A scintillating selection of recently released and tried-and-true cameras, lenses and accessories that’ll help you to take your photography to the next level and beyond.
If you have the impression that 2014 has been a banner year for exciting advances in photography you’re right on target. Indeed, there’s now so much great new stuff out there we decided to put our thinking caps on and came up with the following list of the latest and coolest new equipment that’s likely to ring your chimes and maybe even make it onto your holiday gift or wish list. As you can see, the gear we’ve included is nothing if it’s not diverse, covering an extensive range of cameras and lens types, and running the gamut of iconic brands. When it comes to accessories we’ve included a mix of brand new items along with a few contemporary classics that always seem to be in season. We hope you find our selections informative, entertaining and inspiring. And since we couldn't possibly cover everything new and worthwhile in this small space, please feel free to add your own!
Cool new cameras of every stripe:
Nikon 1 V3
It’s the latest enthusiast-aimed, high-tech flagship of the Nikon 1 line of CX-format interchangeable-lens compacts, and it sports a new higher-res 18.4 MP CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced EXPEED 4A image processor to deliver an impressive 20 fps top burst rate with full-time AF using a Hybrid AF system that combines on-sensor phase-detect and contrast-detect sensors. Other key features: a big 3.0-inch, 1,037k-dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD, Full HD 1080p video capture at 60 fps, built-in Wi-Fi connectivity that supports WPS, sensitivity settings to ISO 12800, and Movie e-VR Image Stabilization for smooth videos. The sleek, stylish V3 also comes with a shoe-mount electronic viewfinder (EVF) for direct eyelevel viewing, and an accessory grip. Street price: $1,196 with Nikkor VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 (27-81mm equivalent) PD-ZOOM lens. Adorama price: $1,196.95.
Canon EOS Rebel T5
This new broad-spectrum entry-level DSLR is being offered at the enticingly low price of just under $500 complete with standard Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II (29-88mm equivalent) kit lens. It’s on the compact side for an APS-C-format DSLR, lightweight, and beautifully balanced. The T5’s image capture system is based on Canon’s well- proven 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor noted for delivering commendably crisp low-noise image quality even up to ISO 6400 and it has and advanced (but not the latest) DIGIC 4 image processor. Other key features and specs include a 3-inch, 460k-dot LCD, ISO settings from 100-6400 (up to 12800 in extended mode), impressive start-up and shutter lag times of 0.1 sec and 0.12 sec respectively, continuous shooting at up to 3 fps, a 9-point AF system with a single central cross-field sensor, Full HD 1080p video capture at 30, 25, and 24 fps, and Scene Intelligent Auto Mode that chooses the “optimum” exposure and enhancements. In addition, the T5 provides a Feature Guide to aid novices, a set of 5 built-in creative filters including Grainy B/W, Fisheye, and Miniature Effects, a Creative Auto mode that lets you control background blur effects, and GPS compatibility (with optional GP-E2 GPS Receiver). Adorama price: $499.00.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III
This svelte, stylish, new higher-tech version of the RX-100 now has an ingenious pop-up 1440k-dot OLED True-Finder EVF to complement its 3.0-inch 1229k-dot Multi-angle Xtra Fine LCD, Sony’s most advanced BIONZ-X Image Processor, a 1-inch 20.1MP Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor, plus a wide-aperture Zeiss Vario-Sonnar f/1.8-2.8 24-70mm equivalent zoom lens to facilitate easy bokeh effects. Other features include Full HD Video in XAVC S format, a clean HDMI out port, and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC. The RX100 III can shoot full-res bursts at up to 10 fps, and provides ISO settings up to 12800. It’s clearly aimed at serious enthusiasts that will appreciate its direct manual control ring, built-in ND filter, 12-exposure multi-frame Noise Reduction, and Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO). Adorama price: $798.00.
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ1000
This cool new SLR-style high-performance long-range “bridge camera” features a 16X, 25-400mm-equivalent Leica DC Vario-Elmarit f/2.8-4 lens coupled to a 1-inch 20.1MP High Se3nsitivity MOS Sensor, and it can shoot breathtaking 4K QFHD video at 30 fps! Viewing is handled by a swiveling 3.0-inch 921k-dodt Free-Angle LCD monitor and a hi-res 0.39-inch 2,359k-dot OLED Live View eyelevel finder. It can shoot continuous bursts at up to a blistering 50 fps, provides ISOs up to 25600, and offers built-in Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC. Shake-free imaging is assured by its HYBRID O.I.S. 5-axis image stabilizations system, and Light Speed AF is designed to provide impressive speed and responsiveness for both still and video recording. Adorama price: $897.99.
Basically a zoom lens version of the posh, high-performance, APS-C-sensor Leica X2, the Vario sports a superb 18-46mm f/3.5-6.4 (28-70mm equivalent) Vario-Elmar lens, a thinner anti-aliasing filter for higher resolution, a 920k-dot 3.0-inch LCD, a tweaked 16.1MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor, and a cool magnified-image manual focus (MF) system that gets down to 1 foot. High-ISO performance (up to ISO 16,000) is much improved and its body build, and gorgeous finish are impressive. Its top deck is a dead ringer for an M-series Leica, with a large-diameter shutter-speed dial (1-1/2000 sec plus A), a smaller aperture dial (f/3.5-16 plus A), and, atop the lens manual metric and footage focusing scales plus an AF detent. By setting both these dials to A and the focusing ring to AF you can operate the camera on auto-pilot, but this is really a machine for traditionalists that want direct control of all the picture-taking variables. Perhaps the best thing about the shutter release is that it’s up to the Leica standard. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s absolutely unique and a pleasure to shoot with, especially when you add the accessory EVF2 ($499.00) electronic viewfinder, which plugs into a port below the hot shoe, providing a hi-res (1.4-million pixel) eyelevel viewfinder that tilts up to 90 degrees and displays all AE parameters. Adorama price: $2,099.00 in black.
A trio of cool new lenses:
Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD
This exciting new lens for APS-C-format Nikon and Canon DSLRs, (also available in Pentax and Sony mount without the built-in VC image stabilization feature), provides an extraordinary zoom ratio of 18.8X, covering an equivalent focal length range all the way from true wide-angle 24.8mm to a impressive 465mm super telephoto, and macro focusing down to 1:2.9 over its entire range. Tamron’s exclusive tri-axial Vibration Compensation (VC) system provides excellent responsiveness along with a 3-4-stop advantage in handheld shooting. Its Piezo Drive (PZD) delivers faster, quieter, more precise AF action along with seamless full-time Manual Focus (MF) and uses fewer components so the lens cam be made more compact and lighter. The Tamron 16-300mm employs a 16-element, 12-group design incorporating 2 LD (Low Dispersion) elements, 3 molded glass aspheric elements, 1 hybrid aspheric element, 1 XR (Extra Refractive Index) glass element, and 1 UXR (Ultra Extra Refractive Index) glass element to correct all optical aberrations. State-of-the art multi-coating significantly minimizes ghosting and flare to deliver images of exceptional clarity and the lens provides a nearly circular 7-bladed diaphragm for smoother transitions and enhanced bokeh. Moisture-resistant construction assures reliable operation in all weather. Adorama price: $629.00.
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM
This new high-speed zoom for APS-C-format cameras is available in Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Pentax mounts and provides a 27-52mm-equivalent focal-length range plus a fast constant aperture that makes it easier to achieve striking bokeh effects using limited depth of field. It features a quiet, precise Hyper Sonic AF motor, internal focusing to enhance compactness and responsiveness, and Super Multi-Layer coating for flare-free, high-contrast imaging. Its advanced design employs 4 aspheric and 6 SLD glass elements for improved aberration correction and sharpness and very low levels of distortion. It stops down to f/16 and is compatible with the Sigma USB dock. Adorama price: $799.00.
Nikon 1 NIKKOR 32mm f/1.2
This remarkable ultra-high-speed lens delivers a medium telephoto 86.4mm equivalent focal length on CX-format Series 1 Niukon cameras including the top-of-the-line Nikon 1 V3, making it perfect for achieving striking pictorial effects in portraiture when shooting at its widest apertures. Other features include Silent Wave Motor AF which is great for shooting video or stills, Nano Crystal coating for enhanced clarity and light transmission, a Manual Focus Ring with M/A Manual Focus Override, a floating element design, and a robust metallic lens barrel. It’s hardly an inexpensive lens at a tad under $900, but it’s definitely a unique, high-performance optic that opens a world of creative possibilities for Nikon 1-series users. Adorama price: $896.95.
Domke F-5XB RugggedWear bag
This high quality multi-purpose lightweight bag is compact outside, but amazingly commodious inside with internal measurements of 9.5 inches wide, 4 inches deep, and 6 inches high. It will accommodate a complete mirrorless compact camera rig complete with 4 lenses and flash or a basic DSLR outfit and has convenient pockets for cell phone, MP3 player, and accessories. Other features: 5 compartments, non-slip Gripper strap, a fashionably upscale “distressed” look, and environmentally friendly, weather-resistant RugggedWear construction. Adorama price: $64.79.
Steadicam Solo Stabilizer & Monopod
This amazing 3-Axis gimbaled camera stabilization device will not only allow you to shoot smooth, professional looking HD or 4K videos with DSLR rigs weighing up to a hefty 10 pounds, it can also be pressed into service as an effective monopod for shooting critically sharp videos and stills with any camera. Its 4 sections extend telescopically to shoulder height for near-eyelevel viewing, and it folds to a compact 24 inches for easy stowage and transport. The all-metal Solo has an ergonomic foam gimbal handle and post control grips and can be used in combination with an optional Steadicam arm and vest set. A quick-release mounting plate and set of counterweights are included, allowing out-of-the-box use. Adorama price: $499.00. For those who want to shoot smooth, shake-free movies with the iPhone 5, GoPro HERO, or DRIFT camera, check out the Steadicam Smoothee that’s based on similar engineering concepts. Adorama price: $149.95.
Giotto’s Lens Cleaning Bundle
A great travel accessory for those “Oh no!” moments, it comes complete with Multi Optical Cleaning Solution for all glass and plastic surfaces, a microfiber cloth, a retractable brush, ten 100% cotton swabs with paper shafts, and a Small Giotto’s Rocket Blaster blower made from natural rubber. This German-designed blower has a unique inlet valve design that prevents it from blowing back dust, making it suitable for cleaning delicate sensors. Adorama price: $10.95.
Think Tank Cable Management 30 V2.0 Clear Plastic Pouch
Here’s just the thing for serious shooters that went to organizing all those cables, connectors, and whatnots when they’re on the go. This 7-3/4 x 7-3/4 x 2-1/2-inch 210D silver-toned 3-ply PU plastic see-through pouch is sewn with rugged 3-ply nylon thread and has YKK RC Fuse (abrasion resistant) zippers to stow your gear securely and the large front window makes it easy to see what’s inside. It even has a clear plastic business card pocket so you can keep track of your bag, and a convenient carrying handle. It will accommodate small cables, adapters and other small essential accessories. Adorama price: $25.75.
Davis & Sanford Traverse TR553-P238 Travel Tripod
This versatile new ultra-portable fulfills its mission by effectively folding to a mere 12 inches by pivoting its legs back 180 degrees, over the easy-glide center post, to fit easily in virtually any camera bag or backpack. Weighing in at only 2.6 pounds complete with Dual-Control ball head with calibrated base and Arca-Swiss-compatible quick release, it extends to 53 inches, has a robust carrying capacity of 10 pounds, perfect for consumer DSLRs, Mirrorless, and Point & Shoot cameras. Its sturdy 23mm-diameter 5-section legs have freeze-proof rubberized twist locks, 3-position independent leg-angle adjustments, foam-cushioned insulators, and rubberized leg tips. Other features: Aluminum alloy construction, durable black anodized finish. Adorama price, with carrying bag: $109.99.
Tiffen 72mm Video Essential DV Filter Kit
This high quality kit includes 3 premium quality Tiffen filters, all manufactured using proprietary Color Core Technology. They include a Tiffen Clear Filter that protects your expensive lenses without affecting color balance or sharpness, a Circular Polarizer that selectively eliminates reflections on glass or water, brings out clouds, and increases color saturation, and a Warm UV17 filter that provides virtually complete UV protection while adding the rich warm tones of Tiffen’s acclaimed 812 warming filter to portraits and landscapes. All 3 filters come in a protective Cordura Filter Pouch. Adorama price: $109.95. Note: prices vary according to size.