PhotoPlus Expo Roundup: Must-Have Camera Gear for the Holidays

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This year’s PhotoPlus Expo was packed with an impressive assortment of new camera gear from every manufacturer, but it was largely the accessories that really caught our attention.

Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Fujifilm were all pretty silent about their upcoming releases at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in January, but there were a few hints about what you can expect just after the holidays.

Canon improves what you already love

For starters, Canon has refined its consumer and professional lines with the previously announced Canon PowerShot G7 X and EOS 7D Mark II. Canon admits that the GX 7 X is a direct competitor to the popular Sony Cyber-shot RX100 cameras. Like the RX100, the G7 X is packed with a 1-inch CMOS image sensor designed to give the camera better low-light performance than a typical compact camera or smartphone. The G7 X’s other headlining feature is its 4.2x zoom lens (24-100mm equivalent) with a maximum aperture range of f/1.8-2.8; this means the lens soaks up more light than the typical f/3.5 or worse lenses found on budget compact cameras.

Our one complaint is the G7 X’s lack of a grip combined with the small size of the camera. Small cameras are notoriously difficult to hold steady and the no-grip build forces photographers to “pinch” the camera with their fingers — which causes hand strain and makes it even more difficult to hold the camera steady. Luckily, camera accessory manufacturer Richard Franiec is now offering a custom grip for the Canon G7 X, which is perfectly molded to the camera body for a far more comfortable experience.

The EOS 7D Mark II, which was also previously announced at Photokina, is all about improved autofocus both in terms of speed and accuracy. The 7D Mark II borrows Canon’s Intelligent Tracking and Recognition focus from the top-of-the-line EOS 1D X. This means you get 65 cross-type AF points matched with a 20-megapixel Dual-Pixel AF CMOS sensor that delivers burst shooting at 10 frames per second with the ability to track subject movement and maintain focus at those incredible speeds. Of course, because of the higher burst rate Canon also had to improve the durability of the shutter mechanism, which is now rated at up to 200,000 cycles (compared to 150,000 cycles on the original EOS 7D).

Olympus gets serious about Micro 4/3 with new “PRO” lenses

The big news at the Olympus booth was the addition of several new lenses to the PRO line of Micro 4/3 lenses. While the first Micro 4/3 cameras from the Olympus Pen series were largely dismissed as amateur or enthusiast cameras, Olympus quickly gained traction in the pro market with the OM-D series of Micro 4/3 interchangeable lens cameras.

The problem for Olympus was that there weren’t enough high-quality zoom lenses natively available for the Micro 4/3 lens mount — so Olympus is changing that with the “PRO” line. The previously released M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens quickly because the go-to lens for most serious photographers using Olympus cameras, but the lack of a telephoto lens of similar quality was a problem. The new M.Zuiko ED 40-150MM F/2.8 PRO lens solves that problem with style. Not only is the new 40-150mm lens (80-300mm equivalent) impressive in terms of build quality, but it’s also incredibly lightweight.

This professional-grade telephoto zoom lens tips the scales at only 1.67 lbs. without the tripod collar and 1.94 lbs. with it. That is roughly half the weight of the equivalent Canon EF 70-200MM F/2.8 L IS II lens (3.3 lbs without the tripod collar). Once again, Olympus is doing an impressive job showing photographers they don’t need to carry heavy gear to capture great images.

Peak Design Clutches a win with the Slide

The team at Peak Design, creators of the popular “Leash” camera strap, have possibly created the best all-in-one camera neck/sling strap and camera wrist strap with the combination of the “Slide” and the “Clutch.”

The Peak Design Slide is a unique hybrid neck/sling strap that uses high-strength nylon webbing (similar to what car makers use with seat belts) combined with a pair of sliding aluminum quick-adjusters. This makes the Slide one of the most versatile camera straps we’ve seen. As an added bonus, the Slide uses the same “Anchor Link” quick-connectors that Peak Design uses with the Leash strap.

The Clutch features a similar design but has a smaller wrist strap for keeping cameras secure around a wrist instead of a neck.

Fans of Peak Design might be aware that several websites reported problems with the quick adjusters on pre-production units of the Slide. However, the designers are confident that those issues have been resolved and we’re eager to test out both the Slide and the Clutch when we can get our hands on them.

Lowepro gets tactical with ProTactic bags

The folks at Lowepro did something interesting after noticing that many enthusiasts and working photographers attach smaller accessory bags to the outside of their camera bags — they incorporated elements from modular bags designed for the military.

The new Lowepro ProTactic 350 AW will fit up to two DSLRs (one with a 24-70mm lens attached) plus up to 6 additional lenses or speedlights and a 13-inch laptop. The larger ProTactic 450 AW will hold two DSLRs (one with a 70-200mm lens attached) and a maximum of 8 lenses or speedlights and a 15-inch laptop.

Lowepro says these bags are designed for “mission-critical access” to all your gear while you’re out in the field. The “SlipLock” molle-style loops stitched into the outside of the bag mean you can attach smaller accessory bags to the exterior of the ProTactic bags and customize the layout as you see fit. The bags themselves also have a variety of access points so you can open one in a number of different ways in order to access the gear inside.

The only downside we see to these new bags is that Lowepro only offers a small handful of SlipLock accessory pouches to attach to the outside (included with the bags). This means you’ll probably have to purchase molle-compatible accessory pouches designed for military bags if you want to keep adding more pouches.

LG delivers a wider view for photographers

One of the more interesting things we spotted at the PhotoPlus Expo was the LG 34UM95 IPS Ultrawide Monitor. The impressive 34-inch IPS display delivers a 21:9 ultrawide aspect ratio combined with stellar WQHD resolution of 3440 x 1440 pixels. Combine that with a sRGB color gamut of 99% as well as the ability to connect over Thunderbolt and you’ve got a stunning display for photo editing priced at $999.

The ultrawide aspect ratio means you can fit Photoshop and multiple other windows or toolbars on the screen at the same time, and the WQHD resolution combined with the 34-inch display size means everything will be big enough to see easily.

Mylio: Photo management you’ll actually care about

Last, but not least, we have Mylio — which is honestly the most impressive photo management application we’ve ever seen. There are at least 100 different software solutions on the market that promise to help you organize all your digital photos, but Mylio just might have gotten it right where the others have failed.

The problems most photographers run into with photo management applications are that they can’t access everything on every device and there’s no way to condense the photo libraries stored on multiple devices and in various cloud storage solutions in one place.

Mylio solves those problems by automatically managing multiple copies of all your photo libraries both in the cloud and on various devices and the consolidating them in a single place which can be accessed from any device you choose (Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS).

So, once you install Mylio on your devices you can grab all the images stored on your laptop hard drive, your Dropbox account, your Facebook albums, Flickr, a portable USB hard drive, a NAS device in your office, and on your iPhone and consolidate them into one library with any number of folders you wish. You decide whether you want your master library to be stored locally or in the cloud. Now, any device with the Mylio app (and your login info) can access any image from your library.

You can also change device settings so that certain devices only have access to low-res copies of images rather than the original files — so your iPhone or tablet won’t get overloaded with a bunch of high-res images. Any changes that you make to images using Mylio are made to copies of the original image so there is no risk for losing your original file. More to the point, Mylio wants you  to know that “Your images are YOUR images,” meaning nothing is stored in the cloud unless you want it to be stored there and no changes are made to your images unless you want those changes made.

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