New and Noteworthy Photo Gear


Nikon AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 85/3.5G ED VR

Designed for use with Nikon DX-format (APS-C) imaging sensors, the AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85/3.5G ED VR covers the angle-of-view (18º) of a 127.5mm short-telephoto lens on a full-frame (24x36mm) DSLR. The new lens focuses down to 10.8" (0.27 m) for sharp, life-size (1:1) reproduction of your subject.

If you've ever tried shooting extreme close-ups hand-held you know how difficult it can sometimes be to compose and capture sharp images, especially under low lighting conditions. To make life easier in these circumstances, the new 85 Micro features Nikon VR II image stabilization, which enables up to 4-stops of leeway when shooting close-ups without a tripod.

To minimize chromatic aberrations the new lens features an Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) glass element as well as Nikon Super Integrated Coatings (SIC) for improved light transmission and reduced flare. Other features found on the AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 85/3.5G ED VR include internal focusing (IF), a Nikon Silent Wave Motor (SWM) for quick and quiet response times, and a rounded 9-blade diaphragm for natural-looking, out-of-focus image elements.

We had an opportunity to take the new Micro out for a few post-snowstorm spins around the block, and overall the pictures we captured were sharp and nicely saturated. Sharpness levels aside, the lens' 9-bladed diaphragm performed as advertised. Out-of-focus elements are rendered evenly and smoothly and should please all you bokeh-lovers out there.

As with all longer focal length optics, the closer you focus, the more critical you have to be when composing your shots, even with the 85 Micro's 4-stop image-stabilized advantage. If you plan on shooting wide-aperture, hand-held close-ups, this lens needs to be used with a bit more thought and intuitiveness, especially when your subject is blowing in the wind or feverishly seeking nectar. The same goes for the lens' AF system. The new lens reacts quickly and precisely, but there are times you're better off turning it off and focusing manually, especially when shooting at the closest focusing range at wider apertures. When you're shooting 1:1, keeping the subject's eye in focus requires hands-on participation.

The Nikon Micro 85/3.5G ED VR is also suitable for portraits and other short-range telephoto needs.

Sample Nikon 85/3.5G ED VR Images

Dg Foto Art Gold

If you're a wedding or event photographer, you know how time consuming it can be to edit your selections and customize the perfect album. Entry-level computer software lacks professional editing tools and inhibits your creativity with limited templates. Advanced programs give you more control, but can be difficult to use. Now Dg Foto Art Gold from PXL Soft with its intuitive interface, easy editing functions, and simple customization brings a cost-effective option to new photographers and budding professionals looking for a comprehensive editing and layout solution.

The Dg Foto Art Gold interface is a full-screen single panel. By filling the display of your desktop or laptop, it's easy to focus on your project in a clean, album-style format. The photo browser at the bottom of the display allows you to quickly select the images you want to put in your album. Simple layout templates are available in the left column and give you a preview of the design layout. Photo placement is as easy as drag and drop.

On the publishing end, the Dg Foto Art Gold suite provides 1,700 easy-to-use templates for creating unique photo albums, calendars, and brochures. You can even modify an existing template to your liking and save your preferences on the fly. Stylish borders, glow, and other effects can be added with a just click or two. Don't be intimidated if you're new to image editing: by working comfortably at your own pace, the only limit to the software is your creativity.

Familiar with Photoshop, but shy about the Adobe Design Premium CS4 price tag? Dg Foto Art Gold offers industry-standard tools like Levels and Curves at an affordable price. While cloud services have been stepping it up with improved web-edit tools, the experience of working with local software still has some advantages. From painting out distractions with the Cloning Tool to making a critical selection with the Magic Wand, Dg Foto Art Gold is a great way to take your photography to the next level.

Available for both Mac and Windows, the software supports most commonly used image files: JPEG, TIFF, TARGA, and BMP. RAW and PSD files are not compatible.

Two New Wide Optics from Nikon

When Nikon discontinued their AF 28/1.4D they left a void in their lens line-up that was greatly felt by those requiring a fast wide-angle lens for shooting in dim, tight quarters, as well as those who like the option of shooting wide open for shallow, selective focus. If this describes you, get yourself a long-stemmed glass and pop the bubbly.

Nikkor 24/1.4G ED Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR

The AF-S Nikkor 24/1.4G ED is a fine combination of wide angle coverage and a truly fast maximum aperture. Add to this mix Nano Crystal Coatings to reduce ghosting and internal flare, 2 ED glass elements for minimizing chromatic aberrations, a Silent Wave Motor (SWM) for rapid, quiet auto-focusing, an M/AF switch for easy changeover from AF to Manual (and vice-versa), and a rounded, 9-blade diaphragm for natural-looking, out-of-focus image elements. The Nikkor 24/1.4G has a minimum focus down to 0.82ft (0.25m), and when used on a Nikon APS-C format DSLR has an equivalent field-of-view of a 36mm f1.4 prime lens.

Equally noteworthy is the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR, a 24-ounce, imager-stabilized, ultra-to-mid-wide zoom lens that should also prove to be popular among wide angle shooters. Along with up to 4 stops of vibration dampening, the new zoom features focusing down to 0.95' (0.29m), 2 ED glass elements, 3 aspherical glass elements, and Nano Crystal lens coating, which together is expected to provide for some rather sharp, aberration-free imagery.

Gary Fong Flip Cage

Gary Fong's latest creation, the Flip Cage Tabletop Tripod, is a more than a one-trick pony. Designed to support any number of pocket digicams in both vertically or horizontally, it also does double-duty as a 'crash-cage' protection device when traveling from point A to point B. Measuring 4 x 2.5 x 1" when folded, the Flip Cage is available in a selection of tasty colors including Blueberry Blue, California Poppy Red, Candy Pink, Jade Green, Midnight Black, Sunshine Yellow, and Puppy Poo, the Gary Fong Flip Cage is a fun accessory for those seeking a light-weight camera support that's cool-looking as well as functional. And if that's not enough incentive for you, a genuine Gary Fong neckstrap is included with each Flip Cage.