The Top 15 PDN Objects of Desire of 2011: A Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers


DECEMBER 13, 2011

By Dan Havlik

Having trouble picking out that special something for that special photographer in your life? We've looked back at all the photo gadgets, gizmos, and accessories from 2011 and chosen the following cool products as our favorite Objects of Desire of 2011. Check out our picks below and see if there's something here you can add to your holiday photo shopping list.

Manfrotto Lino Pro Field Jacket
One of the sharper-looking products in 2011 was from Italian tripod manufacturer Manfrotto but it wasn’t a tripod. It was a jacket. Named the Lino Pro Field Jacket after company founder Lino Manfrotto, this slick piece of outerwear is part of new apparel line from Manfrotto under the “Imagine More” brand. The Lino Pro Field jacket is a wind-resistant, all-black zip-up affair with reinforced shoulders with epaulets to thread your camera strap through so it won’t fall off your shoulder. Two tabs on either sides of the jacket’s zipper lock your camera strap down so it doesn’t swing. There are also two front pockets to stash another body or extra lenses and several interior pockets—including one discreet pocket in the sleeve—for smaller items such as memory cards or lens cloths. A rainhood is zipped away in the collar and there’s removable padding in the shoulders if you plan on hauling around heavy stuff, or are just going for that 1980s revival look. Best of all, even with the padded shoulders, this jacket is trim and form fitting so you don’t look like a bozo. $499; manfrotto.com

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F/Stop Watch

This F/Stop watch, which tells time with aperture values rather than numbers, may not be exactly practical but if you’re a photo geek and have plenty of photo geek friends—like we do—it’s another must-have Object of Desire of 2011. In fact, the watch has been so popular since it appeared earlier this year, it seems to be sold out everywhere. Be patient though. If you can't find it at the below link there are many other online sites selling the F/Stop Watch. Google it and get one before they're all sold out again. $35.95; neatoshop.com

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GoPro 3D Hero System

Shooting high-def action footage got bigger and better in 2011 with the GoPro 3D Hero system. If you’re not familiar with GoPro, it’s a wearable HD video camera designed to take a pounding. Strap it to a ski helmet to capture thrilling downhill footage in 1080p; or clip it to a surfboard for a heart-pounding ride through the waves. With the new GoPro 3D Hero system, it gets even more life-like thanks to the Avatar-esque 3D realism. The “system” is a tough plastic housing that lets you connect two GoPro HD cameras with a sync cable to produce extra crisp 1080p 3D footage. And no, the two GoPro cameras don’t come with the $99 set-up so you’ll have to fork over the cash for them as well. A single GoPro HD Hero 960 camera sells for $179. Since the cameras are not fully integrated in the set-up, you’ll have to take your 1080p clips from separate SD memory cards in the cameras and then run them through the included software to create the co-joined 3D footage. The resulting video is impressive. It’s almost like being there. $99; gopro.com

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The iPhone Telephoto Lens

Get a load of this baby: a telephoto lens that attaches to your iPhone. No, it’s not a joke and yes, it will make your iPhone look completely ridiculous but if you like shooting on-the-fly pix and want to get closer to the action, this ain’t a bad solution. The iPhone Telephoto Lens increases the zoom on your iPhone 3 or iPhone 4 (it won’t work on other phones) by 8x, offering you some close-up, candid capability. The Telephoto Lens kit comes with a snazzy, matte black hard case with a screw mount for the lens. Just slide the case around your iPhone, attach the lens and it’s all locked in. There’s a collapsible mini tripod that comes with the kit and clamps on to further stabilize the rig. (You can also handhold the set-up but keep your hand steady to reduce blur.) $35; photojojo.com/store

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Expedition Wooden Tripod

Every time we see Berlebach’s elegant wooden tripods, we’re smitten. Take Berlebach’s Expedition Wooden Tripod, on sale from Photojojo. It’s built in Germany from sustainably harvested ash wood that’s cured for over two years before it’s crafted into a tripod. The wood not only looks classy, it helps dampen vibration and stands up to extreme climates better than metal. (If you’ve ever gripped a metal tripod on a freezing cold day, you know what we mean.) The Exhibition Wood Tripod extends from 20.5 inches to 69.3 inches and uses a standard 1/4-inch tripod mount. It features thick-gauge spiked retractable feet; sturdy, twisting leg locks; and has a tough but lightweight aluminum core. And while it may look like it belongs next to a leather chair and an antique globe in a library, this tripod is a serious customer that’s able to support up to 22 pounds of camera gear. $290; photojojo.com/store

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Cinevate Atlas FLT Slider

One of the best ways to give your HD footage a professional, cinematic look is by using a DSLR slider. The problem with sliders—metal, rail-based contraptions that help produce smooth tracking shots—is that they’re heavy, ungainly and a pain in the butt to lug around. All of which is why we’re pleased as punch that Cinevate is now offering a more portable camera slider. Called the Atlas FLT, the new slider is basically a petite version of Cinevate’s popular Atlas 10 model. But while that product weighed 12 pounds and measured 36 inches, the Atlas FLT tips the scales at about 6 pounds and is 26 inches long. For on-the-go photographers, that means the new slider will fit into a standard suitcase so you can take it on the road. This all-metal device isn’t a lightweight when it comes to performance, however. The Atlas FLT has the same solid build as its predecessor and can support any of the largest pro DSLRs out there—Nikon D3x, Canon 1D Mark IV etc.—with a professional zoom lens attached. The slider’s aluminum/steel body is CNC-machined with stainless steel fasteners and adjustable all-terrain legs so it’s strong and stable. The Atlas FLT also has a non-reflective, black satin anodized finish that won’t get snagged in your bag. More importantly, this thing is a whisper-quiet, sliding machine thanks to Cinevate’s smooth ball bearings and rail system. $579; cinevate.com/atlasflt

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Tron: Legacy Pinball Machine

No, this doesn’t really have anything to do with photography but we think it would look mighty fine in your studio. Most photographers we know are sci-fi nerds and having the Tron: Legacy Pinball machine around for your clients to entertain themselves with should score you some major geek points. Plus, who doesn’t love pinball? Tron: Legacy Pinball features a very cool 3-D backglass that’s designed to bring the movie’s characters and story to life. Fans of the movie Tron will also like that the game includes sound bites from the film’s main characters and music from the film’s score. We haven’t had a chance to try out Tron: Legacy Pinball yet but according to press materials about the game you can play multi-ball rounds based around scenes from the film. Here are some examples: “Ride the two ramps for Light Cycle battles on different levels of the Grid; defeat the motorized Recognizer target bank to expose Rinsler’s spinning Identity Disk; or fire the ball from Rinsler’s Disc to simulate a Disc War.” Hell yeah! Long live the Users! Nerds rule! $4,675; sternpinball.com

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Diana Mini Flash Package White

Some camera gear just looks better in white. Take, for example, the Diana Mini Flash Package, offered by Lomography in a pristine, all-white kit.  However you feel about the whole Lomo plastic-camera phenomenon, it’s hard to deny that these deliberately low-tech, analogue snapshooters are incredibly well packaged. The freshly laundered, minimalist and downright classic-looking Diana Mini Flash White kit is no exception.  This new Diana Mini, as its name suggests, is quite cute and tiny and as light as a toy truck. It accepts a variety of 35mm film— color negative, color slide, black and white, redscale—and shoots in either square or half frame formats. Along with the attachable Diana F+ flash, the package comes with an array of colored gel filters for creating unique effects. $109; lomography.com

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Chrome Niko Camera Bag

Hipster photographers, have we got a camera bag for you! Already beloved by bike messengers (or those who just want to look the part) the world over, California-based bag manufacturer Chrome has come up with a stylish new sling bag to haul around your camera gear. Called the Niko, this new bag features Chrome’s distinctive seatbelt buckle strap and several camera-friendly features. But first let’s mention the hip, superfluous stuff. The signature Chrome buckle release across your chest doubles as a bottle opener. A frackin’ bottle opener! So let’s say you’re finishing a tough assignment and want to kick back with a cold Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. You can open it with your camera bag strap. Yes, your frackin’ camera bag strap! Otherwise, it’s a pretty straightforward sling-style photo bag with an extra cross-chest “load stabilizer” strap to keep the Niko in place even when you’re leaning over the handlebars of your fixed-gear bike while adjusting your pork-pie hat. The bag has a customizable main compartment with soft dividers for fitting your Leica, a couple of Holgas, a pair of moustache tweezers and an extra set of suspenders. If you need more room for your ukulele and your monocle, there are some extra pockets and a zippered flap. In all seriousness though, we like that the Niko takes durability and protection seriously with its weather-sealed YKK zipper over the camera compartment and its waterproof outer Cordura shell. A set of Velcro straps on the side can carry your tripod or your bike pump. $95; chromebagsstore.com

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LockCircle

The LockCircle is proof that you can make anything look snazzy if you put your mind to it. In this case, it’s an aluminum camera body cap for your digital SLR. Yes, that’s pretty much all it does but it does it with style.The metal cap has a knurled edge and a finger-fit design—resembling an old rotary phone—that lets you lock it in even if your hands are greasy after eating a plate of BBQ ribs. It’s available in Silver, Titanium, Black and “Extra Spicy.” When LockCircle is firmly in place, it will protect the inside of your DSLR from dust, moisture and errant barbecue sauce. When it’s not in use, it also makes a handy paperweight or a shot put for weaklings. $99; lockcircle.com


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Sony DEV-5 Digital Binoculars

The concept of a decent pair of digital binoculars that can not only zoom in on bald eagles and whales, but also snap good photos of them seems to resurface as frequently as, say, personal jet packs and flying taxi cabs. But this time, a company may have finally figured it out and they’ve added HD video and 3D to the mix. In 2011, Sony introduced the DEV-5, a pair of binocs that can capture 7.1-megapixel still images and record full 1920 x 1080 HD and 3D footage for playback on most 3D TVs. To cap it off, Sony’s DEV-5 can also record stereo sound, all with the touch of a button. The binoculars have a selectable, variable zoom that lets you scan a wide area at low magnification to spot a subject and then zoom in quickly if you see a soaring osprey or swooping pelican. Maximum magnification is 20x but that includes a boost of digital zoom at settings over 10x. The binoculars have electronic autofocus, which helps keep moving subjects sharp. There’s also a built-in GPS receiver, which automatically geo-tags your video clips and photos. Optical SteadyShot stabilizes what you’re viewing and shooting even when you’re all zoomed in. $1,999; sony.com

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Fuji X10

Throwback “retro” styling has never been more in style when it comes to camera design. Back in April, we named Fuji’s rangefinder-like Fuji X100 an “Object of Desire” in PDN, and we did the same in November with its little brother, the 12-megapixel Fuji X10. Though we hadn’t had a chance to handle the X10 in person at the time of this writing, on paper the camera looks pretty neat. While it recalls the silvery X100, the all-black X10 is charmingly petite and eminently pocketable. The X10 is built from light yet durable die-cast magnesium alloy, and features an upper control deck with mode dials and an aluminum milled, textured lens ring. It weighs in at just 12.3 ounces with the battery and SD memory card installed. Despite its small size, the Fuji X10 uses a larger 2/3-inch EXR CMOS sensor that’s designed to shoot quality images in low light. The Fuji X10 also has an attached (i.e. non-interchangeable) 4x (28-122mm) manual zoom lens that’s capable of achieving a maximum aperture of f/2.0 at the wide end. At the telephoto end, its maximum aperture is f/2.8. Other notable specs include its shooting speed: 7 frames per second (fps) at full resolution or 10fps at medium resolution. $599; fujifilm.com

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Wood Camera iPhone Case

We can never really get enough of cool iPhone cases. Don’t ask us why. Here’s another camera-themed case we’re really digging lately: the simply named Wood Camera iPhone Case from Signicase in Hong Kong. Available in two durable wood options—bamboo or walnut, both of which are sustainable, i.e. not on the endangered woods lists—this iPhone case not only looks good, but it won’t crack, scratch or splinter, according to the manufacturer. And unlike that nasty old plastic case you used to use, it won’t end up in some disgusting landfill when you’re done with it. Each case is engraved by lasers—no decals are involved—giving the exterior a swell, burned-on outline, made to resemble a classic camera. The slider-style case comes in two parts and each section has a thin, felt pad on the bottom to help swaddle your lovely phone against the wood. The Wood Camera iPhone Case weighs less than an ounce (22 grams) and is compatible with the iPhone 4 for both AT&T and Verizon. $42; signicase.com

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Cineskates

If your HD-DSLR has turned you into a budding cinematographer, you’re likely aware of the various rigs and devices to help you produce smooth and stable high-def shots. The trouble with a lot of these contraptions is that they’re big, bulky and unwieldy. That’s why we like the simplicity and usability of CineSkates. CineSkates are a set of three skate-like wheels that attach to the legs of a tripod to enable it to operate like a dolly. The first generation of the product is designed to work with JOBY’s bendable GorillaPod Focus tripod, allowing you to position your camera in a range of angles to capture fluid, moving video. In addition to the CineSkates and the GorillaPod Focus, you’ll also need JOBY’s Ballhead X to get the whole system rolling but everything is easily stashable in a camera bag or backpack. You can either buy the CineSkates ($200) alone or the entire CineSkates System ($325), making this one of the more affordable camera dolly systems around. $200; cinetics.com

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F/Stop Dial Wristband

If you’re shopping for the photographer who has everything, get him or her one of these whimsical but chic f/stop wristbands as a “stocking stuffer.” They're a few different styles including a version with colored f/stops that mimics classic Nikkor lenses and a version with white f/stops common on most modern glass. The color on the numbers of the Nikon version of the bracelets is borrowed from the original Nikkor lenses. Back in the “olden” days before lenses could be electronically stopped down to give you an in-camera preview of your depth of field, the colored numbers were used along with the colored lines on the lens barrel to provide an estimate. More important for the fashion conscious, those colored f/stops just look cool. Non-Nikkor aficionados—aka Canon shooters—might prefer the white aperture version. $6.99; photographic.ly/wristband

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