Editors Picks
Our Top Photo Tools For 2002

Every year thousands of new products are introduced for photographers, ranging from new films to software to lenses and cameras. Sorting through all this and finding the top picks is our job, and we thoroughly enjoy being able to test and work with many of them. I often think that the reason many folks get into writing about photo and imaging products is that they get to play with so many fun toys. Rather than sit in the editor's chair and pontificate about the Shutterbug top picks for 2002, I decided to delve into the collective consciousness of our able and pro staff of contributors and find out about those products they would choose to use for a myriad of tasks. We sent out a poll in July and tallied the responses in late August, thus any products introduced after the summer are not included in this survey. But we believe that this, our first Editors' Picks offering, represents a good sampling of those products that have added to a photographer's creative arsenal.

Of course, when you poll a group as diverse as we have as contributors here at Shutterbug you're going to get a wide range of opinions. Each writer has their own pro specialty and their choices reflect their particular expertise in the craft. It was our job here to sort through all this and slim down the field. That was not an easy task, as each product nominated has its own particular charm and quality. In some surprising instances many of the contributors agreed. As you read through these choices you might see one or sometimes two products mentioned, indicating a fair split between votes.

Our aim here is not to make this a popularity contest, but to give you an indication of the state of the art in various fields. We have not chosen any products on the basis of who might advertise in the magazine or play favorites with one manufacturer over another. These are the tools that working photographers who happen to be Shutterbug contributors have chosen as what they have, or would like to have, in their camera bag or in their darkroom or digital desktop. We have not included every product nominated by our writers. Also note that we have kept the product descriptions to a minimum and rely on the real words of the reporters to tell the tale. For more information on any product please check out the appropriate web site. When available, we have listed the company web sites at the end of this article.
--George Schaub

35mm SLR Camera

Nikon F5
This by-now venerable model still gets raves from 35mm pro shooters. Said Peter Burian, "Arguably the most full-featured SLR camera, it's incredibly effective for all types of photography."

Nikon N55

A recent introduction, the N55, says Stan Trzoniec, "makes it easy to transition from entry level to advanced amateur and is just the right price."

Rangefinder And Specialty 35mm:
Hasselblad XPan

This panoramic 35mm allows you to shoot in wide and 35mm standard frame formats. Said Tony Sweet, "I shoot almost as much with the XPan as with my 35mm SLR, and this format is gaining in popularity with stock agencies. It's razor sharp and the format is very appealing." Jack Hollingsworth praises the XPan as "a jewel of a compact panoramic."

Leica M7
A number of Shutterbug writers praised the new Leica as a camera with "new automatic features that make it even more desirable than the M6, and as a camera with "superlative quality in every respect."

Voigtländer Bessa R2
Said Bob Shell, "The Bessa R2 has a super bright rangefinder, solid metal body, and offers many lenses. And, it's surprisingly affordable." Roger Hicks and Frances Schultz call it "an ultra desirable collectible (especially in olive green) as well as a great user camera."

35mm Interchangeable Lenses

Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS
Said Bob Shell, "This hunk of glass is not compact or cheap, but it is the sharpest lens I have worked with in some time and IS (Image Stabilization) makes it possible to hand hold it at amazingly slow shutter speeds."

Tamron AF 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR LD
"This affordable, new entry from Tamron is the do-everything, go-anywhere lens ideal for travel photography. It's compact and lightweight, and lets you really play in the field," said Editor Schaub.

Tamron 28-105mm f/2.8
"I find this lens indispensable," said Steve Bedell. "It handles 90 percent of the shots I need and keeps me from changing lenses. The fast speed is a big bonus."

Voigtländer Leica Screw Thread Series
Said Roger Hicks and Frances Schultz, "These stunning lenses in superb quality mounts are available at astonishingly affordable prices."

Mamiya 645AFD
Bob Shell said, "This highly functional camera has every feature a photographer could need, and is fully digital-ready."

Alpa 12 SS/T
Said Roger Hicks and Frances Schultz, "This is essentially a 12 S/WA model with more shift (+/-25mm) plus a built-in quick-change sliding back, all with flawless Swiss engineering."

Medium Format Lens

Pentax SMCP-FA 645 80-160mm f/4.5 Zoom
"One of the few zooms for 645 cameras, this one offers high build quality and an exceptional optical formula," said Peter Burian.

Mamiya 110mm f/2.8
Jack Hollingsworth characterizes this lens as "awesome for general portraiture, and it's fast, too."

Large Format Camera

Linhof Master Technika
Jack Hollingsworth dubbed this camera a "marvel of German engineering."

Large Format Lens

Schneider 90mm f/6.8
Said Roger Hicks and Frances Schultz, "This bargain-priced, top quality lens is a standard for 4x5 wide angle photography."

Kodak Portra Black And White
"This film," said Bob Shell, "has exceptional latitude and tonal scale and is easily processed by any lab. And it scans beautifully."

Fujifilm Provia 400FSlide Film
Said Stan Trzoniec, "As a telephoto junkie, Provia 400F has decreased my handicap by two full stops, and all with great color and fine grain." Said Editor Schaub, "Prior to Provia 400F I would never think of shooting any slide film faster than ISO 200."

Agfa Optima Prestige Range
Said Frances Schultz, "This is the most significant new color negative film of 2002, with Agfa's Eye Vision sensitization."

Black And White Developer

Paterson FX-50
Said Roger Hicks and Frances Schultz, "This is possibly the finest general purpose and speed increasing developer on the market today."


Sunpak Mini Series
"These tripods are reasonably priced and have a handsome appearance," said Bob Mayer. "They come with either a three-way pan head or removable ball head."

Velbon MAXi343E
Said Larry Berman and Chris Maher, "This tripod offers a great combination of lightweight, size, sturdiness, and cost. At less than 2 lbs it eliminates excuses about not having a tripod with you."

Flash, 35mm

Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX
Jack Neubart says, "This ringlight has evolved to the point where it is nearly as versatile as a shoe mount, with wireless capability in the bargain."

Nikon SB-80DX
"This flash has a vast range of useful features," said Peter Burian, "and can be used with both film and digital SLRs."

Studio Lighting

"My pick is AlienBees," said Bob Shell. "They are super versatile and offer very high quality at a reasonable price, plus a wide range of accessories."

JTL Versalight 1000
Said Bob Mayer, "The Versalight 1000 accepts a wide variety of reflectors and other light modifying devices to add to its versatility."

White Lightning
"I wouldn't use anything else," says Darryl Nicholas. "Their service is tops and the prices are excellent."

Camera Accessories

Cloud Dome
"This highly innovative accessory is great for those interested in close-up and macro photography. It sets up in five minutes and you're ready to shoot," said Stan Trzoniec.

Q-Top QD Tripod Head
A number of our contributors hailed this product. Said Bob Shell, "This is a quick release that is actually quick to use. It's beautifully made and very functional."

Ansmann Energy 16 Charger
"This versatile charger determines the battery strength and then discharges and recharges, or simply adds to the existing charge, and can accept up to 16 batteries," said Bob Mayer.

Crumpler Bags
"These colorful and functional bags tend to stand in a class by themselves," said Bob Mayer.

Digital SLR

Canon EOS D60
Peter Burian said the D60 has "a full range of capabilities with convenient and logical operation. It delivers superb image quality and fast image recording time that makes it ideal even for action photography."

Digital Compact Camera

Minolta DiMAGE X
"This tiny digicam is so smart looking and sleek," said Jack Neubart. According to Bob Mayer, "The unique internal mirror system and 3x optical zoom make the camera very tiny with a constant flat front. It's one of the smallest digicams, yet is fully capable."

Nikon Coolpix 5000
Said Peter Burian, "Five million pixel resolution and numerous features and capabilities make it almost competitive with a more expensive digital SLR." Larry Berman and Chris Maher said, "With its 5-megapixel capture, it can take impressive images by any standard."

Sony DSC-F707 Cyber-shot
"This 5Mp camera has a great 5x zoom. The image quality is outstanding and the camera's electronic viewfinder is the best we've seen," said Larry Berman and Chris Maher.
Digital Camera Backs

Leaf C-Most
"This back has very high image quality at a moderate price for such backs," said Bob Shell.

Kodak ProBack 645
"The ProBack has superb image quality and operates in a non-tethered mode," reported Peter Burian.

Film Scanner

Nikon Coolscan 4000ED
Tony Sweet said, "This scanner is unparalleled. The Digital Ice technology, 4000dpi, and ED glass make this the only 35mm film scanner for professional and serious amateurs." Peter Burian said, "It produces image quality almost competitive with drum scanners."

Microtek ArtixScan 4000tf
Said David Brooks, "For 35mm only, the Microtek is an upgraded version of a proven winner at a reasonable price."

Flat-Bed Scanner

Epson Perfection 2450
"This unit is perfection," said Tony Sweet. "The true 2450dpi resolution along with the price makes this the only flat-bed I'd consider. It's also great for scanning Hasselblad XPan transparencies, which won't scan in most others." David Brooks said, "The Epson 2450 has the best value and performance package."

Memory Card

Lexar 24x CompactFlash (512MB)
Said Peter Burian, "This card has an incredibly fast write/read speed when used with the new digital cameras that support high-speed write/read, and is ideal for use with 5 and 6Mp cameras."

IBM 1 Gig MicroDrive
Said Steve Bedell, "I couldn't get by without the IBM MicroDrive. I use it for weddings and high school seniors and it allows me to do most any size job without having to go to another card."

SanDisk CompactFlash
"This top performer is now faster than ever. Prices are very good and they are very reliable," said Darryl Nicholas.

Digital Printers: Ink Jet

Epson 785EPX
Said Jack Neubart, "This memory card printer produces excellent prints and offers true convenience."

Canon S900
"The Canon S900 produces stunning image quality," said Bob Shell. "There are separate ink cartridges for each color and the printing is very fast."

Epson 2200
"With new printing speed, much improved print image quality, long lasting and new Ultra Chrome pigment inks, and a lower price, the Epson 2200 looks like it will fulfill the dreams of many photographers," said David Brooks.

Digital Printers: Dye Sublimation

Olympus P-400
"The results from this full-size printer are impressive," said Jack Neubart. "Its 90 second continuous tone output is faster than any ink jet can deliver with this quality." Peter Burian said, "Stunning print quality." Steve Bedell said, "The Olympus gives extremely consistent output."


Said David Brooks, "My first choice is the very new Apple eMac all-in-one desktop computer. For the PC user the best off-the-shelf system for digital photography is the Sony Vaio RX Digital Studio series."
Software: Image Manipulation

Photoshop 7
All agree: it's Photoshop 7. Said Darryl Nicholas, "There's nothing better and the new healing brush and text options are excellent."

Synthetik Software Studio Artist 2.0
"This graphics synthesizer is both fun and seriously creative in the many ways it can render a photograph," said David Brooks.

Software: Plug-In

nik Color Efex Pro
"The range of color effects is mind-blowing," said Jack Neubart, "and goes from subtly tasteful to psychedelic."

iCorrect Professional
"This plug-in," says Bob Shell, "enables you to do complete correction of most images with a single click."

LaserSoft SilverFast Ai 5.52
"This remains the easiest and most efficient way to scan with many if not all scanners," said David Brooks.

Software: Archiving

ACDSee 4.0
"This has been our favorite tool for years," said Larry Berman and Chris Maher, "and the new Version 4.0 is even faster."
Digital Ink Jet Paper

Ilford Galerie
Bob Shell, Frances Schultz, and Roger Hicks all picked Ilford Galerie. Said Hicks and Schultz, "Even photographers mistake it for real (silver halide) paper." Said Shell, "It works with most printers and often gives better colors than the printer manufacturer's own papers."

Red River Paper
Said Darryl Nicholas, "This company makes many great papers. They have great service, prices, and products."
Digital Accessories

Xtend-a-View LCD Magnifying Hood
Said Larry Berman and Chris Maher, "This shades and magnifies your LCD so you can see what your digital camera really sees through its lens. One of the most important accessories made for a digital camera."

Nixvue Digital Album (Vista)
This portable digital image storage device is, according to Bob Shell, "easy to use and just better than any others I've tried."

Tiffen Lens Adapters
"Affordable and very good optical quality," said Peter Burian.
Product Information
Web sites, in product order: