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Photofocus Products Of The Year – Kevin Ames

Editor’s Note:

It’s time for something new. In the past, Photofocus has made it a practice of acknowledging a specific camera and/or lens as the “camera/lens” of the year. This year several of us are putting together a list including camera and lens choices along with a few other pieces of gear that we think you’ll like.

While it’s not designed specifically as a holiday gift guide, this list does happen to be a resource for photographers (and their friends/family) who want to get the ball rolling on their holiday shopping.

A few things to note:

1. Only products announced and shipping by press time (November 21, 2016) will be eligible.
2. We make this list with no regard for sponsors. Our sponors’ products may or may not be on the list but they can’t buy their way on to the list. It’s strictly a personal choice by our authors.
3. There will be overlap meaning some of us will pick the same products. We’re not meeting to discuss our picks. Each of us is making their selections in secret so as not to influence the other.
4. If your favorite product isn’t on the list it doesn’t mean it isn’t a fine product, it just means it wasn’t something we personally pick as a best of the year.

Without further ado here are the picks by Kevin Ames:

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This might be the “Neiman Marcus” version of a Products of the Year for 2016. I looked at new gear with no regard for cost. Quality, versatility and performance guided my choices for Camera, Lens, Bag, Photo Accessory & Video Accessory. There’s even a runner up category that is something for practically everyone will want. It’s affordable too!

Camera of the Year: Canon 1Dx Mark II

I’m a Canon photographer who happily shoots the 1Dx. Recently I unboxed my new Canon 1Dx Mark II.

Canon continues serving the working professional with high quality, durable and versatile cameras. The 1Dx Mark II was announced around Photokina time and is shipping. At first glance there does’t seem to be anything to get excited about. It’s a 20 megapixel camera. Canon’s 5DSr and 5DMark4 cameras far out resolve it with 50mp and 30mp file sizes respectively. Both are significantly lighter as well, especially without their optional battery grips. So what is special about this new 1Dx? Frame rate alone makes this camera worth the price ($5999.00) for action shooters. Think of this. 14 full size RAW files per second using the viewfinder and 16 full size RAW files per second in Live View. This speed demon can load 170 RAW frames using the new CFast card in its CFast 2.0 slot. It also has a standard CF slot. The 1Dx Mark II is dust sealed and super solid. It feels pro in the hand and offers other pro features. Touch screen auto focus for movies. A subject in the foreground begins speaking when the camera is focused on the background actor. Tap the foreground subject on the touch screen and the focus racks it into seamless sharpness. Other movie features include 4K captures at 29.97fps and up to 119.9fps in full 1080HD. But wait, there’s more, much more… built in GPS, advanced autofocus, subject tracking for video and stills and an expanded ISO range that reaches 409,600.

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Lens of the Year: Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG HSM Art

Six years ago at Photo Plus Expo Sigma introduced the 85mm f/1.4. It was awesome. Sigma continues its global vision of producing lenses that compare to if not exceed camera manufacturers’ offerings with the Art update to their venerable portrait workhorse the 85mm f/1.4. The new Art 85 features 2 FLD elements that improve on the original with great color, superb contrast, low flare and spectacular sharpness. New high torque motors make the HSM autofocus even faster. Minimum aperture is f/16, the filter size is 86mm for this 28.6º angle of view beauty. If a new camera body is not in the offing for this year, how about a superior portrait lens? Suggested retail price is $1100.00. Available in Canon, Nikon & Sigma mounts.

 

Camera Bag of the Year: Think Tank Airport Security™3.0

Sigh. My favorite roll aboard has been discontinued for many years now. So I’ve been spending quality time choosing a new one. You can well imagine that there are a huge number of choices. After years of looking here’s my pick for a durable, versatile multi-body roll aboard camera. Out-of-town assignments usually mean air travel. A well thought out roll aboard that covers the working photographer’s needs to carry gear on an airliner means peace of mind at the very least. No photographer wants to check camera and computing gear. The new version of Think Tank’s Airport Security™3.0 carries everything while offering great security features. This Think Tank bag lives up to its “Security” name in more ways that one. First it comes with a TSA approved combo lock for the zippers. Add a cable and lock to secure the bag to an upright on location to protect it from going walkabout during a quick trip to the Sky Club restroom. Should the unthinkable happen, namely the Airport Security 3.0 gets misplaced, there is a metal identification badge with serial number and a Think Tank link to help find it. Remember to put your business card in the ID holder by the handle.

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This spacious bag can hold very long lenses like the Nikon 500mm f/4 with hood reversed shown below and still have loads of room for more bodies, lenses and even a change of clothes.

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The Airport Security™3.0 fits in the overhead. It also has a place for a 15″ laptop and a full size tablet in the lid. (Yes your 17″ will fit too.) Think Tank’s retail price is $429.75.

Photo Accessory of the Year: Platypod Pro Max

No doubt about it. There are times when a tripod, no matter how low is goes, can’t go low enough. My pick for Photo Accessory of the Year is the Platypod Pro Max. Its 5mm thick aircraft-grade aluminum base plate has both 1/4-20 & 3/8-16 threaded holes plus a 3/8-16 titanium bolt for mounting a ball head. The box at the top of the Max holds threaded spikes that have more furniture friendly plastic feet to cover the roughest terrain or the smoothest finished wood. They double as levelers for uneven surfaces. The Max can be nailed or screwed to a fence post to form a super quick camera base. The Platypod Pro Max is 13 ounces that have a permanent place in my gear bag. See how easily it handles a Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head, Canon 1Dx with a Sigma 20mm f1.4 lens. $99.95.

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Video Accessory of the Year: X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Video

2016 is the year that (finally) saw a ColorChecker made just for videographers. It has 6 chromatic color chips for video production, 6 gray balance chips, 6 highlights / shadows chips and 6 skin tone chips. Another panel is a grayscale target with 40 IRE midtone gray while another has a large white balance target. There’s also a focus target. All are inside a rugged plastic case about the size of a passport. Its perfect for color grading, color balancing, gray balancing and optimizing exposure. Best of all it’s reasonably priced! $149.99.

ccppv_all_targets_case

Runner up

I love this one!  Thing is it only works with one camera–the one that’s always with me, my iPhone 6 Plus-soon to be the 7 Plus. This is Really Right Stuff’s Mobile Phone Clamp & Stand. Serious photographers as well as those who only use the camera on their phones will appreciate this solidly built, lightweight camera phone stand. This can be either a stand alone that can mount on a standard tripod or a RRS / Arca Swiss clamp. Price is $165.00 available only from Really Right Stuff.

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The right gear makes photography more fun

This year saw oodles of awesome gear introduced. This guide is geared for committed photographers who want the best from their equipment that fuels their passion: Photography!

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Thanks to our partners who make Photofocus possible:

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