2013 Editors' Choice Awards

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The large-sensor compact Sony Cyber-shot RX100 is the kind of camera we like to keep with us at all times. DSLRs have versatility and image quality, but they’re not the most convenient to carry. The iPhone is convenient, but lacks versatility, and it’s not ideal for making large prints. The RX100 fits right between. It has a 1-inch, 20.2-megapixel sensor and a 28-105mm (approximate 35mm equivalent) ƒ/1.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens. The RX100 can shoot full HD video up to 1920×1080 at 60p, and the ISO range is 125-6400. List Price: $649. Contact: Sony, (877) 865-7669, www.store.sony.com.

If you want an even larger sensor, the newly announced stablemate to the RX100 is the Sony Cyber-shot RX1. This remarkable camera features a full-frame, 24.3-megapixel image sensor and an ISO range from 100-25,600. The RX1 has a fixed 35mm ƒ/2.0 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T lens. This camera may be the ultimate pro street shooter. The RX1 is a premium camera, and it costs a premium. List Price: $2,799. Contact: Sony, (877) 865-7669, www.store.sony.com.

The Fujifilm FinePix X100 is a large-sensor compact camera with a 12-megapixel APS-C sensor and a single-focal-length lens with an approximate 35mm equivalent of 35mm. That lens is a classic focal length for photojournalism, and it has a fast ƒ/2 maximum aperture. The X100 is small enough to have with you just about all the time. One of the coolest features is the hybrid viewfinder, which can be changed from optical to electronic via a thumb switch on the camera body. You can shoot 1280×720 HD video at 24 fps. List Price: $1,199. Contact: Fujifilm, (800) 800-FUJI, www.fujifilm.com.

AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm F/3.5-5.6G ED VR ZOOM
Featuring a huge 16.7X zoom ratio, the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm F/3.5-5.6G ED VR zoom from Nikon provides equivalent focal lengths of 27mm wide-angle to 450mm supertelephoto on a full-frame or 35mm camera, and it automatically crops to those DX focal lengths when attached to a full-frame Nikon DSLR, yet it measures just 3.3×4.7 inches and weighs 29.3 ounces. It focuses down to 1.5 feet at 300mm for a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:3 (0.32X). Three ED elements and three aspherical elements enhance performance, while VR II vibration reduction helps keep handheld shots sharp. List Price: $999. Contact: Nikon USA, (800) NIKON-US, www.nikonusa.com.

Store up to 500 GB of images on the Flashpoint DataBank 500. With a transfer rate of up to 5 MB/sec., the drive can safely copy about 1 GB of data in about 3.5 minutes. It’s compatible with most popular memory card formats and is small enough to be used as a portable drive out in the field. All image formats are supported, including RAW. When transfering files, the backlit screen lets you know the status, as well as remaining drive capacity and battery charge. Estimated Street Price: $199. Contact: Flashpoint (Adorama), (800) 223-2500, www.adorama.com.

In short, the ANOVA LED from Rotolight is the ultimate in current lighting technology. Alongside all of the advantages of high-powered LED lights, like cool heat output and minimal power draw, the ANOVA also features WiFi networking, which means you can control and change settings from networked computers, as well as the Magic Eye application for remote control over brightness, system settings and color temperature from iPhones and iPads. The LED array also offers an adjustable color temperature range from 3150K to daylight at 6300K. Similar to an oversized ringlight, the output produces minimal shadows and an even spread of flattering illumination. You even can mount and use an unlimited number of ANOVA LED lights together. Estimated Street Price: $2,599 (LED); $2,820 (LED Flight Case Kit); $6 (Magic Eye app). Contact: Rotolight (R.T.S. Inc.), (631) 242-6801, www.rtsphoto.com.

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Making exhibition-quality prints up to 13 inches wide doesn’t mean you have to invest thousands. The Epson Stylus Photo R2880 features Epson UltraChrome K3 inks with Vivid Magenta (like those used in the professional Stylus Pro 3880), reproducing an exceptional color gamut, including truer reds, blues and purples. For black-and-white fans, this pigment-based inkset also has three levels of black for smoother tonal gradations. The R2880 even features a smaller droplet size than some of its more expensive siblings—just 3 picoliters—for precise rendering of fine details. Estimated Street Price: $449. Contact: Epson, (800) GO-EPSON, www.epson.com.

The process of doing a polished conversion from color to black-and-white used to be laborious and Photoshop-intensive. Nik Software Silver Efex Pro 2 is the newest version of the powerful plug-in that makes it easy to do high-end conversions with complete control. Nik’s famous U-Point technology allows you to make subtle or dramatic adjustments to large or small areas in the photo. There’s a broad range of presets, or you can make your own custom adjustments. List Price: $99. Contact: Nik Software, www.niksoftware.com.

Want extreme telephoto focal lengths but don’t have thousands of dollars to invest? Consider a mirror lens like the Pro-Optic 500mm f/6.3 from Adorama. It retails for just $140, giving you serious telephoto perspective for a very affordable price. Mirror lenses are significantly smaller and less expensive than an equivalent glass optic telephoto. They’re manual focus, but they offer big telephoto reach in an affordable and relatively compact package. There’s also a model for Micro 4/3 system cameras priced at $159. Contact: Pro-Optic (Adorama), (800) 223-2500, www.adorama.com.

The Sigma APO Macro 180mm F/2.8 EX DG OS HSM lens offers a number of benefits for the close-up shooter. It provides its maximum 1:1 (life-size) magnification at a working distance of 18.5 inches, handy when photographing flighty subjects like butterflies. Its wide ƒ/2.8 maximum aperture provides narrow depth of field for selective-focus shots. The built-in OS Optical Stabilizer makes for sharper handheld shots, while the Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) provides quick and quiet autofocusing. Three FLD elements minimize aberrations, and a nine-blade diaphragm produces pleasant out-of-focus areas. The lens measures 3.7×8.0 inches, weighs 57.8 ounces and is available in mounts for Canon, Nikon, Sigma and Sony/Minolta DSLRs. List Price: $2,400. Contact: Sigma, (800) 896-6858, www.sigmaphoto.com.

The Intuos5 touch Large is the perfect hybrid of digital technology and the classic approach to image editing and design. For photographers who prefer to work hands-on, the digital pen tablet provides ample working space with a massive 12.8×8.0-inch active area and an incredibly sensitive pen with 2,048 levels of pressure for making subtle or not-so-subtle image edits. The digital drawing tablet makes image edits superfast and easy to perform thanks to a multitouch surface and several background tools that have been incorporated seamlessly into the design. The multitouch surface allows you to use finger gestures for zooming or rotating the canvas. You can assign several shortcuts for giving frequently used processes one-touch access through eight user-assignable ExpressKeys and a Touch Ring that can control up to four functions. The optional Wireless Accessory Kit lets you perform edits from up to 32 feet away. List Price: $469 (Intuos5 touch Large); $39 (Wireless Accessory Kit). Contact: Wacom, (800) 922-6613, www.wacom.com.

TAMRON SP 60mm F/2 Di II 1:1 MACRO
We love macro photography because it gives us the ability to experience small subjects and even tinier details in a way we can’t with the naked eye. For true macro work, you need a macro lens like the Tamron SP 60mm F/2 Di II 1:1 Macro. Designed for APS-C-sensor cameras (35mm equivalent of 93mm), the lens is available in Canon, Nikon and Sony mounts. With a fast ƒ/2 aperture, the lens is great not only for macro shots, but for portraiture, too. Estimated Street Price: $524. Contact: Tamron USA, (631) 858-8400, www.tamron-usa.com.

The Tamrac Aria camera bag is stylish, discrete and practical. Made from a rich, smooth fabric that feels like silk, but is durable, the Aria looks like a messenger bag so you can travel under the radar in crowded, busy places. It holds a DSLR with a lens attached, a second lens and a third lens or flash. A foam-padded compartment holds an iPad, and a zippered, pleated front pocket holds accessories an

d other items. Two slim side pockets hold a phone or iPod, and the silver interior lining makes it easy to find everything. List Price: $99. Contact: Tamrac, (800) 662-0717, www.tamrac.com.

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The Canon EF 8-15mm F/4 L is one of the most fun lenses we’ve ever used. We love to shoot wide and superwide-angle, and this fisheye zoom is sharp, reasonably fast and creates the distorted fisheye effect that we like to experiment with. Technologically, it’s a game-changer that can be used on an APS-C or a full-frame camera. On an APS-C camera, it’s a full-frame fisheye (meaning there’s no vignetting) from 10-15mm (there’s a limit switch on the lens to keep you from going too wide), and on a full-frame camera, it’s a full-frame fisheye at 15mm. As you zoom out to 8mm, you get the classic “Hawaii 5-0” keyhole fisheye effect. List Price: $1,499. Contact: Canon, (800) OK-CANON, www.usa.canon.com.

If you shoot a lot of portraits, check out Portrait Professional, an incredibly powerful tool for smoothing and perfecting complexions and refining facial features quickly and easily. A step-by-step process walks you through the adjustments. Three versions are available: Standard, Studio and Studio 64. The Studio version adds RAW file support, 48-bit color and batch processing; Studio 64 also adds optimization for 64-bit operating systems and unlimited file sizes. List Price: From $62. Contact: Anthropics, (971) 238-0917, www.portraitprofessional.com.

The Rogue Flashbender is one of the most useful lighting modifiers we’ve ever used. Small flashes are incredibly useful, and with today’s high-ISO capabilities, these small flash units can be used for a lot of sophisticated lighting, but you need to be able to control the light. The Flashbender weighs almost nothing, and it fits in a small camera bag, yet it can be used to direct, soften, harden, flag and snoot the flash. List Price: $39 (Large); $34 (Small). Contact: ExpoImaging, (800) 446-5086, www.expoimaging.com.

Whether you prefer shooting indoors or out, a wide-angle zoom is a must-have for your DSLR system. For getting really wide, the Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX II delivers an equivalent focal length range of about 17-24mm on an APS-C camera. The 11-16mm lens is fast with a constant ƒ/2.8 aperture that’s helpful when working in low light. With the one-touch Focus Clutch Mechanism, you can go from manual focus to autofocus and back instantly. Estimated Street Price: $739. Contact: Tokina (THK Photo Products), (800) 421-1141, www.thkphoto.com.

Adobe’s masterful Lightroom editing suite adds more capabilities with each new release at the same time that it streamlines its considerable processing and image-management workflows. Lightroom 4 has welcomed a few new additions, like video compatibility and a new Map mode for working with the GPS abilities of your camera. Another important addition is localized adjustments of noise reduction, white balance and other settings for performing more efficient edits to select areas of an image. Lightroom 4 also has been made part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud membership, which allows you to rent Adobe software, as needed. This is a far more cost-effective approach to using the Photoshop series of products, especially if you’re doing less editing in Photoshop thanks to the comprehensive abilities of Lightroom 4. List Price: $149 (Lightroom 4); $19 a month (Creative Cloud single app); $49 a month (Creative Cloud Complete annual license). Contact: Adobe, (800) 833-6687, www.adobe.com.

In the age of social media, getting your images online quickly is integral to keeping your fans and friends updated on your work, one of the reasons why smartphones are stealing the thunder from compact cameras. But now compacts are fighting back by incorporating WiFi abilities and, what’s more, they still offer all of the advantages that a dedicated camera has over a smart device, like manual settings, enhanced image quality, better optics, optical zooming rather than digital cropping, minimal noise, higher light sensitivities, large storage capacities and so much more. Several new cameras such as the Canon PowerShot S110, Nikon Coolpix S800c and Samsung NX210 sport WiFi, which makes it simple to upload images to the web right from the camera, and the potential exists for applications to be developed for using these cameras in new and exciting ways that even the manufacturers may not have imagined. List Price: $449 (Canon PowerShot S110); $349 (Nikon Coolpix S800c); $899 (Samsung NX210).

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Steadicam improved upon its popular, but aging Merlin handheld stabilization system for video DSLRs and smaller camcorders this year with its filmmaking sequel, the Merlin 2. Built to be much more robust and even more precise than the previous model, the Merlin 2 gives you floating-like control over your camera for level shots and extended takes. For achieving movie-like camera pans and tracking takes, you need a sophisticated balancing system like the Merlin 2, especially since DSLRs are incredibly prone to jelly-motion and skew from jerky movements. It supports cameras from 0.5 to 5 pounds. Estimated Street Price: $799. Contact: Steadicam (Tiffen Company), (631) 273-2500, www.tiffen.com.

Give your lenses more options using the Novoflex lens adapters. This year, the lineup expanded with support for the Nikon 1 and Pentax Q mirrorless camera systems. There are more than 125 available models, including some to fit medium-format lenses to SLR and rangefinder cameras, and to fit popular SLR lenses to mirrorless cameras. Some models incorporate an aperture-control ring so you can adjust apertures with lenses that lack one, such as the Nikon G series. Estimated Street Price: Varies. Contact: Novoflex (HP Marketing Corp.), (800) 735-4373, www.hpmarketingcorp.com.

Video capability in DSLRs has ignited a whole industry dedicated to making still cameras more useful for motion videography. The Manfrotto SYMPLA modular video rig system gives your camera steady support for long takes, and several cinematic tools can be added to enhance the look of the video. There are several options with the configurable kits, like adjustable hand grips for more comfortable holding, counterbalance for evening out the distribution of the camera’s weight and various accessories and components that include follow-focus units, remote controls and matte boxes. SYMPLA is available piecemeal or in kits. Estimated Street Price: Begins at $64. Contact: Manfrotto Distribution, (201) 818-9500, www.manfrotto.us.

This neat little kit provides all you need to mount a camera or other photo gear (up to 6.6 pounds) on a wide variety of surfaces. Included are a mini-ballhead, mini-tripod, suction cup, ground spike, universal clamp (1.7-inch opening), plastic clamp and a 5.9-inch metal rod. You can store each accessory in the included padded bag, which measures just 10.4×7.5×1.4 inches and weighs only 1.3 pounds. List Price: $163. Contact: Novoflex (HP Marketing Corp.), (800) 735-4373, www.hpmarketingcorp.com.

Lighting equipment can be intimidating for the beginner. A reflector is one of the simplest lighting tools to master and is also among the most cost-effective and useful lighting tools you can carry. The Westcott 6-in-1 Illuminator Reflector Kit includes gold, silver, sunlight and black panels, plus 1-stop and 2-stop diffusers in a compact kit that includes a travel case and collapses to one-third of its open size. Available in several sizes, the 20-inch kit is a perfect balance of utility and portability. List Price: From $83 (20-inch kit). Contact: Westcott, (800) 886-1689, www.fjwestcott.com.

Bay Photo Creative Edge Metal prints immediately appealed to us because they take the art of photography to a different place, mixing uncommon materials with unique, decorative design. By infusing dyes into specially coated aluminum sheets, Bay Photo can produce beautiful photo prints on an extremely durable metal substrate. To make the finished product even more sculptural, you can choose to have the metal print cut to one of 24 shapes, ideal for making a creative statement. Sizes range from 5×5 inches to 30×30 inches. List Price: From $20. Contact: Bay Photo, (800) 435-6686, www.bayphoto.com.

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With digital cameras now delivering huge image files and multi-gigabyte HD video, too, storage speed is becoming almost as essential as storage space for photographers. Thunderbolt is a new connection technology developed by Intel that can transfer data at up to 10 Gb/s—almost 20 times faster than USB 2.0, which can make a considerable difference in the time you spend backing up your image library. The G-Technology G-RAID drive with Thunderbolt is currently available in 4 TB and 8 TB models. Estimated Street Price: $599 (4 TB). Contact: G-Technology, (310) 449-4599, www.g-technology.com.

One of the challenges of flash photography is that you can’t preview the effect of the flash as you’re composing. We’re big fans of LED lights because we can leave them on continuously while adjusting their position and brightness to suit the scene. With the Litepanels Croma, we not only can adjust brightness, but we even can adjust the color temperature of the light to match the ambient light, indoors or out. It’s also very compact and portable, with options to run on an AC adapter or powered by six AA batteries for about 1.5 hours. Estimated Street Price: $584. Contact: Litepanels, (818) 752-7009, www.litepanels.com.

Sometimes you just need to take a small amount of photo gear with you. The Lowepro Urban Photo Sling is a smaller camera bag that comes in two sizes: 150 (10.6×7.2×11.6 inches) and 250 (10.8x8x13.6 inches), ideal for this purpose. You can wear it in front, in back or on the side, and load from the top or with the front panel fully opened. Each model has a padded tablet compartment, an adjustable and removable padded divider system, and a hideaway waist belt. Contact: Lowepro, (800) 800-LOWE, www.lowepro.com.

With the popularity of shooting stills and HD video, as well as the explosion in time-lapse, a tabletop tripod should be a standard piece of everyone’s photo kit today. The Cullmann Magnesit Copter folds up to fit in your camera bag without difficulty, but it’s able to hold a DSLR and lens (up to 8.8 pounds) steady. The legs are designed such that when folded up they make a comfortable handle or small monopod (at about 6.25 inches high, it’s a very small monopod, but you have the option). When the legs are deployed, the tripod is a little more than three inches high. Estimated Street Price: $29. Contact: Cullmann (R.T.S. Inc.), (631) 242-6801, www.rtsphoto.com.

For taking better portraits, the Interfit Strobies Portrait Kit features helpful lightweight extras that won’t weigh you down when you’re on the move. A beauty dish, which is a flattering forward-facing reflector, globe diffuser, softbox, barndoors, snoot and honeycomb grid are all included. The system requires separate Flex Mounts, available in sizes for most popular flash models. The mounts fit securely on your flash and require no glue, Velcro® or rubber bands. Estimated Street Price: $129 (kit); $8 each (Flex Mount). Contact: Interfit Photographic, www.interfitphotographic.com.

The GoPro HEROs are tiny digital video cameras that can be worn or mounted just about anywhere, great for subject’s-eye views and other unique “in-the-action” shooting. The new HERO3 comes in three versions, and the top Black Edition can do 4K video (also 2.7K, 1440p48, 1080p60 and 720p120), as well as take 12-megapixel stills at up to 30 fps in burst mode. It comes with a waterproof housing (good to depths of 197 feet), built-in WiFi, a WiFi Remote unit, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and a variety of mounting hardware. The sensor and built-in ultrawide-angle ƒ/2.8 lens provide good low-light performance. The camera records mono sound and has a 3.5mm jack for an external stereo mic. List Price: $399. Contact: GoPro, www.gopro.com.

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One of the great things about digital is that you can preview your image on the camera’s LCD monitor and examine it right after shooting. One of the not-so-great things about digital is that it’s very difficult to see that image in bright outdoor conditions. The Hoodman HoodLoupe 3.0 fits over the LCD monitor, eliminating glare, while its built-in +/- 3 diopter eyepiece provides a clear view of the image. The unit comes with a neck lanyard and protective case with belt loupe. The optional Cinema Strap ($19) or Hood Crane ($79) holds the HoodLoupe 3.0 in position for hands-free operation. List Price: $79. Contact: Hoodman USA, (800) 818-3946, www.hoodmanusa.com.

If you’re like most people, the camera you have most of the time is the one in your phone. If that’s an iPhone, Schneider Optics has created a clever kit for stepping up your photography. Designed for the iPhone 4 and 4S, the iPro Master Trio kit consists of wide-angle, fisheye and 2x tele models. Using a bayonet mount, the lenses securely fasten to a standalone bumper case, twist on and off, and have metal lens barrels. A pocket-sized case serves as a protector, universal tripod mount and grip. List Price: $299. Contact: Schneider Optics, (818) 766-3715,
www.iprolens.com .

Creating more interesting light is a surefire way of taking better pictures, especially of people. The LumiQuest Location/Portrait Kit provides a great solution. It includes the Softbox III, Snoot XTR, FXtra and two UltraStraps. The Softbox III is about 20 times the size of a portable flash head so the light it produces is soft and fitting for portraits. The Snoot XTR can be used for hair or accent light, and the FXtra is a nine-piece colored gel kit. All attach to your flash using nonadhesive straps. Estimated Street Price: $85. Contact: LumiQuest, (800) 332-4644, www.lumiquest.com.

Having an all-in-one editing solution saves a lot of time when you’re polishing up your photos. Perfect Photo Suite 7 from onOne Software allows you to convert to black-and-white, retouch portraits, enlarge for print and more. Perfect Effects 4, Perfect Portrait 2, Perfect Layers 3, Perfect Mask 5.2, FocalPoint 2, Perfect Resize 7.5 Pro, which is powered by Genuine Fractals technology, and the new Perfect B&W are all included. You can move seamlessly between each program while editing. Estimated Street Price: $299. Contact: onOne Software, (888) 968-1468, www.ononesoftware.com.

Featuring special MRC (Multi Resistant Coatings) with nanotechnology, the B+W XS-Pro Digital filters provide excellent antireflection characteristics, color reproduction and contrast, and minimize ghosting caused by reflections from digital image sensors. Brass mounting rings with a matte black finish and an extra-thin design minimize vignetting with superwide-angle and zoom lenses. Clear, UV and Kasemann circular polarizing filters are available in sizes from 49mm through 82mm; clear and UV are also available in 86mm. List Price: $92 to $306 (clear and UV); $221 to $506 (polarizer). Contact: Schneider Optics, (800) 228-1254, www.schneideroptics.com.

Add some flair to how you carry your camera using a stylish strap from Mod. Built with durable webbing tested to withstand a “pull-down” weight of 70 to 90 pounds, the Premium Strap Collection models are lined with high-quality, mink-like fabric and have genuine leather ends with quick release. Fabrics are hand-selected, and pattern designs include black zebra, kaleidoscope, skull and crossbones, and many more. Estimated Street Price: $47. Contact: OmegaBrandess, (410) 374-3250, www.omegabrandess.com.