Once again, the former “Top Reb” assumes second slot with the introduction of the latest greatest (the 4Ti). Advantage to you: Pick up an Excellent-imaging, fast-focusing DSLR with 18–55mm kit lens for only $799—and watch for rebates.
Dell Ultrasharp U2412M 24-inch LED display
The hot three letters in monitors today are IPS, for in-plane switching, the technology that provides a much wider viewing angle, which makes colors more consistent off-angle. This Dell is one of the least expensive we’ve seen ($296), and an editor who was using one pouted demonstratively when we took it away for a photo shoot.
Dot Line Magic Rig V1
Getting more serious about DSLR HD video? You’ll need a dedicated camera support, and this $99 shoulder-stock type won’t break the bank of your budding studio. It has a zillion—well, seven—adjustments tightened with lever locks, can be set for right- or left-handed use, and has a quick-release platform for the camera. The almost all-metal construction and good finish are pretty impressive for this price.
Like other cameras in the rugged class, the XP170 is waterproof (to 33 feet), drop-proof, and freeze-proof. Unlike many other cameras in this class, the XP170 comes in at well under $400—$279, to be precise. Built-in Wi-Fi can share automatically with social networks.
If the people at Nikon have gone nuts, their insanity is your gain with the D3200, whose 24.2MP (!) sensor delivered Excellent image quality in our test. It’s only $699 with the kit lens shown.
Flashpoint 500 LED light
Sold by the Adorama store in New York, this unit, at $199, is less than half the price of comparable models. It offers full and half power settings, as well as continuous dimmability. And unlike many LED panels, its output can be focused, thanks to built-in barn doors. It runs off AC mains or DC battery power, is cool in operation, and its low power draw won’t pop a fuse.
It’s hard to believe that Canon has never made a pancake lens, but this $200 optic is indeed the first. Slightly wide on full-frame bodies, and longish normal (64mm equivalent) on APS-C bodies, it uses a stepping motor for truly silent and vibration-free autofocusing—a good thing for video or for stealthy still shooting.
If Sony’s APS-C-sensor ILCs appeal to you, but the NEX-7’s sticker is a little too steep, the F3 is an attractive choice. For $598 with the image-stabilized 18–55mm kit lens (shown), you get a 16.1MP sensor, 1080p video at up to 30 fps, and a fave feature of ours, a tilting LCD monitor for wacky-angle shots and easy self-portraits
This $59 dongle for the D3200, allows for communication, via Wi-Fi, between your camera and tablet and/or smartphone. You can upload images right to your device, or fire your camera's shutter remotely.
We love this lens because it’s sharp, and fast, and quiet focusing. But we especially love it because at $497, it’s less than one-third the price of Nikon’s f/1.4 version. Is 0.67 stop really worth $1,200 to you? We didn’t think so.
One of the most stylish ILCs at any price, the 12.3 MP E-PL3, $599 with the 14–42mm kit lens, is also a good deal for those looking for compact camera with big performance. It scored Very High on image quality in our lab tests, and the tilting screen makes high-angle or low-angle shots a breeze. Lack of a viewfinder bug you? You can slip an electronic viewfinder (VF-2, $249) into the hot-shoe for 100-percent-accurate eye-level viewing.
While $250 might sound a little high for a 50mm f/1.8, this lens has Pentax’s SP (Super Protect) anti-smudge coating on lens elements, rounded diaphragm blades, excellent fit and finish. Film fans note: It covers full-frame 35mm.
You want a genuinely compact and light (say, less than 12 ounces—with lens) ILC, with a rock-bottom price, but with genuine performance? Here it is: The GF3, $379 with 14mm f/2.5 kit lens shown, achieved Extremely High image quality in our tests.
Pro Optic 14mm f/2.8
Another super deal from lensmaker Samyang (sold under the Pro Optic brand at Adorama), this full-frame, manual-focus ultrawide provides excellent sharpness (see test, page 83) for $339–$350. While it produces lots of distortion, with one look at the prices of big-name 14mm optics, we forgive it.
A neat bit of specialty glass for Micro Four Thirds fans, this manual-focus lens provides a 180-degree full-field fisheye view on Olympus and Panasonic ILCs. Great for dizzifying stills and ca-razy video, this well-made optic streets for only $299.
Pentax keeps doing it—that is, producing weatherproof DSLRs with beefy construction and firepower (as in 6-fps bursts), but whose price challenges that of other makers’ entry-level models. The least expensive configuration: with the 18–55mm kit lens shown for $899.
Satechi SCH-22 suction-cup mount
This $20 rig attaches to any smooth surface (including a car, but we haven’t tried it at speed) with a turn of the bottom knurling, rotates 360 degrees, and flips 180 degrees at each of two joints. Holds anything with a standard tripod socket, up to a DSLR with lens.
Seagate Backup Plus 1TB
Sized to fit a shirt pocket, this portable hard drive lets you easily back up on the road. And we think you’ll agree that $110 is very little to pay for this kind of security—how much are your photos worth to you? This new model can connect via USB 3.0 and can be set for quick resizing and downloads to sites such as Flickr and Facebook. The slightly larger desktop model costs $10 less
A half-inch shorter and several ounces lighter than the previous version, Sigma’s $499 all-in-one zoom proved optically superior to other lenses of this type, achieving Excellent SQF scores at all four tested focal lengths—very rare in this class.
We’ve always been big on regular monitor calibration, and this software/ hardware kit at $120 not only saves you money, but even more importantly, time and trouble. This latest version can also calibrate iPhones and iPads, so your photos can have consistent color across platforms. Consider it an absolute must if you make prints on a regular basis.
We’ll admit that a sticker price of $1,300 might not sound like such a deal, but consider: The Canon and Nikon counterparts cost nearly twice that—and neither has image stabilization, which this lens does. While not perfect, it delivers excellent sharpness.
Think Tank Sd Pixel Pocket Rocket
Peace of mind (at least in regard to memory cards) can be yours for $16 with this nine-card SD wallet. Flip your cards over in the clear pockets as they fill up, and use the sturdy strap to lash it to a bag or to yourself.
Vanguard SBH-100 ballhead
The buzzword du jour in ’pod heads is magnesium—lightweight and strong, but usually heavy in price. Not so for this $79 goodie, which has a quick-release plate, bubble levels, separate lock knobs for pan and tilt, and a calibrated panning scale. And it’s rated for up to 22 pounds.
Westcott Apollo Orb with grid
The 43-inch Orb octabox ($130) is deep and lightweight enough to Velcro to a lightstand, where it can accept many monolights or any shoe-mount flash. It produces circular eye catchlights, and the output can be softened with the included diffusion panel. For $70 more, you can add the extra light-focusing ability of an egg-crate-style grid. It's not the cheapest option available, but it's durability and adaptablity make it a solid buy. It will get used.
Bonbus Bargain: 6 Great Apps
The master of all iPad/iPhone camera apps is free. Capture, geotag, edit, and share your photos and videos.
Add this free powerhouse to your Android phone for editing options, plus live preview of filters and effects.
For $0.99, give your photos speech bubbles, filters, captions and other classic comic book effects. Only for iOS.
Shoot a time-lapse or stop-motion video (you decide on the time interval) and post it to Facebook. Available free for both Android and iOS devices.
Display your images in premade layouts, or go freestyle and create a scrapbook look with this free Android app.
Photo Manager Pro
Organize the pictures on your iOS device by date, search by name, and (alone worth the $2.99 price) password-protect folders you want to keep, ahem, private.