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Saturday, November 1, 2008

2008 Editors' Picks

Our annual look at gear from the past year that the OP editors found particularly useful

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Converting a color digital image to black-and-white is easy. Converting it into a good black-and-white image is somewhat harder. Nik Silver Efex Pro makes it easy to exercise complete control over black-and-white conversions, thanks to powerful capabilities and Nik Software’s unique U Point technology. You can apply the effect you want where you want it, with no need for complex selections, masks or layers, and no rough edges or artifacts. Estimated Street Price: $199. Contact: Nik software, (619) 725-3150, www.niksoftware.com.
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The newest addition to Western Digital’s My Book series of external hard drives, the My Book Mirror Edition provides ample space for backing up precious images and files—even enough to repeat a backup of them in the same drive. The best part is that this happens automatically with RAID-based mirroring that works continuously to update files even while you’re working on them. The My Book hard drives are sleek-looking, and their book-like aesthetics fit neatly into any office. Estimated Street Price: $289 (1 TB); $549 (2 TB). Contact: Western Digital, (877) 934-6972, www.westerndigital.com.
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Sometimes photographers prefer not to cart around a tripod, so they have to shoot handheld with stabilized lenses, but that’s not steady enough for close-ups and really long-lens work. The Monostat-RS monopod is easy to carry, provides a lot more stability than handholding (it can be used with the lens stabilizer on for added stability) and features a cool 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. Units are available in aluminum and carbon fiber, and can support up to 30 pounds. A favorite is the RS16K aluminum model with ART (Anti Rotation Tubing), which is especially quick and easy to set up. Estimated Street Price: $175. Contact: Monostat Of Switzerland (Accurate Sales, Inc.), (718) 302-7063, www.monostat.us.
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Batteries running out and memory cards filling up are equally annoying when you plan to spend the day or a trip taking pictures. Fortunately, the trend with memory cards is that capacity just keeps going up. Kingston’s latest Elite Pro SDHC card holds up to 32 GB, and there’s a built-in write-protect switch that prevents accidental data loss. Estimated Street Price: $308. Contact: Kingston, (877) KINGSTON, www.kingston.com.
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Keeping your camera, PDA and other devices powered up while you’re out on the road is much easier with the Ansmann Digicharger Vario in tow. 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.
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Achieving various film effects in the past meant using several filters, specific films types and old darkroom techniques. Now you can do it digitally with the Tiffen Dfx Digital Filter Suite, which offers 1,000 different effects. These include unique gels, beautiful black-and-white conversions, infrared and the old darkroom bleach bypass technique. The software has an easy batch-processing tool that lets you run filter effects on a large group of photos and an EZ Mask tool that lets you quickly separate different components of an image for further editing. Estimated Street Price: $199. Contact: Tiffen, (800) 645-2522, www.tiffen.com.

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Making sure that your system is calibrated properly may not sound exciting, but it’s necessary if you want vibrant, knockout color from screen to print. X-Rite’s ColorMunki makes it easy with an all-in-one spectrophotometer that measures monitor, projector and printer profiles. There are easy and advanced modes. Using new printer-profiling technology, ColorMunki can optimize 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.
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Getting a little fill light into the foreground will add dimension to your photographs. The Flashpoint 42-inch 5-in-1 Collapsible Disc Reflector harnesses the light and gives you a variety of options as you sculpt the fill. You can go for warm or soft fill, and there’s a black cover for shielding light from part of the scene. The reflector kit contains translucent, white, black, silver and soft gold, and it’s easy to break down and carry in the field. Estimated Street Price: $44. Contact: Adorama, (800) 223-2500, www.adorama.com.
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