Welcome to our annual Editors’ Picks for 2008—the year of the D-SLR. Suddenly, there are more cameras from more manufacturers at lower prices, and all with more and better features than ever. In addition to D-SLRs, there were new lenses, tripods and accessories to ignite the creativity of all sorts of nature shooters. This list is by no means a compendium of all the new gear from the past year, and with so many amazing new tools, we have to say that narrowing our selection wasn’t easy, but in the end we couldn’t make everything a pick.
SONY DSLR-A900 Sony’s new top-of-the-line pro model, the A900 offers a 24.6-megapixel, full-frame Sony Exmor CMOS sensor—for under $3,000! Two Bionz processing engines provide speedy handling of the huge image files and full-res shooting at up to 5 fps, plus advanced noise reduction further improves image quality. The A900 is also the first full-frame D-SLR to incorporate a sensor-shift, anti-shake system that works with all lenses. The rugged body is sealed against moisture and dust, and includes a 100,000-cycle shutter. The 3-inch, 921,000-dot LCD monitor includes an Intelligent Preview function. Estimated Street Price: $2,999. Contact: Sony, (877) 865-SONY, www.sonystyle.com.
NIKON D3 Nikon’s best D-SLR ever features superb image quality, with its full-frame CMOS sensor and 12.1-million, big 8.5-micron pixels, ISOs to 25,600, full-resolution shooting at 9 fps, a 3-inch, 920,000-dot LCD monitor with two Live-View modes, two CompactFlash card slots (11 fps in cropped DX format), excellent AF and metering systems and lots more. The super-rugged D3 accepts the full line of AF-Nikkor lenses—attach a DX (APS-C sensor) lens to the full-frame camera, and the D3 automatically switches to cropped DX mode, and you can shoot at 11 fps. Estimated Street Price: $4,999. Contact: Nikon, (800) NIKON-US, www.nikonusa.com.
TOKINA AF11-16MM This AF11-16mm ƒ/2.8 superfast, super-wide pro zoom for APS-C-sensor D-SLRs features great performance and is ideal for low-light shooting. Tokina’s One-Touch Focus Clutch Mechanism lets you switch between auto and manual focusing merely by snapping the focusing ring forward (for AF) or back (for manual focusing)—no need to fumble for an AF/MF switch or reset the camera. It’s available in mounts for Canon and Nikon APS-C-sensor D-SLRs. Estimated Street Price: $570. Contact: THK Photo Products, (800) 421-1141, www.thkphoto.com.
TAMRAC EXPEDITION 6X A photo backpack is mandatory equipment for a nature shooter. The Expedition 6x is a five-pound, medium-sized pack that provides foam-padded protection for one or two 35mm or digital SLRs, lenses, a flash unit and accessories. There’s even a foam-padded front pocket for a laptop computer. A state-of-the-art harness system and Air Flow Channels make for comfortable use, plus the 6x is carry-on compatible when you’re traveling by air. Estimated Street Price: $185. Contact: Tamrac, (800) 662-0717, www.tamrac.com.
OLYMPUS E-3 The long-awaited successor to the Olympus E-1 pro Four Thirds System D-SLR (there was no E-2 model), the E-3 has proven well worth the wait, offering pro performance and features at a surprisingly low price. Among our favorite features are the tilting/swiveling Live-View LCD monitor that makes odd-angle shooting a snap, an effective Supersonic Wave Filter sensor-cleaning system, Supersonic Wave Drive in-body sensor-shift image stabilization that works with all Four Thirds System lenses, super-quick autofocusing with SWD lenses and rugged construction. Estimated Street Price: $1,570. Contact: Olympus, (888) 553-4448, www.olympusamerica.com.
CASIO EXILIM PRO EX-F1 This year Casio launched a new and innovative camera capable of capturing a mind-numbing frame rate of 60 to 1,200 frames per second in full HD in its EXILIM Pro EX-F1. The camera isn’t an SLR, but it has the form factor of one, and can capture 6-megapixel stills with its CMOS sensor. The lens is a 12x zoom with a 35mm equivalent range of 36-432mm, and the camera records at either full 1920x1280 HD or 1280x720. Estimated Street Price: $999. Contact: Casio, (800) 435-7732, www.casio.com.
TAMRON AF18-270MM With a 15X zoom ratio, the new Tamron AF18-270mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical (IF) Macro zoom for APS-C-sensor D-SLRs offers focal lengths equivalent to 28-419mm on a 35mm camera, yet measures just 3.8x3.1 inches and weighs less than 20 ounces. It focuses down to 19.3 inches at all focal lengths, while internal focusing keeps balance good and the front element from rotating during focusing. The lens incorporates Tamron’s VC (Vibration Compensation) technology to counter handheld camera shake. It comes in mounts for Canon and Nikon APS-C-format D-SLRs. Estimated Street Price: TBA. Contact: Tamron USA, (631) 858-8400, www.tamron.com.