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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In Focus: December 2009

Editors' Picks

This Article Features Photo Zoom
Alien Skin Bokeh
I really like the look of shallow depth of field, particularly for close-ups of flowers, but lenses fast enough to produce the effect tend to be expensive. Alien Skin’s Bokeh software, a Photoshop plug-in, makes it easy to simulate the effect and can even replicate the look of a variety of lenses at different apertures—say, the Canon EF 85mm ƒ/1.2 II at aperture ƒ/2. The effect can be applied directly to the background layer or to a duplicate layer for additional control in Photoshop. Estimated Street Price: $199. Contact: Alien Skin, www.alienskin.com. —WP
Nik Silver Efex Pro
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to shoot B&W. The difficulty of doing good B&W conversions in early versions of Photoshop was discouraging to me, but Nik Software Silver Efex Pro has been a mainstay of my photography workflow since it was introduced. The software gives me a broad range of presets to choose from, and I can tweak any of them to create the exact look I want. It’s like being back in the darkroom with a shelf of paper and chemistry options at my fingertips, only I don’t smell like fixer when I make the final print. Estimated Street Price: $199. Contact: Nik Software, www.niksoftware.com. —CR
Tenba Shootout Sling
Whether it’s just for the day or for a week, having a versatile bag can make all the difference when you’re out on a shooting trip. Tenba’s popular Shootout Sling swings quickly around to the front of your body for fast access to the camera. It holds one or two SLRs, three to four lenses, a flash and accessories. You also can convert it to a long-lens bag for holding a pro body with an attached 300mm ƒ/2.8 lens. A full-access back panel opens up the main compartment, allowing you to customize how it’s set up. The bag is made of weather-resistant nylon with weatherproof YKK zippers. The smaller version holds one pro SLR with grip, plus lenses and accessories. Estimated Street Price: $99 (Medium); $89 (Small). Contact: Tenba,www.tenba.com. —KC
Singh-Ray Vari-N-Duo
Photoshop hasn’t killed the traditional on-camera filter. Polarizers and neutral-density filters, in particular, are extremely useful and let you create effects that can’t easily be mimicked through software alone. The Singh-Ray Vari-N-Duo gives you a combination of an ND filter and a warming polarizer in one unit. Using the front ring, I can control the density from 22⁄3 to 8 stops to blur water and make long exposures. The rear ring controls the warming polarizer. Estimated Street Price: $390 (standard ring); $440 (thin ring). Contact: Singh-Ray, www.singh-ray.com. —CR

Kenko Teleplus PRO 300 AF 1.4X Converter
A good teleconverter is a wonderful thing: It fits between the camera body and lens, and increases the focal length of the lens by 1.4x, 2x or 3x while retaining its minimum focusing distance—at a fraction of the cost of a new lens. The drawbacks are a loss of light and sharpness, and slower (or no) autofocusing. The light loss (one stop for a 1.4x converter, two stops for a 2x, 3 stops for a 3x) is inherent in converters. But Kenko’s Teleplus PRO 300 AF 1.4x converter gave me sharp images of birds in flight using continuous AF mode with a 300mm ƒ/4 lens on my APS-C-format D-SLR, turning my 300mm ƒ/4 into a 420mm ƒ/5.6 for far less cost than a 400mm lens. (Most SLR AF systems will function as long as the lens/converter combo is ƒ/5.6 or faster.) Estimated Street Price: $199. Contact: THK Photo Products, www.thkphoto.com. —MS

Epson P-7000 Multimedia Photo Viewer
The Epson P-7000 is a photo viewer that can hold up to 148 GB of images and display them on its four-inch Photo Fine Premia LCD. It can display more than 16.7 million colors in 94% of Adobe RGB color space. Features include fast downloading, zooming in to check focus and fine detail, and support for both JPEG and RAW files, as well as popular video formats. It has a built-in slot for CF and SD/SDHC cards and a long-life rechargeable lithium battery. Estimated Street Price: $799. Contact: Epson, www.epson.com. —WP

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