In Focus: December 2008

This Article Features Photo Zoom

SLR SYSTEM
If you’re looking to boost the quality of your landscape and nature images by stepping up to an SLR, Pentax delivers a complete entry-level system with a camera body, lens, flash and an affordable price tag. The 10.2-megapixel K2000 features the smc Pentax DA L 18-55mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 AL lens, Shake Reduction technology and an integrated Dust Removal system. A 2.7-inch LCD with wide-angle viewing, a burst speed of up to 3.2 fps and a 16-segment metering system round out the key specs. Also included is the Pentax AF200FG Autoflash. Estimated Street Price: $699. Contact: Pentax, (800) 877-0155, www.pentaximaging.com.
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MICRO SHOOTER
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G1 is the first of the Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens cameras. Four Thirds basically means that the internal mirror structure, which defines D-SLRs, is eliminated in cameras of this standard, significantly reducing their size. Weighing in at just 1.28 pounds, the 12.1-megapixel G1 comes with the LUMIX G Vario 14-45mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 ASPH/MEGA O.I.S. lens. A full-time electronic Live View finder, as opposed to a traditional optical viewfinder, also keeps the camera compact. A 3-inch, flip-out LCD can swivel 180 degrees horizontally and 270 degrees vertically for high- and low-angle shots. List Price: $799. Contact: Panasonic, (800) 211-PANA, www.panasonic.com.
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PHOTOSHOP POWER
Simplicity and ease of use make Adobe Photoshop CS4 a much friendlier program for photographers to work with images. For example, you now can smoothly zoom and pan to any area of an image, even close in on individual pixels, with the new Pixel Grid. Using tabs, it’s easier to work with multiple open files. In the Adjustments panel, you can access every tool you need for changing color and tone. For Lightroom users, you can select multiple photos in that program and automatically open them in CS4 for further editing. When you’re done, they can be exported easily back to Lightroom. Estimated Street Price: $699. Contact: Adobe, (800) 833-6687, www.adobe.com.
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FAST 50s
A pair of ultrafast 50mm prime lenses from Nikon and Sigma will help you capture tack-sharp images in low light. The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm ƒ/1.4G delivers outstanding light-transmission efficiency, solid color consistency and reduced flare. The Silent Wave Motor allows for fast, accurate and quiet autofocusing. The Sigma 50mm ƒ/1.4 EX DG HSM features an optical design and molded glass aspherical lens elements, which spread light more evenly to the corners of the frame to help correct all types of aberrations. The lens also incorporates Sigma’s Hyper Sonic Motor for quiet, high-speed autofocusing, as well as full-time manual-focus capability. Estimated Street Price: $439 (Nikon); $730 (Sigma). Contact: Nikon, (800) NIKON-US, www.nikonusa.com; Sigma, (800) 896-6858, www.sigmaphoto.com.
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FULL-FRAME SONY
With a new flagship D-SLR in its camera lineup, Sony debuts the Alpha 900, with a full-frame CMOS sensor that packs on 24.6 megapixels. Add to that Sony’s sensor-shift SteadyShot INSIDE image-stabilization technology, a pair of high-speed BIONZ image processors and a 9-point autofocus system with 10 assist points and center dual-cross autofocus. Other top features include a 5 fps continuous-shooting rate, three-inch LCD, Intelligent Preview function and Advanced Dynamic Range Optimizer. An HDMI port outputs images to a high-definition TV. Estimated Street Price: $2,999. Contact: Sony, (877) 865-SONY, www.sonystyle.com.

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ZIP UP
Stay warm in the Ultima Jacket from Marmot. Constructed from UpCycle stretch fabric, which is made of organic or recycled materials, the jacket uses Cocona Natural Technology for reliable moisture-wicking performance. Zonal construction makes the jacket ideal for highly aerobic activities, providing complete thermal coverage and excellent range of motion without sacrificing solid windproof and water-resistant protection. Estimated Street Price: $180. Contact: Marmot, (888) 357-3262, www.marmot.com.
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SNOW BOOTS
Beneath the sleek, sporty shell of the Hi-Tec Multiterra Ultra 200 hikers lies the warmth and waterproof protection of a winter weatherproof boot. Thermo-Dri construction couples the water-blocking power of seam-sealed nubuck leather uppers with the warmth-trapping performance of 200-gram Thinsulate Insulation. Form-fitting hardware gives them the comfort and support of a high-performance hiker. Estimated Street Price: $105. Contact: Hi-Tec, (209) 545-1111, www.hi-tec.com.
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SHINE A LIGHT
The compact eGear Spotlight is a convenient solution when you’re out camping and need some extra light. The 0.5-watt LED fits into most vehicle cigarette lighters for charging. It takes seven hours to charge and burns for two before needing a recharge. The anodized aluminum light is less than two inches long and weighs 1.6 ounces. Estimated Street Price: $19. Contact: Essential Gear, (800) 582-3861, www.essentialgear.com.
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REST UP
The Therm-a-Rest ToughSkin Mattress is a rugged, puncture-resistant mattress that offers excellent insulation on snow. The unique design sandwiches the mattress’s air-holding seal between a top layer of open-cell foam and a bottom layer of closed-cell foam, then joins them all with the guaranteed foam-to-fabric bond. Because a bottom layer of closed-cell foam protects the air-holding seal, the mattress is extremely puncture-resistant. Estimated Street Price: $99 to $149. Contact: Therm-a-Rest, (800) 531-9531, www.thermarest.com.
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This Article Features Photo Zoom

 

SHARPER IMAGE
Make quick work of sharpening your images with Nik Software’s Sharpener Pro 3.0, which is based on the U Point-powered Control Point technology found in the company’s suite of imaging apps. By placing Control Points on the image, you can sharpen more precisely without having to create complex layer masks. Other features include a Sharpening Soft Proof tool that lets you look at results before printing, improved handling of new output devices and new output presets for repeating results. Estimated Street Price: $199. Contact: Nik Software, (888) 284-4085, www.niksoftware.com.
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ALL-IN-ONE ZOOM
Zoom from wide angle to telephoto and get close-ups using just one lens. When converted to 35mm format, the Tamron AF18-270mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical (IF) Macro covers a focal-length range of 28-419mm. If you like shooting handheld when you’re out in the field, the lens comes with Tamron’s Vibration Compensation technology, which prevents blur and lets you shoot up to four stops slower than would be possible otherwise. This also helps you get sharp shots when shooting long. The 18-270mm lens allows close focusing down to 19.3 inches over the entire zoom range. Estimated Street Price: $599. Contact: Tamron, (631) 858-8400, www.tamron.com.
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ECO-FRIENDLY BAG
More than 95 percent of the materials used to make Lowepro’s Terraclime bags are recycled, making it the company’s greenest series to date. The largest shoulder bag (model 100) holds a D-SLR and lens. Inside there’s a single compartment with additional pockets for memory cards, personal items and other extras. The bag also includes a zippered interior pocket and removable wrap that fits around the camera for an additional layer of protection. Estimated Street Price: $79. Contact: Lowepro, (800) 800-LOWE, www.lowepro.com.
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MEMORY MATTERS
Lexar debuts high-capacity 16 GB cards in the Secure Digital High-Capacity and CompactFlash formats. The Lexar Platinum II 60x 16 GB SDHC and 80x 16 GB CF cards let you shoot longer and faster, optimizing your camera’s ability to capture higher-resolution images. The cards also allow up to six hours of 1080 high-definition recording. The 60x SDHC card has a minimum sustained write speed of 9 MBps, and the 80x CF card is rated at 12 MBps. Estimated Street Price: $89 (SDHC), $99 (CF). Contact: Lexar, (800) 789-9418, www.lexar.com.
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This Article Features Photo Zoom

NANPA 15TH ANNIVERSARY SUMMIT
NANPA’s Fifteenth Annual Nature Photography Summit and Trade Show will be held February 18 through 22, 2009, in Albuquerque, N.M. There will be keynote presentations by Art Wolfe (who will also be master of ceremonies), Tim Laman, Norbert Rosing and Bill Fortney. Many leading nature-photography editors will be conducting portfolio reviews, and there will be a variety of breakout sessions, some on photographic technique, some on the business of photography and some on using photography as an instrument for conservation. Pre- and post-Summit workshops will provide more in-depth instruction on digital-darkroom and field technique by such masters as Tom Hogarty, Rob Sheppard, Jon Canfield and Arthur Morris. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet and network with fellow nature photographers from all over the United States and numerous other countries. Contact: www.nanpa.org.

BACKUP & VIEW
Scroll through and zoom in on RAW or JPEG images when you’re out in the field with the high-end, high-capacity Epson P-6000 (80 GB) and P-7000 (160 GB) multimedia photo viewers. The 4-inch LCD screen delivers images with smooth gradations and color transitions. Download speeds are 35 percent faster than previous models. Instead of the four-way switch, you navigate through images with a jog dial. Estimated Street Price: $599 (P-6000); $799 (P-7000). Contact: Epson, (800) GO-EPSON, www.epson.com.
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MEMORY BUMP
Store more files in your portable hard drive using Western Digital’s My Passport, which now comes in capacities of 500 GB. The My Passport Elite and My Passport Essential drives weigh less than seven ounces, making them an ideal way to back up and transport images when you’re on the road. A capacity gauge lets you know at a glance how much space is available. Included synchronization software lets you sync changes and protect information with 128-bit encryption. Estimated Street Price: $179 to $219. Contact: Western Digital, (949) 672-7000, www.westerndigital.com.
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SPEED SHOOTING
Record fast-moving wildlife on your next outdoor adventure with the Casio EXILIM EX-FH20, which features a 9.1-megapixel sensor and the ability to shoot high-speed 40 fps bursts. The camera features a 20x optical zoom lens equivalent to 26-520mm in 35mm format, an anti-shake function to support power zoom shots and a 720p video option. To record high-speed movies, select from speeds of 1,000 fps, 420 fps or 210 fps, and switch from standard 30 fps mode to 210 fps by simply touching a button. Estimated Street Price: $599. Contact: Casio, (800) 435-7732, www.casio.com.
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THE MESSENGER
Shoulder the load of your photo gear with the help of Tamrac’s Adventure Messenger 5, which holds an SLR, lenses and a laptop. The main compartment is padded with foam, and dividers help keep your equipment organized. A foam-padded rear pocket holds most 13-inch laptops. There are additional pockets for storing manuals, personal items and other extras. A padded shoulder strap and EasyGrip handle give you carrying options. Estimated Street Price: $69. Contact: Tamrac, (800) 662-0717, www.tamrac.com.
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WORK IT
Organize and manage your photos with greater efficiency using ACDSee Pro 2.5, a workflow program that has received a major upgrade. You can now create a folder system, back up files, set categories and modify metadata as images are imported. Embedding custom metadata, like categories and ratings, saving custom search criteria and nondestructive editing round out the update. The auto-slideshow feature also is improved. Estimated Street Price: $129. Contact: ACD Systems, www.acdsee.com.
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CUSTOM PRINTS
Get creative with your images using Mpix 2.0, which is the online division of Miller’s Professional Imaging. With a more streamlined interface, ordering prints is easier than before, and there are more creative options such as assembled albums from Art Leather, life-sized Wall Clings and an expanded line of custom frames with 12 new styles. You also can have a print framed with a black or white matte now. Additionally, Mpix has added tools designed to make the service faster and more intuitive. Estimated Street Price: Varies by product and print size. Contact: Mpix, www.mpix.com.
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ROLL IT
Transport your valuable photo equipment in Porter Case’s PCX Lite series. The carry-on-sized luggage cases have wheels and a built-in cart feature that allows you to stack more than 100 pounds of other baggage on top. Optional adjustable dividers and a customizable layered foam interior help to protect your gear. Estimated Street Price: Starts at $149. Contact: Porter Case, (800) 356-8348, www.portercase.com.
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POWERFUL ULTRAZOOM
When an SLR isn’t practical, carry a backup camera like the Olympus SP-565 UZ, which covers a big 26-520mm focal length range in 35mm format. A Dual Image Stabilization system, which adjusts the sensor and ISO, allows you to shoot in low light and get sharp shots of wildlife and other moving subjects without blur. The 10-megapixel camera also incorporates Shadow Adjustment Technology, which is helpful when shadow areas are underexposed and lack detail. It also can shoot 3-megapixel images at 13.5 fps. Estimated Street Price: $399. Contact: Olympus, (888) 553-4448, www.olympusamerica.com.
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FLASH CARDS
Combining greater storage capacity and faster data transfer rates, the 32 GB SanDisk Extreme III CompactFlash card is ideal for long shooting trips. Sometimes an increase in capacity sacrifices speed, but this card is built to maintain a speedy 30 MBps transfer rate. For video shooters, the card can record more than 80 minutes of 100 MBps, 10-bit, 4:2:2 HD video. The Extreme III CF card lineup starts at a capacity of 4 GB. Estimated Street Price: $299. Contact: SanDisk, (866) SANDISK, www.sandisk.com.
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LENS AID
Sharpen your images by fixing distortion, softness and vignetting with DxO Optics Pro v5.2. In this latest upgrade, RAW conversion is improved for images shot at ISOs as high as 25,600. The software corrects lens problems based on tests that measure how lenses perform with specific sensors. Each correction removes defects and aberrations that are specific to that camera and lens combo. In v5.2, noise-removal technologies do a better job of preserving color nuances and removing large noise spots. Estimated Street Price: $169 (Standard); $299 (Elite). Contact: DxO Labs, www.dxo.com.
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