Aloha, and welcome to my 2014 Photographer’s Holiday Wish List! This year, I’ve selected ten products/services that will make many an outdoor photographer drool, from lenses and drones, to iPhone apps and some sweet paper to print your images on, there’s something for everyone, and every price point.
Mele Kalikimaka e Hou’ole Makahili Hou!
- Canon 100-400mm f/3.5-5.6L IS II Lens
After much waiting and anticipation, the replacement for Canon’s aging EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L is now here. What’s to like about it? The original “trombone” style zoom is replaced by a traditional rotating design and there are a bunch of optical enhancements.
The new lens is a bit taller, wider and heavier than the original, but moving to a rotating zoom design resolves the issue of dust getting sucked in during operation. Image stabilization is also improved, with three IS modes and up to 4 stops of stabilization compared to 1.5 in the previous model. It’s also a lot smarter, detecting when a tripod is in use, and automatically locking the IS elements.
Lens flare and ghosting has been reduced, with the use of a new optical formula, with one Fluorite and one Super UD element, plus a new Air Sphere Coating which uses suspended air bubbles in the coating itself.
Price: About $2,199.00
- DJI Inspire 1 Quadcopter with 4K camera and 3-axis gimbal
Camera drones are all the rage, and one of the big leaders in drone technology is DJI. Their new Inspire 1 Quadcopter can capture 4K video and take 12-megapixel still photos that are tack-sharp, thanks to its Integrated Camera and 3-Axis Gimbal.
One of the big issues with drones has been their fixed landing gear getting in the way of the shot. The Inspire 1 features a retractable arm system: in-flight, the arms lift up to provide the camera an unobstructed 360-degree view. The camera records internally to microSDHC/SDXC memory cards, and can also beam a live 720p feed to a mobile device running the DJI Lightbridge app (or a monitor or FPV glasses with an HDMI input). The Inspire 1 comes with one transmitter (radio controller), and a second can be added so that one operator can pilot and another can pan and tilt the camera.
Like many quadcopters on the market, the Inspire 1 relies on a GPS-based stabilization system that – thanks to spatial awareness – is able to hold a position even when experiencing wind interference, can compensate for overzealous pilot inputs to help avoid stalling, automatically brings the aircraft home in the event of signal loss or at the press of a button, and makes possible a number of semi-automated flight modes that can be enabled through the app. There is also an “indoor” mode which relies on Optical Flow technology – essentially a special camera – provide stability indoors or in other contexts where GPS is unavailable (Note: certain features will be unavailable in indoor mode).
- Hoya EVO Antistatic Filters
Shooting seascapes, desert scenes or dusty ghost towns are always a battle between the elements and clean glass. When I heard about Hoya’s new antistatic filters, I got giddy: The filters have an antistatic coating that repels dust, and a top layer is resistant to scratches, stains and water. Even a swipe with a Sharpie marker beads up and wipes right off.
The Antistatic Hoya’s are available in a myriad of ring sizes and types. Protector and UV filters range from $45.00 to $110.00 while Circular Polarizers run from $85.00 to $180.00.
- Astrotrac TT320X-AG
Astrophotography has taken a jump in popularity over the last year, and one of the hot forum topics is how to get pin-point stars, or distant nebulae, without spending your kid’s college fund. Enter the Astrotrac TT320X-AG, and reveal the heavens in a way which isn’t possible with the naked eye.
With most objects in the night sky being very dim, photographing them requires long exposures, normally between 1 and 5 minutes. During an exposure of several minutes, the Earth’s movement will show up as star trails in photographs. The AstroTrac follows the movement of the sky with great accuracy, eliminating star trails and ensuring sharp images with pinpoint stars.
Polar alignment is quick and easy. Simply insert the polar scope through the hole in the polar arm, and built-in magnets ensure the polar scope remains flush with the polar arm. Rotate the polar scope until the reticle is correctly aligned, then make fine adjustments to correctly align on the celestial pole. Plug the battery, turn it on, then point your camera at the target in the sky, make sure it is properly focused and start the exposure. A few minutes later, end the exposure and enjoy the fantastic images on the back of your camera!
Price: about $740.00
- ACDSee iPhone App
I’ve been using ACDSee Pro nearly since its inception. It’s my go-to software for sorting, cataloging and tagging image files. Now ACD Systems has launched an iPhone version that allows you to capture, perfect, and share your photos with ease. The ACDSee iPhone app combines an innovative camera, a powerful photo editor, and a convenient collage maker with all the tools you need for a great mobile photography experience.
The app features specialized shooting modes, video capture, manual controls for exposure/focus/white balance, real-time filters and adjustments, multiple flash modes, separate exposure and focus points, 6x digital zoom, a horizon level, and more. In the photo editor, you can apply adjustments and effects, add light leaks, adjust shadows, exposure, contrast, white balance, saturation, vibrance, sharpening, and more. You can also crop, rotate, mirror, or straighten your photos. Best of all, it’s all non-destructive editing.
Price: A whopping $1.99 at the iTunes App Store.
You’re out with friends or fellow photographers, and one of them asks if you have a particular shot. You enthusiastically reach for your mobile device, only to realize that the image isn’t there. It’s on the hard drive of your computer. Sound familiar? I’ve been there, done that, and have the t-shirt. But there’s an affordable solution that’s easy to use.
Say hello to Mylio, a service that helps you gather, organize and access all of your photos so you can enjoy them on all your computers and devices, with or without the cloud. It’s the only photography management software system that allows you to organize and access large photo libraries anytime, anywhere.
Mylio automatically manages multiple copies of your photo library. Your new photos are protected because Mylio automatically copies them to several devices, hard drives or the cloud. Mylio’s protection service works with your ideal backup strategy: local or remote devices, hard drives, the Mylio Cloud Service, or all of the above. Your photo library is yours. Your photos and information are always private and never shared. Mylio supports JPEG and TIFF files, with Adobe PSD support coming soon.
Get your images anytime, anywhere, and have peace of mind that your collection is always backed up. It’s a photographer’s dream come true!
Price: Free trial, 100K images: $100/yr., 500K images: $250/yr.
- Goal Zero Yeti 150 Solar Generator Kit
With film cameras, nature photographers could capture images for days, or until they ran out of film. With today’s digital cameras, if you don’t pack enough batteries, you may not be able to fill all of your memory cards – especially if you’re shooting winter scenes!
Fortunately, portable solar has become lighter, more compact, and more powerful offer the last few years, and Goal Zero is at the forefront of portable solar power. Their Yeti150 Solar Generator Kit contains a plug-and-play generator for emergencies, camping, or wherever you need power. It’s a gas-free source of portable power to keep lights, phones, camera battery chargers and laptops powered on through any situation – a portable, mini powerhouse, so to say.
At home, you can quickly recharge the generator with an AC outlet. In the car, top it off with the 12V accessory plug. Out in the field, just unfold the three solar panels to let the sun do the work. Fully depleted, the Generator can be fully recharged in six-hours when plugged into the wall, eight-hours in the car, or around 17 hours with the included Nomad 20 solar panels.
- Hahnemühle Sugar Cane Paper
When we think of sugar cane, we typically reflect on the end product: granular white stuff that sweetens our coffee, cereal, and sweet treats. But sugar cane as a fine art paper? Heck yeah! The Egyptians were the first to produce paper from sugar cane, but the art was lost when the technology of using wood fibers was discovered. Fast forward a few centuries and Sugar Cane paper has made a sweet return: Hahnemühle, a German paper company that was founded in 1584, takes bagasse – the pulp byproduct left over after the sugar has been extracted – crushes it, and blends the fibers with recycled paper waste. Its then run through a pH-neutralizing bath before being pressed into long rolls of paper, creating a printable, fine-art textured paper that not only harkens back to the original plant, but lasts for generations.
This limited-run paper is available in 44” and 24” width-rolls, that are 39’ in length, and available exclusively through Hawaii Fine Art Paper.
Price: $127.00 (24”)/Roll and $248.00 (44”)/Roll
- Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 DI VC Lens
At some time, all nature photographers have probably uttered the words, “I wish I had a wider field of view.” For many of us, the widest lens in the kit is a 16-35mm (or a 14-24mm, if you’ve got a Nikon setup, and can afford the $2K price tag).
Tamron has given shooters a few more degrees of view, with their new ultra-wide angle zoom lens for full-frame DSLR cameras that carries a fast F/2.8 aperture and VC (Vibration Compensation) — the world’s first in its category.
The lens carries Tamron’s BBAR (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection) and eBAND coatings, helping to eliminate ghosting and flare typically found on ultra-wideangle lenses, resulting in crisper and crystal-clear images.
Autofocus speed and accuracy are enhanced with Tamron’s USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) delivering tack-sharp images with fast response. The lens is equipped with a full-time manual focus mechanism, and fine focus adjustments are available without turning off auto focus. The lens is available in Sony A, Canon, and Nikon mounts.
Price: $1, 996.95
10. Subscription to Outdoor Photographer Magazine
This is my yearly gift to myself: I started reading OP back in 1996, and I’ve always found articles in the magazine to be inspirational, informative, and a source for trustworthy reporting of the photographic industry.
Subscribing is easy: point your web browser to outdoorphotographer.com and click on subscribe. It’ll be the best $14.97 gift you’ve ever bought.
Price: $14.97/yearly print version subscription