2014 Editors' Choice Awards

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Wouldn’t it be awesome to have an interchangeable-lens camera that’s virtually impervious to the elements, one you even could use to dive into underwater photography without the hassle and expense of underwater housings? The new Nikon 1 AW1, when paired with one of two new Nikkor lenses specially designed for it, is waterproof down to 49 feet, freezeproof to 14º F and can withstand drops of up to 6.6 feet. It’s as fast as it is rugged, capturing photos at up to 15 fps with AF. It also does full 1080 HD video with a built-in mic for stereo sound. List Price: $799 (with 1 Nikkor AW 11-27.5mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 waterproof zoom). Contact: Nikon, www.nikonusa.com.—WP

SIGMA 18-35mm F/1.8 DC HSM
The constant-aperture record was broken this year by Sigma’s 18-35mm F/1.8 DC HSM lens, which offers APS-C-based cameras an extremely bright constant aperture of ƒ/1.8 throughout the 35mm equivalent zoom range of 27-53mm. This is, interestingly, faster than the aperture you’ll find on the majority of equivalent wide-angle primes. Since the lens is APS-C, it’s also compact at less than five inches in length. It’s compatible with Sigma’s USB dock for making micro adjustments to focusing accuracy through Sigma Optimization Pro software, and it’s available in Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma and Sony APS-C mounts. Estimated Street Price: $799. Contact: Sigma, www.sigmaphoto.com. —DW

Great for people with eyeglasses or who want a magnified view, the Flashpoint Swivi HD DSLR LCD Universal Foldable Viewfinder Version II with 3.0x Magnification Mode helps view details and obtain clear focus and accurate exposure on an LCD screen, even on a bright day. The viewfinder loupe attaches to the camera with a mounting plate and fits on most DSLRs with a 3-inch LCD. The rubber eyecup can be rotated for either right- or left-eye-dominant shooting. Estimated Street Price: $150. Contact: Flashpoint (Adorama), www.adorama.com. —AMT

When Adobe rolled out the Creative Cloud with its steep $49.99 monthly fee, it was predictably controversial. It offered access to a huge range of expensive, powerful software like Adobe Premiere, Photoshop, InDesign and more. For photographers who spend some time with Photoshop and almost no time with the rest of the software, the monthly costs didn’t resonate. So when Adobe unveiled their Creative Cloud Photoshop Photography Program for $9.99 per month, they gave most of us exactly what we need at a good price. You get Photoshop CC, Lightroom and Bridge CC. This is a limited-time offer; it expires at the end of December 2013. Contact: Adobe, www.adobe.com. —CR

Traditional camera neck straps are popular because they let you be hands-free, but they’re not necessarily the best choice for covering events like weddings or when going from tripod to handheld. Cotton Carrier’s Hand Strap with Arca-Swiss-compatible mini-plate lets you shoot handheld compositions with greater security than the camera grip alone can provide. It also makes it easier to work with heavier camera bodies and lenses without the neck strain of a conventional strap. Pair it with your own quick-release plate for fast transitions from tripod to handheld. List Price: $20. Contact: Cotton Carrier, www.cottoncarrier.com. —WP

It’s a pocket camera that shoots real pro 1080 HD video and costs just $995. The Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema camera looks like a typical mirrorless camera, but can shoot 1080 video at 23.96, 24, 25, 29.97 and 30p, in lossless CinemaDNG RAW and Apple ProRes 422 (HQ), with stereo sound via built-in or external microphone. Its 1920×1080-pixel Super 16 sensor delivers 1920×1080 video with a 13-stop dynamic range and none of the severe downsampling required by multi-megapixel DSLRs, and its size lets you position it where no DSLR could fit. The active MFT mount accepts Micro Four Thirds lenses. Contact: Blackmagic Design, www.blackmagicdesign.com. —MS

I shoot more photographs and motion clips than ever before. Between my DSLR, mirrorless camera and my GoPro, I’m creating terabytes of files, and I’m always reluctant to permanently d

elete any of them. This ever-growing library of still images and motion clips has made storage a serious issue. The G-Technology Evolution series has removable drive cartridges that can connect via USB (USB 3.0) if I want to use one on the road, and the desktop enclosure has a Thunderbolt interface for maximum transfer speeds. The Evolution drive ships with two 1 TB drives. Estimated Street Price: $749 (2 TB). Contact: G-Technology, www.g-technology.com. —CR

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Sony’s new QX Lens Style cameras showcase what WiFi technology can bring to the table. Currently available in two models, the DSC-QX100 and DSC-QX10, Sony has placed a dedicated sensor and NFC wireless communication in each lens module so you can capture images right in the lens or preview and control settings from iOS and Android smart devices while sharing them to the web. The 1-inch, 20.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor in the QX100 is identical to the sensor found in the highly regarded Cyber-shot RX100 II camera, while the QX10 offers an 18-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor and Sony G lens with 10x optical zoom. With 1080p video capture available in 30 fps, they’re also very useful as compact video cameras that can be placed in a part of the scene too difficult to fit a large camcorder or even a DSLR. The camera and lens hybrids can be operated manually, and they can also be mounted directly to smartphones, if desired. List Price: $499 (DSC-QX100); $249 (DSC-QX10). Contact: Sony, www.sony.com. —DW

BlackRapid’s sling straps provide comfortable carrying and quick access to your camera. The Sport R-Strap features an underarm brad for added stability when you’re on the move. It’s available in right- and left-handed versions, and regular and slim models to suit users of all sizes. The straps can be hand- or machine-washed, and air-dried. Estimated Street Price: $74. Contact: BlackRapid, www.blackrapid.com. —MS

Reflectors are a must-have lighting accessory. They’re portable, require no power and are easy to use—anyone can quickly learn to be your lighting assistant. Photoflex MultiDisc 7-in-1 reflectors are also extremely versatile, with seven different surfaces in one compact, collapsible design that folds to one-third its size. There’s reflective white, silver and gold surfaces, a translucent panel for diffusion, a black panel to create shadows and a new SunLite color panel that’s less reflective than Soft Gold for a subtler effect that won’t blind your subject. Available in 22-, 32- and 44-inch models. Estimated Street Price: From $99 (22-inch model). Contact: Photoflex, www.photoflex.com. —WP

TAMRON SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD
Costing considerably less than a camera-brand stabilized 70-200mm ƒ/2.8, Tamron’s SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD nonetheless provides excellent optical performance, with 23 elements in 17 groups that include four LD types and one XLD type to minimize chromatic aberrations. Tamron’s VC vibration compensation counters up-down, side-to-side and diagonal camera shake, while the USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) AF motor delivers quick and quiet autofocusing. The lens is moisture-resistant and available in mounts for Canon, Nikon and Sony DSLRs (the Sony-mount version doesn’t have VC, since Sony DSLRs have built-in sensor-shift stabilization). Estimated Street Price: $1,499. Contact: Tamron, www.tamron-usa.com. —MS

2013 was truly the year of WiFi, with a number of cameras and other gear incorporating their own personal wireless hot spots. This feature allows photographers to access settings and share images from smart devices and applications, which is very useful on its own, but the Samsung Galaxy NX mirrorless camera expands on the concept by incorporating the Android operating system right into the camera. While the price point is a bit high, what you receive is a high-quality, 20.3-megapixel sensor, interchangeable Samsung NX lens mount, Advanced Hybrid Autofocus system, and the similar feature set and application capabilities that you can find on smartphones and tablets, including cloud access to your images and files. List Price: $1,699 (with 18-55mm zoom). Contact: Samsung, www.samsung.com. —DW

With new editing features, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 can cover your entire workflow, from photo organization to editing and sharing. A GPS location-based system groups photos for organization and creating photo journeys. The Upright tool straightens lens distortion, the Radial Gradient now creates off-center vignettes, and the Advanced Healing brush completely removes unwanted objects. Lightroom 5 is available as part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud

or as a standalone license. List Price: $149; $79 (upgrade). Contact: Adobe, www.adobe.com. —AMT

The Triggertrap Mobile 2.0 smartphone app gives you the ability to control your camera from a distance with a wide range of innovative creative options. Connecting to an SLR using the Triggertrap WiFi-enabled dongle, the app lets you control everything from basic shutter control to advanced Sensor Controls based on sound and vibrations, and DistanceLapse based on a set GPS distance—great for time-lapse in the car or on a bike. An added plus is the abil-ity to continue running these settings in the background of your phone, while using another app or when it’s locked to save battery power. The dongle connects to your smartphone via the device’s Personal Hotspot mode. List Price: $31 (Dongle Kit); Free (app). Contact: Triggertrap, triggertrap.com. —AMT

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Long exposures create an effect that I like from time to time. Most people are familiar with the cotton-candy effect you can make with moving water and a long exposure, but that’s just one use. The challenge comes when you’re shooting in bright conditions that don’t allow you to get a slow shutter speed. The Kenko HD Vario ND filter gives me fine control over a huge range from about 1.5 to 8.5 stops of neutral density. It’s available in 77mm and 82mm. Estimated Street Price: $260 (77mm); $350 (82mm). Contact: Kenko Tokina USA, www.kenkotokinausa.com. —CR

Like a lot of photographers, I’ve been riding the wave of DSLR filmmaking. When I saw the new Canon EOS 70D, I wanted one immediately. The camera has Canon’s new Dual Pixel CMOS AF System, which provides a combination of contrast-detect and phase-detect AF for fast, accurate autofocus in still and motion shooting and in low light. For motion capture, in particular, the touch screen lets me choose an AF area and smoothly rack focus when I’m shooting video. This is an impressive and useful feature because it gives me a sophisticated move that usually requires a dedicated focus puller. Estimated Street Price: $1,199. Contact: Canon, www.usa.canon.com. —CR

Durable, waterproof hard cases like the SKB iSeries 1914 Pro DSLR case not only are great for shielding your gear from the turbulence of traveling, but also for keeping it organized and protected at home. With customizable spaces for up to two DSLRs, four lenses and accessories like memories cards, chargers and batteries, you can have your whole system neatly packed and ready for any photo adventure. When you’re on the move, there’s a slide-out handle and wheels for easy portage, plus TSA lockable trigger release latches. Estimated Street Price: $279. Contact: SKB Cases, www.skbcases.com. —WP

The Sigma USB dock gives me the ability to customize select Sigma lenses with my computer. This is one of the most useful and cool tools of the year for me because it lets me personalize my lens for the way I’m going to shoot, and I control the settings through an easy-to-navigate computer interface. The USB dock is currently compatible with five of Sigma’s lenses and more are expected. The USB dock enables firmware updates, AF speed and the focus range to limit the lens’ hunting range. The dock is compatible with Mac OS X 10.7 or later and Windows 7 or later. Estimated Street Price: $59. Contact: Sigma Photo, www.sigmaphoto.com. —CR

Steadicam’s Solo Stabilizer & Monopod is doubly useful as an image-stabilization device for DSLRs and smaller camcorders weighing up to 10 pounds. In Stabilizer mode, it gives video the smooth panning and tracking shots that you see in movies, with the sophisticated counterbalance system that has made Steadicam a household name in the filmmaking industry. The device transforms quickly into a monopod system, which is useful in video for quick support and fast tracking or swiveling shots. A compatible vest system with sled and arm is available for long handheld takes. List Price: $499 (Solo Stabilizer & Monopod); $995 (Steadicam Solo Arm Vest Kit). Contact: Steadicam (Tiffen Company), www.tiffen.com. —DW

AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm F/4.5-5.6G ED?VR
This long-awaited successor to Nikon’s original AF 80-400mm VR zoom finally arrived

in 2013, and was worth the wait. The AF-S Silent Wave motor provides much quicker autofocusing (the original lens didn’t have an AF motor, using the AF motor in the camera body instead, and thus autofocusing only with bodies that had an AF motor), and the new optical design (with four ED elements and one Super ED element versus three ED elements in the earlier lens) delivers better image quality. The newer Vibration Reduction (VR) system is better, rated at 4 stops compared to 2 stops for the original lens. Maximum magnification is 0.2X at the minimum focusing distance of 5.7 feet. The lens covers FX (full-frame) format, but also works well with DX (APS-C). Estimated Street Price: $2,699. Contact: Nikon, www.nikonusa.com. —MS

With a dustproof, splashproof and freezeproof magnesium-alloy body, the 16.3-megapixel Olympus OM-D E-M1 provides high-quality images for the active photographer. It utilizes a Dual Fast AF system, making it fully compatible with both the ZUIKO and M.ZUIKO digital lens lines. The TruePic VII image processor enables fast shooting at up to 10 fps. A high-resolution electronic viewfinder provides a large coverage area, with adaptive brightness adjusting to conditions. Built-in WiFi connects with your smart device using the Olympus Image Share 2.0 smartphone app for remote viewfinder control and triggering. Estimated Street Price: $1,399. Contact: Olympus, www.getolympus.com. —AMT

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In my writeup on the Canon EOS 70D, I mentioned how much more motion shooting I’m doing these days. The CamRanger has become a favorite tool for me, for motion capture, in particular. The wireless system lets me control the camera from my iPad (you can use a variety of tablets or smartphones), and it gives me a large, live image that’s reminiscent of working with a large-format view camera. I can manipulate camera settings and adjust focus, and the system works up to 150 feet away. That working distance also makes it a great option for remote setups. Check with CamRanger to confirm compatibility with your camera. Estimated Street Price: $299. Contact: CamRanger, www.camranger.com. —CR

There are two big problems with live-view shooting (which includes video)—it can be hard to see the image on the external LCD monitor in bright light conditions, and holding the camera out at arm’s length to use the monitor isn’t the most stable way to shoot. Enter Hoodman’s Custom Finder Kit. The kit includes a HoodLoupe that fits over the LCD monitor, blocking extraneous light and providing convenient eye-to-camera shooting. Then there’s the HoodLoupe Mag 3.0 eyecup, which provides 3X magnification. The kit also includes a Custom Finder Baseplate to securely attach the HoodLoupe to any DSLR, with or without battery grip. Kits are available for 3.2- and 3.0-inch LCD monitors. Estimated Street Price: $229; $129 (baseplate available separately for those who have a HoodLoupe 3.0 or 3.2. Contact: Hoodman, www.hoodmanusa.com. —MS

CANON EF 200-400mm F/4L USM EXTENDER 1.4x
If the 200mm-400mm zoom range wasn’t enough, Canon’s EF 200-400mm ƒ/4L IS USM telephoto zoom with 1.4x extender is the first lens to incorporate a built-in teleconverter. This extends the lens coverage to 280mm-560mm with a constant aperture that drops from ƒ/4.0 sans teleconverter to ƒ/5.6 when engaged. Canon claims up to four stops of shake reduction with three modes of image stabilization to compensate for such an extended telephoto range. The EF 200-400mm ƒ/4L is a highly capable L-series lens, so it offers very high MFT ratings for sharpness and color reproduction, while the minimum focusing distance of 6.6 feet is also remarkable for the short working distance with a telephoto zoom. All of this does come with a price point to match. List Price: $11,799. Contact: Canon, www.usa.canon.com. —DW

Pros know that bad weather often creates dramatic light and stunning photographs. It’s for just those photo opportunities that camera protection like the LensCoat RainCoat 2 Pro is essential gear, protecting your camera from stormy downpours, dust, dirt and oceanside salt spray. Two sizes are available to accommodate your camera and a standard zoom or a larger telephoto. Made from lightweight, waterproof poly tricot, the RainCoat 2 Pro is available in several colors, including camouflage options for wildlife photographers. Integrated pockets give you easy access to camera and lens controls without compromising protection. List Price: $125. Contact: LensCoat, www.lenscoat.com. —WP

Like its K-30 predecessor, the affordably priced K-50 has a lot going for it. It’s fully weather-sealed, cold- and dustproof (some DSLRs that cost $1,000 more a

ren’t), it has a pentaprism viewfinder that shows 100% of the actual image area (other cameras in this price range have dimmer pentamirror finders), and its 16.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS image sensor delivers excellent image quality. The K-50 has a very effective sensor-shift shake-reduction system that works with all lenses, can shoot at 6 fps and provides a top shutter speed of 1?6000 sec. Video fans can shoot 1080 full HD at 30p and 720 HD at 60p. Like all Pentax DSLRs, the K-50 can use any Pentax lens (note that not all are weatherproof like the camera body). And you can get a K-50 in your choice of 120 color combinations. Estimated Street Price: $699. Contact: Ricoh Imaging, www.ricoh-imaging.com. —MS

Camera manufacturers have been knocking it out of the park when it comes to recent mirrorless camera designs, but mirrorless systems are still fairly new, so current lens lines are lacking quite a few of the focal lengths available for DSLRs. The Metabones Speed Booster line of lens adapters will let you marry a number of lens systems across different camera mounts, like Canon EF to Sony NEX (which includes camcorders), Sony A-mount to Sony NEX, Leica R to Fuji X, Nikon G to Micro Four Thirds and others. Highly regarded lenses from Contarex and Contax Yashica are also supported for bargain lens hunters. Speed Boosters widen attached lenses by 0.71x and increase the aperture by an entire stop to achieve faster shutter speeds and more shallow depth of field, as well. List Price: Begins at $399. Contact: Metabones, www.metabones.com. —DW

When you want the option of tripod stability, but don’t have room for the tripod, the Manfrotto PIXI might be the answer, as the 8-ounce, stainless-steel mini-tripod measures only 7 inches when closed, making it compact, light and convenient to carry. The push-button ball joint releases quickly for camera positioning, tilting 35º vertically and 360º horizontally. It supports 1.4 pounds, and it’s compatible with iPhones (using the KLYP case, available separately), compact cameras, mirrorless cameras and smaller DSLRs. Estimated Street Price: $28. Contact: Manfrotto, www.manfrotto.us/pixi. —AMT

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RICK SAMMON’S PHOTO SUNDIAL APP Our friend and longtime contributor Rick Sammon’s new Photo Sundial app designed for iOS 7 is an excellent reference for any photographer shooting outdoors. View the current position of the sun relative to your surroundings and where shadows will fall, check sunrise and sunset times for your locale, see weather forecasts and more to help you get the best natural light photographs. The app also includes a photo gallery with Rick’s top tips for sunrise and sunset photos. List Price: $5 from the iTunes App Store. Contact: Rick Sammon, ricksammon.com. —WP

As more photographers adopt mirrorless cameras, we’re also looking for high-quality lenses to go with them. Zeiss has created light, compact autofocus lenses specifically for APS-C sensors that are fully compatible with the Sony NEX- and Fujifilm X-series cameras. The wide-angle Touit 2.8/12 and the standard-focal-length Touit 1.8/32 lenses are built from robust metals to withstand heavy usage. A grippy focus ring aids in precise manual focus, and the Carl Zeiss T* antireflective coating reduces ghosting and flare. Estimated Street Price: $900 (Touit 1.8/32); $1,250 (Touit 2.8/12). Contact: Zeiss, lenses.zeiss.com. —AMT

Lens choice is the primary benefit of interchangeable-lens cameras, and between camera and lens makers, we have an incredible range of options. But what if you really want to use your old Hasselblad lenses with your brand-new Canon EOS 70D? Novoflex offers a variety of mechanical adapters that lets popular camera models mount lenses from several other manufacturers, both old and new. A handy “Adapter Finder” on the Novoflex website will guide you to the right model for your camera and lens combination. Estimated Street Price: From $159. Contact: Novoflex (HP Marketing Corp.), www.hpmarketingcorp.com. —WP

I usually don’t get too tricky with my paper selections when I’m making prints. But when a friend gave me a print that was made on aluminum, I wanted to experiment with metallic surfaces, but I wanted to do it from my home printer rather than a lab. The Moab Slickrock Metallic Silver 300 has become my medium of choice as I test different images. Its metal-like surface maintains rich blacks, and where the paper white would come through, I get the reflective, bright metallic look that I find so interesting. The print has a luminance that I don’t get on plain paper. Slickrock Metallic Silver 300 is available in

several sizes. Estimated Street Price: Varies. Contact: Moab By Legion, www.moabpaper.com. —CR

GoPro’s HERO wearable video action cameras have become popular for their ability to put the viewer right into the action, plus their low price. The new HERO3+ is 15% smaller and lighter than its tiny predecessor, but twice as powerful, with 30% better battery life. It can shoot 1080p video at 60 fps and 720p at 120 fps in ultrawide, medium and narrow formats, with improved audio. The HERO3+ can also shoot 10-megapixel still images at up to 10 fps, plus time-lapse at intervals of 0.5 to 60 seconds. It’s waterproof to 131 feet. Built-in WiFi and the GoPro App let you operate the camera remotely, and transfer photos and videos to your smart device. You can also save images and videos on microSD cards. Estimated Street Price: $299. Contact: GoPro, www.gopro.com. —MS

The iPhoneographer inside each of us is always looking for the perfect multitasking iPhone case. Really Right Stuff’s aircraft-grade aluminum XC-iP5 case for the iPhone 5 and 5S is both style-savvy and robust. Coupled with the B2-XJ clamps, the case can be secured to RRS tripod heads and accessories. This is perfect for experimenting with the growing number of slow shutter speed, time-lapse and video apps. The sleek, one-ounce case doesn’t interfere with signal strength and is available in black, silver, red and gunmetal gray. List Price: $125-$130 (XC-iP5); $60-$65 (B2-XJ clamps). Contact: Really Right Stuff, reallyrightstuff.com. —AMT

Available in several common lens mounts, the Singh-Ray 10-Stop Mor-Slo neutral-density filter is the ultimate in gaining artistic long exposures for effects like cotton-candy blurs to running water and subtly blended moving clouds. The optical filter allows you far more leverage with depth of field for very shallow focus even in extremely bright conditions. It adds a pleasing warm tinge to images, easily correctable through custom white balance or editing, and if looking for shorter or longer exposures, Singh-Ray also offers a 5-Stop Mor-Slo and other neutral-density filters in varying strengths. These can be stacked together with the 10-Stop for up to a massive 18 extra stops of density, useful for controlling the sun in an image or city scenes where you’re interested in removing passersby from a scene while still retaining buildings or backgrounds. These effects can’t be replicated digitally. List Price: Begins at $350. Contact: Singh-Ray, www.singh-ray.com. —DW