New gear that has impressed our editors

Did somebody say “Digital”?
Everybody knows this lens. Or at least its predecessor. After all, Tamron’s AF 28-300mm is one successful optic that combines a compact size and a good price with range and resolution. See our Lens Test in the October 2002 issue (or at PopPhoto.com) for the details. Now, to optimize this lens for digital SLRs (and still have it work great on film bodies), Tamron brings even tighter manufacturing tolerances and adds its “Di” multicoating to reduce flare and ghosting caused by lens aberrations. Like the earlier version, the new AF 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Aspherical XR Di (IF) Macro ($365 street) is only 3.3 inches long at 28mm and 6.4 inches at 300mm, and measures 2.9 inches at its widest point. Constructed of 15 elements in 13 groups, it comes in Canon AF, Nikon AF-D, Konica Minolta AF-D, and Pentax AF mounts. The lens takes 62mm filters, and ships with a flower-shaped lenshood. (Tamron; 631-858-8400; www.tamron.com)

Call for backup
As memory card capacities grow and the price per MB drops, who doesn’t fear losing images to a memory-card mishap? Unless you carry a laptop wherever you shoot, the best way to calm your nerves is with a portable backup device, such as MicroSolutions’ RoadStor ($270 street). Combining a five-in-one card reader, CD burner, and DVD player, this silver box (the size of a trade paperback) not only backs up your images straight from your memory card to a CD-R/RW (at up to 24X speed), but also can display them on a TV. The detachable, rechargeable lithium ion battery keeps the RoadStor running for up to two hours when you’re away from a power outlet (extra batteries are $50 each). Audio, S-Video, and composite video outputs let you connect to a TV, while the USB 2.0 jack plugs into a computer. The card reader has slots for MultiMedia, Secure Digital, Memory Stick, SmartMedia, CompactFlash Type I/II, and Microdrives. The RoadStor includes everything from cables to a carrying case-even CD-burning software so you can use it as an external drive with your computer. (MicroSolutions; 800-890-7227; www.micro-solutions.com)

Charge everything!
Rechargeable batteries really do make you feel better about all that gas your SUV burns. But isn’t it a pain to sort out all of your different battery chargers? Not anymore. Lenmar’s new Mach 1 Fusion USB SpeedCharger ($139.95 list) aims to replace your gaggle of chargers, and can even recharge a set of batteries and a cell phone, PDA, or MP3 player at the same time. Switchable adapter plates let you change from AA/AAA NiMHs to proprietary Li-ions at a moment’s notice. A power-only (no data) USB port and a handful of connector tips let you plug in your phone/PDA/MP3 player. The unit charges up to four AA/AAAs in one hour or one Li-ion in 30 minutes. The charger comes with adapter plates for Canon and Sony digital cameras and camcorders, connector tips for most brands of cell phones, two Lenmar NoMEMPro 2300 mAh AA NiMH batteries, and a car adapter for charging on the go. (Lenmar Enterprises Inc.; 805-384-9600; www.lenmar.com)

Weigh to go
Slik’s latest carbon-fiber tripod, the Pro 883 CF-D ($400 street), almost begs to be carried. It weighs just 4.1 pounds, and the padded upper leg sections are easy on your shoulders even without the carrying case. Its three D-shaped leg sections open for a maximum height of 57.5 inches and close down to 25.5 inches without spinning-so the lever locks are always in the same position on the legs. It holds up to 11 pounds, including the weight bag that attaches to the lower portion of the legs for extra stability. The tripod is sold without a head, so if you don’t already own a Slik head, get one from the company’s line. (THK Products Inc.; 800-421-1141; www.thkphoto.com)

Pint-sized popper
A hot-shoe flash unit can be a great way to have better lighting in your photos. But they can be bulky, and might not work with your camera’s metering system. At just 3.6×2.4×3.5-inches, and 9 oz (two AAs included) Sunpak’s PZ40X ($150 street) aims to save room in your bag. It comes in three versions: for Canon’s E-TTL, Nikon’s D-TTL, and Minolta’s ADI metering systems. The automatic motorized zoom head ranges from 24-80mm to match the focal length of the lens in use, or can be set manually. The infrared AF-assist lamp helps your camera focus in low light. The unit’s LCD shows the focal length, mode, power ratio (1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, or 1/16), and flash-range scale. The flash head tilts, with stops at 45, 60, 75, and 90 degrees, but doesn’t swivel. It also won’t work with Nikon’s D70 or D2h, won’t do second-curtain sync on a Canon, and can only fire up to 15 continuous flashes without resting. Of course, with this flash’s light weight, your arms will thank you at the end of the day. (ToCAD America; 973-428-9800; www.tocad.com)