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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In Focus: December 2009

Editors' Picks

This Article Features Photo Zoom
Sunpak 624P Carbon-Fiber Tripod
A sturdy, lightweight tripod is even more important for video capture than it is for still shooting. If you have one of the latest generation SLRs with HD video, be sure you have support for steady footage. The Sunpak PRO 624P carbon-fiber tripod includes a pan head, perfect for following action smoothly. It weighs 4.7 pounds, collapses down to just over a foot for easy carrying and can support up to 11 pounds. Estimated Street Price: $239. Contact: Sunpak (ToCAD America), www.sunpak.com. —WP
Genuine Fractals 6
A while back, the maker of Genuine Fractals gave editors a chance to try the up-resing software and have a big gallery-wrap print made from the result. I took an 8.2-megapixel, ISO 800 image of a hummingbird feeding her young at the nest, cropped it down to 2136x1656 pixels (3.5 megapixels) to frame the subjects nicely and blew it up to 16x20 inches at 250 dpi using Genuine Fractals 6. From opening the original image in Photoshop to having a ready-to-print gallery-wrap image took a few minutes. The resulting textured print (made by Mpix) is gorgeous—you’d never suspect it was from a 3.5-megapixel crop. Estimated Street Price: $159. Contact: onOne Software, www.ononesoftware.com. —MS
Olympus PEN E-P1
The retro design of the Olympus PEN E-P1 combined with its compact size and advanced imaging technologies make it one of this year’s standout cameras. This is the first Micro Four Thirds System model to come from Olympus, meaning the mirror and pentaprism used in SLRs has been removed so there’s no optical viewfinder. The body, therefore, is much closer to the size of a compact, which I really appreciate as one who travels a lot and likes to pack light. A large three-inch, live-view LCD makes composition easier, and sensor-shift image stabilization is built into the body. The 12.3-megapixel camera captures stills at up to 3 fps and records 720 HD video clips. Estimated Street Price: $799. Contact: Olympus, www.olympusamerica.com. —KC
Acratech GP Ballhead
Ballheads are great for landscape photography, allowing you to position the camera just where you want it and lock it there with the twist of a knob. Gimbal heads are great for bird photography because they provide support for big lenses while allowing you to pan freely to track the flying critter. Acratech’s GP Ballhead combines both into a single unit and adds a panoramic-head function with leveling base, all in a device that weighs less than a pound, yet can support up to 25 pounds. Estimated Street Price: $399. Contact: Acratech, www.acratech.net. —MS
Western Digital My Passport Studio
We’ve long touted the benefits of portable external hard drives when shooting in the field, and Western Digital is well known for producing drives that offer dependable performance, a sleek design and innovative features. My Passport Studio is formatted for Mac, compatible with Apple’s Time Machine backup utility and equipped with FireWire 800/400 and USB 2.0 interfaces for maximum flexibility. An illuminated capacity gauge lets you know how much space is available on the drive. While it’s designed for Mac, the drive can be easily reformatted for Windows PCs. Estimated Street Price: $149 (500 GB). Contact: Western Digital, www.westerndigital.com. —KC
Black-and-White Scanning with ScanCafe
ScanCafe has been providing high-quality negative and photo scanning services for a while now, but until this year, they hadn’t offered black-and-white negative scanning. I’m pleased as punch that they are now, though, because the digital scans I received were better in every case than handmade black-and-white scans I had done myself on a costly dedicated negative scanner. ScanCafe allows you to reject up to 50% of the negatives that you send in, and each image is scanned in and repaired individually so that blotches, defects and scratches are minimal, even on my more than decade-old negatives. List Price: $0.69 (each 35mm B&W negative); $1.99 (each medium-format B&W negative). Contact: ScanCafe, www.scancafe.com. —DW

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