Every year, the OP editors get to check out a variety of cool, new photo products, from feature-packed digital SLRs to must-have shooting accessories. With so many items to choose from, coming up with a short list is tough. We've chosen more than 25 of the year's most noteworthy products to highlight on the following pages. This collection of gear should serve you well in pursuing, capturing and sharing beautiful outdoor photography. Note: The initials show which editor has made that pick.
Canon EOS-1D Mark III This pro D-SLR can shoot up to 110 large JPEG or 30 RAW 10.1-megapixel images at 10 frames per second, and features a built-in sensor dust remover, three-inch Live-View LCD monitor, 300,000-cycle shutter, 2,200-shot battery and lots more. Yet, the camera weighs nearly half a pound less than its predecessor—wow! Image quality is superb. It was a pleasure to find no dust on any of the 4,500 images I shot with our test camera despite numerous lens changes in the field, and while not perfect, it delivered the best AF performance on birds in flight of any of the 42 D-SLR models I've tested (in temperatures to the mid-90s). List Price: $4,499. Contact:Canon, (800) OK-CANON, www.usa.canon.com.—MS
Nikon D40x If you're ready to start shooting with a D-SLR, the Nikon D40x is a great choice. A step up from its D40 predecessor, the camera offers more resolution, with a 10.2-megapixel sensor (the D40's is 6.1), a faster 2.5 fps burst rate and a wider ISO range. It retains that comfortable, lightweight build, while capturing top-notch photos with a user-friendly menu system and controls. The D40x uses the same engine as the D200 and the same 3D Color Matrix Metering II system as the D80. Estimated Street Price: $679 (body only). Contact: Nikon, (800) NIKON-UX, www.nikonusa.com.—KC
Panasonic PT-P1SDU Projector Whether for entertaining family and friends with slideshows or giving professional presentations, the Panasonic PT-P1SDU is a little, high-resolution projector that generates 1,500 ANSI lumens of brightness so you'll have no problem seeing photos, graphics, movies or whatever you're projecting. At three pounds and 2.5x9.2x7.4 inches, the PT-P1SDU is easy to store and transport. It also has slideshow creation features, and you can plug in SD cards directly. Estimated Street Price: $799. Contact: Panasonic, (800) 211-PANA, www.panasonic.com.—HM
Olympus PT-E03 Housing For The EVOLT E-410 As a PADI scuba instructor and an avid underwater photographer, I'm constantly on the lookout for gear that's capable, easy to use and easy to travel with. The Olympus EVOLT E-410 is a compact D-SLR that takes the full collection of Zuiko lenses. Combined with the PT-E03 housing, the camera gives me excellent image quality in a reasonably compact package. I can go from wide-angle to macro by switching lenses and housing ports, and the camera has live-view on the LCD monitor, which is often easier to see than the viewfinder. And the setup can accommodate sophisticated flash units with full TTL metering in the camera! Whether you love diving like me or you want to be able to shoot your best snorkeling shots during your tropical vacation, the PT-E03 with an EVOLT E-410 is an excellent choice. Estimated Street Price: $749 (housing only). Contact: Olympus, (888) 553-4448, www.olympusamerica.com.—CR
Tamron AF18-250mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 Di-II LD Aspherical (IF) Lens The remarkable focal-length range of the Tamron AF18-250mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 Di-II LD Aspherical (IF) lens makes it an ideal choice for outdoor photography. Optimized for APS-C-sensor D-SLRs, the lens touts a 28-388mm (35mm equivalent) range with a 13.9:1 zoom ratio for true wide-angle to super-telephoto coverage. Plus, it has a 1:3.5 macro magnification ratio for focusing on close-by subjects. The high-power zoom is just 3.3 inches long and weighs 15.2 ounces. The lens is available in Canon, Nikon, Pentax/Samsung and Sony/Maxxum mounts. Estimated Street Price: $499. Contact: Tamron USA, (631) 858-8400, www.tamron.com.—KC
Lowepro Vertex 200 AW When it's just you and your gear in the wild—with no shelter—protection from the elements is essential. Lowepro's Vertex series of backpacks is designed to keep your camera, lenses and accessories dry and padded, whatever the weather throws at you, with water-resistant zippers and a seam-sealed All Weather Cover that shields the pack when things get extreme. Available in three sizes, I like the midsized Vertex 200 AW, which has enough room for two SLR bodies and up to six lenses, plus a padded pocket for a 15-inch laptop. You can even attach your tripod to the pack. Estimated Street Price: $229. Contact: Lowepro, (800) 800-LOWE, www.lowepro.com.—WP
Lensbaby 3G What began as more of a novelty for me has become a full-fledged, must-have, well-used photography accessory. While other versions of the Lensbabies are good tools, it's the Lensbaby 3G that I find indispensable. The 3G model has a lockable feature that allows me to create the tilt/shift effect I want, lock it down while I fine-tune focus and more easily hold the camera steady because I don't have to hold the Lensbaby while I'm shooting. The 3G can be used from ƒ/2 to ƒ/22, and the optics are low-dispersion and sharp. Estimated Street Price: $270. Contact: Lensbabies, (877) 536-7222, www.lensbabies.com.—CR