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OP Editors’ Picks 2004

New technologies mean exceptional gear for photographers
Outdoor Photographer may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. Outdoor Photographer does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting Outdoor Photographer.

This is an exciting time to be a photographer. Whether or not you’re interested in digital, the explosion of the technology has reinvigorated the photo industry like no other in a very long time. Products just get better for everyone.

In order to recognize and support the many innovations and advancements we’ve seen recently, we’ve complied this list of some of our favorite products on the market today. Take a look—there’s enough variety to find something of interest for everyone who enjoys outdoor photography.

Note: The initials show which editor has made that pick.

op editors picks1) Canon PIXMA iP4000 Photo Printer
My favorite feature of the new PIXMA iP4000 is the second paper tray—if your photo printer is your everyday printer, that’s a huge benefit. Canon’s new Full-photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering (FINE) print head speeds up the printing process and delivers better image quality in one stroke. List Price: $149. Contact: Canon, (800) OK-CANON,—WP

2) Tamrac Digital Convertible Bag 5674
Ideal for traveling light, the Tamrac Digital Convertible Bag 5674 packs a D-SLR, a couple of lenses and a flash. Perfect for heavy-duty hiking, a hidden hip belt distributes the load and keeps the bag from swinging when you’re on challenging terrain. Suggested Retail Price: $79.95. Contact: Tamrac, (800) 662-0717,—ZS

3) Epson Perfection 4870 PRO
I don’t shoot enough film anymore to warrant the purchase of a dedicated film scanner, which is why the do-it-all Epson Perfection 4870 PRO got my attention. The dynamic range of this 48-bit scanner is exceptional—up to a 3.8 Dmax. Digital ICE™ dust and scratch removal technology is built in, as is a transparency scanning unit for originals up to 6×9 inches. List Price: $599. Contact: Epson, (800) GO-EPSON,—WP

4) Olympus VP-1
When I first saw this little projector, I fell in love immediately. The VP-1 digital projector is the first from Olympus and they did it right: two pounds, 1,000 lumens of brightness, a contrast ratio of 2,000:1 and 1024 x 768 resolution. Street Price: $1,999. Contact: Olympus America, (888) 553-4448,—RS

5) Lexar 80X Memory Cards
Due to their speed and their ability to make the most of pro digital SLR technology, Lexar’s 80X CompactFlash cards are must-have gear for me. These memory cards deliver a sustainable write speed of up to 12 MB/sec. List Price: $149.99 to $1,349.99. Contact: Lexar Media, (800) 789-9418,—IP

6) Garmin GPS
The Garmin eTrex GPS is a compact and inexpensive device that makes it easy to reach the perfect spot. But what puts it on our list for me is that it’s uncomplicated in the field, and the unique TracBack feature gets me back home no matter how convoluted a route I take to get to my ideal vantage point. Street Price: $99. Contact: Garmin, (800) 800-1020,—CR


7) Singh-Ray Vari-ND
The Singh-Ray Vari-ND is a double-polarizer that acts like a heavy-duty ND filter, knocking down from two to eight stops of light. We’ve found it handy for blurring clouds moving across a scene or softening flowing water in broad daylight. List Price: $340. Contact: Singh-Ray, (800) 486-5501,—ZS

8) Sigma 80-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 EX OS APO
We have to compliment Sigma for developing an image-stabilizing lens so photographers have more choices. The Sigma 80-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 EX OS APO is a beauty, nicely designed on the outside, and includes low-dispersion glass elements on the inside for high-quality images. Street Price: $1,200. Contact: Sigma, (800) 896-6858,—RS

9) Porter Divider Case
Need to haul a lot of camera gear through airports, hotels and the like? The newest Porter Divider Case is smaller and features a customizable panel divider system. I appreciate that it meets carry-on regulations, as I prefer not to part with my gear. List Price: $274. Contact: Porter Case, (800) 356-8348,—WP

10) HP Designjet 130
The HP Designjet 130 provides quality and extra-large prints at an affordable price. The 2,400 dpi printer uses six-color, dye-based inks to produce archival prints up to 24×64 inches. List Price: $1,295. Contact: Hewlett-Packard, (800) 752-0900,—IP

11) Tamron Di Series Lens
I now shoot mostly digital, and since I like limited depth-of-field effects with close-ups, the newly redesigned Tamron 180mm ƒ/3.5 Di Macro (specifically designed for digital SLRs, although it also can be used on film SLRs) makes my list. I like the ƒ/3.5 maximum aperture and telephoto focal length for limiting up-close depth of field. Street Price: $700. Contact: Tamron, (631) 858-8400,—CR

Nikon Coolwalker
There have been many portable storage devices intro-duced in recent years that let you transfer images from your memory card, but none have been as stylish, with such a well-designed LCD (2.5 inches) for image review, or as convenient to use (CompactFlash only) as the Nikon Coolwalker. List Price: TBA. Contact: Nikon, (800) NIKON-UX,—RS


13) Lowepro DryZone Bag
The Lowepro DryZone 200 stands out for its water-resistance. The bag’s construction, which includes waterproof zippers, keeps my gear safe in the hostile environments in which I shoot. Street Price: $250. Contact: Lowepro, (800) 800-LOWE,—CR

14) Giottos MT 8160 Tripod
Although the Giottos MT 8160 tripod weighs just 51/2 pounds, including its integral three-way head, its carbon-fiber legs provide a rigid platform. Those legs work independently for uneven terrain, and we like the unusual mount for the center column. List Price: $345. Contact: HP Marketing Corp., (800) 735-4373,—ZS

15) Konica Minolta Inkjet Papers
The line of Konica Minolta Inkjet papers caught our eye because they’re brightened to keep your white tones really white. The papers work with dye- and pigment-based inks, and their RC-paper base aids durability. List Price: From $6.99. Contact: Konica Minolta Photo Imaging USA, (877) IMAGING,—ZS

16) RoadWired RAPS
The RoadWired RAPS protection wraps are ideal for keeping anything safe from dirt, scratches and impact—from a lens to a flash to a GPS. I love these things because I can customize them to fit any sensitive gear I might want to carry or store. The wraps are squares of soft cloth around an impact-resistant core. Street Price: $10 to $15. Contact: RoadWired (OmegaSatter), (410) 374-3250,—CR

17) Manfrotto Grip Action Ballhead
The Manfrotto 322 RC2 Grip Action Ballhead finds a place on this list due to its standout design. A convenient quick-release trigger makes for fast and easy positioning, with 360-degree rotation of the vertical axis and ±90-degree lateral tilt. List Price: $142. Contact: Bogen Imaging Inc., (201) 818-9500,—IP

18) MicroSolutions RoadStor
While the idea of making CD backups of digital images is great, taking along a laptop all the time isn’t. The compact MicroSolutions RoadStor unit lets you make CDs directly from your memory card, plus it will play back DVDs when you’re stuck in a hotel room during bad weather. List Price: $269. Contact: MicroSolutions, (800) 890-7227,—RS


19) DeLorme Topo USA
Getting lost is frustrating, which is why I love DeLorme’s Topo USA 5.0. It’s fast and easy to generate routes and upload them to your GPS receiver. You also can view the maps in 3-D and get nationwide campground information. List Price: $99.95 (CD and DVD versions). Contact: DeLorme, (800) 561-5105,—DK

20) XtremePower XP20
This XtremePower XP20 battery earns my choice because it provides a lot of power in a small package, letting me concentrate on shooting without worrying about how much juice I’ve got left. It will power up cameras, a laptop and more, and runs well in the cold. List Price: $549. Contact: MAC Group, (914) 347-3300,—ZS

21) Buck Knives Northshore
The Buck/Mayo Northshore Model 173 from Buck Knives has all the qualities I look for in an all-purpose knife. It weighs 2.6 ounces, features a sharp stainless-steel blade, and is reliably strong with a hard anodized aluminum handle. The sleek, high-tech design is a bonus. List Price: $90. Contact: Buck Knives, (800) 326-2825,—DK

22) Kata Rucksack
A camera bag that offers superior protection for my gear easily finds a home among our editors’ picks. The Kata Rucksack R102 features a well-padded ribbed design for resistance against shock and impact damage, plus an easy-access front panel for a camera and attached lens. List Price: $199.95. Contact: Bogen Imaging Inc., (201) 818-9500,—IP

23) SanDisk Extreme Memory Card
Extreme weather and temperature won’t affect the SanDisk Extreme CompactFlash card. The rugged card has proven performance at temperatures between -13 and 185 degrees Fahrenheit while providing high shock- and impact-resistance. List Price: $79 to $479. Contact: SanDisk, (408) 542-0500,—IP

24) Brunton Solarroll
The Brunton Solarroll lets us carry on indefinitely in remote locations, far from electricity. We chose this solar cell because it keeps a laptop running with a few hours of sunlight, yet rolls up quickly and doesn’t take up too much space. Suggested Retail Price: $399. Contact: Brunton, (307) 856-6559,—ZS


25) L.L. Bean Hydration Pack
L.L. Bean’s Aquifer Hydration Pack gets my nod this year. The backpack holds lots of gear and features a built-in bladder that provides convenient access to water through a tube so you can keep moving while staying hydrated. List Price: $49 (1,000 cu. in.). Contact: L.L. Bean, (800) 809-7057,—DK

26) LensPen
It’s not sexy, it’s not high-tech, it’s not flashy and it doesn’t even look all that cool, but the LensPen is my all-time favorite must-have accessory. The handy tool combines a lens-safe brush on one end with a gentle cleaning pad on the other. I keep one of these in the bag with every camera I own. Street Price: $10. Contact: LensPen, (604) 681-6472,—CR

27) Digital GEM Pro Plug-In
One of the last remaining quality issues with digital is noise. The Digital GEM Pro Plug-in works inside Photoshop or other compatible software, and allows you to remove noise and grain from a photo while simultaneously controlling the sharpness of the final image. List Price: $49. Contact: Applied Science Fiction (Eastman Kodak),—WP

28) Wacom Intuos3 Pen Tablet
I was a fan of Wacom’s pen tablets the first time I used one. The new Intuos3 tablet offers enhanced functionality with multiple ExpressKeys to which you can assign the commands you use most often. They even can be set to perform different functions as you switch between applications. Street Price: $199 to $449. Contact: Wacom, (800) 922-9348,—WP

29) ColorVision ColorPlus
ColorPlus makes monitor calibration so easy that there’s no excuse for not doing it. At a cost of less than $100, ColorPlus, a complete software and hardware calibration package, offers a great deal for the price. Contact: ColorVision, (800) 554-8688,—RS

30) Buzz Off Shirt
The Ex Officio Buzz Off Canvas Shirt is one of the most functional shirts I’ve worn. It’s warm and comfortable, provides UV protection and wards off mosquitoes and ticks with an odorless repellent. The all-cotton shirt maintains its repellent qualities through 25 washings. List Price: $79. Contact: Ex Officio, (800) 833-0831,—DK

31) SimpleDrive Portable Drive
My list wouldn’t be complete without a reliable backup for digital images. The SimpleDrive Deluxe Portable drive is a fast and compact 80 GB drive housed in a rugged protective shell. It features USB 2.0 and FireWire interfaces for speedy data transfer. List Price: $499.99. Contact: SimpleTech, (800) 367-7330,—IP

32) Zipka Plus Headlamp
The Zipka Plus headlamp from Petzl is a compact, hands-free light that’s extremely bright and can run for more than 150 hours on one set of batteries. The retractable cord can be adjusted to fit your head, wrist or ankle. List Price: $42.95. Contact: Petzl, (801) 926-1500,—DK