prints at ISO 3,200. The Canon 1D Mark IV is solid as a rock, very well-sealed against the elements when used with the right lenses and its controls and menu system are very easy to use. The new tempered LCD glass also makes the 1D Mark IV more durable than ever. $5,000
Canon EOS-5D Mark II (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E5D2/E5D2A.HTM) -- Capable of capturing 1080p movies, the 5D opened up a whole world of video opportunities for those with a selection of Canon full-frame lenses. Of course, it also has the goods for still photographers, offering a 21.1-Mp sensor, a tuned version of the sensor in the Canon 1Ds Mark III. Now the 5D's sensor has significantly better high ISO performance, able to produce nearly noise-free images up to ISO 6,400. If you can handle a little noise, you can even reach out to 25,600. Its new high resolution LCD delivers a fine 640x480 image for better focus checking and a great image in Live View mode. $2,416
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/TS2/TS2A.HTM) -- Waterproof, shockproof, dustproof and freezeproof, the TS2 is built to stand up to the elements and rigors of the real world and it takes a pretty good picture, too. New redundant locks on the Panasonic TS2's doors reduce the likelihood you'll open them accidentally and a new silicon jacket wraps around the camera for better scuff protection. $315
Pentax Optio W90 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/OW90/OW90A.HTM) -- With a 5x wide-angle zoom, a 12.1-Mp sensor and a 2.7-inch LCD, the W90 is a pretty good choice in a waterproof, coldproof, go-anywhere rugged digicam. We were pleased with the overall image quality, as the Pentax W90 even delivered good corner sharpness and almost no geometric distortion and full-AF shutter lag was right up there with dSLRs! It even includes three LEDs ringing the lens for illuminating subjects as close as one cm. $264
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX5 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/TX5/TX5A.HTM) -- With the TX5, you can have a slim stylish digicam that's also tough. As handsome as other Sony T-series digicams, the Sony TX5 is different: you can splash it, dunk it, swim with it, drop it, freeze it and even get it dirty and it will keep on taking pictures. Its touchscreen interface is fast and well-designed and image quality is very good. $305
Casio EXILIM EX-G1 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EXG1/EXG1A.HTM) -- The Casio EX-G1 challenges typical waterproof digicams, offering futuristic lines and a slim profile that practically beg you to charge off on an adventure. Its 12-Mp sensor, 3x zoom and 2.5-inch LCD meet all the basic requirements and the Casio EX-G1's rugged build makes it waterproof, dustproof, shockproof and freezeproof. $202
We had more than usual trouble with our annual phone call to the North Pole elves for a little advice from the pros on gift giving. We'd dial, they'd pick up, we'd wish each other a merry ... and we'd drop the call.
We tried a few times over several days, hoping the smoke signals were aligned in our favor, but no dice. In desperation, we wandered back over to the virtual water cooler to drown our sorrows.
As we lifted our face from that frozen body of water, we looked around at the staff, still busy clicking this and dialing that and making a note or two on one device or another.
They're a little tall for elves, we thought, but they'll do.
They had various opinions but on one thing they all suggested. Please do us the favor of getting to your vendor via our Buy Now page (http://www.imaging-resource.com/buynow.htm). The day they come to repossess the water cooler, we won't be able to do any more reflecting.
BOOKS & DVDS
- Hot Shoe Diaries by Joe McNally (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0321580141/?tag=theimagingres-20). McNally's love for popping off really shines in this shot-by-shot dissection of some cool strobe setups. $39.99
- The DAM Book by Peter Krogh (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0596523572/?tag=theimagingres-20) covers everything about managing your image collection except survival strategies. $49.99
- HDSLR: The Billion Things You Need to Know by Peter iNova (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?dgn) covers shooting video with a Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Pentax and other HDSLR cameras in an interactive PDF format. $34.95
- Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers by Harold Davis (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0596529880/?tag=theimagingres-20) focuses on the three factors you can actually do something about when you take a picture. Talk about fundamentals! $29.99
- The Digital Photography Companion by Derrick Story (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0596517661/?tag=theimagingres-20) is the beefed-up version of Story's classic Pocket Guide that makes it clear that if you want your pictures to be different from snapshots, you have to learn how to drive. The camera, that is. $24.99
- Lynda.com (http://www.lynda.com/home/ViewCourses.aspx?lpk0=91) features an extensive library of digital photography titles by various luminaries including Deke McClelland, Peter Krogh, Derrick Story and Rick Smolan. Various subscription plans.
- Use our Gift Certificate (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?gsb) to start a free subscription to this venerable publication, which includes free email support directly from the editor (saving you lots of explaining).
- A subscription to Reid Reviews (http://reidreviews.com/reidreviews/), Sean Reid's reviews of high-end gear. $32.95
- A subscription to Lloyd Chamber's Diglloyd's Advanced Photography, Making Sharp Images, Guide to Zeiss ZF/ZE Lenses or Guide to Digital Infrared (http://diglloyd.com/diglloyd/2009-11-blog.html#_20091108SubscriptionGift). $30 to $80 bundles
Both Luke and Andrew sat us down for a long session on the lenses they've most enjoyed this year.
Luke chimed in on some mirrorless lenses he favors:
Andrew, who has been reviewing lenses at SLRGear.com (http://www.slrgear.com) has a few more general recommendations:
- Voigtlander 35mm f2.5 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&N=0&Q=&Ntt=%2Bvoigtlander+2.5+35mm&A=endecaSearch) -- Luke uses this on his Sony NEX-3. "It's very small and light, and works well with the NEX. It's beautifully made and looks nice on the camera, too." $339
- Zeiss ZM 21mm f2.8 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/361537-REG/Zeiss_1365_651_21mm_f_2_8_ZM_Lens.html) -- Luke thought this worked well on the NEX, too, with a Leica mount, but noted, "There are problems with most small rangefinder lenses wider than 35mm causing a color shift in the corners of the NEX frame. Leica ran into the same problem with their first digital cameras, and had to implement in-camera processing to correct it. It is supposedly related to the short distance and acute angles between the rear of the lens and the sensor. The Zeiss ZM 21mm f4.5 (a more compact lens) has the problem; the f2.8 version does not (or it is negligible)." $1,340
We even got a lens or two (depending on how you count) to play with this year:
- Nikon: "The 35mm f1.8 DX (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1243/cat/12) is a no-brainer; small, inexpensive, good optic. A good second lens for the DX buyer who's already got a kit lens like the 18-105mm but wants a shallower depth of field to play with. Pretty much a full frame lens as well, with only slight vignetting." $235
- Tamron's 17-50mm f2.8 VC (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1297/cat/23) "is a capable lens, a decent value with good optics, and now vibration control." Andrew said he'd even recommend it over the 18-55mm kit lenses. $615
- For ultrawide shooting the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1250/cat/31) or f/4-5.6 (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/171/cat/31) "continues to be an excellent choice, even despite more recent offerings from Tamron and Nikon in the 10-24mm range." $698 and $497
- The Canon EF-S 55-250mm (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1113/cat/11) is "an excellent telephoto zoom, combining great optics with image stabilization and a reasonable price." $248
- Olympus shooters "can treat themselves to the 12-60mm (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1138/cat/15), a super-sharp ultrawide." $900
- For Pentax, "any of the limited edition lenses (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showcat.php/cat/44) makes an excellent addition to the system: the 21mm f3.2, 31mm f1.8, 40mm f2.8 or 43mm f1.9; a more practical choice might be the 17-70mm f4 or 16-50mm f2.8 (essentially, better-quality upgrades to the kit lens)."
- Sony lenses "are generally more expensive, but they're worth the money: the 24-70mm f2.8 (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/987/cat/82) and 85mm f1.4 (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1181/cat/83) are exceptionally good lenses." $1,400 and $1,800
And where there's a lens, well, there are optical accessories:
- Lensbaby (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/LBC/LBC.HTM) -- We've always really enjoyed shooting with a Lensbaby, but the Composer takes the fun to another level -- and now it's available for mirrorless cameras, too. The hip ball joint is the easiest Lensbaby we've ever used, solving the nagging problems of its predecessors. And the interchangeable optics promise to open up a whole new dimension in selective focus, allowing you to decide just what level of blur you want. $270
- LensRentals.com Gift Certificate (https://www.lensrentals.com) -- Let them rent whatever lens they want and get five percent off the face value when you purchase the gift certificate, too.
- Filter wrenches are just the ticket for removing a circular polarizer. B&H sells a set that handles 62-77mm lenses for $4.95 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=251749&is=REG) and smaller sizes are available, too. Soft wraps (Velcro wraps for your gear) let you bring along a lens without taking a bag (http://www.amazon.com/TECH-Soft-Wrap-Velcro-Protective/dp/B0001UQ1KC/?tag=theimagingres-20).
A stocking stuffer memory card of the right type (a high speed card for video fans) is always welcomed:
- Eye-Fi SD card (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/EYE/FI.HTM) -- These cards turn any SD-capable camera into a WiFi camera. Now in several models with special features, including video and Raw file transmission. Lose the USB cable. $99
- SanDisk SD/USB Card (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/SDUSB/SDUII.HTM) is an SD card that folds in half to reveal a USB connector. Very, very convenient. No reader necessary, no cable either. A perennial favorite. Available in several sizes, SD and SDHC versions. $12 to $100
- CompactFlash (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/m/pl.cgi?memcf)
- Secure Digital (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/m/pl.cgi?memsd)
- Memory Stick Pro Duo (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/m/pl.cgi?memmspro)
- xD Picture Cards (http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/m/pl.cgi?memxd)
BAGS & STRAPS
- Think Tank Photo (http://www.thinktankphoto.com) has redesigned its Urban Disguise shoulder bags to "allow you to travel in style and protect your valuable equipment without attracting attention." They've also introduced the Sling-O-Matic in three sizes, designed to be worn on either shoulder. And it has also redesigned its Digital Holsters with a pop-down feature to handle different length lenses. Great design, no-compromise manufacturing.
- Cotton Carrier (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/CTN/CTN.HTM) -- While not inconspicuous, if you don't mind drawing attention to yourself (as, say, the wedding photographer) or are out in the woods where no one would notice you anyway, there's no better way to carry a camera. $139/99/59
- Gordy's Camera Straps (http://www.gordyscamerastraps.com) -- Shawn swears by them (not at them) -- made of California Latigo belt leather, these are tough, flexible, pliable wrist and shoulder straps handmade by a little old man and his faithful helper (not Shawn). $18
We buy our digital filters from 2filter (http://www.2filter.com), which discounts high quality, multi-coated filters from Hoya and Tiffen and provides some bundles, too. Prices vary on the size of the filter.
- Circular Polarizers can capture the world as it appears through your shades.
- Neutral Density filters can knock down bright sunlight to give you more control of depth of field and keep video shutter speeds low for a more realistic appearance.
- Infrared filters limit capture to infrared wavelengths if your camera does not have an IR blocking filter on its sensor.
- An external flash. A dedicated speedlight (with wireless capability) can open new doors of creativity for your photographer. Typical units: Nikon SB-600 $200, SB-700 $330, SB-800 $400, SB-900 $500; Canon 430EX $200, 580EX $350
- Ultimate Light Box. This inexpensive flash diffusion system (http://www.harbordigitaldesign.com/lightboxkits.aspx) gives you a studio full of options in a compact collection. We also liked their Quick Spot attachment with filter sets. Bounce diffusers for $20, Box Kits for $85, Pro Packs for about $130
- Rogue Flashbenders (http://www.expoimaging.com) are fabric panels that strap around your strobe securely without leaving a trace, similar to David Honl's Speed Gobos and Speed Snoots (http://www.honlphoto.com). $29.95 to $39.95
- Anything from Photoflex (http://www.photoflex.com) from light stands to light tents, from monoblocs to reflectors. Well designed and reasonably priced.
- WhiBal (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/WHB/WHB.HTM) is a small gray card with a lanyard that is actually calibrated. You know exactly what it should measure when you open an image with it in your image editing software and can instantly adjust the color balance. From $30
- Datacolor SpyderCube (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/SCUBE/SCUBE.HTM) We really appreciated having reference points for absolute black and a spectral highlight plus a white and black reference point in the image, too. $59
- LensAlign Pro/Lite (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/LA/LAL.HTM) -- There is nothing like precision in our fog-banked existence and either LensAlign is a measuring tool that can cut through the vagaries of focus to help you fine tune the autofocus accuracy of your gear. $140/80
- IT8 Targets (http://www.targets.coloraid.de) -- Wolf Faust has great prices for IT8.7/1 transmissive targets and IT8.7/2 reflective targets for calibrating scanners.
- Lightroom 3 (http://tryit.adobe.com/us/lightroom/tw2/?sdid=IBFJY) runs on OS X or Windows, handles stills and video, delivers exceptional noise reduction tools and continues to make work flow from import to Web galleries or print packages. If you're getting a new camera, Lightroom will be among the first to support it, too. $299
- Elements 9 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/E9/E9.HTM) makes it back on the list this year with a polished but fun package for both the still and video sides of your brain. The special effects, which are actually useful, will amaze your friends.
- DxO Optics Pro (http://www.dxo.com/us/photo/dxo_optics_pro) transforms your camera captures dramatically, removing optical flaws and delivering color and detail at high ISO. And it's easy to use. $99
- Nik Software (http://www.niksoftware.com) has recently compiled its extensive suite of plug-ins to run in 64-bit mode. We're found of Sharpener Pro, Silver Efex Pro and HDR Efex Pro (all of which subscribers can get at a discount). Very cool tools.
- Bibble (http://bibblelabs.com) is loved for its Raw processing and selective editing prowess. $199.95
- PS Kiss (http://pskiss.com) Photoshop filters using Pixel Bender technology take a different approach to getting the job done. And they're quite affordable, ranging from $1 to $11.25.
- Photo Mechanic (http://www.camerabits.com) is a full-featured (and we're not kidding) image browser that can save time ingesting images from the camera to the computer. $160
- VueScan (http://imaging-resource.com/SOFT/VUE/VUE.HTM) is an affordable and comprehensive scanning software solution. Buy one copy, use it on any scanner you own. $80/40
- PhotoRescue (http://imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM) remains the leader in image recovery software, now handling movie files as well as images. $29
- MemoryMiner (http://www.memoryminer.com) is the modern way of telling your family's story. $45
- Canon Pro9000 Mark II (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/CP9KII/PRO9K2.HTM) -- The printer's grainless resolution, quickness and fidelity (using the ICC profiles provided with the paper) make printing as rewarding an experience as pressing the Shutter button. $500
- Canon Pro9500 Mark II (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/CP95KII/CP95KII.HTM) -- The pigment version of the Pro9000 with superior black and white printing. $800
- Epson Artisan 810 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/A810/A810.HTM) -- No film scanner, but it does print CD/DVDs. $298
- Canon PIXMA MG8120 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/MG8120/MG8120.HTM) -- Very helpful new interface makes this workhorse fun to ride. Does everything (even 35mm film) except CD/DVD printing. $300
- Epson V700/V750 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/V700/V700.HTM) -- It handled everything we threw at it. Which defines state of the art and explains why we've had no problem recommending it to anyone who has asked what's the best scanner to buy. $600
- CanoScan 8800F (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/CS8800/8800F.HTM) and 9000F (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/CS9000/9000F.HTM) -- Two excellent scanners (the 9000F has higher resolution that really isn't needed for most tasks), both with Canon's easy-to-use ScanGear software. $185 and $200
- Epson Perfection V600 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/V600/V600.HTM) -- We liked the hardware coupled with VueScan. $190
- Plustek OpticFilm 7600i (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SCAN/V600/V600.HTM) -- Just about the only 35mm film scanner out there these days. There's no automatic feed, but that's about all we could complain about. $190
- Color Munki (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/CMP/CMP.HTM) -- The more we used the ColorMunki, the more we liked it. And the more we liked it, the more we used it. Which, when it comes to profiling devices, is more than half the battle. $450
- Datacolor Spyder3 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/SPYDER3/SPYDER3.HTM) monitor calibration systems. The $279 Spyder3Elite and the $599 Spyder3Studio are not cheap, which is why they make nice presents that will not be returned.
- The Camera Lens Mug (http://photojojo.com/store/awesomeness/camera-lens-mug/). Photographers love them for some reason. Can't miss at $24 for Canon and $30 for Nikon. Or how about a Lens Bracelet (http://photojojo.com/store/awesomeness/lens-bracelets/) for $10?
- Pirolettes (http://www.turnyourhead.com) are $150 wood turnings that cast a shadow in the shape of your profile. Also available is a $50 portrait (a flat version) that can be framed.
- Photostamps (http://photostamps.com) can print a sheet of perfectly legal stamps with either an image or a logo on them in just one day. A sheet of 20 first class stamps is $19.
- Digital Photo Frames? Frankly the best digital photo frame in your house is your flatscreen, high definition TV. Find a way (XBox, Apple TV, etc.) to get your photos on it. The smaller frames all suffer from two problems: stagnant content and poor image quality. But they make great gifts, we hear. The best are the Kodak Pulse frames, Pandigital second.
- USB 2.0 hub. Inexpensive but look for a 2.0 Hi-Speed USB port, even if it comes with a power brick. Providing power to the hub means you can attach power-hungry devices like external USB drives to the hub without draining your laptop's battery.
- External drive. Nobody ever has enough external drives. Compact 2.5-inch drives in small enclosures are more expensive than 3.5-inch drives for the same capacity. Network drives let you share the drive among a number of computers (WD drives let you access your photo collection from your smartphone: http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/WDP/WDP.HTM). And some drives even feature one-click backup capability.
- Merchandise from your images? Absolutely! Nothing says I-love-you like a T-shirt for Dad branded with that picture you took of him dozing after Thanksgiving. And Mom will love her high school picture on her T-shirt (you can even color her hair they way it should have been) -- You not only express what's truly in your heart, but you save gas and these things aren't that expensive to begin with! Consult your favorite online photofinisher.
At http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:
- First Shots: Pentax K-5 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/K5/K5A.HTM). Pentax has updated its flagship dSLR with 16 megapixels, a burst rate of seven fps and ISO sensitivity to an unusually wide range of 80 to 51,200. It competes with the Nikon D7000 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D7000/D7000A.HTM) and the Canon 7D (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/E7D/E7DA.HTM). So how does it do? Compare its images in the Comparometer (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IMCOMP/COMPS01.HTM)
- Reviewed: Canon PowerShot G12 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/G12/G12A.HTM). It must be Flagship Week with a full review of Canon's latest G-series model, the G12. Sporting the same sensor and processor as last year's G11, the new model adds user interface refinements and a Smart Auto mode. The big news is 720p video with stereo sound. Canon calls the sensor/processor pair its HS or High Sensitivity system.
- Reviewed: Sigma 85mm f1.4 EX DG HSM (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1331/cat/30). The Sigma 85mm was announced this summer and released just recently. Sigma's second fast prime lens (after the 50mm f1.4), it's inexpensive compared to similar lenses from major manufacturers.
- Reviewed: Panasonic ZR3! (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/ZR3/ZR3A.HTM). A nice little compact model with HD video capture, using the AVCHD Lite video format with an option for MPEG if your computer can't handle AVCHD.
- Reviewed: Canon PIXMA MG8120 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRINT/MG8120/MG8120.HTM)
- Reviewed: Sony Cyber-shot T99 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/T99/T99A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Nikon AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1358/cat/13)
Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:
Read the Nikon 'Friends of the 8800' discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee9b16a
Visit the Panasonic Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.eea297f
A reader asks for help choosing their first dSLR at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.eeb1c9a/0
Read about Canon lenses at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=4
Visit the Printers Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/[email protected]@.ee6b2b8
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You can email us at [email protected]. You can read our Letters policy at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS in the FAQ.
RE: Dark Images
The images from my Panasonic Lumix FH20 look great in the LCD when taken, but are considerably darker when transferred to Picasa. Oh, I can lighten/brighten there, but would really like to come closer to what's in the LCD. Have played with exposure control, but that doesn't seem to make any difference. What will?
-- Roger Patterson(Don't trust your monitor, Roger. If you haven't calibrated it, it's not accurate. We've reviewed several devices to calibrate monitors from the inexpensive to the not-so-inexpensive. All of them are better than doing it by eye, but you can at least try that. -- Editor)(Try turning the FH20's e LCD Mode option (on the Quick Menu) either off or to Auto, if it's in the Power LCD mode. -- Dave)
RE: Can't Remember!
A few issues back I think you described a program using a Western Digital hard drive that was extremely helpful for organizing photos. I hate to admit that I can't remember much of the described advantages except that it seemed to be a very useful program. Do you recall this program? Am I correct in recalling that it was an article that appeared in Imaging Resource recently?
I'd sure appreciate any help you can provide. As I approach 81, my memory is not what it used to be. Many thanks!
-- Jon Holloway(We did review WD Photos (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/WDP/WDP.HTM) in April, Jon. But that lets you access your photo collection from a smart phone (iPhone or Android). It doesn't organize them, although it has some nice search features. Frankly, with the volume of images you can collect using a digital camera, no one can remember what they have. So a good scheme is very helpful no matter your age. We've described our own directory naming (see our "Dealing with Space Junk" feature in the Feb. 25, 2000 issue (http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/index-arch.html). And more recently we discussing Photoshop Elements 9 in the Sept. 24 issue, which does include some actually fun ways to organize your digital collection. -- Editor)
RE: Mixing Brands
I like Panasonic cameras but can I still print my own pictures with my HP Photosmart 7760?
-- Clint C. Surles(Sure. There's no disadvantage to mixing brands of cameras and printers. Mix and match! -- Editor)
Adobe has published a community art project on the Lightroom Facebook page called Images of Thanks (http://on.fb.me/a606jn). The project calls for participants to upload photos of people, moments and memories they're thankful for and inspire us as we approach the holiday season.
DxO Labs (http://www.dxo.com) has released DxOOpticsPro v6.5 [MW]. Along with providing photographers with high dynamic range capability from a single Raw image, v6.5 improves accessibility and productivity. DxO Optics Pro v6.5 and upgrades enjoy a 30 percent holiday season discount through Dec. 25.
Nik Software (http://www.niksoftware.com) has now released 64-bit versions of its entire product line: Dfine 2.0, Viveza 2, Color Efex Pro 3.0, Silver Efex Pro and Sharpener Pro 3.0.
PSKiss (http://pskiss.com) has released Pixel Gear Suite, including Edge Gear, SH Tone Gear and Skin Gear filters based on Pixel Bender technology (GPU acceleration, 32-bit color and more).
DataRescue has released PhotoRescue 3.2.2 with the usual minor tweaks, new Raw file formats and an online license check (http://www.imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM).
Cotton Carrier (http://www.cottoncarrier.com) has introduced its $159 Carry-Lite Side Holster with Shoulder Strap and Waist Belt, a clever belt system for carrying your dSLR. ITEM: NikonImages (http://nikonimages.com) is a gallery of images shot with Nikon gear that you can search through by lens, Exif data and more.
Andrey Tverdokhleb (http://www.raw-photo-processor.com) has released his free Raw Photo Processor 4.1.9 [M] with preliminary support for the Panasonic GH2, support for the Nikon D7000/D3100, Pentax K-r/K-5, Canon 60D and Sony A290/A390.
Shot from the top of the Centre Point building in central London, this is an 80-gigapixel panoramic photo (http://www.360cities.net/london-photo-en.html) is made from 7886 individual images.
Isis Imaging (http://www.isisimaging.com) has released its $450 Icefields 5.3 [M], which halftones images at any stage of production, with high-quality black-and-white image processing for ebooks, Extended Dynamic Range image processing, under-color removal, spot color separations, quadtone/duotone creation and more.
Atlantic Light Works and Reindeer Graphics have released the $150 PercepTool 2 (http://www.georgedewolfe.com/perceptool.html), a Photoshop suite that performs High Dynamic Range, Tone Mapping and Perceptual Effect.
Astronaut Doug Wheelock took some photos of the Earth at night (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1328467/Spectacular-night-time-photos-Earth-taken-space-station.html) from the International Space Station.
For just $150 per insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).
Digital Photography Tutorials for Beginners: http://www.photoxels.com
Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc
That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:
Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS.HTM New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEW1.HTM Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/DIGCAM01.HTM Q&A Forum: http://www.imaging-resource.com/FORUM.HTM Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/TIPS.HTM
Mike Pasini, Editor
Dave Etchells, Publisher