2012 Editors' Choice Awards

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Since it came out, Tiffen Dfx has been a hit for photographers looking to apply interesting filters and effects to an image. The latest version, Dfx 3.0, can simulate more than 2,000 filter, specialized lens and photo effects. The software is ideal for either still or motion shooters. With so many effects, you would expect the interface to be complicated, but it’s actually quite intuitive, and you can be up and running with it very quickly. Dfx 3.0 is available as a standalone or a plug-in. List Price: $169 (Standalone); $199 (Plug-in); $599 (Video/Film plug-in). Contact: Tiffen, (631) 273-2500, www.tiffen.com. —CR

Going from a cool place to a warm one, or vice versa, can be hard on your camera gear because of the condensation that forms. BRNO dri+Caps are camera body and lens caps that contain orange silica gel, which absorbs damaging moisture for maintaining an ideal 35%-45% humidity level at all times. The gel turns green when it’s time to replace it. Kits are available for Canon or Nikon gear. Each contains an O-ringed camera body cap, an O-ringed rear lens cap and eight packets of silica gel. Estimated Street Price: $44. Contact: HP Marketing Corp., (800) 735-4373, www.hpmarketingcorp.com. —KC

The Hoodman HoodEYE is an oversized rubber accessory eyecup for DSLRs that seals out ambient light when shooting outside for improved viewfinder clarity. The latest version can be used with glasses. The eyecup is self-locking, and works with both left-eye and right-eye shooters. A slip ring mount allows you to adjust the diopter with the eyecup pressed up to your eye. Five models fit all Canon and Nikon DSLRs. Estimated Street Price: $19. Hoodman USA, (800) 818-3946, www.hoodmanusa.com. —KC

With the Eye-Fi Mobile X2 memory card, you can transfer images directly to an iPad or iPhone while shooting, which saves you from having to remove the card and download images to a card reader. The card basically creates its own wireless network through its Direct Mode, allowing you to upload images from anywhere, so you can edit images with apps on your phone or back them up to your home computer. List Price: $79. Contact: Eye-Fi, (877) 873-9334, www.eye.fi. —KC

Lensbaby offers a series of tiltable lenses that make it easy to control a sharp “sweet spot” and the out-of-focus areas in an image. The Composer Pro features a ball-and-socket design with an upgraded swivel ball for smooth and precise control. Just bend the lens to position the Sweet Spot, then rotate the focusing ring to bring the subject into focus. You can lock the lens in position if desired. The Lensbaby Composer Pro is compatible with all Lensbaby Optic Swap System lenses and is available in a variety of camera mounts. Estimated Street Price: $300 (with Double Glass lens); $400 (with Sweet 35 optic). Contact: Lensbaby, (877) 536 -7222, www.lensbaby.com. —MS

Grids are great lighting tools because they allow you to control the spread of light, but they can be limiting unless you use multiple units. Enter the ExpoImaging Rogue Grid, which produces three different honeycomb grid angles. The unit consists of a 45° screen, a 25° screen and the two can be stacked to create a 16° screen. Changing angles and adding gels is easy because of the grid’s modular design, and it weighs just 3.5 ounces. List Price: $49. Contact: ExpoImaging, (800) 446-5086, www.expoimaging.com. —KC

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This compact digital camera shoots 14.2-megapixel still images and 720/30p HD video. It features built-in Wi-Fi, which makes it easy to send photos wirelessly to friends and family directly from the camera, as well as download images wirelessly to your computer. The 3.0-inch LCD with Smart Touch 3.0 interface works similarly to a touch-screen smartphone. The 5X zoom provides a wide 26mm (35mm-camera equivalent) angle of view. Size dimensions are 3.7×2.5×0.7 inches and 3.9 ounces. Estimated Street Price: $199. Contact: Samsung, (800) SAMSUNG, www.samsungcamerausa.com. —MS

The Redrock Micro Universal Bundles for HD video DSLRs can convert your still camera into a complete filmmaking system. Available in seven different kits, the system is totally modular so you can build the best kit for whatever type of video or photography you’re shooting at the time. The systems are as simple or as complex as you want them to be, with configurations for anything from low-to-the-ground support to shoulder-stock stabilization to lightweight handholding with only a single grip. List Price: Begins at $1,276. Contact: Redrock Micro, (888) 214-3903, www.redrockmicro.com. —DW

SIGMA 12-24mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 DG HSM II
This super-wide zoom was designed for full-frame DSLRs, but also works well with APS-C cameras (on which it’s equivalent to a 17-35mm zoom). It incorporates 17 elements in 13 groups, including four aspheric elements to enhance performance and reduce lens size, an SLD element and four of Sigma’s new FLD elements, which provide performance equal to fluorite glass in minimizing chromatic aberrations. The lens can focus down to 11 inches, measures 3.3×4.7 inches and weighs 23.6 ounces. It’s available in mounts for Canon, Nikon and Sigma DSLRs. Estimated Street Price: $949. Contact: Sigma, (800) 896-6858, www.sigmaphoto.com. —MS

A fantastic lens for portraits, I really like the Tamron SP AF60mm F2 Di II 1:1 Macro because it’s a fast lens with a maximum aperture of ƒ/2—perfect for creating soft backgrounds. It’s also great for close-ups of flowers, collectibles and more, making it one very versatile prime lens. Available for Canon, Nikon and Sony APS-C-sensor cameras, the lens features internal focusing and low dispersion glass elements to ensure optimum color fidelity. List Price: $599. Contact: Tamron USA, (631) 858-8400, www.tamron-usa.com. —WP

Adding the affordable RODE VideoMic Pro shotgun to your video-capable DSLR will improve the audio on your project without becoming too complicated. With only half an inch in length and a weight of three ounces, you’re adding very little weight to your camera while gaining superior sound. The super-cardioid directional abilities of the shotgun mic amplify cleaner audio from the source while reducing ambient noise. There’s also a +20 dB level boost switch on the rear that has been designed specifically for use with DSLR mic jacks. Estimated Street Price: $229. Contact: RODE, (805) 566-7777, www.rodemic.com. —DW

Shooting with a radio transmitter and receiver allows you to place flashes or strobe lights in any variety of places for unique and creative lighting solutions even on location. Compatible with cameras from Canon, Nikon and Sony (with an adapter), the RadioPopper JrX is an inexpensive way of reliably triggering lights from around corners or near a distant subject, even when the camera is up to 1,500 feet away. With the optional RPCube adapter, you also can adjust for about eight stops of light output on TTL flashes right from the JrX transmitter on your camera. List Price: $79 (JrX Transmitter); $99 (JrX Studio Receiver); $169 (JrX Studio Kit); $29 (RPCube). Contact: Leap Devices LLC (RadioPopper), (360) 713-0776, www.radiopopper.com. —DW

The 050 Series are Manfrotto’s best ballheads, featuring new ergonomic levers, 90°-105° portrait angle selection, lightweight magnesium bodies and self-lubricating rings. The 054 models are dedicated to Manfrotto 190 carbon-fiber tripods, and the 057 models are dedicated to Manfrotto 057 carbon-fiber tripods. Each comes in three versions: one with a standard mount disc, and two with different quick-release mounts (one featuring three leveling bubbles). Estimated Street Price: $189-$334 (depending on model and configuration). Contact: Manfrotto, (201) 818-9500, www.manfrotto.us. —MS

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TOKINA 17-35mm ƒ/4 AT-X PRO FX
I’m a wide-angle junkie. I do much more shooting at the wide end of the focal range than the telephoto, and I always travel with at least one wide-angle option. The Tokina 17-35mm ƒ/4 AT-X PRO FX gives me an ultra-wide angle on a full-frame DSLR, and on an APS-C DSLR, it gives me an equivalent of about 35mm. The lens uses advanced SD glass elements to minimize aberrations and maximize sharpness. Estimated Street Price: $750. Contact: Tokina (THK Photo), (800) 421-1141, www.thkphoto.com. —CR

Avoid the neck pain that can come from carrying around a heavy DSLR by using one of Cotton Carrier’s innovative holster designs. For holding one or two DSLRs, the basic Camera Vest system is built around a one-size-fits-all adjustable vest that comes in many configurations. For lighter DSLRs, the Cotton Carry-Lite is a more streamlined version that uses a cotton waist-belt system with a shoulder strap. Estimated Street Price: Starts at $99 (both). Contact: Cotton Carrier, (877) 852-9423, www.cottoncarrier.com. —KC

One advantage of the popular new mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras is that they can use just about any lens for which an adapter can be found. Sony’s new LA-EA2 Alpha Lens Adapter lets NEX camera users attach lenses for Sony Alpha DSLR cameras. Not only that, the LA-EA2 also incorporates a Translucent Mirror Technology phase-detection autofocus system based on the one used in Sony’s SLT-A65 translucent-mirror DSLR. You can use virtually any Sony Alpha or Konica Minolta Maxxum lens, and get quick phase-detection autofocusing. Estimated Street Price: $399. Contact: Sony, (877) 865-7669, www.sonystyle.com. —MS

If you’re taking advantage of video capture on your HD DSLR, adding a hot-shoe-mountable accessory viewer like the Flashpoint LCD 8-inch Monitor with Remote (FPSCAW) makes composing and viewing video capture much easier, especially when your camera is mounted on a tripod. The monitor provides 100% coverage and connects to your camera via HDMI or by an included wireless adapter that gives you up to 100 feet of range. List Price: $598. Contact: Flashpoint, (800) 223-2500, www.adorama.com. —WP

When I need to carry my camera with extra lenses, accessories and my MacBook Air, an all-in-one solution like the Tamrac Evolution Messenger 2 (Model 5782) is ideal. There’s room for my DSLR with a lens attached, additional lenses and accessories, plus a separate padded compartment for a tablet or smaller laptop. Another great feature is that it doubles as a standard briefcase when you want—just remove the padded camera shuttle. Estimated Street Price: $99. Contact: Tamrac, (800) 662-0717, www.tamrac.com. —WP

The Velbon VS-443D features three leg angle positions and a geared elevator column that can be moved up and down for shooting close-ups as low as 9.45 inches from the ground. The tripod features a full 180º of tilt, including 90º lateral positioning, and a horizontal Video/Cinema mode, which uses the column as a short zooming device when capturing video. The nut locking grip system can be twisted to quickly lock and release the multi-angle arm, and the QHD-53D ballhead is quick release with a spirit level for precise framing. The four-section aluminum legs fully extend to a maximum height of 63.2 inches. Estimated Street Price: $209. Contact: One Source Network Inc., (888) 381-2390, www.osnusa.net. —DW

Sometimes a photo is worthy of blowing up to poster-sized dimensions. Perfect Resize 7 Professional Edition from onOne Software is the next generation of the company’s popular Genuine Fractals program. You can enlarge images up to 1000% while maintaining sharp image quality, and there are more than 60 built-in size presets for cropping and resizing an image in a single step. List Price: $199. Contact: onOne Software, (888) 9

68-1468, www.ononesoftware.com. —KC

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Tripods aren’t always convenient or even possible to use, but I still want to have something to help me keep the camera steady. This is particularly true when shooting HD video with a DSLR. The Novoflex MMR Bluebird provides a nice system for motion shooting by letting you brace the rig against your chest for stability. Twin adjustable handgrips let you position the unit comfortably, and the MagicBall joint allows you to align the system perfectly. Estimated Street Price: $1,399. Contact: HP Marketing Corp., (800) 735-4373, www.hpmarketingcorp.com. —CR

I always want to have a lot of control over my light, even when I’m using small flashes. Snoots are a favorite because they allow me to create dramatic directional light for all sorts of subjects. The Gary Fong PowerSnoot is portable and efficient, and it fits on the flash using a very secure mounting system. The PowerSnoot is made of a chrome-plated body with a grid at the end. It’s compact and delivers big results. List Price: $65. Contact: Gary Fong, (800) 906-6447, www.garyfonginc.com.—CR

A neutral-density filter is something every photographer should have in the bag because it gives you the ability to slow down your shutter speed and create interesting effects that can’t be mimicked with software. Kenko’s new ZR SMC Ultra Thin ND4 and ND8 filters give you two and three stops of darkening, respectively. The Zeta filters have an ultra-thin frame, which minimizes vignetting and makes them excellent for wide-angle photography. The Zero-Reflection (ZR) Super Multi-Coating reduces reflections to keep your shots sharp and crisp. Estimated Street Price: Starts at $69. Contact: Kenko (THK Photo), (800) 421-1141, www.thkphoto.com. —CR

Nik Color Efex Pro is my go-to plug-in when a photo needs a little extra punch or personality. I love the variety of preset effects, and the ability to customize and control their appearance with Nik’s intuitive control points. New in Version 4 is the ability to “stack” multiple effects in one session—previous versions required you to apply effects one at a time. You can even save these stacks as your own “Filter Recipes” for use on other images. List Price: $199. Contact: Nik Software, (619) 725-3150, www.niksoftware.com. —WP

Ideal for photographers working with portraiture and video, the Interfit Super Cool-lite 6-1 light kit provides a soft daylight output that flatters skin tones. The light output is easily controlled through six switches on the back, one for each of the 32W fluorescent bulbs (equivalent to 770W of tungsten per head). To reduce light, simply switch off the illuminated switches as needed. For a softer feel, there’s a 31-inch octobox with a large coverage area. For more oomph, soft shadows and extra contrast, the kit also includes a 16-inch reflector. List Price: $215. Contact: Interfit Photographic Ltd., (866) 947-9796, www.interfitphotographic.com. —DW

With USB 3.0 technology, the Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot memory card reader provides fast transfer rates of up to 500 MB/s. That translates to roughly five times the speed of an average USB 2.0 connection, and the device is also backwards-compatible for those who haven’t upgraded to USB 3.0 just yet, but plan to in the future. It supports both CF and SD card formats, including SDXC, and you can simultaneously transfer files between the two for handing off cards or backing up files. List Price: $49. Contact: Lexar, (800) 789-9418, www.lexar.com. —DW

I like the fine-art presentation that an Mpix Gallery Wrap brings to a great photograph. Ready to hang, Gallery Wraps are printed on high-quality canvas and wrapped to a 1.5-inch wood stretcher. An easy online ordering system helps you upload and configure your Gallery Wrap in a few steps. They’re available in 13 sizes from 8×10 to 24×36. List Price: $55 (8×10); $170 (24×36). Contact: Mpix, www.mpix.com. —WP

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Small, lightweight, self-contained camcorders have taken the world by storm. With an array of attachment options and housings, you can attach these little camcorders to everything from a bike’s handlebars to a car fender to a surfboard. The Contour+ has become my mini-HD video camera of choice because of its combination of image quality and user-friendliness. The Contour+ connects to my iPhone via Bluetooth to give me control over the shooting modes and basic setup. It also gives me a live view to set up the framing. And, of course, it also has excellent full HD image quality. Estimated Street Price: $499. Contact: Contour, (866) 397-6920, www.contour.com. —CR

With dimensions of 4.3×3.2×0.7 inches, Western Digital’s My Passport Essential SE external drive makes it simple to carry around an entire library of images and video in your pocket. Available in capacities of up to 1 TB, the Essential SE is also USB 3.0-compatible for fast data transfer rates at around five times that of USB 2.0. Plug-and-play operation powers the drives directly from the USB port. There’s also password encryption for protecting files in case you misplace the drive. List Price: $129 (1 TB); $119 (750 GB). Contact: Western Digital, (877) 934-6972, www.westerndigital.com. —DW

When I need to add fill light to portraits, I almost always reach for my Litepanels MicroPro. I really like that I can easily adjust the flicker-free, continuous-output LEDs to get just the right amount of light for stills or video. With output comparable to a 50-watt camera light, it’s conveniently powered by AA batteries. Mount the MicroPro on your camera’s hot-shoe or to a tripod for off-camera fills. It’s daylight-balanced, and a built-in filter holder lets you use gels to add color. Estimated Street Price: $405. Contact: Litepanels, (818) 752-7009, www.litepanels.com. —WP

Add some shine to black-and-white prints using Slickrock Metallic Pearl 260 from Moab by Legion. With a metallic, pearl-like coating, the microporous paper has a glossy surface that dries instantly and is designed for printing with Photo Black inks. The resulting look is an image with deep blacks and bright highlights. It’s available in a variety of the most popular paper sizes. Estimated Street Price: Varies by size. Contact: Moab, (800) 727-3716, moabpaper.com. —KC