SLR Lounge’s Favorite Gear of 2016 To Weaponize 2017
When we look back to 2016, it was a great year for the photography world where everyone from Canon to the lowliest Kickstarter project seemed to offer something new and exciting. While not everything pushed boundaries, some apps and products were wholeheartedly adopted by the photographers/staff here at SLR Lounge as tools we’ll be boldly taking from 2016 to conquer 2017. Here is a dose of those aforementioned tools:
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*In no particular order
Armory For 2017
DJI PHANTOM 4 PRO – Ryan Longnecker
Besides the fact that it literally improved on every part of the three, which I already thought had no need for improvement; they are continuing to innovate not because of competing with others, but because they seem to be competing with themselves. That and their commitment to environmental activism and preservation is what every company that empowers creativity should be involved in.
Link to Ryan’s Favorite:
Canon 5D Mark IV – Pye Jirsa
One of the most anticipated products of 2016 came from Canon and their 5D Mark IV. It has been both praised for its low light performance, and criticized for its crop 4K with an MJPEG codec.
[RELATED: IN DEFENsE OF THE 4K ON THE 5D MARK IV]
A generous bump in megapixels, 4k video, a touchscreen, and 2 stops more dynamic range make this a noteworthy product, but for Pye the dual Pixel AF live view made this his product of the year, saying it “has completely changed the way I shoot”.
Link to Pye’s Favorite:
QNAP TS-251A & AFFINITY PHOTO – JUSTIN HEYES
Being the resident computer guy of the group, it is no surprise that my favorites of 2016 are software and hardware.
The QNAP TS-251A is an upgrade to the very popular TS-251 with an updated processor, upgraded base RAM, with the ability to get the best of both worlds with and front access port to be used for direct storage, and it has a built-in SD card reader to boot.
The QNAP TS-251A gives you the option of choosing your own size and brand of storage. Whether you choose Digital’s Red drives, Seagate’s Ironwolf, or HGST Deskstar you have the option or remotely accessing your files via your own personal cloud and check the status of your RAID on the go.
Affinity has been around for a few years now, but with their update of 1.5 Serif Labs has provided a powerful and professional quality image editor and processing tool. While it many not have the plug-ins and add-on that Photoshop power users have come to rely on, In my opinion, It has a great potential for growth – plus graphics acceleration is supported for my 2011 Macbook Pro.
Links to Justin’s Favorites:
Filmborn, Enlight, & the Sigma 85mm – Shivani reddy
Shivani’s favorites of 2016 are the insanely popular Filmborn and Enlight apps, along with the new Sigma 85mm.
Introduced by an article here on the site actually, Filmborn is a mobile app that applies Mastin Lab presets to images. Initially it was extremely underwhelming with only a few filters included in the free version and minimal curve adjustments, but it took a while to truly understand its utility. Unlike the more popular VSCO App, Filmborn gives users subdued filers that lack in contrast but are packed with pastels and beloved filmic features (grain, mellow highlights, and lifted shadows).
This is definitely an app worth checking out for those into photo manipulation. Having a portable camera on my mobile device has really reduced the use of my SLR on trips or in poor weather conditions and therefore has forced me to think around the limitations of a cellular camera. One of the biggest issues plaguing cell phone cameras is dynamic range, even in HDR mode on an iPhone, there isn’t enough detail retained.
Enlight lets you mask in and overlay images to “enhance” the overall picture. You can see that I had a pretty drab sky from this shot of the SF skyline but I actually just googled an image of clouds and swapped out the sky in the app. Since we are confined to certain settings because of our cell phone cameras, this app allows you to think creatively about what you can add or take away from a scene and still make it look believable.
What isn’t there to say about the Sigma 85? Easily one of the most anticipated gear releases of the year, this lens gained such a special place in my heart as one of the most robust portrait lenses I’ve ever handled. A beast in nature, Sigma really hit the nail on the head with an improved AF motor, reduced chromatic aberration, and a ridiculous track record for sharpness – this lens definitely lived up to the hype. For those still debating between saving up for a Canon or Nikon equivalent, you can read my full review here.
Links to Shivani’s Favorites:
ALIEN SKIN EXPOSURE X2 – jay cassario
Exposure provides fast photo organization, robust color grading, and gorgeous special effects, without the need for complicated catalogs or slow imports. As Jay says it does things that Lightroom can not like toning highlights and shadows separately and better grain definition.
Exposure X2 build upon Exposure X with a new Spot heal tool, better PSD support and new Faded looks for a hazy, dreamy effects.
Link to Jay’s Favorite:
PROFOTO OCF COLLAPSIBLE BEAUTY DISH – Holly Roa
In my opinion, Holly had very sensible choices when it came to her favorite from Profoto.
She had this to say about the Profoto OCF Collapsible Beauty Dish:
“2016 brought us an exciting new addition to Profoto’s OCF modifier lineup: the collapsible beauty dish. Available in both white and silver, it makes life a little easier for photographers who love the look a beauty dish gives and often shoot on location with their Profoto strobes. If you’ve taken a traditional beauty dish on location, you know they can be bulky to transport and a bit cumbersome. Compared to Profoto’s Softlight Beauty Dish, it’s over a pound lighter while being 3.5 inches larger in diameter and its collapsibility means it will pack up and transport much more conveniently.”
Link to Holly’s Favorite:
THE G MASTER LINE OF LENSES – Bing Putney
Bing called an audible with his favorite items this year. Instead of picking one or two things, the entire G Master Line of Lenses. He had this to say on his choice(s):
While there were no new A7 series bodies released in 2016, Sony took a huge step towards bolstering the system in the eyes of professionals when they announced the G Master line of lenses. The new 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8 and 85mm f/1.4 offerings have the potential to become the go-to glass of professional shooters from a variety of genres.
The 85mm has received phenomenal reviews and slides into the system as a class leading portrait lens. It is optically superb, and a perfect match for the high-resolution a7RII. The 24-70mm is ready to go toe-to-toe with similar offerings from Canon and Nikon, and will be a necessary component for many considering a move to the Sony system. Manufacturing delays have slowed shipments of the 70-200mm, and reviews are scarce, but I’ve had a chance to briefly get my hands on it and can tell you that it is ready for prime time. It’s responsive, handles well, and the optics are impressive, to say the least.
As for the price tags… well, they’re not cheap. But professional grade equipment rarely is.
Links to Bing’s Favorites:
Instagram Business & the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Lens – Wendell Weithers
While Wendell’s favorite app of 2016 isn’t a new one in particular; Instagram businesses, as he states, “was the natural evolution of the platform It was a change that forces users in general and photographers in particular to be more thoughtful about how they use the app. A new algorithm and the ability to run promotions made this app a much more powerful marketing tool.”
If Wendell could have his choice of any new product of 2016 it would be the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Lens. He adds, “With corrected focus breathing and those magical Nikon coatings, this is on my dream list. But coming in at $2800, it may just remain a dream. But hey, I don’t need both of my kidneys.”
Link to Wendell’s Favorite:
Nikon D500, Sony a6500, Leica Sofort – Kishore sawh
When we were pitching the idea of doing a favorites article of 2016 our Editor In Chief, Kishore, almost immediately called dibs on the D500 and the Leica Sofort, and the A6500. He had this to say on his obvious favorites:
The D500 is, by no hair’s-breath or short measure, the overall most impressive camera I’ve seen in a long time; it’s wish fulfillment. When we think of high end cropped sensor DSLRs we can point to a few but more often than not we point to the past, to the D300s that left a void when it left. The D500 was the replacement for it we’ve wanted for years, and then some. What Nikon did with the D500 was create something so compelling, so powerful and so accessible, that you’d need a very particular need to go for anything else in the line-up.
The A6500, unlike the D500, is one of those cameras that fly in under radar because it looks, at first glance, like the rest of the small alpha line, but what you’re getting is so profoundly complete that again it’s one of those cameras people have been asking for and don’t realize they’ve now been given. From the 5 axis stabilization, to the video abilities, to speed and mobile connectivity and adaptability, the A6500 is probably the camera most can buy now that would suit their every need. Of course when I say that I’m not speaking to those who need specific gear for specific things, but for someone who wants power, no fuss, no size penalty, tell me what’s more complete? Look out for our full review review soon.
Leica’s Sofort is a design piece and it’s about feeling good about what you’ve got in your hand, and I’ll be the first to admit. Does it perform better than the Fuji Instax mini line? In a word, yes, but you’ve kind of got to look for it. It’s a premium product with Bauhaus design and feel that you pay for (including the red dot), but damn if it’s not the only instant camera I’d care to carry wherever I go, and that’s sort of critical.
Links to Kishore’s Favorites:
As we enter the new year, we look forward to all of the projects and ever expanding ways we will grow as both a person and a creative. New products will be released this coming that could be game changers or ones that could help make your workflow faster and as always we will be here bringing it to you.