The 28 Best Photo Gear Bargains for 2011

Stretch your gear budget as far as possible

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With autumn comes a flurry of new photo-product announcements —and the traditional season for bargain hunting. Our editors have scoured the marketplace to come up with the season’s best deals, ranging in street-price from $7 to $850. Some are closeout models, some are brand new, but they all give you great value for your gear-buying buck. Happy shopping. Accessory Steals, $7-–$70 There are plenty of useful gadgets in this price range for holding, aiming, __carrying, and protecting your camera, but one category—extra memory, in __the form of either cards or USB drives—is critical. At prices this low, you __can’t afford not to have this kind of backup. Items in this group also make __great, affordable gifts for photogaphy-loving friends and family. Why not slip a memory card in with that birthday card? Datacolor SpyderCube Small and light enough to fit in almost any camera bag, the $40 SpyderCube has a midtone gray patch that makes color balancing simple, while the white, black, and specular highlight points let you monitor dynamic range. Official Site
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Adorama Flashpoint Radio Remote Radio triggers are a must if your off-camera flash is out of the line of sight of an optical trigger. The $40 16-channel set works up to about 90 feet, has an umbrella hole, and runs on two AAA batteries. Official Site
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Joby Gorillapod Video The third word explains it all— -- this is a wrap-around-anything Gorillapod with an omni-directional pan and tilt head designed particularly for mini-camcorders; a quick-release plate, too. Wrap one up for $30. Official Site
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Sandisk 4GB Extreme Class 6 SDHC Card Not just a bargain ($14), but faster than you need for video recording, it's ruggedly made, and comes with recovery software in case of card mishaps. Official Site
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Lexar 8Gb Echo ZE Backup USB Flash Drive This cheap ($15) insurance policy is so small you can leave it plugged into a laptop all the time. Included software can automatically back up a single folder --—say, your pictures— -- on your computer. Official Site
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Op/Tech Rainsleeves A heavy-gauge, clear plastic bag with a bend in the middle and a drawstring to snug around the lens makes a quick, effective rain/splash shield. Two of these street for $7.
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Tamrac Rally 5 DSLR/Netbook Bag Inexpensive ($70), and compact, the rally 5 was designed for netbooks, but it can stow ipads, too. Will swallow an sLr and three or four lenses, and the front compartment can hold smaller items -- —phone, lightmeter, ipod. Official Site
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Cam Caddie Scorpion At $40, call this the poor man''s Steadycam, a stable, balanced platform that helps damp vibration -- —great for handheld DSLR video. Accessories such as a flash shoe and a tripod adapter are available, too. Official Site
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Best Bargains, $80–-$220 Now we’re into the heart of photo equipment: cameras, lenses, flash units, lighting accessories, imageediting software, and even more backup memory, in this case a __beefy 3TB disk drive for under $200. Looking for a fast normal lens, long telezoom, supersized umbrella reflector, or maybe an underwater compact? You’ll find them here. Westcott 7-Foot Parabolic Umbrella This huge umbrella for full-length portraits or large objects is hard to beat at $100. It has reinforced ribs and a double-thickness shaft, and it comes in all-white, silver, or white inner/black outer. Official Site
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Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 We seem to give a citation to every new version of elements, and for good reason: It just keeps getting better and better. Number 9 adds Content Aware Healing and Masks, among other goodies. still the best image editor you can find for $100.
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NovaCon NovaFlip Flash Bracket Compact and light, the stainless-steel and aluminum NovaFlip is also one of the sturdiest flash brackets we''ve seen yet. The adjustable-height flip arm lets you keep the flash directly over the camera, whether held horizontally or vertically; a nice buy at $100.
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Canon 75-300mm F/4-5.6 III USM At $200, the third generation of this full-framer costs less than the original, non-USM version of 1992! On Canon APS-C bodies, it scales up to a whopping 120–-480mm equivalent. Official Site
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Nikon 50mm F/1.8G ED AF-S Nikkor Fast, sharp, and such a deal at **$220. **Click here for more info or check out the September issue of Popular Photography for our full lens test. Official Site
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Manrotto MKC3 Photo-Movie Kit Tripod The neat feature of this light (2.5 lb) $80 'pod is the pistol-grip head (i.e., ballhead without tears) that flips to vertical in either direction. Load is limited to 3.3 pounds, but it's a great item forhikers and bikers. Official Site
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Lumopro lp160 Manual Flash This $160 shoe-mounter has no TTL or sensor auto. What it has is power—guide number 140 (feet, ISO 100)—a built-in optical slave, full to 1/64 power settings, and 24–-105mm zoom. Official Site
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Western Digital MyBook Live 3TB Not only rock-bottom at $195 for 3TB, but this MyBook has ethernet, so the included software lets you set it up to access it from any computer anywhere with an internet connection—or from an iPhone or Android phone. Official Site
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS10 At $160, this is one of the least expensive full-featured waterproof compacts available -- —most in this class are around 300 bucks. Waterproof to 10 feet, drop-proof, freezeproof, 14.1MP, 4X zoom, HD video...you get the idea. Official Site
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**Sigma 50–-200mm F/4-–5.6 DC OS HSM ** Recently announced and soon to be tested, this APS-C zoom has super-quiet HSM autofocus and effective Optical Stabilization. In mounts for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma, and Sony for $160. Official Site
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Serious Value, $250-$850 It was no surprise that a couple of two-lens camera kits made it into our roundup of the best deals. One offers an entree into the world of traditional DSLR photography, the other into a whole new class of shooting experience, the interchangeable-lens compact (ILC). Either way, you're getting the equivalent focal length range of about 28-300mm. Not enough range? Check out the crazy 27-810mm superzoom. Quantum Trio Flash Basic At $645, this is the least expensive Qflash and it gives you full TTL auto for either Canons or Nikons. Most important, it also provides the ability to fire a zillion times without overheating. Official Site
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Olympus PEN E-PL2 With 14–-42mm and 40–-150mm Lenses Last year's model, yes, but it will be around for a while and it's a solid bargain with the two-lens kit at $800. Impressive test results on all three pieces, which combine for an equivalent zoom range of 28-–300mm. Official Site
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Epson Stylus Photo R3000 We call this $850 13-inch printer a bargain because it has large ink cartridges, uses inks and imaging tech from the higher-end Pro 3880, includes a tray for CD/DVD printing, and can take roll paper. Nice. Official Site
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Tamron 18–-270mm F/3.5–6.3 DI II VC PZD A bargain at $640? With excellent SQF numbers at all but the longest focal length, silent AF, incredibly compact size and light weight, and very effective stabilization, we say, absolutely. Official Site
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Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS HS means high sensitivity: Its 12.1MP CMOs sensor and Digic 4 processor combine for relatively low noise at higher ISOs. Plus, it can shoot bursts of up to 8.4 FPS at lower res and 1080p video at 24 fps. All for $250. Official Site
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Vanguard Auctus Plus 283CT Carbon Fiber Tripod Another high-end Vanguard tripod at a midrange price ($430 without head), the 283CT has leg locks sealed against dust and sand, has coarse and fine gearing for the center column, and supports nearly 40 pounds. The snowshoes are included. Official Site
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Pentax K-r With 18-–55mm and 50-–200mm Lenses With a body that's one of the best in its class, and two fine-performing zoom lenses covering an equivalent of 29-–300mm, this is a great way to get into DSLrs at $700 for the kit. Official Site
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Sony Cyber-shot HX100v This $450 superzoom gives you the equivalent of a whopping 27-–810mm, image stabilization (needed!), and a tilting LCD. Our tests found imaging performance near the DSLR level. Check out our full lab test
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http://www.rokinon.com/Rokinon 85mm F/1.4 Even if it were a mediocre performer, this would be a good deal at $300 -- —but it's an incredibly good lens. See the test in the current issue of Popular Photography. Official Site
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Sigma EF-610 DG Super Flash It has many of the features— wireless TTL auto, high-speed sync, flash exposure lock— -- as well as power equal to top Canon and Nikon hot-shoe units. but it's priced at almost half, $255. Available for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, sigma, and sony DSLRs. Official Site