I’m writing a combination post this year. Celebrating the best gear of the year and making suggestions for those looking at holiday gifts for photographers.
It’s been a very strange year for sure, but photography goes on. For 20 years I’ve offered a list of the best gear of the year and for 15 I have offered a gift guide. This year’s format is different and the post shorter because, well – as I said it’s been a strange year.
I’m going to start with my best gear of 2020 and of course all these items would be great gifts but some are on the spendy side.
- Camera of the Year
Olympus OM-D E-M1 MK III
This has been one of the bright spots for Olympus in an otherwise troubling year where we saw them sell the camera business to Japan Industrial Partners.
The MK III is a best seller and why not? It has most of the features of the OM-D E-M1 X in a smaller body. It cannot do the bird tracking AI but it can do astro photography like no other camera. And it’s very competitively priced at $1399.
- Lens of the Year
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm f/4.5 TC1.25X IS PRO Lens
Yes, I am biased but as a bird / wildlife photographer, this is a dream lens. I know many photographers who are planning to switch to Olympus just to get this lens. At $7500, some thing it is expensive, but given it’s got an EFL of 300 to 800 and a built-in TC that makes it 1000mm (at f/5.6) and is hand holdable at shutter speeds of less than 1/100th of a second, well, that’s worth it. It’s an engineering marvel and there’s no lens like it in the world. I’d say that qualifies as lens of the year – hands down.
- Camera Support of the Year
While you cannot actually put one in your bag yet, it was launched in 2020 so it counts. And my nod goes to the Platyball. Again, I am biased because I know and love Larry T. the inventor of the Platypod (a great gift idea) and the Platyball. I also was able to consult with Larry on this product going back almost two years ago when he first brought the idea to me. I helped him along the way with some input on what I thought the product needed. So did a bunch of my friends. I have held a prototype in my hand and I can tell you that once this thing lands, there will be no other ballhead being talked about by any serious photographer. It is a total game changer. It’s one of those products that everyone will say “Why didn’t I think of that?” You want one. Trust me. And so does anyone you’re buying holiday gifts for. Get on the list at https://www.platypod.com/collections/platyball.
- Software of the Year
Anything from Topaz Labs A.I. project.
January, 2020, I made my first and as it turns out, last field trip of the year. I went to south Texas with my pal Alan Murphy and had a grand time photographing all sorts of birds including six lifers for me. I had heard of Topaz Labs and had been using their Impression II painting plug-in but I hadn’t tried any of their other products. He showed me their tech and I was blown away. As soon as I got home I downloaded everything they make and it has changed my photography forever. Especially in the following areas: sharpening, noise reduction and enlarging images. The AI used by Topaz is the best I have ever seen. It’s better than anything Adobe offers. I use it now every day. And since the pandemic struck, I’ve had tons of free time and I went back and edited some of my favorite images using the entire Topaz suite and in every case, I was able to improve what I had already done. Check out the Topaz stuff. It will make a great gift too. I can save you money by the way, if you want to buy some Topaz software, go to this link – http://bit.ly/TopazPlugins and use the code METHODS at checkout. It will save you 15% off the current lowest price. (You must use both the link and the code to get the discount.)
- Internet Photo Site(s) of the Year
I have been an advocate of Flickr for a long time. They do NOT step on your photos and squish the ever-living-daylights out of them the way that sites like Facebook do. When you post your images on Flickr you can show off detail that no other site can display. They are owned by SmugMug and the tandem are my Internet Photo Sites of the year. SmugMug is where I am hosting my guitar portfolio (www.guitarportraits.com) and Flickr is where I share my best pictures that I want on social. Both are easy to use, have photographer-friendly policies, offer a fair price and are staffed by photographers. It’s truly a by photographers FOR photographers affair. I personally know many of the people behind these products. They are people of great character and passion and as far as I am concerned, they have no equal.
If you want to see a list of all the stuff I currently use and trust, you can visit this link. https://picturemethods.com/gear-guide/ And if you’re looking for gear, check with my friend Gary Hunt at Hunt’s Photo. He’s someone you can trust.