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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
Awesome for close-ups of flowers, insects and more, I really like the Tamron SP AF60mm F2 Di II 1:1 Macro because it's also a fast lens with a maximum aperture of ƒ/2—perfect forportraiture—making it one very versatile prime lens. Available for Canon, Nikon and Sony APS-C-sensor cameras, the lens features internal focusing and low-dispersion glass elements for enhanced color fidelity. List Price: $599. Contact: Tamron USA, (631) 858-8400, www.tamron-usa.com.—WP
Possibly the coolest ballhead ever made, the Novoflex MagicBall is a ball-and-socket head that allows you to position your camera up to 120º in virtually any plane with an ingeniously simple locking mechanism. It's incredibly easy to use, helping you quickly find your angle and lock down. The MagicBall can support loads up to 22 pounds for heavier gear. Two smaller models are also available for lighter systems. Estimated Street Price: $550. Contact: HP Marketing Corp., (800) 735-4373, www.hpmarketingcorp.com.—WP
When a photo needs a little something extra to give it punch or personality, Nik Color Efex Pro is my go-to plug-in. I love the variety of preset effects and the ability to customize those effects to create your own "looks" and then control their application with Nik's intuitive and mask-killing control points. New in Version 4 is the ability to "stack" multiple effects in one session (previous versions required you to return to Photoshop or Aperture after applying an effect before returning to Color Efex Pro to add another effect). You can save these stacks as Filter Recipes for use on other images. List Price: $199. Contact: Nik Software, (619) 725-3150, www.niksoftware.com.—WP
For DSLR cameras, the Universal Bundles from Redrock Micro provide flexible kits that can be configured into any number of rigs for adding stabilization and accessories to video projects (or just for stills). Currently available in seven different versions, the kits are as simple or as complicated as you need, starting with the most basic Universal Nano Bundle and culminating in the Complete Universal Bundle with every item needed for turning your DSLR into a complete filmmaking tool. Add Redrock Micro's distinctive and appealing design and comfortable ergonomics, and you have a winner. List Price: Begins at $1,276. Contact: Redrock Micro, (888) 214-3903, www.redrockmicro.com—DW

Because I do much more shooting at the wide end of the focal range, I like to have several wider angles with me. The Tokina 17-35mm ƒ/4 AT-X PRO FX gives me an equivalent of 25-53mm on my APS-C DSLR, and it uses SD glass to minimize chromatic aberration. It's a lens that fits into the slightly wide to normal category on an APS-C DSLR, but it also can be used on a full-frame DSLR where it would be a wide to slightly wide of normal lens. Estimated Street Price: $750. Contact: Tokina (THK Photo), (800) 421-1141, www.thkphoto.com.—CR
There's a lot to like about the Litepanels MicroPro. It's ideal for adding light exactly where you need it in a scene, and just the right amount of light, too—an integrated dimmer lets you easily adjust output. Continuous, flicker-free output makes these lights as great for video as they are for stills. Conveniently powered by AA batteries, the lights provide output similar to a 50-watt camera light, but with no heat because they're LED. Mount the Litepanels MicroPro on your camera's hot-shoe or to a tripod for off-camera fills. They're daylight-balanced, but you can use gels with the built-in filter holder. Estimated Street Price: $405. Contact: Litepanels, (818) 752-7009, www.litepanels.com.—WP
There are still quite a few photographic effects that are best performed optically through the use of filters. Kenko's ND4 and ND8 neutral-density filters reduce the amount of light entering the lens in an equivalent of two and three stops, respectively, useful for adding dynamic motion blur effects to images like the famous cotton candy look so popular with waterfalls and rapids. They also provide more control over exposure for better depth-of-field options on overly bright days. Kenko's Zeta filters feature an Ultra Thin Frame for minimizing vignetting even with a wide-angle and a Zero Reflection (ZR) Super Multi-Coating for reducing reflections without influencing image quality. Estimated Street Price: Begins at $69. Contact: Kenko (THK Photo), (800) 421-1141, www.thkphoto.com.—DW


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