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In Focus: March 2016

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The wait is over for flagship-model updates from Nikon, with the introduction of the FX-format D5 and the DX-format D500. These two DSLRs have a lot in common, including a new autofocus system, 180K RGB Metering, EXPEED 5 processors that enable 4K UHD video capture and compatibility with Nikon’s first radio-controlled Speedlight, the SB-5000, introduced alongside the new cameras.

One of the most remarkable features of the D5 is its ISO range of 100 to 102,400, which can be expanded to an incredible 3,280,000. Nikon describes this setting as “near-night vision capability that’s well beyond the visibility of the human eye.” Nikon also states that the sweet spot range for sports and wildlife photographers, 3200 to 12800, will deliver “unprecedented image quality.” While the D500 doesn’t quite match the D5’s extreme ISO range, it’s still remarkable with a max ISO of 1,640,000.

The new AF system has 153 AF points, 99 of which are cross-type sensors. All AF points can be employed for Continuous AF focus tracking, and 15 of those AF points function at apertures as small as ƒ/8, “further aiding those who require extreme telephoto capabilities, including wildlife photographers.” The AF system is also designed to perform well in dark conditions, “as little as EV -4 illumination.”

The D5 and the D500 also feature new Nikon-developed sensors: a 20.8-megapixel FX-format sensor in the D5 and a 20.9-megapixel DX-format sensor in the D500. Both cameras are also exceptionally fast. The D5 offers continuous shooting at up to 12 fps with active autofocus and exposure, or an even faster 14 fps with focus and exposure preset and the mirror locked up. An “extended buffer” can accommodate bursts of up to 200 14-bit images, even in NEF+JPG capture mode. The D500 is capable of capturing 14-bit, uncompressed NEF images at 10 fps in continuous bursts of up to 79 images.

The D5 is available in two versions, one with dual CF card slots and one with dual XQD card slots to take full advantage of the camera’s 4K video and high-speed shooting. The D500 offers one XQD and one SD slot.

The radio-controlled SB-5000 Speedlight can control up to 18 Speedlights in 6 groups, with a range of about 98 feet. Compatibility with the new radio-controlled system, dubbed “Advanced Wireless Lighting,” is built in to both the D5 and the D500.

The new cameras will be available in March. List price for the D5 is $6,499 (body only). The D500 is offered at a body-only price of $1,999, or with the DX NIKKOR 16-80mm ƒ/2.8-4E ED VR zoom included for $3,069. The SB-5000 Speedlight, also available in March, has a list price of $599. Contact: Nikon,

Slated to ship to the U.S. and Canada this April, the Sony SLT-a68 is built around a new 24-megapixel APS-C-sized sensor and is compatible with A-mount lenses. Trickle-down features from the a77 II and Sony a7-series cameras include 79 AF points with 15 cross-type sensors and a dedicated ƒ/2.8 AF sensor for focusing in low light, along with 10 customizable buttons. Advanced video features such as clean HDMI out add value to this affordable camera. List Price: $600 (body only); $700 (with 18-55mm kit lens). Contact: Sony,

Known for its excellent RAW conversion, image-editing and tethering capabilities, Capture One Pro from Phase One offers a number of updates in version 9, such as a new processing engine, a variety of additional image-editing tools and improved DNG handling. Thanks to features such as Keyword Libraries, asset management is more efficient than ever before. A battery status tool has been added, as well. List Price: $299 (full); $99 (upgrade); $15/month (with 12-month plan). Contact: Phase One,

Lens filters just got tougher, and that’s good news for outdoor photographers. The clear glass WR Ceramic Protector Filter from Sigma is shock- and scratch-resistant, with a water-repellent (WR) coating that repels water, dust and oil. The coating also makes it easier to clean stray fingerprints and smudges. Although thinner and lighter than other Sigma filters, Sigma’s clear glass ceramic material is 10 times stronger than conventional filters and three times stronger than those that are chemically strengthened. The filters are available for lenses with front filter threads ranging from 67mm-105mm in diameter. List Price: $93-$315. Contact: Sigma,

Streamlined to focus on still images, the 24-megapixel Leica M (Typ 262) ditches Live View and video capture, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially since it pares down the price. At $5,195, it’s the least expensive Leica M model in the line. Minor design changes add a dedicated white balance button, shave off about 3.5 ounces, and provide quieter operation of the shutter and shutter cock mechanism. List Price: $5,195. Contact: Leica,

To the delight of Pentax 645D and 645Z owners, Ricoh has been growing its Pentax medium-format lens line. The latest model, the wide-angle HD Pentax-D FA645 35mm F3.5 AL [IF] lens delivers a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 27.5mm when mounted on a Pentax 645D or 645Z, and is the widest Pentax 645 prime in the current lineup. The lens provides a minimum focusing distance of 0.3 meters and up to 0.25x magnification. Combining newly developed optical elements and Pentax’s HD coating, the lens is designed to deliver excellent image quality, with special appeal for landscape photographers. List Price: $1,600. Contact: Ricoh Imaging,

Alien Skin has added a number of new features to its popular film emulation and editing software. Exposure X now offers digital asset management tools in the standalone version for convenient access to and organization of images. Both standalone and plug-in versions provide improvements such as a brush tool for applying selective adjustments, the ability to stack effects and a customizable workspace. This cross-platform application requires OS X 10.10 Yosemite or newer for Mac and Windows 8 (64-bit) or newer for PCs, and for plug-in use, Adobe Photoshop CS6 or CC 2015 or newer and Lightroom 6 or Lightroom CC 2015 or newer. List Price: from $99 (upgrade). Contact: Alien Skin,

Keeping pace with digital imaging’s increased speed and capacity requirements, particularly for capturing HD and 4K UHD video, PNY’s latest PRO Elite line of SD and microSD cards are U3-rated, with read speeds of up to 95 MB/s and write speeds of up to 90 MB/s. Available in 32 GB and 64 GB capacities (128 GB is coming soon), these SDHC/SDXC and microSDHC/SDXC memory cards can withstand extreme temperatures. They’re shock-, magnet-, X-ray- and waterproof, and backed by a limited lifetime warranty. List Price: From $30. Contact: PNY,

3Pod launched a new line of support system gear that’s functional and affordably priced. Among the collection of tripods, monopods, ballheads and video heads are 3- and 4-section tripods. Available in aluminum or carbon fiber for lightweight travel, the tripod features include quick-adjustment flip locks, padded grip, retractable foot spikes and a bubble level, plus the Orbit Overhead Shot System, with a center column that can be tilted or flipped horizontally for overhead or low-angle shots. Visit the Adorama website for more information about other 3Pod products. List Price: From $200 (3-section tripod). Contact: Adorama,

Maintenance-free, the 16-megapixel SeaLife Micro 2.0 underwater camera is permanently sealed, eliminating the need for O-rings. Built around 32 GB or 64 GB of internal memory, the Micro 2.0 is depth-rated to 200 feet and is equipped with a fisheye lens that provides a 130º field of view and focuses as close as 12 inches. An optional 10x close-up lens is available for macro shots. This compact, WiFi-equipped camera features three large keys for easy access to controls, plus free iOS and Android apps for remote viewing and sharing. Full kits are available with trays and lights. List Price: From $500. Contact: SeaLife,

Constructed from water-resistant canvas with leather accents and antique silver finished hardware, the Sirui MyStory shoulder bags from Argraph are designed to look good and hold enough gear to get you through the day. In addition to an expandable flap top and removable insert, the MyStory bags come with a tripod holder/water bottle pouch and include a raincover for protection from the elements. Available in a range of sizes, the bags are designed to accommodate a variety of kits—from small mirrorless camera systems to full-frame DSLRs, lenses and laptops/tablets. List Price: From $170. Contact: Argraph,

Manfrotto’s iPad app has been updated to version 2.0, with a host of new features for working with the company’s Digital Director, an electronic device that connects your camera and iPad via USB cable. In addition to controlling all Nikon and Canon DSLR key camera functions, the app now provides remote control of Manfrotto LYKOS and Litepanels ASTRA LED lights, and adds focus peaking, a zebra filter and expanded postproduction tools. Free update. Contact: Manfrotto,

BosStrap has added a quick-release buckle to its already convenient Sliding Sling Camera Strap. At its core, this cross-body strap offers a number of benefits, including the strap-to-lug attachment (as opposed to attaching the strap to the tripod mount). As its name implies, the new quick-release buckle allows users to easily detach the camera from the strap with one hand. The straps are available for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. BosStrap offers conversion kits to add quick-release buckles to earlier model straps. List Price: $54 (DSLR); $53 (mirrorless); $20 (conversion kit). Contact: BosStrap,