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In Focus: December 2013

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The new Canon EOS 70D has Canon’s new Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, which provides a combination of contrast-detect and phase-detect AF. The upshot is the ability to have fast, accurate AF in still and motion shooting, and in low light. The touch screen lets you choose an AF area and smoothly rack focus when you’re shooting video. This ability to smoothly rack focus gives you a very sophisticated motion shooting technique. Estimated Street Price: $1,199. Contact: Canon, —CR
TAMRON SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD
A 70-200mm lens is a mainstay for any nature photographer. The new Tamron SP 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 Di VC USD has a fast ƒ/2.8 maximum aperture and Tamron’s VC image-stabilization system. The Tamron Ultrasonic Silent Drive (USD) motor is fast and completely quiet. Fast ƒ/2.8 70-200mm zooms have some heft, and this one is no exception, but that’s a small price to pay for sharpness, fast AF and VC image stabilization. Estimated Street Price: $1,499. Contact: Tamron, —CR

Add a flash booster atop your DSLR’s pop-up flash with the Rogue Safari. This diminutive piece of gear will give you lighting power, as well as the ability to add a catchlight in the eyes of wildlife. The conical-shaped booster mounts to the DSLR’s hot-shoe, and it’s optimized for lenses over 100mm. You can check the website to see if your DSLR is compatible. Estimated Street Price: $34. Contact: Rogue Photographic Design (ExpoImaging), —CR

Shooting panoramas can be done a lot of ways, but for maximum accuracy, you want to have the camera anchored down and rotating around the nodal point of the lens. The Linhof 3D Micro Panorama Head has two leveling segments that are mounted crosswise for precision. The panoramic plate is mounted above the movement axis for maximum accuracy. This is a serious precision instrument for photographers who demand the very best. Estimated Street Price: $2,069. Contact: Linhof (HP Marketing Corp.), —CR

With a dustproof, splashproof and freezeproof magnesium-alloy body, the 16.3-megapixel Olympus OM-D E-M1 interchangeable-lens camera provides high-quality images for active photographers. The OM-D E-M1 utilizes a Dual Fast AF system, and is fully compatible with both the ZUIKO and M.ZUIKO digital lens lines. The TruePic VII image processor enables fast shooting at up to 10 fps. The 2.36-million-dot-resolution electronic viewfinder provides a large coverage area with adaptive brightness adjusting to conditions to reduce perception error, and the 2×2 dial control system gives a comfortable and familiar feel for DSLR shooters. Built-in 5-Axis Stabilization with Multi-Motion reduces motion blur, effective at low shutter speeds, and with still photo and video panning. Built-in WiFi connects with your smart device using the Olympus Image Share 2.0 smartphone app for remote viewfinder control and triggering. Estimated Street Price: $1,399. Contact: Olympus, —AMT

With my ever-growing library of still images and motion clips, safe storage has become a serious priority for me. The G-Technology Evolution series has removable drive cartridges that can connect via USB (USB 3.0) if I want to use one on the road, and the desktop enclosure has a Thunderbolt interface for maximum transfer speeds. The Evolution drive ships with two 1 TB drives. Estimated Street Price: $749 (2 TB). Contact: G-Technology, —CR

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The versatile design of the flat-folding carbon-fiber Benro Travel Flat Transfunctional II CF Tripod Kit is perfect for photographers who need adaptability in the field. The four-section tripod legs feature weather- and dust-resistant rubberized locking grips and can be set at three positions for variable-angle shooting. It extends to 53.7 inches and supports 17.6 pounds. For complete shooting flexibility, one of the tripod legs unscrews and attaches to the Dual Action Ballhead (with Arca-Swiss-compatible quick-release plate) to become a full-sized monopod. With a carrying case included in the kit, the full tripod folds down to 22.2 inches and weighs only 3.4 pounds. Estimated Street Price: $379. Contact: Benro, —AMT

Adobe Lightroom 5 is the standard image processor for many nature photographers, thanks to its intuitive interface and powerful features. As Photoshop has become more the providence of graphic designers, Lightroom is the only software many nature shooters use. The new features in Lightroom 5 include a new Upright tool, an Advanced Healing brush, Smart previews and more. The Upright tool will be welcome for many OP readers for its fine controls. Estimated Street Price: $149 ($79 upgrade). Contact: Adobe, —CR

Manfrotto has announced a new Pro bag line, including the Backpack 30. The pack features a rigid, multilayered Exo-Tough outer construction with thermo-formed areas and reinforced feet that protect against impact. The bag’s interior Camera Protection System (CPS) center includes thickly layered core center dividers that mold to equipment and provide shock absorption. The top partially unzips for quick access to your camera, or can be unzipped completely, providing a flap that functions as a field mat with pockets for accessories and a tablet. The pack holds a pro-sized DSLR with lens attached, additional camera body and lenses, and strobe. Exterior zippered pockets carry accessories, personal items and a 13-inch laptop. The bag features a moisture-wicking padded back system with adjustable straps and a waist belt. A tripod may be attached on the front or side with a detachable strap. List Price: $199. Contact: Manfrotto, —AMT


With the pocket-sized 35mm ƒ/2 full-frame RX1R, Sony has taken advantage of the Exmor CMOS sensor’s high-resolution power by removing the multi-segment optical low-pass filter (OLPF) that’s part of the RX1. This gives the RX1R the ability to bring out more fine details in your subject. As with the RX1, the RX1R has an ISO range of 100-25,600, plus the low-light feature of combining six rapid-capture images to create one image with reduced noise equivalent to two steps of ISO sensitivity. The BIONZ image processor shoots at 5 fps for fast action shots. Estimated Street Price: $2,800. Contact: Sony, —AMT

One of the most interesting developments in lens technology in years, Sigma’s USB Dock and Sigma Optimization Pro software allow you to personalize lens performance to suit your individual preferences. Currently compatible with five of Sigma’s popular lenses, you can adjust focus settings and update your lens firmware, and with the 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM, you can also fine-tune stabilization performance, AF speed and set a focus limit to reduce “focus hunting.” Compatible with Windows 7 or later, and Mac OS X 10.7 or later. Estimated Street Price: $59. Contact: Sigma, —WP

This year, Adobe announced a huge shift to a subscription-based Creative Cloud product structure. Listening to photographer feedback, the company has followed up with a $9.99/month Creative Cloud membership offer created specifically for photographers who already own CS3 or higher. The membership includes Photoshop CC, Lightroom 5, 20 GB of online storage, Behance ProSuite training resources, as well as continued upgrades and updates. But this low-priced membership option is only available for a limited time. You must sign up by December 31, 2013 to qualify for the $9.99/month price! Contact: Adobe, —AMT

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The ultimate remote control for minimizing long-lens and macro photography camera shake, CamRanger connects to many popular Canon and Nikon DSLRs to transform your smartphone or tablet into a live viewfinder and control center. Get a big view of your composition, change exposure settings, adjust focus, review histograms and release the shutter wirelessly from 150 Feet. There’s also an intervalometer feature for time-lapse photography and an advanced Bulb mode that lets you define the shutter duration. Rechargeable, replaceable batteries power the CamRanger for up to six hours under typical use. List Price: From $299. Contact: CamRanger, —WP

Moab has designed the new Slickrock Metallic Silver 300 for photographers looking for ultra shine and increased depth in an inkjet paper. The metal-like surface provides the deep blacks and bright metallic highlights, but is still able to be handled right off the printer. Prints show detail, brightness and luminosity inherent in the metal surface. It’s available in 5×7, 8.5×11, 11×14 and 13×19 inches, A2 and A4, as well as rolls of 17, 24 and 44 inches wide by 50 or 100 feet long. Estimated Street Price: Varies. Contact: Moab by Legion Paper, —AMT

Unburden your neck from that heavy telephoto lens with the sure, secure grip of Cotton Carrier‘s Hand Strap. The built-in Arca-Swiss-compatible mini-plate lets you attach your camera to your tripod without removing the strap, or pair it with your quick-release plate for fast transitions from tripod to handheld shooting. Heavy-grade Velcro® allows you to easily adjust the strap for better comfort. It works with practically any camera, even with accessory battery grips attached. List Price: $20. Contact: Cotton Carrier, —WP
SIGMA 18-35mm ƒ/1.8 DC HS

Sigma has done a tremendous job of releasing several low-priced, high-quality lenses. The new 18-35mm ƒ/1.8 DC HSM for APS-C mounts continues this trend, with high marks for color accuracy and sharpness that rival that of many primes, not to mention a record-setting constant aperture of ƒ/1.8 throughout the zoom range (35mm equivalent of 27-53mm). Available in mounts for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma and Sony APS-C cameras, the compact lens weighs only 1.79 pounds and measures five inches in length with a minimum focusing distance of 11 inches. Estimated Street Price: $799. Contact: Sigma Corporation of America, —DW
The Nikon D7100 has a 24.1-megapixel CMOS sensor with no optical low-pass filter (OLPF), and it delivers excellent image quality. It has terrific AF performance (handles birds in flight well, the ultimate AF test in my book), and the 1.3x DX crop mode makes my 300mm lens frame like a 600mm on a full-frame camera, still with 15.4 megapixels—great for those distant chirpies. The D7100 can shoot at 6 fps (7 fps in 1.3x DX crop mode). It’s as rugged as my pro D800, has a nice pentaprism viewfinder that shows 100% of the actual image area and provides two memory card slots, and it can do 1080 full HD video at 30p and 24p—and 60i, in 1.3x DX crop mode. The D7100 also has an onboard AF motor, so it can autofocus with all AF Nikkor lenses, not (like the D5200) only those with built-in AF-S motors. Estimated Street Price: $1,199. Contact: Nikon, —MS
Designed for the unique needs of low-weight camera and camcorder systems like DSLRs, Steadicam’s Solo Stabilizer and Monopod is a hybrid stabilization solution for achieving Hollywood-like panning and tracking shots with DSLRs and smaller camcorders. The device will support up to 10 pounds, offering sophisticated counterbalance and gimbal systems that keep your frame perfectly leveled when moving the camera to incorporate a scene. The Solo Stabilizer also converts to a monopod mode for shooting from tight corners or pivoting quickly to track fast-moving wildlife. Compared to other Steadicam systems, the Solo Stabilizer and Monopod is very affordable, and it’s also compatible with a vest and arm system that will take the weight of the camera off of your hands so you can comfortably capture extended takes or hike over long distances while recording. List Price: $499 (Solo Stabilizer and Monopod); $995 (Steadicam Solo Arm Vest Kit). Contact: Steadicam (Tiffen Company), —DW

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Even with the improvements in brightness and contrast for the typical camera’s LCD monitor, they can be tough to see clearly in bright outdoor conditions. It becomes a real challenge when shooting video, since you don’t have the option of using your optical viewfinder. That’s when an LCD viewfinder loupe like the Flashpoint Swivi can make a big difference, providing a 3x magnified view of your camera’s LCD and blocking out competing ambient light. The adjustable mounting bracket makes it easy to adjust to your camera model. Estimated Street Price: $150. Contact: Flashpoint (Adorama), —WP
Outdoor photographers often like to shoot with very long exposure times. A landscape specialist might want to blur moving water, for example, or shoot wide open to minimize depth of field in a selective-focus flower close-up; or an architectural shooter might want to use a long exposure time to cause random people wandering through the scene to magically “vanish.” In bright light, this can be a problem. The answer is a light-reducing neutral-density filter. Which one? Well, a variable one provides a wide range of strengths in a single handy unit. The Kenko Variable NDX ND2.5-ND1000 provides strengths from 2.5X/1.5 stops to 1000/10 stops (practical limit 450/8.5 stops); just rotate the ring to the strength you desire. While some variable ND filters can shift color or have other adverse effects, the NDX uses a depolar­ization plate to minimize such problems. It’s available in 77mm and 82mm sizes. Estimated Street Price: $260 (77mm); $350 (82mm). Contact: Kenko Tokina USA, —MS
Some photo adventures make carrying a heavy DSLR and lenses impractical or even impossible. For worry-free photography just about anywhere, Nikon‘s rugged Coolpix AW110 is waterproof at depths down to 59 feet, freezeproof down to 14º F and can withstand drops up to 6.6 feet. Great for the rigors of outdoor sports or as a backup camera that fits in your pocket, it features a 28-140mm equivalent zoom, 6-megapixel resolution, full 1080 HD motion capture, GPS and built-in WiFi for instant sharing to your tablet or smartphone. Estimated Street Price: $289. Contact: Nikon, —WP

As the very first lens to include an internal teleconverter, the Canon EF 200-400mm ƒ/4L IS USM telephoto zoom with Extender 1.4x is capable of covering a massive zooming range of 200mm to 560mm. Canon seems to have pulled out all the stops on this lens, so to speak, and when the teleconverter is engaged, the constant ƒ/4 aperture drops only a single stop to ƒ/5.6. Testing on the L-series lens has shown remarkable imaging quality whether using the teleconverter or not, and making it even more versatile for nature photographers, the minimum focusing distance is only 6.6 feet. The lens also offers three different modes of image stabilization for up to four stops of handheld shake reduction, important when working with such an extended telephoto range. List Price: $11,799. Contact: Canon, —DW
BlackRapid‘s sling straps provide comfortable carrying and quick access to your camera. The Sport R-Strap features an underarm brad for added stability when you’re on the move in the field. It’s available in right- and left-handed versions, and regular and slim models to suit users of all sizes. The strap can be hand- or machine-washed, and air-dried. Estimated Street Price: $73.95. Contact: BlackRapid, —MS
AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm F/4.5-5.6G ED VR
Nikon has long had a gap in the affordable telephoto lens category. If you wanted to go beyond 300mm and have the quick-quiet AF-S focusing motor, you had to spend over $6,000 for the AF-S 200-400mm ƒ/4 VR zoom. There was an under-$2,000 VR 80-400mm zoom, but it didn’t have the AF-S motor. Nikon finally did something about that in 2013, introducing the latter lens’ successor, the AF-S 80-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6G ED VR. The AF-S Silent Wave motor provides much quicker autofocusing (and will autofocus with all Nikon DSLR bodies, even those that don’t have built-in AF motors), while the new optical design (with four ED elements and one Super ED element vs. three ED elements in the earlier lens) provides better image quality. The newer VR (vibration reduction) system also is better, rated at four stops (vs. two for the original lens). Maximum magnification is 0.2x at the minimum focusing distance of 5.7 feet. The new lens covers FX (full-frame) format, but also works well with DX (APS-C). Dimensions are 3.8×8.0 inches and 56.0 ounces. Estimated Street Price: $2,699. Contact: Nikon, —MS


A headlamp is, quite simply, one of the most useful devices you can have in your bag. It has all sorts of obvious benefits like walking a trail in predawn or post-sunset light, but as I’ve gotten older and I’ve needed glasses to read, I’ve found that having a headlamp makes it so much easier to see the controls on my camera. The Petzl Tikka Plus 2 has a high-output white LED and a red LED, and it can be set as a strobe for emergencies. Estimated Street Price $39. Contact: Petzl, —CR

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Bundle up and go capture that dramatic light under stormy skies. LensCoat‘s RainCoat 2 Pro protects your camera from sudden showers, snow, dust, dirt and salty ocean spray so you can concentrate on what’s in your viewfinder, not worrying about your gear. Made from lightweight, waterproof poly tricot, the RainCoat 2 Pro is available in several colors, including camouflage options for wildlife photographers, and in two sizes to accommodate your camera and a standard zoom or a larger telephoto lens. Integrated pockets give you easy access to camera and lens controls without compromising protection. List Price: $125. Contact: LensCoat, —WP

Time-lapses have been a popular subject for nature photographers lately thanks to very high-resolution images that can be strung together to create full HD and even Ultra HD 4K videos if using cameras with more than 4000 pixels in horizontal resolution. The Triggertrap Mobile application is far more capable for time-lapse than a standard intervalometer, offering wired control of features through Apple iOS and Android smart devices. Some of the many modes include numerous options for cable release, extended exposure settings, programmable variable intervals for automatically speeding up or slowing shutter releases over the course of the shoot, timed start and stop durations, vibration sensor, HDR capabilities and much more. The Triggertrap can also be triggered through sound, making it an ideal choice for capturing fast shots of quickly moving wildlife, and a Triggertrap Flash Adapter is available for triggering flashes from your phone rather than a camera. With support for most common camera companies, the Triggertrap Mobile app is free, but it requires an affordable dedicated dongle and cable to communicate with the camera. List Price: Free (Triggertrap Mobile); $31 (Triggertrap Mobile Dongle and cable set); $10 (additional connection cable); $31 (Triggertrap Flash Adapter). Contact: Triggertrap Ltd., —DW

The Metabones Speed Booster lens adapters are interesting for several reasons. The Speed Booster name refers to the heightened light transmission that the add-on adapters give attached lenses with an increase to maximum aperture of a complete stop. This gives faster shutter speeds and shallower focusing at the same time that the field of view of the lens is widened by 0.71x, particularly useful for Micro Four Thirds and APS-C cameras where the coverage from wide-angle lenses suffers thanks to the crop factor. Most importantly, lens solutions for mirrorless cameras are still somewhat lacking in focal lengths, and the Speed Booster lines will adapt lenses from different manufacturers to a selection of mirrorless cameras. With adapters supporting Fuji X, Sony NEX, Micro Four Thirds and Nikon E cameras, you can use lenses from ALPA, Canon EF, Contarex, Contax Yashica, Leica R, Nikon G and Sony A-mount. The Sony A-mount to Sony NEX Speed Booster, for example, will let you use Sony’s line of DSLR lenses on their NEX line of mirrorless cameras and camcorders, while the Canon EF lens to Sony NEX model allows attachment of Canon lenses. MFT results are claimed to be improved by the Speed Boosters, as well. List Price: Begins at $399. Contact: Metabones, —DW
The effects of a neutral-density filter can’t be replicated digitally. The optical filters feature varying layers of density for gaining control over light transmission to the sensor. This gives more control over depth of field, aperture and shutter speed, even when shooting in bright light. Singh-Ray offers a number of highly regarded neutral-density filters, including the powerful Mor-Slo 10-Stop Neutral Density, which can be stacked with other filters in the Singh-Ray line for up to 18 total stops of density. This will allow you to add desirable aesthetic effects to nature photographs and scenics, like motion blurs that produce the cotton-candy type of effects you see with moving water or clouds. Most long-exposure ND filters add a color cast, but the Mor-Slo 10-Stop only warms the image at roughly 700K in white balance shift, which is desirable in most cases and easily correctable when not. The filter is available in several filter and square mounts to fit the needs of different camera and lens types. List Price: Begins at $350. Contact: Singh-Ray, —DW

I really liked the affordably priced K-30 as a hiking camera, and now we have its successor, the Pentax K-50, with all of its good features and more. Like the K-30, the K-50 is fully weather-sealed, and is cold- and dust-proof (some DSLRs that cost $1,000 more aren’t). It has a pentaprism viewfinder that shows 100% of the actual image area (other cameras in this price range have dimmer pentamirror finders), and its 16.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS image sensor delivers excellent image quality. The K-50 has a very effective sensor-shift shake-reduction system that works with all lenses, can shoot at 6 fps and provides a top shutter speed of 1⁄6000 sec. Video fans can shoot 1080 full HD at 30p and 720 HD at 60p. Like all Pentax DSLRs, the K-50 can use all Pentax lenses (note that not all are weatherproof like the camera body). And you can get a K-50 in your choice of 120 color combinations (some of which would make the camera very easy to spot in the field should you set it down and forget where). Dimensions are a compact 5.1×3.8×2.8 inches and 20.8 ounces. Estimated Street Price: $699. Contact: Ricoh Imaging Americas, —MS


By now you’ve seen those amazing action videos from cameras mounted on skiers, skydivers, kayakers and the like. Many were shot with GoPro‘s HERO-wearable video action cameras, which have become popular for their ability to put the viewer right into the action—and their low prices. The new HERO3+ Silver Edition is 15% smaller and lighter than its tiny predecessor, but twice as powerful, and with 30% better battery life. It can shoot 1080p video at 60 fps, and 720p at 120 fps, in ultrawide, medium and narrow formats, with improved audio. The HERO3+ can also shoot 10-megapixel still images at up to 10 fps and time-lapse at intervals of 0.5 to 60 seconds. It’s waterproof to 131 feet. Built-in WiFi and the GoPro App let you operate the camera remotely, and transfer photos and videos to your smart device. You can also save images and videos on microSD cards. Estimated Street Price: $299. Contact: GoPro, —MS
The Hoodman Custom Finder Kit fixes two big problems with live-view shooting (which includes video): difficulty seeing the image on the external LCD monitor in bright light conditions and the instability of holding the camera out at arm’s length to use the monitor. The kit includes a HoodLoupe that fits over the LCD screen, blocking extraneous light and providing convenient eye-to-camera shooting. Then there’s the HoodLoupe Mag 3.0 eyecup, which provides 3X magnification. The kit also includes a Custom Finder Baseplate to securely attach the HoodLoupe to any DSLR, with or without battery grip. Kits are available for 3.2- and 3.0-inch LCD monitors. Estimated Street Price: $229; $129 (baseplate available separately for those who have a HoodLoupe 3.0 or 3.2. Contact: Hoodman, —MS