GoalZero Guide 10 Plus Adventure Kit

www.goalzero.com 

The GoalZero Guide 10 Plus Adventure Kit is a USB Solar Charging station designed to keep your phone, tablet and flash batteries juiced throughout the day.

Sometimes outdoor shoots can last all day, but the average battery can't. Your smartphone, tablet and flash AAs will be hurting halfway into the day. The GoalZero 10 Plus Adventure kit is a green alternative to buying battery extenders and additional batteries.

The GoalZero Guide 10 Plus Adventure kit consists of the Nomad Solar Panel, a 17 x 9 x 0.1 inch (43 x 23 x 0.25 cm) (when unfolded) tri-fold portfolio equipped with two solar panels. The mono-crystalline solar panels are capable of producing 7 watts of power each. Devices can be plugged into the USB solar hub to charge them as you play in the sun and the panels can deliver enough juice to fully charge the included AA battery pack in 3-4 hours. This battery pack holds four rechargeable AA or AAA batteries - common in devices like flashes or wireless transmitters. 4x AA batteries are included with the kit. 

A zippered pouch is available for storing cables and other small items, and the GoalZero 10 Plus kit also includes a built-in LED flashlight.

Key Features/Specifications

  • Recharge your batteries and peripheral devices using the sun
  • Small and compact enough to carry anywhere
  • Handy built-in LED flashlight to help you search in your dark backpack or purse
  • AA rechargeable batteries included

What we like - Juice throughout the day, courtesy of the sun

What we don't like - This isn't a fast-charger, and you'll need to find a suitable place to set the kit up for a few hours.

Adobe Creative Suite 6 / Photoshop Elements 11

www.adobe.com 

Adobe's Creative Suite comprises a large number of programs from specialist web development and design tools to the latest versions of Photoshop and Lightroom. 

If you're shopping for a photography student this holiday season, or someone who's new to digital imaging, the latest version of Photoshop Elements - Elements 11 - would make a great gift. Aimed at novice users, Elements isn't part of Adobe's Creative Suite and at $99 it's one of the most affordable programs of its kind, but packed with features nonetheless. Elements started out as a very limited, extremely cut-down piece of software, but it has since evolved into a powerful image manipulation and organizing platform, available for Windows and Mac. 

Photoshop Lightroom 4 is aimed at enthusiasts and professionals that need to edit and organise large numbers of Raw images quickly (although you can also work on JPEGs and there's limited support for video editing, too). A powerful organization and editing tool, at its heart is the same raw demosaicing algorithm that powers Adobe's Camera Raw plugin in Photoshop. Compared to 'full strength' Photoshop though, Lightroom is intended to satisfy photographers who need to do a small number of things, but fast and frequently. At $149, it's great value. Click here to read our review

Another option, if the photographer in your life is an imaging professional, is Adobe Creative Cloud. Creative Cloud is a membership program offered by Adobe that offers users instant downloads of any Adobe CS software as soon as they become available in any available language. Members also get access to the Creative Cloud website, which serves as a hub where you can explore, create, publish, and share your work. Online storage of 20GB will let you share and sync your pictures wherever you are in the world. 

Existing CS customers qualify for Creative Cloud membership at a reduced price of up for $30 per month (for the first year), but if you or your loved one is new to the suite, you'll be looking at $50 per month, which works out at $600 per year. A serious chunk of change, but of course far less expensive than paying for the programs (and their eventual upgrades) separately. 

What we like - Elements is great for beginners, Lightroom is quick, powerful and great value for enthusiasts, and Creative Cloud puts every CS program and future update in any language right at your fingertips (but at a cost). 

What we don't like - We wish Elements worked a little more like Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom, to ease the transition for upgraders, and we wish there was a cheaper version of Creative Cloud covering only Adobe's more photo-centric programs (do you really need Flash Builder?) 

Canon Pixma Pro-10 Printer

www.canon.com

The Canon Pixma Pro-10 inkjet printer uses 10 individual inks and prints 4800 DPI on up to 13" x 19" media.

Arguably, after camera and lenses, your next purchase should be a high quality printer to reproduce your digital photographs. There are plenty of printers out there, but the one we've selected here is the Canon Pixma Pro-10, a professional inkjet model that replaces the highly acclaimed Pixma Pro9500 Mark II.

The Pixma Pro-10 features Canon's newest Optimum Image Generating (OIG) System, which is found in the more expensive Pixma Pro-1. This system helps determine what ink combinations are best for the type of paper used, as well as the balancing of color reproduction, tonal gradations, and uniform glossiness. The Pixma Pro-10 uses 10 individual inks with three of them devoted to true monochrome prints.

Speed has also been enhanced on the new Pixma Pro-10, as the printer can churn out an 11 x 14 in (27.94 x 35.56cm) print in 5 minutes and 20 seconds, compared to the Pixma Pro9500's 7 minute and 55 second time. The Pixma Pro-10 can handle borderless prints on up to 13 x 19 inch (33.02 x 48.26cm) paper, prints at 4800 DPI and even supports WiFi and mobile device printing. It has high-speed USB and is PictBridge and AirPrint compatible.

If $700 is too much, Canon also makes the excellent Pixma Pro-100, which features dye-based inks at a lower pricepoint of around $500. Also consider Epson's Stylus Photo R2880, which like the Pixma Pro-10 features three monochrome inks and gives excellent results for a street price of around $550.

Key Features/Specifications

  • Print on media up to 13 x 19in (33.02 x 48.26cm)
  • Maximum 4800 DPI
  • 10 individual 'Lucia' ink cartridges, including three monochrome inks
  • Built-in WiFi

What we like - Faster than predecessors, WiFi enabled, equipped with latest OIG system

What we don't like - Pricey (but you get what you pay for) and high running cost - 10 individual ink cartridges can get very expensive over time...

WD MyBook Studio USB 3.0 1/2/3/4TB Hard Drive

www.westerndigital.com

The Western Digital My Book Studio USB 3.0 external hard drive offers up to three times faster connectivity than its USB 2.0 predecessor.

RAW and HD video files are large and can eat up your computer's native hard drive storage capacity before you know it. An external hard drive is an essential tool for any avid digital photographer. The great thing about shopping for external hard drives is that units are getting faster all the time, and offering more and more storage for less and less cost. I remember dropping $300 on a 300GB hard drive back in 2002 that I had to assemble and configure myself...

The Western Digital MyBook Studio USB 3 external hard drive family is a prime example of the progress in consumer-level storage technology. For $190, you can pick up the 2TB MyBook Studio with a new high-speed USB 3.0 interface. For many of us, that's enough capacity for a years' shooting at least. Western Digital also offers the MyBook Studio USB 3.0 in 3TB and 4TB iterations for MSRPs of $240 and $300, respectively, and if you just don't need the space, there's a 1TB version for $160. If you shop around though, you can find all of them for less than their recommended retail price. 

In addition to offering three times faster data transfer speeds than older USB 2.0 drives, the alumiunium-encased Western Digital MyBook Studio USB 3.0 can be password protected, and can be used with Windows or Mac Computers (the drive is formatted for Mac by default), and supports Apple's Time Machine automatic backup technology. 

If you need storage on the move, we recommend you check out LaCie's Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt Series mobile hard drive. This portable drive measures a mere 89 x 140 x 24 mm / 3.5 x 5.5 x 0.97 inches and comes in two SSD versions (120GB and 256GB), as well as a standard 1TB 'spinning disk' variant. The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt series offers a high-speed Thunderbolt connection for use with Apple's newest computers, in addition to USB 3.0, which are both capable of achieving up to 385MB/s file transfer speeds. I own the 500GB FireWire 800/USB 3.0 - also a member of LaCie's Rugged family - and have been very impressed by its ability to handle rough handling. In theory, the solid state drive of the newer model should be even tougher. 

Key Features/Specifications

  • Available in capacities up to 4TB
  • USB 3.0 interface
  • Heat dissipating aluminum enclosure
  • Compatible with Apple Time Machine
  • Mac ready, but can be Windows formatted
  • Password protection

What we like: - Lightning fast, tons of storage, Mac-friendly but will also play with Windows, password protected, great value (especially if you shop around) 

What we don't like: - 3-year warranty is great, but it's limited


Click here to go to page 4 of our 2012 Holiday Gift Guide