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In Focus: March 2010

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Take the size of a pocket point-and-shoot, add to it the interchangeable-lens capability of a DSLR, and what you get is the Olympus PEN E-P2. The second model in Olympus’ Micro Four Thirds camera series features the same compact size and 12.3-megapixel sensor as its predecessor, the E-P1. What’s new is an accessory port for accommodating an included articulating VF-2 Electronic View Finder to help you frame shots. Upgrades include a newly developed Continuous Autofocus (C-AF) Tracking System that simultaneously locks on a subject and tracks it from right to left or from back to forward. Estimated Street Price: $1,100 (with EVF and ED 14-42mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 lens, or EVF and 17mm ƒ/2.8 lens). Contact: Olympus, (888) 553-4448,

Capture all the wildlife action with Nikon’s fast-aperture super-telephoto AF-S NIKKOR 300mm ƒ/2.8G ED VR II. The lens features new technologies like optimized autofocus modes for better performance and Vibration Reduction II image stabilization that enables handheld shooting at up to four shutter speeds slower than would be possible otherwise. There are three autofocus modes (A/M, M/A and M) for fast, secure switching between auto- and manual focus. The lens focuses down to 7.2 feet in manual focus or 7.5 feet in autofocus. Also new is the TC-20E III teleconverter, which basically doubles the focal length of select lenses. It also features an aspherical element that helps eliminate coma and other aberrations, even at wide apertures. Estimated Street Price: $5,899 (300mm); $499 (TC-20E). Contact: Nikon, (800) NIKON-US,

Lowepro’s new Pro Runner AW series comprises six photo backpacks, ranging from smaller standard models to spacious units that convert to rolling cases. All feature built-in All Weather AW covers and rain-flap zipper covers for added protection from the elements. Padded adjustable shoulder straps and tuck-away waist straps enhance comfort on long hikes. Customizable main compartments and the Hideaway Tripod Mount system add versatility. The x350 AW and x450 AW models feature replaceable wheels and spring-loaded trolley handles for easy travel through airports. Estimated Street Price: TBA. Contact: Lowepro, (800) 800-LOWE,

With a large aperture, macro capability and anti-shake technology, the Sigma 17-70mm ƒ/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM is a handy lens for nature shooters. Featuring Sigma’s Optical Stabilization technology, this lens allows you to shoot handheld at shutter speeds up to four stops slower than would be possible otherwise. In 35mm format, the focal length is the equivalent of 24-105mm. Other key specs include a minimum focusing distance of 8.7 inches, a maximum magnification ratio of 1:2.7, and it comes in Sigma, Canon, Nikon, Sony and Pentax mounts. Estimated Street Price: $680. Contact: Sigma, (800) 896-6858,

The Manfrotto Carbon Fiber M-Y 732CY tripod weighs just two pounds, but can support more than triple that capacity. The 100-percent carbon-fiber tubes are constructed using an advanced manufacturing process that maximizes performance, torsion resistance and dependability. When folded, the 732CY is 16.7 inches, while its extended height is 53 inches. Ergonomically designed upper aluminum die casting with spring-loaded rotating selector dials allows you to individually adjust each leg angle. Estimated Street Price: $200. Contact: Manfrotto Distribution, Inc., (201) 818-9500,

This Article Features Photo Zoom
in focus 2009

Take Buck Knives ErgoHunter knife on your next camping trip. The three-inch blade features ergonomic contouring for maximum comfort and reduced hand fatigue. There are three models, and all offer ambidextrous one-hand opening and have extra-thick locking liners made of 410 HC stainless steel. Heavy-duty construction ensures reliable performance. The blades are smaller than the fixed-blade model for easier carrying and weigh just 4.5 ounces. When open, they measure 71⁄8 inches long. Estimated Street Price: $73 to $170. Contact: Buck Knives, (800) 326-2825,
Zip up Marmot’s Exum, a roomy, comfortable and lightweight jacket featuring Gore-Tex®, waterproof zippers and a well-fitting adjustable hood. The Gore-Tex® Pro Shell three-layer fabric is tough, breathable and waterproof. Reduced seam quantity and thickness saves weight while making it more resistant to abrasions and snagging. Angel-Wing Movement technology allows for full range of motion in the arms so the jacket doesn’t ride up. Estimated Street Price: $400. Contact: Marmot, (888) 357-3262,

Navigate the wildest of places using the TECH4O TraiLeader Jet. Doing way more than telling time, the watch has an altimeter and digital compass to help you find the right direction, while the barometer and thermometer monitor weather. An onboard accelerometer measures speed and distance. Its stylish design includes a reverse LED display and scratch-resistant, nonreflective mineral glass face ideal for the trail. Estimated Street Price: $159. Contact: TECH4O, (800) 572-8822,

Hike into the backcountry wearing Lowa’s Banff Pro boots. The interior is lined entirely in supple glove leather, holding your feet securely and comfortably. The insole has a breathable top layer that transports moisture away from the foot, eliminates pressure points and minimizes friction between foot and insole to reduce fatigue. Lowa’s proprietary Vibram Masai sole supports longer-distance backpacking and off-trail use with a heavy pack. Estimated Street Price: $280. Contact: Lowa, (888) 335-LOWA,

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Plug-In Suite 5 from onOne Software includes six helpful plug-ins for Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture that solve a number of common imaging problems. Genuine Fractals 6 Professional Edition allows you to up-res images to very large sizes with excellent quality. PhotoTools 2.5 Professional Edition provides a host of photo effects. PhotoFrame 4.5 Professional Edition makes it easy to produce edge-framing effects and layouts. FocalPoint 2 gives you control over depth of field and selective-focus effects after capture. Mask Pro 4 makes it easy to change backgrounds. And PhotoTune 3 provides lots of color correction, dynamic range improvements and black-and-white conversion flexibility. Estimated Street Price: $599; $199 (upgrade). Contact: onOne Software, (888) 968-1468,

Tamrac’s ZipShot tripod is ready to use in seconds. Inspired by collapsible tent poles, the strong, aluminum tube-shaped legs come apart in four sections, which are held together by strings of bungee cord running through the middle of the tubes. You simply hold the ballhead at the top and release the legs. The ZipShot weighs 11 ounces, measures 15 inches high when folded, extends to 44 inches and has a three-pound load capacity. Estimated Street Price: $50. Contact: Tamrac, (800) 662-0717,

Getting sharp low-angle shots is critical when doing macro photography. To facilitate that, Hoodman and Trek-Tech have created a toolkit consisting of Hoodman’s Right Angle Viewer and Trek-Tech’s T-Pod tabletop tripod. The Right Angle Viewer’s eyepiece rotates 360 degrees, giving you the freedom to set up unique camera angles for creative shots. It fits all Canon, Nikon and Fuji DSLRs. The T-Pod comes complete with a ballhead, quick-release system (MagMount STAR) and travel pouch. Estimated Street Price: $129. Contact: Hoodman, (800) 818-3946,; toolkit only available directly through Trek-Tech, (503) 459-0030,

Adjust color, tone or contrast without having to create time-intensive layer masks using Nik Software’s Viveza 2, which includes new global image controls, as well as selective controls, for faster editing. Based on its award-winning U Point technology, the app allows you to quickly select areas of an image to adjust by pointing and clicking. Then, using sliders, you can fine-tune brightness, contrast and saturation, plus use new features like shadow recovery and structure control. The plug-in is compatible with Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom, as well as Apple’s Aperture. Estimated Street Price: $199. Contact: Nik Software, (619) 725-3150,

Review and save images as they’re shot using Epson’s P-6000 and P-7000 Multimedia Photo Viewers, which now come with tethered shooting capabilities through a firmware update. The image is automatically saved to your camera’s memory card, while a backup copy is saved to the viewer’s hard drive. Image adjustments can be made out in the field using the viewer’s large four-inch LCD. The firmware also includes a remote shutter release function for added convenience. The P-6000 comes with 80 GB of capacity, while the P-7000 has 160 GB. Estimated Street Price: $599 (P-6000); $799 (P-7000). Contact: Epson, (800) GO-EPSON,

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Using the Lensbaby Fisheye Optic with a Composer or Muse lens allows you to get a 160-degree angle of view from infinity all the way down to one inch from the front of the lens. It features a six-element, multicoated optical design with an ultrawide 12mm focal length. The Fisheye has a much flatter field of focus so it creates some edge blur at brighter apertures, but it doesn’t have the “sweet spot” of sharp focus and dramatic blur as do typical Lensbaby optics. Also new is a Soft Focus Optic for creating a soft and diffused look. Estimated Street Price: $150 (Fisheye); $90 (Soft Focus). Contact: Lensbaby, (877) 536-7222,

If you spend a lot of time shooting in low light, DxO Optics Pro 6 can help you gain between one and two full stops of ISO sensitivity beyond what your camera can do. The app preserves high image quality of shots taken at extreme ISO settings. This is particularly helpful if you shoot with one of the latest DSLRs capable of 25,600, and even 102,400, ISO settings. New noise-reduction technology extends dynamic range and removes unpleasant low-frequency noise. The program also includes a new sharpening control that creates crisper images by amplifying fine details, and it automatically corrects for lens problems such as chromatic aberration. Estimated Street Price: $169 (Standard); $299 (Elite). Contact: DxO Optics,

Stay incognito when transporting your expensive camera equipment in Think Tank Photo’s Urban Disguise 70 Pro. The briefcase-shaped shoulder bag is especially nice when you’re traveling and don’t want to attract attention. With 14.5×12.3×6.5 inches of interior room, there’s space for two regular- or pro-sized DSLRs with lenses attached, and it accommodates a variety of camera configurations. An optional Shoulder Harness Attachment lets you convert it from a shoulder bag to a traditional backpack. High-quality YKK zippers and nylon ballistic fabric enhance its durability. Estimated Street Price: $189. Contact: Think Tank Photo, (866) 558-4465,

The Arca-Swiss Monoball p0 tripod head is designed without knobs for better handling. It can be grasped from any angle, left or right, and locked by turning the knurled part. The 9.9-ounce ballhead is equipped with three locking elements that are arranged around the ball like planets. As the camera is placed directly on the ball and not on its neck, the movements are as stable as if they were on a rubber ring. It offers a tilt ball range of 90 degrees and 360 degrees panning. The p0’s big brother, the Monoball p1, is more robust and weighs 17.5 ounces. It’s capable of handling heavy telephoto lenses and large-format cameras. Estimated Street Price: From $249. Contact: Arca-Swiss, (773) 248-2513,

Make gallery-wrapped canvas prints of your landscapes with the Hahnemühle Gallerie Wrap system. The 1¼-inch-deep stretcher bars now are available in convenient, and more economical, Pair Packs. Each pack contains two bars of a given size, two corner braces and two corner-holding pins. Previously, the wraps came in 20-bar bulk quantities. Now, if you want to make a 16×20-inch wrap, you can buy just those sizes instead of a full box in both lengths. The system is made up of easy-to-use fastening components and bars. Estimated Street Price: Varies by size. Contact: Hahnemühle, (815) 502-5880,

Keep dust from ruining your images with Dust-Shield, a disposable filter for DSLRs that prevents dust from entering the chamber when you’re changing lenses. With high light transmittance, autofocus and image capture are unobstructed. You place it within the camera body, and the chamber area is protected from external dust. To remove the filter, apply an adhesive tab on its center and gently pull up. The first available models are for the Canon EOS 5D and 5D Mark II with more to come. Estimated Street Price: $19. Contact: OmegaSatter, (410) 374-3250,

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Extracting objects out of an image can be one of the more time-consuming tasks to take on in Photoshop. To make the process faster, Digital Film Tools EZ Mask v2 plug-in estimates the transparency value of every pixel in the image based on small samples of the foreground and background, and marks simple strokes on the image. Once the mask is extracted, you can place the foreground object on a new background from within Photoshop. Along with speed and memory upgrades, the app includes a new interactive Refine mode that automatically updates the mask or composite for quick editing. Estimated Street Price: $195. Contact: Digital Film Tools,

The new UPstrap SG Super Grip series now includes a pad for midweight cameras within a range of 1 to 4 pounds. UPstrap’s nonslip shoulder pad prevents the camera from slipping off your shoulder, relieving you of any neck, back and shoulder stress problems and allowing you to concentrate on shooting. Estimated Street Price: $29 to $49. Contact: UPstrap, Inc., (877) 872-7639,
Archive your photographs with Swiss Picture Bank, a data storage system that allows you to keep images online with unlimited access. Each photo is archived at full resolution in four separate locations for redundancy, where they can be accessed online at any time and downloaded in full resolution. Improved features include a redesigned interface, sharing capabilities and a Desktop Uploader application that lets you drag and drop large volumes of pictures into your account at once. Estimated Street Price: $20 (1 GB); $90 (5 GB); $340 (20 GB); $1,600 (100 GB). Contact: Swiss Picture Bank, (877) 762-6292,

Download your images while still out in the field using the Flashpoint Databank portable hard drive. With capacities of 320 GB and 500 GB, the drive has a transfer rate of up to 5 MB/s and can safely copy 1 GB of data in about 31⁄2 minutes. It’s compatible with all popular memory card formats and supports RAW files. The backlit screen displays remaining drive capacity and battery-charge and data-transfer status. When tethered to your computer, the 500 GB Flashpoint Databank doubles as a memory card reader and backup drive. It’s compatible with Mac and PC computers. Estimated Street Price: $160 (320 GB); $220 (500 GB). Contact: Adorama, (800) 223-2500,

Earth on Fire by Bernhard Edmaier (Phaidon Press, 2009; ISBN: 978-0-7148-5700-8). This collection of photographs showcases the world’s most dramatic and beautiful volcanic landscapes. Famous volcanoes such as Mount St. Helens, Etna, Kilimanjaro and Krakatoa are just a few of the highlighted sites. The photos are accompanied by concise explanations of key details and events.

Creative Nature & Outdoor Photography, Revised Edition
by Brenda Tharp (Amphoto Books, 2010; ISBN: 978-0-8174-3961-3). This popular guide to capturing stronger, more compelling nature photographs has been updated for today’s digital world. With more than 150 new color photographs, Tharp covers basic design principles, creative techniques and tips on creating images with their own personal mark.

The Photographer’s Eye Field Guide: The Essential Handbook for Traveling with Your Digital SLR Camera by Michael Freeman (Focal Press, 2009; ISBN: 978-0-240-81248-9). This guide takes a hands-on approach to travel photography, offering comprehensive advice on choosing what to photograph and how to do it, coping with challenging lighting conditions, and negotiating customs and security issues.

Forests Forever: Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection by Dr. John J. Berger (University of Chicago Press, 2008; ISBN: 978-1-930-06652-6). With photography taken by Gary Braasch, Daniel Dancer, Bob Herger and Larry Ulrich, this book describes how forest ecosystems operate and why they’re important for biodiversity. Berger argues that preserving forests means managing them according to ecological principles, not short-term economic needs.

Photographing Oregon: A Guide to the Natural Landmarks of Oregon by Greg Vaughn (Graphie Intl., 2009; ISBN: 978-0-916-18918-1). From the rugged coastline to the lush Willamette Valley, through the Columbia River Gorge and over the Cascade Mountains, this book showcases the most photogenic natural locations in Oregon.