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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

In Focus: December 2012

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Our year-end wrap-up to some of the highlight products of 2012 will help you take optimum advantage of the capabilities of ever-evolving photo and video technologies. We've omitted the DSLR category because these products have received detailed coverage in previous issues. Instead, we've concentrated on noteworthy accessories to improve your photo capture and presentation.

AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm F/3.5-5.6G ED VR ZOOM
The AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR zoom from Nikon features a 16.7X zoom ratio—focal lengths equivalent to 27mm wide-angle to 450mm supertelephoto on a full-frame or 35mm camera—yet it measures just 3.3x4.7 inches and weighs 29.3 ounces, considerably less than the 50.8-ounce AF-S 300mm ƒ/4 I generally use, despite providing all those other focal lengths (both lenses take 77mm filters). It focuses down to 1.5 feet at 300mm for a maximum reproduction ratio of 0.32X (also better than the 300mm ƒ/4's 0.27X at its 4.8-foot minimum focusing distance. Three ED elements and three aspherical elements enhance performance, while VR II vibration reduction helps keep handheld shots sharp. List Price: $999. Contact: Nikon USA, (800) NIKON-US, www.nikonusa.com. —MS
TAMRON 18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di-II VC PZD
Whether hiking close to home or traveling to faraway places, lightening your load is always a good way to go. To do this, you need a versatile zoom that covers a big focal-length range. With a 15:1 zoom ratio, the Tamron 18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di-II VC PZD takes your APS-C-format DSLR from true wide-angle (equivalent to 28mm on a 35mm camera) to supertelephoto (about a 419mm equivalent). The lens maker's Vibration Compensation image-stabilization system helps you capture sharp shots handheld. Estimated Street Price: $649. Contact: Tamron USA, (631) 858-8400, www.tamron-usa.com. —KC
Designed to be relatively compact and less conspicuous than the large and bulky shoulder rigs that dominate the motion-capture market, the Redrock Micro ultraCage DSLR Event Rig gives you the freedom to keep the camera mobile, but steady. Built for motion capture, it's also ideal for still shooters who can't use a monopod or tripod. In the field, capturing wildlife, this rig lets you stay nimble, and the cage design gives the rig a solid feel. The ultraCage products are modular so you can add elements like clamps, brackets and handles as you need them, and the rig can be reconfigured quickly in the field. List Price: Starts at $1,175. Contact: Redrock Micro, (888) 214-3903, www.redrockmicro.com. —CR
Full frame is the name of the game. Sony introduced several affordable full-frame cameras in 2012, including the NEX-VG900, which is one of the first dedicated camcorders to feature both an interchangeable-lens mount and a large, 24.3-megapixel Exmor imaging sensor, making it a direct competitor to video-capable DSLRs, but with the advantages of a dedicated camcorder body, to boot. With shallow depth of field, RAW stills, a robust 5.1-channel surround-sound mic and an optional XLR-K1M adapter for adding pro XLR inputs for even better audio, the VG900 gives DSLRs a run for their video-making money, especially at roughly the same price as high-end DSLRs. List Price: $3,299. Contact: Sony, (800) 883-6817, pro.sony.com. —DW

With each new release, I spend more time in Lightroom and less time in Photoshop. That's because the software continues to improve its robust offerings while maintaining the streamlined interface and straightforward approach to basic image editing that makes it so fast and simple to use. Lightroom 4 has a few new features as well, including added video support, the Map module with geotagging features and localized adjustments for white balance, noise reduction and more. Lightroom is now part of Adobe's Creative Cloud membership service, which allows you to "rent" access to Adobe's considerable and powerful software offerings while also giving you several tools for sharing, storing, syncing and publishing images. List Price: $149 (Lightroom 4); $19/month (Creative Cloud Single App); $49/month (Creative Cloud Complete annual license). Contact: Adobe, (800) 833-6687, www.adobe.com.—DW

The Epson Stylus Photo 3880 isn't a new printer, but even a few years into its life, the printer is an outstanding choice for nature photography, and a starting price of $1,295 (MSRP) is pretty compelling. The 3880 was built to live up to the needs of pro photographers. The 17-inch printer uses Epson's UltraChrome K3 with Vivid Magenta Ink Technology—an eight-color ink set with advanced magenta pigments for outstanding blues and violets in particular. The printer's Advanced Black-and-White Photo Mode does an excellent job creating rich black-and-white prints, and you can choose a preset tone (neutral, warm, cool or sepia) to give the image the subtle tonality that you prefer. Contact: Epson, (800) GO-EPSON, www.epson.com. —CR

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