The 10 Best Photography Products of 2011 . . . So Far

1. Fuji X100

I don’t think I’ve had more fun with a camera since I first held the 5D Mark II.  Sure, it’s got some quirks, but the excellent image quality and amazing flash sync speed push the Fuji X100 into the front runner position as my personal pick for camera of the year.  We’ll see what the rest of the year holds; however, it will take some serious innovation to unseat the X100.  Find it at B&H Photo (when it’s in stock).

2. Nikon D5100

The Nikon D5100 has solid image quality, excellent noise control and good autofocus.  It’s a well-rounded camera that edges out the Rebel T3i in the battle of entry-level DSLRs.  However, if you plan on shooting lots of serious video, I would still recommend the Rebel T3i over the D5100.  If you just want a DSLR for excellent still images and casual video use, the D5100 is my pick for 2011.  Find it at B&H Photo.

3. Benro Travel Flat Tripod Series

If you are as serious about your traveling as you are about your photography, then you need to take a close look at the Benro Travel Flat tripods.  Instead of the triangular folding method you get with all other tripod legs, this new series from Benro folds down with the legs beside each other.  They also collapse to a short minimum height to easily fit into just about any camera bag or carry-on.  They’re available in carbon fiber or aluminum.  Find these at B&H Photo.

4. Think Tank Photo Retrospective Camera Bag Series

I’ve used several different camera bags in recent years; however, nothing has been quite as functional and as cool as the Think Tank Photo Retrospective camera bags.  Available in pinestone or simple black (I prefer the pinestone flavor), the Retrospective series is the perfect “kit” bag for a camera (or two) and a few lenses and flashes.  There’s likely the perfectly-sized model to fit your own kit.  Available direct from Think Tank Photo.

5. Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Lens

Nikon finally gave us the lens we needed for the D5100 and lower series of cameras.  The AF-S 50mm f/1.8G lens adds the all-important internal AF motor and gives beginners an affordable 50mm lens that will autofocus with their “beginner” DSLRs.  While I haven’t gotten my hands on this lens just yet, early reports suggest that it more than lives up to its value and owners of D5100 and lower-grade cameras seem to be quite happy about it.  Kudos to Nikon for this one.  Find it at B&H Photo and

6. 500px

500px is shaping up to be the Flickr-replacement for serious photographers.  Bring your best work and check your ego at the door.  Photos are subjected to ratings and critiques and its pretty easy to navigate to some of the hottest work on the site.  Loads of talented photographers are jumping on the 500px bandwagon (e.g., Zack Arias, Thomas Hawk and Trey Ratcliff, among others).  While 500px has been around for several years, it has really taken off in 2011 and looks to be well on its way to being one of the hottest photo sites by the end of the year.  Check it out at

7. Westcott 7′ Parabolic Umbrella

This is a massive light modifier that slides in at a penny under a hundred bucks.  Sure, you can get a 5-footer for around $30 bucks, but 7-feet makes for some seriously soft light.  Available in shoot-through or bounce flavors, you can get spread light however you want with these guys.  Available at B&H Photo.

8. The Speedliter’s Handbook

If you want to get the most out of your Canon TTL flash system, this is must-have book.  Syl Arena essentially created the bible for Canon Speedlites in this book.  If you shoot another brand, you will most certainly comprehend the subject matter, but the menu specifics will be a bit off.  If you are a Canon shooter and you use (or want to use) your flashes off-camera, this book will give you the information to take it to another level.  Available at

9. Instagram

Instagram may have really gotten its legs in 2010; however, it has absolutely exploded in 2011.  As a result, I’m sneaking it into this list.  If you have an iPhone and you’re reading this site, it’s likely that you are already using Instagram.  Those little, square photos are captured on nearly 4 million iPhones and iPod touches.  If you’re an i-device user, check this one out.  It’s free.  Available on the iTunes App Store.

10. Canon Rebel T3i

While I give the Nikon D5100 the edge, the Rebel T3i certainly stands as one of the top products of the year thus far.  Again, if you’re serious about getting started with HDSLR video and find yourself in the T3i and D5100 budget, I like the T3i better.  However, as an all-around shooter, the T3i is a half-step behind the D5100.  That said, you’ll do well with either of these fine cameras in your bag.  Available at B&H Photo.

What Did I Miss?

I’m sure some folks will disagree with this list or have other products to add.  Let me know in the comments where I went astray and how you would have ranked the best of 2011 thus far…



      • says

        EyeFi is Slow.
        The only thing that works fast to the iPad is the OnOne Capture HD app, but, you’re restricted to tethering to your adhoced laptop. But great for on set previews and as a live view monitor while shooting video.

  1. Bruce Hatfield says

    I would add the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 lens. It shows Panasonic’s commitment to the micro 4/3 system and how it has matured the system with popular advanced GH2 and the new super small G3. Now we are nearing a very full line of lenses for this system and this one for its reasonable price is the icing on the cake.

    • says

      Another valid point. I’m a huge fan of the Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras; however, I’m a bit behind in my evaluation of the most recent models. The Leica 25mm f/1.4 does sound downright delightful though. I loved the 20mm with the GF1. It was the perfect walk around kit for me. I really hope they bring back some of the “pro” feel that the GF1 had in a future model.

  2. Azume says

    Just want to know what criteria were used to select these 10 items. Are the Pentax K-5, Olympus E-5, Aputure Gigtube, etc. not good enough to be in the list?

  3. Malcolm Oliver says

    How about the Pentax GPS hotshoe device? It sounded quite ordinary at first – but (using the anti-shake mechanism already in the camera) enabling blur-free images of stars by moving the sensor during the long exposure to compensate for the rotation of the earth (calculated using the GPS co-ordinates) is just shameless showing-off of their technology. It will also be rather more difficult for Canon and Nikon to copy with their in-lens anti-blur systems.

    Really cool, as my sons would say!

  4. says

    Thank you so much for the tips/updates. I will get the “tripod” and also sign up for the 500px. Today I use Flickr pro, but I’m just 60% satisfied with it. The link to your own domain and a better presentation of the photos have been wanted features. Have a great day!

  5. Paul Zacharia says

    Thanks, I agreed and thanked for the 500px! But while there are 2 DSLR’s chosen, while there are so many elements/aspects of photography involved, I would replace the Rebel with APERTURE 3.1, the best retouching software, that prepares all your works to be published into books or virtual media, which is the most updated way to enjoy your works.
    Canon’s Rebel has the right to be mentioned in the D5100 caption, but don’t we think one is enough for each aspect? By putting it on the last item, this BEST of all in photography starts to be a bit inconsistent…sorry if this is wrong.

  6. Matt R. says

    Amazing to me that Fuji could make such a highly acclaimed X100 while at the same time making such an awful camera, the HS20EXR.

  7. Gerardjan says

    What about the Pentax k5 ? I would say it certainly belongs in this list (Being a Nikon fanatic)

    • says

      The Pentax K5 came out in September 2010, which is why I didn’t really consider it. I know I slipped a couple of services in there, but that was really the exception instead of the rule.

  8. Mike R. says

    A nice collection of interesting things to get the mind going. I thought the K-5 and 60D were both released last year so I didn’t expect to see them. Tired of constantly dragging my Canon 7D w/70-200mm. 2.8l IS II around e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e I go, I just picked up a Panasonic Lumix ZS10 compact, and I am really awed with how far these little compacts have come. I’m a little miffed that the 65-page manual is a PDF doc, with all the features on this little gem and the manual on my computer. But it’s got me interested in just shooting snapshots again, being spontaneous and unobtrusice, and both the camera and its images are excellent quality. Not new but the best iteration thusfar . . . .

  9. says

    As soon as it came to the market I bought Think Tank’s Retrospective 5 (Pinestone).
    A great small bag for my E-620+14-54II+ flash + a-lot-of-necessities. Nice craftsmanship, excellent materials, unobtrusive colour, ‘silent mode’ flap, built-in ‘raincoat’ etc.etc.
    Just two not so positive points:
    – the shoulder strap cannot be removed;
    – the inside of the flap offers no soft cushioning to protect the camera’s LCD (when carried lens down).

    lichtloper, the Netherlands

    • says

      I hadn’t considered that about the shoulder strap since I always carry should bags with the strap. Good point though. I’ll be sure to note that in my upcoming review. Also, good pick on the Pinestone. ;)