Any decent photographer will tell you they have a photographic award just waiting to be won. After all, if you can frame a shot perfectly in your head, own a decent DSLR camera, and get out enough, the opportunities will be there.
My problem is I miss a lot of those perfect snaps because I spend far too long digging my camera out of its case, wrapping the strap over my head, taking the lens cap off and focussing. So by the time I’m ready, that glorious moment is a thing of the past.
With the Sun Sniper Pro however, you can forget lens caps, straps and cases, because this is camera strap heaven; a perfect and secure solution to having a DSLR camera ready to roll at a moments notice.
The Sun Sniper Pro is effectively a camera strap that sits diagonally like a sling across your shoulders, the camera hanging down at arms length within instant reach to be brought up for a shot and then just left to hang back again. Gunslinger style. Actually, guns, or more particularly rifles, were the inspiration behind this genius product.
Made from durable ballistic nylon, with an embedded cut-proof steel cable, the Sun Sniper strap screws into the DSLR via its tripod mount interface using a stainless steel bearing, fitting snugly into the base. The weight is distributed evenly across the shoulders and the added insulation of a shock absorber pad makes wearing the strap almost effortless and weight free. Sun-Sniper is so confident the steel enhanced strap will survive a knife cut attempt from a would be thief, it offers free insurance protection just in case this particular thief might be carrying a blow torch.
For me, the only concern was a worry the steel bearing might loosen its grip on my camera letting it plummet south towards concrete. Thankfully, so far it hasn’t budged an inch.
Designed by German photographer Wolfgang-Peter Geller who was inspired by the US Calvary carbine 1885 sling, this is a must have strap if you’re a serious DSLR user who needs your camera ready in an instant and wants to wave good bye to that neck and shoulder ache lugging all that weight around your neck.
The latest interchangeable lens camera from Pentax is certainly a bit of a head-turner. The black-and-yellow body certainly sets it apart from the usual Pentax design – and that’s all down to the vision of Australian industrial designer Marc Newson.
It has a 16-megapixel sensor and also offers support for K-mount lenses – which makes it a suitable option for existing Pentax owners who are looking for something more portable than their existing DSLR. As well as its 16-megapixel sensor, the K-01 also features high-speed burst shooting, extra wide sensitivity range with a top sensitivity of ISO 25600 and Full HD video recording.
Along with the K-01, Pentax has also announced the world’s thinnest interchangeable lens, the smc PENTAX-DA 40mm F2.8 XS unifocal. The K-01 has been designed with a contemporary yet timeless design. Bright colours are used on two key buttons for instant recognition: red for the video recording button, and green for the functional green button. The body is made from machined aluminium and natural rubber, making it both tactile and durable.
The mode dial and the power switch are made of an aluminium alloy, while the memory card slot and connectors on the easy-to-hold grip are covered with protective rubber. Newson has made his stamp on the product logo, the camera strap and even on the start-up screen. The optical viewfinder and quick-return mirror were eliminated during the design process to allow more freedom in the design of the camera body.
The PENTAX K-01 comes in three colourways: Black with black grip, Black with yellow grip, and silver with black grip. It will be available from the end of March 2012, priced £629.99 (body only); £679.99 (K-01 + 40mm DA XS lens); £679.99 (K-01 + DAL 18-55mm lens) and £799.99 (K-01 + DAL 18-55mm lens + DAL 50-200mm lens).
As the old saying goes, the best camera is the Canon 7D. But after that it’s the one you have on you. And more often that not that’s your smartphone. Smartphone cameras are getting better and better and are the camera of choice for most uploaders on Flickr. Purists can turn up their noses all they want. Someone will probably take a picture of them doing it and whack it on Instagram.
Fortunately we’ve moved beyond the dark days of the megapixel wars and average camera-savvy consumer knows that you can get amazing images with a good lens. But what if you want to extend your photographic horizons and take slightly more varied shots – from far away or up close and personal. Well there’s a new system for expanding your photographic palate on the iPhone from Vtec.
There have already been a number of attempts to bring various lens to the iPhone, most notably the 3-in-1 OlioClip which I’ve lusted after for some months but have been unable to muster up the courage to order online. Unlike the OlioClip which daintly pops on the edge of an iPhone, Vtec’s lenses go all out with a built in case and screw in lenses.
The CAM-1209 Aluminium Telephoto Lens offers 12x zoom quality without image distortion. The Telephoto Lens has a manual focus ring and comes with its own tripod, which attaches to the lens to steady the phone when capturing shots.
For bargain hunters, the Wide-Angle and Macro Lens come as one kit, with the Wide-Angle screwing onto the front of the macro lens. Just to hip you to some knowledge as the kids never say, wide-angle lenses increase the angel of view by 45%, whilst a macro lens enables you to get up close and personal with subjects – being a petal, insect or in my case a ruptured tea bag.
The Fish-Eye Lens offers circular 180° fish eye magnification, giving effect to any image taken. This lens is great for fun, quirky shots and also gives each image a circular black border.
The image quality of the lens we played with (Wide-Angle and Macro Lens) was pretty great for the price and it opened up a lot more photographic options. However there were one or two drawbacks. For one the case didn’t play nicely with the flash, leaving the screen bathed in light. And the cash made it hard to use the iPhone with my second-favourite photography accessory – the Glif, although you could sort of jam it in if you are daring. But if you want to have one up on your Instagram buddies, or just fancy getting a bit more creative with your smartphone photography then the Vtec lens add-ons are pretty amazing.
Wi-Fi, zoom lenses on compact cameras, and powerful full-frame DSLRs with impressive specs and big price tags were all on the menu for photography fans at CES 2012. Fuji announced the X-Pro1 – its new 16-megapixel camera with APS-C X-Trans sensor. This is a mirrorless camera, but Fujifilm claims its sensor can rival that of some of the full-frame DSLRs. It’s a retro-looking camera – rather like its older brothers the X100and the X10.
Three new XF Fujinon lenses were also unveiled at CES, to go with the new X Mount on the X-Pro1. This new mount is really thin, which should reduce shutter lag, and the lenses have some outstanding apertures: The lenses include an f/2.0 pancake, a 90mm f/2.4 macro lens and a 53mm f/1.4mm lens.
The X-Pro1 is expected to appear in March and the price has yet to be announced.
The Nikon N4, meanwhile, has an intriguing wireless network feature. Connect the D4 to a network using either Wi-Fi or Ethernet and you can use your browser to operate the camera – take photos, change your settings, focus shoot video. You can also see a live feed, although of course how well this works depends on the quality of your connection. One of the most useful features is that you can take photos on your camera and view them on your computer immediately, without having to connect it via USB or place the card in a card reader.
The Nikon D4 is a professional DSLR featuring a 16.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, allowing the shooting of Full HD 1080p and 720p video. Pictures can be saved onto Compact Flash or the new XQD memory card format.
The D4 will be available in February and comes at the professional price of £4799.99
Other cameras that focus heavily on connectivity are Samsung’s range, including the 21X-opticazoom WB850F, the 10X optical zoom ST200F and the 18X optical zoom WB150F, which all offer direct uploads and the ability to sync with Android smartphones for sharing and offloading pictures.
Kodak’s EasyShare M750 also allows for direct uploading to sharing sites and can be paired with BlackBerry, Android and iOS handsets.
Camcorders that also offer Wi-Fi include Canon’s Vixia range and Samsung’s QF20 HD camcorder.
Getting rave reviews at CES was the Canon Powershot G1 X, which is a compact camera but still has a 1.5in, 14.3 megapixel sensor – that’s up there with many DSLRs. So it should give great picture quality (even in low light conditions) without you having to carry around a large camera. It also offers full manual control, 1080p video, and a 14-bit RAW mode
Available in February for around £700.
Lens giant Sigma also announced its new 180mm f/2.8 macro lens for digital SLRS, which features Sigma’s own Optical Stabilizer technology and a wide aperture to offer narrow depth of field and faster shutter speeds.
Sigma also debuted a new range of Micro Four thirds (for Panasonic and Olympus cameras) and E-Mount lenses (for Sony NEX-series cameras) for mirrorless interchangeable lens compact snappers at CES. There are two new lenses – the 30mm f/2.8 EX DN and the 19mm f/2.8 EX DN. Prices and availability to be announced.
Now it is so easy to take great digital images, and to manipulate them as we want, one of the simplest ways to create truly personalised gifts and cards for the festive season is to use an online photo service. And there are so many to choose from. Here’s a selection of new services, along with a few older favourites:
Note that last order dates for the services vary depending on products and delivery options, but tend to be around December 12-16. Please check before ordering!
Nero Kwik Media Software
Nero has added a new photo service to its free Kwik Media software. This lets you design and print your own customised calendars, cards and photo books – show off your holiday snaps, print a ‘boast book’ for grandma or send a family calendar to an aunt who lives abroad.
Great for showing off your holiday snaps, creating a gift for the grandparents or sending a family calendar to Mum for her birthday.
With Nero Kwik Media, the user can complete a high-quality, ready-to-order photo book, calendar or greeting card in minutes. Photos can be tagged and filtered using facial recognition so they can found quickly. Also the pre-configured background themes and layouts can be edited and changed to make your project completely personal to you.
The free Nero Kwik Media software lets you manage, sync and share photos, videos and music across PCs, Android smartphones and tablets. There are also tools to edit and enhance photos, create slide shows, burn your content to DVD and Blu-ray, and post photos and videos to social networks.
Photo products typically ship within five to 10 business days.
A favourite of many of my mum friends is Snapfish. As well as offering bargain prices for photo printing – especially if you have a big batch to get printed, Snapfish also offers a number of personalised gifts.
A customised calendar or mini photobook, for example, each come in at less than £15. Or how about getting your own image on the stamps you use to send your Christmas cards? They cost from £7.80 for a sheet of 10 x 1st class stamps.
You can capture your special moments in a personalised photobook – choose books of up to 150 pages – plenty of room for all your family and friends from over the years to be included in a memory book for a partner or best friend. Soft cover book prices start from a stocking filler price of £2.99.
I have just used Snapfish to create a magic mug (the pictures appear as you fill it with a hot drink) for my husband from my little boy. You can squeeze up to 15 pictures onto a mug – a great gift to keep at work. Plus a calendar for Nanny, filled with pictures of her grandchildren – a whole year of lovely images for £14.99.
My favourite pics tend to go up on Facebook, so rather than go back and trawl through the hundreds of images I’ve taken this year, it would actually be easier to take them off my Facebook page.
The people at Blurb have obviously had the same thought because they have just launched a new bookmaking flow that lets Facebook users turn their album photos into professional-quality books.
The Blurb photo book flow for Facebook lets you use your Facebook photo albums, along with their captions and comments into quality photobooks. The resulting 7×7 inch square format books, start at £7.
To create a book, sign into your Facebook account on the Blurb website. Once the albums are selected they will then autoflow into a Blurb book and a personalised cover will be automatically chosen. Photo comments and captions associated with a picture are also captured. You can buy or edit your book using Blurb’s online bookmaking tool, Bookify.
The images are automatically optimised to high print quality and there is an option to share and sell your book from the Blurb.com bookstore, as well as to create an ebook for iPad.
Jessops has long been a favourite with photographers and it also offers an online service with a wide range of photo gifts.
One of our favourites are the Skins, which can be personalised with your own image for iPhones, iPads and PCs.
If you’re on a budget there are mugs, jigsaw puzzles, mouse mats, gift wrap and cards, snow globes, stationery sets, cushions, key rings and lots more, whether you’re looking for stocking fillers or something a bit more substantial. Keen chefs could even be unwrapping their own personalised apron on Christmas morning.
Until December 6 2011, Jessops is offering 50% off its photo calendars – use the code XMASCAL.
Trawling through a huge box of old family photos recently, I came across piles of Bonusprint envelopes filled with badly-dressed people with questionable hairstyles – and yes, many of them were me. It’s hardly surprising, as BonusPrint has been around 1979.
However, there’s’ nothing old-fashioned about the service it now offers online. BonusPrint has all kinds of personalisd photo gifts for you to choose from, from Photo Cards and Photo Books to prints, calendars and diaries.
As my small boy has come home from school several times with some other child’s Ben 10 lunchbox, being able to personalise a child’s lunchbox is absolutely inspirational – and at £9.99 it’s pretty much on a par with the prices charged for your average character themed box.
For someone who loves their kitchen, or who has just moved into a new home – how about a personalised glass chopping board or glass placemats?
Finally, Photobox is another favourite in our household. On our first wedding anniversary, I was struggling to come up with a clever paper-based gift until I logged on to Photobox and found their beautiful collage photo posters – I grouped together some favourite photos of our time together for a truly unique gift.
As well as the usual posters, calendars and photo books, Photobox has also introduced Christmas photo baubles this year – great as gifts for grandparents, or for a baby’s first Christmas, or even as a lasting reminder of a loved one who has passed away.
Also new this year at Photobox are the personalised photo snow globes.
Head to www.photobox.co.uk, where new customers can get 30 per cent off their first order using the FIRST30 code.
If your friends are heading off on a round-the-world adventure, or you just know someone who loves their holidays, here are some ideas for the perfect present.
Nikon AW100 rugged camera
Climbers, divers and skiers, can grab all the best shots with the Nikon AW100 – a ‘rugged’ camera that is shockproof, waterproof and freezeproof. It has a 16-megapixel back illuminated CMOS image sensor; Action Control to allow one-handed operation and built-in Global Positioning System (GPS), electronic compass and world map.
From: High street stores
HD Hero2 wearable/mountable cameras
Active travellers can capture and share their high-definition videos while in action on the slopes, surfing or cycling with the HD hero2 camera, which has a high-performance 11-megapixel sensor, a totally redesigned wide-angle lens, plus Wi-Fi BacPac and Wi-Fi Remote products are slated for release this winter, so the HD Hero2 will enable video remote control. The removable polycarbonate housing means the camera is waterproof to 180ft/60m and protected from rocks and other hazards. Accessories include straps to attach the camera to your chest, a wrist strap and the option to attach the camera to a helmet.
AirCurve Play loudspeaker
Take your sounds with you with the AirCurve Play designed for the iPhone 4. Using the phone’s onboard loudspeaker and a clever coil design, the sound is amplified to 10 decibels, without the need for any battery power. The AirCurve Play sits in the rubber dock and can be propped up in landscape or portrait. It also leaves the Apple dock connector port free, allowing you to charge and sync while using the speaker.
Make a note of where you’ve been and what you’ve done with the Travel Scratch Map. The map has a gold foil layer over the top of it, so whenever you frequent a certain place anywhere in the world, scratch it off to reveal the underlying world in colour. Flip the map over and you’ll find the travel log feature, where you can plot your route, stick down photos, and note what music you listened to and friends you met and so on. The map comes in a sturdy tube that you can stick in your rucksack.
Perfect for daredevils and intrepid explorers, this camera captures sporting successes and underwater finds – and it’s small enough to tuck in your Speedos (without its waterproof case it measures a diddy 2 cm x 5.5 cm x 2 cm)! Waterproof to a depth of ten metres, it allows up to 2 hours of recording time whether you’re snowboarding or snorkelling. With its own special waterproof casing, it has loads of different adaptors to mount your waterproof digital camera – clip, strap or screw your camera wherever you want.
I used to hold good photographers in the same high esteem as airline pilots. They, like pilots, had a kind of mystique about them, an aura that made them different to most of us. The sheer ability to create a visual masterpiece in a second, capturing a moment in time for ever, seemed to me to be the work of pure genius.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a creative brain, and there have been many times when I’ve sensed an opportunity to grab the moment and create digital history, it’s just I’ve never had the right type of equipment to do it justice. I’ve gazed enviously at many a photographer, crouching down and aiming the SLR two handed like a pistol at yet another potential masterpiece and wishing it was me. But of course it would never be me; the sheer plethora of dials, buttons and lenses, aperture time, sensor sensitivity, and all round complexity would have me twiddling for hours instead of snapping my money shot.
It seems that those lovely people at Nikon, clearly hearing of my plight, took pity on me and created the perfect solution, the D3100.
Not only does it look the part with a two handed grip body, a choice of high quality lenses and Nikon’s legendary image making prowess, it also has a whole set of options for first time DSLR users who up to now, have just been content using a compact camera. It is in short, the perfect bridge into the SLR world.
There’s a range of automatic settings for example. Live View with Scene Auto Selector selects the mode that matches your shooting situation; Scene Recognition analyzes the scene and optimizing the camera settings immediately before the shutter is released; and the brilliant Guide Mode will take you step-by-step through the process of just how to capture that perfect picture. Wonderful, but it gets even better.
The D3100 carries a 14.2 megapixel DX format CMOS image sensor, whilst Nikon’s EXPEED 2 processing engine effectively boosts the ISO (100-3200) capability significantly. So there’s a much lower risk of blurred images when you take pictures of your kids running around the room or poor image quality when you’re outside with the family having an evening get together. And talking of family, it’s also got full HD quality video built in too.
You can view your scenes either through Nikon’s viewfinder which now incorporates an 11 point autofocus system, or via the built in 3 inch LCD colour screen.
Now, show me a sunflower and I’ll show you an award winning image. Bring it on.
Ricoh has updated its premium compact camera, from the GR Digital III to the – surprise surprise – GR Digital IV.
So what’s new about the latest model? Well, Ricoh has updated its image processors, and introduced an image stabilisation system to help prevent camera shake. Its autofocus speed should also be faster thanks to Ricoh’s Hybrid AF system. Ricoh claims it has cut focusing time to just 0.2 seconds. There has also been a change in the LED screen – which now uses Sony’s WhiteMagic RGBW technology, so should be brighter than your average screen, while using less power.
There is also an electronic level that is capable of highlighting inclination from the horizontal, and tilting, which is useful if you take a lot of shots of buildings, for instance.
Looks-wise, the Digital IV looks much like its predecessor, which means it’s not exactly beautiful to look at. In fact, some may find its plain boxy black body decidedly unappealing. However, if you’re happy to spend a bit more, you can take advantage of Ricoh’s grip customization service – this means you can choose between a leather, carbon or metal hand grip, which is an unusual feature. Or look out for the limited edition model, which comes in white with a leather camera strap and metal lens cap.
While pundits praised the Digital III a couple of years ago, they were not so keen on its pricetag – at £530 it was pricey for a compact – and the Digital IV is little better – priced at £500. Plus, by the way, an extra cost if you want a camera strap or lens cap.
Image quality was excellent on its predecessor and Ricoh reckons it has got even better thanks to a tweaked optical filter, and new processing engine, even though it sports the same 10 megapixel CCD sensor under the hood.
Get more information at www.ricoh.com/r_dc/gr/gr_digital4/