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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In Focus: December 2010


Editors' Picks: Our annual look at products that the OP Editors found to be particularly interesting and useful for nature photographers.



This Article Features Photo Zoom
Sony Alpha NEX-5
At the 2010 PMA trade show that took place in February, I went to a Sony press conference where they showed a concept camera—a mirrorless, interchangeable-lens model with a large APS-C image sensor. Fast-forward to the summer when that concept arrived in my office as a production camera, the Sony Alpha NEX-5. This small camera with the big sensor is one of the highlights of 2010 for me. Using a new Sony E-mount, the camera hit the market with several solid lenses, including a 16mm ƒ/2.8 wide-angle pancake-style lens and a flash (other E-mount lenses are available, and with an adapter, you can use the full collection of Sony A-mount lenses). There are several cool features, including Sweep Panorama, and it can shoot HD video. List Price: $699 (with 18-55mm lens). Contact: Sony, (877) 865-7669, www.sonystyle.com. —CR
Canon EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS II USM
The Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 zoom has long been popular with pros and well-heeled non-pros alike. The original EF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L IS USM gained a well-deserved reputation for excellence. Its successor, the new Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L IS II USM, betters it in all respects—IS (image stabilization) and AF performance, image quality, ruggedness and even close-focusing capability. To my pleasant surprise, I was able to nail birds in flight with the EF 70-200mm II attached to a 1.4X teleconverter using EOS-1D Mark III, EOS 40D and even EOS 20D bodies, and got crisp handheld insect close-ups with the 2X teleconverter. It’s not cheap, but it’s superb. List Price: $2,499. Contact: Canon, (800) OK-CANON, www.usa.canon.com. —MS
Adobe Photoshop CS5
Adding Content Aware Fill, the Puppet Warp tool, automatic Lens Correction and 64-bit support for Macs, Adobe’s powerhouse editing suite keeps getting bigger and better. For nature photographers, one of the most important advancements in Photoshop CS5 is the automatic Lens Correction filter, which reads the image’s metadata to determine the lens and camera configuration for performing corrective adjustments to geometric distortion (to correct for perspective), chromatic aberration and vignetting. Adjustments can be tweaked manually with sliders as well. The Content Aware Fill feature quickly removes objects by analyzing the surrounding pixels to replicate the details and texture of the adjacent areas. List Price: $699. Contact: Adobe, (800) 833-6687, www.adobe.com. —DW
Tamron SP 70-300mm Di VC
According to MTF charts, the Tamron SP 70-300mm Di VC is the sharpest lens in its class. Fred Picker once said he didn’t take photos of optical benches, and neither do I, so I tried the lens in a real shooting situation and was pleased. It’s small and light for its zoom range, and on my APS-C DSLR, it gives me an equivalent of about 105-450mm. With this lens, I’m happy to trade maximum aperture for size and weight advantages on a trail, and with the built-in VC technology, I can handhold while maintaining a lower ISO. List Price: $449. Contact: Tamron, (800) 827-8880, www.tamron.com. —CR
Olympus E-P2
Ever the innovators, Olympus brought the mirrorless design to the table in 2009 with its interchangeable-lens Micro Four Thirds PEN series of pocket-sized cameras. Five months later, Olympus released the 12.3-megapixel E-P2, updating the stylish exterior for which the PENs are known with exciting features. A dedicated accessory port is included for new add-ons like the EMA-1 Microphone and the included tilting, high-res VF-2 detachable electronic viewfinder for better viewing in bright sunlight and at awkward positions. Other features include in-body image stabilization, a 720p HD movie mode, autofocus tracking, dust reduction, a Digital Leveler function and an i-Enhance mode for shooting with saturated colors. Estimated Street Price: $849 (body only). Contact: Olympus, (888) 553-4448, www.getolympus.com. —DW

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