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Popular Photography & Imaging - Gear Guide 2005

At the end of each year, the editorial staff at Popular Photography & Imaging publishes its annual Gear Guide for the coming year based on the best equipment and software of 2004. The Popular Imaging staff split their Gear Guide into four sections to provide some initial direction:

I thought that it might be useful, this year, to add this list to my website as a complement to my own list of camera and digital darkroom gear. All of the items are linked to and, where appropriate, to Adorama as well.

Vacation, Family & Fun

Digital Compact Cameras

Sony Cybershot DSCW1 5MP Digital Camera with 3x Optical Zoom
The digital point-and-shoot is the most technologically advanced camera ever made for sharpshooters. People love them because they are simply loads of fun, capable of producing everything from quick email pix to big color prints, along with the instant gratification of a picture. The DSC-W1 has a huge 2.5 inch LCD screen which is great for "show arounds" and resolution up to 5 megapixels ensures you can make prints up to 8.5x11 inches. The DSC-W1 has a fairly typical array of features for this class: 3X optical zoom, power from two AA batteries, optical viewfinder, multipoint autofocus, program autoexposure plus manual overrides, and scene modes for specific situations. Special features include bursts of up to nine fine-quality JPEGs at 1.6 fps (frames per second), VGA video at 30 fps, and a focus-aid lamp for dim light.

Glam Cams

Casio Exilim EX-Z40 4MP Digital Camera with 3x Optical Zoom
Few cameras have created the buzz of slim, metallic digicams like the Casio Exilims. Glam cams offer supreme portability which is a great for snap-shooters and record-keepers. While we love 'em, we should point out that they come up a little short in performance-to-price. Casio's current goodie, the 4 megapixel Exilim Z40, is well-stocked with a big 2-inch LCD, 3X Pentax optical zoom, very quick startup, and pan focus mode for extra fast shooting.

Zoom Baby EVFs

Electric View Finders

Kodak EasyShare DX7590 5MP Digital Camera with 10X Optical Zoom
One of the most satisfying cameras is what we call a baby EVF or superzoom. Their small CCD sensors allow lenses with high zoom factors. While slightly bulkier than a digital compact, these babies are minuscule compared with D-SLRs. We like the 10X Schneider Variogon zoom lens, 2.2 inch LCD, robust rechargeable battery, superb handling and easy operation. Like other cameras in this class, it's a great choice for soccer moms, ballet dads, and anyone who wants to shoot sports or wildlife on the cheap.

Flatbed Scanners

Microtek ScanMaker 6000 Flatbed Scanner
The Microtek Scanmaker 6000 boasts a top resolution of 6400x3200 dpi, 48-bit color depth, and can scan documents up to 8.5x11 inches. Plus it comes with an adapter to scan 35mm film and slides.

Personal Printers

Epson PictureMate Personal Photo Printer
The Epson PictureMate, complete with a carrying handle, packs six water-resistant pigment-based inks for long-lasting prints, a wide color gamut, and a six-in-one card reader to accomodate most memory cards. The cost is only 29 cents per print!


ACDSee 7.0 Powerpack
ACDSee's Powerpack combines a host of utilities into one package. Sort images in order of preference, by camera data, or your own categories and keywords. The program takes newbies through the correction process and allows intensity-adjustment of most filters.

If you like this list, you might want to check out the Editor's Choice lists from
PCPhoto Magazine and PC Magazine.

Getting Serious


Six- to eight-megapixel capture. A 7X-10X zoom lens with a fast f/2.8 aperture -- or faster. Highly accurate viewfinders. Full choice of metering, exposure, and focusing options. Flash flexibility including dedicated accessory units. Lightweight, compact, ergonomic. Starting at under $800. This formerly impossible dream comes true via the electronic viewfinder (EVF) camera which provides TTL (through the lens) viewing by "wire" rather than a cumbersome optical system, and whose physically small sensors allow very compact lens designs.

Konica Minolta Dimage A2 8MP Digital Camera with 7x Anti Shake Optical Zoom
The Dimage A2 has a lot going for it, notably the unique chip-based stabilization that we found worked superbly. It has the biggest, clearest viewfinder image of any EVF.


Why would a serious shooter want a compact digital camera? Precisely because it is compact. While not much bigger or more expensive than their point-and-shoot siblings, advanced compacts have extra capabilities that include wider range zooms, greater exposure control, more flash options (including compatibility with add-on units), faster processing, and better picture definition. They are versatile cameras on their own, and make great adjuncts to a "big" camera.


Sigma EF 500 DG Super Flash
A simple and inexpensive flash can provide many more lighting options, ultimately imparting a more professional polish to your photos. A hot-shoe flash will reach wider and farther than a built-ins output; it will (almost) eliminate red-eye; and opens up a pro's toolkit of other sophisticated lighting techniques.


Canon i9900 Photo Printer
Canon's first desktop photo printer with eight dye-based inks, the i9900 makes creating large, color-accurate prints fast and simple. It has a resolution of 4800x2400 dpi, can make 4x6- to 13x19-inch borderless prints, and has excellent color accuracy.


Epson Perfection 4870 Photo Scanner
If you're looking to do serious editing or digital manipulation with your archived prints, you'll likely want a high-end flatbed scanner. The Epson 4870 features 4800-dpi optical resolution and will scan both photos and prints. The 4870 is available in two versions: Photo and Pro. (Pro comes with more software.)


JASC Paint Shop Pro 9
A program like Paint Shop Pro 9 has nearly all of the sophisticated tools of a fancy editor along with lots of learning features to help you figure out how to use them. It's the editor most often compared with Photoshop, but it stresses fun tools and projects.

If you like this list, you might want to check out the Editor's Choice lists from
PCPhoto Magazine and PC Magazine.

Really Into It


Canon EOS 20D 8.2MP Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens
The Canon 20D may offer the most bang for the buck, with the highest image quality and best overall performance of the bunch. It features a rugged, magnesium-alloy body, superfast SF, a blazing 5-fps burst mode, and advanced flash functions. Plus, unlike most compacts and EVFs, the 20D handles low-light shooting up to ISO 1600 without a dramatic increase in noise.

NIKON D70 Digital SLR Camera Kit
This  8MP DSLR packs features well above what you'd expect from a sub-grand camera. Its image quality, body design and construction, fast AF system and startup time, rapid 3-fps burst rate, and custom functions are truly impressive. We only wish it included Nikon's $99
Capture 4 RAW conversion software and had better upward compatibility with older Nikon flash units.

When you buy a digital SLR, there are literally hundreds of lens choices available for these cameras; each camera manufacturer makes their own line of lenses and there are numerous choices from third parties. Here is a small selection of nice lenses:


Konica Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 Scanner
The resolution, density range, and color accuracy possible with dedicated film scanners still make them the best way to turn your film and slides into digital images. Konika Minolta's scanner impressed us with its ability to resolve 71.3 line pairs per millimeter.


Adobe Photoshop CS
If you've made a commitment to shooting with a digital SLR or if you scan your film and print from your desktop, without Adobe Photoshop CS, you probably aren't using your technology to the fullest.

Photoshop's super-sophisticated system of layers, masks, and blending modes make it possible to subtle (yet monumental) corrections and detailed composite work that's impossible (or at least way to tricky) to do in almost any other program. Add to the mix features that are nonexistent in most other editors: total color management (so you can work in all those color spaces your DSLR shoots in), near-full functionality with 16-bit images (so you don't waste the information your film scanner provides), support for the RAW file formats of the major camera manufacturers... We could go on. But the fact is this: Adobe Photoshop has been and remains the image-editing standard. it is the finest precision tool for the photographer who is ready to take full control and product the best images possible. The following plug-ins are also recommended by the staff at Popular Photography.

LizardTech Genuine Fractals v3.5

Nikon SB-800 AF Speedlight
The SB-800 communicates the exact color temperature of its output (which changes with flash duration) to ensure accurate auto white balancing; the SB-800s high-speed FP mode allows sync speeds of up to 1/8000 second; a modeling flash feature helps confirm lighting; and more.

If you like this list, you might want to check out the Editor's Choice lists from
PCPhoto Magazine and PC Magazine.

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