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In Focus: January/February 2010

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The Pentax K-x is an entry-level DSLR that packs in plenty of advanced features such as Live View, HD video capability and a high-dynamic-range mode. The loaded and ready 1.3-pound camera has a 12.4-megapixel CMOS sensor with Shake Reduction. The 2.7-inch LCD features Live View with three different autofocus modes, including Face Detection, Contrast Detection and Phase Difference autofocus, which accesses the AF sensor in the camera body for optimal focus. Other key specs include 1280×720 HD video recording at 24 fps, an 11-point autofocus system and a continuous shooting rate of 4.7 fps. Estimated Street Price: $649 (with 18-55mm lens). Contact: Pentax, (800) 877-0155,
Leica users with a collection of Legacy M lenses can make use of them now with the M9, the first digital rangefinder to feature a full-frame (24x36mm) sensor. The camera’s compact size and full metal housing give it a portable, rugged build that’s identical to the M8.2. The 18-megapixel CCD image sensor was developed by Kodak and contains microlenses that help corral light onto each pixel for increased resolution and image quality. The bright viewfinder allows for fast and precise focusing even in low light. Navigation is designed to be simple and intuitive, with controls operated by a four-way switch-and-dial combination used in conjunction with the 2.5-inch LCD monitor. Estimated Street Price: $6,995. Contact: Leica, (800) 222-0118,
Fill out your lens kit with the latest Canon wide-angle to moderate-telephoto zooms. The EF-S 15-85mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS USM delivers a focal-length range equivalent to 24-136mm in 35mm format, image stabilization and high-precision optics for excellent image quality. The EF-S 18-135mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS covers 29-216mm in 35mm format and features shake compensation of up to four shutter-speed stops. Estimated Street Price: $799 (15-85mm); $499 (18-135mm). Contact: Canon, (800) OK-CANON,
Nikon’s most popular zoom has gotten an upgrade. The AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR II lens features second-generation Vibration Reduction for handheld shooting at up to four shutter speeds slower than would otherwise be possible. When space is limited, this is a great lens to take because it provides a 35mm-equivalent focal-length range of 27-300mm, weighs 1.2 pounds and measures just 3.8 inches long. The zoom lock switch secures the lens barrel at its minimum length so the barrel isn’t pulled downward during transport. Estimated Street Price: $849. Contact: Nikon USA, (800) NIKON-US,
Conceal your expensive camera gear in the Tenba Messenger Camera Bag, which allows you to keep a low profile when traveling with valuable equipment. The rugged, lightweight bag holds one or two SLRs, three to four lenses, a flash and other accessories. It weighs 2.5 pounds with a padded removable insert that allows you to use it as a general-purpose bag. The Messenger is made from Cordura nylon so it can be machine-washed if it gets dirty. Color options include black, olive and burnt orange. Estimated Street Price: $129. Contact: Tenba, (914) 347-3300,

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in focus 2009
As the weather gets colder, zip up the Arc’teryx Visio Comp jacket to stay warm. Lightweight and trim fitting, this protective athletic hard shell features stretch side panels that efficiently manage heat buildup and provide unrestricted mobility. Made with a lightweight Windstopper fabric, the quick-drying jacket provides highly breathable, windproof protection with advanced moisture-wicking performance. Estimated Street Price: $275. Contact: Arc’teryx, (866) 458-2473,
Keep better track of birds and other wildlife on your next outdoor adventure using the Minox Comfort Bridge binoculars. They come in 8×44 and 10×44 models, weigh 1.6 pounds and are waterproof down to nearly 17 feet. To capture moving objects faster and more reliably, the field of view has been increased to 410 feet at 1,000 yards for the 8×44 model, and 341 feet for the 10×44, an increase of 16 percent. Estimated Street Price: $559 (8×44); $599 (10×44). Contact: MINOX, (866) 469-3080,
Stay comfortable all day long when carrying Mountain Hardwear’s Groundhog backpack. Mesh shoulder straps and back-panel pads add ventilation and comfort. A suspended, padded multi-use pocket stores a laptop, hydration sleeve or notebooks. The stretchy front pocket holds wet clothes, a helmet or shoes. In the main compartment, there’s a fleece-lined sunglass pouch, a large organizer pocket and a sleeve for holding various documents. Estimated Street Price: $89. Contact: Mountain Hardwear, (800) 953-8375,
The sleek, long-lasting Rogue LED flashlights from ICON are durable, easy to hold and come with two lumens settings that allow you to control the brightness of the beam. The body is made out of aluminum so it can be dropped, thrown around or rattled without any damage. The Rogue 1 is 4.5 inches long and requires one AA battery. The Rogue 2 is 6.5 inches long and takes two AA batteries. Both come in silver, green and black. Estimated Street Price: $39 (Rogue 1); $49 (Rogue 2). Contact: ICON,

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If you prefer to work with a pen or a touch screen rather than a mouse, the Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch tablet features multitouch (finger-based) and pen-input technology. Offering a more intuitive way of editing images or navigating between programs, the tablet allows you to zoom in, scroll through, pan and rotate images and other files. The Bamboo family includes five tablets—touch-only, pen-only and three versions of the pen-and-multitouch combination. Estimated Street Price: $69 to $199. Contact: Wacom, (800) 922-6613,
Simulate the look of a selective-focus or tilt-shift lens using the latest, more robust version of onOne Software’s FocalPoint app. In the second version, multiple-focus bugs can be combined to create unique shapes or highlight multiple subjects. The FocusBug is what controls how much blur is added, and it has two shapes, round and planar. The round bug simulates a selective-focus lens or filter. Another new feature is the FocusBrush, which can be used to paint in focus and blur. Estimated Street Price: $159. Contact: onOne Software, (888) 968-1468,
The third lens in the Zeiss ZE series for Canon EOS SLRs is the ultrawide Distagon T* 3,5/18 ZE. The 18mm lens is designed for full-frame cameras, delivering a 99-degree field of view. Internal focusing helps keep its sizecompact with smooth, precise focus control. To prevent aberrations during close-ups, the lens uses a floating-elements design in which internal lens groups are repositioned individually during focusing. Anti-reflective coating prevents reflections from affecting the glass. Estimated Street Price: $1,290. Contact: Carl Zeiss,
Take sharp close-ups of distant wildlife or sports action with the Sigma 70-300mm ƒ/4-5.6 DG OS lens. With the built-in Optical Stabilizer anti-shake function, you can shoot at shutter speeds up to four stops slower than would otherwise be possible. The compact tele weighs just 1.3 pounds and measures 3×5 inches, a nice size for taking on a hike or camping trip. It’s available in Sigma, Canon, Nikon, Sony and Pentax mounts. Sony and Pentax cameras now utilize the OS function in either the body or the viewfinder, available only with Sigma. Estimated Street Price: $599. Contact: Sigma, (800) 896-6858,
Load your camera with SanDisk’s Extreme Pro CompactFlash memory cards that capture RAW stills and HD video clips at data-transfer speeds of up to 90 MB/s, in addition to HD video. The cards work best with more advanced, UDMA 6-enabled DSLRs and come in 16, 32 and 64 GB capacities. The large capacities with fast read and write speeds mean you can shoot high-resolution images continuously for an extended period of time without having to switch cards. SanDisk also offers the Extreme Pro ExpressCard Adapter for taking full advantage of the fast read-speed capability. Estimated Street Price: $300 to $800 (cards); $49 (reader). Contact: SanDisk, (866) SANDISK,

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The quick-access, slim-profile Tamrac Aero Camera Bags give you the freedom to move around easily and capture those short-lived photo opportunities. There are three models. The Aero 50 holds a DSLR with grip and four-inch lens attached, plus a few extra lenses and flash. The Aero 45 fits a DSLR with an attached 3 1⁄2-inch zoom, an extra lens and flash. The Aero 40 works for a compact DSLR with a 31⁄2-inch zoom and a small flash. All models are padded with foam to ensure equipment stays protected. Estimated Street Price: $30 to $45. Contact: Tamrac, (800) 662-0717,
With enough space for multiple camera bodies, lenses and accessories, the Pelican 1740 and 1770 Long Cases offer an ideal way of safely storing your SLR system either at home or out on the road. Two rugged double-wide handles make for easier steering and lifting, while wide-track polyurethane wheels with ball bearings and nylon hubs provide stability and durability. The major difference between the two is size, with the 1770 measuring longer than the 1740. You also can stack multiple 1740 and 1770 units on top of one another for more storage. Estimated Street Price: $499 (1740); $579 (1770). Contact: Pelican Products, (800) 473-5422,
Convert slides and negatives to digital images using Epson’s Perfection V600 Photo scanner. Top features include 6400×9600 dpi resolution and 3.4 Dmax optical density for enlargements up to 17×22 inches. The energy-efficient scanner uses ReadyScan LED technology for faster scan speeds, no warm-up time and less power consumption. Photo-restoration tools that remove dust and scratches along with tears and creases help bring faded or damaged photos back to life. The V600 features a built-in Transparency Unit (TPU) that supports full-panoramic medium-format film. Estimated Street Price: $249. Contact: Epson, (800) GO-EPSON,
To make your landscapes look as dramatic in print as they did during capture, enlarge them with Alien Skin Software’s Blow Up 2. The resizing plug-in has been updated for easier use within Photoshop CS4. The latest version includes two CS4 panels that are accessible via the Window/Extensions menu. The Startup panel makes common output sizes and paper types easily available, while the Gallery Wrap panel prepares images for this popular mounting technique by printing on canvas, which then can be stretched around a wood frame. Estimated Street Price: $249 (new); $99 (upgrade). Contact: Alien Skin Software, (888) 921-SKIN,
Redesigned to be smaller and sleeker, the WD My Book Essential and My Book for Mac external hard drives now come with SmartWare software that visually shows the progress of your files as they back up. Both drives feature automatic continuous backup, user-selected password protection and 256-bit hardware encryption that scrambles files before storage. An illuminated capacity gauge displays how much space is available. My Book for Mac is compatible with Apple’s Time Machine backup utility. Capacities range from 500 GB to 2 TB. Estimated Street Price: $99 to $249. Contact: Western Digital, (949) 672-7000,
Sharpen up your low- and ground-level photography with the Berlebach Mini Leveling Wood Tripod. The two-section tabletop tripod is available with or without a built-in leveling head. Height ranges from four to 15 inches, and it weighs two pounds, yet supports 17.6 pounds. A lever under the camera platform allows the top plate to tilt ±15º in all directions for easy camera leveling. Wood tripods are especially well suited for dampening vibration. Estimated Street Price: $288. Contact: HP Marketing Corp., (800) 735-4373,

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Depending on your needs, you can load the Lowepro Versapack 200 AW for top or side access, whichever way is more convenient. As a top loader, the bag holds a DSLR with attached lens, as well as two or three extra lenses or flash units and accessories. Configured for side access, the Versapack fits a DSLR with attached zoom, which is easily reached via the quick-access side zipper. The bag easily converts from a single- to a dual-compartment layout based on how much space you need. Both of the padded dividers, which separate the two compartments, can be removed or positioned to lay flat when using just a single compartment. Estimated Street Price: $129. Contact: Lowepro, (800) 800-LOWE,
Clean your lenses, LCD screens, binoculars and other smooth surfaces with the eco-friendly LenSmart Cloth from OSN. Constructed of a microfiber blend of nylon and polyester, the cloth traps grease and dirt, lifting them off of surfaces without streaks or scratches. It comes in a water-resistant protective container with a nylon hook that attaches easily to your camera bag for quick, convenient access. Estimated Street Price: $6. Contact: OSN, (888) 381-2390,
Capture fast action shots of sports or wildlife with PNY’s Optima Pro Secure Digital High Capacity Class 6 memory cards. Ranging in capacities from 4 GB to 16 GB, the cards offer plenty of high-speed capacity; minimum sustained write speed is 6 MB/s. Higher read and write speeds are ideal if you shoot with a high-megapixel point-and-shoot, a midlevel DSLR or an HD video camcorder. Estimated Street Price: $15 to $60. Contact: PNY Technologies, (973) 515-9700,
If you shoot with heavy telephoto lenses, a gimbal head offers firm support for your lens and camera while still allowing you to aim quickly and shoot. The Flashpoint Gimbal 1 is designed for use with lenses that are too long or heavy to be supported by a traditional ballhead. There are separate locking controls for vertical and horizontal movements, and the drag control allows for better control when panning. The head comes with a 2 3⁄4-inch quick-release plate. It weighs 2.2 pounds and can support 15.4 pounds. Estimated Street Price: $239. Contact: Flashpoint (Adorama), (800) 223-2500,

California The Beautiful by Galen Rowell and Peter Beren (Welcome Books, 2009; ISBN: 978-1-59962-074-9). This collection of images shows off the Golden State’s most scenic vistas. This portrait of the state’s diverse natural beauty is augmented with inspirational words from Maya Angelou, Joan Didion, John Muir and many more.

The Essence of Photography
with John Upton (Calumet Imagemaker Series, ISBN: 978-0-9798629-2-2). If you’re new to photography, this DVD is a great way to start learning about it. Emphasizing technique and visual awareness, Upton discusses a variety of topics that include his mentors, understanding how cameras work and more.

Digital Landscape Photography by John and Barbara Gerlach (Focal Press, 2009; ISBN: 978-0-240-81093-5). This covers topics ranging from equipment and exposure to light and composition. There’s a bonus section on how to shoot certain subjects, like sunrises, autumn color, waterfalls and snowy landscapes.

Printing with Adobe Photoshop CS4 by Tim Daly (Focal Press, 2009; ISBN: 978-0-240-81138-3). The guide covers image capture and management, file processing, proofing and color management, as well as printer hardware and software. Daly emphasizes the entire workflow so images are optimized for highest print quality.

Digital Infrared Photography by Cyrill Harnischmacher (Rocky Nook, 2008; ISBN: 978-1-933952-35-2). Exploring new territory with your photography? This book delivers basic theoretical background, information on cameras, filters and equipment, and plenty of guidance on how to do infrared photography.