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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In Focus: December 2011

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

Labels: In Focus
This Article Features Photo Zoom

Mirrorless cameras give nature photographers a compact body, a high-resolution image sensor and a choice of fine optics. The new Sony NEX-7 has all of those qualities in a beautiful, finely machined, magnesium-alloy package. The 24.3-megapixel CMOS image sensor works with the onboard Bionz processing engine to deliver top-quality images. One of my favorite uses for a mirrorless camera is to have a compact HD video option in my bag, and the NEX-7 shoots high-quality 1080p AVCHD video. Navigation through the menus is easy via three control wheels. The NEX-7 is compatible with the Sony E-series lenses, and the optional LA-EA2 adapter gives you access to the A-series lenses and full-time phase-detect AF as well. Estimated Street Price: $1,199 (body); $1,349 (with kit lens). Contact: Sony, (877) 865-7669, www.sonystyle.com.—CR

AF-S DX MICRO-Nikkor 40mm F/2.8G
I always carry a macro lens in my bag because in bad weather or unfavorable light, I can almost always find interesting macro subjects to shoot. The new AF-S DX Micro-Nikkor 40mm ƒ/2.8G has become my lens of choice because, on my Nikon D300S, it gives me a similar look as the 60mm I used to carry. The new 40mm is a true macro, meaning it gives a 1:1 ratio and focuses as close as 0.53 feet away. The fast ƒ/2.8 maximum aperture gives me a beautiful bokeh, and the Super Integrated Coating has been engineered to reduce flare and ghosting, which can be particularly problematic when shooting up close. The lens takes a 52mm filter. Estimated Street Price: $279. Contact: Nikon, (800) NIKON-US, www.nikonusa.com.—CR
I like sling packs, but depending on what I'm carrying, sometimes the load is just too heavy and a backpack is more practical. The two-in-one design of the Tamrac Evolution 9 gives me both options. The bag can be worn as a backpack or as a sling that fits over either shoulder. The camera is accessible through doors on each side of the pack, and a front panel provides access when it's removed. The main compartment holds a DSLR with grip and up to an 8¾-inch lens attached, as well as several more lenses, a flash and up to a 17.3-inch laptop, which fits in the rear pocket. Estimated Street Price: $199. Contact: Tamrac, (800) 662-0717, www.tamrac.com.—KC
Nature photographers often seek pristine vistas where few have tread before. This can take us into remote places where cell phones simply don't work. The SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger is, quite literally, a lifesaver. The simple device is a must-have for every nature shooter. You can send a distress message or less alarming check-in/I'm OK messages to friends and loved ones. The device is powered by three AAA batteries and weighs only 5.2 ounces. Estimated Street Price: $169. Contact: SPOT, (866) 651-7768, www.findmespot.com.—CR
Prints are the ultimate expression of fine photographs. I've been saying that for years, and I'll continue to do so. I email and post images as much as anyone, but when I have a special image, it's going to be printed and placed on a wall in a frame. The Epson Stylus Pro 4900 makes beautiful 17-inch prints in vivid color or rich black-and-white, and it takes a variety of media from matte to glossy to specialty surfaces and rolls. The 4900 uses the Epson UltraChrome HDR inks to create the widest gamut of any Epson Stylus Pro printer. Estimated Street Price: $2,495. Contact: Epson, (800) GO-EPSON, www.epson.com.—CR

CANON EF 70-300mm F/4-5.6L IS USM
The 70-300mm zoom is one of the most popular, covering everything from portraits to sports action to wildlife, yet it's relatively affordable. While Canon has produced a number of such zooms, the EF 70-300mm ƒ/4-5.6L IS USM is the first to carry L-series specs: pro performance along with dust- and weather-resistance. The 19 elements (in 14 groups) include two UD (Ultra Low Dispersion) elements and three aspherical ones to minimize the aberrations and distortions that tend to trouble zoom lenses. Most importantly, the lens performed very well on EOS Rebel T3i, EOS 40D and EOS-1D Mark III test cameras while shooting birds in flight. An inner floating focusing mechanism provides quick, accurate autofocusing down to 3.9 feet for a maximum magnification of 0.21x—good enough for dragonflies and flower close-ups. The lens weighs 37 ounces and is quite "handhold-able." List Price: $1,599. Contact: Canon, (800) OK-CANON, www.usa.canon.com.—MS

SIGMA 8-16mm F/4.5-5.6 DC HSM
I love shooting with really wide-angle lenses. In fact, this issue of OP has an article on the close-up wide-angle technique, which is a favorite of mine. Because I have an APS-C DSLR, I need the widest I can get to create the effect I like. The Sigma 8-16mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 DC HSM has an equivalent 12-24mm range on my DSLR, and it has been optimized for APS-C DSLRs, which is perfect for me. The lens uses Sigma's FLD glass to generate sharp photographs that are free of chromatic aberrations, and it can focus as close as 9.4 inches from a subject. Estimated Street Price: $675. Contact: Sigma, (800) 896-6858, www.sigmaphoto.com.—CR


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